Category Archives: Uncategorized
As a follow up to my post, Absolution, last week, here’s what author DV Berkom has to say about her latest Leine Basso release via Absolution is Here!
P.S. Don’t miss Berkom’s Kate Jones series:
Kate and her college friend take a vacation in Mazatlán after graduation before settling into careers. But Kate meets Roberto Salazar at a disco, and doesn’t go home—at least until she steals a case of more than a million in cash from her narco boyfriend and his kingpin boss, Anaya—and flees—with the narcos hot on her trail in the debut, Bad Spirits. For Kate, testifying against a Mexican drug lord and a dirty DEA agent doesn’t turn out to be a life enhancing choice and she’s been on the run ever since, through six more novellas and novels. Kate tells her story in a fast paced narrative that’s part regret, part bravado, part snarky and always entertaining. For audiobook lovers, reader Melissa Moran is perfect as Kate Jones.
Welcome back, Robert Nathaniel “Bob” Winters. Today Bob warns us the political climate winds are a changin’ and we better get ready.
Have you noticed so many ex-hippies are getting their hips replaced? Maybe from taking too many trips. Okay, sorry bad pun.
Seriously, if your body needs a hip replaced get it done, because the hip bone is connected to the leg bones, is connected to the feet bones, and we all need to do what we need to do to get up and march.
We now have a president who is so odious and Orwellian that he makes Nixon look good in hind-sight. Can you believe the party that was once dominated by Joe McCarthy is rejecting NATO and kowtowing to a Russian Dictator?
Mr. Trump it seems even borrows from Hitler’s playbook, “If you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.”
I’ve looked a storm clouds from both sides now. Thunder and lightning’s a-coming. So, old friends, get your hips fixed and be ready to rock and roll. You don’t have to be a weatherman to know that climate change winds are going to blow.
Nathaniel R. Winters
Last October I attended an event of the San Francisco Chapter WNBA, Women’s National Book Association. Member authors presented their lately published books, and I was captured by Lily Iona MacKenzie and her 2015 release, Fling! I ran right to the signing table after the presentations and bought a copy, although later I received an audio version, which I listened to on trains crossing Spain (no plain, no rain.) Delighted, I wiled away the hours lost in the scenery and MacKenzie’s imaginative and wacky story of mothers and daughters, fulfilling one’s dreams and the magic that comes when you live life to the edge and possibly over. I felt like I was on my own quest, living my Spanish vacation to its maximum, experiencing the magic of discovery and expansion that comes with travel to new places. Everything thrummed with excitement, including my book—Fling! Life couldn’t have been better.
Several days later, the book finished, and watching the lights coming on from our balcony overlooking La Sagrada Familia, I ruminated on Fling!. Set between three generations of women and four countries, much of the story takes place in Mexico. I know Mexico well and thought about what I’d learned by visiting the “parent” country, Spain. The mysterious twisting cobbled streets of the medieval cities, the ubiquitous artistic expression, the grand churches, the tile work, the crowds promenading through tapas bars in the evenings, the sense of happy self-actualization of the Spaniards—the foundation of the Mexican culture. I even found the magical realism: on the strains of symphonic music wafting through Granada’s cathedral, the phantasms flitting in the gardens of Generalife, the rain-bowed light streaming through the glass of La Sagrada Familia, the voices of antiquity whispering from somber portraits in the Prado Museum, the sensual buildings of the Modernista, a cathedral in the middle of the Mesquita! Then it was November 9th and only the unreal remained. We’ve had almost a year lacking magic. I say it’s time to look away from the devastation of the environment and our rude and hateful world of racism, deportations, killing sprees, and the crumbling of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s time to find life’s fountain of youth and wonder again. Fling! is full of it.
Like any compelling saga, the story is told in multiple points of view across a span of three lifetimes. It opens with Malcolm MacGregor’s story of how his granddaughter Bubbles, née Heather, “had danced right off one of his paintings, landing in the family potato patch. . . .” in 1906 on the Isle of Skye, where “unpredictable things happen.” Her hippie daughter, Feather, has also inherited the Scottish sensibility of unpredictability, which shows up as “Manannán Mac Lirs’s underworld” in her paintings.
Bubbles has convinced Feather to come home to Calgary, Canada from San Francisco to celebrate her 90th birthday, but she has another motive. Bubbles has received a notice from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left seventy years earlier, in the late 1920s. Heather had left her family to go to Mexico with a married man. Bubble wants Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial.
The story of their odyssey is woven together with the stories of their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The two women travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then in Mexico over six months. In magical Mexico, Feather learns much about her mother. She hasn’t fully believed her mother’s story, but when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, she begins to understand the depth of her and her mother’s magic. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, helped by Indian villagers mistaking Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess and praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again, realizes she’s overlooked her own mother.
