Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WNW: Colons, Commas, Parentheses, Oh, my!

Can you believe it? Word Nerd Wednesday is BACK!

After an unscheduled hiatus . . . ahem . . .

First, a link over to my Good Things Utah interview that aired live this morning.

CLICK HERE to watch my tongue go so fast that it's surprising that smoke isn't coming out of my mouth! (Oh, and to see an actual Flat Daddy of a currently deployed solider.)

Today we're tackling several questions Rebecca recently asked in a comment:

#1: Where do I put the comma, before the parentheses or after?
Simple answer: AFTER.

Parentheses let you add something in the middle of a sentence, an aside or clarification. Because of that, the sentence must be able to stand on its own if you pull the parentheses out. Take this sentence:

After Officer Brad spoke to the students (the fifth and sixth graders), he passed out information about Internet safety.

The clarifying addition of saying exactly which students were there helps, but it's not necessary for the sentence to make sense. You could just as easily say:

After Officer Brad spoke to the students, he passed out information about Internet safety.

But if the comma is inside the parentheses, then the comma is part of the insertion. Take it out, and the comma gets cut too. It's lost from the entire sentence, which makes for a long, convoluted line to read:

After Officer Brad spoke to the students he passed out information about Internet safety.

Definitely want that comma in there. Put it OUTSIDE the parentheses.

MINOR CONFUSION: This makes perfect sense, right? Well, not everything does. When you're dealing with quotation marks, you almost always put the commas or other punctuation INSIDE, even if they aren't part of the quote.

Gotta love how consistently random American English is.

#2: Do you capitalize the "n" in "not"?
Short answer: NO.

I'm assuming this refers to what to capitalize in titles. DO capitalize:
  • All verbs, no matter how small (even IS, WAS, etc.)
  • All nouns, pronouns, and proper names (CAR, THEM, HE, JUDY)
  • The first and last word, regardless of what they are.
  • Really long prepositions (at least 5 letters, such as WITHOUT, AGAINST, BENEATH)
Do NOT capitalize:
  • Articles (THE, A, AN)
  • Prepositions, unless they're long (ON, BY, INTO, OUT, etc)
  • Short words (AND, IF, etc.)

Hence some of my titles:
Lost Without You
Three words, so the first and last get caps. The middle word is a preposition, but it's long, so it gets caps too.

At the Water's Edge
Cap at even though it's a preposition, because it's the first word. Don't cap the. Cap the other two big words.

House on the Hill
Only the first and last words get it, because the middle two are a preposition and an article.

Spires of Stone
First and last. The middle word is too small to matter.

See how that works? Pretty simple.

#3 When using colons, do you capitalize the first word that comes after them?
Generally speaking, no.

Whatever comes after a colon is still part of the same sentence, so you continue as you would with any other part of a sentence, in lowercase:

Mark read over his grocery list: bread, eggs, cheese, and a case of Sprite.

Sometimes writers will add an uppercase letter after a colon for a specific effect, or if the what comes after can stand by itself as a sentence. In the last case, the capped letter isn't needed. One exception would be this very post. Sometimes I'll lead into an example with a colon, but that's pretty much ending the sentence, and I'm beginning something brand new with the example sentence.

#4: When do you use actual numbers such as 12:00 versus twelve o'clock?
That's largely up to the publisher. I've seen it both ways, and which you use is really up to your editor and what style guide they're using. Neither is incorrect.

I personally prefer to spell out times, because numbers pull me out of the text and remind me that I'm reading, while words feel more natural and keep me in the story world. But that's just me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yes, I'm Alive, & Other News

Holy unplanned blog break, Batman!

Life has swirled out of control the last while, and my poor blog (and blog reading) has suffered. I hope to be back on the bloggy bandwagon with my regular schedule soon.

(No guarantees, however . . .)

Okay, Now for Some BIG NEWS!

I'm on the Radio!
If you're in Utah, tonight (that's Monday, March 29th) at 10:00 pm, tune in to FM 100.3.

Rebecca Cressman will be hosting me and my friend Chris. We'll talk about Band of Sisters, supporting military families, promoting Elaine Dumler's Free Flat Daddy Project, and discuss what deployment is really like.

