Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Grammar Gripe: I/Me Errors

Although I've tried not to let it show too much on this blog, my friends and critique partners will tell you that I'm a bit of a grammar stickler (that sounds nicer that nazi, right?).

grammar nazi

Unfortunately, there's one I can't keep to myself anymore. In the past few weeks alone, I have heard approximately 4 billion* I/me errors. These aren't just being made by non-writer family members and friends. I've heard lines like "he gave it to her and I" on TV shows, seen them written in magazines, and horror of all horrors, even found one in a published novel.

This error is rampant in popular music, too. Lady Gaga alone has not one, but two major hits that prominently feature I/me errors. In the song "You and I," there's the line "Yeah, something about, baby, you and I." The song "Bad Romance" has this lovely gem: "You and me could write a bad romance."

Lady Gaga bad grammar

Clearly knowing when to use "I" and when to use "me" can be confusing. Below is a quick rundown on the rules. I'm going to try to avoid using a lot of complicated grammar terms, because I have a feeling that's where most people get bogged down.

the rules

Rule #1: Use "I" for the subject of the sentence (the person who's performing the action). 
This is why we say I went to the store rather than Me went to the store. If there's more than one person performing the action, that's okay--you should still use "I" (as in Tony and I went to the store).

The only place where this rule gets tricky is when a word acting as a subject in the sentence isn't at the beginning. For example, if you were to say This is the one I like, it's correct to use "I" instead of "me" because "I" is doing something (in this case, liking).

Grammar matters to you and me

Rule #2: Use "me" when the action of the verb is being done to the person.
This could be a straightforward sentence like My sister hit me or a more complicated one like Lucy wrote an email that she forwarded to Jackie and me. (Notice that in the last example, "me" is the object of a preposition. In this case, you would always use "me" instead of "I.")

Again, the sentence order could be switched around so you end up with "me" at the beginning. In the sentence Between you and me, this isn't a good idea, the correct word to use is "me" because it's the object of the preposition "between."

Quick and Very Useful Tip: Most of the confusion comes from instances where the "I" or "me" is connected to another pronoun or name. Example: He told the good news to her and (I or me?)

When you encounter a sentence like this and aren't sure which one to use, try writing or saying the sentence without the first pronoun and the conjunction. So for this example, the choices would become He told the good news to I or He told the good news to me.

It's pretty easy to hear that "me" would be correct, isn't it?

If you're more confused than before, or if you're looking for a more in-depth discussion of I/me errors, try the following links:

Grammar Girl: Between You and Me
Oxford Dictionaries: "I" or "me"?
WikiHow: How to Choose Between "I" and "Me"

*This is a slight exaggeration. It was probably more like 3.8 billion.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Industry Month In Review: You, Me, and Millennials

Flowers blooming in springFor those of us on the East coast, we're just now starting to breath a sigh of relief as six foot snowbanks make way for bright sunny skies and warmer weather.  So what better time to take a look at that manuscript you're working on with fresh eyes and a new perspective.  

One way is to take a look at your manuscript and it's potential audience.  Are you speaking to the Millennial generation?  If so, then you should make sure you're addressing their needs.  While this article in Marketplace speaks more to overall marketing to Millennials, there are quotes that hold true for story tellers as well.

MaryLeigh Bliss, a trends editor and strategic consultant with Ypulse, a youth marketing and research firm, says for Millennials, story is key.  

"Making it more than just a product, you know it gives it a background that you can connect with emotionally rather than it just being a thing," she says.

Bliss says Millennials likes to share experiences. They don't like to show off. So her advice to marketers –stop trying to promote your brand, and instead, focus on emotion.

So how do you know that you're manuscript is speaking to your audience?  I'm sure the majority of you are participating in helpful critique groups (whether locally or virtually).  These groups can provide great insight, but in some cases they can also veer you off from the right path.  It's important to assess from time to time the critique group you're a part of . Is it providing you with the right level of support and information?  

