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Do You Believe In Second Chances?

Gollum Lord of the RingsLong after I finished reading the books and watching the movies, the character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy I couldn’t stop thinking about wasn’t any of the plucky hobbits, Viggo Mortensen’s ruggedly handsome Aragorn, or Gandolf with his words of wisdom.

It was Gollum.

Born a hobbit-like creature named Sméagol, Gollum wasn’t always the shriveled, conniving wretch we meet in Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t until Sméagol was in his thirties that Sméagol’s friend Déagol found the powerful ring that Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring would later seek to destroy. Overcome by lust for the ring, Sméagol killed Déagol and took it for himself.

The ring prolonged Sméagol’s life, but began to corrupt him until his family finally cast him out. From that point on, he lived alone in the dark caves of the Misty Mountains, eating raw fish. Déagol’s death haunted him.

When Frodo learned about Gollum, he said, “What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!” (Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 78).

“Pity!” Gandalf answered. “It was Pity that stayed his hand.”

Gandalf believed that everyone deserves a second chance—a chance at redemption. He went on to tell Frodo that even Gollum wasn’t wholly ruined: “I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it…My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many” (79).

Gandalf’s words stuck with Frodo.

Later, when Frodo showed him kindness, the Sméagol side of Gollum’s personality found the strength to fight against the Gollum side. What good was left in him tried to drive out the evil. Frodo’s kindness gave him a second chance.

Sam couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see past the disgusting parts of Gollum to take into account what he’d been through—isolation, torture in Mordor, the clutches of a ring that ruined all who carried it. He refused to try to see what Gollum might become if given a second chance.

When I first met Lynn* in elementary school, all I saw was a girl who disliked me for no reason. She told others’ secrets as soon as she found them out, seemed to take pleasure in embarrassing me in particular, and acted like she thought she was better than the other students. I found her annoying and wanted nothing to do with her.

When I should have been Frodo, I was Sam.

I didn’t bother to find out that Lynn was abused, had trouble reading, and, as we reached high school, struggled with an eating disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

When she disappeared, I didn’t even notice. I cared as little for her as Sam did for Gollum, and would have gladly left her behind in my past. When she came back during our senior year of high school, she wanted to be my friend.

Second chances are tricky things. You could get your finger bitten off the way Frodo eventually did. Every second chance comes with another opportunity to experience the pain you did the first time.

I was hesitant, skeptical. But, to borrow from Gandalf, my heart told me that she still might have a role to play in my life.

Years later, Lynn and I stood up in each other’s weddings. Her children call me Aunt Marcy. We joke now about back when we didn’t like each other and talk about who disliked whom most. And we laugh.

But if I hadn’t given her a second chance, I would have missed the trips we’ve taken, times we’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, good advice exchanged, secrets shared (and kept). I would have missed out on knowing a woman who’s now one of my dearest friends.

For me, the chance to get exactly what I did was worth the risk of giving her that second chance.

Has there ever been a time you decided to give someone a second chance and were glad you did? Do you believe in second chances?

*Lynn isn’t her real name. I’ve changed it to protect her privacy.

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Four Reasons Battlestar Galactica Isn’t Just for Sci-Fi Fans

Please welcome back my husband Chris for a guest post on why he thinks one of our favorite science fiction shows, Battlestar Galactica, isn’t just for science fiction fans. If given a chance, Chris is convinced it would appeal to almost everyone.

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Picture Source: google.com via Marcy on Pinterest

I’ve written about Battlestar Galactica before, but only in passing, and only comparing a single BSG character to Star Wars’ Wedge Antilles. But BSG is one of the few science fiction shows with appeal for all kinds of viewers (such as Marcy, a Trekkie, and me, the Star Wars equivalent to a Trekkie), so I decided to put together this post to tell you all why I absolutely love Battlestar Galactica—and why you probably would, too.

Great Storytelling

The plot of almost every BSG episode was believable, interesting, and extremely engaging. We started off buying just the first season, but very quickly added the remaining three seasons because the story was just that good. And many were the nights where we stayed up until 2am or later, until we could barely keep our eyes open any longer, because we always wanted to watch “just one more,” to see where the story went. The writers had a talent for ending on a cliffhanger.

