Books, Mystery + History

I see that Sue at JibberJabber has posted this writing prompt for today: BOOKS

Oh, yes. Ask me about books! 🙂

And this afternoon some author sent an e-mail notice that there’s going to be a SALE of MYSTERY BOOKS this weekend Here’s the scoop.

Just lately I read an article about the “rules” for writing mystery books. I wish I could remember them all, but a few were:
— The victim was someone not well liked. (Which definitely makes sense. There has to be some motive.)
— The one who solves the crime, or sleuth, must be an amateur, not a regular law officer assigned to the case. (Otherwise the story falls into the category of police procedural.)
— There may be animals, but they never get hurt. And you almost never see children in a mystery story.
It doesn’t say there should be a handsome single detective handling the case, or a grouchy middle-aged not–interested-in-silly-details type, but those seem to be the police options you find in mysteries.

Another important rule I could mention is: DO THE RESEARCH!

I know, this is one of my favorite beefs. But I just read two mysteries set in England, written by American authors. Do you know where I’m going with this?

Reading the reviews on Amazon for the one book gave hubby and me a chuckle, especially the reviewer who said, “We do not put cream in our tea and a Scotsman does not have an Irish accent!” This was from a review of the first book in the Helen Lightholder  mystery series. Setting your book in 1942 rural England means a lot of research. Please don’t skimp on this.

During the war years, a young, seemingly able-bodied man in England (who could hop over a fence easily) would never have said, “Especially with this war going on, I haven’t been able to find work.” He supposedly had a heart defect that kept him out of the army, but there was employment for all. And he’d have been questioned constantly about why he wasn’t in uniform. The writer just hasn’t gotten the atmosphere in England during those years.

I got a kick out of how the detective shows Helen her aunt’s obit, then says, “I’ll get you a copy.” And he comes back a few minutes later with the copy. Ha! These young squirts who write books nowadays! (This led Hubby and me into a discussion of mimeograph machines and Gestetner copiers. Remember those?)

Another reviewer, this time of the first book in the Lacey Doyle series: “The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works is abysmal. Her knowledge of England and the English is even worse.” I have to agree.

These writers are both good at their craft, but must have thought they could wing it re: situation. Sadly, most reviewers said they weren’t going to read the next book in the series, mainly for this reason.

One story I read, set in the late 1800s was loaded with anachronisms both in behavior and in language. In one place a male character asks our single heroine, “So what do you do for work?” (What’s the chances, in that era? Women’s employment options were very limited.) And she answers, “I’m into relationships.” In 1890? Groan!

Any genre, any era. If you don’t want one- and two-star reviews, writers, please do the research. Understand the era. Or have someone read over your manuscript who does know that history or place and/or setting.

Hate Is A Transitive Verb: It Needs An Object

I wrote a few days ago about the book I was reading, If These Walls Could Talk, by Dan Walsh. This story starts out in the present, a couple doing some renovations discover a strange message scratched into some of the studs. As they uncover more of the studs, they find a plea for help.

Then the writer takes us back to June 1964 and a family divided by hatred and contempt. The father and redneck older brother are determined that blacks should be subservient; the younger son believes in equal treatment for all human beings. Walsh works into his story in a very realistic way the deep-seated prejudices, the civil rights marches, hostility and subsequent violence that took place in the South at that time.

In the Afterword, Walsh writes about watching these events on the news as they were happening, including Dr Martin Luther King delivering his famous “I have a dream” speech. I believe most of us in North America would love to see his dream come true: a society where all humans are respected as equals regardless of race, ethnic origins, or religion.

It would be tragic if, after all this time and all these years of struggle and strife, people should sink back into the attitudes so prevalent back then! God forbid that society should lose what it has gained in fair treatment for all!

Anyone who has carefully read the Bible has surely seen these words:
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands…
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…
– Acts 17: 24, 26

Sad to say, Paul Simon’s line is too often true:
“Still a man he hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
–from his song, The Boxer

I once met a man who’d probably fit the category, “southern white trash.” Definitely a redneck. While his racial slurs were dramatic, it became apparent that the first person this man hated was himself. Though he put on a cheerful persona, those who knew him sensed he was deeply discontented with who and what he was. His own children suffered the fall-out from his frustration, too.

One time I read the memoir of a young boy who’d been verbally abused and severely beaten many times by his construction worker father. He did survive, got an education and became a vet. As a mature adult he asked his father one day, “Why were you so brutal with me?”

His father replied, “I saw your nature as being a lot like mine and I wanted to straighten you out. I didn’t want you to be like me. I wanted you to make something of yourself and have a better life than I had.”

