Tag Archives: speaking

Feb 02

That Pesky Letter “S” As Only Mary Deal Can Tell Us

The letter S
by
Mary Deal

Drop the s. If you believe that one letter couldn’t possible cause you to receive a rejection, I encourage you to think again, especially if the same mistake recurs throughout your manuscript.

Incorrect usage comes from the lax attitude about our English language. Most people speak in jargon or a brogue that comes from a certain locale. I also call it family hand-me-down language. Truth is, no matter from where you hail, your written grammar must be correct for a broader audience.

I’m speaking of the letter “s.” Check out these sentences:

She ran towards the garage.

The ball rolled backwards.

Look upwards.

These sentences are all incorrect. That is, the use of the letter s is incorrect.

The letter s denotes something plural. In the first sentence, if you move toward something, you can only go in one direction. Toward.

If the ball rolled backward, it can only go in one direction. Backward.

If you look upward, you can only look in one direction. Upward.

Strangely, an example of an exception is:

She leaned sideways.

The rule here is that when leaning, you can lean sideways in more than one direction, therefore the use of the s.

You’ll find many other words that are incorrectly used with s endings. When you find these, make note of them, maybe a running list. You’ll have the list to refer back to when you question your own writing.

This is but one of the finite idiosyncrasies of producing better grammar when writing stories and books that you hope to sell. Study your own language and speech. Watch how the s is used or omitted in books that you love to read. Get into the habit of listening to the speech patterns of others. Be critical of what you hear, but never critical of a person who speaks that way. Instead, mentally analyze what you have heard. Learn the right from the wrong of speech and your writing will reflect your knowledge.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Jan 21

Fellow Air Force Veteran & Author, Alan Simon, Guest-blogs with Mike Angley

MA: My guest today is Alan Simon, the author or co-author of 30 books dating back to the early 1980s. His writing career began with the 1st edition of How to be A Successful Computer Consultant (McGraw-Hill) that sold approximately 200,000 copies in 4 editions over the next 15 years. He is the author of three titles in the “For Dummies” franchise series and has written extensively about technology and business topics. In 2009 Alan began experimenting in self-publishing with Blocking and Tackling Your Way to Management Success in which he set 40 fundamental management lessons against a backdrop of 40 stories from the history of his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2010, Alan branched out into fiction with the publication of his first two novels including The First Christmas of the War, set at Christmastime, 1941 – only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Alan currently lives in Phoenix and in the past has lived in Pittsburgh, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Denver, and northeastern Pennsylvania.

Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background…the prequel if you would to your writing career.

AS: The best way to describe my professional background is to quote The Beatles: “The long and winding road…” I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA until my family moved to Tucson, Arizona just before my 16th birthday. I attended college at Arizona State in Tempe and then went to graduate school at the University of Arizona back in Tucson before heading off to Colorado Springs where I spent four years as a U.S. Air Force officer stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. In the Air Force I wrote software for one of the real-life “War Games” systems, referring to the early 1980s movie in which Matthew Broderick breaks into Cheyenne Mountain’s computers to play “thermonuclear war.” After my Air Force days I worked for a series of technology and consulting companies in a variety of roles, including several as a national or global practice leader in business intelligence and data warehousing. I began my own firm – currently called Thinking Helmet, Inc. – in 2006.

In many ways my writing career began as an “accident.” When I was an Air Force officer in the early 1980s I started a small computer consulting business on the side mostly so I could stay up to date with the technology of the then-brand new “microcomputers” that were very different than the old-fashioned mainframes we used in the Air Force. One day I was thinking about all of the tasks I had to do to set up my company and learn about new technology and suddenly thought there might be a book in the making there. I wrote a proposal, sent it off to McGraw-Hill, and presto! Book deal! (Little did I know the publishing game wasn’t quite that easy…)

MA: Well, I definitely have a soft spot for fellow Air Force vets, and I am very familiar with Cheyenne Mountain during my work in Air Force Space Command nearby. With such a technical and non-fiction writing background, how did you end up writing fiction?