A Realistic Depiction of the Future

Star Trek has phasers and transporters and replicator technology. Star Wars has lightsabers and turbolaser cannons and the HoloNet. The Stargate series has interstellar gates. But none of these technologies are all that realistic when you look at today’s technology level and its likely rate of evolution even 300 years into the future.

In contrast, all the ships in Battlestar Galactica use kinetic weapons (weapons that don’t contain an explosive or electric charge). These range from a sort of machine gun in the nose of the human’s Viper starfighters to the nuclear-tipped missiles hurled by the Cylon basestars. Even the depictions of the Vipers’ maneuverability were more accurate than you’d expect, and included the use of attitude thrusters to move the ship around. Astronauts already use less sophisticated attitude thrusters today.

Galactica used an internal phone and intercom system, and lacked the comm badges, comlinks, and viewscreens of Star Wars and Star Trek. Galactica’s computer systems, even when networked, required several minutes to run complex calculations, and the comm systems in BSG all seemed to feature the type of distorted transmissions I would expect to hear over such long ranges.

Basically, I think the technology in Battlestar Galactica is closer to the technological reality we’ll have in the next couple hundred years.

A Unique Villain

The biggest sticking point for most science fiction is having a flat villain. If you don’t have a unique, believable, engaging villain, the show just doesn’t work well. Fortunately for us, BSG doesn’t have that problem. The Cylons (cybernetic organisms originally created to serve humanity) gained sentience and revolted against their former masters, disappearing after the first human-Cylon war and appearing again after 40 years to destroy the Twelve Colonies.

But the Cylons aren’t your typical cybernetic organisms. While the original Cylons looked like many depictions of futuristic robots, the Cylons have evolved and gained the ability to look just like a human, indistinguishable from a real person. The look, sound, and feel just like a real human, and the sleeper agents don’t even know they’re a Cylon until their sleeper circuit gets tripped. About the only difference between a “skin job” and a real human is that the female Cylons’ spines glow red during sexual activity.

And worse for the human survivors of the Cylons’ nuclear bombardment of the Colonies, the Cylons possess a Resurrection Ship, which automatically downloads a fallen Cylon’s memories and experiences into a new body and activates it, creating a never-ending stream of cybernetic warriors bent on grinding their former masters into so much interstellar dust.

How do you even fight against an enemy like that?

Engaging Special Effects and Cinematography

I found the special effects and cinematography of BSG to be top-notch. One of my favorite things about the show was how a lot of the exterior, long-distance shots were shown. Rather than the standard, steady, zoomed-in fare you get in most film, BSG has a lot of exterior shots that look like they were recorded on a hand-held camera, with the field of view zooming in too fast before resolving itself, and the recording itself being shaky, as would befit a distant observer.

For those of you who already love BSG, what do you think made it such a great show? If you haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica before, has this convinced you to watch an episode on Netflix?

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Geek Fashion Show

If at least one of these t-shirt designs makes you smile, your nerd is showing 🙂

Get Real Be Rational T-ShirtFor when you’ve had a fight with your significant other. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Positive Electrons T-ShirtFor when you can’t remember what you did with your keys–again. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Alderaan Weather Forecast T-ShirtFor when the weather ruins your plans, and you need a reminder that things could be worse. A deathstar could show up. It could happen. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

Airspeed velocity of an unladen swallowIn case you ever find the need to cross the Bridge of Death in search of the Holy Grail (From www.zazzle.com)

 

 

 

 

Princess Bride Classic Blunders“You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me” (Vizzini in William Goldman’s 1973 The Princess Bride). (T-shirt from www.snorgtees.com)

True Statement False StatementBecause sometimes you just need some quiet time. (From www.snorgtees.com)

 

 

 

 

Any favorites you’d like to share? Tell me about them or link to them in the comments.

