Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stop Comma Abuse!

Okay, boys and girls, today we’re going to have a punctuation lesson. We’re going to learn the difference between a period and a comma.

But first, we need to learn what a sentence is. Can anybody tell me?...Very good, Billy. A sentence is a group of words that includes a subject and a predicate; in other words, the noun or pronoun that the sentence is about, and the action that noun or pronoun takes. Forms of the verb to be – am, is, are – are also considered predicates.

You will read this sentence as an example.

In that sentence, you is the subject, will read is the predicate. That is a complete sentence, which is punctuated by a period at the end of it. Does that make sense? Are there any questions?

All right, boys and girls, now that we understand what a sentence is, let’s move on to the focus of this lesson: the period and the comma. A period (.) goes at the end of a complete sentence. A comma (,) is used to separate items in a list, or to separate phrases within a sentence.

What follow are three appropriate uses for a comma.

Jenny ate eggs, salad, and an apple for lunch.
In that sentence, commas are used to list more than two items.

When I got home, I sat down on the couch.
Here, the phrase “when I got home” is a phrase that modifies the sentence that follows, “I sat down on the couch.”

Peter ran to the window, opened the curtain, and rapped on the glass.
In this sentence we have another kind of list, a series of actions that Peter achieves. Like the list of the items Jenny eats, this list is separated by commas.

Now, boys and girls, let’s look at an example of how to use a period.

The healthiest way to eat is to choose foods in their most natural forms possible. For example, eat whole apples instead of applesauce.

Do you see how a period separates the two complete sentences in that example?

Unfortunately, I have noticed a nasty trend among self-published non-fiction authors lately. Instead of using a period to end a complete sentence, they string together two, three, sometimes even four sentences with commas. This is what is known as a run-on sentence. Can you say, “run-on sentence”? Good!

Now, boys and girls, I’m going to show you a paragraph. Please look at it carefully. Has the writer used commas correctly? Here it is:

He likes buying things that entertain or amuse him, I do as well however I’m just as content with leaving those things on the store shelf. I’m a window shopper, I just browse. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice stuff and cool things as much as the next guy but I don’t necessarily need them, most of the time I acquire these things when they’ve lost a little popularity….

Okay, who can tell me the mistakes in this piece of writing?...Yes, Taylor?

Excellent! Yes, there should be a period, not a comma, after the words “amuse him.” That ends a complete sentence, and the following three or so lines are another complete sentence. One usually separates two complete sentences with a period, not a comma.

Next?...Jane?... Brilliant! There should be a comma after “I do as well.” A semi-colon might be an even better choice.

There’s one more – Danny… All right! You got it, dude! After “I don’t necessarily need them,” there should be a period. And the word “most” should start with an uppercase letter. Those are two complete sentences. They should not be joined by a comma.

Very good, boys and girls! I think you’ve got it. So now, I want you to turn on your computers, open the document that you uploaded as a book to the Kindle store, and fix all those nasty run-on sentences that make educated readers wonder where you went to school, and tempt them to go back to your book’s product page and give you a one-star review. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'm BA-ack!

I’m back.

What can I say? Being temporarily immobilized depresses me. I have been working on novels since about the third week after my surgery – I figured out I could put my NEO2 in my lap and then my slinged (is that a word?) left hand could comfortably place itself to type – but I lost all desire to blog.

Maybe if we’d had Internet at home, I would have bothered to post to this blog once in a while. But on top of being depressed because I couldn’t even wash dishes for a while (can you imagine being depressed about that?), I was growing more and more frustrated with the slow Internet connection at our local library. Trying to order from Amazon was the worst. So I quit blogging.

But now, I’m back. So here are some updates about your favorite author (right? RIGHT?) since she broke her humerus (not funny at all) last October.

The garden

Shortly before I broke my arm, I promised you that I’d tell you how my sweet potato and bell pepper harvest turned out.

I’ll start with the peppers. The humidity finally dropped some and it finally quit raining every other day, long enough for the peppers to get happy again and grow some fruit. However, it was so late in the season that happened that I was forced to pick green peppers after the first couple of frosts. That is to say, I was forced to ask my son to pick them. My arm was still in a sling and still hurt like heck.
One night it was going to get too cold for the frost blanket to protect the plants very much. So B picked them that afternoon, and J cut them into strips and froze them.

