Monday Classroom: The Comma (sending us into comas) . . . .

. Write write write! write with abandon; edit with a keen critical eye!
. Write write write! write with abandon; edit with a keen critical eye!

Commas, those squiggly little cuties, cause more torn out hair and gnashed teeth.  I’m not the perfect Comma Momma (teeheehee), so I do invite you to use the links below to learn allllllllll about those tiny little trouble-makers–particularly The Comma Splice, for which I do not talk about here, but if I did I would, have an example right here–see what I did? I put a comma between would and have that does not belong because it breaks up the sentence when it should not: the heinous comma splice. Really, there is simply too much information about that little teeny bitty itty squiggle than I can place here in one post without tearing out my own hair. In fact, that teeny bitty itty squiggle’s size is deceiving, for it makes Big Arse Trouble for so many out there, and not only writers.

Thing is, folks, it really is not so difficult once you Pay Attention to what you are writing and how the sentence “flows” and the rhythm of your words/sentence. I’ve written those two words before: Pay Attention. Because when you do, you learn. As I write this post, I am using commas without thinking about it. If I this were my novel, I may go in and remove some of my commas, just to make sure everything sings along musically to where there are not a lot of choppy sentences that leave the reader’s brain squeezing. Ungh. Squeezed brains hurrrrt. When you Pay Attention, you begin to see how the comma interacts with your work. How the comma sets things off. How the comma groups things together and separates them. How it considers the natural pause—where you take that bit of a hitch of a breath after an introductory phrase.

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it.

Sometimes I leave them out because I want to keep the sentence moving along without any pauses as if one is talking all at once and does not pause even to take a breath because they are in OMG OMG OMG mode *gasp for air* . . . folks, use this sparingly or else your readers’ eyes may fall out and follow someone to the door, and in fact, their eyes may not return for many a week because you simply exhausted them and they needed a long long vacation and I think I am doing it again, oh dear! *Eyes falling out of my head and traveling to the door, suitcase in hand (hands? Do eyes have hands? Well, if we’re giving them a suitcase, guess they best. Yes, I am talking about when people write “his/her eyes followed him/her” etc etc – the disembodied body parts – a post for another day).*

Consider the sentence below as an example of a pause.

Introduction: Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use (a natural pause) feel free to play around it.

Now read that sentence aloud with and without the comma and decide for yourself what happens:

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use feel free to play around it—does saying this aloud without a pause make you feel rushed or a bit breathless?

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around it—does the natural pause here give you a chance to hitch in a breath?

If you think, “Well I like both ways.” Fine, go ye to write it how it works for you! In fact, when I’m reading something that doesn’t have commas where I like them to be, I insert them myself. Yeah! I do! Ha! You can’t escape my Comma-ndo!

Though, again, there are times I leave out commas because I want the sentence to move along without a pause. I don’t want the sentence to be broken up or choppy. But when I catch myself pausing after that “introduction,” I add a comma. Because. “Because whyyyyy, Kat?” Because I said so, that’s why.

The comma separates incomplete sentences—another form of a “pause” – like a parentheses.

Kathryn has, and always has had, a tiny pea-head. Kathryn has (pause to say/qualify: and always will have) a tiny pea-head.

Kathryn has—that’s an incomplete sentence that is separated by “and always has had” and then another incomplete sentence “a tiny pea-head” – I paused in the middle of those two phrases to tell you something else. I used commas to pause. Bless my wittle tiny pea-headed brain.

What you don’t want to do is to stick commas everywhere willy nilly. Those commas, small as they may be, will chop up your sentence and make them read stoooopid. Do you want choppy stoooopid sentences? Of course not! I’d rather see fewer commas than a litter of them crawling around all over the page mewling and making a mess all over creation. Listen to the rhythm of your words/the language. Listen for those pauses. Those parenthetical pauses. Those introductory phrases that then lead to a little hitch of breath before going on to the next part of the sentence. That’s where the comma goes.

Commas as lists or grouper-togetherers:

I like cornbread, cookies, beans and ice cream. But I do not like this sentence—ewwww! (Intro)If you want beans in your ice-cream, (pause/hitch breath) go right ahead.

But I do like the serial—not cereal—comma. Although wouldn’t that be cute? A bowlful of punctuation-shaped cereal for grammarians/writers? Haw! *Kat considers giving up novel-writing to create a Punctuation Cereal and becoming a millionaire* Anyway, *back to reality, Kat* the serial comma makes sense in the world of grouper-togetherers.

I like cornbread, cookies, beans, and ice cream.

See how each list of food has its own place in the sentence world?

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans. I like ice cream.

is not:

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans and ice cream. Ewwwwww!

I can also do a grouping, thusly,

I like cornbread and beans, cookies and ice cream, and serial commas. Teehee.

Notice above how each little family of words has their own little neat home to live in. Their own little grouping. The items that go together are placed together. Those that do not go together are separated by commas.

Clear as the mud on the bottom of your boot, ain’t it? Or maybe you are beginning to understand. Maybe I am a Geeeeenius at explaining the teeny tiny wittle squiggly and suddenly the clouds are clearing and you shout EUREKA! and you name your dog after me or something. *Kat has dreamy expression thinking of puppies running around named “Kat” because that sounds contradictory and funny haw haw haw—at least to her pea-headed brain—stop judging me!*

Look folks, here’s the thing: commas are irritating little shitters and they always will be. I mean, geeeezzzz, I have a headache just trying to explain them. And even as I type these words, I know I will miss one, or I’ll place one in the wrong spot. I’ll be in a hurry and someone out there will gloat and scream how I messed up. Ungh!  I’ll go back and read this and think, “This could be better.” But isn’t that the Thang about writing? How we always should be growing and learning. How we should think: “This could be better,” and then we make it better—until it is Done, for at some point we must be Done, right?