AS: I began “dabbling” in fiction approximately 25 years ago, sequestered in a near-deserted hotel in the mountains of Colorado in late May of 1985. I had gone there to spend a week finishing up the final manuscript for my first book, How to be a Successful Computer Consultant. (Thinking back, my long-ago writing getaway in the Rockies was sort of a combination of two works from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King: “The Shining” meets “Misery” !)

Whenever I’d take a break from polishing that manuscript during that trip, I’d shift to write two or three more draft pages for an idea I had for a “potboiler” novel; something that in retrospect was heavily influenced by the writing style and typical plot lines from popular writers of the day such as Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon. I shelved that book for all eternity shortly thereafter, but over the next two decades spent thousands of hours – and wrote the proverbial million words of fiction – on any number of long-dormant projects, as fiction writing grew into a deep passion of mine.

MA: Speaking of The Shining, my kids and I once spent a night in the “Stephen King” room at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where King stayed and wrote the book. Sadly, nothing spooky happened during our stay there. So tell us about your novels.

AS: I wrote two novels in parallel with each other over a period of 6+ years; both were self-published this past year. The first is entitled The First Christmas of the War and is a family saga set at Christmastime, 1941…only weeks after Pearl Harbor. Beyond the overarching and terrifying news coming back from the war front, each family member has his or her own “mini-drama” going on, and the story interweaves the “macro” and “micro” plots in a day-by-day format beginning with the Saturday before Christmas and ending the day after Christmas.

The other novel is entitled Unfinished Business and just like The First Christmas of the War, it’s set in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I like to think of Unfinished Business as “a darker Bridges of Madison County story” that begins in flashback with a brief wartime affair that takes place in 1942. The plot of the story is based around the resumption of that affair nine years later, in 1951, when Roseanne DeMarco’s steelworker husband is called up from the Army Reserves and set off to the Korean War…just as her long-ago “friend” reappears in Pittsburgh as she’s struggling to make ends meet.

MA: I have a hard enough time writing one story, so I can’t imagine what two parallel ones must be like. Who are your protagonists?

AS: In The First Christmas of the War I’m fortunate enough to have a number of main characters who essentially are an “ensemble cast” as the book’s protagonist. The family’s patriarch – Gerald Coleman – is patterned after one of my grandfathers. He’s a shoemaker who is fortunate enough to have made a decent enough living during the Depression. His wife, Irene Coleman, is the classic homemaker of the day…she runs her household and her family and is always looking out for the best interests of every family member. The eldest son, Jonathan, is patterned after characters such as those played by Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage in the 1980s movie Racing with the Moon…he knows with certainty he’s headed off to war soon and is trying to come to grips with this sudden reality. The rest of the family members are all “demographically appropriate” for 1941 children and teenagers.

In Unfinished Business I tried my best to get inside the head of Roseanne DeMarco. Her husband is suddenly sent off to war, she has no safety net to fall back on, and in general she’s sleepwalking through life…and here comes this person from the past who was her “partner” in an illicit yet exciting brief period of her young life. Throughout the book she’s conflicted between the renewal of this excitement and her increasing guilt about what she’s doing while her husband is away at war.

MA: They both sound interesting. Who are the antagonists in the stories?

AS: The First Christmas of the War doesn’t have an antagonist…unless you want to think of Hitler and Tojo as off-the-pages antagonists who made the story (and the war) possible!

In Unfinished Business Frank Donaldson – the main with whom Roseanne DeMarco renews her affair – is very much an antagonist, but a carefully constructed one. I patterned his character after that of Noel Airman in Herman Wouk’s 1955 novel, Marjorie Morningstar. At first he seems suave, debonair, the man of Roseanne DeMarco’s dreams who has returned to her…but increasingly his fascination in the story with Jack Kerouac (then a brand new novelist) becomes symbolic of his own character flaws.

MA: How much of your real life’s story influenced your writing?

