December 27, 2011

I Resolve...

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions. It's too easy to break them when everyone else around you is breaking theirs. Generally, I take time near my birthday to review goals and set new ones for the coming year. Having a wild party with pointy hats and lots of cake and ice cream and friends coming over to play silly games is a lot more fun than goal-making, but the goal-making is a lot more grown up.

Sometimes New Year's Resolutions do get hung on to and worked on. In 2001 Anne's resolution was to submit something, anything, to a contest. She did, and won. The audio book of A Heart Full of Diamonds was the result of her resolution.

My Success for College teacher said that goals should be made on the "DAPPS" plan. That is, they should be Dated, Achievable, Personal, Positive, and Specific.

If you don't put a date on a goal, then you don't know how much time you have left.

Your goal has to be achievable, and measurable. "I will lose weight" isn't a good goal, because if you lose only one ounce, you have lost weight, although not enough to notice. "I will lose ten pounds" is something you can measure, and know when you have completed the task.

Your goal has to be personal, something you can do without the outcome depending on others. "I will get a promotion" is not achievable, because you can't control that. "I will ask my boss for a promotion" can be done, no matter what your boss decides to do.

Your goal should be stated in a positive manner. "I won't smoke" is a negative statement, while "I will quit smoking" is a positive one that will accomplish the same thing.

Finally, your goal should be specific. "I will write more" doesn't cut it. More than what? More than I have been? More than a house? "I will write a new manuscript" is specific, although it could get more specific if I added a word count to the goal.

This year, I resolve to:
·         Graduate from college.
·         Write a new manuscript, something I haven't had time to do since I started college.
·         Take a vacation someplace out of Arizona.
·         Hug my daughter every day.
·         Learn how to make book trailers and post them to YouTube.

Let's see how far I get.


December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I know there are many out there who don't celebrate Christmas for one reason or another. For some, it is for religious reasons; they are not Christian and Christmas is, after all, the celebration of the birth of Christ. For some, it is a disgust at the commercial aspects the holiday has taken on. Some even refuse to celebrate because it has been calculated that Christ was born in the spring, not in December, and that the origins of the celebratory date in December come from a pagan holiday.

Some people even get angry and lash out if you dare to offer them a "Merry Christmas", and greeting cards have taken to using the phrase "Season's Greetings" instead.

The fact is that nearly every religion in the world has a holiday in the midst of winter celebrating the coming of light into the world. At this time of year, let us put aside our differences and our contentions, and celebrate the coming of light into the world.

As a Christian, I celebrate by honoring the birth of Christ. My scriptures refer to him as "The Light of the World", among other titles. I celebrate his birth on the designated day, even though I know it wasn't actually his birthday. I try to keep the idea of Christmas in my heart all through the year; trying to do as Christ would have me do. I try to treat others how he would treat them; with love and kindness. I am not always successful, but I do try.

Today, I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope you take it as given; that I wish you love, happiness, and pleasant memories of time spent with family. I wish you feelings of fulfillment in your religious observations, if you observe them. At the very least, may all of you enjoy peace.


December 13, 2011

Hear Here

This pair of homonyms is a fun one to write about and easy enough to keep straight if you just stop and think about it for a moment.

"Here" is a location. Like other location words such as "there" and "where", it contains the letters "ere".

"Hear" is what you do with your ear, and just to help you remember, it actually contains the word "ear", right after the "h".

A very short post today, but hopefully you'll now find it hard to confuse the two words.


December 10, 2011

Ebooks vs. Print Books

In most respects, print books are equivalent to ebooks. Both copies usually have the same content. With ereader devices such as Kindle and Nook, both are equally easy to carry around. You can carry more ebooks with you in a smaller space than you can print books. Most ebooks are less expensive.

The one area where print books had complete superiority over ebooks was that they could be autographed. I mean, where are you going to sign an ebook? On the back of the Kindle? On the screen?

Yesterday I came across a service which I totally dismissed, because I was sure there was a catch. The idea wouldn’t let go of me. It kept me up all night. Early this morning, I checked it out. If there’s a catch, it’s so well buried this cynical author can’t find it. I signed up.

It’s called Kindlegraph. It’s a way to collect autographs for ebooks. It’s totally amazing, and now all of my books are able to be signed. My print books have hand-made bookplates which anyone can have for the asking. My ebooks can be signed through the Kindlegraph site.

Here are the facts. A Kindlegraph is a PDF file containing the book’s cover image, a personalized note from the author, and their signature. It can be stored on your computer, printed out, or kept in a folder on your ereader. Because it’s a PDF file, most ereaders will display it. You don’t have to own a Kindle. You could even get Kindlegraphs for your print books, print them out, and glue them in the front, if you’d like. You don’t have to own or buy the book to get a Kindlegraph, because no one checks up on you. The Kindlegraph is a separate document; it is not inserted into the book. The author can choose whether to actually sign their name with their mouse, or use a font script. I sign with the mouse, even though it’s a little sloppier than with a pen, because then it is a real autograph. If you tell me you need it signed to a certain person, or you want the inscription to read a certain way, I will personalize the inscription to be the way you want it, just as I would at a book signing. Finally, Kindlegraph and I don’t charge you anything for the service. It is totally free, unless you use Amazon’s Personal Document Service to email it to your Kindle…but that fee goes to Amazon.

