When and When Not to Write On Spec


Original photo by Karen Arnold


Kon’nichiwa, Writer Peeps!

On spec. As a writer, you’ll hear that a lot. It’s short for “on speculation,” and it means that you write an article, a short story, a screenplay, book, whatever, with no contract and no promise of publication. You send it in and hope the editor wants to publish it.

It’s a gamble, for sure. You can increase your odds of getting that contract, though, if you know when to roll the dice.


  • When you’re just breaking in. If you don’t have experience or prior publications, but you know you did a good job, your best bet is to let your work speak for itself. And I mean that. Do not (NO!), do not tell the editor that God wants your story to reach the world, that your manuscript is a great opportunity for them, or that you can see it made into a feature film. All those things might be true. Do not say them.
  • When an editor answers your query and asks for more. The first couple of articles that I ever got published were in Home School Enrichment magazine. I first queried the editor, expressing that my experience and philosophy matched the magazine’s focus, and that I’d been doing volunteer writing for my local homeschool group. I pitched a few ideas, and he asked to see specific finished articles on spec, which I then wrote furiously, because the editor was clearly interested. The magazine published a couple of my articles, and that led to re-publishing at Crosswalk.com. And, just like that, I had publishing credits to list on my query letters to other publications.
  • When you have no samples to show. Are you seeing a theme? When you’re just breaking in, writing on spec can get your foot in the door. There’s no risk to the publisher, and you get the opportunity to show what you can do. Sometimes the editor even takes the time to comment on specifics about your manuscript, and that’s free professional advice.
  • When you already wrote what you’re selling. One of the articles that I’d written on spec for Home School Enrichment, and that was rejected, I sold to another homeschooling magazine that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. (If I remembered which one, I’d tell you, but I know it was a national glossy.) The thing is, once you’ve already written an article or short story, or even a screenplay or novel, you can pitch it without taking up a lot of time or effort. While you’re pitching it, keep writing the next piece.
  • When your piece is short. Most short pieces have to be on spec. An editor cannot tell how good or suitable your poem, short story, or essay will be by your credentials, even if they’re stellar.
  • When you haven’t gotten anywhere with queries. We’ve all heard stories about writers who were getting nowhere by following all the rules, so they just went for it, and sent unsolicited manuscripts. This is a Hail Mary pass. Your manuscript will most likely end up in the recycle bin, but if you write an enticing cover letter and a compelling hook, you just might get noticed.

    Original photo by George Hodin


  • It will take a long time. If you have an idea for an article, for example, that will take a lot of time and research, and you have not written any of it yet, it’s probably not worth it. There are exceptions. If the payoff is extraordinary, if the editor asked to see it, and if you can sell it to another publisher if this one declines, it might be worth it.
  • It cannot be sold in any other market. If you plan to write something that is based on copyrighted material (eg, writing a companion workbook for a specific textbook), or that fits only a small niche market, you probably should get a contract before writing, because you will not be able to sell or use the work if the publisher declines.
  • It’s time sensitive. If you’ve written something about current events, or a speculative work about a possible event that will come to pass quickly, you don’t have time to offer it to one publication after another on spec. Strike while the iron’s hot. Self-publish or send out query letters instead.
  • When the publication specifically says not to. If you’re looking at writer’s guidelines and you see the words Absolutely no unsolicited manuscripts! don’t send an unsolicited manuscript.


  • Always follow writer’s guidelines exactly. Something as simple as the wrong font can make the difference between an editor reading your manuscript and tossing it. Remember that editors are detail oriented. They notice.
  • Make sure you know what the publisher wants. Read recently published articles to tell you not only the subject, but the tone (friendly, emotional, factual, etc.) and the vocabulary (reading level, profanity, etc.).
  • Know the targeted reader to know if your submission is a good fit. Studying the publication’s advertising is useful for getting to know the reader. If what you’ve written is a close fit, but not quite right, tweak it to fit better before submitting.
  • Include a cover letter. Find out the name of the editor of the department to which you’re submitting, and address a cover letter to that specific editor. You can usually find the editor’s name and contact information on the publication’s website. If you’re not sure, call and ask the receptionist. If you don’t know the gender of the editor, or you don’t know how the editor wishes to be addressed, don’t guess. Don’t use slashes, like Mr./Ms./Mrs., or any variation of that. Instead, use the full name. For example, “Dear Robin Jones,” or “Dear E.S. Smith.” Under no circumstances should you address your cover letter to “To Whom it May Concern.” Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Boiling it down to its essense, the guideline is: Does the benefit outweigh the risk? If so, go with God. I’m in your corner, too.

