Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Last Nod to Women's History Month

I was in a quandary. Those of you who have been reading this blog for quite some time most surely know of my love of Jane Austen and her work, so I was uncomfortable about the possibility of rhapsodizing yet again about her brilliance in capturing the world around her and her most excellent wit upon the chance you might grow weary with me.

However, Miss Austen ranks fourteenth on Biography Online’s list of “50 Women Who Changed the World” for paving the way for future women writers. I would be remiss, if I did not mention her in some way for this last segment for Women’s History Month.

So, instead of writing a biography or analyzing her writing style, here are ten interesting facts about dear Miss Austen.

The original title of Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions.

The necklaces worn by Jane and Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are modeled after topaz crosses that were worn by Jane and her sister, Cassandra.

Miss Austen’s brother, Frank, was knighted as Sir Francis Austen, after a long career in the British Navy, in which he worked his way up from midshipman at age fourteen to admiral.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility

When she was sixteen, Jane Austen wrote a parody of Goldsmith’s four-volume History of England, for which she penned this byline: “By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant historian...N.B. There will be very few dates in this history.”

Jane Austen fanatics are known as “Janeites.”

There is only one known portrait of Miss Austen, a watercolor painted by Cassandra. It hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London (above).

The Jane Austen Society of America has more than 4,000 members.

There is a locket of her hair on display in Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, England.

The barouche Lady Catherine de Bourgh offers to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is a four-wheel carriage with a fold-up hood at the back and two inside seats facing each other. It was the height of sophistication for fancy carriages during the first half of the 19th century, the Rolls Royce of its day, I dare say.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Possessives

As most of you know, the possessive form of singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe s. If the noun ends with an s, add an apostrophe only.


the mummy’s curse

a writer’s work

babies’ blankets 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, cites a few exceptions to this rule for common nouns, including “notable cases where tradition and euphony dictate the use of the apostrophe only.”


for appearance’ (conscience’ or righteousness’) sake 

Nouns that are closely linked should be thought of as a single unit. When showing possession, the second noun takes the possessive.


her aunt and uncle’s boat

mom and dad’s car 

The book notes that “when ‘ownership’ is separate, however, both nouns take the possessive form.”


our son’s and daughter’s friends

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Call for Submissions

What does parenthood mean to you?

Bibliophilic Blather is looking for Parenthood Flash Fiction for May. As always, submissions should be 500 words or less. Email them to, and please put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the subject line. And, if you have not already, please sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online community.

Submissions are due May 2. Thanks.

New Fasano Book Released 

Bestselling, award-winning author of more than thirty novels, Donna Fasano has been making her impressive back catalog available for Kindle e-readers. Her latest, Taking Love in Stride, was just released. I know Donna through Kindleboards, and after sampling the book, could not resist purchasing it. Here’s the description.

Track coach Andrea O'Connor is fuming at the audacity of Ian Powers, the very attractive father of one of her students. He offered to buy school equipment only if Andrea agreed to train him for a half-marathon. 

Well, train him, she would. And not just in running. As a widower with a high-powered job, Ian needed some instruction in being a father to an active teenage daughter. Yet as this overbearing man opened up, Andrea found herself learning loving.

Ian knew that Andrea, with her assertive attitude and her penchant for stilettos, was some woman! But her vulnerable heart was on the run, so he'd have to prove that his love, unlike his running, had limitless endurance, and once he caught this swift beauty, he'd never let her go.

It is available at for just $0.99.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Last Laugh

Flash Fiction Fridays wraps up Comedy Month with a great piece by Barbara Silkstone. If you are interested in submitting for April's Spring Fever, send it to and put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line. Five hundred words due on April 4. Thanks.


Temporary Insanity
By Barbara Silkstone

Dr. Abigail had become a legend at Tempo Temps. She’d burned through eight receptionists in two weeks. A geriatric specialist, her office was a bacteria mélange, the result of her passion for animals over people. Dogs roamed the halls, cats lurked in the exam rooms, turtles wandered under foot and hamsters in plastic balls bounced off rubber tipped canes.

