Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Infinitively Split…

If you play Trivial Pursuit, you know about the grammatical error featured in the opening credits of Star Trek. The famous line “to boldly go where no man has gone before” contains the split infinitive “to boldly go” (where the adverb “boldly” splits the infinitive “to go”). While the line remains mostly unaltered throughout Star Trek’s many incarnations, it gets “corrected” in the first episode of the series Enterprise, in a recorded speech by warp drive inventor Zefram Cochrane: “To go boldly where no man has gone before.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?

The prescriptive rule against split infinitives was created in response to its growing usage in the 19th century. While no one was clearly identified as the creator of said rule, there were many writers who supported the edict. According to Bache (1869), "The to of the infinitive mood is inseparable from the verb.” Of like mind, Raub (1897) states, "The sign to must not be separated from the remaining part of the infinitive by an intervening word.” There were perhaps as many who denounced the restriction. But the rule took hold of public consciousness by the early 20th century, gaining a firm toe hold in academia and the media.

Trying to correct a split infinitive will sometimes cause problems. The aforementioned “to boldly go” converts well enough into “to go boldly.” The altered phrase might not have as much panache (if only because the original is so strikingly familiar), but it does carry the same meaning.

By contrast, consider the following (with the first line containing the split infinitive “to slowly remove” and the remaining lines as possible “solutions”):

1. “She decided to quickly remove all split infinitives from her writing.”
2. “She quickly decided to remove all split infinitives from her writing.”
3. “She decided to remove quickly all split infinitives from her writing.”
4. “She decided to remove all split infinitives quickly from her writing.”
5. “She decided to remove all split infinitives from her writing quickly.”

While the meaning is most often unaffected (e.g. making quick changes to the writing), line #2 instead describes a quick decision. Furthermore, line #s 3-5 come across as clunky.

Split infinitives might be against the rules, but sometimes they can’t be avoided. If you can find a way to omit them or rephrase them, by all means do so. But don’t alter them at the expense of meaning.

Consider this bit of sage advice from the Fowler brothers: "The 'split' infinitive has taken such hold upon the consciences of journalists that, instead of warning the novice against splitting his infinitives, we must warn him against the curious superstition that the splitting or not splitting makes the difference between a good and a bad writer" (The King’s English, 1907).

In closing, remember this overall approach to grammar:

Learn the rules. Understand the rules. Then decide when, how and why to break the rules to best effect.

NOTE: A tip of the virtual hat to Wikipedia for the quotes used above.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bring on the Bucket Brigade

We're in for a heavy dose of wind and rain overnight, which means I'll be keeping a close eye on the fireplace. Sooner or later, the water will work its way in, as it always does under such conditions.

The buckets are already in place, but I won't know if they're in the right places until later. That means I won't get to bed until after I can spot the drips or the rain stops, whichever comes first.

Note to self: earmark a few dollars for a pair of clover-shaped chimney caps, which are supposed to keep the rain out no matter which way the wind blows.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

To Cap or Not to Cap

A few months ago, I participated in an impromptu editors’ discussion (via email) on the rules for capitalization of titles. We were trying to reach a consensus in terms of our in-house standard (we all work for a small publisher).

Titles such as president and secretary general can cause much confusion over whether or not to capitalize. However, The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) contains explicit guidelines on the topic. For instance, consider the president of the United States. The following lists the correct usage of capitalization (or not):

  • The president of the United States (unless used formally, such as in a citation or an introduction)
  • President Barack Obama
  • Barack Obama, president of the United States
  • U.S. president Barack Obama
Another variation might be “the president Obama,” although I doubt that particular phrase is ever used.

Now let’s look at Captain Crunch (just for fun). If used as a substitute for Crunch’s name in a direct address, “Captain” is capitalized, e.g. “Hand me the spoon, Captain. We’re taking on milk.” But in general reference, he is simply “the captain.”

One aspect of the online debate that generated some discussion was the question of parents, e.g. when and if you should capitalize “mom” and “dad.” In the end, we agreed to treat the terms as titles. By that standard, when “mom” or “dad” was used in place of a person’s name in direct address, it should be capitalized. By contrast, if a term was used in indirect reference, it should not be capitalized.

