Friday, April 29, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: A Cure to Spring Fever

Spring Fever month comes to a close with Sharon Cupp Pennington who bridges this month and next beautifully with her story, "Deliverance." May's theme? You guessed it. Parenthood.

By Sharon Cupp Pennington

“Push, Mags.” Her husband bent over her, his urging firm yet gentle.

Maggie blew out a breath, sucked in another and pushed with what she hoped was enough strength to bring a baby into the world. She and little Mack—he’d carry the name McKenzie after his great grandfather—had endured four hours of pushing since her water broke in their apartment’s renovated kitchen, and James bustled her into his Volvo for the twenty minute drive to the hospital.

Her brain fuzzy with fatigue, Maggie likened the natal downpour in her kitchen to the deluge that had breached the levies and flooded her beloved New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. They’d celebrated being back in their home a year only last Tuesday.

One flood brought life; one ended it. Nature’s contradiction.

“Another, Mags. You can do it,” James whispered next to her ear.

Easy for him to say. Nine months of wretched nausea, constant tiredness and no hope of seeing her feet until Easter while he sold real estate from a nice, comfy office.

But they were here now, in delivery. On a day almost too beautiful for spring with its thick plumes of frothy Astilbe, stunning purple Corabells and yellow Daffodils.

Maggie pressed harder, tightening the muscles in her arms and back, her grip on James’ hand. Cool air from the vent above assaulted her sweat-slick forehead, and she recalled August heat and the chill of a river baptism when she was eight. She’d do the same for little Mack when he was ready.

“One more push,” James urged, “and we’re a family.”

Maggie groaned, silently swearing he’d make up for this agony on their next anniversary, and birthdays until she turned eighty. . .and Valentine’s Days far into the millennium. She pushed with all she had, and then felt release and sudden bliss.

James cheered; a baby wailed. Tears coursed Maggie’s cheeks when the red-faced infant was placed in her arms.

A new spring. A new beginning for her New Orleans. A new baby.

“Welcome home, little Mack,” she whispered. “Welcome home.”

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. To learn more about Sharon, visit her website

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Miscellany

My mind is all over the place today.

Our refrigerator died Saturday, which is quite inconvenient considering I am throwing the Royal Wedding Bunco party on Friday. Thank goodness I did not host Easter dinner this year or you would have heard a blood-curdling scream no matter where you reside on our planet.

The replacement is to be delivered sometime this afternoon. It will be accompanied by a new oven because we wanted to make the switch to stainless-steel appliances. If we did not purchase both at the same time, the kitchen would not match, and one as anal as myself would start to twitch every time I entered. Obviously, that would not do.

So since I lack focus, here are three nonrelated grammar issues, definitely worthy of correction, but with no commonality among them.

Confusing i.e. and e.g.

The first comes from the Latin id est or “that is.” It should be used in place of a phrase like “in other words.”

The abbreviation e.g. means “for example” from the Latin exempli gratia and should be used in expressions similar to “including,” when the writer does not intend to list everything being discussed.


I wish I was attending the great event on Friday, i.e. the Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey.

Many guests, e.g. Elton John and David Beckham, will witness the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. 


It is just Ukraine, not The Ukraine

“Some countries are preceded by an article, like ‘The United States’ and ‘La France,’ but most are not,” according to Paul Brians, author of Common Errors in English Usage. When the region formerly known as The Ukraine split from the old Soviet Union, Brians reports it dropped the article and is now known simply as Ukraine.


This term comes from formal fencing matches. When someone is hit by an opponent’s sword, the person says “touche´,” which is French for “touched.” It is not a synonym for “gotcha,” according to Brians.

Touche´ may be used when someone skewers you verbally, not when you are the one insulting your opponent.


“Whose are these?” Ursula screamed, holding a size-two g-string panty she could only dream of fitting into. “In our house, no less! You cheating scum. I should have thrown you out months ago, you lazy, do-nothing, worthless piece of filth, feculent maggot.”

“Touche´.” Paul tapped his chest as if wounded, a slight smirk forming upon his lips. “Mea culpa.” 

Hmmmm. Me thinks there could be a writing prompt in that last example. Have fun.

Brians, Paul. Common Errors in English Usage. Retrieved from

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Bibliophilic Blather has received a Stylish Blogger Award. A big thank you to Kelly Hashway. Kelly is a middle grade and YA author who has published over fifty short stories in various children’s magazines and anthologies. May the Best Dog Win, her first picture book, was released in March. To learn more about Kelly, please visit her website, Kelly Hashway’s Books.