Below are some grammar sites that talk about the comma and may be a better help to you than my pea-headed self. I invite you to visit and then study them. Pay Attention. When your AHA! moment comes, you may then begin to manipulate the language with Knowledge, and folks, that’s when the real fun begins.

This first one has whole-lotto comma madness—lawd!

Guide to Grammar & writing

Grammar Girl

(this is a repost!)


1461250_496657083765127_1387255473_nTouty Plug of the day: The Lightning Charmer
The spell was cast when they were children. That bond cannot be broken. In the deep hollows and high ridges of the ancient Appalachian Mountains, a legacy of stunning magic will change their lives forever. 

Laura is caught between the modern and the mystical, struggling to lead a normal life in New York despite a powerful psychic connection to her childhood home in North Carolina—and to the mysterious stranger who calls her name. She’s a synesthete—someone who mentally “sees” and “tastes” splashes of color connected to people, emotions, and things. She’s struggled against the distracting ability all her life; now the effects have grown stronger. She returns home to the mountains, desperate to resolve the obsessive pull of their mysteries.

But life in her mountain community is far from peaceful. An arsonist has the town on edge, and she discovers Ayron, scarred and tormented, an irresistible recluse who rarely leaves the forest. As her childhood memories of him surface, the façade of her ordinary world begins to fade. The knots she’s tied around her heart and her beliefs start unraveling. Ayron has never forgotten her or the meaning of their astonishing bond. If his kind is to survive in modern times, he and Laura must face the consequences of falling in love.

Monday Classroom: To be or to not be! – aw now.

There are writing “Rules” that have attached themselves to me—as leeches will do, some may quip – haw! And I have become rather picky when it comes to these particulars.

You don’t write books? No matter! For your letters, business documents, and may I dare say texts and emails?, and other areas where you communicate, can become stronger and smoother.

Or perhaps you will say my “tips” are actually “tics.” You decide. Meanwhile, I can drive myself crazy reading/listening . . . ungh . . . but I won’t! I won’t, I say!

When I see my own mistakes in my own earlier writing—earlier even could mean my last novel—ungh! Or a recent blog post when I was in a hurry and/or distracted—oh dear! I am shamed, shaaaaaaaamed! *kat hangs head*

Yet, many times I throw rules right out the window and simply go by the rhythm of the phrase/sentence. I want my work to be rhythmic but in a natural way, so breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to create a mood or feeling or a sentence that Fits. And of course, when I write in a character’s voice/pov, I must be true to that voice/pov—not all characters will be as picky as: is it picky as me or picky as I?—it is I (am)—see below! Virginia Kate has her VK’isms and I stand true to them; Melissa is the storyteller in Sweetie and she’s a bit more “formal” in her speech.

 So tip or tic?

There are times you can “finish the thought/sentence” or re-arrange it and this can help you to find the “correct” grammar or sentence structure. As in the following:

I and Me.

 “You and I” is often used for everything because people are afraid of saying/writing it incorrectly, but sometimes “you and me” is correct.

Harry and me had a great time eating kumquats. No.

Harry and I had a great time eating kumquats. Correct.

 Harry had a great time eating kumquats. I had a great time eating kumquats.

Water is good for you and I. No.

Water is good for you and me. Correct

Water is good for you. Water is good for I – sounds funny, right? Water is good for me.

Not everyone is as picky as me. No.

Not everyone is as picky as I (am). Correct.

I am picky. Me is picky.

She is better than I (am) to craft these examples.

She is better than me to craft these examples.

She is better than I am.  She is better than me am.

Between you and me, this can be really confusing

Between you and I, this can be really confusing.

Guess which one is it? It’s the first one!

Between you, and between me, this is really confusing. Between you, and between I, this is really confusing.

See? Clear as the mud you just threw in my face, right? Haw!

The Split Infinitive:

To be or not to be is not to be or to not be. Haha! To be or to not be just doesn’t have the same rhythm does it?

I split many an infinitive in my life, and sometimes it does make the sentence read smoother. However, most times I unsplit my infinitives and lean back with an ahhhh. Am I never to do it again? Or am I to never do it again—ha! I am never to do it again! To and do go together, not to be split by never.

I am never to speak of it again! I am to never speak of it again! The first one: to speak! Not: to never.

Aw, now, I think those are great examples. *kat sniffs a bit sardonically at those who are poo-pooing her and yes I know I spelled poo poo incorrectly in this instance – huh.*

Take to/bring back.

This one is in honor of my father, who drummed it into my head over and over. I can hear him so clearly:

“It’s take to, bring back. Say it, Kathy, take to, bring back.” (My family called/calls me Kathy—no one else is allowed! Dang you!).

 We take something to and then we bring back from. Take me to the grocery for cookies, or bring me back some cookies. Although I don’t like “bring me back some cookies;” I like “If you show up from the grocery without any cookies, you’ll regret it! By gawd!”

I’ve got. Pull out the sentence and see how it reads/sounds:

“I’ve got a cup of coffee by my side.”

“I have got a cup of coffee by my side.” Awkward!

