Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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More on Self-Editing: Text to Speech

I’ve just discovered a new tool for self-editing which you may already know about; I tend to not go looking for any secrets my computer may have unless it’s not doing what I want it to. I’d heard of software that could turn text to speech but had never looked into it and assumed it would be something I’d have to buy and install and all that stuff that I just don’t want to bother with. I often read some of my book aloud, particularly dialogue, and I have suggested to others it’s even better if you can persuade someone else to read it to you, or record it and play it back. Probably not practical for an entire novel though and my latest novel has grown to over 80,000 words, quite a bit longer than my previous ones.

Someone mentioned on facebook that there was a Word option for Text to Speech and I still assumed it was an extra that I’d have to buy, install, etc., but it’s not! It’s just there and is super easy to use. It’s probably best that I don’t try to tell you how to use it because explaining technology is not in my list of talents, but if you have Word just ask the help button and they’ll walk you through it. Take my word for it, if I can follow it, you can.

Tex (I decided to call him Tex, because, why not?) and I spent the weekend editing my book. He’s American, but not hard to understand, and has quite a pleasant voice for a computer, even if he does have trouble pronouncing the occasional word. He doesn’t understand Mmm, or Hmm, or Mr and doesn’t understand I want a pause when I use an ellipsis or a long dash, nor will he point out any errors to you. BUT he also won’t skip over the typos we all make, like you and your friends will (maybe even your editor). It’s just the way our brains work; when we see the word ‘out’, in a sentence where it should have been ‘our’, we just know it’s meant to be ‘our’ and may not even notice the mistake. Tex doesn’t notice it either but when he says it out loud, you will notice it.

Tex is certainly not the only self-editing tool you need–he won’t tell you if you’ve written the wrong version of too, or to, or the wrong version of your, or their, but just because reading aloud is so much slower than reading silently I did pick up several things myself that I decided needed improving and he’s my new best friend. I don’t usually have a problem with spelling or grammar but typos? Absolutely!

For some of the things Tex can’t help you with I have a free ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on Smashwords. It’s just a little one but there’s some things that will help if you’re unsure about punctuation or grammar. Especially the correct use of apostrophes–do you know what they’re actually for? A lot of people don’t! For all my other books please visit my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

 


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He said, she said.

what didWhen we’re writing, especially a novel, we seem to use ‘said’ an awful lot and, if we don’t, we try very hard to come up with alternatives, such as argued, yelled, whispered, spoke, declared and so on. The problem then is that using those kind of words can draw attention away from the dialogue they relate to. I completed a 2 year Diploma in Writing and Editing and we were taught that it’s better to use ‘said’ most of the time because it’s actually very unobtrusive. It becomes almost invisible to the reader, even though it seems overused to the writer, while substitutes can be used, of course, but too many actually detract from the story by being too ‘showy’.

A dialogue between two people doesn’t require ‘he said, she said’, every time each one speaks. We know if Joe said something the reply will come from Fred, because they’re the only two there. If the dialogue becomes too long it might become confusing but you can always include some action, such as Fred glared at Joe.”What the hell are you talking about?” Too much dialogue without action is usually a mistake in any case, as is too much action without dialogue. The same technique can also be used for larger groups of course, for example, Diane entered the room, “What are you two up to now?”

I’m not saying you should never use words like ‘whispered’ and so on, and you can easily overdo the action technique. Just don’t neglect that useful little word, ‘said’.

My ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar, punctuation, etc. is free permanently on Smashwords and will help anyone who’s not sure about the correct use of apostrophes and a few peculiarities in the English language. There are other books as well as websites with similar information; mine is easy to follow and attempts to explain things in a way that’s easy to remember as well. My other books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

Stony Creek book2 karinya ebook

 


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What a Wonderful Wacky World of Words

It may be just me–I am a reader, a writer and an editor after all, but do you ever just sit and think about words? I’m not talking about their meaning, at least not right now, but about how we use letters in different ways to make different sounds. I don’t claim to have any knowledge of languages other than English, apart from the residue of high school French lessons. And I can count to ten in Japanese. Also you can’t help but pick up the odd Italian expression such as ‘ciao’, but I digress. What I want to talk about is the letter ‘w’.

This feels a lot like Sesame Street and I promise I’m not going to discuss a different letter every day, but it seems to me that ‘w’ is a particularly interesting one. It seems to affect the way we pronounce the letters after it. Take ‘water’ for example. Later and cater sound as you would expect, with a long ‘a’ sound, while water sounds more like ‘wor’, as in war. When we use ‘wor’ as in word, it sounds more like ‘er’. Why is it so? Why is it car, bar, tar, but war? Why cot, lot, pot, but what? I understand our language evolved and is still evolving but I’m curious as to how this particular peculiarity began. I get it that we have another word ‘waiter’, so we can’t pronounce water as waiter, but then why is it not spelt ‘worter’?