I took the job.The day before my start, Dr. Abigail handed me my marching orders making sure I understood they were listed by priority.

1. Feed and walk the dogs, twice daily. Do not return to the office until the dogs have pooped. Bring proof of poop in plastic bags as supplied. 
2. Greet the patients and photocopy their Medicare cards.
3. Help patients undress and get into little paper gowns. Open in the front.
4. Change cat litter.
5. Feed the birds making sure they don’t get loose.

Next day:

8:30 a.m. Pouring rain. Dogs refuse to poop. Wet to the bone and desperate, I grab a handful of mud and seal it in the baggie. Return to office.

8:45 a.m. Turtle disrupts sign-in line causing Mrs. Salk to lock walkers with Mr. Howitz.

9:00 a.m. Help Mrs. Hammershalt get naked and don a paper gown. Leave her in exam room B and return to the receptionist desk.

9:15 a.m. Feed Birds. (I fear the birds, and they know it.) A blood curdling scream, not mine. Run to exam room B, forgetting to close cage door. Cat is stuck to Mrs. Hammershalt’s naked chest.

“Get it off!” she screams.

“I’m afraid of cats.”

Cat will not relinquish its grip.

“Lay still and the cat will leave in a few minutes,” I lie.

Shrieks from the waiting room. I run back.

Two parakeets are dive bombing the patients.The birds appear to be enjoying their reign of terror. I will not grab them barehanded. I run to the sink, grabbing two paper cups full of water. I splash the water on the flying birds. I believe wet birds can’t fly. Soaked, they hit the floor like two feathered rocks. Eww…I can’t bring myself to pick them up with my bare hands. Using the two cups as scoops, I push one bird into a cup and dump him into the cage. I repeat the process with bird two.

The patients are mesmerized. They ask if I am a hallucination. I do as much as possible to reinforce that belief.

Don rubber gloves. Prop birds on floor of cage. Birds flop over. Decide birds would do better on perch. Search reveals Gorilla Glue. Perfect. Hold birds in place for ten minutes until dry.

Dr. Abigail approaches. “You did very well today. I’d like to have you come back tomorrow.”

Barbara Silkstone is the author of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three Quarters and the non-fiction chronicle of my adventures into the hearts and minds of over 500 men, The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman. She lives on the edge in South Florida.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: The Power of Words

Stories entertain and provide the means for temporary escape, but they also can shed light on aspects of our society that need to be changed. No one has done this better than Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Her Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrated the human cost of American slavery, depicting the agonizing story of African-Americans attempting to gain freedom through the Underground Railroad.

In fact, many say the novel was one of the causes of the American Civil War.

Who was this woman that changed a nation?

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. After receiving a wide-ranging education, she taught school and wrote articles for her local newspaper. Her first book, The Mayflower; or Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims, was published in 1843.

When she and her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe, moved to Cincinnati, they were separated only by the Ohio River from a slave-owning community. Stowe talked with fugitive slaves and learned of their plight. She crafted Uncle Tom’s Cabin from personal observations from her trips to the South, as well as from reading abolitionist literature. 

The novel first appeared as a serial in 1851-52 in National Era, a Washington D.C.-based anti-slavery newspaper. The book version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or Life Among the Lowly was published in 1852 and sold 10,000 in the first week, 300,000 in the first year. Across the ocean, the novel sold 1.5 million copies in one year in Great Britain. Those are impressive statistics in any time period.

Stowe followed it up with A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1853, which contained documents and testimonials of the disputed details of her indictment of slavery, and Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp in 1856, which detailed the deterioration of a society resting upon a slave foundation.

She also was a contributor to the newly created The Atlantic Monthly, the Independent and Christian Union. Stowe wrote more novels, chief among them being The Minister’s Wooing, published in 1859, and many studies of life in fiction and essays.

