Sunday 24 February 2013

A Common Comma Commotion.

Here is a strange comma dilemma that has been handled in many different ways by different writers. But what is the correct punctuation when there is a question or implied question in a sentence?

This is what the Chicago Manual of Style says: Questions are sometimes included within another sentence either directly or indirectly—not as a quotation but as part of the sentence as a whole. A direct question (unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence) is usually introduced by a comma. A direct question may take an initial capital letter if it is relatively long or has internal punctuation.
  • The dragon asked himself, what am I going to do now?
  • Everybody at the palace wanted to know, how will the king handle the dilemma?
  • The royal council had to be asking themselves, Can the king find a solution to the problem, or will the dragon dictate his answer?  
Rephrasing  a direct question into an indirect question can make the sentence less awkward. An indirect question does not require a question mark, nor does it need to be set off with a comma. Indirect questions are never capitalized (except at the beginning of a sentence). Some ways to rephrase:
  • The dragon asked himself  what he was going to do now.
  • Everybody at the palace wanted to know how the king would handle the dilemma.
  • Where to find a reliable dragon was the question.
Indirect questions do not need a question mark at the end of the sentences just because the word question is in the sentence or a question is implied.

I hope this helps you solve a common comma commotion.

copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013

Please visit my author's website at:

Illustrations by Samantha Kickingbird

Saturday 16 February 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

It's an honor to receive the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

This award was presented to me from, Jennie at, A Writers Journey Please visit her blog as she always has interested things to talk about.

Here are the rules of the award:
1.) Display the award logo on your blog.
2.) Link back to the person who nominated you.
3.) State 7 things about yourself.
4.) Nominate 15 bloggers for this award.
5.) Notify those bloggers of the nomination by linking to one of their specific posts so that they get notified by ping back

(Some of you have already received this award. I am nominating you because I believe you deserve it again).

Seven things about myself:

     1. I write children's fantasy/adventure chapter books.
     2. I live in a magical forest in central Alberta where gnome, faeries, dragons and such run wild.
     3. I love animals--real and imaginary.
     4.  I am a part-time art teacher.
     5.  My first book, Sir Princess Petra, was rejected 27 times before finding a publisher.
     6.  I  respect and  protect Mother Earth.
     7. I bought a motorcycle last year, scared myself learning to ride, selling motorcycle, sticking to    horseback riding.

These are the great blogs I am nominating for this award:

D. J. Stutley

Patricia Kemp Blackmon

Darlene Craviotto

Rhythm the Library Dog 

Ellis Nelson

Thank you to all of you who write and entertain.

visit my writer's website at: 


Sunday 10 February 2013

The Problem With Amazon Reviews

There is no magic involved in getting honest and legitimate reviews. It's called: the hard work of good writing on the author's part, and integrity on the reviewer's part.

Unfortunately some authors and reviewers don't play by the rules of integrity, especially on Amazon.

Author Michael Drakich has the same view as I do in regards to gathering honest and legit reviews. Micheal is talking about his
self-published books, but the information he provides has to do
with any and all published books.

The following is a re-post from Live Write Thrive

Today’s guest post is from Michael Drakich, and although he shares only 3 things, they’re detailed and insightful:

I’ve been asked to describe some things I’ve learned in the past year as a self-published author. The truth of them is they all involve the school of hard knocks. There is no easy path to success. Here are three major things with a number of other tidbits of advice mingled in.

1. Amazon is the 900-pound gorilla. Everyone knows the joke: Where does a 900-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to.

The Gorilla in the Room

When it comes to the indie publishing world, Amazon is the 900-pound gorilla. Self published authors have no choice but to accede to the whims of this monster. Because most self-pubs rely on ebook sales only and Amazon has the giant share of that market, they are forced to compete within that marketplace.

What does this mean? On Kindle Select the number of free novels every single day of the week (over 5,000 the day of this post) makes trying to sell your product a challenge. I mean, why should a book buyer look at your reasonably priced product, most ranging from $.99 to $4.99, when they can get a competitor for $0.00!

But it doesn’t end there. Let’s say a buyer decides to actually shop because he wants to search for quality. So they search a category and the default search is by popularity. Well, unless you can generate a lot of sales quickly, your book will be so many pages in, the buyer will never look that far.

Let’s say they change the search to average customer review. Again, unless you have had any luck garnering reviews in a massive amount, your book will be buried deep. What is purportedly happening is authors are buying five-star reviews by the hundreds to give them a high rating. Amazon’s algorithm’s kick in and, voila, a top-rated book. No effective system is in place to stop such abuse.

So how do self-published authors get their books found on Amazon? The simple answer is—they don’t. As long as Amazon is happy with the current system, they will have no motivation to change it. After all, buyers want to find the most popular or the highest rated. Why would they introduce anything that would be counterproductive to that?

The 900-pound gorilla is sitting and you can’t move him.

buyers want to find the most popular or the highest rated. Why would they introduce anything that would be counterproductive to that?
The 900-pound gorilla is sitting and you can’t move him.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions . . .

2. What price do I set for my ebook? One of the more difficult decisions I needed to make was what price to set my ebook at. Looking at the market, prices were all over the place. From a vast quantity at $.99 up to paperback prices of $11.00 or $12.00.