Have you written anything on spec? How was that experience for you? Let’s talk about it in the comments. We’re all in this together.





Valentine’s Day Celebrations that Don’t Require a Second Income

weird-and-wonderful-romance-meme-i-madeThis week, Frazierhead (my husband) said one of the most romantic and loving things I’ve ever heard: “Do it. Write what you want.”

I will still write about writing and grammar and Jesus and holidays and whatever else I want to on this blog. But after nine years of writing what other people want me to write, editing what other people have written, and prioritizing paid jobs over my own creativity, I am pleased to announce that I quit. Now I can start. I’m following my dream.

This decision is a leap of faith for both of us. I always say, “My husband pays the bills and I buy the chocolate.” That is, we can live on his income, but my income gives us wiggle room for luxuries and unexpected expenses. Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, my writing income will resume (and increase) when I finish and sell my own work in progress. Until then, we’re bracing ourselves for inevitable changes.

Valentine’s Day is our first test. To celebrate this new chapter in our lives, I searched for Valentine’s Day celebration ideas that don’t require a second income. We don’t need a babysitter, but our teens are still home, so I’d kind of like to get out of the house. Which of these would you suggest?

  1. Coffee and dessert  Maybe we’ll eat dinner at home, then go out for dessert and coffee.
  2. bayshore-blvd-public-domain
    World’s Longest Sidewalk — Tampa, Florida

    Local scenery  The sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard is the longest unbroken sidewalk in the world (the world!!). At night, I think it’s Tampa’s most romantic spot. I’m nursing a foot injury, so walking is out, but the bayside rail has built-in seats.

  3. Jammin’  One of our favorite couple things is to drive with the windows rolled down and the music cranked up, and sing as loud as we can. (That’s right. It’s us that you’re cursing.) It’s as close as either of us gets to the feeling of a roller coaster.
  4. Card game  I learned how to play the card game Uno when my husband and I were dating. He taught me his cutthroat tricks for winning only after we tied the knot. It’s an at-home idea, but whenever we play Uno, it brings back those new-love feelings.
  5. Sorta Romantic Movie  Another at-home idea. Frazierhead and I are not really fans of the romance genre, but we both love good movies, even if romance gets slipped in. See my Sorta Romantic Video Picks for Valentine’s Day. (Bear in mind that list was written before we saw Zombieland, which is obviously the best sorta romantic movie ever. For grownups only. It’s gory. ) I’m open for suggestions for this year’s pick. We could use a feel-good movie.

Even though these offers look like paid links, they’re not. They are–from my heart–offers I thought worth sharing with you. Which ones would you choose?

  1. Free Printable Cards  Greetings Island has a variety of free customizable, downloadable, printable, Valentine’s Day cards.
  2. Heart-shaped Doughnuts Dunkin Donuts is making heart-shaped doughnuts for Valentine’s day, and they’re also running Valentine’s Day promotions on Instagram and Facebook (click http://tinyurl.com/zd5k9xm for contest). And, for us old timers, every day Dunkin Donuts offers a free doughnut with the purchase of a large drink to AARP members. (This just might be our dessert date.)
  3. Heart-shaped Pizza This Valentine’s Day, Papa John’s is offering a medium, thin crust, one topping, heart-shaped pizza and brownie for $15.
  4. Uno I found an Uno game at Walmart.com for $4.16, with free in-store pickup.
  5. Free eBooks If you’re planning to stay home alone this Valentine’s Day, why not cuddle up with a good book? Go to Amazon.com and search for Free Kindle Romance books. I found hundreds of free titles.

What do you think? Have you taken a leap of faith to follow your dreams? Do you have fun and thrifty (PG-rated) Valentine’s Day ideas? Do you know of a great, sorta romantic movie that we can watch on Netflix? Please share your ideas in the comments. We’re all in this together.


Top 10 Perfectly Nice Words that Sound Offensive

b-word-memePeace, writer peeps!

Last month’s crazy response to my using a single word (shh…it was feminist) got me thinking about David Howard, and the trouble a single word made for him.