Encyclopedia Britannica states Uncle Tom’s Cabin “exerted an influence equaled by few novels in history.”

As a matter of fact, it is said that when Stowe met Abraham Lincoln in 1862, the president exclaimed, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”

Obviously, there were several reasons for the American Civil War, but clearly Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel moved people to act against the injustice of slavery in a way that other things could not.

And that, my friends, is the power of words.


"Harriet Beecher Stowe." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2011. . 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Plurals

The plurals of most nouns are formed by adding an s. When the noun ends in a soft ch or in s, sh, j, x, or z, however, add an es.


If the noun ends with a y preceded by a consonant, the plural is formed by replacing the y with ies.

babies and specialties, but toys, not toies, right?

Most compound nouns that are written as one word take the plural in the usual way. But, hyphenated and open compounds are made plural by adding the s to the element that is subject to change in number.

mother-in-law becomes mothers-in-law, not mother-in-laws
masters of art
doctors of history 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1969

Coming Up
On Wednesday, I will continue our series on influential female authors for Women’s History Month. Can you guess who is up next?

Although best remembered for her novel that swayed public opinion, and quite possibly the future of an entire country, this author also wrote nineteen other books and several essays.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Joke's On You

Real Dummy Hong
By Cleveland W. Gibson

The cobra killed Len Hong, and his dummy, Real Hong, died too.

“My poor master,” Real Hong cried for the last time.

In Baofengba church, Yunnan Province, Len’s large family gathered with his ventriloquist friends. All loved the great entertainer who achieved worldwide success due to his pink-nosed donkey, whom he requested be placed in the plain coffin with him.

On the day of the funeral, the distraught family watched from the pews. They cried as the age-old Chinese rituals unfolded to calm the spirit of the dead.

First the red candles were lit, then carefully placed between the pine branches by Len’s coffin. Two young girls next scattered small red and green balls of paper onto the top. Then, sticks of incense sent aromatic smells through the church, as masses of flowers surrounded the coffin.

Rachael Su Hong, Len’s widow, watched as eight men entered the church beating drums. The leader carried a wooden dragon-head, which he shook to the beat of the music. The activity brought on more crying; then followed the cakes and wine to be passed around the congregation.

In silence, villagers watched as seven-year-old Archie T. Hong knelt by the coffin and called out: “Please. The nails, my father. Don’t get hurt.” Archie's voice sounded weak. Chinese customs dictated a son warn his dead father about the nails before they were hammered into his coffin.

“Thanks, I’m fine,” a voice sang out. “Fine”

The congregation recognized the voice of the dummy Real Hong. All eyes went to the coffin in disbelief.

Rachael gasped when she heard Real Hong. She sucked in her cheeks, her mouth quivered, and she dabbed at her eyes with a paper tissue. With a startled look, she stared at Len’s friends from the theatre. She had no idea who might have played such a cruel joke on her and her son. She studied the faces of those in the congregation.

From the back of the church, two coolies ran forward. They had their instructions and quickly took off the coffin lid. Len’s family surged forward. They watched as the village doctor Rupert Chang, examined Len.

A few moments later the kindly Dr. Chang pronounced Len dead for the second time.

“Dear me. And Real Hong?” Rachael asked. She pointed to the coffin.

The grey haired doctor quickly examined the dummy.

“Sorry. Real is dead too,” Dr Chang said.

“No mistake there,” Len’s brother Stanley Hong said.

He indicated the dummy. “Who could mistake his voice? I mean this is the dummy Len created for a laugh. No question of identity here; we all heard Real Hong, him with the silly laugh and large pink nose, didn’t we?”

