Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WNW: The English Ear

(Fun news at the end of the post; don't miss it!)

A couple of years ago, I posted a funky mind bender that messes with your head, or, rather, your ear. I talked about how, to understand language, your mind needs to know when one word ends and the next begins.

I used this pseudo-nursery rhyme as an example of messing that up so you can't figure out what's being said:

Maresy dotes'n dosey dotes'n littel amsy divie.

The answer to that one is in THIS POST.

After that, several people told me about the great game Mad Gab, which works off this same principle: one team reads a garbled (but famous) phrase off a card and tries to figure out what it really means. The person holding the card knows the meaning. And I can tell you, it's wild playing Mad Gab; as the person holding the card, you think your team has said the phrase, only they don't know what they said.

The other day, my friend Robison Wells posted a link on Twitter to something that reminded me of this concept but in a different way.

Here's a song from an Italian television show that's nothing but gibberish . . . but it's deliberately written to sound like English.

The freaky thing: it totally sounds like English.

I've watched it few times now, and it's always the same: my brain twists into pretzels trying to understand the lyrics. It's as if my mind recognizes the sounds and thinks the singers are really saying something . . . but they're not.

It's sheer brilliance. Enjoy!


Note: You can find a "subtitle" version on YouTube as well. I don't recommend watching it; it's not actually subtitles; it's what one person thinks the song sounds like, putting English words into the gibberish. To me, the so-called subtitles don't sound right.

FUN NEWS:
You'll want to check out the newest writing podcast, specifically about middle-grade books. It's called Wordplay, and the three hosts are awesome: critique group member J. Scott Savage, James Dashner, and Nathan Bransford. (You read that right.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hey, I'm Still a Mom!

Awhile back, I got on a frugal kick. My efforts included signing up for newsletters and going to blogs aimed at helping mothers save money.

They included freebies, coupons, giveaways, announcements of sales, and so forth. I was quite excited over the prospect of getting great deals and saving money for our family.

But as the months went on, I found these lists less and less useful. As the mother of four, how is that possible?

Turns out that these money-saving services aren't really aimed at mothers in general. They're aimed at new mothers, women with children who cannot use the toilet, feed themselves, or read.

If I still had the need for cheap diapers, strollers, board books, car seats, booster seats, high chairs, building blocks, bibs, bath toys, and videos with bouncing shapes and characters singing mind-numbing songs, I'd be having a ball.

But I don't, and I'm not.

See, my children are older than that. They're not only potty trained and can feed themselves, but they also dress themselves, one is learning to drive, another babysits for the neighbors, another is on a dance team, and the youngest steals my Kindle to read novels.

Since these newsletters and blogs are pretty useless to me, I've unsubscribed from several of them and delete the rest. (Those I haven't unsubbed from I hang on to with the dim hope that maybe, just maybe, I'll find something useful.)

I wish they were honest about what they're offering. They are not catering to moms. They're catering to mothers of babies and young children.

Based on their definition, I don't qualify as a mom. But I am most definitely a mom, and if I've learned anything in the sixteen years I've been one, it's that children get more, not less, expensive as they age.

Some ideas (a small but growing list, I'm sure) for making a useful mother's deal site:
  • Trade-ins for new jeans in the men's section because your son is having yet another growth spurt and the ones you bought two weeks ago are too short but look brand new.
  • By one, get one free, scientific calculators (with a bonus graphing calculator) for teens taking upper math.
  • School-supply sales that go beyond crayons and markers (my suggestion: case lot sales for pallets of binders).
  • Inexpensive locker decoration ideas (mostly for daughters).
  • Frequent-customer punch cards for local orthodontists.
  • Make-up sales (again, for teen daughters).
  • Rebates where you get college tuition instead of cash.
  • Notices on sales for hair products since all the kids now use not just hairspray, but mousse or gel.
  • Also sales on shampoo and conditioner, since with puberty, they need to wash their hair more often.
  • Giveaways on hair dryers, straighteners, and curling irons (with bonus entries if you have multiple daughters, since those things are dang expensive).
  • Two words: free gas.
And finally: deep discounts on massages. For Mom, of course. She needs it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WNW: Mormon Edition, Take 2

A couple of years ago I did a Mormon Edition for Word Nerd Wednesday, wherein we discussed the proper pronunciation of words like Ensign, Patriarchal, and Melchizedek, and how the phrase "strait and narrow" (meaning tight and narrow, basically synonyms) is constantly misunderstood and referred to as "straight and narrow" (not twisty and narrow). You can read that post HERE.