Requesting a Kindlegraph is easy. Go to, sign in with your twitter account, give them an email address where you want your document sent, locate the book you want signed, and click the request button under the book. I get a daily email informing me when I have requests. I write the personalization and sign it and send it back to you. That’s it! Easy as pie, and finally, a way to autograph an ebook!

December 06, 2011

Typographical Errors

A friend on Facebook commented that one reason she likes to follow authors was that she loves it when they share their typos with their fans.

My first thought was, “Ack! Share those little things I’m supposed to keep hidden? No Way!”

My second thought was, “Hey, how cool would that be to read typos committed by my favorite authors?”

I commented that I would keep that in mind, and then turned to editing my upcoming book, Assignment to Earth.

This is the final edit before publication, and the manuscript has been in process off and on for 22 years, so you would think I would be down to tiny things. I won’t bore you with the missing punctuation, the period that should be a question mark, and the double punctuation hanging around, but there are a few that made me laugh at the absurdity of what it actually said, and also give myself the “V-8 salute” that these had not been found earlier.

Trusting that you have a keen eye, I won’t tell you what the mistake is, but let you discover it on your own.

·         One character turns to her superior officer and says, “What do you us to do, Sir?”
·         “This must be the great-grandpappy,” he said with a grimly.
·         He bent to the task, determined to obtain answers to each and every one of his many and soon as she woke up.
·         He shook his head slightly, if trying to realign his thinking.
·         Chapter Thirty-two…Chapter Thirty-three…Chapter Thirty-three…Chapter Thirty Four…

I can understand how extra keys could get pushed, or not pushed fully down, but how entire words could be missing for years and never be noticed, is totally beyond my comprehension.

For those who really enjoy typo hunts, after I fixed the accidental typos listed above, I put a (different!) typo into Assignment to Earth just for you. Email me if you can find it!


November 29, 2011

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

I have been asked this many times, so I decided to figure it out.

These are minimum times for me. Other authors may be slower or faster; it varies with the individual.
The rough draft takes me between 30 and 45 10-hour days, depending on the length of the book, which is approximately 300 to 460 hours.
The second draft takes me about thirty 8-hour days, times two authors, for approximately 480 hours.
The manuscript is sent out to beta readers. They are given two weeks to read, comment, and return it.
Combining the versions the readers send back takes approximately 4 hours.
The third draft takes about 14 8-hour days, times two authors, for approximately 224 hours.
Formatting the manuscript for ebook for the final edit takes about 5 hours.
The final edit takes about seven 8-hour days, for approximately 56 hours.
Making the final corrections in the manuscript takes between 2 and 3 8-hour days, for approximately 16 to 24 hours.
Creating the cover and adapting it for both print and ebook takes about 8 hours.
Formatting the finished manuscript for print takes 8 hours.
Formatting the finished manuscript for ebook takes 8 hours.
Writing a new web page and updating existing webpages to accommodate the new book takes about 3 hours.
Uploading the new webpages to my site and the book files to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Createspace takes about 4 hours.
Writing the blog post to announce the new book takes about an hour.
Posting the blog post and linking it to social media sites takes about an hour.

Total time: Somewhere between 1110 and 1278 hours.

If I was working a "desk job", the 9-5 = 8 hours, minus 30 min lunch and two 15 min "coffee" breaks, would be 7 hours work time per day.

1110 hours = 158.5 days, or 31 weeks, or 7 3/4 months.
1278 hours = 182.5 days, or 36 1/2 weeks, or nine months.

It takes most people one to three days to read my book.

No wonder authors compare the publishing process with sending a child out into the world. Keep in mind this process would take as much as two extra years if I had a publisher and an agent involved in the process.

Going back to the hypothetical desk job: if I made $10/hour, I would earn $1600 per month, or $14,400 in nine months. At a royalty rate that pays me approximately $2 per book, I have to sell 7,200 books to make an average of $10/hour over the nine months it took me (without salary) to create the book.

November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thursday is Thanksgiving. Time to stick the turkey in the sink where it will take two days to thaw, and to get ready for some football! Don't forget about the incredible shopping deals on Friday!


Although I do eat the "traditional" Turkey dinner, for me Thanksgiving is a time to spend extra time with my family, and to pause and reflect the things I am thankful for. I thought I'd list some of them here.

Marie's thankful for:

·         My parents. I would not be the same person I am today without the influence and love of my parents. I would also be homeless without them.
·         My daughter, whose huge, body-engulfing hugs keep me on an even keel.
·         Federal grants for education, without which I would not be attending school.
·         The talents the Lord gave me for imagining and writing stories.
·         My friends who encourage my efforts at school and writing.
·         My fans who enjoy and purchase my books, and support my writing habit.

Anne says, I could simply add a ditto to Marie’s list, but that may appear to be cheating just a bit; therefore, in addition to what she’s written, let me add:

·         Living in a country as free as ours is, with the education provided as a youth so I learned to read and write.
·         Having a choice about which religion I want to follow, and the freedom to do so.
·         The right and ability to vote, to choose people and policies to keep my country free.
·         Having the opportunity to work, so I can have a place to live, food to eat, clothing to wear and books to read.
·         Having the opportunity to serve others.
·         The chance to smile and say thanks to the people who serve me, including the harried cashiers at the stores I frequent. It costs nothing out of my pocket to give them a smile, read their badge so I can call them by name and say thanks to them for all they do for me.