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3 Lessons on Reaching Your Goals from The Vow

The VowBecause I couldn’t stand to see Jar-Jar Binks in 3D, when my husband and I went to the movies over the weekend for an early Valentine’s Day date, we ended up seeing The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. Basically, a woman is in a car accident and loses her memories of the last five to six years of her life. Her husband tries to convince her to fall in love with him again. The Vow was inspired by the true story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter.

While I’d rate the movie itself as mediocre, I left the theater thinking about what it would be like if that happened to me. Where was I six years ago, back in 2006?

Don’t underestimate how far you’ve come.

Sometimes all I can see is how far I still have to go to get to where I want to be. I had plans for what I wanted my life to be like when I reached 30, and I’m not there. Nowhere close. Last week that gap hit me especially hard. I started to feel like a failure and began to question every decision I’ve made.

But when I look back to 2006, it’s how far I’ve come that jumps out at me.

In 2006, I was single. I hadn’t even met my husband yet. Worse, I was still trying to fit into what people expected me to be or wanted me to be rather than giving myself the freedom to just be me. Now I’m happily married to a man who’s my best friend, who knows and loves the real me.

In February 2006, I still hadn’t had so much as an article published, and I was mired in trying to fix the same novel I’d been working on for five years. It would never be publishable, but I couldn’t see it then. Now I make my living from writing articles and editing.

In 2006, I didn’t have a blog or a website. I wasn’t on any social media sites. Now all those things are part of my life, a part that makes it much richer and more enjoyable.

When you start to feel like you’ve lost your way, screwed up your life, or are a failure, take a look back. Where were you five years ago?

If you miss something you used to have, get it back.

Rachel McAdams’ character, Paige, goes back to a time before she became estranged from her family. Even though she finds that some of the changes she made in her missing years were the right ones for her, losing her family wasn’t. She has to find a way to keep the good changes and rid herself of the bad.

Not everything is better in my life either. Just as Paige was aghast to discover she had a tattoo on her back, if I woke up with the last six years missing, I’d be horrified at the weight I’ve gained. It’s not simply vanity weight. I need to lose at least 20 pounds to be healthy. And I miss being lighter. I slept better, felt better, and had fewer back problems when I weighed less. It’s something I’ll be working on.

Just because the time isn’t right now doesn’t mean it won’t ever be right.

Considering The Vow was a romance and based on a true story, I don’t think I’m giving anything away with this point. Channing Tatum’s character Leo works for months to win his wife back. He tries introducing her to their friends to jog her memory, and he takes her out on a date. Nothing he tries works.

Finally he backs off and gives her the divorce she wants. And then he waits. Eventually, even though she never regains her memory, she comes back to him, and the movie ends on a note of hope for their future.

It’s too easy to give up on our dreams and goals if we don’t reach them in our timing. Human beings are notoriously impatient. Sometimes, though, a failure just means the timing isn’t right. We should wait, bide our time, and see what happens.

Where were you five years ago? Have you made progress toward your long-term goals, or are there things you miss that you want to get back?

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How We Met: Guest Post by Jess Witkins

Hello readers! You’re probably wondering who I am. My name is Jess Witkins, and I convinced Marcy to hand over her blog for the price of an I-Tunes gift card. Yep, she’s that easy. And now you’re stuck with me. What’s that frightened look in your eyes?! I haven’t done anything yet!

Ok, I promise no harm came to the owner of this blog, or any other blog for that matter, at my hands. But if you know Marcy, she’s had her share of broken bones. In fact, she’s talking about bones today at my blog, bones and backbones! Cheer her on and visit in the comments section here.

Since she’s given me limitless word count approval, I thought I’d chat a little with you guys. Valentine’s Day is approaching so I can’t help it that love is on my brain. Many of you are planning romantic ways to say “I love you” to your partners, reserving intimate date night dinners, and buying chocolate and flowers to say “You are so sweet, and you smell good too!

My honey is very deserving of all these things. But it’s not enough to just tell him how I feel, I should tell everyone! And everyone who reads Marcy’s blog.

