Wednesday, 24 August 2016

From Here to Everyday - Errors of Concatenation

One of the errors I see most often in the last few years is that of randomly concatenating words which should be kept separate.

The flagship of this flotilla of doom is the egregious 'everyday', which rears its ugly head in just about every page of Facebook and every el cheapo, do-it-yourself advertisement. From this piece of nastiness, the disease has spread, giving us such gems as 'alot' and 'backseat'.

Now, 'everyday' and 'backseat' are, of course, perfectly acceptable words ('alot' is not a word at all); the error lies in their inappropriate use in contexts where what was called for was 'every day' and 'back seat'.

Why is it so? I hear you ask. It is so, Grasshopper, because concatenating a pair of words into a single word changes them into a different part of speech.

Every Day

Consider the phrase 'every day'. This modifies a verb, so it is an adverbial phrase, and functions in a sentence just as an adverb would do

For example: Rover was taken for a walk every day. Rover was taken for a walk frequently.

Now, when we concatenate the words, we have 'everyday'. This used to be a very common word, but has fallen rather into disuse in recent years. It is an adjective, and means 'ordinary'. You can see the relationship between the two expressions, stemming from the fact that ordinary things tend to be things that happen every day, but they are quite different.

EG: On weekdays Rover wore his everyday collar, but on Sundays he was put into his diamond one.  On weekdays Rover wore his ordinary collar, but on Sundays he was put into his diamond one.

By substituting the alternative expressions in the example sentences, we can see how inappropriate it is to substitute these two expressions for one another.

Rover was taken for a walk ordinary. On weekdays Rover wore his frequently collar.

See how stupid it looks, and how devoid of meaning?

Back Seat

Now, let's take a look at 'back seat' and 'backseat'. As discussed above, these are two different parts of speech, although not the same parts as with 'every day' and 'everyday'. 

'Back seat' is a noun phrase, consisting of a noun ('seat') and an adjective ('back'). 'Backseat' is an adjective. Let's put them into sentences.

1a: When Rover was taken to the vet, he rode on the back seat
1b: When Rover was taken to the vet, he rode in the back of the car.
2a: Rover's owner was a backseat driver, constantly giving advice to the chauffeur.
2b: Rover's owner was an interfering person, constantly giving advice to the chauffeur.

Now, let's swap them over.

1c: When Rover was taken to the vet, he rode on the interfering.
2c: Rover's owner was an in the back of the car driver, constantly giving advice to the chauffeur.

2c can sort of work, with the addition of quotes around the bolded part, because of the close relationship between the noun phrase and the adjective, but it's awfully clunky, isn't it? You can tell it's not the best way to put it. And of course, without the quotes, it loses its sense. 1c is quite impossible.

There are almost as many errors of this kind being made today as there are illiterates on the internet, but the core problem is always the same, and stems from the fact that you cannot substitute one part of speech for another.

Monday, 22 August 2016


It is with great pleasure that I announce the upcoming release of my new book, King's Ransom.

Have you ever wondered what really went on when Richard I was in prison? Where did the ransom money REALLY come from, after he'd already bankrupted England for his silly crusade? And who was Robin Hood, I mean who was he really? And why was Maid Marianne in the forest? All these questions and more are answered in this hilarious book.

King's Ransom is now available in paperback, and will release in ebooks on 1 September.

Get the paperback at AMAZON or CREATESPACE, or preorder the ebook at AMAZON or SMASHWORDS.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Misuse of 'Then' and 'Before'

One of the things I often see done poorly in writing is the overuse of time and sequence words, in particular 'before' and 'then'. 

One of the things a writer needs to bear in mind is that, as with software, there are defaults in writing, and just as when interacting with software it is never necessary to specify default values, so it is when we write. 


If not the most common, one of the most common defaults is that of sequence. In a long sentence which describes several actions, the default is that the reader will understand the actions to have taken place in the order in which they are mentioned.

E.G. - Rover pounced on the rat, pinning it to the ground, and bit off its head.

See how, when you read this sentence, you automatically envisage the pouncing, pinning and biting in that order? Now, consider how it might have been written (and often is, sadly).

Rover pounced on the rat, pinning it to the ground, then bit off its head.

Now, I don't know about you, but to me that looks clunky. And you've just broken one of the most fundamental rules of fiction - show, not tell. The sentence already shows the reader the actions that are happening, and the order in which they are taking place - but with the addition of 'then', you have also told the reader this. That is like 

"Hello, Mother." I said hello to my mother.