Cleveland W. Gibson was born in colonial India in an atmosphere of colour, mystery and intrigue. In the UK, he worked in the government, trained as a life guard and was a road race director for over ten years. Since taking up writing, he’s published over 200 short stories, poems and articles in more than eighty-five countries. Gibson is the author of a children's mystery, Billabongo, and the science fiction novel, Moondust. His current project is a fantasy novel, House of the Skull Drum. To learn more about Cleveland, visit Bewildering Stories and Grey Sparrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: A Quick Tip for a Thursday

I apologize for missing my Wednesday post. I am running the Book Fair at my son’s school, which is monopolizing most of my week. Frankly, I forgot yesterday was Wednesday until too late.

Here’s a writing quickie, courtesy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Exclamation points should be used only after true exclamations or commands. Do not emphasize simple statements by using them.


Correct: What wonderful weather we are having! 
Incorrect: We are having wonderful weather! 
Correct: Halt! Who goes there?

Overusing exclamations makes writing seem silly. It is best to use them sparingly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Word Origins

Do you know where the phrase throwing down the gauntlet comes from?

A gauntlet is a chain mail glove worn with medieval armor to protect one’s hand. In the days of chivalry and combat, when a gauntlet was thrown to the ground, it meant that knight was challenging his opponent to a fight. If the gauntlet was picked up by the opposing knight, the challenge was accepted.

How about vandalism?

The word, “vandalism,” originally referred to the Vandals, a Germanic people who sacked Rome in 455 under the leadership of Galseric. Their name has remained a synonym for willful destruction.

New Book By Karen Cantwell and L.B. Gschwandtner 
Friends of the blog, Karen Cantwell, who provided last Friday’s flash fiction piece, and L.B. Gschwandtner, whose story, “A Sudden Rush,” appeared in October, have teamed up to write Foxy’s Tale, a comic, chick lit vampire tale with a twist. Here’s the description.

Foxy Anders has a list of problems as long as a shopping spree receipt from Neiman Marcus. She's a retail spender with no money to spare and a former beauty queen with no man in her life. After a nightmare divorce she's left with one asset, a building off Washington, D.C.'s classy DuPont Circle. By turning the ground floor into an antique shop, Foxy figures she has an excuse to spend money ... that she doesn't have. 

Foxy also has a teenaged daughter, Amanda, who likes to blog secretly about her biggest problem — Foxy. At least, she thinks Foxy is her biggest problem. But that's all about to change when she hooks up with Nick, a cute guy at school who evidently has a gift for attracting older women. Amanda just doesn't know HOW much older they really are.

When Foxy rents the garden apartment to stylish, shoe-fettishista Knot, who turns out to have a knack for talking wealthy Washington A-listers into Foxy's antiques, it looks as if Foxy will make it on her own after all. Except that Knot is also a genius at creating problems ... in his love life.

They're a quirky threesome to be sure, but when mysterious, bumbling, Myron Standlish arrives on the scene with a suitcase full of Yiddish-isms, he brings along his own set of problems, larger and stranger than all of theirs put together. Oy vey. How will Myron's personal journey affect their lives? Well ... that's Foxy's Tale.

It is available for Kindle at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Comedy Month Continues

It has been a rough week with the issues in Wisconsin, more craziness in Washington, D.C., and now the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. My heart goes out to the Japanese people. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Here to provide a little comic relief is Friend of the Blog Karen Cantwell. Hope this starts your weekend off well.

By Karen Cantwell

Eight year-old Katelyn shoved peas around her plate with a fork. Her stomach churned while she pondered how to approach the subject that weighed on her mind. She glanced briefly at her mother, whose very large stomach prevented her from sitting too close to the kitchen table, then at her father who chewed on a large chunk of ham.

This time seemed better than any other she decided. “So,” she started out. “I had a fight with Josie today.”

Her mother seemed concerned. “Oh? What did you fight about?”

“It was stupid. She said that you and Daddy had . . .” she lowered her voice and spelled out the next word, “. . . S-E-X.”