For this award, I have to share seven things about myself, so here goes.
  1. I cannot wait for the Royal Wedding this week. I am hosting a Royal Wedding Bunco party at  my house Friday night, complete with a hat contest, Pimm's Cups and cucumber sandwiches.
  2. I consider Peter Gabriel the God of Music.
  3. Football (American football, that is) is my favorite sport.
  4. I have written almost every kind of copy imaginable over my twenty-five years of writing professionally, including a restaurant menu and a press release for clown college.
  5. Westminster Abbey is my happy place. 
  6. My new favorite song is Muse's "Uprising."
  7. My favorite drink at Starbuck's is a grande, nonfat, no water chai tea latte. Yum.
Now, I pass the Stylish Blogger Award to the following blogs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Pruning Your Writing, Part Two

Welcome back to the second half of Spring cleaning for your writing. Today, we will examine more redundancies that can bog down even the best prose.

Before we begin, I would like to say hello to all of the visitors from the She Writes group "Blogging about Books and Writing." I have participated in the blog hops before and discovered many wonderful sites on a variety of topics. If you would like to join the group or the blog hop, here is the link.

Okay, so back to Spring cleaning. Grab those pruning shears. It's time to edit. 

Richard Nordquist compiled a great list of 200 common redundancies for Here are some mentioned.

(Final) conclusion. What other kind is there?

(Fly) through the air. Can one fly anywhere else?

(Live) studio audience. Let's hope so.

Nape (of her neck). A nape can only be found at the back of the neck. There is no nape of the arm, for example.

ISBN (number). This is the acronym for international standard book number and does not require the extra the word "number," just like our ATM (machine) example from Monday's post. The next two redundancies also have needless repetition.

LCD (display). Liquid crystal display

HIV (virus). Human immunodeficiency virus

(Unexpected) surprise. Yes, yes it is.

(Underground) subway. If it were above ground, it would not be a subway, right?

And my favorite...

(Overused) cliche. 

All of us get so used to hearing or reading these phrases, we do not stop to think of what they mean. Bookmark Nordquist's list and refer back to it often. It will help to produce crisp, unencumbered prose.

About Friday
I am taking the day off on Friday to spend time with my family for Easter, so there will be no Flash Fiction Fridays post. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. See you on Monday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Pruning Your Writing

Spring is synonymous with cleaning. Whether it is your home, garden, work desk or car, it is time to give everything a good scrub.

Let’s apply the same principle to your writing.

Do have favorite words or phrases? Do you find yourself using them way too many times in your manuscripts? Don’t kid yourself. Readers notice.

One of my favorite authors uses “padded” constantly instead of “walked.” It drives me crazy by the end of the book. “She padded downstairs.” “He padded down the hall.” Ugh.

Get rid of go-to words. Find something new. Read a thesaurus.

Obviously, writers love words and wordplay, but sometimes less is better, especially when you are repeating yourself.

Be on the lookout for these five common redundancies in your writing.

ATM (Machine). The acronym ATM stands for “Automated Teller Machine.” You are writing automated teller machine machine if you use this phrase.

(Absolutely) essential. The word “essential” means necessary or indispensable. Adding the “absolutely” does not amp up its importance. It slows down your prose.

(Completely) annihilate, destroy or engulf. Using the same concept as stated above, “completely” does nothing to enhance the enormity of annihilate, destroy or engulf. Cut it.

Dwindle (down). “Dwindle” means to become steadily less. Lose the “down.”

(End) result. A “result” is an effect or conclusion, which naturally happens at the end of something, so adding "end" before it is superfluous.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Comfort Zones

Spring Fever month continues today as Flash Fiction Fridays features award-winning author Sharon Cupp Pennington.

The King of Crescent Street              
By Sharon Cupp Pennington

Shoving my newspaper aside, I raised a cup to my lips and thought of Emilio Nogales. The coffee tasted bitter. Combined with what I’d read in the paper, it settled like a storm cloud over my day, though the morning sun shined blissfully through my kitchen window. Birds sang and delicate white blossoms covered the plum tree’s branches, signaling an early spring. Squealing brakes announced the garbage truck‘s arrival.

For once, I’d forgotten to put out the trash.

It’s strange how the monotonous comings and goings in our neighborhoods become our comfort zones, the things we rely on in today’s chaotic world. As if synchronized in their schedules, Mrs. Hoffman walks her miniature poodle precisely at two o’clock each afternoon and Mr. Jarvis his Doberman down the same stretch of sidewalk at five.

Every Wednesday at noon, the married mailman parks where our street dead-ends and disappears inside Miss Chamberlain’s house for an hour or so. But no one speaks of it. Invariably, the recycle bins at the library fill and people stack bags of plastic bottles, newspapers and cans around their bases—in spite of a sign forbidding it.