My Honeypot:  A Romantic Retelling of How We Met

It was my Freshman year of college and I was busy taking all my general education classes at once. Eighteen credits and honor society status, I was a good student. He didn’t show up for class sometimes, but boy did he smell good when he did!  

On good days, we happened to sit by each other. And on great days, we talked. He thought I was crazy, and I thought he was cute. He was close to graduating, and I was still enrolled in the theater program (a path that wasn’t meant to see fruition). At 19 years old, I wanted to try everything. I was active in several student organizations, I held leadership positions, I had classes in almost every building on campus!  

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Both of us were in other relationships at the time, and at very different points in our lives. He was a soon to be graduate with a music education major, the lead guitarist in a major local band, and had a great reputation with area schools. I was still living in the dorms and would change my mind about what program I wanted to study a couple more times.  

Flash forward two years, and you’d find me coaxed out of my apartment by friends and dragged downtown to the local pub for some live music. Imagine my surprise when there he was! He too was out with friends to check out the very same band! Now ladies, it’s a well known fact that men have something we women are powerless against. It’s scientific name is mojo. Mojo Machofinus in latin.  

Village People Macho ManThe full research study is available on this album.

Well, as you can guess it, we started talking. Little did I know he’d completely forgotten my name! He recognized me, and came over to talk, but he had no idea what my name was!

Gentlemen, listen up! This is why it’s so important you have a “wingman.” Urban dictionary defines ‘wingman’ as this:

Wingman

A Wingman is a guy you bring along with you on singles
outings (like to bars) that helps you out with the women.

It was through his friend (my favorite friend of his) that he learned my name again, and did so flawlessly. I wouldn’t find out he was sweating the whole time until years later! This friend also casually mentioned another show we should both check out, but the show was at a venue way up in the bluffs.  

Grandad Bluff Jess WitkinsYep, we had to go up there!  No kidding!  Welcome to La Crosse, WI!

He soon offered me a ride to the show and asked to get coffee with him ahead. I said yes!

So, that’s the tale of how we met. It’s been five years since then and you know what, he still surprises me with the things he doesn’t know! But he is also my biggest fan, my best friend, and he knows how to make me laugh.  

Happy Valentine’s, Honeypot!  I’m so glad we met!

Jess Witkins and Her HoneypotMe and My Valentine

What are your favorite stories of love to share? Is it the love for your partner, your children, a parent, a pet, or a friend? Who will you be wishing Happy Valentine’s to?

Bio: Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it! She deals with it all and writes about it! Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining. Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to. Follow on Twitter:  @jesswitkins

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Fighting Dirty, Forgiveness, and CPR for the Undead

Happy Saturday! I haven’t done a grab bag for a few weeks, so this one is bursting at the seams because I couldn’t throw away any of these treats. At least they’re all calorie free.

For Fantasy and Science Fiction Lovers

CPR for the Undead by Emmie Mears – Can vampires be saved or has all the sparkling made them a thing of the past?

Robin Hood: A Story Transcribed by Jessica O’Neal – This is the next installment in her great series on Robin Hood. This time she looks at the different ways Robin Hood (and other characters in his legends) have shown up in literature over the years.

Lady of the Lake by Lisa Hall-Wilson – The Lady of the Lake plays a central role in the novel Lisa and I are writing. In this post, Lisa looks at who the Lady of the Lake might have been.

Immortal Monday on the Epirus Bow and Mount Tartarus by Debra Kristi – What the movie got right . . . and what it didn’t.

For Writers

23 Techniques for Fighting Dirty by Jenny Hansen – Jenny’s posts on fighting dirty and fighting clean will help you put conflict into your novel and take it out of your marriage. Make sure you check out the Fighting Dirty Contest that starts after Valentine’s Day as well.

Why An Agent Rejects Your Query Letter – The answer might surprise you.

The Meaning of Life

3 Steps to Freedom – Grab Hold of Your Brilliant Future by Kristen Lamb – This post is one of my all-time favorites. It’s encouraging and practical and has me thinking carefully every time I say “I’m just tired.”

Forgiveness: It’s All About You by Natalie Hartford – Reasons to forgive someone who’s hurt you regardless of whether they apologize.