Her dad stopped chewing. Her mother didn’t blink. She had their attention. So she continued. “Josie said that’s the only way you could be having a baby, but I told her she was wrong and there was more than one way that a mommy could get pregnant and she said ‘No, there’s only one way.’ Josie’s just stupid is all.” Actually, Katelyn only hoped Josie was stupid, but she wasn’t sure.

The silence at the table scared her. Little Katelyn watched as her mother and father locked eyes then turned slowly to look at her. She didn’t like that look.

There was no turning back if she asked the next question, but she asked it anyway. A girl had to know after all. “You mean there IS only one way?”

They did that whole eye-locking, grown-ups-know-everything look, then she took a deep breath when her mother finally said, “Yes, honey. There IS only one way.”

Oh boy. It was all just too miserable for words. How could her parents 

do. . .THAT? What were they? Animals?

“Are you okay, sweetie?” asked her mother.

Katelyn nodded, trying to take in the horror. She pushed more peas around the plate and wondered how she could ever look them in the eyes again or even worse – how she could ever go out in public again? OBVIOUSLY, everyone knew what had happened if this was all true. People who smiled at her mother while they were walking down the street, weren’t smiling because she was having a cute little baby soon, they were smiling because they knew she done IT. People probably talked about them behind their backs regularly.

“It’s perfectly normal, you know,” her mother said again in soothing tones.

“Well, if by normal, you mean, GROSS,” she grimaced.

“Do you know what IT is?” asked her mother.

Katelyn rolled her eyes and whispered again. “It’s when you . . .” she took a deep breath. The rest was just so AWFUL. “It’s when you get naked in your bedroom together and eat spinach.”

She never saw her parents smiles – she was too busy staring at those peas, embarrassed to look up. “I know, ‘cuz Josie told me. She’s stupid, but she does know some things.”

Amazon bestselling author Karen Cantwell has been writing plays and short stories for many years, some of which were published in various college literary magazines. More recently, her short story, “The Recollections of Rosabelle Raines,” was published in the mystery anthology Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin’. Her first novel, Take the Monkeys and Run, is a comedy-mystery, featuring soccer-mom/female sleuth Barbara Marr, who also appears in Cantwell’s second book, The Chronicles of Marr-nia, Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr. She is currently working on her third novel, Citizen Insane. Cantwell also is a frequent contributor to the comedy blog, A Moose Walked into a Bar.

To learn more about Karen, visit her website at


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Learning from the Masters

Today begins Bibliophilic Blather’s celebration of Women’s History Month. Each week in March, we will take time from grammar rules and focus on another vital part of writing: studying great writers.

Writers are readers, and most of the time they do so with a rather critical eye. What worked in that novel? Why did I enjoy it so much? What did I hate about it? What can I learn from this writing style that I can incorporate in my work? This is how we grow. 

Virginia Woolf revolutionized the novel by developing stream of consciousness, which allowed her to depict the inner lives of her characters in intimate detail. Before this, stories relied strictly on external happenings and plot devices. Characters did things, but we never knew why.

In her essays and reviews, she frequently attacked those books that discussed the superficial while omitting the essence of character. Often, these stories were told in a linear form. First this happened, then this, and this, and so on.

Stream of Consciousness
But what if a story were to be revealed in a more abstract way? A snippet here. A flashback there. All of the pieces coming together to form a complete picture, much in the same way abstract paintings give overall impressions of their subjects.

Her most experimental work, The Waves, does this through interior monologue and recurring imagery that traces the inner lives of six characters. Readers are shown how each individual experiences life, which, when combined, creates a total picture.

Stream of consciousness concentrates on the human mental-emotional process. It uses free psychological association rather than linear storytelling.

One of Woolf’s most famous works, Mrs. Dalloway, explores the human experience of time, taking place for one full day in June 1923. It also examines how external circumstances impinge on consciousness.