Perhaps try: “I have a cup of coffee by my side,” or “I’ve a cup of coffee in my stomach.” (well, now I do!)

You’ve rid yourself of an extra word, to boot! Now doesn’t that feel zippity do dah day! Come on, doesn’t it? *kat is starting to (see below)—no—kat is feeling a bit discombobulated*

“Got” tends to drive me batty, for it is oft-times used excessively, and once I “notice” a word—as in: got, or had, or suddenly, then my brain BUMPS on it.


Farther is a physical distance. I am farther from the kitchen than you are.

Further is not a physical distance.  “You are further along in your chef career than I am.”

The farther she walked down that long dusty road, the further her thoughts spiraled into bing bang bongs dang-a-lang-a-ding-dongs.


Snuck is a colloquialism. Yes, I recognize that “snuck” is universally accepted. But . . . still . . . sneaked is correct! “I sneaked to the kitchen to steal cookies” instead of “I snuck to the kitchen to steal cookies.” The only time I use “snuck” is in dialogue, because some of my characters do say “snuck” just as many (most) people do.


Started to

We all say or have said “started to.” I wrote “started to” quite frequently until it “started to” blare out at me as extra words that are not required. Can “started to” be changed to a more direct action?

It started to rain: It rained. I started to cry. I cried. I starting running or I started to run. I ran. I started to pull out my hair. I pulled out my hair. You started to pull out Kathryn’s hair for all these tic/tips. You pulled out Kathryn’s hair and watched her cry—oh wait . . . ungh.

We are not perfect writing machines, but the more we do instinctively and naturally, the less time spent on “fixing” what we write, or even how we speak; though I admit my “Speak” is much more casual than my “Write.” Our editors, bosses, Aunt Pitty Mae Joeleen who was an English teacher long long long ago, and whomever else cares about this stuff (hey, I do and I bet they do, too!) will notice and love you for it. And even if they do not know why they love you for it, you will know why and be the stronger for it.

What do you think? And do you have any tics/tips you are strict about in your language?

As always, if I ferckled up anything, feel free to point er out!


Touty Plug of the Day:

walter bald and kat author photo shots 109

My lil ole author/editor website that the wonderful and beautiful Kim of TechBelle created. She did a lovely job and I often forget to go by there and update it; shame on me! There’s links and pics and info and bio and etc etc etc . . . .

Will all y’allses authors stand on your head wearing a book suit with a little book hat?

For months I kept an eye on a new hot dog and ice cream parlor. This new business tried just about everything to draw customers to it—new items gaily written on the menu board, wi-fi now available!, bright colors shouting out, huge signs proclaiming their awesomeness, and a woman dressed as a hot dog with a hot dog hat who stood outside and waved exuberantly while rubbing her tummy and beckoning everyone to “Come on in!”

Did it work? If the parking lot was any indication, not so much. However, just a few miles from this little hotdog stand is a hamburger and ice cream joint that always has a full parking lot. One could say it’s the difference between hot dog love and hamburger love. Still, I wondered: just what makes the customer choose one place over another?

It isn’t always about the quality and taste of the food or the spiffy look of the establishment. Maybe the food isn’t as good, or isn’t any better, in the crowded

Good food, okay food, exceptional food . . . atmosphere, word of mouth . . . what draws you in to a restaurant?

restaurant, but the atmosphere brings in the customers, or how long it’s been around, or people talk about it and spread the word, or or or . . . .

There are the places that are always full, seats hard to find, and while the food may be consistently good, or even hit or miss, there’s just something about the restaurant that pulls in a good loyal crowd.

There are the iconic restaurants, and the ones who garner five-stars who employ chefs with a pedigree. The food is good, the atmosphere stunning, the prices astronomical.

Well, isn’t there good food and wonderful atmosphere in the little tiny diners across America? —why yes, and they’ve only to find that One Thing, or Some Thing to call the customer to them, and once that happens, off they’ll go! Right? Right? Well. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’ve tried to study the whys of how some restaurants are packed and popular and others, though they have good quality food and sincere staff/owners, are barely hanging on. I have come to the conclusion that sometimes there simply isn’t a why. Sometimes there is only a How It Is. Sometimes it’s just luck. Timing. And luck. And Lots of Luck. And some Something that can’t be defined no matter how much we try, no matter how many blogs and updates and twitter feeds we read about “How To.” Sometimes it just is.

So. Our books. Yeah. Our readers. Our love. Our Life.

We can try to call people to us with contests or give aways or pointing out the good reviews

finding the silver lining . . .

we have or wear a funny book suit with a book hat on our heads while exuberantly rubbing our bellies—et cetera et cetera et cetera—but, in the end, sometimes our books may never become iconic or popular—we may never make a million bucks, and be lucky to make some thousands of bucks, or some may be lucky to sell but a few books at all.

While there are those savvy people who know how to market effectively, most of us are standing around with deer in the headlights eyes, flinging out sticky shit one side to the other in the hopes something sticks.

See, I’m thinking — I have to wake up with myself every day. I have to look in

No, really, I am a NICE person – I wouldn’t push my brother over the edge.

the mirror and like what I see. I have to feel comfortable with myself. I have to write the best book I know how and then hope a lot of hope. It is not in my nature to stand outside in a funny suit, rubbing my stomach, and wildly beckoning y’all to come inside. It’s in my nature to give you my words with love and hard work and sincerity and do the best I know how while remaining the person I am. To try my best without being a big pain in the ass to the social networking airwaves.