Chris was an invaluable resource for me as I wrote the book, having gone through a deployment. She's facing their second one soon.

(Remember to visit MY FLAT DADDY PAGE to donate as much or as little as you can!)

I'm on TV!
Likewise, for Utah people, be sure to watch Good Things Utah on ABC4 this Wednesday, March 31st. The show airs for an hour at 10:00 am, and I'll be there with an actual Flat Daddy of a soldier currently deployed.

I'm Signing Books!
Then this Saturday, April 3, I'll be at the Layton Hills Mall Deseret Book for Ladies Night (6:00 pm - 8:00 pm). Please come so I'm not lonely. :)

Lately, if I'm not running around like a headless chicken for promotion, you can probably find me baking in the kitchen or at a photo shoot for Chocolate Never Faileth!, which goes to press in just over a month. (See why I've been a teeny, tiny bit busy?)

Between family stuff, promotion, a cookbook craziness, I'm lucky to keep the family from starving and going naked, let alone keeping up on my blogging. (Let's not discuss the vacuum and other housekeeping items that have been neglected . . .)

That said, many others have been spreading the word about Flat Daddies and Band of Sisters, Krista even did an author interview with me, and I've come across a couple of really nice (and surprise!) reviews of the book.

Take a look:

(This review said exactly what I hope readers will experience: that yes, while Band of Sisters is about deployment, at its core, it's really about "women connecting and befriending each other.")

Thanks to you all!

Pictures from the launch party coming soon . . . I swear . . . I think . . . yeah, that should happen at some point . . . probably . . .

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WNW: St. Patrick's Edition

Just for fun, I thought I'd do a little digging to find out the background of some words centered around St. Patrick's Day and/or Ireland.

Here's some of what I found:

According to my trusty OED, back in the 1500s in both Ireland and Scotland, a slogan was a war- or battle-cry. A slogan usually used a person's family name or a location that they'd yell out.

It comes from sluagh-ghairm, which, broken down meant host (sluagh) + cry or shout (ghairm).

Quite a different meaning today, when marketing types sit around a table, trying to come up with a nifty names and catch-phrases for their company and products.

(Suddenly I'm picturing an Irish warrior on a horse, raising his sword and calling out, "Kleeneeeeeeeex!")

Again, my OED confirmed this one, which I found somewhere else first. The word originally is viewed as either Irish or Gaelic, from go leor, meaning "in abundance" or "plenty."

Perhaps having beer galore led to all those famous Irish drinking songs . . .

Mac/Mc/M' and O'
These prefixes for names hail from both Ireland and Scotland. According to one site I looked at, families wouldn't necessarily stay consistent in their spelling, so you could find McHenry, MacHenry, and M'Henry or even just Henry all for the same family.

(Good luck doing your family history research!)

To muddy the waters further, since the prefixes hail from both countries, you can't say with certainty that a MAC name is from Scotland or an O' name is definitively Irish.

Both prefixes mean, "descendant of." At one point, MAC and its variations usually meant "son of" (so MacDonald = son of Donald), and O' was "grandson of" (O'Donald = grandson of Donald). Apparently those distinctions weren't always followed (yay for more inaccuracy!), so all you can be sure of when seeing a name with that prefix is that the person is a descendant of a person with the name somewhere along the line.

The OED can't agree with itself on this one. We've got several possible histories here.

One source the OED quotes says the word could be derived from an Irish term referring to a sprite "always employed in making or mending a shoe." (So the shoemaker in the fairytale was actually relying on a bunch of leprechauns?)

Another possibility is the Middle Irish luchrupan, which came from the Old Irish luchorpian, which meant small body (lu = small and corp = body). (In which case, what, they're just little people? What about the magic?)

Then the OED quotes an Irish dictionary as saying that in Irish folklore, a leprechaun is a "pygmy sprite 'who always carries a purse containing a shilling.'"

That's where I came up short. Wait . . . a shilling? Where's the a pot of gold?

So . . . we're just looking for a small person who might make shoes and who carries around a coin.

Where where did the rainbow idea come from? (I have no answers. Just posing the questions.)

the snug
A bar parlor, or small, comfortable place in a pub to drink privately, often preferred by women.