~A M Jenner

November 15, 2011

You're Your Own Worst Enemy

One more pair of often abused homonyms: you're and your. Again, this is a contractual confusion.

The word "you're" is a contraction of "you" and "are". Smash them together until you get the apostrophe. "you are"; "youare"; "you're".

The word "your" is a possessive pronoun, meaning that the object in question belongs to you. Read the post on "it's" and "its" for a more detailed explanation. This is exactly the same mistake, except for the identity of the owner of the property in question.

Remember the difference by trading out the "you're / your" for the words "you are". If you're the owner of your book, you would not say, "You are the owner of you are book." The first "you are" makes sense, the second one doesn't; therefore you use the contraction in the first spot, and the possessive in the second spot. "You're the owner of your book."


November 08, 2011

The Nincompoop's Minion

Sometimes you can guess at a word's meaning by deconstructing it and seeing what roots it has in common with words you already know well. Beloved, for example means be + loved. (duh!). How often are you deconstructing words to compare roots? Use some of these in your life, and come back to tell us how much better (or not!) your love life is, compliments of

Cherish [cher-ish]

–verb (used with object)
1. To hold or treat as dear; feel love for: to cherish one's native land.
2. To care for tenderly; nurture: to cherish a child.
3. To cling fondly or inveterately to: to cherish a memory.

Beloved [bih-luhv-id, -luhvd] 

Greatly loved; dear to the heart.

Nincompoop [nin-kuhm-poop]

A fool or simpleton.

Minion [min-yuhn]


1. A servile follower or subordinate of a person in power.
2. A favored or highly regarded person.
3. A minor official.
4. Printing. A 7-point type.

You are cherished and beloved, my nincompoop of a minion.


November 01, 2011

It's its.

This pair of often abused and confused homonyms is one of my pet peeves.

The word "it's" is a contraction of "it" and "is". Remember what I said about contractions? Smush the word together until one or more of the letters collapses under its own weight and becomes the apostrophe. In this case, "it is" becomes "itis", then "it's".

The word "its" is a possessive pronoun. The object belongs to "it". In English, the pronoun "it" is used for objects without gender. This problem does not arise in Spanish, where everything has gender, but this blog is about the English language. If an object owns another object, then you use the possessive pronoun "its" to show that possession. For example, the tires belong to the car, so you could write, "The car spun the car's tires". However, the word car is used redundantly, so you’d want to write, "The car spun its tires." The word "its" is complete without an apostrophe. Never put one at the end to show possession; the word itself shows the possession.

How to remember which to use: Say the sentence out loud, replacing the "it's" or "its" with "it is". If it makes sense when you make the replacement, then you want the contraction with the apostrophe. If the replacement doesn't make sense, then you want the possessive pronoun without the apostrophe.

Going back to the car and tires, with the replacement phrase, you would say, "The car spun it is tires", which makes no sense, so you know you want to leave the apostrophe out and make it possessive. The tires belong to the car. However, you can safely use the contraction in the sentence "It's making a lot of smoke," because the replacement phrase makes sense there. "It is making a lot of smoke."

Either way you look at it, when the car spins its tires, it's making a lot of smoke.


October 25, 2011

The Earl's Couch

While I knew a Chesterfield was a couch, and an Axminster was a carpet, I still don't know if the word Chesterfield refers to the earl, his couch, or his suit. Possibly all three; didn't specify. Share the words, and report your colleagues bemused expressions when you come back.

Chesterfield [ches-ter-feeld] 


1. (Sometimes initial capital letter) a single- or double-breasted topcoat or overcoat with a fly front and a narrow velvet collar.
2. A large, overstuffed sofa or divan with a back and upholstered arms.
3. Chiefly Canadian . Any large sofa or couch.


1885–90;  named after an Earl of Chesterfield  in the 19th century.

Ingénue [an-zhuh-noo, -nyoo]

–noun, plural -nues  [-nooz, -nyooz; Fr. -ny] Show IPA.

1. the part of an artless, innocent, unworldly girl or young woman, especially as represented on the stage.
2. an actress who plays such a part or specializes in playing such parts.

Bemused [bih-myoozd]


1. bewildered or confused.
2. lost in thought; preoccupied.

The bemused ingénue sat on the antique Chesterfield, clutching her script in one hand, but not really seeing the words printed on the page.


October 18, 2011

Roll the Role

Time for another well-abused homonym pair. I have no idea how often I see the phrase "roll model" posted online.

A roll, as a noun, is a small piece of bread.

As an adjective, it means some object which has been rolled up, or coiled, such as a roll of garden hose, or a roll of TP. As a verb, it means to turn over. Remember it this way: It has only one vowel, and it takes only one person to accomplish. You can roll a roll in butter, or roll up a roll of TP without any help.

 A role is a part in a play, or a part you play in someone's life. We all need positive role models, people who are models that teach us how to play our role, our part in society. Ideally those role models will come from our family or church group, rather than from among the ranks of dysfunctional celebrities, but that's a post for another time. Remember it this way: this "role" has two vowels, just like you need two people; one to play the "role" and the other to be the audience.