Would I love to see my books back in the Number 1 spot at Kindle? Hells to the yeahs, but will I hop on my head while reciting the complete works of Shakespeare to get your attention? Nope! Because what would you think of me? What would I think of myself? Lawd!

Keep it flowing and flowing and flowing and flowing . . .

Readers: what you can do to help your favorite author is to pass along the word – tell others about the author/book(s), and further if you are so inclined, review it on Amazon, B&N, etc., or talk about it on your blog/facebook/twitter: give us your love for it will be appreciated. Writers, what you can do is support other writers – someone else’s success does not take away from our own potential or real successes! We also can be more appreciative of what we have and where we are, for there is always someone else who’d love to be in our position. We should write the best books we can, and present them as beautifully and as “perfectly” as possible (note: in other words, don’t be in such a hurry to throw out your words just to say “I’m published”).

By the way: that hotdog stand went out of business. Just sayin.

Tell me: what’s up with y’all? My laptop is still in the laptop hospital and this little mini-netbook is terrible. lawd. I hope this post turns out presentable. Lawdy be in a bucket of worms.

Monday Classroom: See-Saw/Watch(ed)/Look(ed) – cleaning up our manuscripts, y’all (and no whining allowed!)

Morning all y’allses out there, wherever you are. I first want to say how much I appreciate you. Many of you come by here for every post, and there are those of you who leave comments regularly. Thank you.

I have not been able to return the favor as I used to, but I am subscribed to many of your blogs if you have that capability, and I do read your posts in my email. I know many of you are in the same ole boat–so much to do, so many blogs, so much social networking–Lawd!

I am behind on writing The Lightning Charmer because I whined too much instead of trusting my process.  “I caaaaaan’t write this boooooook. Cause it suuuuuuucccckkkks and I suuuucccck!” I have a deadline; I have already received my advance; I have people depending on me, readers waiting. There should be No Whining Allowed! But whine I did. I felt stuck.

After four published novels and a novella, you’d think I’d Have This. But we can always create some angst, can’t we? Lawdy be in a bucket – yes. Folks, sometimes just switching a scene around (making something happen earlier–as I did to TLC) or turning the manuscript on its head in some other way does the trick–Hey! Why, there it is! There’s the thang I was looking for hiding in plain ole sight–haw! And then the “flutter” of excitement begins in my/our belly and off I/we go! Give that sucker (your manuscript) a shake and see what falls out. Do whatever it takes to make it seem fresh  and alive. No Whining Allowed! (Okay, you can give yourself “whine time” as long as you do not give in to it for longer than two shakes of a hippo’s tail.)

Sometimes it is appropriate for a character to see-saw/watch(ed)/look(ed). But oft-times we write the character seeing looking watching when the direct action would work better. Right? Riiighhht!

For example, let’s say there’s a scene in Tender Graces where Virginia Kate and Micah are on the porch in the Looseeaner house after she’s left West Virginia.

Oh look! A rock. I am looking at the rock. You are looking at the rock. GMR is watching me look at the rock. I saw the rock. I see the rock and saw it and looked at it


I looked over at Micah as we rocked on the porch. I saw him grin at me. I watched him run down the steps, pick up a pretty rock, and bring it back to me. He looked at me looking at the rock. I saw him look at me. We looked at each other and smiled. I watched him sit down. He looked at me as I rocked. I watched as he rocked. Then we looked at the sky because we were danged ole sick of looking at each other, sheesh.

Okay, folkses, I know that’s a little extreme, *teehee,* but you get the idea. Obviously sometimes we use looked/watched/saw, etc, because it fits the scene. Sometimes Virginia Kate uses the “I’m a looking fool” because that’s what she does–her thang; in those cases, I actually use it as a device, On Purpose, and I know it is On Purpose and the audience knows it is On Purpose–if they do not, then I ain’t done my job. This is what I mean about breaking rules or manipulating the language—if you are aware of what you are doing, if you are doing it On Purpose, it is fun to play with the language and it can be quite effective/affective.

If the sneakity sneaker thangs make their way into the work, then being aware of those sneakies will help tighten the manuscript.

Don’t stress yourself striving for perfection, especially in the first draft or two. I like to slam that story down first. However, the more you know instinctively, the less mess you have to clean up, right? RIIIIGHHHT!

I saw the ball hit the wall. – The ball hit the wall.

I watched Marie jump rope. – Marie jumped rope.

I looked at Jennifer eating her pie. – Jennifer ate her pie. I want pie–this has nothing to do with this post, I just want pie now.

The audience will know the narrator is doing the watching/looking without us bomping them upside the head with it.

Playing with language and words is the most wonderful danged old thang in the world. If you tend to “over-do” or “over-use” certain words or phrases, etc, find ways to recast your sentences/phrases to create a tighter work. A swollen manuscript will become, well, not swolled up.

So, pull up your manuscript in your editing phases and do a search/find and see how many “look/see-saw/watch” you have hiding in there. You may be surprised.

Now–go Do This Day with Gratitude. And write.

Monday Classroom: The angst we can heap on our pea-heads, or the joy – you are in control, right?