Not only was Virginia Woolf a literary genius, she also was an indie author. She and husband, Leonard, bought a printing press in 1917 and formed Hogarth Press, named after their house. Hogarth Press also published the work of Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forester and T.S. Eliot. Virginia and Leonard’s friends, known as The Bloomsbury Group, included literary giants such as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, E.M. Forester and Gertrude Stein.

Woolf was a prolific essayist and reviewer. A Room of One’s Own is based on two lectures she delivered at Newnham and Girton colleges in October 1928. It addresses the status of women, particularly women artists. Among other things, she ponders, What if Shakespeare had an equally talented sister? What would have become of her? It is amazing how relevant her insights still are today. If you have not read it, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy.

It is not a stretch by any means to say the novels we write today would not be possible without Virginia Woolf’s ingenuity and brilliant mind. Non-linear plot structures. Character development. She provided the groundwork for writers to create full and interesting novels. 

"Literature is no one’s private ground, literature is common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves." 
— Virginia Woolf

Harmon,William and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 5th ed. New York: MacMillian, 1986. Print.

"Virginia Woolf." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2011,

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, 1929. Print.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Morning Business

Good day, everyone. Have a seat, and let’s get started. I have called this meeting because we have a few matters of business to cover.

Read an E-Book Week

First, it is national Read an E-Book Week. For those of you unfamiliar with them, e-books can be downloaded to many e-readers, including Kindle, Nook and Sony. However, those are not the only venues. Using Kindle, Nook and iBookstore applications, e-books also can be downloaded to iPads, iPods, iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids and even computers.

About this time last year, a battle was raging in my head. How could e-readers possibly be better than holding a book in your hands? Better than smelling that newly printed piece of literary anticipation? Then I received an iPad for Mother’s Day, and everything changed. I downloaded the Kindle app so I could see what A Whisper to a Scream looked like for the readers. I was hooked.

There are two things I absolutely love about downloading e-books. One, shopping is so easy. How many of you enjoy this? Sample a book in one minute, purchase it the next. Fantastic.

Second, it saves space. Of course I love my bookshelves, and they have been a big part of my life for, well, really my entire life, holding memories as dear to me as any photo album. I have no intention of giving up physical books, I just think there is room for both in our lives.

So, try one out. Okay, preferably mine, but if you must read someone else’s, I understand. Psst. All you have to do is click on either the Amazon or Barnes & Noble icon over to the right of this post. Okay, that concludes the commercial part of the meeting.

Flash Fiction Fridays’ April Theme

The next item on our agenda is the new topic for “Flash Fiction Fridays.” Drumroll please...April’s theme is....more drumroll...Spring Fever. And who among us does not have that right now, especially if you are in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the midwest and northeast, where there is still snow on the ground?

How do you interpret Spring Fever? Love? Cleaning? Fleeing your neighborhood in search of warmer climates? All of the above? Deadline for submissions is March 28. Send your 500-word Spring Fever stories to Please remember to put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the subject line and, if you are new to Bibliophilic Blather, sign up to follow the blog so we can build our online writing community.

Women’s History Month

Our final topic today is Women’s History Month. I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate this into “Editing for Grammarphobes,” and I think I may have it. To commemorate Women’s History Month, Bibliophilic Blather will be starting a series on major women writers and how their work has influenced literature by exploring how their writing styles still affect good writing today.

First up is Virginia Woolf on Wednesday.

Who else do you think should be included in this series? I have three more women writers to choose. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

March is shaping up to be a great month on Bibliophilic Blather. Thanks so much for reading. Meeting adjourned.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Who's Ready for Some Fun?

 It's Comedy Month on Flash Fiction Fridays. Up first is L.C. Evans.

The Toughest Kid in Town
By L.C. Evans

Harold Weaver was a fifth grader and the toughest kid in town. Harold wasn’t a big kid, but something about the ice blue of his eyes and the squareness of his jaw made the scrawniness of his body seem unimportant.