As I said, perhaps it’s only me who sits in front of the TV sometimes and just thinks about words, but it is weird, don’t you think?

For info on all my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK


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Sins of the Media

 

Live television is to blame for many grammatical errors and I don’t envy those brave souls who put themselves in that position. The occasional mistake, such as ‘getable’ or ‘most remotest’, which I’ve heard recently, should probably be expected with the pressure of being put ‘on the spot’.What annoys me more than these one-off errors are the continual mispronunciations, such as Antartica, instead of Antarctica and def’nally, instead of definitely. It appears to be laziness but it might be that the speakers are not aware of their mistake, in which case their employers or the viewers should point it out to them! Our children are watching and unless we want them to pick up bad habits we need to take a stand.

Pollie speak, such as ‘the end of the day’ and ‘at this point in time’ have also crept into the media and into everyday life and hopefully are only temporary. They are annoying but not incorrect. What is becoming more common in the media is the phrase ‘one of the only’, which is not only annoying but poor grammar. It doesn’t make sense, people! What they mean is ‘one of the few’, which is fine, or they could say ‘one of only a few, or a small number’. Please, not ‘one of the only’.

Another common mistake is using ‘unique’ with any intensifier—unique means the only one of its kind. It is not possible to be ‘very unique’ or ‘slightly unique’. A thing is either unique or it isn’t. If that one word is not enough for you, choose a different one.

 ‘Literally’ is another example of a commonly misused word. Some throw it around as if it were a meaningless word that just emphases their statement.  ‘I literally died of shock when I saw my ex in the street!’ No, you didn’t or you wouldn’t be here to tell us about it. Nor did you literally become incontinent when you were similarly shocked by such an event. Or perhaps you did, but if you’re using that word, literally, it means what you are saying is the truth, not an exaggeration.

The Subject of the Verb.

Growing up, John Watson was the principal of the school.

 Police kept a gunman at bay for several hours before being brought down in a hail of bullets.

He was hit by a man wearing a balaclava that was armed with a machete.

 His wife and niece intervened.

 The above sentences are all examples of media mangling, with changes to minor details. Yes, we know what they mean, but why on earth can’t they say it? The first sentence tells us that John Watson was the principal of a school while he was growing up. Is that likely? What the speaker meant was that the other person he had referred to in a previous sentence was a student at the school when John Watson was the principal. In this sentence though, the subject of the verb is clearly John Watson.

The next sentence tells us police were brought down by a hail of bullets and is quite a possible scenario and therefore a more confusing one. The rest of the news story made it quite clear that it was the gunman who was shot, not the police, but in this sentence the subject of the verb is not the gunman but the police. The gunman is the object of the verb – police kept gunman at bay. In order to have this sentence actually say what was intended it could read: Police kept a gunman at bay for several hours before they brought him down in a hail of bullets. Not a particularly good sentence but it is at least clear.

The next example is amusing and obvious – we know the balaclava wasn’t armed with a machete! Neither could we say: He was hit by a man wielding a machete wearing a balaclava. Clearly the machete wasn’t wearing a balaclava any more than the balaclava was wielding a machete!  An easy correction would be simply to say he was hit by a man wearing a balaclava and wielding a machete.

The last sentence would be correct if the man was married to his niece. More likely it’s another example of lazy speech. His wife and his niece intervened is more likely what the speaker meant.  Again, we know what they meant, but why not say that? It’s entirely possible that some people listening would presume that the man was married to his niece.

 Every day I see examples in the media of poor grammar and misuse of words and I urge you again to please encourage your children to read—whether they’re reading the classics or Harry Potter or the Twilight series, get them reading!

The above rant is an excerpt from my free book at Smashwords: What Did You Say?

Please see Amazon for details on my other books.

http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08

this one book2 karinya ebook

 


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Who’s been sleeping in whose bed?

I recently wrote a blog on the misuse of the apostrophe with possessive pronouns; I’ve just realised I missed ‘whose’, which is another word that causes problems for some. The rule is the same–if you’re using an apostrophe you need to understand what it’s for. If the word you’re using is ‘who’s’ the meaning is ‘who is’ or ‘who has’: “Who’s going to take the rubbish out?” (Who is going to take the rubbish out?)

If you want to indicate possession the correct term is ‘whose’: “Whose rubbish is it?” (Who does the rubbish belong to?) When we know the owner of the rubbish we do use an apostrophe: “It’s Jimmy’s rubbish. He can take it out.” When we know whose it is but not his name, we might point to the owner and say: “It’s his rubbish.” No apostrophe is needed in his, whose, or its when used as a possessive pronoun. An apostrophe always indicates something missing and, for those of you who didn’t read my previous blog on apostrophes, the practice dates back to an old form of English when possession was written in a more complicated way. To indicate possession a writer would have to say “Jim, his rubbish,” and we now use an apostrophe to replace that pronoun ‘his’. (Jim’s rubbish)

A lecturer told me that when I was at uni and whether it’s actually true or not it’s quite a useful way of remembering which is the correct form of ‘its, whose, and their.’ For more easy to understand help on grammar I have a free ebook on Smashwords.