The Year to Slay Your Dragons by Ingrid Schaffenburg – Dreams come with dragons, but before we can slay them, we have to recognize them.

Have you read any of these posts? What did you love about them?

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The Lie of Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy for BOAW Blogfest by Marcy KennedyThe dental hygienist peered into my mouth at the gap where my front tooth used to be. “How did it happen?” she asked. “Did you fall?”

“I bit a piece of soft caraway-rye bread.”

“Oh.”

It started when a previous dentist botched a simple filling. I returned to him four times to have it fixed, and on the final visit, he hit my root, so I needed a root canal. During the root canal, he compromised the integrity of my tooth enough that I had to have my tooth ground down to a peg and a cap placed on. No surprise that, instead of lasting ten years, the peg snapped after three, breaking off at the gum line.

And so there I sat in the office of my new dentist, a hole in my mouth, with two important flute performances (one of which was my brother’s wedding) scheduled, and my own wedding day less than six months away, and asked, “What are my options?”

My dentist adjusted my x-rays on the 8”-by-11” illuminated screen. “You could have a bridge put in, but that would mean destroying the healthy teeth on the sides.”

Ruining two more teeth? No thanks. “What else?”

“We could try to drive a peg into what remains of the tooth pulp, but there’s not much left and we can’t guarantee how long it’ll last.”

“So I’d lose my tooth again at some undefined time in the future?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“Are there any other options?”

“An implant.”

“How long does that take?”

“Usually eight months to a year.”

And my wedding was in . . .

That night, when I got onto webcams with my fiancé (now my husband), I didn’t even want to look at my image on the screen. Not only did I have no front tooth, but my eyes were puffy from crying and ringed in black from a lack of sleep.

And maybe that shouldn’t have mattered. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so devastated. It was just a tooth.

But I’d bought into the Helen of Troy lie. In Greek mythology, Helen was a demigod, the daughter of Zeus and the queen of Sparta. When Helen reached marriageable age, anywhere from 11 to 36 suitors (depending on the source you read) competed for her hand because she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

Reports differ on how Helen later ended up with the Trojan prince Paris, but the Greek poet Sappo says she simply deserted her husband and nine-year-old daughter to go with him to Troy. Her husband wanted her back, and put together an army to attack Troy. Unfortunately, the ships they were to travel on couldn’t sail because there wasn’t any wind.

Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, to get wind. For Helen.

Iphigenia’s mother (who was also Helen’s sister) argued with Agamemnon, telling him he was “buying what we most detest with what we hold most dear” (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis, 1170). She called her sister a “wicked woman,” but to no avail. Iphigenia died. Troy fell. Helen abandoned Paris and later betrayed to death the man she took as a lover after him. When her husband went to kill her for her infidelity, she dropped her robe and her beauty stayed his hand.

They didn’t compete for her, fight for her, kill and die for her because she was loyal or intelligent or brave. They did it because she was beautiful. Her beauty made her the most desirable and valued woman in the Greek world.

The lie of Helen of Troy is that beauty is purely physical and that it matters more than character, more than honor, more than intelligence. The lie of Helen of Troy drove me to starve myself and work out for four hours or more a day to try to become beautiful.

The lie of Helen of Troy made me actually worry that my fiancé might stop loving me if I wasn’t pretty on the outside.

But he knew that without me ever having to tell him because he knew me. When our webcams turned on, he called me beautiful, but then told me what made me beautiful to him.

It wasn’t my eyes. It was the things we had in common. It wasn’t whether or not I had wrinkles (or a tooth). It was my brain. It wasn’t anything physical at all. What I looked like was just a bonus, he said. What made me beautiful was who I was inside and the things I did.

I’ve never felt more beautiful than when I saw myself through his eyes. And thanks to him, I’m starting to see the lie of Helen of Troy for what it is—just a lie.

When have you bought into the lie of Helen of Troy? What helped you see it for a lie?