Bubbles’ quest and a new man in her life has increased her zest for life. A life-long entrepreneur, she’s convinced she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral spring outside San Miguel de Allende and she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it. A natural risk taker and believing she’s immortal, Bubbles lives life to the fullest in every way. Feather learns from Bubbles’ youthful spirit that it’s never too late to realize your dreams. Both have found the fountain of youth and they know that they will see everyone again, “if not in the flesh, then their souls hovering as a hummingbird, or fluttering as a butterfly, or floating above the earth as clouds.”
Mackenzie has created two strong characters who are hilarious and endearing. Bubbles is a zany gypsy who takes after her mother, the ashes left at the dead letter office. She’s tough and tender and wants to reconcile with both the mother who left her and the daughter she left. At 90, she’s finally come of age and found the love of a good man. Feather, née Heather, at 57 is a San Francisco artist who desperately wants to break free of the male dominated world. She loves her mother but can’t quite connect to her as Bubbles lives inside a bubble that Feather feels has never burst. Feather grew up in her mother’s shadow, “. . .a moon, orbiting a planet.” and has worked hard to become her own person. Pragmatic, fearful and a worrier, she’s not much of a risk taker except in her art. She longs to be in charge of her own life. For all Bubbles exuberance, Feather is equally reserved, although she’s got a sharp eye and makes funny observations. She’s Bubbles’ touchstone and Bubbles is Feather’s catalyst to relax and enjoy life.
The story is told in both past and present tenses. Mackenzie’s skill in sliding in and out of tenses and in and out of voices is superb. Chapter headings clue readers into time periods and goddess images separate scenes. In the audio version I listened to in Spain, Anna Crow, the reader, modulated her voice sufficiently to follow the changes and determine the speaker. I had no problem keeping up with her reading.
Mackenzie’s language is straightforward and sensory. Her descriptions are vivid and progress to surprising comparisons and existential observations throughout the book. For example, On the plane to Mexico City they encounter a storm: “Lighting rips open the night sky, ragged edges illuminating patches of earth below. She [Bubbles] tries to ignore the severe turbulence. It reminds her of riding horses on the farm. . . . She could be going along, enjoying the ride, when suddenly all hell would break loose. . . . But then, life is like that. Everything seems fine. Then suddenly, it isn’t.” It’s these observations that are the real charm of the book. It’s like living inside the characters’ minds. And of course, these characters think the wildest things!
In part, the collision of their Celtic roots and lore with the rich blend of Spanish colonial and indigenous Mexican characteristics and culture they encounter in Mexico is what makes this all work. Of course, magic happens! The dead come to visit, old ladies are mistaken for long awaited goddesses, and people change while finding their dreams. Ultimately, it’s the joy of life, la alegría de la vida that is the Fling! fountain of youth and it can be found or re-found at any age. Rereading passages of Fling! as I write this review has lifted me above my profound sadness for the most recent gun violence in our country. I’m feeling kinder toward our leadership. I feel like dancing, in fact. Maybe a Mexican Hat Dance? Fling! is a perfect book for now. As renowned author Lewis Buzbee puts it, Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read.” ~Lewis Buzbee, award-winning author of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshopg review and faculty at University of San Francisco MFA program.
Terry Shames is one of my favorite authors and I hope you are inspired by her words. Thanks to Thonie Hevron and Just the Facts Ma’am.
By Terry Shames
Well, that was fun! I just threw my writing rituals out the window. It was unintentional, but thorough in every way.
How did this happen? First let me describe my writing “habits” (not sure they rise to the status of ritual). I write almost every day. It doesn’t have to be brilliant prose, but it has to be at least 500 words, and when I’m working on a first draft I aim for 2,000. When you write 2,000 words most days, 500 seems like a snap. So when I went on vacation for two weeks, I magnanimously told myself I only had to write 500 a day. Suddenly, five days into the trip, I realized I hadn’t written so much as a word. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about writing anything. Not only that, but I found myself unable to read. I had brought a few…
View original post 693 more words
I’m enjoying Skylarity’s posts. Check him out, and celebrate everything!
The Guide to Grammar and Writing is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, a nonprofit 501 c-3 organization that supports scholarships, faculty development, and curriculum innovation. If you feel we have provided something of value and wish to show your appreciation, you can assist the College and its students with a tax-deductible contribution.
For more about giving to Capital, write to CCC Foundation, 950 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103. Phone (860) 906-5102 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Use a comma to separate the elements in a series (three or more things), including the last two. “He hit the ball, dropped the bat, and ran to first base.” You may have learned that the comma before the “and” is unnecessary, which is fine if you’re in control of things. However, there are situations in which, if you don’t use this comma (especially when the list is complex or lengthy), these last two items in the list will try to glom together (like macaroni and cheese). Using a comma between all the items in a series, including the last two, avoids this problem. This last comma—the one between the word “and” and the preceding word—is often called the serial comma or the Oxford comma. In newspaper writing, incidentally, you will seldom find a serial comma, but that is not necessarily a sign that it should be omitted in academic prose.