In February of 1999, David Howard, an aide to Washington DC’s then-mayor Anthony Williams, publicly used the word niggardly. Niggardly means “stingy.” Williams used the word in that context, in a conversation about government funding. The word comes from an old (c.1300 CE) anglicized word nygart,  and it has no racial connotations and no racially-linked etymology at all. But because it sounds similar to an offensive word that Howard–a public advocate and a white guy–shouldn’t say, offended semi-literates protested, and Howard was compelled to resign from his job! That really happened!

I’ve got your back. I don’t want what happened to David Howard to happen to you. To help keep writers out of trouble with the outraged ignorant, I’ve compiled a Top Ten list of Perfectly Nice Words that Sound Offensive, along with their true meanings.

vintage-keep-mum-posterBut first, The Non-Optional Apology: I sincerely apologize if I used a word that you did not know. I am only in my fifties and we all do stupid things at this age.

*drumroll please*

Top 10 Perfectly Nice Words that Sound Offensiveoh-my-takei

#10  honking – making a sound like the call of a goose, often with a car horn
That honking bird should’ve stayed with his flock.

#9  homophones– words that sound alike, but have different meanings and spellings
See? Their, there: They’re homophones, just as I told you.

#8  thespian – a dramatic actor
Mary Tyler Moore was a talented comedy actor, but did you know she was also a thespian?

#7  twite – a type of finch, a little bird
When you purposely make that noise, you sound like a twite!

#6  homogeneous – made up of like parts that are evenly distributed
The school board deliberately broke up homogeneous groups of students with rezoning.

#5  peniaphobia – the fear of poverty
Marcy could afford to live on her own, but her peniaphobia drove her to share a home with Patty.

#4  beanie – a small hat
Marcus nervously twisted his beanie in his hands.

#3  idiom – a cultural expression that cannot be understood by literal translation
That idiom is a flash in the pan.

#2  niggling – slight anxiety or unease
I have a niggling feeling that this list of naughty-sounding words might get me into trouble.

And…*drumroll*… the #1 Perfectly Nice Word that Sounds Offensive……

asp – a venomous snake
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from that asp’s hole.

*cue wild applause*

WARNING! Think twice before saying any of these words. And maybe gather a committee, hire a lawyer, and do some market research before actually publishing them.

Or you could taunt the shocked and offended with your right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Whatever floats your boat. (Just remember, enough wind can capsize a boat.)

Have any good words ever gotten you into trouble? Do you have more to add to this list? Let’s hear ’em! Or, you know, read ’em in the comment section. Stay safe out there, writers! We’re all in this together.




What if you were holy?

This is an edited version of a post I published February 19, 2016.

Whoever you are, right this minute, imagine that God accepts you, and that He calls you “holy, pure, and blameless.” And not because He’s tolerant, but because you are holy in his sight. Not after you clean up. Not after you deal with some things. Right now. This minute. What would that feel like?

Now imagine that whatever you have to offer to God, however flawed, imperfect, or rejected in this world, what if that offering turned into–in truth–a holy, perfect offering, highly valuable. How would that feel?

Photo by Junior Libby

In the days of Moses, and the Ark of the Covenant, and the Tabernacle, God established a priesthood to stand as the go-between for His Spirit and regular folks like you and me. The priests were required to wear a seal upon their foreheads, which made the guilt of the people go away, and made their gifts acceptable to God.

“Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.” Exodus 28:36-38, NIV

In those days, if an offering was brought to God by a guilty person, the priest absorbed that guilt, and the person was no longer guilty. The priest’s seal was worn continually, so there was never a time when a person’s guilt could slip by. Whatever gift a person brought for God, that gift became acceptable and holy.

Jesus took on the role of priest and go-between between God and us. As our go-between, Jesus absorbs our guilt, and whatever your gifts may be, they are acceptable to God. You too can be sealed: HOLY TO THE LORD.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel [good news] of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV

God’s seal for us is not made of gold. It is made of His own Spirit. And He continually stays with us, absorbing our wrongdoings, making us truly guilt-free, making all of our gifts acceptable to Him. There is never a time when guilt can slip in.

The seal of the Holy Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven. When you believe in Jesus, your fate is sealed forever.

Jesus said: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3, NIV

Right this minute, in the quiet of your own mind, ask yourself if you have believed in Jesus. If you never have, now is the time.