Too bad that back in the day, the Irish didn't have a blanket with sleeves to perfect the term as they drank their ale.

Think about it: They could have rocked the Snuggie in the snug!

(Be sure to check out Kristina P's Snuggies for Seniors drive! Click HERE or on the picture in my sidebar.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lots 'o Giveaway Winners

I've had two giveaways going on at the same time over here, and today I'm announcing the winners.

Rachelle Christensen's OfficeBox/Wrong Number giveaway has two steps. First, the 25 blogs participating each pick a preliminary winner who gets a prize package that includes:
  • A ScrapMaBob
  • A self-healing cutting mat
  • A ribbon box
(That's a retail value of about $48.00.)

The 25 preliminary winners go on to be part of the grand prize drawing for an Original OfficeBox and a copy of Rachelle's new novel, Wrong Number.

The Lyon's Tale preliminary winner of the prize package is (drum roll, please . . .):

THE MOTHERBOARD from Crazyland with her first (required) entry of simply commenting on her favorite item. (It pays to enter!)

This one was to encourage readers to spread the word about our super-successful Triple Book Launch (more to come on that in another post). Thanks again to every single person who came and supported us. It was such a great night!

I promised a full set of my four temple novels (House on the Hill, At the Journey's End, Spires of Stone, and Tower of Strength) to the grand prize winner, plus two runner-ups who'd each get a copy of my grammar guide, There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.


The four-book set goes to . . .

She was bound and determined to win by getting as many entries as she could, even though she's not in Utah and couldn't attend the launch. Thanks for spreading the word, Alexis!

The two people who get copies of There, Their, They're:


Congratulations to all three!

(Ladies, be sure to e-mail me your snail mail address so I can get your prizes to you!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Supporting Our Soldiers' Families

Prior to writing Band of Sisters, I watched a close friend go through her husband's deployment. We lived just around the corner from one another, and my youngest was the perfect age to play with her children.

I was more than happy to fill in as a last-minute babysitter or lend my husband to fix a clogged garbage disposal or whatever. A couple of times, she used me as a listening ear, even though, much as I tried, I knew that deep down, I didn't (and couldn't) really have a clue what she was going through without facing a deployment personally.

I like to think I was a little bit of a support to her, but the reality is, I felt pretty helpless and didn't know if there was anything I could really do to help her beyond being an on-call babysitter and having our family pray for hers.

Her deployment experience led me to researching the topic more fully and talking to a number of military wives, and, ultimately, I felt compelled to write a novel about the topic.

In the process, I found that many people (both those who personally know a military family and those who don't) wish for something specific they could do to help. They just don't know what.

Then I landed on a blog that changed things. Eureka! Here was something concrete, something anyone could do that was simple in action but big on impact.

The Free Flat Daddy® Project
Flat Daddies (or Flat Mommies) are life-size photographs of the deployed parent. In a small but powerful way, a Flat Daddy can help ease the pain of the parent's absence.

Children take their Flat Daddy to soccer games, kindergarten graduation, even trick-or-treating.

Little girls have tea parties with "Dad."

Boys can push "Dad" in a wagon and otherwise "play" with him. Young children can kiss him good night.

The blog I first discovered the concept on is A Year with Flat Daddy, where an LDS woman nicknamed Mo recorded their family's journey with "FJ" (Flat Jared) while "RJ" (Real Jared) was in Iraq.

Their experience in Mo's own words:

Flat Daddies can really provide a strange sense of comfort in some situations and sometimes a little bit of comfort is enough to get through another day. I know that it was especially helpful for our daughter, who was very young when Jared left.

She didn't shy away from him in the least when he came home and scooped her up. And "Daddy" was even her first word! Our oldest son has some special needs and doesn't adjust well to change, so the chance to have his "Dad" with him as usual helped ease his stress a bit.

And I'll admit that on at least one occasion I put my arms around Flat Jared's neck and cried my eyes out. It was more comforting than crying in a pillow, to be honest.

Carrying a Flat Daddy with you really does bring out the best in people. I experienced such gratitude and kindness from complete strangers, people who wanted to connect with us and really be a part of our family's little adventure.

