Wednesday, December 31, 2008

eBook resales: good or bad idea?

There's a thriving business in the resale of used books. It's a great way to clear our shelves of books we no longer want, and these sales can generate some cash for the purchase of new books. Even though the resale of these books deprives the author of royalties for the additional sales, no one really minds. This is because resales are a small percentage of total book sales, and may open new markets (to readers who hadn't previously read a particular offer). The same is true if you lend or give a book to a friend.

The same dynamic should apply to ebooks (books sold in various electronic formats), right?

Unfortunately, no. When you give or sell a printed
book to someone, they get one copy and the most they can do is resell or give away one copy. But with ebooks, the one copy you give/sell can be copied hundreds, even thousands of times. So, instead of the author losing the royalties for a single resale, he or she potentially can lose thousands of dollars in royalties--and that's just from a single copy. Think about the impact on that author's income if hundreds of readers each give away copies that are passed on to hundreds of others. (Not to mention the losses suffered by the publishers and those they employ.)

Before you say, "But authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling make millions from their books. They won't miss it.", consider this: For every author who's a millionaire, there are hundreds of authors who barely make a living from writing, and hundreds more who write as a second income because writing alone won't pay the bills. If they made more money, perhaps they could quit their day jobs and write full-time (producing more of the books you love).

And before you say, "But my reading an ebook that a friend gave me won't make a difference.", consider this: There are pirate websites and blogs whose sole reason for existence is the sharing of ebooks, CDs, DVDs, and other copyrighted materials. Thre are literally thousands of people trading thousands of books, albums, and movies without paying for a single one. Collectively, that's many millions of dollars in income the artists never get. So it's not just you, it's many people depriving a lot of hard-working artists of the money they've rightfully earned.

Because it's not just you doing it, it won't matter whether you keep doing it or not, right? Sure it does! By participating in this illegal activity (breaking federal and international copyright laws and perhaps illegally trafficking in stolen merchandise across state lines**), you contribute to the problem and even encourage it.

So what can you do about it? Simple:

1) Stop selling/sharing ebooks. If you can't help yourself, and you just have to read the one a friend gave you, fine. When you're done reading it, delete it and buy a copy from a legitimate source. But whatever you do, don't share your copy with anyone outside your immediate family.
Certainly, don't post them to the internet or sell them on eBay.

2) Point your friends who buy/sell/share ebooks to this blog, so they can be educated, too.

3) If you know of websites and blogs that share ebooks, report them to the
AuthorsAgainstE-BookTheft group on Yahoo.

Remember, the selling and sharing of ebooks without compensation to the publisher and the author is ILLEGAL and harms the industry as a whole. Do you really want to contribute to a publisher
laying off employees or even going bankrupt (and perhaps depriving you of the latest work from one of your favorite authors?)

Unless we all (authors, publishers, and concerned readers) work together to stamp out the illegal sharing/selling of ebooks, the problem will only get worse.
Think about it.


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this or any copyrighted work is illegal. File sharing is an International crime, prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Border Patrol, Division of Cyber Crimes, in partnership with Interpol. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is punishable by seizure of computers, up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 per reported instance.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 76)

Here are some more words to watch out for:

Ordnance vs. Ordinance

Wrong: The city ordnance forbids double-parking.

Right: The city ordinance forbids double-parking.

Ordnance refers to munitions, while an ordinance is a local law. Confusing ordnance with an ordinance can be an explosive error.

Eek vs. Eke

Wrong: She’s just trying to eek out a living.

Right: She’s just trying to eke out a living.

I chuckle every time I come across this one. Eek may be a simple misspelling of eke (to obtain with great difficulty), but I always picture someone seeing a mouse and shrieking.

More next time.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

The future of gaming--and television?

I just watched this amazing video. It shows how Nintendo Wii controller technology can be used to create amazing immersive 3D/VR video games. (Imagine shoot-em-ups where the aliens can be behind you, seemingly in the room with you. Incredible.) But if you watch to the end, you'll see some interesting potential for televised sporting events, perhaps. And who knows what else?