I thought it might be time for another edition with a few more Mormon-y common mistakes.


Shew
I know this looks like new and threw. That's the reason we often hear pronounced as SHOO.

I pronounced it like that well into my adulthood until someone corrected me. Doubtful, I looked it up, and lo and behold, they were right. It's an archaic spelling of show, but it's still pronounced the same way: show. It uses the same spelling (and sound) that sew does.


Yea/Ye/Yeah
In the scriptures, we see yea. Most people pronounce it correctly (YAY).

Every so often, I'll hear someone pronounce ye (the objective pronoun for you) in the same way. Remember that ye is YEE.

And then in writing, people often try to celebrate with someone else and mean a word that sounds like, "hip-hip-hooray" but spell it like this: yeah!

But yeah is a different word. It means "okay, sure," it's an affirmation.

So: "Did you do your homework?"

"Yeah."

If you want to celebrate, use either yea, or, since you don't mean anything scriptural, yay.


Revelation
The final book of the Bible is singular, not plural. John the Beloved recorded his revelation of the last days, and his book is called Revelation.

It's not RevelationS.

Please and thank you.


Psalms
The book in the Old Testament that has all those pretty songs is the book of Psalms.

However, if you refer to something within the book, you are referring to a specific psalm.

So a citation to the verse that reads, "The Lord is my shepherd" should read like this:

Psalm 23:1

That's singular, because you're referring to a single psalm. It's just like with the D&C: you refer to Section 76. You would never say, "Sections 76."

So it's NOT: Psalms 23:1

(Side note: Try typing "psalm" several times in a post. It'll start looking wrong and wonky.)


"in the name of Thy Son"
This is how we're taught to end prayers, right? THY ("your") makes sense, since we're talking to our Heavenly Father.

But have you ever heard someone end a talk or a testimony this way?

I have, and I don't like it.

This is a grammatical thing, but I mention it more because it's something that bothers me: it's clearly someone being thoughtless about what they're saying rather than truly honoring the Savior's name.

You can tell someone is just throwing out a rote phrase, because it doesn't make sense in context.

Think about it: if you're talking to a congregation, you aren't speaking about their son. So "in the name of Thy Son" makes absolutely no sense in that situation. To me, it's being disrespectful.




Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Kindle?

I got a question over on Twitter the other day.

(Note: If you want to follow me, I'm HERE.)

The question came from Zina over at My Imaginary Blog. Readers here may remember her as the blogger I borrowed the malapropism post from. (She's got a lot more where that come from.)

When I posted the first chapter of my middle-grade fantasy novel, The Golden Cup of Kardak, she was curious as to why I decided to go straight to the Kindle with it.

Since the answer doesn't fit into a 140-character tweet, and because I'm guessing other readers may have the same question, I felt a blog post coming on. So Zina, here's the answer.

But some history first. I now have four e-book titles. I traditionally published seven novels with Covenant. My first two went out of print years ago, and the rights reverted back to me. And then I sat on them, because self-publishing a hard-copy novel is crazy expensive. If you go inexpensive and do the print-on-demand thing, you're unlikely to sell much, and it wasn't worth doing to me.

But when e-books started taking off, I decided to get those books back into reader hands.

So just over a year ago, I did a spit-polish on Lost Without You and made it an e-book.

Note to readers: I always liked my original version of the final scene, so I changed it back (in case readers of the original are wondering, yes, it's different).

It had slow sales at first, but every month increased significantly from the month before.

Then around the first of this year, I put up At the Water's Edge, and shortly after that, my grammar guide, There, Their, They're, both of which I updated a bit. I priced the novels nice and low at $2.99, and the grammar guide at only 99 cents, since it's a small book.

At the urging of colleagues, I'd originally self-published the grammar guide in softback with print-on-demand technology about two years prior. I never had any plans for it to go really big; it was more a labor of love than anything, something to offer to friends, colleagues, conference attendees, and the like. I'd been told many times that I can explain language stuff in a way that's easy to understand. When e-readers became mainstream, it made sense to put it onto the Kindle too.

A bit of NEWS: All three novels are now also available at Smashwords HERE, which supports virtually all e-book readers. You should be able to find them through Barnes & Noble, too. The grammar book will on Smashwords soon as well. If you're a Kindle person, they're all HERE on Amazon.