October 11, 2011

The Whole Gamut

Here's one of those words I've been misunderstanding for years. I always thought "salubrious" had something to do with being drunk. I was way off. Thank you, for educating me. It just goes to show that you can teach an old author new words!

I also think it's interesting that we nearly always say "the whole gamut" when "gamut" means "whole", which makes "whole gamut" redundant; but it wouldn't sound right to just say "gamut". English is a funny language. Go out into the world and share the words, then return and share your funny stories.

Salubrious [suh-loo-bree-uhs]


Favorable to or promoting health; healthful: salubrious air.

Suint [soo-int, swint]


The natural grease of the wool of sheep, consisting of a mixture of fatty matter and potassium salts, used as a source of potash and in the preparation of ointments.

Gamut [gam-uht]


1. The entire scale or range: the gamut of dramatic emotion from grief to joy.
2. Music .
a. the whole series of recognized musical notes.
b. the major scale.

The whole gamut of ointments made from suint are salubrious.


October 04, 2011

They're There

Here's another set of easily confused words. I can't even enumerate the number of times I've seen this group abused.

The word "they're" is a contraction of "they" and "are". It seems people have forgotten what contractions are, and what the apostrophe means. In all contractions, the apostrophe is standing in for missing letters. My first grade teacher taught us about contractions this way, and it has helped me keep them straight ever since. (I'm not telling you how long ago that was, however!)

Take the word "they" and the word "are". Smash them together. They spell theyare. Keep smushing. The letter "a" gets wadded up and becomes the apostrophe. "They're".

The word "their" is a possessive pronoun. If something is "theirs" it belongs to them. Remember it this way: It is "theirs", it belongs to "the heirs". "Theirs" contains the word "heirs". (This one isn't actually a contraction, though; it's just an easy way to remember it.)

The word "there" is a location. The object is over there. It coincidentally contains the word "here". If you need a location, the thing you're looking for is either "here" or "there".


September 27, 2011

Here's Mud in Your Eye!

I love learning new words. Sometimes when I look words up, I find out that they don't mean what I thought they did or that I've been saying them wrong for years. Again, I challenge you to use these in daily conversation, then come back and post comments on how your colleagues reacted. As usual, my source is No, I'm not confessing which words I didn't have right. I don't want to blush again.

 Akimbo [uh-kim-boh]

 –adjective, adverb

with hand on hip and elbow bent outward: to stand with arms akimbo.

 Quagmire [kwag-mahyuhr] 


1. an area of miry or boggy ground whose surface yields under the tread; a bog.
2. a situation from which extrication is very difficult: a quagmire of financial indebtedness.
3. anything soft or flabby.

 Curmudgeon [ker-muhj-uhn]


a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.

The curmudgeon stood in the quagmire with his arms akimbo.

September 20, 2011

Discreetly Discrete

Today's homonym pair is often abused in written communication, probably because both "discrete" and "discreet" are real words, so they don't trip the spell check. They are very different words, with very different meanings.

"Discrete" means separate and apart. A leper colony, for example, is a discrete group, because they live apart from others in order to quarantine the disease.

"Discreet" means sneaky and secret. If you're trying to do something discreetly, you are hoping nobody notices what you are doing.

The easy way to remember how to spell the one you are looking for: Look at the letter "e" in the word. If you mean separate, then separate the e's. Discrete. If you mean sneeeeeeky, then put the e's together. Discreet. Easy, right?


September 13, 2011


"Gob" being a British term for mouth, apparently, my friends and I are more British than I realized. Or at least, they are. I moved back and forth between British and American English for years before I found out there was a difference, and that many of the words, spellings, syntax, and punctuation I habitually use are British rather than American. Maybe it's just that I watch too much British television. Wait, I'm not sure it's possible to watch too much British television. At any rate, here are three words you can add to your vocabulary this week. I challenge you to work them into your normal daily conversation. As an added challenge, come back and tell us how people reacted to the words. As usual, I'm getting my definitions from

Gobsmacked (ˈɡɒbˌsmækt)

--- adj

flabbergasted, astounded, shocked; also written gob-smacked
from gob 'mouth' + smacked 'clapping hand over in surprise'

Defenestrate [dee-fen-uh-streyt]

–verb (used with object), de·fen·es·trat·ed, de·fen·es·trat·ing.

to throw (a person or thing) out of a window.

Discombobulate [dis-kuhm-bob-yuh-leyt]

 –verb (used with object), -lat·ed, -lat·ing.

to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate: The speaker was completely discombobulated by the hecklers.


1825–35, Americanism; fanciful alteration of discompose or discomfort

—Related forms

dis·com·bob·u·la·tion, noun

I was gobsmacked when they defenestrated the discombobulated old man.


September 06, 2011

Too Hard for Two to do

Is it too difficult to keep these two (or three) words straight?

Apparently, it is extremely difficult. I can't count how often I see people going "too" the store "too" get "two" bottles of whatever. I also see people who like something, and their friend likes it "to".