Original photo by Hana Chramostova

Once you believe in Jesus, you are sealed. You don’t have to imagine anymore. You are HOLY TO THE LORD. If any guilt lingers or recurs, it is absorbed by the seal of God. It is not yours to bear. And your offerings to God, whatever they may be, are acceptable.

If you want to talk about this, or you have questions, feel free to comment and I will answer.

Hugs, Kathy

Functional Shifting in Grammar: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Misunderstood” by artist Man Ray. Scanned from Abbate, Francesco, ed. (1972), American Art, London: Octopus Books, ISBN 0706400283, originally published by Fratelli Fabbri Editore, Milan (1964). Fair Use.

Hi Writer Peeps!

Today’s blog is about words and phrases that usually identify as one part of speech, but step out and play another role from time to time. I like to think of these as “transgrammars.” Other grammarians–stuffy sorts–call them functional shifts.

The thing about functional shifts is that we get used to seeing a word or phrase in a specific role, so when it takes a new identity, we might not recognize it. If we don’t recognize functional shifting, we make wrong assumptions about the word, about its antecedents, the sentence’s parallelism, and the whole situation just gets awkward. So awkward that we don’t even know which slot to let it use in the sentence diagram.

Functional shifts show up everywhere–not that there’s anything wrong with that. This post can’t cover every possibility, but in order to promote grammatical understanding, I’ll give you some examples of functionally shifting words, so you’ll get the idea.

NOUNS AS ADJECTIVES  You know a noun as a person, place, thing, quality, or idea. But when it describes another noun, it functions as an adjective.

Their office romance heated up in the meeting room next to the water cooler.
Before my coffee break, I gathered a file folder and some notebook paper.

Original word cloud art by Vera Kratochvil

ADJECTIVES AS NOUNS  Adjectives modify and describe nouns and pronouns. But once in a while, an adjective likes to break out and become a noun.

Only the rich could afford a collectible like that.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” –Jesus (as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew 5:5.)

ADVERBS AS NOUNS  Adverbs are swingers. They modify verbs, adjectives, clauses (We’ll talk about clauses in another post), or other adverbs. They have to do with place, time, manner, circumstance, degree, or cause. Most words that end in -ly are adverbs (slowly, loudly, suddenly), but not all adverbs end in –ly (very, almost, ever). We’ll go over adverbs in more depth in another post. For now, let’s look at some adverbs that function as nouns.

Make plans for tomorrow, but enjoy the here and now.
“I believe in yesterday.” –John Lennon, Paul McCartney (from the song,”Yesterday”)

NOUNS AS VERBS  When nouns are used as verbs, we call it verbing. The word verbing is itself a functional shift, a noun turned into a verb. Neat, huh? (I love this stuff!) With common usage and time, verbing changes the language, and the word gets declared a bona fide verb.

The rest of the team brainstormed while Gene googled* cheesecake recipes. He said, “I just can’t adult right now.”

*FYI: When used as a verb, the word Google may be–but does not have to be–capitalized, per 2017 Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

VERBS AS ADJECTIVES  Verbs are fickle. Verbs show action (I sprang from the bed) and states of being (I am a little teacup). But they like to take on other roles. Here, verbs function as adjectives.

The ceramic owl became a running gag between roommates.
Eighty-nine percent of US children had at least one working parent in 2015.

VERBS AS NOUNS (GERUNDS) When a verb functions as a noun, we call it a gerund. Gerunds always end in -ing.

I prefer swimming over jogging or skating.
Janet passed up the pool for snorkling in the gulf.

VERBS THAT FUNCTION AS NOUNS BUT ARE ALSO PARTICIPLES THAT LOOK LIKE GERUNDS (I’m just showing off now.) Here’s where verbs go wild. A verb that functions as a noun or an adjective is a participle. That’s fun because the present and progressive tenses look just like gerunds, complete with the -ing ending.

Dressing for his date, Mark felt excited but nervous.

buffalo-diagram-memeSo, how can you tell the difference between a gerund and a participle? In a nutshell: if it’s the object of a preposition, it’s a gerund; if it can be modified with an adverb, it’s a participle. But you probably won’t need to distinguish them. They’re both verbs that act as nouns.

For a more in-depth look at the difference between gerunds and participles, check out Grammar Girl’s Participles and Gerunds at QuickandDirty Tips.com.