AS: When I moved from Pittsburgh to Tucson just before my 16th birthday, I was very homesick for my original city and spent many hours in the high school and public libraries reading books about Pittsburgh and its history. Since I planned to go into the military in one way or another, I was also very interested in the World War II era and the aftermath, including the boom years of the 1950s. So my fascination with mid-20th century Pittsburgh formed the foundation for both of these novels. I spent many hours researching the facts and tidbits for both stories, though when appropriate I took a bit of poetic license in the interest of moving the story along.

In both books – especially The First Christmas of the War – I did use my real-life great-grandfather’s produce business in Pittsburgh as a plot vehicle, and in First Christmas had eldest son Jonathan working side-by-side with my real-life great-uncles in a couple of scenes. I dedicated that book to those great-uncles, all of them gone now, as members of the “greatest generation” who (to use the words of the book’s dedication) “sacrificed much of their youth to the Second World War.”

MA: So what’s next for you? You are so versatile, I can imagine either a novel or some techno-geek book coming soon!

MA: The biggest challenge I have is getting my head and hands around a much-too-full list of to-be-written projects for 2011. In all seriousness, I have a list of about 15 business, technology and management topics; 25-30 ideas for novels and short stories; and another non-fiction, self-help oriented title based on my own personal close call on 9/11. (A schedule quirk put me in Pittsburgh for a speech that morning, scheduled to fly to San Francisco from there that afternoon; otherwise I almost certainly would have been on United Flight 93 since I was shuttling between projects and proposals in New Jersey and the San Francisco bay area for the consulting company I worked for then.)

MA: Wow! I’m glad you missed the original flight, and it’s nice to hear you plan to turn that experience into something good that may help others. With regard to fiction, would any of your future writing involve characters from your first two novels?

AS: The First Christmas of the War is actually the first of a series of four holiday-set, similarly-structured novels featuring the Coleman family. Next up is Thanksgiving, 1942, taking place – as one can tell from the title – eleven months after the initial book’s Christmas, 1941 setting. The next title is The First Christmas After the War, set at Christmastime, 1945. Finally, a concluding novel set in the 1970s takes a final holiday visit with the Coleman family.

MA: Sounds like a nice set of books. Anything else you’d like add before we wrap it up?

AS: Over the years, I’ve had many, many people ask me about the writing business and my own experiences in the context of book or story ideas they’ve had themselves. I always enjoy sharing my experiences with others and am always more than willing to help people navigate today’s publishing world, craft proposals…pretty much anything.

MA: Thanks Alan for appearing on my blog, and thanks for your military service. Please visit Alan’s websites for more information about this amazing author and his projects: www.alansimonbooks.com and www.thinkinghelmet.com.
Read More

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Dec 22

“S & ES Endings” by Mary Deal

Those S and ES Endings

These endings have always troubled me until I finally decided to get it right. Compare the versions and see if you can pick out which is the correct usage of these endings.

The Joneses came for dinner.
The Jones’s came for dinner.
The Jones came for dinner.

John Joneses car stalled.
John Jones car stalled.
John Jones’s car stalled.

That Jones’s girl.
That Joneses girl.
That Jones girl.

The correct sentences are:

The Joneses came for dinner.
John Jones’s car stalled.
That Jones girl.

Some tips:

When a name ends with an s, when speaking of the family as a group, ad es – Joneses.

When speaking about something John Jones owned, it is his property and, therefore, an apostrophe and s shows ownership – Jones’s.

When speaking about a person in the singular, use only the name – Jones.

However, when speaking about a group of girls all named Jones, you would write that sentence: The Jones girls. Notice that the name stays the same but the s is added to the word girl, stating more than one exists with that name. Read More

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Aug 02

“Promoting Fiction: It Isn’t Easy” An Article by Sandra Beckwith

I’m privileged to have as a guest-blogger, Sandra Beckwith. Sandra is a former publicist who shares her award-winning expertise with others as the author of two publicity how-to books, as a book publicity e-course instructor, and as a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. Her book publicity classes and free book publicity e-zine help authors learn how to be their own book publicist. Sign up for her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at www.buildbookbuzz.com.

