Monday, November 29, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: Deadline Updates, Gifting Ebooks and Missing Ds

Before we begin, the deadline has been extended for holiday flash fiction submissions due to the Thanksgiving weekend and widespread turkey consumption, which is known to hinder productivity. Please e-mail them to me by Wednesday, December 1, at and be sure to put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the subject line. 500 words or less on your interpretation of “the holidays.” Could be Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Al-Hijira, Ashura, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or Day or even Festivus, which exists only in the minds of the Seinfeld creators. 

Also, as you do your holiday shopping online, please consider purchasing a novel by an indie author this season. There is a lot of great work out there just waiting for you to discover. And now it is easier than ever with the new “Give as a Gift” option for Kindle ebooks, which appears underneath the download button on the right side of the book’s page.

I participated in an author’s panel discussion on staving off writer’s block last week for the November 23rd edition of Two Ends of the Pen, a blog co-authored by Debra Martin and David Small. Thanks for the opportunity, Deb.

And now for the official "Editing for Grammarphobes" portion of the post. Today I highlight two phrases that seem to loose their “d” when spoken, courtesy of Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference.

Supposed to, not suppose to.

I was supposed to start a series on punctuating dialogue today, but was too exhausted from the weekend to muster the energy to do so.

Used to, not use to.

The football experts used to think the Chicago Bears’ victories were flukes, but with an awesome win over the Eagles, their legitimacy was solidified.

Happy Monday, everyone. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Thanksgiving

Like many of you, I will be spending most of this week in the kitchen preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Editing for Grammarphobes and Flash Fiction Fridays will return next week.

As I roll dough for pumpkin pie and peel way too many potatoes, my mind will inevitably wander to holidays past. My family is smaller now, much smaller than when I was young, with all four grandparents and my mother gone for many years now.

I still remember my father making the headless turkey dance over the sink while he cleaned it out and the smell of my mother’s stuffing cooking on the stove. The grandparents slowly making their way up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. Grandma producing her perfect pumpkin pie, beautiful crust pinched just so.

I wrote this poem about my mother’s father a long time ago and would like to share it with you today as we embark on another holiday season. May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends and good food. May you share stories and laughs, wine and desserts. And may we all be truly grateful for these times, because they can be gone, sometimes much too soon.

By Karen Wojcik Berner

“What does everyone want to drink?” I asked.
But no one heard me.
I asked again.
Still no one heard.
He was at it again. Same stories. Different audience.

“...and I remember when we made thirteen trips to California.
Sometimes, we’d sleep in the car, alongside the road. We’d be so crumpled, we had to go wash up in the Texaco station. Nobody bothered ya. Today, you’d get killed.”

He spoke in a loud gruff voice,
For he was hard of hearing.
“Stardust” flashed into his eyes.

“...and in Vegas, I had a system, especially at the craps table. Once, I was on a hot streak.The entire casino came to watch, even Milton Bearle. I met him in the lobby earlier. If I would have won, I would have given it all to my granddaughter.”

He pushed up his glasses,
And rubbed his bald head.

“Time for dinner.”

He got up slowly,
Legs wishboned from arthritis.

“...and I remember when I was an altar boy. The bitter smell of incense filled the church. It was Christmas mass. I was so proud to be able to carry in the crucifix. That was the highest honor you could have, y’know.”

His voice genuflected.

“...and we were so poor, I didn’t have shoes except for Sundays.”

“I hope I didn’t bore you, honey,” he said as he left.

Of course not, Grandpa.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flash Fiction Fridays