Sometimes I follow Good Man Roger into Ingles Supermarket as he shops for groceries (yeah, he does the grocery shopping and most the cooking because I just ain’t innerested, y’allses! Left to my own self’ses, I eat the weirdest stuff that does not require cooking, or very little of it). I wander the aisles touching things and going “Hmmmm . . . food good, like food . . .” or I’ll study the ad copy on some miracle face cream and wonder if it’ll make me look like the Tender Graces author photo my publishers airbrushed–I look like my younger cousin once removed *lawd!*

And while doing these la-tee-dah thangs, I suddenly think, “Oh, hey, hold up y’all! I just remembered! I’m a published author.” I lift up my head from bright-colored packaging and muse-i-vate, “Right this very danged ole moment, someone may be reading one of my books . . .” Oh wonderment!–and

I gots books and friends and family – lucky me!

no one even knows who I am. But what if someone does? What if that person who just walked by and looked at me and smiled as if they know me does “know” me. Lawd! Teeheehee! I’m an author and I done wrote some books and those books are out there somewhere on someone’s bedside or bookshelf, or in their Kindle or Nook or whatever, whodathunkit?

I inhale that moment with the mountain air. I swallow it down and it enters my blood and rushes through my veins and fills my marrow and I’m full full full of how wunnerful it all is. As if I can think, “My time has come at last.” Without hubris, for humility covers my head like a gentle hand staying the jittery jumping up and down in glee–yeah, that humility ain’t always humble in us, is it? But it sure will kick us upside our asses if we become too comfy in our authory skinses and think we’re all that and then some on a southern-fried stick *haw haw.* Dang. I wanna be all that and then some on a southern-fried stick, at least a little. Right? Riiighhht. For without goals, what are we? Goal-less I guess – teehee. But I need me some goals. Something to work for, and that something is You and You and You reading me me me. Right? Isn’t that what you all writers out there want? Besides some Pride in our accomplishments? Maybe a best-seller list. And an award–ohh, yeah, a big fat ole award telling us how brilliant we are! Oh, yeah, and our ever-present humility, too – haw!

Yup, there are those moments of such clarity, those that stop me short in the peanut butter and jelly aisle. Those moments where I feel gratitude, and a surreal fascination with the entire process of writing and books and language and publishing. And how I am a part of all that even if in a small way in the Big Fat Ass Scheme of Thangs.

Aw lawd, what if what if what if what if – I’m trapped in What If Land!

Then, lawd he’p me, there are the moments of terror. The expectations I heap upon my ole pea-head until it’s heavy and I have to go lie down and pull some covers over my weighted-with-angsty-lawdyness head. I lie in my bed and the anxiety curls itself around my innards. “What if this very

lawdy! gots my pea-head all tied up in knots!

moment someone is reading my book and thinks, ‘This isn’t very good. I think I’ll put it down and read something else . . .’” Oh horrors! “What if I don’t sell many books and my publishers and family and friends think I’m a failure?” Ungh  ungh! “What if the next book isn’t as good as the last? And was the last good enough?” Shivers on me timbers! “What if I let everyone down?” Oh Chicken Little, be quiet! The sky is not falling to bang you upside your head, lessen you pull it down your head. Right? Riiiighhhht.

There is such contradiction in this process of having your dream come true. For me, the original dream was to see my Virginia Kate novel published and to know she is being read and enjoyed by someone somewhere. I accomplished that. Everything else should be lagniappe (that’s a South Loooseeeaner term for “just a little something more.”) But when those little voices creep up and tell us how we need to do more, and more, and even more, and ever ever ever MORE MORE MORE MORE, this is when the joy of the language, the characters, the readers, the accomplishment of writing and publishing a novel is not enough and we think we have to have/do/be it all– and most of us can’t have/do/be it all. There’s always going to be Something More unless we find a way to put all this in some perspective, stop and take a breath, and then decide what our ultimate Goal is and how we will get there and if we do not get there will we be happy with what we DO have.

Welp, guess what? We really are in control of what we want to heap on our wittle pea-headed selves–much more than we give our selfses credit for. We can heap and heap, or we can not heap and heap.

Relax, relax, relax and enjoy life sometime . . .

I know I like me better when I’m walking through the grocery store and suddenly stop and that beautiful realization pops me upside my head that I actually did it. I wrote a novel and that novel is published and then I wrote three more of them and they were published, and any one of them could be, right at this moment, read and enjoyed by someone out there somewhere. Sometimes that is enough. Those Dang! Whoop! I did it! moments of tasting our accomplishments–rolling those accomplishments on our tongue. Sometimes, it is enough. Sometimes. Sommmmeeetimmmmmessssss it is enough *sigh*

My challenge to all of you is to stop where you are at this moment in your life, savor who and where you are—hold close to you the Right Now moment, before you move on to MORE MORE MORE. Then, when you move on to More, maybe it’ll have a Name and  Goal instead of “I have to have/be/do it ALL!”

squirrels ain’t stressing

Right now. Right here at this moment, a mountain breeze flies down from the ridge and brushes against my face, a bird’s bright eye watches me, a chipmunk fills its cheeks with seed, the red squirrels are fussing, the creek sings its journey song to the bold creek to the river to the ocean, the sun tips greened trees, and I feel a connection to every creature, every living being—through words and thought and life. I will soon begin my day’s work and it is good. It is good. Right now, it is good.

Thank all y’allses for reading: Now . . . what is your right now, right here moment?

And what is your Ultimate Goal?

Monday Classroom: We should all take a break . . .

Today I am thinking of so many men and women. And, I am thinking about my nephew. Gone 17 years now. He was almost 20 when he was killed in a training accident. He was in the Marines and something went wrong. He loved the Marines, and it did turn his life around. So young. So full of promise.

So many.