  • “Hey, mom, where did Sarah’s Dad go?” INCORRECT
  • “Hey, Mom, where did Sarah’s dad go?” CORRECT

The CMS contains several pages of examples that can answer most capitalization questions…and any other usage and style questions you might have. The 15th Edition is currently available from Amazon.com for less than $35 US. That just might be the best $35 you spend this year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No Real Surprises at SAG Awards

Watching the Screen Actors Guild Awards tonight was like watching a repeat of this year's Golden Globe Awards. Same nominees. Same winners. About the only thing different was the absence of The Hangover, which inexplicably did well at the Globes.

There were a few standout moments, though, especially Betty White's acceptance speech for her Life Achievement Award (and George Clooney's response to one of her comments).

After ignoring awards season for many years, I find myself paying closer attention this time around. Not much has changed, though. While there will always be the odd exception, the speeches still sound like laundry lists. The "losers" still grit their teeth and applaud.

And we still know who's going to win before the seal is broken.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bird is the Word

With my crazy schedule, I find myself doing things out of order, from eating breakfast in the late afternoon to making dinner at midnight.

That's why I'm making another roast chicken dinner at this "unseemly" hour. Besides, the success of the last one reminded me how easy it actually is...with long-term benefits. The bird's not even done yet, but I'm already looking forward to the next batch of homemade soup.

Right now, I can hear the chicken sizzling in the oven. The aroma is just starting to drift in from the kitchen. And my tastebuds are puckering up for a juicy kiss.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Need Your Recommendations

For some time now, I've been thinking about changing my web hosting service.

There are so many options, however, that I don't know where to begin. So I'm reaching out to you for advice. Do you use a service that you love? Or even one that you hate? (NOTE: I use a local service that most of you wouldn't know.)

My main concern, of course, is cost, but not at the expense of features. I use FrontPage to create my site, so a site that accommodates FrontPage Extensions is preferred over FTP upload (but I'll work with whatever I can get). At least one mailing list is mandatory, and two will be better.

Considering the fact that I'm a blogger, I supposed I ought to consider a service with built-in blogging capabilities. So let's put that on the list, too.

Bring it on, folks. I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Came First...

InkSpotter Publishing released its first book, Paper Wings...a slim volume of my poetry...in October 2006.

As both writer and publisher, I enjoyed a certain measure of control over the book. No query letters or slush piles here! But getting the book into print was an important first step towards publishing the work of other writers.

Since older books tend to be forgotten, I thought it might be nice to push/pull/thrust Paper Wings back into the low-wattage spotlight for a moment.

The first poem in the book is also titled "Paper Wings" and is offered here as a humble sample.

Paper Wings

I grew up with a love of words,
Reading all my mind could hold:
A traveler to far flung lands,
Soaring on paper wings.
Reading all my mind could hold,
I felt the words push out again,
Soaring on paper wings
Over worlds of my design.
I felt the words push out again,
Alive and ripe for sharing
Over worlds of my design,
Mapped without border lines.
Alive and ripe for sharing,
A traveler to far flung lands,
Mapped without border lines—
I grew up with a love of words.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Communal Writing

Several years ago, I started the online writers' group Literary Lapse.

While we've gone through highs and lows and various iterations, we've held on through it all and formed a tight-knit little group. We've done prompt-based writing exercises (which briefly spawned a monthly contest in association with InkSpotter News), general critiques and camaraderie.

Two years ago, we started collaborating on the anthology Backless, Strapless & Slit to the Throat, and last year we joined forces on the chapbook The Communal Desk. Both were published in 2009.

What's next for Literary Lapse? We haven't decided yet. But I can't wait to find out.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Artist chosen for illustrated children's book

This weekend, I officially hired an artist to create the cover and interior artwork for InkSpotter Publishing's first illustrated children's book, What's in My Soup?

Aaron Quinn is the talented young man behind Quinntoons, producer of animated films and comics.

We first met on Facebook, and he soon impressed me with his unique artistic style...so much so that I invited him to join the book project. He impressed the authors, as well, with preliminary sketches that captured the quirky charm of the story.

I hope to post some of those sketches soon. Stay tuned.

So much for daily blogging...

I got distracted and overlooked my blog on Saturday. Shame on me!

Just for that, I'll have to post twice today. Because once is just so easy, right? I might not qualify for National Blog Posting Month (again), but at least things will average out.

Time for coffee and breakfast then getting started on that homemade chicken soup. Can almost taste it already! Also have a sudden craving for cornmeal muffins. Kitchen's all tidied up, so now's a perfect time to mess it up again.