Comfort zones. Whether we realize them or not.

I suppose Emilio Nogales had become part of mine. Regal in his manner, I’d dubbed him the King of Crescent Street. A lawn chair was his throne and a simple black cane his scepter. Every day, cool morning or muggy afternoon, he had sat on his driveway for the eight years I lived in the neighborhood. 

Only rain kept him inside. 

Though never formally introduced, I waved each time I drove past his Magnolia-shaded kingdom. At first he looked confused, but he always waved back. He must’ve been seventy-something then. Eventually, he recognized my little sedan and smiled as it drew near the stop sign. 

I wouldn’t have known his name had I not run into Ada Bauer one rainy Saturday. I was coaxing my drenched umbrella into one of those narrow plastic sleeves provided by the supermarket when she rushed in. Widowed years ago, grown children living as far away as Arizona and California, Ada could be counted on for a morsel or two of gossip.

It seemed Mr. Nogales had taught math to her boy, Sonny, in the sixth grade and again in the eighth. With his white shirt and impeccable bow tie, gray sweater vest and occasional tweed jacket, I’d have pegged Mr. Nogales for literature. Or maybe art.

He’d lost his wife ten years earlier, and Ada pursued him vigorously for two of those years. He was content with the status quo. Disappointed, she had since moved on to the widowed Earl Pearson down at the bank.

Comfort zones. I took my navy blazer from the back of the chair and slipped it on. Giving the obituary one final look, I noted the time and place of Emilio Nogales’ funeral and headed out—embracing grief I didn’t quite understand.

"The King of Crescent Street" won an Honorable Mention in the Whim's Place Flash Fiction Contest in March 2003 and was previously published on their site. 

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. To learn more about Sharon, visit her website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blogs I Love

There are so many blogs out there, who has time to read them all? And which ones do you choose? Pretty much everyone in the industry knows J.A. Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, but there are many other sites packed with great information for writers or new books to share for readers. Here are a few of my favorites.


Breakout Books Reviews showcases indie books and authors exclusively.

The Frugal e-Reader lists Kindle books for under $9, as well as author Q&As.

McQuestionable Musings is self-publishing rock star Karen McQuestion's interesting blog. McQuestion's A Scattered Life has been optioned for film and five of her six novels are now under contract with Amazon's imprint, Amazon Encore. 

NewPages.Com features news, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more.

Pimp My Novel, written by Eric Blank who works in the sales department of a publishing company, provides an insider's look into the industry, offering tips for writing and marketing your novel, and general commentary on publishing trends.

Just Great Reads

British novelist Deborah Lawrenson has a gorgeous site, filled with beautiful photos, paintings and prose. Reading her blog is like taking a five-minute vacation and escaping into the sites, smells and colors of Provence. Her writing is lush and sensual. Lawrenson's new novel, The Lantern, is coming out in the United States in August. If her fiction is anything like this blog, The Lantern should be amazing.

Fiction for Dessert features fun giveaways, book excerpts and even a monthly book and recipe club. It is written by Karen Cantwell, so you know it is sure to be a hoot!

For a wee bit of Scotland, try The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy, a fascinating blog by Laura Vosika, which is filled with wonderful articles on medieval Scottish history.

Coming Friday

Friend of the blog and award-winning flash fiction writer Sharon Cupp Pennington offers her take on Spring Fever for "Flash Fiction Fridays." 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Loose or Lose?

Which is correct in the following sentence?

A. I do not want to loose my car keys.
B. I do not want to lose my car keys.

The answer is B.

The word “loose” means not fastened securely or not tight-fitting. It also can mean “lacking in restraint” and “lacking moral restraint.”

“Lose” is the verb form of lost.

Flash Fiction Submissions Needed 

Bibliophilic Blather’s popular “Flash Fiction Fridays” still needs one more piece for the April Spring Fever theme. I am looking for something to run on the last Friday of the month. The drop-dead deadline for this submission is April 26.

Also, there are two open spots for May’s Parenthood theme. Submissions are due May 2. 

Remember, 500 words or less. Send your submissions to Put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio with your story. Please sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online writing community.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Spring Fever Month Continues

Ah, Spring. The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. Here's what Spring Fever means to Sean Sweeney. Enjoy.

Beating the Yanks
By Sean Sweeney

Usually it’s the smell of the sausages sizzling on Lansdowne Street that gets me on Opening Day. This year, the two Yankee fans chasing me would get me if I wasn’t careful.