This post was written as part of the Beauty of a Woman blogfest being hosted by the truly beautiful August McLaughlin. Visit her blog tomorrow (Friday, February 10th) to read a bunch of inspiring stories and for chances to win awesome prizes, including a Kindle Touch or a $99 Amazon gift card, body image coaching, BOAW mugs, and more.

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6 Grammar Mistakes That Will Cost You Readers

Make these mistakes in a query letter, and your work might never see publication. Make these mistakes in a blog often enough, and your readers will find another similar blog that doesn’t make them cringe.

Mistake #1: Your/You’re

This mistake is why I can only take Facebook in small doses some days.

Add to the list it’s/its.
Please also add their/there/they’re.

This is a ridiculously simple mistake to avoid. Just stop and ask whether your sentence requires a possessive or a contraction.

Your is possessive, implying ownership: “I love your blog.”
You’re is a contraction of you are. The apostrophe indicates that you and are smashed together to make them shorter and smoother to say: “You’re giving me a headache with all this grammar talk.”

Their = possessive
There = a place (“I’ve been there”) or a pronoun (“There is no way I’m jumping off that cliff.”)
They’re = they are

It’s = it is (or it has)
Its = possessive

Mistake #2: Leaving Out a Serial Comma

A serial comma involves placing a comma after every item in a series: “I love eating jelly beans, chocolate, and cranberries.”

You could write this without the serial comma: “I love eating jelly beans, chocolate and cranberries.”

Serial commas aren’t mandatory, but they are recommended by most major style guides for a very simple reason—they eliminate the risk of being unintentionally funny.

“A housewife’s job involves more than cleaning, cooking and birthing babies.”
Is it just me, or does that sound like she’s serving up roast baby for dinner?

But add a serial comma and we have “A housewife’s job involves more than cleaning, cooking, and birthing babies.” Now we have a clear tribute to mothers rather than cannibalism.

The only thing worse than being boring is being unintentionally funny. Once people laugh at you, that’s all they’re going to remember about your post. At least if you’re boring, they forget about you.

I live by the better safe than sorry rule. If I always use a serial comma, I never run the risk of leaving it out when I should have put it in.

Mistake #3: Could of, Should of, Would of

“I could of finished that 10 oz. steak if I wanted to, but I’m watching my waistline.”

This mistake crops up when people write the same way they speak. When we speak, we often slur could’ve (the contraction of could have) so that it sounds like could of.

Of can be used correctly in many different ways. This isn’t one of them. You might be able to get away with it in speech, but not in your writing.

Mistake #4: To/Too/Two

I know. This one just seems like the first English speakers were being mean. Not only do these all sound the same, but they’re only one letter different from each other.

Two is a number: “If you already have one chocolate bar and I give you mine, then you have two chocolate bars and I’m going to be asking you to share.” Hold up two fingers. They form half a W. To and too don’t have that shape in them. They are not numbers. If that doesn’t work for you, remember that two (as a number) starts the same way as twins.

Too is an adverb expressing the idea of “excessively,” “also,” or “as well”: “This word has one too many o‘s in it.”

To is a preposition. It’s used to begin a prepositional phrase or an infinitive. The best way to remember to is to place it where neither two nor too will work.

“I went to church on Sunday.” (preposition)

“I want to eat your chocolate.” (infinitive)

Mistake #5: Lack of Parallelism in Lists

Parallelism in a list makes your sentences easier for your reader to understand.

“To contribute to Easter dinner, I peeled two potatoes, three yams, and baked a pie.”

Your reader will understand this sentence, but it will feel awkward. And grammar Nazis will snicker at you behind their hands.

Take the sentence apart, and you’ll see the problem.

To contribute to Easter dinner, I . . .

  • peeled two potatoes
  • three yams
  • baked a pie.

You wouldn’t say, “To contribute to Easter dinner, I two yams.” At least I hope you wouldn’t. You need to add a verb in front of “three yams” to make this sentence parallel. “Peeled,” “washed,” “chopped,” or “mashed” would all be correct.

Mistake #6: Dangling Participles

A dangling participle is a word or phrase that’s placed so it modifies the wrong thing. This is another one where your readers will find you extremely funny for all the wrong reasons.