Enough rambling for now. I'll try to be more interesting later today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On the 22nd Day of Christmas...

I suppose it's time to take down the Christmas decorations. Yes, I'm a little late coming to that conclusion.

But at least I haven't plugged any of them in during the past 10 days. I just haven't had time to do more than take the wreath off the door and the candelabra out of the window. The obvious stuff, visible from the street.

Today, I took down the everything else...except the tree.

I know I can't keep hiding the tree behind the dressing screen, but just the thought of packing up those fragile decorations makes me wish every day could be Christmas.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Last Chance to Vote in Preditors & Editors

Today's the last day to vote in this year's Preditors & Editors Readers' Poll.

And just to remind you, InkSpotter Publishing is nominated in the following categories:

Anthology - Backless, Strapless & Slit to the Throat
Book Art - A Boy Named Wish
Book Editor - Betty Dobson
Book Publisher - InkSpotter Publishing
Children's Novel - A Boy Named Wish by Richard & Esther Provencher
Short Story - "Bunduki's Lament" by Kerry-lyn Witherspoon
Horror Short Story - "Names" by Phoebe Wray

And please consider these recommendations:

Poem - "New Orleans in Blue" by Tracye Pool
Science Fiction Novel - While the Gods Sleep by Johnny Fincham
Romance Short Story - My True Love Sent to Me (collection) by Elizabeth Hopkinson
Non-Fiction Zine - WE Magazine for Women
Fiction Zine - Apollo's Lyre
Horror Novel - The Further Accounts of the Imaginary Friend by P.S. Gifford
Poetry Zine - Apollo's Lyre
Zine Editor - Lea Schizas

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Today, I treated myself to a roast chicken dinner--cook-from-frozen, pre-stuffed chicken.

Could have been a horrible experience, right?

But I followed my mother's advice and laid two strips of bacon over the chicken to help it stay moist during cooking. And it turned out rather tasty! Even the stuffing was yummy.

Made me feel pretty good that I took a chance on a ten-dollar chicken at Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spider-Man 4: What Might Have Been

Just one day before we heard that Spider-Man 4 was cancelled and the entire movie franchise would be relaunched, Comic Book Resources ran an article claiming renowned actor John Malkovich expected to play the villainous Vulture in said film.
Well, I couldn't resist playing a little game of "what if." What might have been? The picture speaks for itself!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tobey or Not Tobey?

Fans of the Spider-Man movie franchise will be disappointed to learn that Tobey Maguire will no longer be playing the iconic character.
According to E-Online, Spider-Man 4 was shelved just days after script problems led to the film's scheduled released being pushed back to May 2011.
New plans call for a franchise reboot featuring a teenaged Peter Parker (that's Spider-Man's real name, for the uninitiated)--but not until Summer 2012!
As a result, we'll be seeing a new slate of actors in the now familiar roles of Parker, Mary Jane Watson et al. Goodbye, Tobey (so perfectly cast as Peter "even when I win, I lose" Parker). Goodbye, Kirsten Dunst. And goodbye to director Sam Raimi.
Given the success of the first three Spider-Man films, we can only hope that franchise 2.0 measures up--and that we haven't actually heard the last from our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

All Edited Out!

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest, but for the self employed, it's just another day at the office.

I spent much of today catching up on editing and trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to resist the lure of Farmville. Luckily, editing won out most of the time.

Writing isn't going nearly as well, but I'll blame that on the quantity of editing on my plate right now. That's one reason why my editing goal is three times my writing goal. Pure necessity!

But I'm pretty sure I'm done editing for the day. I just can't look at another word written by someone else.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

First Look at Breaking Free

In March, InkSpotter Publishing will release Breaking Free, the inspirational true story of one woman's endurance through and escape from a life of domestic violence.

Ann-Marie Sandeson writes with sometimes painful honesty about a difficult topic. But she believes that sharing her story will shine a much needed light on the ongoing problem of spousal abuse.
Here's your first look at the cover for Breaking Free.
Please join us in March for the release of this very special book.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Week in Review

Now that the first week of 2010 is behind me, I thought it might be a good idea to do a quick roundup of how I'm doing on my goals (I promise not to make this a weekly thing), up to and including January 7th.

I average one hour of writing and three hours of editing every day.

I wrote a poem this week, though it wasn't very good, and I blogged every day. Don't have this month's short story yet, but I'm working on one.