Now, for the sweet potatoes. Are you ready? Yes, they grew. Boy, did they grow! Some of them are as big as a small head! Here are a couple of photos to prove it (the jar in the second and third photos is a 16-ounce peanut butter jar):

Once again, credit where it’s due, B harvested most of the sweet potatoes all by himself. I was only a week or two out of surgery when I realized they needed to be dug up, or would be lost to frost.

I ended up with close to the amount that I’d been hoping for. A few dozen have been stored in our house in a box, the rest are in a makeshift “root cellar”, basically a hole in the ground lined with hay and covered with leftover roofing material from when J built the shed this past summer.

I am thrilled that we can grow our own sweet potatoes. Can you say, “save money on groceries”? After all, organic sweet potatoes at Whole Foods cost about two dollars a pound.

My arm

I went to see the orthopedic surgeon on Monday of this week. He took one look at my x-ray and said, “You’re healed. You don’t need anymore x-rays or anything.”

I’ve still got to keep exercising my arm several times a day to get all the muscles and joints back into commission, but I was very happy to hear it, though not surprised. I’d used therapeutic-grade birch essential oils for several weeks, twice a day, on my arm. Birch oil helps regrow bone cells.

My writing

I think it was late last summer, maybe very early fall that I promised to have another book published to Kindle by November. Well, I did have it completed and proofread by then.

And then I decided I didn’t like it. I found several things wrong with it. So wrong, that I’m not sure I can change it to what I want it to be without completely rewriting it. So it’s sitting in the novel folder on my laptop, serving as a lesson, and a reminder: not every novel is worthy of publication.

Since finishing that, I began a trilogy. I will publish all three novels, within a couple of days of each other, once I’ve written and proofread all three.

I’ve finished one, and am approaching the halfway point of the second.

The Internet

We finally broke down and bought Internet service for our home. Originally, we were going to try to just go to the library to do our online business. A few months ago, we decided that was getting old, and would buy Internet service once we moved into our new house (which is scheduled to begin building the first week of April).

But I couldn’t stand the stress anymore. The stress of pushing B to get ready whenever we wanted to go to the library. The stress of wasting time going somewhere else to check e-mail and the weather. The stress of not knowing what the weather was going to be (there’s no radio station nearby that I want to listen to, and no way was I going to buy that Noah radio thingy and have another gadget to find room for in this tiny house). The worst stress was the slow Internet connection at the library, especially on days when we really wanted to order on amazon but couldn’t get past the home page!

So we bought wireless Internet. Our other option here is satellite, but check this out: to get 25 GB a month with satellite, you have to pay $129. To get that much with wireless depends on the speed you opt for: fast, faster, or fastest. Of course, being frugal we opted for the least expensive option. Guess what we’ll pay for 25 GB a month with wireless? (And the speed is equal to the Fios Internet we had in the ‘burbs!)

TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH. Fios was, a-hem, $63 a month.

So I’ll be posting with more regularity now. Thanks for coming to welcome me back, and hope to see you around again.

Happy reading,

Emily Josephine

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NEO2 Review

Ever heard of the NEO2? How about the AlphaSmart? AlphaSmart was the previous name of this awesome device that has changed my writing life forever. I learned about it over a decade ago at a writer's guild meeting, but would not buy it because, after all, I had a computer. Why did I need a separate word processor?

The answer came to me some time a couple years ago after having suffered from chronic eye strain for about three years. The NEO2 is a lot easier on the eyes. The screen does not have the same wicked brightness as a computer screen does, and so I can watch the screen as I type.

Up until a couple of weeks before buying this little gem, I would write blog posts and Kindle products (including the first half of the novel I just finished) long hand on a piece of scratch paper first, then type them into the computer. It is much easier for my eyes to copy from a piece of paper than watch a computer screen. When I copy, I only have to look up once in a while to check for spelling errors.

But working that way, it took me at least 50% more time to write something than just typing it straight into the computer.

Tired of taking so much time to write just a few pages a day, I began to wonder: did the AlphaSmart still exist? My husband did some searching, and discovered that, indeed, it does, only under a different name! (I'm not sure how he found it, because I didn't even remember the old version was called AlphaSmart!)

Advantages and disadvantages of the NEO2

Now, it does not do everything that Word (or the Mac version of Word) can do. It does not check spelling as you go (and its spell check function is TERRIBLE). If you want to bold, italicize, or underline a word you have to go in and do that once it's on the computer. You have to go back in an do headings and subheadings. I totally miss not being able to right-click and immediately find synonyms for a word that I know I am overusing.