BTW, I'm told that Johnny Lee (the creator of the technique, and this video), has been hired by Microsoft to develop next-generation games for the Xbox 360. I can't wait to see them.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Progress on Sunrise Destiny

I just got word this morning that the art director at Red Rose Publishing has assigned a cover artist to my science fiction novel, Sunrise Destiny. The editing is already well under way, so I'm hopeful the book will be out in February.

I also received word from my editor at RJ Buckley Publishing that the anthology (
The World Outside the Window) containing my short story "Fallen Star, Rising Star" is on schedule for January release. The ebook should be out in early January, with the printed copies coming in the middle of the month. Both will be available from Amazon initially, with other outlets coming over time. The anthology is also available for preordering directly from the publisher.

I'll keep you informed as I learn more.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another story coming soon

I just received a contract for my short story, Harvey-467 Makes a Bride. It'll be published as an ebook by the publisher (Red Rose) that's releasing my novel. So that makes a novel (Sunrise Destiny), a short story (Fallen Star, Rising Star) in an anthology (The World Outside the Window, from RJ Buckley Publishing), and a stand-alone story, that will be published within the next few months.

So far, 2009 is looking good. 8^}


Monday, December 15, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 75)

Here are some more of those pesky words and phrases that trip up many writers:

Jerry-rigged vs. Jury-rigged vs. Jerry-built

Wrong: That jerry-rigged contraption will never hold together.

Right: That jury-rigged contraption will never hold together.

The expressions jury-rigged and jerry-built both refer to something that is hastily and perhaps poorly assembled. Jerry-rigged appears to be a jerry-built mixture of the two that shouldn’t be used.

Crossover vs. Cross over

Wrong: His spirit is waiting to crossover to the other side.

Right: His spirit is waiting to cross over to the other side.

A crossover (noun) is something that spans two things (landmasses, book genres, types of motor vehicles, etc.). On the other hand, to cross over (verb phrase) is to change successfully from one thing or state of being to another (for example, to die, change political parties, or mutate).

I haven't run out of terms yet. Come back soon for more.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 74)

Continuing the series, here are some more words that are often confused:

Fix(ed) vs. Affix(ed)

Wrong: He fixed his bayonet to the rifle.

Right: He affixed his bayonet to the rifle.

The two words have similar but slightly different meanings, so it’s important to keep them straight. Affixed simply means attached. Fixed, in this context, means attached or fastened so as to be immovable or permanent. After you affix something you might then fix it in place.

Pass the mustard vs. Pass muster or Cut the mustard

Wrong: He couldn’t pass the mustard, so I had to let him go.

Right: He couldn’t cut the mustard, so I had to let him go.

To pass muster is to pass inspection or measure up to a standard. Similarly, to cut the mustard is to reach or surpass a level of performance. Pass the mustard is merely a humorous confusion of the two phrases.

More next time.


Friday, December 5, 2008

"The World Outside the Window" anthology coming soon

Good news! I have a short story (Fallen Star, Rising Star) coming in an anthology called The World Outside the Window. The book will be published in January 2009 in both paperback and Amazon Kindle ebook format, but it's already available for pre-ordering. The anthology consists of 19 adult fiction stories by 19 authors, many of them published novelists. The stories run the gamut of fiction, from romance to horror, from suspense to sci-fi and fantasy. (My story is about two adolescent boys who discover a meteorite that turns out to be so much more.)

The collection has an interesting premise (which is well-illustrated by the cover). From the jacket blurb:

Imagine, if you will, a building of unknown origin. A building in which there are many rooms, each with a window that looks out upon a courtyard and a scene beyond.

In each room a person sits, staring out the window at the same people and objects that everyone else sees from their windows. Yet, as we tell our stories of what we see, we learn a basic truth of the universe. We learn that even though our eyes survey identical scenes, our minds take us to places that only we as individuals know and remind us of stories that only we can tell.