He told his dad that beating a kid is poor way to encourage him. But the father seemed to know no other way; he probably got the same. It’s amazing that the son escaped that vicious circle.

My heart aches for people who haven’t found contentment in life — and for their victims. People who aren’t happy with themselves and what they are, will be inclined to severe depression, because hate has to have an object. If these frustrated ones don’t find some outlet for their hate it will blow their minds somehow, so they turn it on someone else. “Ah! It’s not MY fault. I’m the helpless victim here. It’s HIS/HER/THEIR fault that I don’t have a better place in life.”

Common sense won’t faze people determined to hate those they imagine are oppressing them. People determined to be victims must cast someone, some group or class, into the role of Oppressor. Sadly, the “victims” become the bullies, self-righteously striking back at their oppressors – who are often bewildered by the venom they feel from someone they don’t even know.

Hating the Haters

“I hate rich snobs!”
“I hate people who are prejudiced.”
“I despise religious hypocrites who look down on others.”
“I detest people who are intolerant.”
“I hate abusers and predators.”
“I just hate people who oppress the poor!”
“Of course I’m right for hating them because they’re so worthy of hate.”

Sad to say, if we start hating the haters, we become haters, too. Contrary to popular thinking, there is no “righteous” hatred of other humans.

God asks us to surrender all this hate, give it all to him, and show respect for all people. The good, the bad, the ugly – as much as we are able.
“Vengeance is mine, said the Lord, I will repay it.”

 Through the pen of the Apostle Peter, our Heavenly Father gives us this command:
“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
– I Peter 2:17-18

Show the same respect to males and females, all races, rednecks and preppies, rich and poor, janitors and CEOs, the government, the Donald Trumps and Vladimir Putins of this world? Doesn’t that just choke you!

We don’t have to approve of what they do; we may denounce their actions as wrong. But Jesus clearly warns us never to call any person a fool, an idiot, or a good-for-nothing:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Matthew 5:22

Pretty sobering stuff!

Dear Christian friends & readers, have you taken these Scriptures to heart? Each of us needs to be sure that we are as free of anger and name-calling as the Lord wants us to be.

A Must-Read For Writers

One of the items in my In-Box this morning was an article by Sandra Gerth called The 50 Most Common Spelling & Grammar Mistakes. READ IT HERE

I read through her list, nodding all the way, and learning a few things as well. For example, I learned that T-shirt should always be written with a capital T. And alright is NOT a word.

If you want to improve your writing, do take a few minutes to read her article. She’s an editor and she lists many of the annoying grammar/spelling mistakes that have annoyed me when I read a book, or someone’s blog post. Enough of these blips will get your manuscript rejected at the Acquisitions desk.

Big one: it’s versus its. Maybe I am pedantic (our prompt word yesterday) but seeing the wrong one makes me want to shriek! The bird did not spread it’s wings. It’s is NEVER possessive. It’s is ALWAYS the contraction for the words IT IS. The bird spread its wings. End of rant. 😉

Years ago my penpal from Hungary touched on something everyone who learns English as a second language must twig onto:
She wrote, “We have to show American movies here.” But she didn’t mean “We have to show American movies here.” In fact, theaters over there were free to show whatever they wished. And if you’re free to do it or not, as you wish, then you don’t have to.
She really meant: We have American movies to show(see). Or, in their country they can go to a theater and watch American movies. I explained to her that ‘have to” means “must.”

To save us all from total confusion on this point, when English speakers mean “YOU MUST” the ‘v’ changes to an ‘f’. At least here in North America, the two words are run together and pronounced like “haff to.” Some authors, using colloquial dialogue, will even write it that way:
“She’s gotta go see him again.”
“Sue, you hafta go see him again. You hafta tell him how you feel.”
John snorted in disgust. “No, Sue does not have to.
Saying it carefully, with emphasis on the “not have to” expresses disagreement.

One blip Ms Gerth didn’t cover was WREAK and WRECK. I hear these words interchanged and see them wrongly written so often. Wreak means to bring about or cause. The storm wreaked havoc. Wrecked means damage or destroy. The car was wrecked in the accident. The storm didn’t damage the havoc. So close, but not quite the same.

A dictionary is a writer’s best friend — and it should be a speaker’s best friend, too. One day a friend pronounced the word “chasm” like “kasm” and I corrected her. “It’s said CH-asm.” And she corrected me. Her dictionary says it’s K-asm, like K-ristmas. So I looked it up — and she’s right. That’s the first pronunciation given.
Note to self (blush): ALWAYS CHECK.