Noelle August's BoomerangEmma Dryden, editor/publisher consultant extraordinaire provides a great recipe for a good critique group in her latest blog post.  I particularly like her final note:

Every once in a while, it's a good idea to add a one-time ingredient to this recipe, such as a professional editor or published author who will provide a new voice and perspective to the discussion. 

Now not everyone has access to professional editors or published authors but even a fresh addition or another writer from a different genre may help you see things you would not have seen otherwise. 

Finally, what's spring without the announcement of a highly anticipated new release?  So excited that Noelle August's (pen name for New York Times Best-Selling author Veronica Rossie and the truly talented independent editor Lorin Oberweger) first novel Boomerang is set to release July 15th.  It promises to be chalk full of romance, drama and titillating urban adventure. Can't wait to see what August has in store for us this summer!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

OF BREAKABLE THINGS: blog hop, interview & giveaway!

You guys, I'm sooo excited to share my interview with A. Lynden Rolland, the author of OF BREAKABLE THINGS (released April 8, 2014). As if that cover wasn't enough to make you want to read, the story sounds amazing.  Check out the interview below, and don't forget to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win your very own copy.

Book cover for OF BREAKABLE THINGS, a novel
How long did it take you to write OF BREAKABLE THINGS from start to finish?

Well … *clasps hands together* that’s the funny part. I never set out to publish Of Breakable Things. I just had some time and a story in my head, so I didn’t plot it out. I just wrote and wrote until the story was finished. The initial version was about 800 pages! My best friend asked to read it, and although I doubt she read all 800 pages, she liked the gist of it. We started googling how to become published, and whoa. If I knew then what I know now I would have taken up knitting or something. The first version took about a year to write. I spent the next year editing (and chopping it in half), and then I began submitting to agents. So, I guess the solid answer would be two years.

What was the inspiration for OF BREAKABLE THINGS?

I can’t pinpoint one thing, but I had this idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought about how much we love things. How much we hate things. How much knowledge we gain in a lifetime. I couldn’t imagine that when the body died, that all of the mental energy just … disappeared. So I started thinking that maybe those emotions and that intelligence could come alive into a projection of a person.

Then I needed people. I needed a girl who would die prematurely, to be physically breakable. And once I began researching Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (vascular EDS if we want to get specific), Alex came alive in my mind. And Chase just appeared there beside her one day, holding her hand. Chase’s brothers kind of elbowed their way into the story after that. They’re pushy.

If you had your pick, what movie star(s) would you pick to play the main character(s)?

I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to blast some music and surf the internet for pictures. I enjoyed the hours it took me to find the faces matching the ones in my head, especially the boys. All of them are older now, but their teen pictures are perfect.


Alex is shorter, and her hair is a bit darker, but everything else is perfect especially the big eyes.

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

There are four Lasalle brothers, and they all look similar, but Chase (the youngest) and Kaleb (the oldest) look like a young Rob Lowe:

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

I’ll throw in this one too. I know you won’t complain:

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

Jonas and Gabe, the middle brothers, are more serious. The picture below of James Dean reminds me of Jonas, who is rougher around the edges.

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

Gabe is the bookworm, so let’s use James Dean with some frames.

Of Breakable Things, by A. Lynden Rolland

Where's your favorite place to write?

I’m a regular at my local Barnes and Noble. It’s usually pretty quiet in the cafĂ©. Also, there’s a beautiful store downtown in Annapolis with old books, wine, and coffee. It’s great, but parking is a nightmare, and I stress about things like that. So, usually I write in my office at my house because I have notes pinned to the walls and the desk and the chair and the door. All over. It’s a mess and I love it.

The cover is beautiful.  How much input did you get to put into the design?  And tell the truth - how many times a day do you stare at it? ;-)

HAHA! Thank you! I was asked originally what I envisioned for the cover. Broken glass. Maybe part of a face. Or a reflection in the glass. I had the opportunity to see a few of the ideas, and I was completely enamored by what was then a black and white image (it would later become the cover). I’m thrilled it was picked because I didn’t want something ethereal. Alex’s life was hard. Her illness was hard. Her death was hard. Her afterlife is no walk in the park either. That face has a great story to tell, and I hope readers think so, too. I hope they pick it up!