I am so grateful for Flat Daddies. I had heard of the concept before, but the cost is prohibitively high if you try to make one yourself at a local copy shop. Having a place that makes it easy and affordable—or free for a family going through a deployment—is a great blessing.

The Flat Daddy® concept is the brainchild of Elaine Dumler, who originally came up with it as one of many ideas for military families in her book, I'm Already Home.

The idea took off, and through her efforts, she became known as the "Flat Daddy Lady" and got an award from ABC for her work supporting military families. She's since written a second volume with even more great ideas, I'm Already Home . . . Again. You can buy her books from her website (above).

I'm now working with Elaine to help get as many Flat Daddies as possible into the hands of families who could benefit from them.

In the past, donors had two options:
1) Buy a Flat Daddy® for a family they know.
2) Buy a Flat Daddy® for an anonymous family.

Those options are still available.

But having them as the only options presented a slight problem: Not everyone who wants to help can pay out the cost of making and shipping a Flat Daddy. They cost nearly fifty dollars a pop.

Now there's a THIRD option:
Anyone can now donate to the Flat Daddy Project in any dollar amount they choose. That money goes toward the creation of future Flat Daddies.

If you can afford to go without a fast-food lunch once this week and donate five dollars, great! If you can donate ten or twenty dollars (or more!) on another day, even better! Whatever you can give will add up.

Finally: something you can do, more than once, even, to support military families, and it won't break the bank.

To donate, visit the Flat Daddy® page on my website and follow the directions.

That page also shows pictures of Mo's family with Flat Jared and features a clip from their local news about their experience.

Be sure to drop by; it's worth checking out.

NOTE: To buy a Flat Daddy® for a family you know, be sure to get their e-mail address. As you check out, you'll be prompted to enter the e-mail address. After your payment is cleared, the family will be sent a code they'll use to claim their Flat Daddy® at no cost to them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Writing Journey--Woot!

Today I have nothing profound to say. Instead, I'll just squeal.


Okay, that was fun.

The Triple Book Launch Party
THIS evening, March 12, from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
At the new Deseret Book just outside of University Mall
(Near the movie theater.)

Julie Bellon, Sarah M. Eden, and I will be there with our brand new books and (we hope!) a good number of attendees.

Door Prizes!
More and more people keep donating door prizes. That's reason enough to come, for sure! The latest addition: Copies H. B. Moore's two newest novels, Abinadi and Alma.

A couple of other quick notes before I return to my massive to-do list:
  • I had a phone-in radio interview with Rebecca Cressman today. Soon it'll be sent out as an MP3 file in the Your LDS Neighborhood newsletter. I'll be sure to link over then.
  • We discussed at length the charity I'm working with that supports military families, Flat Daddy. I'll post more about the charity soon, but you can see the gist on my website and on the back page of Band of Sisters. I'm hoping we can raise a ton of money to help this great cause.
  • In a couple of weeks, Rebecca Cressman will doing a more in-depth interview with me and a military wife who has been through deployment. We'll discuss practical ways others can help a family during a deployment, talk about the Flat Daddy program, and dispel a lot of deployment myths. (Among those myths: deployment is just like being a single mother or having your husband travel a lot. Um, no.) That interview will air on FM 100.3 on Monday, March 29th.
  • My good friend Tristi Pinkston has a new book out of her own, a mystery called The Secret Sisters. In conjunction with her release, she is also helping a charity: collecting socks (and donations for socks) for The Road Home homeless shelter. Check out the details here.

Finally, a BIG announcement:
Figured that today's a big day, so why not go for bigger? Behold the title of my forthcoming chocolate cookbook:

Chocolate Never Faileth!

Emphasis and excitement with the exclamation point is part of the title. :)

Hope to see lots and lots of familiar and new faces tonight! I'll post photos later.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Author Interview: Rachelle J. Christensen

I've known Rachelle so long that I don't remember the exact moment I met her, but it was probably at one of the first LDStorymakers conferences. I've always been impressed with her determination to work (versus the writers who daydream but aren't willing to invest the blood, sweat and tears) and to learn (too many people refuse to set aside the ego, thinking they know all).