The word "to" is a preposition. It shows direction. If you are moving in any direction, then you are moving to something, and away from something else. Remember it this way: "to" and "from" each have only one letter "o".

The word "too" is an additive. You have something, then you add something else; as in, "having you cake and eating it too." Remember it this way: if you are adding one thing to another thing, then you need to add one "o" to the other "o".

The word "two" doesn't seem to get mixed up as much. Everyone seems to remember that the number is the one with the "w" in it.

August 30, 2011

Good Reviews, Bad Reviews and the Occasional Chocolate Chip Cookie

I have a special treat for you today. I’ve invited L. Carroll over to do a little writing at my place. I already had the chance to post my scribblings in her living room. Keep reading when she’s finished, and I’ll tell you a little about who she is, and what her books are about.


I used to manage a retail home décor store in a shopping mall. While this fascinating bit of information is likely to captivate and enthrall audiences for years to come, it's a particular incident that took place while I was engaged in this profession that I'm compelled to share now.

One lovely afternoon, a customer stormed through the doors and demanded to speak to the manager. While the rest of my crew showed support for their leader from behind an armoire, I -- armed with a sympathetic expression -- approached the lady to ascertain the nature of her obvious agitation.

Fast forward eleven years to the present day. I don't remember what this customer was upset over; I don't remember how the issue was resolved. I only recall what happened afterward.

There was a larger piece of furniture involved that I was to take out the back door of the store and load into the lady's car, but she asked me to give her a few minutes before meeting her there, as she had one last quick stop to make in the mall. When she arrived to pick up her piece, she had with her a bag containing a warm, gooey, jumbo chocolate chip cookie that she had just purchased from the bakery in the mall. Smiling, she handed me the cookie and thanked me profusely for helping her that day. Her gesture overwhelmed me, and (apparently) made an indelible impression on my memory.

So, what does this story have to do with books and writing, you may ask. Well, allow me to explain. Coming from a non-literary background, I was quickly humbled by what it takes to write a book. I was further humbled by the emotionally fatiguing, and oft times downright depressing process of querying agents and publishers. And, as if that wasn't enough, my pride sustained further injury when I realized that eighty percent of my time as an author would not be spent writing, but would be spent marketing, networking, begging and pleading.

The point is that independent authors work hard! They work long! They dump all of their selves -- heart and soul -- into their books. They don't have teams of editors, marketers and PR people escorting them around. They do it all themselves.

This singular shouldering of responsibility makes feedback so much more impactful on the indie author. Negative reviews are devastating, positive ones, invigorating. Lack of reviews? Well, let's just say that it takes a while to recover from that accompanying spiral of self-doubt.

Am I saying that you should jump on to Amazon and write gushingly, glowing critiques of every self-published book you read? Absolutely not! I know from experience that there are a lot of sub-par books out there -- both indie and traditionally published. What I am saying is that if you read an indie book you really enjoy, make sure that you let the author and others know. Gush on Amazon; shout it out to your networking buds; buy copies of the book to give as gifts; OR, if you're so inclined, send the author a warm, gooey, jumbo chocolate chip cookie.


About the Author:

L. Carroll is a wife and a mom of five who writes because she's found that if she pretends to travel to magical worlds, makes up wild tales, and carries on conversations with the voices in her head, it's considered mental illness; but if she pretends to travel to magical worlds, makes up wild tales, carries on conversations with the voices in her head and writes it all down; it's a perfectly normal "author" thing to do.

 About the Books:

Destruction from Twins

When an enchantress steals mystical powers from her twin sister, she sentences the world of Lor Mandela to an untimely death. Only one can save it; a Child of Balance named Audril Borloc. All hope seems lost when four-year-old Audril disappears.

Desperate to save their world, spies travel to Earth looking for the girl with black hair and bright blue eyes. Instead, they find sixteen-year-old Maggie Baker.

Maggie's existence is launched into a roller coaster ride of twists and turns as she bounces back and forth between her home in Glenhill, Iowa and the mysterious land of Lor Mandela. She must learn who to trust and who to fear. More importantly, she must find a way to convince the Lor Mandelans she is not their missing "Child of Balance", and her family and friends in Iowa that she's not going insane.

Could Maggie’s reality be the real fantasy, and does the fate of an entire world actually depend on her?

Destruction from Twins is available in print at CreateSpace, in ebook at Smashwords,  or your choice of format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s free at Smashwords until the end of the month, so you only have two days to run over there and get it.

Four Hundred Days

When the heiress to the Lor Mandelan throne sneaks away to Earth to save one of her dearest friends, she finds that a power hungry tyrant from her own world has begun systematically obliterating towns and cities to get her to turn herself over to him.

On Earth, she meets a wildly eccentric old lady named Teedee Venilworth, whose imaginary butler/fiance supposedly holds the key to her success. But how can someone help if he doesn't exist? Could it be that creatures who dwell in shadow are not exclusive to Lor Mandela?

The second book in the Lor Mandela Series, "Four Hundred Days", is an action-packed whirlwind of intrigue and fantasy. Join the extraordinary characters from "Destruction from Twins" as they traverse the haunted corridors of Alcatraz Penitentiary; travel via portal to an ancient castle on the cliff shores of Ireland; and meet a race of mystic warriors known as the Solom.