The major player, Amazon, with its pricing policy, urges the writer to consider $2.99. But their rating policy pushes you higher because higher priced books, when sold, move you up the rating list faster.
So what is a writer to do? I considered making a dartboard with prices on it but realized that was a bad idea. It came down to asking what am I worth? I opted for $4.99. Not the highest price, but definitely far above the average. It was probably pretty close to the median.

So am I saying my writing is only median? Not exactly. When examining those prices above $4.99, they belonged to writers with a greater established record than mine. Allotting a variance for just such a reason seemed only fair. So when comparing against other first-time self-pubs, I’m right near the top price. After all, I think I’m worth it.

Honestly . . .

3. Is honesty really the best policy? My marketing plan is one of seeking out bloggers to give me honest reviews for my latest novel. Hopes, of course, are to get all five-star reviews. Reality is a bit of a mix. To date I’ve received a combination of five-, four-, and three-star reviews. I think there was one in there that featured an extra half star, but I digress. Now, three stars is still not a bad review, and those reviews did include positives about my book. So, all in all, I’m not too disappointed.

My only disappointment arrives when I stop to examine the reviews and ratings of my fellow authors. Many feature scads of five stars and little else. When one takes the time to examine where those reviews came from, almost exclusively the review is the only one ever posted by that particular individual.

Now I may have been born at night, but I can assure you, it wasn’t last night. Either all these authors are exceedingly lucky that people reading their work post a raving review for their work and no one else’s or it’s fixed. I’m going out on a limb here and will side with the latter. If I’m to guess at what is going on, these authors are convincing friends and family to write glowing reviews. What you usually see is this trend continues for the first ten to twenty and then dies off. It’s the later reviews that tell the true story, whether a five star was deserved.

In the meantime, what has happened? The author, possibly by false pretext, manages to mislead the shopper that the work is quality based on reviews. They garner sales, which improves their ranking, which garners more sales, and so on. So why am I taking the high road? In hindsight, damned if I know. 

Well, I do, but I’m wondering whether I did the right thing. Does the average consumer out there question the reviews they read? Do they bother to follow a modicum of investigation? Probably not.
Still, I intend to soldier through. There is so much more to bloggers than the review. It’s the word-of-mouth campaign they run for you. I read once somewhere (I can’t recall) that new authors need to be heard of six to ten times before a buyer thinks, hey, I’ve heard of that guy before, so maybe I’ll buy his book.

I hope these stories give an idea of the challenges facing a new writer. To all who try, I wish them the best of success.

Now that is an author with integrity.     

Saturday 2 February 2013

Commas, Ahhhhh!

There are so many rules on how to use a comma and how not use a comma that it can be mind boggling, even for experienced writers.

I have a lot of fights with commas. And how I usually win comes down to common sense--how does that particular sentence read, sound, portray what I am trying to say.

I uses as few commas as necessary because I find that the liberal use of commas can distract the reader from the story.

Comma usage is often a question of personal writing style. Some writer use them liberally, while others use them sparingly. Modern North American style guides now recommend using fewer commas rather than more.

For instance, the use of a comma before the "and" in a series is usually optional, but most writer choose to eliminate it as long as there is no chance of misreading the sentence:

        Before going home, we went around the mountain, played with the dragon, swam in the lake, and ate our cookies. (comma  needed for clarity before "and" if you ate your cookies after you swam in the lake).

        Before going home, we went around the mountain, played with the dragon, swam in the lake and ate our cookies. (no comma needed before the"and" if you ate your cookies while you were in the lake).

Do not use a comma to set off words and phrases (especially introductory ones) that are only slightly parenthetical:

       Wrong:  After dinner, we all played dragon tag.
       Right:     After dinner we all played  dragon tag.

Do not use commas to set off  restrictive elements. A restrictive elements is part of the sentence that is needed to make its meaning clear.

       Wrong:  The dragon's ear, on the left side of his head, was curly.

       Right:     The dragon's ear on the left side of his head was curly.

Do use commas to set off  non-restrictive elements.  A non-restrictive element is part of the sentence that is interrupting material that adds extra information---the sentence does not need this element to make sense.

     Example:  The faeries of Dalorme, who for centuries had lived in caves with dirt floors and rock walls, were unfamiliar with the protocol of living in a palace.

     You can also use two other punctuation marks to set off non-restrictive elements: parentheses and em-dashes.

     Enclosing a non-restrictive element in parentheses reduces the importance of that information.

            Example:  The dragons' fire breathing skills (with one exception) were not good.

     Enclosing a non-restrictive element within em-dashes has the opposite effect: it emphasizes the material.
           Example:  The dragons' fire breathing skills---with one exception---were not good.

An  what about those very troublesome words:  however, therefore, and indeed.

 Commas—sometimes paired with semicolons—are traditionally used to set off adverbs such as however, therefore, and indeed. When the adverb is essential to the meaning of the clause, or if no pause is intended or desired, commas are not needed.
      Example:  A truly efficient fire-breathing dragon remains, however, a lost dream.
      Example:  Indeed, not one dragon accurately produced the technical elements required in the fire-breathing contest.
     Example:  If you cheat and are therefore disqualified, you may also risk losing your dragon scholarship.
     Example:  That was indeed the outcome of the dragon fire-breathing contest.
If you, also, use the word also or too, you, too, should offset those words in the middle of a sentence. The  Chicago Manual of Style prefers not using a comma with too at the end of a sentence.

A great place to freshen up your grammar at Grammar Girl:

And sincerely, good luck with your comma woes.