Alright, so I was a little obnoxious when I said their pitching staff was cobbled together with spit – a knock against the fans for their actions toward Cliff Lee’s wife – and glue. I admit that wholeheartedly. Should that have earned me a chasing from the Kenmore T stop all the way to Fenway Park, though? Nosireebob.

Of course, I had to go and pick on two of the largest Yankee fans of them all. Remember Eddie the Yankee Fan from the "Cheers" season one episode? Yeah. He’s small compared to these bums. Their pinstriped t-shirts looked like they used Tide with Mudpuddle. They had mustard stains that looked ground into the fabric, as if they had been there since last October. They looked like the stereotypical New Yorker as portrayed by the Brooklyn Brawler.

And I had to outrun them.

Insert sweating and heavy breathing here.

My arms pumped away as I sprinted across the bridge that spanned the Massachusetts Turnpike. I glanced over my shoulder and saw these behemoths muscling their way through the crowd, picking up fellow pedestrians and Toyotas, tossing the obstacles aside. I saw their strides were Ent-like on the concrete.

I turned away and pumped my arms harder.

I could have ducked into the Cask N’ Flagon, but that would have led to a pounding. I didn’t want to be trapped there. I crossed Lansdowne and avoided a cab trying to run me down. I turned my hips and kept my body in motion.

Those New York goons were still coming for me. I turned away and flew down the slanting sidewalk before making the turn onto Yawkey Way. I skidded to a halt at the box office steps as I saw the sea of people waiting to get into the park.

I grinned as a plan formed. I resumed my run and surged through the queue, making sure those two Yankee fans didn’t see me. Thankfully, I never told them where my seats were, which meant I had a good chance of them not finding me.

I hurried into the souvenir store and bought a new Red Sox hat to replace my faded blue one, then bought a pair of cheap sunglasses and a jacket. I put them on and crossed the street.

They searched for me, keeping their eyes peeled like a pair of mafiosa crime lords looking for an informant. I slid past them without them seeing me. I breathed a sigh of relief as I handed my ticket to the attendant. I bought an Italian sausage, a beer, and I found my seat without any trouble.

I had evaded those Yankee fans, I had a beer in my hand, and I was about to watch my Sox win.

I smiled.

Another Spring has arrived in the Back Bay Fens.

Born in the city of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1977, Sean Sweeney's love of reading began 11 years later when he was handed J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Hobbit. His passion for writing began in 1993, as a sophomore in high school, when he began to write sports for his local newspaper, the Sentinel & Enterprise. Since then, he has written for several Massachusetts newspapers, including the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and the Southbridge Evening News in Southbridge. He has since returned to where it all started, as he came back to the Sentinel in April 2008. He also strings for the Springfield Republican and Turley Publications.

It was Salvatore, the acclaimed fantasy author, who convinced him to pen the manuscript that became Obloeron: The Quest For The Chalice in December 2001. He began writing Quest over a year later, in January 2003, finishing the first draft in February 2005.

Sean's older pseudonym, John Fitch V, was chosen in honor of the late Robert Cormier, a native son of Leominster, Massachusetts. Cormier, when writing for the Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg, wrote under the pseudonym of John Fitch IV.

When he is not writing, Sean enjoys playing golf, reading, watching movies, the Boston Red Sox, New England Revolution, the Arsenal F.C., and playing with his kitten, Caramel the Wonder Cat.



US Kindle books as Sean Sweeney:

US Kindle books as John Fitch V:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: A Huge Headache

I have a headache today, one of those that starts at the base of the skull and travels swiftly upward, eventually encompassing the entire head. I think it is partially the result of a thread on the Kindle Boards forum. A few threads, actually. 

This particular one has to do with defining literary fiction, which no one really seems to be able to do. Despite this, several posters have come out against it with snide remarks about it having no plot, no readers and no interest, exemplifying the age-old commercial fiction versus prize-winning fiction debate, only now they are calling themselves genre writers versus literary fiction writers.

It is unhealthy and unproductive. I think many of the posters are forgetting the most important part of this whole business —the writing. 

Where are the discussions about the craft? Where are the threads devoted to developing plots or creating characters? Someone tried to start a post on character development recently, but it died quickly as news of Amanda Hocking’s well-deserved deal with St. Martin’s overtook the threads.

When I was studying writing fiction in college, we learned about the literary devices used to create good, solid stories. Period. No labels. 

Maybe this discussion exists because of the publishing industry’s need to pigeonhole novels into various genres for marketing purposes, but it is counterproductive. We need to be supportive of each other, not rip on people who are trying to further the craft of writing.