This month's issue of InkSpotter News went out last night, and subscriber response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Now it's time to get back to work on bringing back Heritage Writer.

Worked out a deal with an artist to create book covers for Dangerous Curves and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. And created the cover for Breaking Free.

I applied for 14 freelance gigs (with one response so far), but I'm still working on that first magazine query (mostly because the whole thing gives me the shakes).

And that's the week in review. Far too early to mark any trends, but at least I have a rough idea how I'm doing compared to my targets.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Strength in Numbers? Or Just Lost in a Crowd?

As much as I enjoy social networking, I know there's also a downside. For all that we connect with other people, sometimes by the hundreds, on the various sites, how many of them can we really claim to have a connection with?

On my soon-to-be-dearly-departed Ecademy account, I'm linked to over 1,000 people. Of those, maybe a dozen engage in any sort of prolonged "conversation" with me, whether initiated by them or by me. Mind you, Ecademy's business focus means it isn't technically a social networking site.

The numbers are considerably smaller on Facebook, where I have, at this moment, 238 friends and associates. But I am engaged in a higher percentage of those relationships, partly because I don't have to pay a monthly fee just to be able to send someone a message.

On Twitter, I have 385 contacts. Better than Facebook in that sense, but, like at Ecademy, there's a smaller percentage of ongoing interactions.

Which site offers the best networking experience? I'm a big believer in quality over quantity, so Facebook wins out over the other two. I like the mix of business and personal connections with a few diversions (yes, I'm a Farmville addict, recently relapsed).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Site-to-Site Networking

If you're like me, you have an account with more than one social networking site. At last tally, I'm on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Shelfari, Goodreads, Women Internet Marketers, Artists for a Better World, The Whole 9 and a host of other sites (assuming they're all still there).

Admittedly, I'm more active on some site than on others. Facebook and Twitter are a primary resources, both of which allow me to feed my updates into many of the others. Even this blog gets automatically filtered onto Facebook and my Lulu.com blog.

I've managed to build up a nice little network, but I was ready to close them all less than a year ago. Visited each individual site on a daily basis just to post an update wasn't at all appealing. I hardly even visited Facebook anymore, and I was so unimpressed with Twitter that I did close my account.

Days later, I found out I could enter an update once on Twitter (using the Tweetdeck application) and have it show up on Facebook and a few other sites. So I reactivated my Twitter account and gave the whole thing another go.

These days, I don't know what I'd do without this site-to-site networking. Tweetdeck simplified everything. If you want to try it or one of Twitter's other applications, go to http://twitter.com/downloads.

And if you want to connect with me, here are a few of my links:

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/#/inkspotter
Twitter - http://twitter.com/inkspotter
Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/784047
Plaxo - http://www.plaxo.com/profile/show/8590799590?src=myProfile&pk=1a3466145559d187a4d977c04363a97a56b413e9 (if you know of a shorter form of this one, please let me know)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Life Threw Me a Curve

Thirty years ago, I found out I had scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine).

The problem started on Christmas day, when I was trying on a new sweater. My older sister, admittedly covetous and trying to convince me it was a bad fit, pointed out how it wrinkled on one side. She kept trying to smooth down the wrinkle until she realized she saw this happen before with one of her college friends.

"You might have a crooked spine," she said.

I went through seemingly endless tests and appointments as a result. On one such occasion, the specialist had me strip to the waist so he could observe my spine as I bent forward. He even handled my breasts as he tried to determine how level they were. For a high school senior, this was something of an uncomfortable experience. But my parents were in the room the whole time, so I just closed my eyes and hoped it would be over quickly.

Tests confirmed I had scoliosis--a 60-degree S-curve, to be precise. My prospects going into adulthood included chronic pain and an eventual hump! Faced with such a dire prediction, I had to decide if corrective surgery was the right solution for me. (My parents felt I was old enough at that point to make such a major decision for myself.)

In early May 1980, I was admitted to the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As I sat quietly on the edge of my hospital bed, the surgeon explained the procedure in full detail, including the odds (1,000 to 1) that I could end up with permanent nerve damage resulting in paralysis.

"But I've done this surgery thousands of times," he added, "and never had anything like that happen."

I barely lifted my head as I responded, "So you're due."

Luckily, he wasn't. The four-hour surgery went off without a hitch. The recovery process, on the other hand, was a little less than ideal.

But that's a story for another day.