Her first novel, Wrong Number, is now available. I look forward to reading it, but I must admit that when I heard what it was about, I had to take a step back. Rachelle is such a sweet, innocent thing . . . and her book is about murder? Who knew she had this side? (LOVE THAT!)

Here's what Wrong Number is about:
When Aubree Stewart answers her cell phone on the way to work one day, she isn’t prepared for her life to change. Someone dialed a wrong number, a simple mistake. But the call changes everything when Aubree overhears information about the murder of a government official. Now she must run for her life as the caller tries to eliminate her.

Aubree is placed in the witness protection program, but when the FBI’s protection fails, she heads out on her own. She soon realizes she’ll never stop running until she can solve the mystery behind the wrong number. Unable to trust anyone but herself, she’s cautious about accepting the help of a Park Ranger named Wyatt Erickson. As she struggles to keep herself hidden from the enemy, she finds it harder to protect her heart.

I got to ask her some questions about the book and her writing:

AL: How long have you been writing and how did you get started? (When did the bug bite you?)

Rachelle: I've been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I loved writing poetry and short stories. After I graduated from college, I began to focus more on writing novels.

AL: Where did the idea for Wrong Number come from?

Rachelle: I wanted to enter a chapter into the first chapter contest at LDStorymakers in 2007. I came up with the first chapter of Wrong Number, it won second place, and then I went on to write the rest of the novel.

AL: What research did you have to do for the book? What was the most interesting thing you learned?

Rachelle: I had to do a lot of research. It was fun! I researched different routes through the US so I could decide where I wanted Aubree to go. One of the really interesting things I learned is that California has its own witness protection program under the CBI, California Bureau of Investigation. Some other states have similar programs and it was intriguing to study into how all of the different programs work. I also was amazed at how much schooling a Park Ranger has to go through according to the program they want to work in--check it out HERE.

AL: What is your writing style--are you an outliner or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser? Or somewhere in between?

Rachelle: I guess you could say somewhere in between, but now leaning more towards outlining. I did have a very rough outline for Wrong Number that I worked from and I talked through a lot of ideas with my brother and his wife. They helped me to come up with a believable motive for murdering more than one person. I’m actually trying to do better with outlining and I think it helps. My outlines aren’t set in stone, more jumping off points for how I want the story to flow. I like to have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end, but my characters usually end up writing scenes in interesting directions.

AL: That's very much how I work! What is your typical writing schedule like? (I know . . . you're a mom, so *SNORT*!)

Rachelle: Ha, ha, ha, a schedule! :) I have 3 young children so usually my writing time comes at night when they go to bed. Once in a while I can squeeze in a few paragraphs here and there during the day. I just try my best to have goals that I'm working towards and not get discouraged when the diaper count is higher than my word count for the day.

AL: Great way to put it. :) What is one big thing you've learned through the process of publishing your first novel?

Rachelle: There's a lot of work when it comes to promotion. There is so much you can do, that sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I feel that I have to do my part as a first-time author to make my mark on the world, but I'm also trying to balance these demands with the rest of my life. I'm enjoying the challenge and hoping to get Wrong Number into as many hands as possible.

AL: What's been the biggest surprise about the publishing process?

Rachelle: How fast or slow it can move according to demand/desire.

AL: Which authors are your biggest literary influences in the national market?

Rachelle: That is such a hard question for me because I'm reading all kinds of different genres and authors all the time. An easy way out is to have you check out my Goodreads list of favorites and repeat-offenders to see more all time favorites. But I will say that I like Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, Mitch Albom, Nicholas Sparks, Jessica Day George, and Shannon Hale.

AL: In the LDS market?

Rachelle: For mystery/suspense, definitely Clair Poulsen

AL: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Rachelle: If you’re serious about writing, attend writers conferences and classes, join a great critique group, read novels in your genre of interest, and write, write, write! Also, learn how to take criticism and know when to apply it to your writing and when to chuck it out the window.

AL: GREAT advice. I heartily agree!

Don't forget to enter Rachelle's blog giveaway HERE. You have just a few more days!