Outside the window we see a winding country lane leading into the distant countryside. We see two boys, perhaps 10 or 12 years old, tossing a baseball to each other. A girl of maybe 7 or 8 swings on a schoolyard swing set, while two lovers walk hand in hand along the side of the road. A ramshackle old mailbox sits on a slanted post, and nearby there is an old car, possibly from the ‘50s - appearing to be in good running condition. We see a church steeple and an older woman walking along the side of the road, seemingly headed for the church. A young soldier stands still, his face is pensive, and it is plain to see that he has much on his mind. Two men are in a heated discussion about something, but from inside our window we can only guess at what is causing their turmoil. Nearby a beautiful girl sits on a park bench, weeping. An old dog lies on the grass, peaceful and serene, watching a puppy frolicking through a flower bed. As day changes to evening and then to night, we see a twinkle in the sky. A falling star, perhaps a starship?

Yes, the characters are there for us, waiting, making no comments that will give us any clue as to who they are or what they may be doing. They are waiting for us to cast them in their roles, to give them direction. We can use one or all of them. We can make them walk down the country lane, drive the car, or follow along behind the woman as she heads for the church. It is our world to create, and we have total control of everything in it. Whatever happens, we make it happen. Loves, lies, war or peace, death or life, shackled to earth or bound for the stars, it is in our hands to decide their fate.

We sit at the window, taking in the complexity of the scene before us and after a few hours of pondering, we sit back and relax as we use our mind’s eye to peer into a world that we will shape into anything we wish it to be.

Slowly, we begin. We pick up our pens and write our stories of the world outside the window.

So every story in some way ties to the characters we see in the courtyard outside the window.

Here is the Table of Contents for the book (subject to change before publication). There may be some other authors you know there:

FALLEN STAR, RISING STAR – Mark Terence Chapman
SMILE – Anthony Waugh
THE SILVER LINING – Rebecca Buckley
THE BLACK ROSE – Woodrow Walker
THE SPLIT MIND – Robert A. Meacham
NEAL’S NOEL – Jay Osman
THE MAILBOX – Larry L. Evans
ETUDE & SMOKE RINGS – Lana M. Ho-Sheing
TWILIGHT – Matthew Alan Pierce
HOUSE ARREST – Richard Lord
– E. Don Harpe

Noticing that my story comes first, I'd like to think that's because it's the best and the publisher wants to put our collective best foot forward. But who knows? Still, it's an honor to go first. I imagine a number of prospective readers will pick up the book, read the first page, and make a purchase decision based on that. So it'd better be good.

Of course, the publisher would want the last story to be good too, to leave a good taste in the reader's mind. And the middle stories need to be good, so the reader doesn't get bored before the end., heck--they all have to be good. Just read 'em. You won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 73)

For those of you who waited patiently (and for the rest), here are more words and phrases that are often misused:

That vs. Who

Wrong: People that act superior annoy me to no end.

Right: People who act superior annoy me to no end.

Wrong: I hate referees that mess up a penalty call.

Right: I hate referees who mess up a penalty call.

Right: Jets that operate via fly-by-wire are inherently unstable.

When referring to people, use who. When not referring to people (inanimate objects, animals, insects, etc.), use that.

Waited(ing) on vs. Waited(ing) for

Wrong: He waited on her for more than an hour!

Right: He waited for her more than an hour!

Unless you’re referring to a food server who waits on customers, the correct expression is waited for someone, not waited on them.

Want more? I'm afraid you'll have to wait until next time.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 72)

Still with me? Here are some more phrases and symbols that frequently get mangled:

Low and behold vs. Lo and behold

Wrong: Low and behold! My masterpiece.

Right: Lo and behold! My masterpiece.

The phrase lo and behold has been used for centuries, to call attention to somethingespecially something important or startling. Low and behold is simply a common misspelling.

Ampersands (&)

Wrong: It’s time for fun & games.

Right: It’s time for fun and games.

Wrong: I invested in an oil & gas limited partnership.