It’s Good Friday here today and autumn at last! I think we’re all happy to see the end of summer. Autumn is lovely here in central Victoria but with such a late start it won’t be long before we’re complaining about the cold! Time to curl up with a good book in front of the heater. My sci-fi for young adults, Sanctuary, is FREE today only at Amazon and I have others coming up free next month, Beast of War, Connections, and The Inheritance so keep checking in. For all info on my books on Amazon check out my Author Page.

 

 


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Its and the Decorative Apostrophe

‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun, just as ‘his’ and ‘hers’ are.  If you add an apostrophe to its it is no longer a possessive pronoun. It’s means it is or it has.  Always. Adding an apostrophe to its is no different to adding an apostrophe to any other pronoun. Apostrophes are always there for a practical reason, not to decorate the page. Many people laugh at the ‘grocer’s apostrophe’, which is frequently seen on signs at the front of all types of stores but sometimes even on major signs by professional sign writers. I’m talking about the use of apostrophes seemingly thrown in at random, usually before an ‘s’ at the end of a word. Most readers and writers know better than that but there are very many who don’t get their ‘its’ right!

While I’m ranting about apostrophes and pronouns I’d better give ‘their’ a mention. Their is a possessive pronoun too and is probably next in line for causing the maximum error rate. They’re means they are. Always. Not a possessive pronoun. There means not here, but over there, and I’m including the reference to ‘here’ because the similarity makes it an easy one to remember. If you add ‘t’ to ‘here’ it becomes ‘there’, right? Easy.

I’m not sure about the veracity of this, but if a university lecturer is a good enough source–an apostrophe always takes the place of something else; it indicates something is missing. Once upon a time people spoke and wrote English quite differently and they would say, or write, ‘the dog, his bone’, rather than ‘the dog’s bone,’ as we do now. The apostrophe was introduced in place of ‘his’ in this example. If we move the apostrophe across, as in ‘the dogs’ bone’, we know there’s more than one dog sharing the bone. Of course when using a pronoun there’s no need for the apostrophe because it makes no sense to say ‘It, its bone’ or ‘Him, his bone.’

That’s the end of my rant for the day–please feel free to pass this on. It’s a small thing, an apostrophe, but whether you’re a signwriter, a book writer or just have a facebook account, please don’t use the poor little misunderstood mark to decorate your page.

Please visit my Amazon author page for details on all my books.

 

 

 


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In the Top 100

All three books in my Red Dust Series are in Amazon’s Top 100! For their category, that is, but I’m pretty happy with that. The category is ‘Historical Australian & Oceanian Fiction’ and I’m in good company there. Stephanie Laurens has several on the same page as my ‘Road to Karinya‘, while ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms‘ share a page with Peter Carey and Catherine Gaskin, among others. Red Wine is the last book in the series and it’s been selling well from the start but it was good to see the first review on Amazon last week:

      By Amazon Customer on February 16, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

THIS IS A MUST READ STORY. IT HAS SUSPENSE, DRAMA, ROMANCE AND SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS AND LOTS OF CARING FOR OTHERS FEELINGS. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED EVERY PAGE
Amazon reviews are much appreciated by writers, at least good ones are! We take particular risks when we put books up free for promotions. The first time I did that was years ago; 6000 people grabbed a copy of ‘Inheritance’, and around 20 or 30 reviewed it.
Most were positive but not all–not everyone likes an unexpected ending! It was interesting that negative reviews often came from readers whose grasp of spelling and punctuation were sadly lacking and I tend not to take them too seriously.
        I went to a play last week, an independent production in Melbourne, in a small venue. The actors were fantastic and the play was hilarious and I was surprised to read a review online criticising the director. Even had I read it before I went I’d have taken no notice though because the spelling and punctuation were absolutely awful! When I see that I disregard the source as being some loner who thinks he knows something about theatre but actually doesn’t.
       Am I what didwrong to assume anyone who actually reads ought to be able to spell? And there’s Spellcheck. Typos I understand; we all do that, but if you’re not a good speller, do use your computer’s help. I have a small ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’, permanently free at Smashwords,which might be of use as well, especially for grammar and punctuation.
      Summer’s nearly over here and autumn will be very welcome. We have a very hot day forecast for tomorrow but it’s quite cool today and I’m hoping they’re wrong. Anyway one stinking hot day isn’t so bad. It’s when it goes on several days in a row and stays hot throughout the night it’s hard to take. Bring on winter!