Soar on the back of a large, horse-like creature to the Northern High Forests and discover that, on the picturesque world of Lor Mandela, your friends can become foes, your enemies your allies, and just because someone dies it doesn't always mean that they're dead.

Four Hundred Days is available in print at CreateSpace, in ebook at Smashwords, and in your choice of format from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

August 23, 2011

Brace Me Up

I'm going to be learning a lot as I provide these for you. I had no idea how many definitions there were for "brace". Apparently I'm a bit behind the times, I like it in the archaic usage of two, a pair, as in "He walked into the kitchen and set a brace of wildfowl on the table." had a lot more definitions than I ever thought of.



1. something that holds parts together or in place, as a clasp or clamp.
2. anything that imparts rigidity or steadiness.
3. Also called bitbrace, bitstock. Machinery . a device for holding and turning a bit for boring or drilling.
4. Building Trades . a piece of timber, metal, etc., for supporting or positioning another piece or portion of a framework.
5. Nautical . (on a square-rigged ship) a rope by which a yard is swung about and secured horizontally.
6. Music . leather loops sliding upon the tightening cords of a drum to change their tension and the drum's pitch.
7. Often, braces. Dentistry . a round or flat metal wire placed against the surfaces of the teeth for straightening irregularly arranged teeth.
8. Medicine/Medical . an appliance for supporting a weak joint or joints.
9. braces, Chiefly British . suspender ( def. 1 ) .
10. a pair; couple: a brace of grouse.
11. Printing .
a. one of two characters { or } used to enclose words or lines to be considered together.
b. bracket ( def. 7 ) .
12. Music . connected staves.
13. a protective band covering the wrist or lower part of the arm, especially a bracer.
14. Military . a position of attention with exaggeratedly stiff posture.

–verb (used with object)

15. to furnish, fasten, or strengthen with or as if with a brace.
16. to fix firmly; make steady; secure against pressure or impact: He braces himself when the ship rolls. Brace yourself for some bad news.
17. to make tight; increase the tension of.
18. to act as a stimulant to.
19. Nautical . to swing or turn around (the yards of a ship) by means of the braces.
20. Military . to order (a subordinate) to assume and maintain a brace.

–verb (used without object)

21. Military . to assume a brace.

—Verb phrase

22. brace in, Nautical . to brace (the yards of a square-rigged vessel) more nearly athwartships, as for running free.


23. brace up, Informal . to summon up one's courage; become resolute: She choked back her tears and braced up.

1300–50; (noun) Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French: pair of arms < Latin brā ( c ) chia plural (taken as feminine singular) of brā ( c ) chium arm (< Greek; see brachium); (v.) in part Middle English bracen (< Anglo-French bracier, derivative of brace; compare embrace), in participle derivative of the noun

August 21, 2011

What is a Sampler?

In embroidery, a sampler is a wall hanging that shows off many different styles of stitching and usually contains an alphabet, some small pictures, and a saying. Young girls would stitch the sampler while still at home so they would have the patterns of the stitches after they married and had their own establishment.

In confections, a sampler is a single container with several different sorts of candy that showcase the manufacturer's abilities and hopefully lead to sales of other containers dedicated to your favorite flavors.

My newest book, Reading Sampler, is made in the same tradition. There are excerpts from six novels in three categories: Assignment to Earth (Science Fiction); Tanella's Flight and Fabric of the World (Fantasy); Deadly Gamble, A Heart Full of Diamonds, and Inherit my Heart (Suspense). The intent is to allow readers to try my books and see if they'd like to read more.

Reading Sampler is available on paper for $12.99 – a full 320 pages of enjoyment, complete with a free autographed bookplate. I expect more people will grab the free ebook.

Yes, you read that right. I'm so confident I can "hook" you on my writing that I'm willing to give away a free ebook as "bait". Go ahead. I dare you. Download it. Share it with your friends. I'm betting that when you get to the end of the sampler, you'll do whatever it takes to find out what happens next.


August 19, 2011

Blog Tour Guest Post

Lor Mandela Blog
L. Carroll is celebrating the release of her new book, Lor Mandela - Four Hundred Days, and as part of that celebration, she organized a blog tour. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the "stops" on her tour. My guest post is over here on her blog today, and she will be contributing a post on my blog on August 30.

I have no idea what she will be writing about, but then, she had no idea what I was going to write, either. If you comment on my post on her blog, you will be entered into a drawing to win any one of my ebooks. You choose the book, and I will email it to you.

Happy blog-hopping!


August 16, 2011

Wholly Cow

Homonym is a fancy word that means two or more other words have the same sound, but different meanings and, most often, different spellings. An a-moo-sing exchange on the message boards at my favorite online hang-out got me thinking about this week's homonym pair "hole" and "whole" and the related trio, "holey", "holy", and "wholly".

A hole is an empty space in what should otherwise be a solid surface. A hole in a wall, a hole in the ground, a hole in the head; oh wait, that's another matter altogether.

If something is whole, it is complete and not broken; you are referring to the entirety of the object in question.

A whole hole would be the complete empty space.

Holey means that the object in question has a lot of separate empty spaces. Think Swiss cheese.

Holy (without the "e") is something which is held to be sacred to a group of people. It is usually used in terms of religion, although different religious groups hold different things to be sacred.

