Saturday 31 August 2013

Semiconscious Semicolons

The simplest way to explain the semicolon: a comma is sleepy, a period is asleep, and a semicolon is semiconscious.

 The main function of the semicolon is to mark a break that is stronger than a comma but not as final as a period. It is used between two main clauses that are closely related. 

        - The path to the castle is paved with stone; trees line and shade the travelers.

        - The chef searched for the pots and pans; the dragon helped to save time.
It can also be used where the conjunction is left out and instead of having two sentences.
     - The dragon summoned the royal councilman for an answer; he had no answer. 
     - The king had paid a heavy price for the potion; he was very pleased.

It is preferable to use a semicolon before introductory words such as however, therefore, this is, for example, namely, or for instance when they introduce a complete sentence. A comma usually follows the introductory word.
     - The dragon liked to prepare his specialty dishes; namely, onion-a-la-tart, onions-ta-da, and onion stuffed squid.

The semicolon is used to separate items of a series when one or more of the items contains a comma.
     - The dinner party included the puny army, from the Land of Messogie; Bograt, the bog witch; and Duce Crablips, from the faraway Kingdom of Crablips.

Use the semicolon between two sentences that are joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first part of the sentence.
     - The dragon promised to mop the floor, clean the dishes, and throw out the onion peels; and a promise is a promise.
Seimicolons are follow by lower case letters, unless the letter is the first letter of a proper noun. 

      - Several castles were in a state of disrepair; Longstride Castle being one of them.

Modern usage recommends no space before a semicolon, and one space after it.

For a more in depth look at semicolons:

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copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013

Saturday 24 August 2013

There Is Magic In The Forest.

Magical forests are real. I have lived near one forest or another my whole life, and they were all very inspiring and held real magic for me.

Spirit Hill Forest, my backyard magical forest, Alberta, Canada

When I was a child, my imagination soared when I was amongst the giants of the woods and the magical creatures who could very easily dwell there. Somehow, they were just out of sight as soon as I turned my head their way. I often imagined that I just glimpsed the tail-end of a cloak disappeaingr behind a tree, and, sometimes, I heard the whispers and giggles of elves.  Occasionally, I say sparkles fluttering around--surely this must have been faeries.

My infatuation with fantasy kids books and magical forests has been with me for as long as I remember. This is why I am certain that I will always write books that are fantasy kids books and adventure books for kids.

If you were ever wondering how you would know a magical forest, I have some suggestions:

1.  The trees sway and clap when you enter the forest.
2.  There is a mistiness about the forest, or the trees are giants and of a unique nature, or you spot the glitter sparkles fluttering around.
3.  The fall colors definitely look painted on--this is because every magical forest has a Forest Painter in charge of the fall colors.
4.  You will probably hear rustling noises--this is caused by the excitement and scurrying of gnomes, elves, and faeries.
5.  You will also smell a woodsy, musty odor, which is created by the bark soup all magical creatures make at dusk.

If you still aren't sure it's a magical forest, here are some pictures of real magical forests that you can refer to:

Crooked Forest, Poland

The Redwood Forest, California
A painted forest of undisclosed location
Stone Forest, China

Are you convinced yet? Do you believe in the magic that dwells within each of these--and many, many more--magical forests?
Actually, magic exists everywhere, you just have to believe.

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Friday 16 August 2013

More On Amateur E-books

This is a re-post of an interesting article on why amateur books and e-books are ruining the literature world for good writers and keen readers alike.

Personally, I have nothing against self-published books, and I have read incredible self-published book. I am, however,totally against bad, unedited, amateur self-published books and e-books.

Read the article by Michael Kozlowski and decide for yourself.


Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature

Self-published authors with their insistent need to spam social media and pump out a copious amount of horrible ebooks are ruining the modern online bookstore. You can’t browse Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon without running into a maelstrom of poorly written and poorly edited books. All of these bookstores put indie authors’ books side by side with established authors, who are signed to a publishing company. Social media is also a breeding ground for people to try and hustle their books and literally beg for sales.
Bowker Market Research
 reported last week that self-published ebooks now account for 12% of the entire digital publishing market. In some cases, the number actually rises to a very respectable 20%, but is fairly genre specific to crime, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and humor. 95% of these books are insufferable and are written to capitalize on trends in publishing, with authors trying to emulate successful writers such as E.L. James or Cassandra Claire.
At a recent publishing conference in London, Andrew Franklin, founder and managing director of Profile Books, blasted authors who self-publish. “The overwhelming majority of self-published books are terrible—unutterable rubbish, they don’t enhance anything in the world.” He ranted on by saying, “These books come out and are met with a deathly silence, so the principle experience of self-publishing is one of disappointment. I was very shocked to learn you can buy Facebook friends and likes on social media. That is what passes for affirmation in what I think is the deeply corrupt world of self-publishing.”
I am inclined to agree with Andrew. Take a look at Amazon, the only quality control it employs is Kindle Serials and its official publishing imprints. All of their other self-publishing programs do not have anyone proofreading or editing the books. These ebooks are then listed side by side with mainstream books. This makes the process of quality ebook discovery a very time consuming effort. Not to mention the onslaught of auto-generated books, written by scripts and Public Domain Books, retitled and put up for sale. GoodReads was basically purchased by Amazon, because it sought to bring some measure of separating the good books from the terrible.
Smashwords is one company that is one of the guiltiest in encouraging writers to try and market their books on the internet. The company even provides a free ISBN number and will list your book for sale on Sony, iBooks, Kobo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many others. It will ACCEPT anything, though most amateur fan-fiction is better, because at least those authors are trying and fanatically loyal to their subject matter.
Good e-Reader has around 3,000 Twitter Followers and over 5,000 Facebook friends. Not a day goes by that I don’t see people asking for ebook sales. “BUY MY BOOK!” No marketing, no reason to buy it, JUST BUY IT! The vast majority of indie authors have no concept on how to legitimately market a book title and just encourage people to BUY! #ihateebooks
One thing indie authors have done is devalue the work of legitimate published authors. You know the type that write for a living, who have an editor and are considered accomplished, or at least well-read. The average indie title is $0.99 to $2.99, and the average publisher price is $7.99 – $12.99. Book buyers have been so conditioned to pay as little as possible that often they will not even consider a more expensive book.
The vast majority of self-published authors definitely incur my everlasting ire, but hybrid authors gain my respect. Often, these folk cut their teeth with major publishers and now self-publish for a little bit more control. Bella Andre is a fine example of a self-publisher; she got a major deal and went back to self-publishing. She has done very well.

I don’t know how many more paranormal romances or erotica clones I can stomach before I got completely berserk. Sure self-publishing MAY pay for a few bills, but at the expense of modern literature.
I think when an author is in  the writing business for the right reason--to entertain the reader--then the integrity of their professional efforts will shine through in their books, however those books are published.
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Saturday 10 August 2013

The Opening Line.

I love opening sentences in children's books. They vary in length from six words in Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie to the extreme of 148 words in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.

No matter the length of the opening sentence or what the sentence is about, it should capture its audience with some sort of intrigue so that the reader wonders, "why is that happening?" or "what is going on?"

Here are some opening lines that made me wonder enough to keep reading.

“‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White

“I didn’t know how long I had  

been in the king’s prison.” 

    The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

“All children, except one, grow up.”
Peter Pan and Wendy by  JM Barrie


“Sophie had waited all her  

life to be kidnapped.”                                

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 

"Queen Gobbledeegook was angry!" 
Sir Nathan and the Troublesome Task by Mark Simon Smith

"It certainly seemed like it was going to be another  normal evening at Amelia Bedelia’s house.”

Amelia Bedelia Unleashed by Herman Parish


"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen."
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

"The First Place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it."
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

First sentences not only peak the reader's interest  with "why" or "what", they also set the tone of the story.

Here are the first lines of my two books.

"Petra curtsied to the king and queen of Pen Pieyu, who sat upon their thrones."
Sir Princess Petra - The Pen Pieyu Adventures by Diane Mae Robinson

"Petra awoke to the sound of the royal councilman's bugle."
Sir Princess Petra's Talent - The Pen Pieyu Adventures by Diane Mae Robinson

What are some of your favorite first sentences in children's books?

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Friday 2 August 2013

More on Commas.

Yes, this is my third post on commas. Commas seem to be one of the biggest problems for many writers, and I also have a lot to say about them.

Meaning what you say and saying what you mean.

Meaning is everything, and the comma can  make a big difference in your meaning. Pay special attention to phrases that have because and since in them. Check out the sentences below and see if you can tell the difference in meaning with each pair of sentences:
  • I didn’t ride the dragon because you were mad at me.
  • I didn’t ride the dragon, because you were mad at me.
In the first instance, my  riding the dragon had nothing to do with you being mad at me, and that’s what I’m telling you. But with the comma, the sentence means I didn’t ride the dragon for the reason that you were mad at me.  In the 2nd sentence, you being mad at me kept me from riding the dragon, which is the opposite of the first sentence’s meaning.
  • I have tamed dragons since I was nine.
  • I have tamed dragons, since I was nine.
The word since has some different meanings, so by using the comma, you’re being clear. In the first sentence, I started taming dragons at age nine. The second sentence gives the reason I tamed dragons—because I was nine, implying I was at the right age to tame dragons.

So before  taming or riding your dragon, make your sentences clear and edit, edit, edit. That way the reader knows if one character did what they did because the other character was mad at them.

More on the commotion of commas:

And more comma common sense here:

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copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013