The I Won the Ellipses War

There are no hard fast rules for punctuation in the written American English language. If there were we would not need the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press Stylebook, the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, or the Government Printing Office Style Manual.

It’s the same language, but these manuals vary widely in how to punctuate the same sentence.

I recently had an editor object to the way I use ellipses. I have a space between the three periods and the word before the ellipses. The editor insisted that there wasn’t a space between the word before an ellipses and the periods. The editor is in agreement with the Chicago Manual of Style. I object on the grounds of logic and visual presentation. I use the Associated Press Stylebook form of leaving a space between the start and end of the three periods.

The Chicago Manual of Style also demands that the three periods of an ellipses have a space between each period. The editor did not object to my having the periods close spaced.

I put a space before and after the ellipse because the ellipses stand for a missing word or words. So I threat the ellipses as a word and have a space between the start of the ellipses and the word before it.

For a period (or full stop for my British readers or those putting on airs) it’s a different matter. I do not put the period ending a sentence right after the three periods of an ellipses. That might get it confused with a four period ellipses. Many people say that there is no such thing as a four period ellipses. The MLA Style Manual … says that if a sentence or several sentences are omitted then use an ellipses with four periods to show that more than a couple of words are missing. To me that makes sense.

Because of the MLA style Manual, I put a space after the last period of an ellipses and the period that ends the sentence (where the last words have been omitted). This avoids a four period ellipses in a place where only a couple of words were omitted.

I am not making up my own rules, but I am picking and choosing rules that have logic to them. I have several grammar books above my desk that pick and choose rules that the author liked or was taught. Many of these authors make up or use obscure rules and criticize everyone that doesn’t use those rules.

Stay strong, write on and be consistent with your grammar usage no matter what rules you use.

Professor Hyram Voltage


Can You be too Busy? Yes, But Bring It On.

I missed a blog update Monday morning. I’ve been busy. Sunday, the day I would have written the blog was packed. The Saturday before I helped a very sick friend. It was hot and muggy. Several of us spent all day packing and moving stuff. Hot sweaty work.We got stuff done. I also got tired.

I had planned to write all day Saturday to have part of book two ready for the writers group. I also had purchased a new mother board for the old tower computer on Friday. I planned to install the mother board in the old tower computer case during breaks in writing. I need a computer that I can leave on 24 hours a day. Microsoft updates has green screened the old tower twice and Microsoft doesn’t see anything wrong with that. Also Microsoft will not let me transfer the windows 10 license when I install the new mother board. That’s not fair, they killed the old computer. It works fine in Linux and the Windows 10 update killed the computer because of something in their programming and I have to spend hundreds of dollars to fix it, not Microsoft who caused the problem.

Oh well. I planned to stay up late (till around midnight) Saturday night to edit the part of book two I was going to submit to the writers group. I fell asleep at the key board around 10:30. I have been working hard all day for weeks. To make up for going to bed at a reasonable time I got up early the next morning.

Sunday I drag my self to the keyboard and work on the edits for the 11:00 AM writers meeting. I feel bad about having to tell another friend I couldn’t come over and help them I had the meeting to go to and another friend to help Sunday. It turned out alright the friend did other things and it worked out.

I get two chapters edited and typed up just before I have to leave for the meeting. The meeting was good. We had a new member show up. I got a compliment on how I did the prologue. Complements make my day. Get out of the meeting at 1:30 and head over to the other friends place. Work for a couple of hours. Drag myself home. I try to do some cleaning, the place is a mess. Try to get ready for the tower work several of us are going to do Monday. Round up tools and material and load them into the car. Later I find out that another friend went and moved some stuff for me while I was tied up in the meeting and helping a friend.

Monday it’s take antennas off a tower. We had someone with experience climb the tower and do the high end work. It’s hot, it’s humid. I get a sun burn. We get the antennas down without anyone getting hurt. One antenna turned out to weight a lot more than we thought. Load the antennas up and haul them to their new owners. Its after 1:00 PM so I go get a late lunch.

Back home I run around in circles trying to do whatever I can. I make a run to Fry’s Electronics to get more parts for the computer I’m upgrading before Fry’s closes. At 8:00 PM I host the net, a radio broadcast for a club.