Now I shall end my spiel and let you read the article for yourself. Here’s the link again: 50 Common Mistakes

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: PRONOUNCED
Word of the Day prompt: CHALLENGE
Jibber Jabber with Sue prompt: FREE

Quarters For Thoughts

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is QUARTER

Penny.pub domainThis prompt could take one’s mind in several directions, but I recalled the old saying, “A penny for your thoughts?” Actually I thought of a millennial comeback for that one:
There’s no point offering grandchildren a penny for their thoughts when our “penny candy” costs a quarter apiece now.

So I’ll just give my thoughts freely this morning. You can decide if they’re worth a quarter. 🙂

The Word of the Day prompt this morning is UNDERSTAND.

There’s no sense to most dreams; you gain nothing by trying to understand them. But just before I woke up I had an interesting one, a hodge-podge of several flash scenes I’ve lived or read about:
A friend and I were going to a mall outside Edmonton and I was driving, but didn’t know the way. So a kind lady who was going there herself showed us the way.  Turns out she managed a store there, so she led us from the parking garage into the mall and we followed her into her store.
It was a shoe store, and we’d just started looking at sandals when they started shutting out lights. We were dismayed to find we’d just got to the mall in the last few minutes before stores closed for the night. Worse, we’d just followed her in, and now had to find our way back to our car in that huge parkade.

This dream reminded me how some streams of thought work. You start thinking about something — often something you’re not happy about — and your mind follows the flow, rehearses all the wrongs, etc. But when you get to the conclusion that something just HAS to be done, you realize nothing can be done at this moment. Right here, right now, you can’t change a single thing. You’ve taken a road to nowhere.

Yesterday evening I was thinking about some people’s attitudes that really annoy me. Finally I had to admit that, yes, it irks me, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do this evening to change everyone’s attitudes. So I just shut down those thoughts.

There’s no point stirring up all the mud in the lake when this is the only water you have.

Here’s another example I think everyone can relate to:
Let’s say I’m unhappy with the way our government is running things, or the way they’ve responded to COVID-19. I might be certain this govt should be ousted before they bring the nation to ruin, or we all die like flies.
So what can I do on a quiet Sunday evening at home to force a vote and change the government? Nothing. Zip. What can I do to change the way the govt — or society — or health care in general — has already responded to the virus? Nada. Pursuing this stream of thought is like getting to the mall and finding stores all closed for the night.

There are better things to think about. My home. My family. My Father in Heaven and his thoughts toward me.

So now that I’ve shared my morning thoughts, I shall occupy my mind with making my home a neater place to live. When I can, I will do what I can for situations that need changing, but for today the world will just have to run itself.
🙂

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Categories & Tags: Advice for New Bloggers

The WordPress Discover prompt for today is BELOW.

If you look BELOW every WordPress post, you’ll see a list of words: the categories and tags the blogger has chosen to describe the subject matter of their post. WordPress allows us to use up to fifteen of these on each post, so choose them wisely. WordPress says these multi-tagged posts will automatically be sent to SPAM.

Some bloggers seem to think “the more the better” and plaster oodles of tags on their posts — a lot of them worthless for actually finding the post. This is like coming to a beach party in tux and tails, gold cuff-links and a flashy silk tie. Too much is overkill. Go home and change.

USING CATEGORIES AND TAGS EFFECTIVELY

Back when WordPress had their First Friday feature, I’d drop in now and then to meet and greet some new bloggers. Since they were learning the ropes and open to a little guidance, I often left this advice about categories and tags. I’ll publish it here in case some new bloggers are reading this; maybe some long-time bloggers who haven’t bothered much with C’s & T’s can benefit, too.

The purpose of Categories and Tags is two-fold:
— Primarily, they help other people to find your posts
— Secondly, they become, over time, your blog’s filing system

When it comes to choosing those fifteen C’s & T’s, my first question is:
When was the last time you searched cyberspace for “MY AUNT?” Or “NOTES”? Or PETER?

Next:
Does anyone else in the world care about MY AUNT or my NOTES or some generic PETER? You might get posts about some famous performer, or the Apostle Peter, but otherwise…

Categories & Tags are very useful creatures. New bloggers can create them when they publish each post, using the sidebar on the right. For those of us who’ve been around the block a few times, we already have a list to pick from, and can add others.

Tagging our posts is how we invite other bloggers to check out what we’ve written. For example, if I add an ARTICLE or EDUCATION tag for my post, it will send my post title and a couple of lines to the Reader. Other bloggers searching for posts on Articles or Education will see mine listed and hopefully come and read what I’ve written.