When I had multiple books out, sales took off significantly. While I'm not getting rich, it's certainly been worth doing.

So back to the question regarding the fantasy: Why did I go straight to Kindle with The Golden Cup of Kardak?

1) As I said above, I've had pretty good success (by my definition; I'm no Amanda Hocking) selling my books online myself. It made good business sense to put it out there and see how it does.

2) While I have every intention of going the traditional route with other books, this one is sort of like my grammar guide. It's a labor of love, something I really like that I want to get to the world and let my kids (and other kids) read. Now.

3) I feel confident in its quality without going through the industry vetting process. It's been through my critique group. I've had kids in the target age range read it and offer honest feedback. I gave it to my editor at Covenant, and he loved it, but as I mentioned a week ago, the company wasn't publishing fantasy. So I think the book's good, and it's fun. If I say so myself.

4) But it's probably not what's "hot" in agent and editor minds right now. It doesn't follow any current market trend, and it's more like the fantasies I read as a teen. (I have no delusions of being in their league, but for the sake of categorizing, it's more Robin McKinley, less Suzanne Collins, if that makes sense.) So it's not urban fantasy. It's not paranormal or dystopian or post-apocalyptic. There's no romance. Sure, it might sell if I were to pitch it nationally. It might not. It's a softer fantasy, not a The Forest of Hands and Teeth or a Percy Jackson.

5) Because of that, I believe the book's audience may be a niche. But I do believe an audience for it exists. However, niche audiences aren't really what publishers are about. They don't have the luxury of spending the time finding and cultivating a niche. Sales are sink or swim in the first weeks or months after release. But I do have the luxury of time, and I don't have to invest thousands to do it. I can slowly find readers and build my audience. (Here's where the whole short tail/long tail theory comes in.)

Like I said, I have future plans for traditional publishing (both in the LDS and the national markets). For this book, right now, going self e-pubbed simply made sense.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WNW: The Scandinavian E vs. O (Or: Spell My Name Right!)

I'm combining two topics for today's Word Nerd Wednesday: history (in particular, family history) and word nerdiness in the form of patronymic names.

The history, of course, must come first:

Most people in the United States with European ancestry can point to a specific reason (an "immigration event") that spurred people to leave their motherlands and head to America for a better life, whether it was for economic, religious, or other reasons.

One big example is the Irish potato famine. Lots of Irish people came to the States during that period in hopes of, oh, not dying.

Other countries experienced hard financial times, and we see spikes in immigration during them, including people coming to work in U. S. mines, thinking that they'd strike it rich.

A lot of immigrants came from Scandinavia, Sweden in particular. Some of the more common last names we see from that era are Larson, Peterson, and Jacobson.*

Those are patronymic names, meaning the person's last name simply told who their father was. (So Jacobson is Jacob's son, and so forth.) Last names changed with each generation calling themselves after their father.

Most Scandinavian descendants around the U. S. come from Sweden, Iceland, Norway, or Finland.

Not Denmark. Why? Because Denmark never had an immigration event.

Except that it sort of did. The early LDS Church sent missionaries to Denmark, and lots of newly converted Danes then immigrated to Utah. So Utah has a large population of specifically Danish ancestry, something you won't find in any other area of the country.

Now we're getting to the fun part:

Danish patronymic names use an E instead of an O: Larsen, Petersen, Jacobsen. I learned this early on in my marriage when addressing a Christmas card to my grandfather-in-law.

"Is it Jensen with an E or O?"

The answer was a prompt: "E, not O. Grandpa's big on his Danish heritage."

The prevalence of Scandinavian (but not Danish) ancestry in the U. S. is why most Americans, when faced with a patronymic name, will assume it's spelled with an O.

The O is the normal spelling to them. And, assuming the person is not from Utah, chances are, they're right.

But in Utah, the reverse is true. The vast majority of patronymic names are Danish, and they end with an E.

The E is normal to them.

So, the kicker:

If you're like my high-school choir instructor, Mr. Larson, and have a patronymic name not from Denmark, and you either live in Utah or know people from Utah, and those Utah people are always spelling your last name wrong, now you know why.



*This post was inspired by Melanie Jacobson, a victim of this Utahn, who spelled her name wrong once and never will again.

Edited to add: The O is clearly from Sweden, not Finland, Iceland, or Norway. I'm aware of Icelandic and Finnish immigration, but I don't know much about Norway's. Must investigate!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Now Available in Electrons


It's been a busy few weeks around here between me doing proofing (three times) and getting constant changes and tweaks to my computer guy (the husband).