Right: Invested in an oil and gas limited partnership.

Right: I bought a Black & Decker drill.

Ampersands should never be used in prose. Reserve them for product and brand names that require them, or movie titles (such as Harry & Tonto).

I'll have more for you next time.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 71)

I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long for more of these:

Data vs. Datum

Right: The data are used to plot a graph.

Right: Additional data is available upon request.

Data is the plural of the singular datum (a single piece of information, such as a fact or statistic). When referring to multiple data points, use data as a plural noun. However, when referring to a body of information, it is permissible to use data as a singular noun.

Different than vs. Different from vs. Different to

Wrong: San Francisco is different than Oakland in many ways.

Right: San Francisco is different from Oakland in many ways.

Right: San Francisco differs from Oakland in many ways.

Just to be clear, different than is always incorrect. It should be different from in U.S. English or different to in U.K. English. (It’s unusual that to and from would be used synonymously in this context.) Isn’t it interesting how U.S. English differs from U.K. English in so many respects?

I'll have more for you next time.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Upcoming interview

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I'll be interviewed about my sci-fi novels in the next few days by someone from Sonar 4 Science Fiction and Horror Ezine. The interview will appear in the March 2009 issue of the magazine.

That's all I know at this time. I'll post more later.


Friday, November 14, 2008

First images of a planet orbiting another sun

This is so cool! The Hubble telescope has captured images of a planet orbiting another sun. The images, taken two years apart, show the movement of what can only be a planet. Here's a link to the article.

And a short video illustrating it:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 70)

Here we go again. More works to keep straight:

Sherbert vs. Sherbet vs. Sorbet

Wrong: Would you like some sherbert for dessert?

Right: Would you like some sherbet for dessert?

Sherbet is a frozen concoction made of fruit and/or fruit juice, with gelatin, egg white, or milk added. Sherbert is simply a misspelling and mispronunciation of sherbet. (Note: In Europe, sherbet can also refer to a type of fruity drink.) A sorbet is similar to a sherbet in that both are frozen fruity desserts. However a sorbet is usually softer/mushier (less frozen), and lacks the milk/gelatin/egg white additive, as well as fruit solids. As a result, the texture is often finer. Sorbets are frequently served between meal courses as a palate cleanser.

Criterias vs. Criteria

Wrong: We use different criterias to help us decide.

Right: We use different criteria to help us decide.

Criterias is essentially a double plural, given that criteria (standards, rules or tests by which a decision can be made) is the plural of criterion. (“We have only one criterion: quality.”)

I have more, so come back soon.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 69)

Now that the elections are over, maybe we can get back to the important stuff: writing! On that note, here are some more oft-confused words to consider.

‘im vs. ‘em

Wrong: They’re inside. Don’t let ‘im get away.

Right: They’re inside. Don’t let ‘em get away.

Right: He’s inside. Don’t let ‘im get away.

The contraction ‘im is short for “him,” while ‘em is short for “them.” It shouldn’t be hard to keep ‘em straight.

Risky vs. Risqué

Wrong: I love those risky poses.

Right: I love those risqué poses.

Risky means hazardous, while risqué mean racy or suggestive of sexual impropriety. Of course, the two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. A topless dancer, for example, may be engaging in behavior that is both risqué and risky.

More next time. See ya!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ban the straight party ticket voting option!

I don't normally write about politics, politicians, or voting, but this is an exception. In every election I'm confronted with the stupidest idea ever invented: the straight party ticket.

Regardless of which party affiliation you register with, is it really possible that every candidate in that party is honest, hardworking, and feels the same way you do about the important issues? Not bloody likely. Yet, in every election millions of voters abdicate their responsibility to use their brains when voting, and blindly check the Democrat or Republican straight party ticket box.

I can't remember the last time (if ever) that I
didn't select at least one or two candidates from the "other" party, or at least one independent. That's because I actually think about who I'm voting for before I vote.