In today’s article, Sandra addresses the reality of promoting works of fiction. I hope you enjoy her insight, and please be sure to come back to my website for future articles from Sandra with the “inside scoop” on book promotion.
Promoting Fiction: It Isn’t Easy
by
Sandra Beckwith

There’s no question that it’s harder to publicize and promote fiction than nonfiction – that’s why many book publicists won’t accept novelists as clients. But whether we write fiction or nonfiction, we have to make the effort to get the word out about our books. We have a responsibility to the people who need the information we’re offering to let them know our book is available.

What are you doing now to promote your book? Maybe you’ve got a Facebook fan page for it, maybe you’re tweeting to a good-sized following on Twitter, maybe you’re trying to cross-promote with other authors. There’s an effective tactic for every type of book and author personality – the challenge is finding what’s effective for your target audience and your own skills. In coming months, I’ll offer advice on how to promote your book to the people who are most likely to buy it. To get started, I’d like to offer some thoughts on the basics that often get overlooked. They will help you focus on what counts.

* Get as specific as you can about your target audience. Many of my “Book Publicity 101” students tell me that their target audience is “all women between 18 and 65.” In an ideal world, that would be true. The reality is that we can – and need to – narrow that down further so that we have a much better chance of getting the book title in front of the people who are truly most likely to buy it. (Here are tips on my blog on how to do that.)

* Think beyond book reviews. They’re great and we all love them, but if we limit our publicity efforts to getting reviews, we’re not letting our books enjoy their maximum promotion potential. Work to get your book title into conventional and online media outlets and into blogs on an ongoing basis. We’ll discuss how in coming months.

* Promote your book to your “warmest” markets first. Then move outward. A “warm” market is one that already knows and likes you or is most likely to help you spread the word about your book. For most authors, the warmest markets are friends and family, their e-mail lists, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and the memberships of organizations they belong to. It also includes the local media.

* Do what’s best for your book, not someone else’s. Your target audience might not see tweets – yours or anyone else’s – so don’t use Twitter just because “everyone else is.” Blogging might be a better fit for you than podcasting. Some people enjoy public speaking, many more don’t. The point is, use the tactics that you can execute and that will help you get your book title in front of the right people.

I’d like to hear from you about the challenges you face when promoting and publicizing your fiction books, or about topics you’d like to learn more about here. Please send me a note at sb@buildbookbuzz.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Read More

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Jun 25

Police Psychologist and Author, Dr. Ellen Kirschman, Goes On the Clock at the Child Finder Trilogy

My very special guest today is Dr. Ellen Kirschman of Redwood City, California. Dr. Kirschman is a licensed clinical psychologist who has specialized in police and public safety since 1978. She is the author of two books I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need To Know-Revised (Guilford, 2007) and I Love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know (Guilford, 2004).

Dr. Kirschman is a member of the psychological services section of the International Association of Police Chiefs, the police, public safety subdivision of Division 18 of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, the International Law Enforcement Trainers Association, the Public Safety Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America. She has published more than a dozen articles and book chapters about police stress, the psychology of recovering from critical incidents, and strategies for consultation to organizational issues in law enforcement. Her essay “Bare Butts and Bare Souls” was included in the anthology What Would Sipowicz Do? Race, Rights and Redemption in NYPD Blue (Ben Bella, 2004). She and Dr. Lorraine Greene are co-developers of policefamilies.com, named web site of the month by the American Psychological Association.

She provides psychological consultation and peer support training to many local and federal public safety agencies, police, fire and probation. She was co-facilitator of the Trauma Team Training Institute for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from1996-2008.

Dr. Kirschman has appeared on a number of national radio and television programs. She has been an invited guest at four national conferences on police psychology sponsored by the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Women and was once named Woman of Distinction by the Police Chief’s Spouses Worldwide.

Dr. Kirschman currently devotes her time to training and public speaking, including guest lectures at the Hong Kong Police Department and the Singapore Police Force. She volunteers at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat, a peer-driven, clinically guided retreat for first responders with PTSD. Read More

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