Am I busy? You bet I am. Bring it on.

Stay strong, write on and savor your free time.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Terror of Having Your Work Read

Terror? I thought the whole idea was to get your book read.

Well, last weekend, August 31 through Sep 4, I attended the CoKoCon in Phoenix, AZ. It’s a great little con and I like little cons. Phoenix was also hot, but some of the rooms were so cold that only the editor from Canada was comfortable.

One of the talks given at the Con was by four editors that offered a chance to get a couple of pages of my story read. I’m game.

I figured that there would not be many people attending the talk. Instead there was a hand full of authors there. Six of us handed pages in to be read. I also thought that an editor would take my pages and read them then hand the pages off to the next editor.

The editors had done a panel like this in the past and had one editor read the pages out loud and then all four would comment on what was read.

Of course the authors having their pages read identified themselves as their pages were read. My pages were the last ones to get read, so there was no hiding for me.

That’s the terrorizing part. The pages I handed in were gritty. Having them read out loud to a group of people, I was terrified that someone would get offended. All the editors and most of the people in the room were female. Nothing wrong with that except my story starts off with a woman getting beaten with a riding crop. Don’t worry the guy doing the beating get his head blown off on page five. But then they only got to page four.

As a writer I failed. I failed to communicate clearly. Three of the editors were not clear if the woman getting beaten was enjoying it or being paid to get beaten. She wasn’t either of those things, she was going to be beaten to death until another character interrupts and saves her. Now I’m worried that I don’t understand the editors or my target audience.

Also, on page one, in line two I had the wrong word in the sentence. It was spelled right but it was not the word it should have been. I wanted to hide under the chair when the editor reading the story hit that word. She was good and figured out the right word and kept on reading instead of laughing. Let’s hear it for professionals. A professional like an editor that can read a story out loud, make corrections as she reads, and not miss a beat.

I got dinged for jumping POV’s (Point Of Views). I can’t figure out any other way to tell the story.

After the talk I got some one on one time with the editor that read the story outside the ice box like conference room. When I explained that the heroine of the story was not in chapter one she said that chapter one should be a prologue. Then later she said that she doesn’t read prologues and jumps to the first chapter.

Dog gone it all. My writing group complained that I needed that chapter one to explain the murder that occurred before the heroine was sent to the crime scene. I can’t make anyone happy. The editor suggested I put chapter one in a flashback. My writing group would throw a fit if I did that.

What am I going to do?

Rewrite. And rewrite again. I’ve been rewriting this book for months and I can’t get the first four pages past an editor or even one out of four editors.

The good news is two of the editors said they would continue to read the story based on what they had heard. That is better than a couple of the poor authors that got told by one editor or a couple of them that they would stop after the first couple of pages.

So it’s rewrite a bunch more times, and I got to find better Beta Readers.

Stay strong, write on, and rewrite over and over again.
Professor Hyram Voltage

If You Think Writing is Hard – You’re not Editing Enough

I had planned to contact an editor this week. It took me a day to find the link to the editor I had found earlier and wanted to try. Note to self; I got to get more organized.

The next day I had to get ready for a writers/critique group meeting. So most of the day was spent doing a quick edit of the manuscript. I had the washing machine running the whole time along with anything else I could multitask at the same time. Unfortunately the bed will not make itself or the the dishes wash themselves.

In the first paragraph I started finding simple things that were wrong, things I should have found a dozen edits ago. Now, I have not worked on the manuscript while I was on vacation for a week and a half. But it was crazy at the things I was finding. In two days I went through the whole manuscript. All 170 double spaced pages. It’s 10 point type too, so it’s 64000 words. It’s on the short side but it’s a novel.

The morning before the writers meeting I printed the manuscript out. A quick read and I started to trip over error after error. As much as I have worked on the computer, when it’s on paper it looks different and I find things. So I started to read the paper version out loud. I’m already hoarse from reading it out loud off the computer screen.

I only get two and a half chapters marked up before the meeting.