As far as I'm concerned anyone who checks the straight party ticket box should be barred from further voting as an idiot who doesn't deserve the right. But because the U.S. Constitution won't allow that, the next best option is to do away with the straight party ticket choice. That would force voters to actually look at the names of the candidates before they vote. (What a concept!)

Sure, the voters may still simply check off the names of all the candidates in the party, one by one, but at least they'll have to look at the names first. Who knows? Some voters might see the names and remember the sleazy negative campaign their candidate waged and decide to vote for someone else. They might recall that the incumbent was roundly denounced by multiple media analysts as useless, wasteful, or catering to special interests, and decide to vote for someone else. They might even decide that both major party candidates are sleazeballs that don't deserve their vote and vote for one of the minor candidates. (It might even send a message to the major parties, if enough disaffected voters did this.)

Of course, this sort of vote-switching may not happen much more often than today, but it should happen at least
occasionally, which would be a good thing for American politics.

So I say, ban the straight party ticket voting option!


P.S. Here's another idea to consider: the negative vote. In those races where there is one candidate running unopposed, or only two and both are worthless, we should be able to cast a vote that counts as -1 instead of +1. If enough negative votes are cast, the candidates may not register any votes at all (or at least they should get the message that we're not happy with them). Write and let me know what you think about these ideas for voting reform.

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 68)

Still looking for more of these words? Very well, here they are:

Zippo vs. zippo

Wrong: He flicked open his zippo and lit a stogie.

Right: He flicked open his Zippo and lit a stogie.

Wrong: We went for it all, but we ended up with Zippo.

Right: We went for it all, but we ended up with zippo.

Zippo is a registered trademark for a brand of cigarette lighter. If you’re referring to the lighter, it should be capitalized. Conversely, if you mean zip, zilch, zero, nada, goose egg—as in nothing—then it would be lower-case zippo. You might request a Zippo but get zippo instead.

Xray vs. X-ray

Wrong: He went in for xrays of his wrist.

Right: He went in for x-rays of his wrist.

X-rays is properly written with a hyphen or as two words (x rays), but never as one word (xrays).

I'll have some more for you soon. Please come back. The management appreciates your patronage.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 67)

Here are a few more words to chew on:

Cord vs. Chord

Wrong: Something in what she said struck a cord.

Right: Something in what she said struck a chord.

Cord has many meanings, but most relate to string, wire, a cord-like structure (e.g., spinal cord), or binding of some sort (the cords of marriage). Chord can mean a combination of musical notes or, in this case, evoking a feeling or emotion.

Funner vs. More fun

Wrong: I think tennis is a lot funner than bowling.

Right: I think tennis is a lot more fun than bowling.

I’m sure funner is used tongue-in-cheek sometimes; but it’s not a proper word, falling into the same category as ain’t. It should only be used in dialog where the speaker is supposed to sound uneducated. If you use it in narrative, you’ll be the one sounding uneducated.

There are still more to come.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Turmoil among major publishers may be a boon for smaller ones

You may have heard recently that amid the financial crisis and the stock market panic, the publishing industry is undergoing a consolidation. Major publishers have announced sizable layoffs and they're "firing" mid-list authors in order to concentrate their efforts on only the A-list authors (the cash cows). As a result, it has become harder than ever for a first-time author to break into the ranks of the published. (If the publishers aren't even keeping established authors with a fan-base around, what are the chances of them signing an unknown with no track record?)

Because of this, many no-name authors (myself included) have resorted to smaller print and ebook publishers as a way of getting a foot in the publishing door. This has resulted in a proliferation of ebook publishers whose cost of entry is much lower than that of a traditional print publisher. (There are no printing or shipping costs associated with ebooks, and a small publisher doesn't have to pay the rent of a Manhattan address.)

One of the things holding back the fledgling ebook industry is a stigma among some readers that these somehow aren't "real" books, because they aren't printed on paper and can't be held. The "can't be held" issue is being resolved by improved ebook reader devices, but work remains to lower costs and improve usability. Another issue is a perception that the quality of ebooks is inferior to that of traditional printed books. There is some truth to this claim, although probably not as much as many people think.