The Blessing
by Lee Libro

"Pass the gwraaaavwy! Pass the gwavwy," said John Jr.
"Please," inserted Mother. "What about a blessing?"
John Jr. snorted.
Mother gently linked a hand in his, signaling all five of her children to do the same with their neighbors. John Jr. rocked back and forth.
"Bless this food, oh Lord..." she began. 
John Jr. pried his hand away, set his elbow down on his plate creating a trebuchet flinger from the fork propped at its side.
"... and please remember all those less fortunate on this day..."
One green pea flew through the air and landed in his nine-year-old sister June's hair, where it remained suspended in a cradle of blond follicles.
John Jr. stared across the table at the beautiful green pea and for a second it became a planet in the cosmos of his sister's golden locks.
"...and please Lord, see to it that all of our loved ones stay mindful in our daily lives..." Mother continued.
All but one of the five children kept their eyes shut and heads bowed to the table, which was draped in a simple brown cloth. Like little monks they listened to the prayer despite their brother's deviation.
At the center was a turkey made from a giant pinecone with paper "feathers", tracings of the smallest sibling's hands. Earlier that day Annie had proudly presented the nursery school project to Mother.  
" stay on the path of loving loyalty..." Mother's voice continued.
John Jr. shifted in his chair, a chrome and wheeled contraption, which bumping up against the table, sent the centerpiece toppling over.
Annie opened one eye to check on her pinecone turkey. It was now askew and had lost a few "feathers." She glanced briefly at John Jr. before returning her head to a bowed position with eyes closed.
The breaks on John Jr.'s wheelchair had clearly come undone as his movements rocked the table, disturbing every dish. Gravy slopped over the edge of the gravy boat and had formed a puddle in its saucer. The glasses of water at each of the six place settings rippled with rings of seismic vibration.
"...and to partake of the world's bounty..."
John Jr. settled down as his eyes landed once again on the pea in his sister's hair, like a planet orbiting the sun.
Mother continued calmly and John Jr.'s four siblings remained with hands linked.
"... with forgiveness and thankfulness throughout the year to come ."
Mother opened her eyes and observed the disheveled table before her with her children all gathered around. Her heart was full of love as she said "Amen."
Together the rest of the family said, "Amen." 
John Jr. clapped his hands together and a toothy grin stretched across his face.
Everyone released the circle of hand-holding and began to dig in to their food.
June reached up and removed the pea from her hair, then promptly placed it in her mouth.

Lee Libro is an avid reader, writer and artist, book reviewer and published author of literary fiction. Formerly a Marketing Communications Manager in the medical and pharmaceutical industries and a Translations Editor, she has a bachelor’s degree in English, specializing in Renaissance literature. Lee is the mother of five and now resides in Florida with her husband two dogs and one remaining school-aged child. Her debut novel, Swimming With Wings, was published in March of 2010. To learn more about Lee’s work, visit and .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: Exceptions

I before E, except after C is probably the most famous spelling rule in the English language. We all can recite it, usually in the sing-song, child-like way we learned it, but do you remember the exceptions?

Yes, neighbor and weigh, which sometimes are added at the end of the mnemonic device. 

Any others?

Well, as it turns out, there are many. I found an article by Bob Cunningham, “Exceptions to the rule ‘I before E except after C,’” on the alt.usage.english newsgroup website. Here are some of the words Cunningham mentioned.


Rules are interesting, aren’t they? As soon as one is formalized, there is always an exception.

Coming Friday —

Don’t miss Lee Libro’s charming tale of a family struggling to say a blessing before eating dinner on this week’s Flash Fiction Fridays.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Mean It's Not...?

Today, Editing for Grammarphobes is focusing on a few words and phrases that pose some problems for speakers and writers alike.

A word I have heard many people mispronounce, including a sportscaster during yesterday’s Bears-Vikings game, is “acrost.” There is no such word as “acrost.” It is always across.

I couldn’t care less. 
Not I could care less.
I bet if you tried hard enough, you could care less. Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference reminds us to be sure to make it negative for it to be correct.

For all intents and purposes. 
Not intensive purposes.

Anyway, never anyways. Anyways is nonstandard, according to Hacker. Journey had it right with “Anyway You Want It.”

Chest of drawers.
Not chester drawers.
Chester drawers? Is he any relation to Chester Cheetah?

What misused phrases or words have brought a smile to your face? Share them with us by submitting a comment below. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flash Fiction Fridays--Family Gatherings Month Continues

A Wee Gathering
By Sharon Cupp Pennington

The timbre of the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU…flashing lights and the abrasive buzz of an alarm jerking parents to attention, the tentative smiles and collective sighs of relief when it turns out to be nothing but monitors keeping cadence with tiny heartbeats and respirators circulating life-sustaining air for lungs not yet able to. Every few spaces there’s an occupied incubator or small metal crib. Between these sit haggard mothers or red-vested volunteers, crooning, consoling.

A father rushes in seeking the reassurance that will carry him to the end of another workday. A nurse, one of many resident angels, logs notes at her station. A doctor continues his morning rounds, here one minute, there the next.

I can’t name another place filled with more love and faith and courage, the absolute will to survive.

My husband sits across from me holding one of our two new additions, and I wonder if we’re thinking the same thing. Probably not. By the goofy grin on his handsome face, I’m sure he’s caught up in the miracle grandbaby in his arms.

I’m thinking what a year we’ve had, what with our daughter’s difficult conception and pregnancy, then the severe injuries I suffered in a hit and run accident. One crisis after another, stripping away the mundane, reminding us how important family is.