And Speaking of Good Writing...
Please join us here on Friday for Sean Sweeney’s take on our Spring Fever theme for "Flash Fiction Fridays." It is going to be a great one.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Possessives and Proper Nouns

A comment left after the March 28 “Possessives” post brought up an interesting question. llevinso wrote, “...when it’s a person’s name that ends in s, what is the correct form? I thought I knew, but I’ve seen it so many different ways, I just don’t know anymore...”

I was going to write a quick response, but when I looked this up in The Chicago Manual of Style and The Elements of Style, there were so many variations, my answer would have been way too long for the comment section. What I found may surprise you.

Both works cite “the general rule for possessive nouns covers most proper nouns” by adding an apostrophe s. Same thing goes for names ending in silent s, z or x.



Dickens’s novels

Marx’s theories

the Joneses’ reputation

Traditional exceptions to this rule are ancient proper names, such as Jesus and Moses, which take just the apostrophe, not the s.


Jesus’ apostles

Moses’ law 

Names with more than one syllable with unaccented endings pronounced “eez” also are an exception. Many ancient Greek and Hellenistic names fit this pattern.


Xerxes’ army

Euripides’ plays

Ramses’ tomb 

The reason there is so much confusion about the possessive forms of proper nouns comes from how to create the possessive forms of polysyllabic personal names ending with the sound of s or z.

The Chicago Manual of Style mentions this dissension among writers and editors. Should one use the apostrophe only? Some editors treat the name like a plural if the ending sound is “zee, and if it ends with an s, treat it like a singular. Both cited works prefer utilizing the rules stated above, but they are not set in stone. The main thing is to be consistent throughout your manuscript.

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

Strunk Jr., William, and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1979. Print.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Spring Fever

How do you interpret Spring Fever? Is it a flirty crush or the first pitch at a season opener? This month, Flash Fiction Fridays will offer five stories, each with its own distinct take on our topic. First up is Jason G. Anderson.

By Jason G. Anderson

Dr. John Andrews looked through the transparent wall in his office toward the hospital entrance below. Hundreds of people filled the normally clear area, all seeking medical help. He turned as another doctor entered his office.

“We’ve received another sixty-seven patients in the past two hours,” said Dr. Susan Hallow. “They’ve all tested positive for Xyalo’s Syndrome.”

“Damn it.” John turned back to the window. Xyalo’s Syndrome, or “Spring Fever” as the original colonists had nicknamed it due to the time of year it struck, was a disease that had once killed hundreds a year. No one had ever worked out exactly what it was that caused Xyalo’s Syndrome. Starting as a simple body ache and fever, it progressed quickly to coughing and vomiting of blood, then the lungs and brain liquefying. Death was always the result.

Fifty years ago, a vaccine had been developed on Earth. When injected annually, had proved 100% effective in stopping the disease.

Until now.

“Has the lab determined why the vaccine isn’t working?”

Dr. Hallow shook her head. “We ran a comparison of the latest batch of the vaccine to some old stock we located. They were a perfect match. Dr. Wu is trying to figure out what has changed, but it’s going to take time.”

John closed his eyes. He had feared that. More than a million people lived on the planet. They were all at risk.

Dr. Hallow continued. “Has there been any response from Earth?” 

John snorted in disgust. “Sure. They’re sympathetic to our plight and assure us that the vaccine is fine. They’ve offered us the full services of a ‘consultative’ team via hookup to assist us in diagnosing what’s really wrong, because we must be morons to think it’s a disease that they cured decades ago.”

“What? You can’t be serious. Eleven people have already died! What more do they want?”

“No liability.” John sighed. “While Dr. Wu is trying to create a vaccine that works, have the lab start synthesizing penicillin and probenecid.”

“Penicillin? We haven’t used that in over a century.”

“Not quite true. The early colonists found it was the only thing that would slow the progression of Xyalo’s. Until the lab can give us a working vaccine, a penicillin with probenecid dose is our best bet at keeping people alive.”

“How long will it give us?”

“Three days. Five if we’re lucky.”

Dr. Hallows nodded. “I’ll tell him right away.” She turned to leave.


Dr. Hallows stopped, looking back in surprise. “Doctor?”

John shook his head. “Never mind. I’ll be down to help in a few minutes.”

She left, still looking surprised. John looked at his hand as he flexed it, the ache already starting to spread to his elbow. He didn’t think five days would be long enough for Dr. Wu to synthesize a new vaccine.

Jason G. Anderson is the author of The Vampire Drabbles: 40 Bites of Fiction. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia with his wonderful wife, Marina, and their three cats. During the day, he assists scientists researching Antarctica, analyzing satellite imagery and helping the scientists to manage the large quantities of data they acquire. At night, he prefers to write about imaginary worlds far removed from our own. You can find out more about him at