Wholly means completely.

Therefore, "Holy Cow" would refer to a sacred bovine; "Wholly Cow" means 100% beef; and "Holey Cow" means you ought to call the veterinarian.


August 09, 2011

The Need for a Good Vocabulary

Here's an experience a friend of mine had:

"I was sitting on some concrete steps involved in an art project. A couple of 'gentlemen' who were under the influence of some mind-altering substance came over to me and started chatting. They were basically friendly and harmless, if somewhat inappropriate, so I kept working and tried to ignore them. One of them sat down right next to me, and as he moved closer, I said, "You don't want to do that. I'm very contentious." I doubt he knew what contentious meant, but I bet he thought it was the same as contagious, because they immediately stopped trying to schmooze me, and picked up and left!"

While it was probably fortunate for her that the "gentlemen" in question didn't have a better understanding of the English language, think of the other things they might be missing.

We communicate through the use of language, and those who don't have a good, working vocabulary miss out on things they need to understand. In the future, I will be posting some lesser-used words along with their definitions and examples, so you can avoid missing out on the fun and interesting parts of life. Feel free to suggest some of your favorite obscure words. If it's not already on my list, I'll even give you credit for the suggestion.

I'm taking my definitions from, though if they give other sources, I will show those. The usage sentences are my own creations.


- row, disturbance, c.1930, first in Canadian English, ult. from Scot. curfuffle.
(Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper)

She left the restaurant, oblivious to the kerfluffle happening on the balcony above her until the potted plant, nudged by one of the combatants, crashed to the sidewalk at her feet.


vulgar or indecent in speech, language, etc.; coarsely mocking, abusive, or irreverent; scurrilous.

a ribald person.

1200–50; Middle English ribald, ribaud (noun) < Old French ribau ( l ) d, equivalent to rib ( er ) to be licentious (< Old High German rīben to copulate, be in heat, literally, rub) + -au ( l ) d, -alt < Frankish *-wald a suffix in personal names, derivative of *walden to rule; compare parallel development of -ard

She blushed as the minstrel strummed the opening bars of a popular and slightly ribald song. He ought to know better than to sing such a scurrilous thing in the presence of ladies.

August 07, 2011

Wow! What a week!

First off, and most exciting, my book A Heart Full of Diamonds has finally been published in print and ebook! Some of my fans have been waiting ten years for this event, so I'm understandably excited. I love the new cover, too. It's been a lot of fun learning to make my own covers, and with this one, I'm feeling confident that I finally know what I'm doing.

What's this one about? Here's what's on the back cover.

Once she saw the diamonds, she was out of options.

A wig, a change of clothes, and nerves of steel freed Marilee from her diamond-stealing husband, but Tony has too many friends in too many places for her to trust anyone.

A thousand miles away, she's fashioned a new life in a safe haven. Her brawny neighbor Richard and his engaging son Derreck would do anything to help her, but she keeps her past a secret until two of Tony's goons kidnap her in broad daylight.

The race is on, and Marilee's life hangs in the balance!

A Heart Full of Diamonds is available in print here, and in ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

In other news, the renovations have been finished on the older books. Clues to Food and Fabric of the World have new covers and lower prices.

Due to requests from blog readers, I'm working on preparing Assignment to Earth and Inherit my Heart for publication in print and ebook. I'm also putting together a short story collection and a sampler book, which should be out shortly. I expect that The Siege of Kwennjurat will be coming out sometime this winter. It needed more work than I had time to complete during summer break.

School starts again in two weeks and I've got a very full schedule this fall, so if you think I've dropped off the face of the planet, you'll know where I am. In the mean time, I can promise there will be a new blog post every Tuesday on something related to writing.


August 02, 2011

Cultural References

Last week I watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Enterprise crew meets a people whose entire language is based on cultural references. In the episode, Captain Picard must learn their language or be killed by a wild animal. In explaining how their language worked, the example of Romeo and Juliet was cited.

Mention Juliet on her balcony, and those familiar with the play understand the mutual attraction, romantic love, and insurmountable obstacles - least of which is the distance to the balcony. If you don't know Juliet's story, understanding escapes you.

People dismiss ancient Greek and Roman civilization as out-dated, outmoded, and "dead"; not true. More of the culture in the modern world stems from these ancient cultures than we know.

Many scientific words have Latin or Greek roots; but so do many other words we call "English". I don't speak either language, but can often tear apart unfamiliar words to get a vague understanding, because of similarity to a word I already know.

Much of our architecture comes from Greek and Roman sources. I don't mean only buildings with fancy columns and sculpted frieze work on the facade. I was talking to someone recently about a "Spanish style" house, featuring a courtyard full of plants, breezeways, graceful arches, and thick, white outer walls. The Conquistadores brought this architecture with them as they built in the Central and North American deserts. They knew it was the best design for guarding against the heat. It's the type of home built in southern Spain and along the Mediterranean coast. The design is older than we think; it was used in Greece and Rome on the same coast.