Today for Monday Classroom, I want to remind all y’allses beauties out there to take a day here, there, and yonder, to rest, reflect, go out and see the world, give thanks, have gratitude, experience. For when we do these things, our writing is richer, broader, opened up to so much more. We see things we’ve never seen or revisit things we’ve long forgotten or find beauty or find someone or find ourselves.

Memorial Day . . . a day for rest, a day for BBQ, a day for the beach, a day for family, and a day for remembrance . . . then, tomorrow, it’s back to work.



Monday Classroom: Why you’ses dumping information all up and down and all-over creation? Ain’t necessary.

Oh woe is us’ses but sometimes we feel the need to stuff down too much information at once, instead of gradually feeding information to our readers, or hinting, or giving them just enough so that they come to their own conclusions. We think, and I have done this, we have to tell the reader “certain thangs” or else they’ll be lost or won’t read our story because we haven’t given them “reason to—” but instead, when we dump too much on our readers, we may drive them away (meaning: put down our book – NOOOO lawdy NOOO! Woeful sobbing Noooooo’s!)

Some writers want the reader to know some “backstory” or other information that may or may not be crucial to the storyline and they shove it down the readers’ throats all at once. Ease back. It’ll all work out. Trust the process. Trust your readers. Trust yourself. Let your reader figure things out, feed them a spoonful so that they want more, and then give them just a little more.

Some writers want the reader to know how the character looks, because they know just how that character is “supposed to” look instead of letting the reader form their own images.

And please y’allses, don’t describe your character in a mirror. That’s another form of dumpity dumping information.

Can you see me? You can see enough of me.

Now, does that mean you can never ever ever never ever have your character look into a mirror and “see” her/himself? Whyses No’ses. Shoot, I have a mirror scene (or two), as in: Young Virginia Kate runs to her bedroom to fetch her camera, sees herself in the mirror, and notices her hair is messy, she has a spot of ketchup on her blouse and it reminds her of the snake’s blood (from the snake polo scene). So, she makes these observations and goes on. That’s something we’d all do, wouldn’t we? We’d pass a mirror and make an observation about ourselves, but would we describe ourselves to ourselves?–um, prolly not.

Remember I’ve said before: think about your scene in reality. What do people really do?

And lawdy be in a bucket, sometimes, to my horrorification, information dump is done in dialogue, and in such an

Objects in mirror are often described too much . . .

unnatural way, thusly:

After describing her heaving bosoms, cornflower blue eyes, pouty red-tinted lips, thick glorious hair, and determined chin in the mirror, arms akimbo, she stomped her little foot and cried to the bedroom decorated in tapestries and filmy scarves, because no one was standing there and the room was a good listener, “I am going back to the market on fifty-first street today, where I went last week to buy tomatoes for the famous homemade sauce my family has made for generations and I have made my twenty-three years I’ve been on this earth, and while there I saw that dark and dastardly street vendor Raoul and Raoul stole my broach just as it happened with my mother and her mother’s mother and her grandmother before her! I shall have vengeance on Raoul this very day or else my name isn’t Sabrinina Melissa Bambitto Deligato!”


Some writers want the reader to “see” the place/setting/room/house just as they imagined it, so they write and write and write the description to dawg-danged-old death, such as:

She then turns on her pretty little slender heels and stalks out of the bedroom, and as she huffs to her front door . . . the

lawd, I need a nap! Wearing me out with all these words!

drapes were orange-marmalade velveteen after it has set in the sun three hours, the armchairs polka-dotted except on the fringe because the fringe is solid and hung down all-fringe-like, and in the corner to the right was a purple violet vase with forget-me-nots inside with an inch of water to cover the stems and some aspirin in there to keep the flowers fresh and the flowers were bought last Tuesday and were still perky and next week she’d put red—the color of the red crayon she had as a child and it was her favorite—roses in the vase and the petals would be soft as her peachity-creamy comely skin, and in the other corner to the left, as Sabrinina Melissa Bambitto Deligato’s corn-flower blue eyed lashes swept her flushed cheeks as she further surveyed the room and saw how her lovely yellow as a egg yolk that just was cracked from the shell five minutes ago chaise longue captured her kitty cat named Mr. Furry McFurrPants, and the lady-slipper pink carpeting that crushed most charmingly and softeningly  under her tiny little feet, and the chandelier above her golden-blonde glorious hair sparked all diamondy and sparkly, and . . .

. . . and all the while, we are supposed to imagine Sabrinina Melissa Bambitto Deligato is walking through this room staring at all of this long enough for the reader to read allllll this description—so she must be walking sloooooowww moooooootion, right? Riiggghtt. Why not just give a little detail here and there that she notices as she goes through the room—maybe a favorite item that she touches or brushes her hand against, or a couple of details about the room that a person would note as they walked through it—the reader will fill in the blanks and be happy to do so, even if they don’t even realize they are filling in the blanks and instead think you are a genius at description—Haw!

Okay, while I’m at it: I’ve never used arms akimbo (other than this example :-D), but the other night I read a book and there it was. In fact, I had to look up “arms akimbo” to know what it meant. I’ll never use arms akimbo, but I suppose if you must you must. Nope, I ain’t telling you; you’ll have to look it up just as I did. *laughing oh laughing with mouth akimbo.*

Professor Dawg says, “Woof!” – that means, write it all good and all, y’allses

So, friends, what I am talking about here and digressed into my brain going akimbo is don’t take the easy or cheating or unimaginative or lazy way out and force down the throats of your readers information—instead write it to show readers in a more natural, or gradual, way, in a way that gives the reader credit for knowing or figuring out much more than we as writers think they do/can. If you need to write it all out, that’s great, as long as you delete what isn’t needed. Consider: our readers’ imaginations and thought-processes are quite intelligent. Why, sometimes they even think up better things than we could have written . . . right? Riiighht! No, really, riiighhht!