And that's just plain wrong. Right?

So. Don't use 'then' unless it is going to add something to your sentence. 

Now, there may seem to be exceptions to this, because occasionally it may be used for emphasis. Consider the following:

1. She picked it up, toying with the idea of reading it, then shoved it back in the drawer.

This sentence, if you remove 'then', will read:

2. She picked it up, toying with the idea of reading it, and shoved it back in the drawer.

Do you see the difference? In the first example, there's a sort of pause at the 'then' - it reinforces the idea of a moment of decision. In the second example, that is lost, and we have a mere string of actions. The first sentence is better, and that is because the 'then' in this case did add something to the sentence - it added emphasis to the break between the picking up and thinking about reading and the subsequent decision to put it back instead. 

This, then, is not an exception to the rule, because in this case the word did have its contribution to make.


As well as 'then', 'before' often marks a failure to recognise built-in defaults. 

EG: Rover pounced on the rat and pinned it to the ground before biting off its head.

This is just nasty. We know it's before, because it's before in the sentence. To show things happening in another order, you'd have to do something else - hopefully the common-sense option of just putting them in the other order in the sentence. And yet I see this a lot in the work of novice writers. Don't do it. Just don't.

An even more egregious misuse of 'before' occurs when, for some demented reason, the writer depicts actions out of their sequence. 

EG: Before biting off the rat's head, Rover pounced on it and pinned it to the ground.

There may be some instances where it is genuinely useful to show actions outside their time sequence. This, however, is not one of them, and neither are most of the instances where I see this sentence construction. Aside from being rather silly, this also has a great drawback, especially in longer, more complex sentences. With this construction, the reader must hold the first bit in his mind while he reads the rest of the sentence, and then shuffle everything into place. Of course this will happen below the conscious level (unless he is a very poor reader), but it still must happen, and the result is that you are asking your reader to do extra work, adding to any fatigue he may be experiencing. If you keep this up throughout your work, these tiny increments of reader fatigue will start to accumulate, and if you do it enough, some readers may put down the book. That is never what you want. The more difficult it is for the reader to stop reading, the more positively he is going to view your work. Have you ever seen a review where anyone said, "I stayed up all night to finish this. It is the worst book I've ever read." Well, have you? No, you have not, and you never will. The single most important thing in making a reader love your work is to keep him turning the pages.


As with so many fields of endeavour, the golden rule is 'Keep It Simple'. Don't be contorting your sentences into uncomfortable shapes. Keep it straightforward. Many great writers have done so before you. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Real Truth About Muslims

What Muslims Eat

Some Muslim food. Looks yummy, doesn't it!
Muslims, like other humans, eat FOOD. They have some dietary rules to which they must adhere. Pretty much as Jews do, or Catholics during Lent. Or Buddhists, Hindus and Vegans. You can inform yourself about Muslim dietary laws, which are called Halal, HERE.

Where Muslims Live

Muslims, like other humans, generally live in houses or flats. If they are inmates in a concentration camp, they may live in mould-infested tents or nasty huts.

You can find a guide to the etiquette to be observed when visiting the home of a Muslim person HERE. As you will see, basic good manners will see you right.

Can you tell which of these houses is occupied by a Muslim family? No, nor can I.

What Muslims Wear

Some Muslims wear clothing from their ethnic background. Others wear whatever is being worn in their country. Muslim women often wear a scarf called a hijab, which covers the hair. Other Muslim women cover their whole bodies when they are out in public. This is for reasons of modesty. In general, both Muslim men and women prefer to dress modestly. 

I think they look nice, don't you?
What Muslims do in their Spare Time

In their leisure hours, Muslims read books, watch television, visit parks and play games. They also practise their religion, both in the Mosque and in their daily lives. If more people practised their religions in their daily lives, the world would be a better place.

Family dinners are pretty much the same in every culture
Your Expectations

If you clicked on this article expecting something very, very different from what you have seen, you may be a bigot. Bigotry can infect anyone at any time, but don't worry - it's curable! As open windows get rid of bad smells, so an open mind can allow silly ideas to blow away. 

Friday, 19 August 2016

Why grammar, spelling and punctuation matter, even in casual Facebook threads.

I often see people complaining that the 'grammar nazis' (that's me and my friends, by the way) are too picky, and that one should be able to write as much like an illiterate moron as one likes, as long as it is not for publication as one's work.

Now on the face of it, they do have a point. You do not expect crystal finger bowls at MacDonalds (face it, you don't even expect real food), and of course one needn't take the degree of care in a casual conversation that just happens to be in written form as one does in one's Great Australian Novel.