But for God‘s grace, I would’ve missed all this.

During my recovery people often said, “There’s a reason you didn’t die that night.” I smile at the memory.

Amid the buzzes and bleeps of life support I hear my husband whisper to the fussy infant in his arms, “What a big girl you are.”

Though she isn’t. The older of our daughter’s twins by a single minute, Sasha Grace entered this world at a wailing four pounds eight ounces. Shane Gabriel at four pounds, three. How blessed we are. Born just under thirty-five weeks, our grandbabies are tiny but healthy -- and I’m here to enjoy them, to savor this treasured moment with the man I‘ve loved for so many years.

I could expound on the feelings we share for these spirited wee ones, but it’s babies en bloc I consider as I look around the softly lit room. The valiant Tug-O-War between life and death so evident here.

I silently pray that every child in this unit survives, that none of these devoted parents go home empty-handed. Empty-hearted.

In a few days, our babies will move from their isolettes to cribs. They’ll do forty-five minutes in their infant car seats. A final test in preparation for the long ride home where they’ll be transplanted into a nursery decorated with whimsical carousels and ballerina bunnies, cowboy bears. Immersed in that wonderfully familiar, magical smell only babies possess.

They’ll grow and graduate, love, marry. They’ll have children to raise and worry over, become old and revel in grandbabies of their own. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, and I’ll be eternally grateful I didn’t have to.

A longer version of this story ran in the Adam's Media anthology, The Rocking Chair Reader: Family Gatherings, fall 2005.

Sharon Cupp Pennington’s short stories have appeared in numerous online and print venues, with anthology contributions to The Rocking Chair Reader in the Coming Home edition (2004) and Family Gatherings (2005), A Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New (2007), and Good Old Days Magazine (March, 2007). Draumr Publishing released her debut romantic suspense novel, Hoodoo Money, in May 2008 and the sequel, Mangroves and Monsters, in November 2009. She resides in Texas with her husband where she is currently working on her next project. For more information on Sharon, visit her website.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Veterans' Day

Friend of the blog, Karen Cantwell, is donating all royalties from the sales of Take the Monkeys and Run from November 11 to November 18 to Homes for Our Troops , which offers the money and workers needed to adapt homes for returning, injured veterans.

It is a great way to purchase a fantastic novel and help our veterans while you are doing so.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What the Heck is Lain?

What is the difference between “lay” and “lie,” and what are their forms?

“Lie” indicates a state of reclining on a horizontal plane, according to The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. It does not take a direct object. The past tense is “lay.” 

“Lay” takes a direct object. 

The forms are: lie; lay; lain; lying and lay; laid; laid and laying.

This is a bit confusing, so here are some examples to better illustrate this point.

AP Style uses the following sentences for present and future tenses.

I will lay the book on the table. 
The prosecutor tried to lay the blame on him.

He lies on the beach all day.
I will lie down.

But, in the past tense, it is:

I laid the book on the table.
He lay on the beach all day.
He has lain on the beach all day. 
I lay down.

With the present participle:

I am laying the book on the table. 
He is lying on the beach.
I am lying down.

Coming Friday...

Flash Fiction Fridays has great piece by Sharon Cupp Pennington on tap for this week as Family Gatherings month continues.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: Semicolons

Semicolons are used when joining two complete, but related, sentences. 


Jane Austen’s novels are wonderful; they are filled with witty observations and colorful characters.

Each of these sentences could stand alone, using a period instead of a semi-colon. This  would be correct as well.

Grammar Questions?

Do you have persistent grammar issues? Can’t remember where the comma goes or how to punctuate dialogue? E-mail your questions to me at, and I will answer them as part of “Editing for Grammarphobes.” Thanks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flash Fiction Fridays

This month, Flash Fiction Fridays highlights family gatherings. First up, Michelle Byrne Walsh.

Setting the Table
By Michelle Byrne Walsh

I will set the table for 13. This amuses and terrifies me. Thirteen was the number at the Last Supper. Thirteen is unlucky, but what we need. We are 13 Wolfes. Some are blood, some married into it. Two are just animals.

I flip the gold damask tablecloth upward, holding one seam down on the edge of the table with my thighs so the cloth flies, balloons, alights and exhales flat across the table pad. This Amish table will accommodate 16, but we are 13 now; one missing, one added, and the polyester tablecloth barely covers my 12 plus one highchair squeezed into the corner. They never planned on baby Evan, so I imagine he gets squeezed out a lot.