If you dump on your readers too much description, they’ses eyes might glaze over and what might they do? OH NO! They might put down the book or “skim it.” Oh, the dreaded skimming isn’t as bad as the putting down the book, but both set my wittle heart to squeezing inward with writerly angsteses. Why, I bet some of you’ses out there have skimmed this! Oh heavy Irony abounds! Haw!

I read a novel a couple of weeks ago by a well-known, well-beloved author. So imagine my surprise when she info-dumped a whole-lotta backstory into the first chapter. There was no dialogue, no moving the story along—it was as if she

la la la la I can’t hear youuu; I’m looking inside my hat – you done lost me – la la la tee dah – Yawn, whatchoo was saying? Whatever, the inside a-my hat is more innerestin

and I were sitting in a restaurant having dinner and she was filling me in on all these details to make sure “I got it—you know, got it, the stuff that happened before the stuff that’s really happening” all before she could go on to “the meat of the story.” Well, I was bored. I didn’t want to know all that backstory—I didn’t care. Because once she began writing The Story, once she just wrote what the character was up to, I forgot all that crapa-doodle-doo-doo she’d stuck in that first chapter. It’d have been so easy to take a few things from that first chapter and insert a little bit here and there to fill me in on any details. She could-a deleted most of that entire first chapter and I’d have not cared.

How do you know it’s backstory? How do you know it’s boring? How do you know it’s crapa-doodle-doo-doo? Dang—you’ll have to use your instincts on this one, folkses. If you feel you are moved to tell your readers a bunch of this’s and thatses to “catch them up” or to “make sure they know the reason for it” or “if I don’t tell them this, they may not understand what comes later,” then maybe just maybe you are dumping information in the front part of the book—then it’ll be all top heavy and end up toppley-gangly all over creation. As well, if you are bored or restless when you read it–not a good sign.

Write write write—and then make good friends with your delete key. It’s such a lovely key. People are afraid of the delete key. They think the delete key is EEEE-VILLLLE, but it isn’t! It’s our friend.

But, y’allses know what I tell you. What I preach and preach—what is most important to remember: If you convince your audience, make them believe, make them happy to be where you lead them, engage them in your character’s world, you have done your job–Period. And be-doodle-be-damned any “advice” some writer, like me or anyone else, gives you, right? Riiighhht! But consider: just consider.

So, are your arms akimbo? If so, un-akimbo them and get to work! That’s what I’ma gonna do, folkses.

Monday Classroom: Y’allses, we’s gonna clean up our languageamation, right? riiighht!

Morning, all y’allses! What? You think all y’allses isn’t correct? Well, it ain’t. It ain’t even correct in many southern towns. Nope. But it’s correct in my pea-head, so there y’allses goes’ses :-D

Our manuscripts/work/language will never be perfect. Yeah, I know! It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? That we aren’t or will never be perfect? Nor will our books/essays/short stories/letters/posts, etc. Lawd and Dang. However, we can strengthen our work by at least knowing The Rules and applying them when we “should;” and then we can also break the rules with a firm and knowledgeable hand instead of feeling flabbergastivated by them. Right? Riighhht!

Do you own a Strunk & White? No? *Gasp!* Go ye and purchase one. I’ll wait whilst you do. *Jeopardy music here* You back? All right then (and notice, all right is two words—two!) let’s begin.

As I wrote above, all right should be two words. Not alright.

Do you feel badly? Well, what’s wrong with your hands? Oh dear! Folkses, it is: I feel bad.

Most always when we write “hopefully” we mean “I hope.” Or at least we should mean I hope. I hope y’allses will use I hope instead of hopefully, which means in a hopeful manner.

I often see “that” used instead of “who—” if you are writing/speaking of a person, then it is who. She is a woman who likes strawberries right off the vine; not, she is a woman that likes strawberries right off the vine.

Commas before which’s. The dog wanted his walk, which was most inconvenient for the woman who wasn’t yet ready.

We Southern/Mountain folk often add words and such all and all that stuff and a little bit of this and that the t’other. I often use colloquialism in my work, since my settings are usually in the Appalachian/Deep South. However, I am careful I do not over-do it, and as well, I use a firm hand by Knowing the Rules so I can break them when I want to.

Off of is incorrect, and plain old “off” is correct. The woman jumped off of the couch and ran to the porch to yell, “Git off’n my land!” should be: The woman jumped off the couch and ran to the porch to yell “Git off’n my land!”

As well, instead of “Could of” we should write/say “could have” – I could of had a V8 is incorrect! Don’t you watch commercials anymore to learn yer grammarfications? It’s I could have had a V8! I gots my verbs, yeah, and they’ses makes my sentence so nice and loverly!

We don’t have to merge together! We can simply merge! Who knew?

Let’s all go to the grammar store! wheee!

Nauseous versus Nauseated. If you feel it, it is nauseated. I am nauseated becauses I ain’t et my breakfas yet, y’allses. What? That sentence? What about it?