So I hand the manuscript over. I have great expectations. I put a lot of work into the last three edits. It reads (out loud) well. The red ink flows. She hasn’t seen the manuscript in two weeks and it’s getting a fresh set of eyes treatment. This is too long. This isn’t the right words. You know the drill. The manuscript couldn’t be any better, but it could.

There was on bright spot out of this mess. I got a comment that my hand written changes were very good. Now I got to crank them in and continue editing and reading out loud from the print out the other 14 chapters.

Later this week I will contact some editors. At least I will have a better manuscript to send them for a sample edit and when I chose an editor I will have a much better manuscript to send her.

Remember: don’t waste your talent, edit.

Remember: Set your readers world on fire. Your pen is the match, your words the gasoline.

Stay strong, write on, and print it out and edit some more.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Road trip writer – Dream On

I took a vacation to attend a radio conference in Wichita, Kansas. I went with my friend from high school, we’ve been doing this for decades.

I drove from the coast of California to Kansas city, MO, then to Wichita, KS. Over 4100 miles and used close to 100 gallons of gas. With 60,000 miles on the car, it doesn’t get the 50 miles a gallon it use to. Now it’s more like 43 miles to a gallon.

12 days on the road. Only 4 of them did not involve serious driving. By serious I mean 8 to 12 hours of driving.

I had planned to have my friend drive some of the trip. He wasn’t feeling well most of the time so I ended up driving the majority of the time.

I had planned to write while he drove. The first time he drove I dug out the lap top. I had remembered to bring the car charger so I was all set. It didn’t work out. Bouncing around in the car with the laptop makes it hard to type. I don’t need an Internet connection to write, but the laptop screen is hard to see in the sunlight. Could have used a big card board box to put over the computer to make it better to see the screen.

I tried to write in the hotel room. After eight to ten hours of driving, plus stops along the way, I just wanted to get some sleep. I also found that I had left the thumb drive, with all the current files on it that I needed, back in California. It’s hard to think after being on the road ten to twelve hours. It’s near impossible if you have been driving those ten to twelve hours. I was able to plow through a couple of hundred emails, a night, in the hotel room, but not much else.

I did get some writing related things done. I made notes in the paper log I keep. Again I couldn’t write well while my friend drove. My handwriting is bad enough, but bouncing around in the car it gets illegible. In the hotel room I would jot down a few key notes. I had to stop at a dollar store to get a new Pilot Gel pen. The one I was using ran out of ink. Next time I’m packing a spare. I also picked up a spare five by seven note book, the one I have been using is running out of blank pages. Note, pack a spare note book next time.

Taking notes on the smart phone is too slow. The soft keypad, on the screen, is too small for my fingers. And it looks like I’m texting all the time. The screen on the cell phone is easier to see in the sun light than the laptop but not much better. It also gives me neck pains if I use it too long.

A vacation is for fun, so the blog posts did not get done. A vacation is for relaxing. Driving for ten to twelve hours is not relaxing. I had to have my friend read the questions from cross word puzzles to me to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel. A lot of the central United States looks the same. We would do two or three cross word puzzles a day. It’s getting harder and harder to find a newspaper, even at truck stops. There are almost no paper back books at truck stops. If someone comes up with an audio version of a cross word puzzle, they could make a fortune.

Stay strong, write on, and go take a vacation.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Editing is not fun

I just read a blog where the author of the blog said that editing is fun for her and should be fun for you. Someone should lock this person up, for their own good and ours.

Writing can be fun. You enter a world where things happen, it’s not boring and if it is you can
fix it. In your story the hero can win, impossible odds can be over come, there is hope.

Editing is murder. Premeditate murder. You go out looking for your darling and you kill them. And you’re told this is good. Readers want you to do this. It’s like your the victorious gladiator standing over your fallen opponent and everyone giving you the thumbs down, like it’s a good thing. Your opponent is your friend, your relative, your baby.

Editing is hard work. I have found myself cleaning the bathroom to get out of editing. I hate cleaning the bathroom, and it’s been really clean the last couple of months.

I feel really good after I finish an edit. For about a day until someone, or I, finds a bunch of errors that slipped through the edit and all the previous edits. Then I go back and do another full edit.