“Walking down the road, the house came into view.”
A house taking a walk? I’d buy tickets to see that.

“Featuring an ensuite hot tub and extra fluffy pillows, we highly recommend this hotel for honeymooning couples.”
The mental image of people with hot tubs where their bellies should be and pillows for arms . . . I probably won’t stop laughing long enough to read the rest of what you’ve written.

“After rotting in the back of the fridge for three months, my husband cleaned out his forgotten leftovers.”
Based on this sentence, I need to take my husband to a doctor to find out why he’s rotting.

What are some grammar gaffes that drive you nuts?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Showing and Telling in Fiction or Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide.)

All three books are available in print and ebook forms.

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(This was a replay of a post I wrote originally for Girls With Pens and which first appeared on May 9, 2011. Because it’s still one of my favorites, I decided to share it with you here today.)

What Star Trek Race Are You?

When two nerds fight, especially two married nerds, it can take a very strange turn. She tells him that the problem is she’s a Vulcan and he’s a Klingon, and he counters that she’s not a Vulcan, she’s a Borg. And he’s not like a Klingon, he’s more like a Hirogen.

And pretty soon they forget what they were fighting about in the first place because she says, “Hey, wouldn’t that be a fun blog post?” And off they go discussing the traits that are unique to each race in Star Trek.

So now it’s your turn – what Star Trek race are you? Read the descriptions below and write down the letter of the one that’s most like you. (Don’t look for it to be exact, since you might be half-human, half-alien.) At the end, I’ll tell you what race you picked 🙂

(A) You hide your emotions and often devalue them, refusing to let them control you. You prefer things you can quantify and measure, so you’re drawn to math and the hard sciences. You’re rational and like your home to be neat and tidy.

(B) You like traditions and value honor above all else. You tend to see the world in black and white and don’t like indecision. Sometimes you can be hot-headed and easily offended, but you’re also strong and willing to fight for what you think is right.

(C) You’re a good judge of character. You’re also the kind of person complete strangers tend to open up to (whether you like it or not). You have a big heart and hurt when others hurt. You believe that honesty is always the best policy, sometimes to the point of embarrassing your loved ones.

(D) You strive for perfection, and love order and efficiency. You don’t know how to accept defeat and are creative in solving problems. You can be stubborn. Others’ opinions matter to you more than you’d like.

(E) You’re quirky and have a strong sense of humor. You enjoy the company of people and the simple pleasures in life like food, a hot bath, or working with your hands. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re also gullible because you think the best of everyone.

(F) You’re a very spiritual person and love culture and the arts. You defend your beliefs against attack and tend to prefer to associate with people who think the same way you do because you’ve been hurt in the past.

ANSWER KEY:

(A) You’re a Vulcan like Spock in the original Star Trek, Tuvok in Voyager, and T’Pol in Enterprise. Due to nearly allowing their strong emotions to destroy them, Vulcans learned how to control and repress their emotions through meditation so that they no longer feel them. Vulcans prize logic and are a generally peaceful, honest people unless logic dictates they must fight or lie.

(B) You’re a Klingon like Worf in The Next Generation or B’Elanna Torres (half-human) in Voyager. Klingons are a warrior species, passionate in all they do (including love). They’d prefer an honorable death in battle to going home in defeat. Ritual, tradition, and family honor are core values in their society.

(C) You’re a Betazoid like Deanna Troi in The Next Generation. Even though Betazoids look human, they have empathic and telepathic abilities, meaning they’re able to sense other people’s emotions and thoughts. While this means they can help others (for example, by counseling them), they need to be careful not to use their abilities to manipulate others for their own benefit.

(D) You’re Borg like Seven of Nine in Voyager. The Borg don’t reproduce like other species, but rather assimilate people from other species (usually against their will) into the Borg Collective. Their goal is to attain perfection by adding each species’ “biological and technological distinctiveness” to their own. Borg don’t consider themselves individuals because they’re all connected through a hive mind and function as a unit. They’re able to quickly adapt to almost any situation.