Use a comma + a little conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so) to connect two independent clauses, as in “He hit the ball well, but he ran toward third base.”
Contending that the coordinating conjunction is adequate separation, some writers will leave out the comma in a sentence with short, balanced independent clauses (such as we see in the example just given). If there is ever any doubt, however, use the comma, as it is always correct in this situation.
One of the most frequent errors in comma usage is the placement of a comma after a coordinating conjunction. We cannot say that the comma will always come before the conjunction and never after, but it would be a rare event, indeed, that we need to follow a coordinating conjunction with a comma. When speaking, we do sometimes pause after the little conjunction, but there is seldom a good reason to put a comma there.
Use a comma to set off introductory elements, as in “Running toward third base, he suddenly realized how stupid he looked.”
It is permissible to omit the comma after a brief introductory element if the omission does not result in confusion or hesitancy in reading. If there is ever any doubt, use the comma, as it is always correct.
Use a comma to set off parenthetical elements, as in “The Founders Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River, is falling down.” By “parenthetical element,” we mean a part of a sentence that can be removed without changing the essential meaning of that sentence. The parenthetical element is sometimes called “added information.” This is the most difficult rule in punctuation because it is sometimes unclear what is “added” or “parenthetical” and what is essential to the meaning of a sentence.
Appositives are almost always treated as parenthetical elements.
- Calhoun’s ambition, to become a goalie in professional soccer, is within his reach.
- Eleanor, his wife of thirty years, suddenly decided to open her own business.
Sometimes the appositive and the word it identifies are so closely related that the comma can be omitted, as in “His wife Eleanor suddenly decided to open her own business.” We could argue that the name “Eleanor” is not essential to the meaning of the sentence (assuming he has only one wife), and that would suggest that we can put commas both before and after the name (and that would, indeed, be correct). But “his wife” and “Eleanor” are so close that we can regard the entire phrase as one unit and leave out the commas. With the phrase turned around, however, we have a more definite parenthetical element and the commas are necessary: “Eleanor, his wife, suddenly decided to open her own business.” Consider, also, the difference between “College President Ira Rubenzahl voted to rescind the withdrawal policy” (in which we need the name “Ira Rubenzahl” or the sentence doesn’t make sense) and “Ira Rubenzahl, the college president, voted to rescind the withdrawal policy” (in which the sentence makes sense without his title, the appositive, and we treat the appositive as a parenthetical element, with a pair of commas).
|As pointed out above (Rule #3), an adverbial clause that begins a sentence is set off with a comma:
· Although Queasybreath had spent several years in Antarctica, he still bundled up warmly in the brisk autumns of Ohio.
· Because Tashonda had learned to study by herself, she was able to pass the entrance exam.
When an adverbial clause comes later on in the sentence, however, the writer must determine if the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence or not. A “because clause” can be particularly troublesome in this regard. In most sentences, a “because clause” is essential to the meaning of the sentence, and it will not be set off with a comma:
· The Okies had to leave their farms in the midwest because the drought conditions had ruined their farms.
Sometimes, though, the “because clause” must be set off with a comma to avoid misreading:
· I knew that President Nixon would resign that morning, because my sister-in-law worked in the White House and she called me with the news.
Without that comma, the sentence says that Nixon’s resignation was the fault of my sister-in-law. Nixon did not resign because my sister-in-law worked in the White House, so we set off that clause to make the meaning clearly parenthetical.
When a parenthetical element — an interjection, adverbial modifier, or even an adverbial clause — follows a coordinating conjunction used to connect two independent clauses, we do not put a comma in front of the parenthetical element.
- The Red Sox were leading the league at the end of May, but of course, they always do well in the spring. [no comma after “but”]
- The Yankees didn’t do so well in the early going, but frankly, everyone expects them to win the season. [no comma after “but”]
- The Tigers spent much of the season at the bottom of the league, and even though they picked up several promising rookies, they expect to be there again next year. [no comma after “and”]
(This last piece of advice relies on the authority of William Strunk’s Elements of Style. Examples our own.)
When both a city’s name and that city’s state or country’s name are mentioned together, the state or country’s name is treated as a parenthetical element.
- We visited Hartford, Connecticut, last summer.
- Paris, France, is sometimes called “The City of Lights.”
When the state becomes a possessive form, this rule is no longer followed:
- Hartford, Connecticut’s investment in the insurance industry is well known.
Also, when the state or country’s name becomes part of a compound structure, the second comma is dropped:
- Heublein, a Hartford, Connecticut-based company, is moving to another state.