And this one I see misused over and over and over and over. More importantly and most importantly is incorrect. Sorry, it is! Is, too! Yes it is too incorrect. Humph! It should be more or most important. So, go ye and speak importantly no more!

Y’allses gots any grammerfications and other writin bloooperdoops you wanna tawlk about? :-D

Now, go do the day!

And P.S. – Thank you all for your support for Tender Graces Promo on Thursday & Friday to launch Family Graces, and for Mom’s day. Appreciate you all!

And a head’s up that Rose & Thorn Journal’s spring issue will go live the 15th –  that’s tomorrow! Hope you will stop by to peruse the prose, poetry, and art. We appreciate you.

Monday Classroom: Iconic Giants & the Firsts – what do you wish your legacy to be?

All up inside my lil ole pea-headed brain, I was thinking about the creative endeavor, about where we’ve been and where we are and where we will go–and where we want to go, or think we want to go until we arrive and then we’re all “Huh? Whaaa?” Right?Riiighhht!  Then, I ponderificated about those who came before, and those who will be remembered for time immortal and beyond (or at least until the sun dies–yes, y’allses, the sun is going to die, but no worries, it’s still some millions of years away – of course, the core is cooling, and the poles could reverse – but don’t sell everything and bunker down–that’s also quite some time a’ways).

I wandered and wondered, who(else) will be most remembered twenty, thirty, forty, one-hundred, two-hundred years from now? Do we, anymore, have the ability to create Classics in literature, music, art, architecture? And I’m not talking about the absurd–the “fashion” that comes and goes and comes and goes and goes and comes and–Lawd! I’m dizzy! He’p me!  Or have the molds been cast and then placed behind thick glass to preserve them and we can only hope to find some spot of our own outside that glass ever-looking in, in an ever-expanding crowd of creativity and mimicry of creativity?

There was a time when writers, artists, architects, dancers, musicians, et cetera, made the rules and made the new, because they trod where no one else had ever been before–or perhaps, even, it was that they were smart enough to say LOOK AT ME first–thangs had to have a beginning, right? riighhht! Someone and something was a First, in the mostest uniqueneses of ways for which we may never see that First Unique again. The first car–well, dang, won’t be another first of those, even if we design the coolest cars on the planet and call them New–they are based on that First Car. And even in that First Car, how much of it was built upon the ideas of others: Firsts Parts–the wheel, an engine–and the parts that made up that engine, seats the people sit on and the materials to make those seats, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera! Even our stories have a long long long past–who told the very first story? And it was told again and again and it changed and morphed into more stories, and soon someone painted them on a cave, and then wrote it down, and then someone had the bright idea that, “I bet lots of people would like to hear this story, and to boot, I could make some money off’n it! wheeee doggies!”

It’s difficult now to find the places where no one has been, which is why there are “The Classics,” and why we have those literary (and other creative) giants/icons who are held up as larger than life, their images on cups and t-shirts and postage stamps, their works examples for those who follow or want to buck up against. One glance at an image and most know who they are. One mention of a phrase and one knows who said it, and it is deemed brilliant, never to be touched again by another – er, right?

Yes, y’all, we can create our own paths and someone may say, “Wow!” But are brilliant works and new paths sometimes swallowed by the glut of All That Out There Everywhere? Or are we becoming jaded because there’s just so much so

Don’t hide! Come on out and see the world


Just what do you want from this writing/creative life? . . . think about this question and its/your answer a bit. The easy answer may be: I want my book published/on a best seller list/to make a million bucks/to be recognized by my peers/to be famous/to be loved/to be the best/to be the strongest-tallest-prettiest-smartest-richest—now take whatever answer comes to mind and dig a little further: what do you really want from this thing you are doing? Break it down, pull it apart, examine it. Turn it around, on its head, inside out and outside in. Whatever you come up with, that’s what you can work towards–and be prepared to be knocked down, or maybe have that “want” to change, or even–GASP!–to FAIL–whaaa? you may say; but but, If I never give up and try my best, I’ll get what I want, right? Nope, not always! But sheeee-it, no one ever finds out what they’s gonna git by doing nuttin!

Perhaps some of our iconic giants didn’t have to work so hard to be noticed? Perhaps they did their thang and it was deemed brilliant and unique and extree-ordinary and folkses flocked to see this New Thang – to buy it – to touch it – to be a part of it! Ohhhhhhhhhh lawdy! Shoot, I bet the first Band Wagon was so full it near to tipped over! I mean, don’t we’ses love to hop on Band Wagons–beware the Band Wagon, y’allses, for a Band Wagon is not a Cause– and it may not be the best answer to your own question.

Just as civilizations are built and then built upon and built upon again and again, so it is with language and music and art. There was the creating of new ways. And now, we build upon those “ways” — we have “rules” and “before us’ses” we follow because they were called “This is Important: Pay Attention!” and we build on those, and sometimes we throw them out, and sometimes we morph them, and sometimes we break the rules and the norm gently or even ungently. Language, art, the creative endeavor, is a living breathing thing, a malleable thing. Isn’t it? What about we create Our Own History. Our Own Way. Our Own Legacy. Sometimes even Good Enough is enough, right? Right? You tell me.

Who will find their face on a cup? Who will be caricatured on a t-shirt? Who, if anyone, will be our icons and giants in the future before the sun dies or poles reverse?–lawd! Or as we individuals die–what will we pass on to those who look to us?
What is your legacy, or what do you wish your legacy to be? To yourself, your kids, your grandkids, your friends, family, to the world?