C’s & T’s & TITLES: Working Together

Choose clear, catchy post titles. Are you going to be interested in a post titled “AUNT LINDA’S IDEA ABOUT WHAT HER FRIEND NEEDS” and goes on to say: “Yesterday my Aunt Linda stopped in for a brief visit and she said we should check up on…”?

But if a parent sees a title like “WORKABLE IDEAS FOR HOME-SCHOOLING” and the opening line reads, “It’s a real challenge for parents who find themselves with several children to teach at home, but I’ve found a few things that may help…” they’ll very likely want to read more.

BLOG’S LONG-TERM FILING SYSTEM

Some bloggers use C’s and T’s; some may use only one or the other. It’s up to you. Both go to the Reader. However, categories and tags also become, over time, your blog’s filing system. I wish I’d understood better how they work when I started blogging. In fact, after a few years I started a brand new site and slowly reposted all my writing so I could use suitable categories and tags for each item.

I use CATEGORIES as the drawers of my “filing cabinet.” The C’s you see in the Menu below my Header, like Poetry, Fiction, Books. My tags are like files within the drawer. Under Poetry you’ll see tags like: Nature, Seasons, Home, Inspiration, etc. Under the Fiction category you’ll find tags like Stories, Children, Family, etc

Among the Widgets there is one bloggers can install that puts a list of Categories on your blog’s front page, or you can create a visible Menu of them as I’ve done. Or you can display them in your sidebar. Another option is to install the widget that gives you a Tag Cloud. You can choose how many tags will display.

To each his own, but in my opinion it’s better to limit the number displayed, or choose “Display as a drop-down list,” rather than having a list of seventy-five tags running down the Home Page sidebar. Generally speaking, try to make things as simple as possible for your visitors. I’ve stopped to have a look at some sites, but they were so cluttered I just left again.

Be selective when choosing C’s & T’s. Pick something pertinent to your post, topics people are actually going to be looking for. “Aunt Sue” may be an intriguing person, but not a very compelling tag for someone who doesn’t even know who YOU are. Ditto with Flowers or My trip. Titling your post Cheap Vacation Spots and tagging it Travel, Adventure, River rafting, Timbuktu adventure would be far more apt to draw visitors than simply Vacation. The specific English language tag will draw readers more than the general Grammar. Here’s a good place to go for more ideas on what C’s and T’s to use: https://wordpress.com/tags

UNCATEGORIZED IS A SHAMBLES

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is SHAMBLES, and this describes the hodge-podge that goes into Uncategorized. Uncategorized is the default setting that comes with every new blog. It tells no one anything about your post.

I consider this the waste of a perfectly good tag. Like dropping a luscious ice cream cone in a puddle. My advice: get rid of it.

A blogger can change their default by going to the left hand sidebar and selecting Settings. Next you see a screen where, across the center at top are four words: General, Writing, Discussion, Traffic. Click on Writing

The first line under writing is for Categories. You’ll see how many you have and what the Default is. Click on the arrow at right. Now you get to add more categories and also change the default to something that better suits your blog’s general theme. If there’s a Save Changes button somewhere on the screen, hit it. You should be good to go.

I’ve chosen Reflections as my default, because most of my posts are of a reflective nature. If you’re a poet, choose POETRY. If you like giving your thoughts on this and that, choose OPINIONS. If your choice doesn’t suit a particular post, you can click the check mark on the Default to take it off that particular post.

And now I shall choose for this post as many pertinent categories and tags as possible, and hit publish. 🙂

Sampling the Offerings

According to Merriam-Webster, to PERUSE means to go over and mentally take in the content of something. Well, I’ve been perusing various posts this morning and have discovered some new and delectable choices on the internet buffet. I thought you might like to peruse them, too, if you haven’t already.

An excellent article:
In his latest post, John Pavlovitz says a lot about what is really important during this time of physical distancing. Though we’re all waiting out this quarantine, don’t miss out on the joys of today. Do take a moment to pop over and read his article HERE.

National Poetry Month:
A couple of important writing prompts have been announced. National Poetry Month starts today. For a touch of home and romance, you can read S. Thomas Summers’ verse, A Kiss, here.

A New Month-Long Prompt from WP:
A few days ago Ben Huberman from WordPress announced that they would be offering writing prompt words all through the month of April — possibly for the sake of those who are isolated at home with not much to do.  More info HERE. The first word is up now and it follows the April 1st theme: JOKE.

And there’s always Friday Fictioneers and the Ragtag Daily Prompt. In case you are sitting at home and need something to keep busy with. I noticed when the snow all melted that our yard needs a good clean-up. 🙂