From the corner cupboard, I take down my wedding china. Seven place settings, because we registered at Marshall Field's 25 years ago and only seven people could cough up enough for that pattern. Mom's hillbilly relatives, my dad used to say. The six porcelain place settings are from an antique dealer. I splurged and bought them with my bonus, before I knew I was going to be laid off.

The plated silverware is stowed in the antique china cabinet drawer tucked in a wooden box lined with green felt. It was Grandma's. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, my mother--who had too much wine and a pain pill--told everyone the story of how each utensil was a five-fingered-employee discount. Grandma was a clerk at Marshall Field's, and she got it one piece at a time, as the Johnny Cash song goes. I put each tarnished knife down first, then go around again with tinged forks, then spoons, then dessert forks at the top of each plate, between the bread plate and the space for the crystal.

Crystal. Many wine bottles were killed here by folks wielding these goblets. Now, in the sunlight, the crystal looks cloudy. Dusty. Spots from the dishwasher. There are 11. One was smashed against the wall on Easter during a toast to my father when Kyle's girlfriend muttered, "he was like 82. He didn't die too soon."

I arrange place cards at the top of each setting. I faked calligraphy with the computer. I typed Dad's name before I realized. And I forgot baby. How could I? Would we forget to toast Dad? They both were at Thanksgiving last year. Evan was the impetus for the May backyard wedding--where we rented plain white china and glass stemware from the caterer. My mother raised her near-empty glass and said to me, "Forgive them. I'm just thankful I lived long enough to become a great grandma."

Another Thanksgiving among Wolfes. Purloined silver, mismatched china, ghosts, bastards, and slightly dull stemware.

With a blue crayon I print "Evan" on a blank place card and set it in front of the highchair.

Michelle Byrne Walsh is a garden writer and freelancer in Lake in the Hills, Illinois. She is a Contributing Writer and blogger at Chicagoland Gardening magazine, a former columnist for the Sun-Times' Pioneer Press Newspapers and has been a writer or staffer for the Illinois Landscape Contractors' Association's Landscape Contractor, Dodge Construction News Chicago, and Fire Chief magazines. A member of the Garden Writers Association, Michelle has been on WGN Radio 720’s "Let’s Talk Gardening" and WCPT's "Mike Nowak" show. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb. She enjoys writing fiction, including two as-of-yet-unpublished novels.

Note: The photo was found on

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: Don't Rely on Spell Check

One of the simplest ways to ensure accuracy in your writing is to spell words correctly. Do not rely only on your computer’s spell check, since it cannot possibly hold all of the words you will want to use.

Here are some of the most commonly misspelled words listed on Oxford

accommodate, accommodation (two cs, two ms)

cemetery (not cemetary)

committee (two ms, ts and es)

gist (not jist), as in to get the gist of something, the essence, the bottom line

government (there’s an n in the middle)

Flash Fiction Fridays Update

New Month, New Theme

Don’t miss the beginning of family gatherings-themed flash fiction this Friday. Starting us off will be writer/editor Michelle Byrne Walsh.

Holiday Flash Fiction

Remember, Holiday Flash Fiction is Due 11/29. 500 words or less on your interpretation of “the holidays.” Could be Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Al-Hijira, Ashura, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or Day or even Festivus. The choice is yours.

January Flash Fiction Fridays Theme Is...Anything Goes!

Write whatever you would like to for January. Any genre. Any style. Due Monday, 1/3/11. 

For both Holiday and Anything Goes Flash Fiction, please e-mail your 500-word or less story to, and put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the subject line. Remember to include a short bio with links and to sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so  we can build our online writing community. 

I cannot wait for you to read the submissions. There are some wonderful stories coming in. See you Friday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Editing for Grammarphobes: To, Too, Two

Here is a Monday morning quickie for you.

“Two” is how to spell the number or quantity.


I will limit myself to only two pieces of candy on this day after Halloween.

“Too” is a synonym for also.


Come to think of it, I will eat this piece of chocolate too.

“To” is a “preposition used for expression motion or direction toward a point, person, place or thing approached and reached,” according to, along with about twenty-one other uses, which I am sure you are all familiar with.


I must go to the store to buy more candy to replace what I have already eaten before my son comes home and notices I have raided his Halloween trick or treat bag.

Big News

Today is the launch date of The Chronicles of Marr-nia: Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr, by friend of the blog, Karen Cantwell. If this book is as great as Take the Monkeys and Run, it is sure to be a hit. Check it out at Fiction for Dessert .