I could go on and on, but my husband, who just read that last bit glassy-eyed, suggests that I might have already gone on too long. I know you’re still with me, though. You love words as I do, don’t you? In a way that he could never understand.

Now that we’ve shared functional shifting, I won’t have you pre-judging words by their appearances. You and I must vow to get to know words as individuals, and show respect for the functionally shifting. For grammar’s sake.

Can you think of more examples of functional shifting? Are you puzzling over a functional shift, or trying to identify a part of speech? Share your words with me in the comment section. We’re in this together.


On a Complaint of Loneliness, by Guest Blogger Devra Carmical

Kathy here: I’ve been married to my best friend for 32 years, but I’m not immune to loneliness. We all know that feeling. Sometimes we feel lonely for a specific person who is no longer with us, sometimes we’re lonely for a friend we can trust, or for a companion who shares our interests. In this season leading up to Valentine’s Day, for so many, loneliness for a life partner feels especially painful. Guest blogger, Devra Carmical, wrote the following word of truth and encouragement for the lonely. Take it away, Devra!

Photography by George Hodan

On a Complaint of Loneliness
(not for those gifted to be eunuchs):
by Guest Blogger, Devra Carmical

I can relate. People telling you that you’re not alone doesn’t really help, either, even though it really is true (that you are not alone). I know what you mean about being alone. I’m going to share something with you from the understanding that you are a Christian, which I think you are, but if you aren’t, please don’t be offended. This comes from a place of love.

Here goes:

When Adam was in the garden of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

People will tell you that you are not alone because of many passages that speak of God’s presence with us: that He will not forsake us, never leave us, etc.

That is all true; God will never leave us, even if our mother and father forsake us, He is walking with us, even when we reject Him for a season or don’t feel Him there. We are challenged to trust Him even more at those times when the feelings aren’t there.

Getting back to what God said about Adam, that was said before the fall of man. Adam was still in perfect unity with God, walking with Him in the cool of the day, one on one. Can you imagine? There was no sin, no death, no suffering of any kind, no hard work yet, and God was right there, but still God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. Pruning that down a little, God said that Adam was alone. People who tell you that you are not alone are disagreeing with God. Read that again. Let it sink in a second.

You’re talking about something human and they’re talking about something else altogether and really missing the point, but even worse, in a way that puts you down a little, as if you aren’t being spiritual enough. Blech! This just makes me feel even less understood and more isolated. Why do people do that? It’s all they know how to do because they don’t have an answer and they want to have the answer. It’s our nature. They mean only good.

If Adam was alone before the fall, in perfection, before sin separated him from God, then we certainly can be alone in the same way.

Alone in that context speaks of not having human companionship; a human to help us bear the many burdens of this life, which are much greater today because of sin, sickness, decay, and death. More than that, a partner with whom to share the many joys and memories of life and God’s blessings! Because it was not good, God created a perfect partner for him and you know the rest of the story.

When I’m feeling alone,

I remind myself that God has a perfect plan for my most sinful self and all my mistakes, my broken, lonely life. He knew back in the garden everything you and I would do and suffer, and He already had a plan for our reconciliation with Himself and our comfort and joy on this earth. The promises aren’t all about eternity – He cares for you here and now, too! I remind myself that He really is with me, helping carry my burdens, arranging things to provide for me before I even know about a need. I thank Him for every little thing: I have food to cook and errands to run, a job to do, and people to love and serve, etc.

Photography by Maliz Ong

This is a key:

There are lots of promises associated with thankfulness and praise. When Job lost everything, the first thing he did was worship, and God restored him beyond anything he could have asked. God is doing more for me (and for you) than any human partner can do. (As a matter of fact, not long ago, I realized I might not even want a partner because so many men think of a household as a hierarchy, where they are somehow closer to God than the woman and I asked God to only bring me one if that partner wouldn’t try to wedge himself between myself and Him.)

Anyway, I talk to Him just like I would talk to a husband or a good friend, even getting totally ugly sometimes, open and honest, crying out, asking questions, reminding Him of His promises to me to change me and deliver me from every time of trouble as I learn to trust Him more. People love the Psalms that are nice and pretty, and they are precious and holy, but some of David’s Psalms aren’t so “nice” – they’re full of crying out and even complaint (not the kind of complaining the Israelites did in the desert of Sinai – that brought about terrible things). You’re not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know, but it’s good to get it out. Ask Him to change you and your desires, if necessary.