Some of this stigma is due to less-than-professional publishers who are too cheap to do a decent job of editing or creating eye-catching covers for the books, and some of it is due to small publishers feeling they have to accept inferior works simply to have something to publish. (Established authors are unikely to consider them.) As a result, some good books are poorly edited, and some crappy books are published. (No amount of editing can save a crappy book.) Neither situation helps the image of ebooks.

On the other hand, there are many wonderful ebooks that are professionally edited and have gorgeous covers. They're every bit as good as many of the print books released by the large publishing houses, but unknown by most of the reading public. And this latter point brings me back to the beginning of this post.

With many popular mid-list authors being cut by the big publishing houses, some will catch on with smaller print publishers; but odds are many others will find themselves signing with small ebook publishers who treat them as A-listers. Once their books (including backlist titles that have been discontinued by the big publishers) are available as ebooks, their legions of loyal fans will flock to those ebooks. (They won't want to give up their favorite-author fix, after all.) This can only help to fuel the growth of these publishers, and the ebook segment as a whole. At the same time, while these fans are browsing the ebook publishers' sites, they're bound to "discover" some of the other talented, but unknown, authors there.

Ironically, the cost-cutting moves by the big publishers will end up hurting them in the end, as many of their customers leave them to follow the authors they cut adrift. The more "name" authors that sign with ebook publishers, the faster ebooks will become mainstream, and the sooner the major publishers will be forced to publish ebooks themselves to keep from falling behind--further legitimizing ebooks as an alternative to printed books. A decade from now, there may be no such thing as new printed books anymore--only dusty relics of a bygone age, sitting on the same shelf as 8-track tapes, Betamax cartridges, and wired telephones.


Update on "My Other Car is a Spaceship"

I recently workshopped my fourth novel, My Other Car is a Spaceship, to see if I could improve Chapter 1, which I felt was too "talky."

I'm pleased to report that I was successful. By adding three short scenes to the Prologue and rewriting/rearranging parts of Ch. 1, I was able to eliminate about a thousand words of conversation from Ch. 1. I think the new combination of Prologue and Ch. 1 has more of a sense of urgency than before and moves faster.

I still have some polishing to do, but I expect to begin submitting it to publishers shortly.


Sunrise Destiny being edited

Good news! My editor (Melissa) at Red Rose Publishing started editing Sunrise Destiny (my third sci-fi novel) last night. It's too soon yet to get a release date, but if the manuscript requires as little work as I think it will, I'm expecting sooner rather than later. (That is, maybe January rather than February.)

I'll keep you posted as I learn more.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 66)

I'm running low on words, but I still have a few left:

Sherrif or Sherriff vs. Sheriff

Wrong: There’s a new Sherrif in town.

Right: There’s a new Sheriff in town.

Sheriff (the law in these here parts) is often misspelled. Don’t let this sidewinder bushwhack you, pardner.

Opps vs. Oops

Wrong: Opps! Sorry about that.

Right: Oops! Sorry about that.

I have no idea why oops (an expression of chagrin or dismay as one’s mistake or clumsy act) shows up as opps so often. Opps doesn’t even sound like oops. Undoubtedly it’s a typo sometimes, but when the same person misspells it opps multiple times, it must be more than a typo.

Stay tuned for the next installment.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 65)

Here are some more words to ponder:

Set up vs. Setup

Wrong: You can setup the stereo system over there.

Right: You can set up the stereo system over there.

Right: That’s a nice stereo setup you have.

In this context, set up is a verb phrase that describes the action of assembling something or making it ready for use. This particular use of setup is as a noun that refers to the equipment or items necessary for a particular activity or period, or the way things are arranged.

Que or Cue vs. Queue

Wrong: Cue up at the ticket office.

Right: Queue up at the ticket office.