However. Yes, you knew there would be a 'however', didn't you. Because it's me. Or rather, it is I. Let's continue the food analogy for a little while. It's quite a good analogy, actually, because eating food is something we all must do every day, and yet there is a wide variety of social contexts in which we do it, all of which have varying levels of expectation about the correctness and formality of our behaviour.

Now, about table manners. We don't expect the same level of formality at a family picnic that we would expect to see at, say, an embassy ball. Nevertheless, there are certain basic standards that most people apply to a family meal in the home. We all know what those are. 

Of course, if you were raised by wolves and don't know any better, your friends are going to cut you some slack here, although you probably won't be asked back to Nobu any time soon. But you will no doubt be able to enjoy many happy evenings at Pizza Hut and Swagman.

If you do know better, however, and behave like a pig deliberately, you are not going to win yourself any friends. Such behaviour is deliberate ugliness, of the kind which is often seen among groups of young men who haven't yet got over the novelty of having a penis. And if you inflict this kind of behaviour on your friends, you're not likely to be asked back even to Swagman.

Similarly, if you really are deficient in the English language, of course your friends are going to cut you slack. Many of my friends are not native English speakers. Sometimes their English is not quite perfect, as indeed one expects. And some of my friends are just not educated, and they cannot spell or use grammar to save their lives. Some warm and wonderful people are in this group, and I don't love them any less because their talents lie in other directions than literacy.

BUT - and this is the big But, the all-eating But. If you are going to call yourself a writer, there are NO EXCUSES. Because, you know, writing and stuff. A writer who misplaces apostrophes, who confuses 'to' with 'too', who uses 'lay' intransitively, must be assumed to fall either into the deliberate ugliness category, in which case his behaviour is hostile, or into the category of those who don't know any better, in which case he is hardly what can be considered a real writer. One case indicates hostility and the other dishonesty, neither of them endearing traits.

So yes, the quality of your written words DOES matter, even in casual Facebook posts. Sure, you need to be able to relax and be yourself. But consider this: you are just as much yourself in a clean shirt as in a filth-smeared rag.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Book review - Lament of the Fallen, by Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin first came to my notice with Book 1 in this series, Blade of the Destroyer. I liked that book a lot, but in this, the second novel in the series, I see Peloquin really developing as a writer. The narrative is smooth and powerful, the action scenes exciting, but the Hunter... ah yes. The Hunter is a lovely piece of character development and Peloquin has handled him really well. I liked the first book, but with this one, I'm committed to follow the series as each new book emerges, and in fact I laid the completed book aside with disappointment that it was over.  

Lament of the Fallen is available from AMAZON both in paperback and for Kindle.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Introducing Mark Baynard

Lots of people get into trouble, all the time. There is a constant flow of people into the prison system. Many of those people are juveniles, and wind up as cogs in the criminal industry through poor choices or a lack of awareness of choices. We're all down with this, aren't we? In my own country, the proportion of Aboriginal people in the prison system is scandalous, and I have no doubt that the American system is the same.

However, of those people, some brave and resourceful souls manage to break the cycle, to reinvent themselves and go on to a better life. My respect for these people is boundless. 

Out of their number, an even smaller number of people, having succeeded in getting themselves right, reach out and spend their lives helping others to do the same. One of these exceptional human beings is Mark Baynard, whom I am proud to call friend. Mark spent over ten years in prison himself and is now established as a happy and productive citizen, and through his books and his advocacy work he helps to make it possible for others in that situation to do the same. 


Due to poor decisions, Mark ended up serving more than a decade in prison on drug convictions.
After being released from prison, he was determined to be a better man. He moved to Alabama where he met his wife and they now share a nine year old together. He pursued a college education and earned an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University. He then earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Faulkner University. Mark is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree while taking classes between Troy University and Auburn University Montgomery. 

Mark is now on a mission to reach our youth before they reach prison. He has been working with troubled teenagers for the past nine years. He focuses on such qualities as responsibility, accountability, and determination. Mark encourages good work ethics and reminds teenagers to think before making a bad decision.

Mark's outreach work is supported by his writing, and he has published two books, with a third soon to be released. His published work is available from AMAZON, and his new book, 100 Years II: Truth Be Told, will release on 1 September 2016.

You can contact Mark here:

Twitter:               @mark100years
Instagram:          @mark100years
Google+:            @mark100years
Pinterest:            @mark100years