He lived with his mother in a big, shabby house, and no one knew who his father was. Lillian Weaver had just shown up one day with her son. She took in boarders and gave piano lessons. Everybody in town knew that Harold held only one person in high regard, and that person was his mother.

When Mr. Reilly moved to town and went to work for the bank, he didn’t know about Harold, but just like the rest of us, he learned soon enough. What happened was that Mrs. Weaver fell behind on her house payments. Mr. Reilly took time out of his busy schedule to go tell Mrs. Weaver to pay or he'd foreclose.

My uncle was a boarder with Mrs. Weaver, and he witnessed the whole thing. It was him who told Mama and me. He said Mrs. Weaver had money troubles, and Reilly had been right mean in his demands.

“It wasn’t so much what he said, but the way he said it,” Uncle Bubba said. “But the smirk was wiped off his face soon enough when her son put in an appearance.”

I’d been about to go outside and play, but at mention of Harold, I pricked up my ears and sat quiet. 

“Mrs. Weaver, she had tears in her eyes, said she couldn’t pay until next month. Then that devil Reilly said he had no choice, but to take her house. She begged him to wait and he said he had a bank to run, not a charity organization.”

The way my uncle described it next, Mr. Reilly started to leave and almost stepped on a palmetto bug. The biggest, deadest palmetto bug you ever saw was belly up on the top of the porch steps.

About that time Harold sidled up from out of the shadows. He’d heard the whole thing from where he was hiding.

Harold put his hands on his hips and blocked Reilly’s way. “My mama asked you real polite to wait a few days for the money.” Harold had a man’s voice and a man’s expression on a skinny kid’s body is what my uncle said. And eyes straight from the depths of hell.

“I don’t see why I should pay any mind to you, boy.” Reilly raised his hand like he was going to swat the boy out of the way.

Harold didn’t flinch. “I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause I’m tough. You want to see how tough I am?” Harold snatched up that palmetto bug, popped it in his mouth, and swallowed before Reilly could even blink.

Reilly turned the color of biscuit dough and worked his jaw for a couple of minutes like he was about to lose his lunch. Then he scurried down the stairs and back to his car.

The bank never did bother Mrs. Weaver about her mortgage again.

L.C. Evans currently lives in North Carolina with her husband Bob, their three or four Chihuahuas, and grandson, the Boy. Taking on the care and feeding of the Boy has made her a born-again soccer mom, who suffers from occasional bewilderment over what kids like these days. When not wrangling the Chihuahuas and the Boy, she writes novels. She also contributes to a comedy blog, A Moose Walked into a Bar. To learn more about L.C., visit her website or her blog.

On Another Note
It is National Grammar Day. Use those apostrophes well, my friends. And thanks to the Ultra-Gross: Your Source for Gross News blog for today's great photo.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Past versus Passed

Hi my grammar go-to girl. I have a problem. In garden magazines the phrase, "until danger of frost has past" is used extensively. My fellow editor insists it is "has passed." I think I am right and have found several examples in books/websites. Who do you think is right?

--Michelle Byrne Walsh 

Well, Michelle, indeed there are two camps of thought on this question and various websites and blogs posting differing views. I could not find anything in my usual Bibles, also known as The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, so I looked the words up in the dictionary to gain insight on their original intent.

Passed is the past tense of pass, which means “to go by.” It is always a verb.

The word past can be used as an adjective, noun, preposition or adverb. Past, as an adjective, means “(1) ago; (2) just gone or elapsed; or (3) of, relating to, or constituting a verb tense that is expressive of elapsed time...” according to the Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

As an adverb, states that past means “beyond and refers to movement from one side of a reference to another.”

There is a fine line between the two, so I understand your colleague’s opinion that the phrase “until danger of frost has passed” connotes “going by.”

However, since you are really referring to the time of the frost being over, or moving beyond the time of frost, I think past would be the more correct term. Consequently, I believe the phrase should read "until danger of frost has past."

Hope this helps. Thank you for your question.

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