(E) You’re a Talaxian like Neelix in Voyager. Talaxians are a friendly, gregarious, well-meaning race who is always willing to lend a hand when needed, leaving them open to being taken advantage of. They enjoy food and entertainment, which made Neelix a perfect choice for cook and morale officer on Voyager (even though his cooking was often too creative for some).

(F) You’re a Bajoran like Kira Nerys in Deep Space Nine and Ro Loren in The Next Generation. Bajorans have a long history and rich culture, but their fertile planet was oppressed and pillaged by the Cardassians for years, making them fiercely independent (understandably) now that they have their freedom back. The major unifying force for Bajorans is their religion.

I still think that my husband is more like a Klingon than a Hirogen, but in the end, I had to admit he was right about me. I’m basically a Borg. Resistance is futile 😉

What race (or combination of races) are you?

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Are You Brave Enough to Punch A Shark?

Scuba diving with sharksWhen most people think of their honeymoon, they envision sipping drinks on a beach, touring the museums and art galleries of Paris, or eating their way around Italy. My husband and I dreamed about scuba diving with sharks.

So when my grandpa gave us a very generous gift and made us promise we’d spend it on a honeymoon, we booked tickets to Australia and found a place that offered a no-experience-necessary chance to breathe underwater and face one of the world’s scariest predators.

After two hours of training in the classroom and pool, we swam out into OceanWorld Manly’s Shark Dive X-Treme tank, coming face to face with giant turtles, stingrays big enough I could have used them as a blanket, and sharks ranging in size from three to 10 feet and weighing up to 770 pounds.

They gave us three very simple rules to follow when it came to the sharks.

(1)   Don’t touch the sharks.
(2)   Don’t hop up and down or wave your hands in front of the sharks.
(3)   Whatever you do, don’t go into the section of the tank where they feed the sharks.

Makes sense, right? The idea is to avoid notice. Don’t mark yourself as food, but don’t mark yourself as a threat either. If you’re either, even a peaceful shark will bite. If you’re neither, a shark will swim by, even brush against you, without danger.

It’s the perfect advice for real sharks, but I think it might be the opposite of what we need to do with the sharks in life.

We often use the term shark to refer to a person who preys on others by cheating them or otherwise tricking them out of something.

With the sharks in life, you want to be noticed. You need to punch them in the nose to show them you’re not afraid.

I’m a softy and painfully shy, making me easy shark bait because I rarely stand up for myself. But this past weekend, I faced a shark and I don’t know what happened. Whether it was the sleep deprivation, the elation from the agent requests, or that I’d just had enough of sharks taking advantage of me in the last couple months, for the first time, I stood up and made sure the shark noticed me.

My co-writer (Lisa Hall-Wilson) and I went to New York for the Writer’s Digest conference, and because we’re both navigationally challenged, we stayed on-site at the hotel—where everything costs extra, including the Internet. We decided to buy just one day’s worth of Internet access so we could communicate with our families, and asked questions of the reception staff until we were sure how it worked. When we got our bill at checkout, they’d charged us twice (once for each of our laptops) even though we were told they wouldn’t because we were sharing a room.

Maybe they thought the amount was small enough we wouldn’t bother to argue over it.

What they didn’t count on was that to me it sounded like a lot of money. It represented my husband needing to work two additional hours at a job he hated, or no coffee for a month, or no treats for our dog.

Lisa and I told the lady at reception about the mistake, and she told us the charge was automatic and they had nothing to do with it. She wasn’t going to refund the second charge.

I gathered all my trembling insides together and stared her in the eye. “It’s unfortunate that we have to pay for a mistake made by your desk staff.”

And then I waited, making it clear we weren’t leaving until she fixed it. And grumbled a bit to Lisa the way you see really rich people do in movies when something isn’t to their liking.

And she removed the charge.

I’m realistic enough to know that I won’t always have the courage to face life’s sharks and force them to notice me, but maybe this is the start of a trend where I will be brave enough to punch at least some of those sharks right in the nose and win.

How do you usually deal with sharks? Have you ever challenged a shark and won?

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