Oh, and then there was getting two covers made.

One was a new one for Lost Without You. It's in the header and over in the side bar, but for your viewing pleasure, here it is again:


(If you've read it: doesn't the new one reflect the story so much better? I know!)

But the biggest news right now is what's behind all the proofing and coding and the second cover.

All of that was for a brand new e-book.

I got the idea for the story during my senior year of high school.

(Here's where I wax nostalgic.)

I was part of a program called the Senior Honors Seminar. About a dozen seniors were picked for it through an application process. It was essentially a way cool book club run by the principal and one of the English teachers. They gave us books to read, and about once a month, they excused us from class, fed us donuts or pizza, and we talked books and ideas and concepts and had a ball.

The last meeting before graduation was of particular note, when one of the more eccentric members, a student known for his intellect more than his grades and good behavior, showed up high on drugs. (That freaked out several of us young, naive high schoolers.) Fortunately, most of the meetings were interesting for the discussions.

One month, instead of reading a book, we arrived not knowing what to expect. They divided us up. A girl I'd known for years, Steffani, was my partner. Each pair got a painting to look at. We had to come up with a story based on the painting. Totally cool exercise.

Steff and I got "The Timpanogos Storyteller" by James Christensen. In the four or five minutes they gave us, we came up with an adventure based on two characters sitting in the foreground, a boy and a girl. Clutched beneath the girl's arm is a golden object that looks like a dragon. (She's got bluish hair and he's wearing a dark green tunic. Can you see them?)


We said that these two were siblings. Their father was a prisoner of war, and they had to go rescue him with this magical goblet (that's what the gold dragon thing was, we decided), and that along they way, they find this group of people and creatures in the wood (including a wizard who tells stories, per the painting). This eclectic group would help them find the prison and free their father.

We didn't have time to come up with more details than a skeleton, but I loved the general idea. I went home and jotted it down: a single paragraph in a notebook. That scribbled idea stayed in there for years, but eventually I opened up that notebook, read the idea again, still liked the idea, and began writing the story.

In the end, lots and lots of things changed, and I fleshed out all the stuff that Steff and I didn't come up with in four minutes. The siblings ended up closer in age than in the painting (they're 14 and 12), and the sister doesn't have blue hair. I gave them a wounded knight as a traveling companion. A scene in the book that's inspired by the painting does show up (as does a bunch of other fun stuff; see the blurb below).

I played with the story off and on for years. I took it to my critique group. At one point I had some nibbles submitting nationally, but when I decided to pursue the LDS market in earnest, I let it gather dust. Later, I played with (and polished) the manuscript yet again.

When Kirk at Covenant, who was my editor at the time, expressed interest in the fantasy, I sent it to him. He loved it, but turns out that in spite of his enthusiasm, Covenant wasn't doing youth fantasy at that point, so it was a no-go.

I'll go into more detail next week as to why I decided to put it onto the Kindle instead of wooing an agent with it, but for now, I'll say that after all these years, it's out there for kids and grown-ups alike to read, and that's just cool.

Here's the cover and the blurb:

Ever since their father went to fight in Midian’s War, fourteen-year old Torin and twelve-year-old Merinne have been forced to fend for themselves, hoping one day their family will be reunited. But when a short woman with odd clothing finds Torin in the wood and tells him their father is a prisoner scheduled to be executed in fourteen days, his hopes for ever being a family again are dashed. Then a tiny green dragon shows up at their cottage, wounded and near death but lugging a legendary golden goblet behind him. He brings word of a prophecy that the siblings are to not only rescue their father but save the kingdom. With the help of Markanus, a wounded solider, they set out on a quest to free their father. In their search for the secret prison, the small group faces near-capture by the ruthless enemy army, a maze of terrifying underground caverns, kidnapping by giant hairy creatures that will kill them to keep the goblet, capture by outlaws, and attacks by snake-tongued flying beasts with razor-sharp talons. To succeed they must find help to deliver the goblet to their father and somehow muster the courage it will take to stay alive.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

WNW: Two Definition Blunders

Whether I'm reading a book or editing a manuscript, I tend to notice misused words. (I do, however, maintain the right to have typos and mistakes here on my blog. Just sayin'.)

Some of these are misused word pairs, which I've covered before on Word Nerd Wednesday (see the homophones posts HERE and HERE, with more to come), but others aren't word pairs. Instead, they're terms we often assume mean one thing but really mean something else.