If you want to know more about scoliosis, including detection, treatment and recovery, or share your own scoliosis story, be sure to check out Dangerous Curves: Understanding Scoliosis & Choosing a Treatment Option, coming May 2010 from InkSpotter Publishing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

After the Storms

NOTE: Written yesterday (Sunday).

The sun's just coming up. The clouds over my neighbour's houses across the street are brilliant pink, cutting across the sky like ribbons after the chaos of Christmas morning.

The post-storm snow lies crumpled on the curbs, a mishmash of white and brown and bits of black. Despite two storms back to back, the buildup isn't that bad. We had a little rain in between, albeit a frozen rain. Cleanup won't be as easy the second time around. The first storm left light, easily shoveled drifts, but now we have firmly packed, waterlogged piles. And the repeated passage of the plows only adds to the compaction.

The odd chirping bird breaks the silence of the morning. Then the cars add the gentle swoosh of tires through a thin layer of road slush. The crows are uncharacteristically quiet so far. I hear one or two when the sun first starts to brighten the sky, but they're holding back now. Most mornings, the crows serenade the neighbourhood, poor cousins to the magpies that they are.

As the sun rises higher behind an obscuring curtain of clouds, the pink ribbons drop from view. The barest hint of yellow may still be glimpsed through the trees. Dawn is past. Now the morning truly begins. The familiar, persistent background drip coming from the rain gutters assures me the snow is slowly receding already. Unless we get another storm, these unsightly lumps will pass soon enough.

Despite the fact that I'm not a morning person, I actually enjoy these early hours when I happen to be awake for them. There's a certain solitude that comes very close to what I experience during the overnight hours that are my preference.

Most of the world is still in bed, or at least lying low somewhere in their homes. There's no reason to go out. No rush to get to work or to an appointment. We can all just relax and enjoy the quiet. Time enough later for the rush and bustle of life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


In the beginning, there was the newsletter. And it was good (eventually).

But the newsletter slipped away during the dark times (henceforth referred to as 2009).

Then a new light shone upon the creator, with the start of a new year and (according to some) a new decade.

And creator knew the time was right to revive the newsletter.

So it came to pass that InkSpotter News stepped into the light once more.

And the fans said that it was good. Praise be to the fans!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

InkSpotter Publishing in the Running in Annual Preditors & Editors Poll

It's that time of year again. The annual Preditors & Editors Poll for the best in electronic publishing from the past year.

InkSpotter Publishing is well represented this year, with nominations in the following seven categories:

Anthology - Backless, Strapless & Slit to the Throat
Book Art - A Boy Named Wish
Book Editor - Betty Dobson
Book Publisher - InkSpotter Publishing
Children's Novel - A Boy Named Wish by Richard & Esther Provencher
Short Story - "Bunduki's Lament" by Kerry-lyn Witherspoon
Horror Short Story - "Names" by Phoebe Wray

Other recommendations:

Poem - "New Orleans in Blue" by Tracye Pool
Science Fiction Novel - While the Gods Sleep by Johnny Fincham
Romance Short Story - My True Love Sent to Me (collection) by Elizabeth Hopkinson
Non-Fiction Zine - WE Magazine for Women
Fiction Zine - Apollo's Lyre
Horror Novel - The Further Accounts of the Imaginary Friend by P.S. Gifford
Poetry Zine - Apollo's Lyre
Zine Editor - Lea Schizas

You only have until January 14th to cast your votes, so don't delay.

URL: http://www.critters.org/predpoll/

Friday, January 1, 2010

Announcing the Winners of the 2009 Finding the Right Words Flash Fiction Contest

I have no idea how 2010 is going to unfold, but 2009 certainly ended with a flurry of activity (minus streamers and music).

Not only did we complete the first round assessments on submissions to the anthology Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra (and notify everyone accordingly), but we also wrapped up the 2009 Finding the Right Words Flash Fiction Contest, announcing two prize winners and three honorable mentions.

First Prize:
"The Veil" by Jean Blasiar

Second Prize:
"Pilgrimage" by Jane Philpott

Honourable Mentions:
"Two Letters" by Malcolm Bray
"Blue Beach Towel" by Laura Salamy
"What is Winston Churchill Doing?" by Joshua Brown

The top two stories will be published in InkSpotter News, which returns later this month.

The 2010 Finding the Right Words Flash Fiction Contest is now under way and accepting entries.