Some editing is mechanical. I have list of works that I misuse. Another list of words that remove so I don’t sound any dumber than I am. “Literally” I’m looking for you. I have another list of words that I spell correctly, but the dyslexia flips the letters around and I cannot see that they are the wrong word. It’s a big list and “form” in place of “from” happens the most often.

I use Autocrit a lot. And it doesn’t like the previous sentence.

I use my critique group a lot. They have read my book several times and they still like it. I got something here, a real book. Each time they review a chapter again they make less corrections even for parts that I have heavily rewritten.

I worry about word count and that is a big reason I hate cutting out material. I have a self imposed limit that the book has to be a minimum of 50,000 words. I struggle to make that limit. For years I struggled to write short stories and screen plays with serious page or word count limits. Now I can’t write long stories.

When I edit, I will delete large passages from my book. Those passages sing to me. They’re my darlings. Those passages are some of the best writing I’ve ever done, and I’m not a very good writer. But like the Beta Readers and critique group says, it don’t work, it don’t belong. So I get out the steam powered Gatling gun eraser and they’re gone. Well, at least for this book. My darling always leave like General MacArthur leaving the Philippines, saying, I shall return.

So editing is something I do, but I don’t like it, and I’m not turning my back on anyone who says they like self editing.

Stay strong, write on, and get out your red ink loaded Gatling gun and edit.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Don’t be a Lonely Writer


Writing can be lonely. It’s just you and your thoughts. Those thoughts can be a world or a universe full of people, but they are all in your head.

The other day I was barreling down the highway on the  way to a meeting of my critique group. John Tesh was on the radio and he sited a study that promoted reading books. He said the study indicated that reading a book took you into the book world and it reduced loneliness in the test subjects.

So if you’re feeling lonely read a book. If nothing else it will give you something to talk about. Post a book review on good reads and see if you can find someone that felt the same way about the book as you did. Maybe you’ll find someone that feels the opposite way about the book. You might start an argument or, at the worst, you might find a new friend.

As an author you should have heard many times that you need to read or read more. Reading is a good source of ideas. Adds style to your writing. Exposes you to new things and takes you out of your comfort zone.

Stay strong, write on, and read a book.

The Roomba and the Writer

What does a Roomba and a writer have in common? Something that is way out of a writers comfort zone, advertising.

In a ZDNet article dated June 15, 2018 Colin Barker mentioned that in 2003 the iRobot company built 250,000 robots. After black Friday 2003 they still had 210,000 robot in the warehouse.
Sales did not grow like they did on the previous year. Management was in a panic.

Why didn’t they sell more robots? They didn’t advertise, and here is the key point that the author made, and advertise at specific events. Word of mouth was good at first but it wasn’t enough.

The same goes for your book. You have to advertise, and you have to advertise where your readers are looking. Think of it as advertising on a billboard and the billboard is along side a desert highway that no one travels. If no one sees the billboard then it doesn’t matter what genre you write in, no one will see your add.

There are a lot of books out there. More and more books are published every day. If a reader of your genre wants to read a book like yours, where will he find out about your book? There are many people that will help you market your book. Show you where to advertise your book. But they will only help, you will still have to do the work.

You’re going to have to do something that big companies don’t always get right and that is effective advertising.

Good luck, and let me know what works.

Stay strong, write on and advertise.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Are You Ready

This weekend I participated, with a group of fellow amateur radio operators, in an event called Field Day. Field Day is where you take your emergency equipment out and contact other amateur operators using that equipment. To increase emergency preparedness points are given to stations that use non-commercial power to energize their equipment, such as solar cells, batteries, portable generators. Just like you would use in a major disaster.

This is the first time in years that I have participated and there were lessons learned.

Lesson one is having good pre-planning. We had a plan for where each station would set up on our remote (well sort of remote) location. Except the plan was on the web and we had no internet connection at the remote location. Next time we will have a paper copy of the plan in hand. Why? One of the disaster we were simulating could be an outage or break down of the internet. Our phones are now run by and on the internet. Trucks are routed by the internet. Many police and other agencies have radios that synchronize with the internet. If the net goes down it will be a big disaster.