Do you have any trunked manuscripts?  If so, how did you know it was time to move on?

A few, yes. I can usually tell after a few pages if the writing is going well or not. If I’m getting bored or restless writing it, a reader will feel the same way. Some ideas are so much fun, and I just can’t get into the characters. I never throw away anything though. One day it might work.

I see from your website bio that you have an agent.  How long did you query, and how did you know she was "the one?"

I racked up a lot of rejections. I keep them in a computer file marked with an inappropriate word. Queries are so, so agonizing to write and my pitch was really lacking. I worked on it for months. Then, I got a few bites. I received some great criticism. I wrote and rewrote and revised and reworked. I know it’s been said again and again, but it only takes one person (and maybe a little luck). My agent, Rachael Dugas, found the manuscript in a pile left by a former agent. She was the one because she understood my vision for who I wanted the characters to be, and what I wanted that afterworld to be.

Any words of wisdom you can share with writers still working their way through the query trenches?

Enroll in workshops. I took a query workshop taught online by Kristin Nelson, and after that, I signed with Rachael.

What did you learn from the publication process that surprised you?

So. Many. Writers.

It really is so competitive. That’s why it’s difficult to land an agent. That’s why it’s tough to find an editor who hasn’t heard a pitch similar to yours.

On the plus side, networking with other authors has been inspiring. Writers are an odd breed, and it’s wonderful to be around people who are similar to me.

Congrats on the launch of your book, and thanks for the time!

Thank you so much for having me! Your questions were fabulous. Readers can find me online here:

Goodreads |  Twitter |  Facebook  |  Website

About Of Breakable Things:
Book cover for OF BREAKABLE THINGS, a novel
A captivating debut about the fragility of life, love, and perspective.

Alex Ash was born broken. Living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is like living on death row, but she is willing to fight for her frail life as long as it includes the boy next door. Chase has always held the pieces of her together, but when he dies tragically, Alex’s unfavorable fate becomes a blessing in disguise.

Faced with a choice, she finds herself in a peculiar world where rooms can absorb emotions and secrets are buried six feet under. Among limitless minds, envious spirits, and soulless banshees, Alex hardly rests in peace.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Poetry Month!!!

As a way to celebrate National Poetry Month, I've been posting quick poetry lectures online for my students (flipping my classroom a bit), and I'm finding that the more I read poetry out loud, the more lyrical my prose writing becomes (still not as lyrical as I'd like, of course, but better). Anyway...I encourage you all to celebrate in your own way, but I highly recommend that it is out loud and often. You just might be surprised at the euphonious results that trickle down into your own writing.

Here is a link to one of my ridiculous video lectures on Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" (an interpretation for high school students where I am sure to add a side note they rightfully mocked about not taking heroin) in case anyone has that much time on his hands. :).

aka Miss M.

Monday, April 14, 2014

YA Book Pick: THE RULES by Stacey Kade

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's Book Pick is THE RULES by Stacey Kade.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don’t get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don’t fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules…

First Line: "I have a dead girl's name."

What a first line.  It says a lot and raises significant questions.  First and foremost: Why does she have a dead girl's name? It's stated very matter of fact and gives us some insight into Ariane's character.  She's very logical and straight forward - exactly what you would expect from a human/alien hybrid.

Highlights: If you're looking for a full fledged sci-fi psychological thriller, this may be a bit of a light read but what it lacks in science, it makes up in character drama.  The story is written from the POV of both Ariane and Zane and while set in the future, offers a very contemporary feel.  But that doesn't mean it's not complete with a few twists and turns that will keep you engaged till the end. 

While THE RULES veers from true sci-fi, it offers new readers interested in the genre a chance to ease themselves into something that's more than just a present day young adult romance. 

A Good Read For: For those who enjoy light YA quick reads with a touch of sci-fi.  Also for those YA writers looking for examples of stories with multiple viewpoints and plot twists.  Check out Lauren's review of MIND GAMES by Kiersten White to move on up in the sci-fi psychological thriller world.