BUT...the NEO2 keyboard is easier to type on than a laptop keyboard. The screen does not kill your eyes. I can now type ten pages of a novel in less than three hours (unless it's a bad day) - and I am only writing everything ONE time.

You can have up to eight documents going at one time. I don't know the size of each file space, but each is large enough to hold a few hundred manuscript pages.

How the NEO2 works

So, how does the NEO2 work? When you plug the USB port into the computer, the computer sees it as a keyboard. Whatever you have typed will e re-typed automatically into whatever document application you have up and ready to go.

For example, I typed this post on my NEO2. To get it into my WordPress blog, I brought up a new text box for a blog post, connected the USB cord from the NEO2 to my computer, then hit the "send" key on the NEO2. If I wanted to stare at the computer screen - which, of course, I do not - I would be able to see the words get typed into the text box as if by magic, or invisible hands.

There are four different speeds you can set the words to be typed. The highest setting will type ten pages (Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced) in about three minutes. The next setting down is considerably slower. I don't know why anyone would mess with that, unless they wanted to watch the process and catch errors as they occurred. You can't fix errors until it's all done, without canceling the whole process and starting over.

Anyway, whatever settings you have fixed for your computer word processing application - font, size, spacing - is how the text in your NEO2 file will show up.

Isn't that cool? I wish I'd bought the thing when I first heard about it. At under $200, it would have been well worth saving me the eventual severe eye strain.

Well, live and learn. In case any of you want to know my secret to whipping out novels so fast, the NEO2 is now a big part of it. You can buy one here.

Blessings to you, and happy reading (or writing!),

Emily Josephine

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Walk The Walk, Or Hush

Between struggling with whether to use solar panels for energy at our home, and reading something about university students picketing for divestment from fossil fuel stocks, my brain has been kicked into high gear about the whole climate change issue.

Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve had a thought here and there about it. Finding out about the recent huge anti-fuel protest march in NYC has almost made me spend an entire five minutes ruminating on the subject.

If I sound flippant and like I don’t care about our planet, I do care. Thing is, not only is the whole controversy based on conflicting theories (not facts, only theories), but also now the whole thing has gotten so out of whack that they’re blaming cows for the greenhouse effect.

First of all, after the previous four winters (and it looks like the trend will continue this winter), I refuse to believe in “Global Warming.” Another impending Ice Age is more likely. Or, maybe the global warming trend of the past few decades is now turning, so that the planet’s climate is going back to what it was in the 1970s and earlier.

You know, that’s natural, for the earth to go in cycles like that: colder for a few decades, then warmer, than cooling back down. So do I not believe that greenhouse gases are causing a problem? Sure! I believe they are increasing my risk of lung cancer, and piling up Lord-knows-how-many toxins in my body that might cause me to die young. This is one reason I wanted to move out into the middle of nowhere.

Are they causing climate change? Honestly, I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone else can honestly say they know, either.

But my biggest angst with the whole climate change debate isn’t about “experts” trying to convince everyone else of their certitude one way or their other. Rather, it’s the hypocrisy of the people in the movement.

Hot dogs, anyone?

A growing number of people are at least trying, if not sticking with, veganism. Part of that has to do with the unfortunate bill of goods they’ve been sold about how animal farts are melting the polar ice caps. But I wonder: how many card-carrying environmentalists have given up meat and dairy? How many of those afore-mentioned marchers took advantage of the many NYC street vendors selling hot dogs?

And that brings me to the quintessential example of anti-fossil fuel hypocrisy. Few of those involved in the recent protest walked, biked, or drove a solar-powered electric car to it. No. Some of them actually flew in a plane. To protest the extraction of fossil fuels from the earth.

Then they went home to their oversized houses, and do you know what they did? They cooked some meat from their upright refrigerator on their electric range while charging their smartphone, did a load of laundry and dried it in a clothes dryer, then drove their kid to soccer practice…six blocks away.

I know, I know. Not everyone who protests against fracking and coal and proposed pipelines lives like a mini Al Gore. But most do.

Understand, I’m not mad at you if you use a clothes dryer or a refrigerator. However, I’m not thrilled if you’re the “average American” when it comes to electricity use, and then get upset when the world’s health must be compromised in order to keep up with your energy usage.

It’s easy to protest pollution with signs. But change never comes by doing things the easy way. Walk the walk, or stop talking. All that hot air is killing the planet. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Roadblock

Forty-four and a half years old. Never broken a bone, never fainted.