FINAL NOTE: Rebecca Irvine is doing a study about LDS readers. She needs a large enough sample to get accurate results. Her short survey and takes just a minute or two.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Go for Launch: Door Prizes Galore!

If you weren't excited for the Triple Book Launch Party YET . . . you will be after reading this post.

Here are some of door prizes we have in store for those who attend:

Pendragon's Book Binding
The nearly lost art (truly an art!) of hand-bound books is alive and well at Pendragon's Book Binding. Their work is stunning, high-quality, and costs about half what similar companies typically charge.

One winner gets a hardbound journal, 8.5" X 5.5" with 160 sheets (320 writing pages). The actual journal made especially for the launch party is pictured below: hand-sewn binding with red butterfly paper and a black suede spine!

They have a ton of choices for cover styles (fabric, paper, photos, soon even leather) and you can have the book blank or have them print your own book inside for a family heirloom.

Retail value: Through other channels, about $40. Through Pendragon's, $20.

Pendragon's Book Binding is run by a husband and wife team, and they do all the work right at their home, sewing and hand binding journals, projects, manuscripts and anything else that might include paper and two covers. Everything is customizable. They're in the process of completing their website and will soon be hosting their own Grand Opening Contest Giveaway among their Facebook followers. (Become a Facebook fan HERE.)

Lola's Lovelies
Just as the name suggests, Lola's Lovelies has lovely, hand-made hair accessories.

Door Prizes: TWO skinny wrapped headbands with decorative flowers on the side: one purple. the other blue! Both have been specially made just for the launch party and our readers.

Visit her blog for more "hair lovelies" HERE.

Two Julie Coulter Bellon Gift Baskets
Two winners will get to benefit from this one. Julie Bellon is putting together two fun gift baskets:

A Book Lover's Basket


A Movie Night Basket.

(If only I could rig the drawings and win one of those!)

Two of My Books

One winner will receive copies of both Lost Without You and At the Water's Edge, my first two books, which are out of print and therefore hard to find (but will soon be available on the Amazon Kindle!).

Meg Hall Photography
One winner will get a free family photography sitting, along with a disc of the images and a copyright release letter so you can make as many copies of any photo you like.

Visit Meg Hall Photography to see more of her awesome work!

Heimdahl & Son Soaps
We have THREE cool products for GUYS, using all-natural products and fragrances (essential oils, for example. Not the fake stuff). Whether we give them all out together or separately is yet to be determined: Lemon soap, Bay Rum aftershave (which I hear smells just right: not too strong or weak and is oh so good), and a shaving bar. They're all packaged and sealed with wax in the company's trademark wooden containers. Become of a fan on Facebook HERE.

Walls of Wisdom Home
This great company can customize any vinyl lettering project just for you.

(One of my personal favorites says, "A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.")

They're offering a several prizes:

One winner will receive $20 gift certificate for anything on the Walls of Wisdom Home site.

SEVERAL OTHER winners will receive vinyl lettering ready to put on a wall with awesome quotes about reading and books.

Visit Walls of Wisdom Home to see more of their products.


Dippidee $25.00 Gift Certificate
This is a bakery of my own heart. The Dippidee tagline is "Place of Sweet Surprises," and it couldn't be more true. I've loved everything I've ever tasted from them, and their cakes are gorgeous! (Really, go check out their website!)

ONE person will be the lucky winner of a Dippidee gift card. (Attached to a Dippidee treat! Mmmm . . .)


My FAVORITE gourmet popcorn company, Colorado Kernels (located in Orem) is donating TWENTY-FOUR mini bags for door prizes. Holy smokes, it'll be all I can do not to rip into them myself.

(Their Chocolate Cherry Cordial is divine. As is their Chocolate Avalanche, and their . . . oh, man. I'd better stop before I drive over there.)

Just trust me on this one. You want to win one of their bags! Go ahead and salivate over their flavors HERE.

Convinced yet? Hope so! We have more prizes in the works; these are the ones we have confirmed so far.

So please come . . . and spread the word!

(Remember, if you help let others know about the launch party, you could win BOOKS! See this post for details.)


Amazon's famous Prime Day events are huge for so many reasons, and for bookworms, it's even better: books aren't high-ticket ite...