Reading includes many references to history, culture, and literature; some more veiled than others. In my youth, "Greek" mythology was popular. I learned the Roman names first, probably because they're easier for English-speakers to pronounce. I loved the old stories, and tried to interest my daughter in them. She couldn't be bothered until she started reading the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books. Suddenly mythology was fun and exciting; not just the gods, but the creatures, heroes, history, language, and culture. She learned in a fun way, and I'm grateful to J K Rowling and Rick Riordan for making her learning fun. She now reads "docudrama" books based on medieval and renaissance royalty. I smile as I think of the history she is soaking up in her pleasure reading. Now if I could just get her to put the book down long enough to clean her room….


July 26, 2011

Verbiage Vigilante

Several years ago, I was in a writing group where we helped each other learn enough about writing to reach our individual goals. Some wanted to write their journals in an interesting manner. Some wanted to write family histories for private publication. Most wanted to be commercially published. Success has been met in varying degrees.

Every meeting encompassed both a lesson and a critique session. Each author had different strengths and weaknesses in their writing. The group leaders had us take turns teaching those things we knew and learning what the others had to teach. The group was a mix of published and unpublished authors.

Janette Rallison was our resident expert on Point of View. She could find minute errors and point them out to us, even when we had looked for mistakes and couldn't spot them. She painstakingly taught us how to avoid POV problems when writing. I was often guilty of "head-hopping" and other such literary sins until Janette taught me a better way to write. We used to call her the "Point of View Police".

Anne and I were referred to as the "Continuity Police". We were the ones who would catch the little details like the character sitting down on a chair, then suddenly being across the room leaning against the fireplace without having gotten up and walked over there. One character in a book we were proof-reading for a friend came downstairs to greet her date - in a one-story house. The professional editor did not catch this, but we did.

One of my readers is extremely good at pointing out sentences which are longer than they should be, and use too many adjectives. I think that in all sincerity and gratefulness for her service, I ought to give her the title of the "Verbiage Vigilante". What do you think?


July 22, 2011

Tanella's New Look

The book has been in print only two years, and just over a year for the ebook; why does it need a new cover? It's more than just a face lift.

My first covers were made using CreateSpace's wonderful cover creator tool, which made some really great covers for our books. They looked very nice, and I liked them a lot.

When I was ready to release the novels as ebooks, I discovered that because I had used their template and just plugged in my own information and photos, CreateSpace held the copyright on the cover, while I held the copyright on the interior only. In other words, I couldn't use the cover from my print book as the cover of the ebook. I quickly made some rather bad covers for my ebooks and released them, but I was never really happy with them.

A year later, I decided to do something about it. I bought a photo editing program that would do what I needed it to do, and spent time learning how to use it. I know I'll get better with more practice, but I already like my new covers better than the old ones. The best part is that because I am now making my covers from scratch, I own all the rights to them. My ebooks and print books can now have the same cover - which will help people who have seen one version find the other one at the store.

This also means everyone who bought Tanella's Flight in print now has a collector's item, an autographed first edition with the original cover, which is now out of print. The book is still in print, with the new cover, but the original black cover is no longer available, ever.

Within the next month, I will be replacing the cover on Fabric of the World, so if you want to get the original cover before it's gone forever, I recommend you purchase it before August 1, when I plan to take it off the market to work on the new files.


July 19, 2011

Are You a Reader?

Part of being a writer involves having a large vocabulary available without having to keep looking up other ways to say something. I think it's part of being a reader, too.

There are different levels of reading. I am not making fun of anyone's ability or choices, just observing facts as I see them; in other words, stating my personal opinion without judgment of any individual. I've noticed these groups:

1. People who cannot read because of limited mental capacity or physical impairment. For example, a man I know has MS. Reading is painful for him because of the difficulty of moving signals along his nerves.

2. People who cannot read because they have never been taught how. People who cannot read in the dominant language of the country they live in because they do not speak the language well enough.

3. People who can read, but do better when reading aloud, tracing with their finger, or sounding out words aloud or silently. This includes people new to reading or a language. It also includes those with a mental or physical reason for not reading well; such as dyslexia or the host of problems lumped together as "learning disabilities".

4. People who read well, but only for learning. They read assigned materials for school and work, and no more.

5. People who read fiction and non-fiction for fun. They usually have a larger vocabulary than any other group. They are also generally well-versed in historical and cultural references, so they understand inferences faster than others.

Notice that the difference between groups 4 and 5 is based on choices; not education, practice, or physical or mental conditions. I call the group who reads because they enjoy it "readers". I know ten year old children who are readers, and adults who are not. I've found I prefer the company and conversation of readers. Not all of the readers I know are people who would be considered of "normal" physical or mental capacity.

The man with MS I mentioned before was never a reader, even before his illness made reading painful and nearly impossible. Because of his physical impairment, he now spends most of his day watching television. The lack of historical and cultural references he could have picked up by reading limits his full enjoyment of the programs he watches. He sometimes has to have the plots explained to him.

By contrast, I know a young woman of limited understanding who loves to read. Just from surface association, I wouldn't expect her to be capable of understanding the nuances of plot. Because I see her several times weekly, I got multiple updates of her progress as she read Tanella's Flight. She enjoyed the book immensely, and from her commentary, I could tell she had no problem grasping all the layers of the plot. She's now joined the crowd demanding the sequel. I think she really just wants to find out what happened to Liammial and whether he gets away with murder.

Are you a reader?