Lesson two, bring knife, fork, and spoon. We ended up without eating utensils. It’s a long story, but the person in years past that did the cooking could not make it this year. So next year we will have more than one person bring eating utensils. We also did not have salt and pepper. Oh, it ws rough out there. We sent one person out for pizza and they couldn’t find the pizza place. Next time we will have maps to the nearest pizza place.

We did have enough paper towels, but only because one person brought plenty. Need to share the load so if he doesn’t make it next year then someone else will have some.

We had plenty of antennas and radios. We did not have enough coax (a type of wire that connects radios to antennas) with the right connectors on the ends. Lesson learned, make up some jumper cables of various lengths. Check to make sure I have the right connectors on the coax to connect the antennas to my radios.

We had equipment failures and no circuit diagrams to help fix the equipment. Next time make sure everyone brings manuals for their radios, power supplies, and equipment. Have everyone read and then study their manuals. One group was off the air for hours because a switch had been bumped and the radio was in the wrong mode.

We barely had enough rope to guy the mast that hold up the antennas. Next time bring even more rope. We did mark the ropes and masts so next time there will not be as much confusion when putting up the antennas and their masts. I brought what  I thought was enough rope, but I was wrong.

The list goes on.

What does this have to do with writing Steampunk?

Do you have enough coffee or tea to keep you going if there is a big storm?

Do you have enough lighting so you can write well. What if the power goes out because a tree branch drops across a power line? Do you have spare batteries? Do you have a way of charging up your lap top if the power goes out.

Your writing is your life. Make sure you can write if things go wrong.

Do you have enough blankets if the power goes out and it’s cold outside?

Do you have enough food to last three or four days if you get stranded in your house or living space?

Do you have enough of the simple things like toilet paper if things go bad?

Do you have enough printer paper and toner cartridges? The office supply store could be closed by a disaster and Amazon may not be able to deliver even with drones.

It’s your writing, your life, your livelihood, and your passion; be prepared.

Stay strong, write on, be prepared.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Looking for ideas in all the right places

I recently read an article titled Looking For Ideas In All the Wrong Places. I was disappointed. This article did give you places to look, but only three or four tired examples.

The article mentioned a writer using Jane Austin’s Emma for the foundation of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It also mentioned George Luicas using samurai movies for inspiration in making Star Wars.

I suggest you try using advice even older than that. Look and read the classics. I know you will be appalled. Everyone will call you out for using the tired old classic like Greek or Roman myths.

People call out George Luicas for using samurai movies, but he still makes a lot of money from those movies. The Magnificent Seven film used samurai stories long before Mr. Luicas did. Besides kids are and millennials were schooled to pass a standardize test. They don’t know and haven’t been exposed to the classics. It will be all new to them.

Are you tired of the Greek and Roman classics? Then look to the Russian folklore, or the Slavic folklore. Don’t forget the French have a folklore that is not classic Disney fairytales. The Mideast also has treasure trove of tales that are not in the 1001 and one nights set of stories.

It’s going to take some work to find these stories and set them in space or the 1800s steamunk world. But other authors are not going to work that hard. They want quick easy ideas, handed to them fully formed and populated with characters.

Read up on myths and legends from other cultures. The Hobbit pulled pieces from dozens of Germanic mythology tales. Escaping from the bad guys in a wooden barrel and using it to float down a river was taken right out of an old German legend. (Don’t try the barrel trick, it’s harder than it looks and you better know how to swim). Go to the source, the original tales, don’t copy the Hobbit. You’ll always run into the reader that is a teacher of Germanic culture, but all your other readers will find your stories new and different, because they have not been exposed to the source stories. Schools only have time to teach standardized tests.

Dig into the tales of your ancestors. The tales of Appalachia, Mexico, or the native Americans of Canada. Those stories are different, sometimes they don’t make sense and you have to research the culture of the story teller, but your reader will never have been exposed to them, except for that grumpy old teacher.

Stay strong, write on, retell the old tales with computers and lasers.

Professor Hyram Voltage