Today's we're focusing on two commonly misunderstood words and their real meanings. Both words are often mixed up because they sound like they're emphasizing the core word. Not so.

penultimate
This word sounds really cool. It sounds like "the ultra ultimate," of something, so whatever it's describing, it must be way awesome.

The real definition isn't nearly so spectacular: penultimate simply means the second to last.

If you're a reader and know this series, here's a way to remember it: The second to last book in The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is The Penultimate Peril.

That book isn't the ultimate peril. (You could argue that other books have worse perils.) It's just the second to last conflict that the Violet, Klaus, and Sunny face as they try to foil Count Olaf. It's the second to last book in the series. It's the penultimate volume.


infamous
Back in eighth grade when I created a writing and reading club focused on (shocker, I bet) L. M. Montgomery, I wrote a newsletter and included stories we wrote in it.

One of my stories included the term infamous, meaning (I thought) someone (my hero) who was really, really famous.

Turns out that infamous means someone or something is dastardly or "bringing infamy." It's having a bad reputation, which could mean the person is famous, but if so, it's specifically for a doing bad things. A good example of an infamous person would be Ted Bundy the serial killer.

So, yeah. Not my hero and heroine.


Monday, August 01, 2011

Tristi's Hang 'Em High Hoedown





Welcome to the Hang ‘em High Hoedown, counting down the days until the release of Tristi Pinkston’s new novel Hang ‘em High, the third installment in The Secret Sisters Mysteries.

When Ida Mae Babbitt receives an invitation to visit her son Keith’s dude ranch in Montana, she’s excited to mend their broken relationship, but not so excited about spending time with cows. Arlette and Tansy go along with her, ready to take a vacation that does not involve dead bodies or mysteries of any sort—one must have a break from time to time. But it seems a no-good scoundrel has moseyed into Dodge City and is bent on causing all sorts of trouble for the ranch. Unable to keep her curiosity in check—especially when it seems her own son is the most likely culprit—Ida Mae decides to investigate. Can she lasso the varmint and get him to the sheriff in time?

You are invited to the launch party:

When: Saturday, August 13th, 12 – 4 pm

Where: Pioneer Book, 858 S. State, Orem

Prizes, games, Dutch oven cobbler (first come, first served)

Tristi will be joined by authors Nichole Giles, Heather Justesen,

Cindy Hogan, and J. Lloyd Morgan

To count down to this book launch, Tristi is holding a contest, and you can win a ton of great prizes!

On my blog, you can win:

Band of Sisters, winner of the 2010 Whitney Award for Best General Novel

The backliner:

When the war on terror calls their husbands to duty, five LDS women are left behind to fight battles of their own: Kim, newlywed and pregnant, frightened of what the future might bring. Brenda, struggling to manage three unruly boys and a crippling bout of depression. Jessie, secretly grappling with mixed feelings about her emotionally abusive husband. Marianne, wrestling with a rebellious teenage daughter. And Nora, the seasoned Army wife with perfect hair, an immaculate home — and an ill-tempered mother dying of cancer.

Knowing the separation of deployment is extremely difficult, Nora gathers the wives every week to share lunches and burdens. In good company, they worry over safety in the field and stability at home and offer one another counsel and comfort. But as their personal crises build, each woman faces the risks of forming deep bonds of trust. And when tragedy strikes, they must confront the painful realities of war that pull families apart and bring friends together as sisters.


EDITED TO ADD:

OR you have the option of winning Tower of Strength, my fourth temple-related book. Like the other prizes in Tristi's Hoe Down, it features a HORSE. Winner's choice. Read about Tower of Strength HERE. (You can also watch the trailer for it in my side bar.)



To enter, do all of the following:

1. Be a follower of my blog.

2. Go to Tristi’s blog at http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com and become a follower of her blog.

3. Leave Tristi a comment and tell her you’ve been to my blog, and tell her one reason why you’d like to win my book.

You have two days to enter the contest on my blog (all entries for my prize must be received by midnight, August 2nd, MST), but the hoe down fun is just getting started.

Be sure to check Tristi’s blog every day for information about the next prize – you’re in for a rootin’-tootin’ good time as we count down the days!

Coming Soon: Firsts and Lasts

UPDATE: Firsts and Lasts is now live as an ebook, and it'll soon be available in paperback as wel! Get the ebook HERE . I've got s...