An absolute phrase is always treated as a parenthetical element, as is an interjection. An addressed person’s name is also always parenthetical. Be sure, however, that the name is that of someone actually being spoken to. A separate section on Vocatives, the various forms that a parenthetical element related to an addressed person’s name can take, is also available.
- Their years of training now forgotten, the soldiers broke ranks.
- Yes, it is always a matter, of course, of preparation and attitude.
- I’m telling you, Juanita, I couldn’t be more surprised. (I told Juanita I couldn’t be more surprised. [no commas])
Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives. You could think of this as “That tall, distinguished, good looking fellow” rule (as opposed to “the little old lady”). If you can put an and or a but between the adjectives, a comma will probably belong there. For instance, you could say, “He is a tall and distinguished fellow” or “I live in a very old and run-down house.” So you would write, “He is a tall, distinguished man” and “I live in a very old, run-down house.” But you would probably not say, “She is a little and old lady,” or “I live in a little and purple house,” so commas would not appear between little and old or between little and purple.
|And what does a comma do, a comma does nothing but make easy a thing that if you like it enough is easy enough without the comma. A long complicated sentence should force itself upon you, make you know yourself knowing it and the comma, well at the most a comma is a poor period that lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath. It is not like stopping altogether has something to do with going on, but taking a breath well you are always taking a breath and why emphasize one breath rather than another breath. Anyway that is the way I felt about it and I felt that about it very very strongly. And so I almost never used a comma. The longer, the more complicated the sentence the greater the number of the same kinds of words I had following one after another, the more the very more I had of them the more I felt the passionate need of their taking care of themselves by themselves and not helping them, and thereby enfeebling them by putting in a comma.
So that is the way I felt about punctuation in prose, in poetry it is a little different but more so …— Gertrude Stein
from Lectures in America
Use a comma to set off quoted elements. Because we don’t use quoted material all the time, even when writing, this is probably the most difficult rule to remember in comma usage. It is a good idea to find a page from an article that uses several quotations, photocopy that page, and keep it in front of you as a model when you’re writing. Generally, use a comma to separate quoted material from the rest of the sentence that explains or introduces the quotation:
- Summing up this argument, Peter Coveney writes, “The purpose and strength of the romantic image of the child had been above all to establish a relation between childhood and adult consciousness.”
If an attribution of a quoted element comes in the middle of the quotation, two commas will be required. But be careful not to create a comma splice in so doing.
- “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many things.”
- “I should like to buy an egg, please,” she said timidly. “How do you sell them?”
Be careful not to use commas to set off quoted elements introduced by the word that or quoted elements that are embedded in a larger structure:
- Peter Coveney writes that “[t]he purpose and strength of . . .”
- We often say “Sorry” when we don’t really mean it.
And, instead of a comma, use a colon to set off explanatory or introductory language from a quoted element that is either very formal or long (especially if it’s longer than one sentence):
- Peter Coveney had this to say about the nineteenth-century’s use of children
in fiction: “The purpose and strength of . . . . “
Use commas to set off phrases that express contrast.
- Some say the world will end in ice, not fire.
- It was her money, not her charm or personality, that first attracted him.
- The puppies were cute, but very messy.
(Some writers will leave out the comma that sets off a contrasting phrase beginning with but.)
Use a comma to avoid confusion. This is often a matter of consistently applying rule #3.
- For most the year is already finished.
- For most, the year is already finished.
- Outside the lawn was cluttered with hundreds of broken branches.
- Outside, the lawn was cluttered with hundreds of broken branches.
|I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.
— Oscar Wilde
Grammar English’s Famous Rule of Punctuation: Never use only one comma between a subject and its verb. “Believing completely and positively in oneself is essential for success.” [Although readers might pause after the word “oneself,” there is no reason to put a comma there.]
Typographical Reasons: Between a city and a state [Hartford, Connecticut], a date and the year [June 15, 1997], a name and a title when the title comes after the name [Bob Downey, Professor of English], in long numbers [5,456,783 and $14,682], etc. Although you will often see a comma between a name and suffix — Bob Downey, Jr., Richard Harrison, III — this comma is no longer regarded as necessary by most copy editors, and some individuals — such as Martin Luther King Jr. — never used a comma there at all.
Note that we use a comma or a set of commas to make the year parenthetical when the date of the month is included:
- July 4, 1776, is regarded as the birth date of American liberty.
Without the date itself, however, the comma disappears:
- July 1776 was one of the most eventful months in our history.
In international or military format, no commas are used:
- The Declaration of Independence was signed on 4 July 1776.
Use Commas With Caution
As you can see, there are many reasons for using commas, and we haven’t listed them all. Yet the biggest problem that most students have with commas is their overuse. Some essays look as though the student loaded a shotgun with commas and blasted away. Remember, too, that a pause in reading is not always a reliable reason to use a comma. Try not to use a comma unless you can apply a specific rule from this page to do so.