To queue up is to get in line or line up. The spelling isn’t intuitive (another word borrowed from the French) and often gets mangled as cue or que. A cue is a hint, guiding suggestion, or prompt (among other meanings), as in “That was his cue to enter.” or “Cue the music.” Que is simply a misspelling of queue (or an obsolete term for a half-farthing coin). So take a cue and get in queue.

I'll have more words for you shortly.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 64)

Here are some more words to watch out for:

Longest vs. Longer

Wrong: The Queen Mary is the longest of the two ships.

Right: The Queen Mary is the longer of the two ships.

Use longer or shorter when referring to one of only two; use longest or shortest when referring to one of three or more.

Shone vs. Shown vs. Shined

Wrong: She shown the light down into the grave.

Right: She shone the light down into the grave.

Shone, like shined, is the past tense of shine, however they are used differently. Use shone when describing the act of shedding or casting light. (“The moon shone down upon the graveyard.”) Use shined when describing putting a gloss or polish on something (“I shined my shoes to a mirror finish.”), or when referring to someone distinguishing himself. (“He really shined in the high jump competition yesterday!”). On the other hand, shown is unrelated to shine. It’s the past tense of show, and is preceded by was or had: “She was shown the door.” or “He had shown her the proper way to tie a slipknot.”

More next time.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 63)

Here are some more words to mull over:

Dessert vs. Desert

Wrong: She wandered for days, lost in the dessert.

Right: She wandered for days, lost in the desert.

Unless she was eating the world’s largest hot fudge sundae, she was lost in a desert (an extremely dry place that supports only sparse vegetation), not a dessert (the final course of a meal).

Tort vs. Torte

Wrong: That tort was delicious!

Right: That torte was delicious!

A torte is a type of cake containing little or no flour but many eggs and, usually, ground nuts. A tort, on the other hand, is a wrongful act for which a civil lawsuit can be brought (personal injury, for example, but not a breach of contract). While a victorious attorney might refer to a tort as delicious, most of us would find a torte to be tastier.

Come back soon for some more words.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good news re. Sunrise Destiny

My publisher recently assigned an editor to my third science fiction novel, Sunrise Destiny. She'll begin work on it shortly. I still don't have an assigned release date, but I imagine I'll get that fairly soon.

In an unrelated note, it looks like the anthology I wrote a story for last year is on track for publication in the next few months. The anthology will be called The World Outside the Window. The concept is that the main character of each story sees something or someone outside the window in the courtyard below or the road beyond. All the stories relate to what those characters see (or remember) happening outside. To add a twist, the stories cross genres, including science fiction, romance, and other types.

My (sci-fi) story is called, Fallen Star, Rising Star.

I'll follow up with more details as I get them.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 62)

And still more frequently misused or misspelled words:

Tortuous vs. Torturous

Right: We undertook a tortuous journey.

Right: We undertook a torturous journey.

Tortuous means winding, twisting, or convoluted, while torturous refers to causing pain and suffering (torture). Sometimes there can be overlap in meaning. For example, describing a tortuous road as torturous imparts the added nuance of danger or mental anguish. Still, it’s important to understand the difference in meaning, to ensure that you always use the correct word.

Jist vs. Gist

Wrong: That’s the jist of the situation.

Right: That’s the gist of the situation.

Jist is a simple misspelling of gist, which is the central meaning or essence of an idea, discussion, or legal argument.

Come back soon for more words.


Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 61)

More words to mull over:

Walla vs. Voilà

Wrong: We turned the corner and walla, there it was.

Right: We turned the corner and voilà, there it was.

Voilà (or voila) is French for “see there.” It’s used to call attention to something or express satisfaction or success. Walla is simply an attempt to spell it phonetically. But even that fails, because the correct pronunciation of voila is vwa-LA (not wa-LA). The v is not silent.

Eldest vs. Elder / Youngest vs. Younger

Wrong: The eldest of their two daughters is getting married next month.

Right: The elder of their two daughters is getting married next month.

Use elder or younger when referring to one of only two; use eldest or youngest when referring to one of three or more.

Stay tuned for even more words next time.