Why I could not continue on with this happy trend, God will tell me one day.

Last Wednesday morning, I slipped on a stupid rock and broke my arm. Not in an easily fixed way, oh, no, not me. I will be having nails and screws put in my bones. Yes, that’s right: surgery.

I fainted twice during the event, when I first fell (I do not remember the actual impact on my arm, but B says I lay still and quiet for a few seconds before I started screaming), and then when J was trying to help me up so that he could drive us to the clinic.

That time, I knew I was going to faint. Announced my intention to J. The next thing I knew, I was back on the ground with my foot sticking into…well, an uncomfortable place.

And my arm still throbbed with a searing pain, bone popping and shifting with every move I made.

So if I get a little quiet on the blog, you have an idea why. Typing with one hand is rather cumbersome.

But don’t be surprised if, in one of my upcoming novels, I have a character slip on a rock and break her arm.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Great Reads For My Readers

I had an idea the other day. I know how hard it can be to find good, clean romance novels – the descriptions don’t always point that out (mine do!), and sometimes when you search using the keywords “Christian romance” or “inspirational romance”, you come up with books that are…not.

And many times, when you’re downloading a free book from Kindle it’s been written by an Indie. Some of those aren’t too great.

So I thought, why don’t I occasionally share the Kindle works I’ve read and enjoyed recently? Many (if not most) will be “permanently free on Kindle” books because they are the first in a series. The author hopes, of course, that if you like the first one you will buy the others (which I do, on occasion).

Don’t worry! I’ll never recommend a book that isn’t its own complete story. I hate it when publishers FORCE you to continue the series by leaving you hanging at the end of a book!

All that said, here is a list of my favorite recently-read books (all available in the Kindle store, most written by Indie authors):

  1. Roadtrip To Redemption by Laurie Larson
  2. Miracles In Disguise by Michelle Lynn Brown
  3. Out Of Control by Mary Connealy (romantic suspense)
  4. Jenna’s Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater – I actually read that a while back, but it was good and so worth mentioning.
  5. The Old Homestead by Ann Sophia Stephens – This is an old one, and not quite a romance but a fantastic, engaging, and charming story. If I could only come up with a complicated plot with a surprise ending like this! It might make you cry. It’s in the public domain, so it’s free.

Happy reading!

Emily Josephine

PS – I am now in the process of proofing/editing the first draft of my latest novel. Hooray! :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Solar Lights Suck

For various reasons, mainly because of the ridiculous inefficiency and high cost, J and I have decided not to generate our own electricity from solar panels. Well, turns out that solar technology needs a lot of work with small gadgets, too.

When I learned about solar-powered lanterns and flashlights a couple of years ago, I was all over it. “We can use these in our house instead of electric lights!” I told to J. He was fine with that, so we eventually spent around $200 in solar flashlights and lanterns.

That turned out to be a non-economical, non-sustainable idea. Here’s why.

Solar lights don’t last very long.

Two of the flashlights have already quit working. Quit working. I’ve never seen a flashlight with a shorter life than these. There was nothing to do but throw them away. It’s not like you can change the batteries and make them work again. So we had to add yet more garbage to the ever-growing landfills.

The el-cheapo solar camping lantern, which was our first purchase, also died a few months ago. That was more of a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for than anything else. A-hem, and it probably didn’t help that we left it out in the rain one day and it turned out not to be as waterproof as the more expensive lanterns.


The charging mechanism can go haywire.

One of our $40 lanterns, which are the biggest and put off the most light, will no longer charge to its full capacity. It stays dim, no matter how long you charge it. The good news is, it makes a perfect nightlight to replace the other, completely broken lantern that B had been using before while he slept.

The lanterns won’t fully charge between autumn and spring.

Due to the earth orbiting around the sun, we recently began experiencing shorter days. Instead of fifteen or sixteen hours of daylight, we’re down to about eleven – and decreasing a bit more every day. To my chagrin, I discovered that the big lanterns won’t fully charge without at least twelve or thirteen hours of daylight.

The good news with that is that these same lanterns are able to be charged via an electric outlet or a car battery, as well. And since the light bulbs are LED, they require such a miniscule amount of energy to charge, the impact of charging them via electricity is negligible.

But there goes another one of my “good” ideas of not having to use any power from the grid. *Sigh.*

We’ve decided to buy a couple of lamps, one for downstairs and one for the loft, and light them with LED bulbs. We’ll have all the light we want, whenever we want.