He knows exactly what you need and He will do it, whatever it is. Ask in faith and watch with expectation for the coming of your answers. They are already on the way. Imagine God working behind the scenes bringing about everything you need, things you haven’t even imagined or asked for! Lift your head! Let Him prepare you for these things, so that when they come, you’ll be ready to fully receive and ready to handle them in a way that will bring prosperity and deep joy. The testimony can only be as great as the test!

We don’t have to be strong all the time.

Rely on His strength. I imagine myself on a roller-coaster sometimes, about to go down that big hill. I have no control. I have to trust the engineers that designed the ride, the mechanics who maintain it, even the teenager at the control panel. So it is with God, when you’re in a situation you don’t control. Do good whenever you get the chance, then sit back and enjoy the thrill of the ride! You’re in good hands. Learn to relax. Put relaxing on your to-do list and do it, just as if it were something someone else needed.

Kathy here again. Thank you, Devra! 
Readers, how do you handle loneliness when you see it in others? How do you handle it when you feel it yourself? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


In language, mob rules.

Salut, Writer Peeps!

Original photo by George Hodan

For those who forgot, and for new readers, Monday blogs are about writing and editing and books and reading and all things word related.

In my house, I force my kids to listen to me lecture we enjoy lively discussions about etymology, the history of words. I enjoy thinking about how each generation tweaks the English language to reflect its own cultural experiences. I especially like comparing the way my children perceive and use words with how I did at their ages.

When my teens like something, they call it swag. When I was a teen, swag was the fabric that hangs over the window. When I call League of Legends a “video” game, my kids tease me. To them, video games are simply games. It’s the other types of games that use a descriptor (eg, board games). My daddy used to hate it when his kids used the word gross. Gross, to him, was a math term, and he said I sounded ignorant when I used it as a descriptor (eg, Palmetto bugs are so gross!). He didn’t like grody any better, but by the eighties, he’d given up on trying to control teenage slang.

Writers, especially us AARP members, sometimes dig in and refuse to deviate from the English of our younger years. Lots of writers tell me, “I won’t dumb down my writing,” and “If we write the way some people talk, it will corrode the language.” That sounds all noble and whatnot, and if that’s your thing, more power to you. If you’re writing for a modern reader, though, you might want to pay attention to how language changes.

One writer asked, “So if a word is misused long enough, that misuse becomes the accepted definition, and that’s that? Mob rules?”

The answer is yes. Mob rules. That’s how language works.

Personally, I’m on a mission to get the word internet (lowercased) into common usage, because it seems stupid to keep capitalizing it. So I purposely break that rule of capitalization whenever I reference the world wide web. (See what I did there?)

Or we can stubbornly hold to the English we know is correct. Like this:

   God cwæþ to Abrahame: ‘Nim þinne sunu Isaac, and far to þæm dunum, and geoffra hine þær uppan dune.’
   Þa aras Abraham on Þære nihte, and ferde mid twæm cnapum to þæm dunum, and Isaac samod.  Hie ridon on assum.  Þa on þone þriddan dæg, þa hie þa dune gesawon, þa cwæþ Abraham to þæm twæm cnapum þus: ‘Andbidiaþ eow her mid þæm assum!’
   Isaac bær þone wudu to þære stowe, and Abraham bær his sweord and fyr.  Isaac þa ascode Abraham his fæder: ‘Fæder min, hwær is seo offrung?  Her is wudu.’  Se fæder cwæþ: ‘God foresceawaþ, min sunu, him self þa offrunge.’
   Þ a comon hie to þære stowe; and he þær weofod arærde on þa ealdan wisan. Þa band he his sunu, and his sweord ateah. þa he wolde þæt weorc beginnan, þa clipode Godes engel arodlice of heofonum: ‘Abraham!’  He andswarode sona.  Se engel him cwæþ to: ‘Ne acwele þu þæt cild!’
   Þa geseah Abraham ramm betwix þæm bremlum; and he ahof þone ramm to þære offrunge.

Don’t understand that? It’s written in perfectly correct Old English. Following is the same text, translated into more modern-sounding English.

   God said to Abraham: ‘Take your son Isaac, and go to the hills, and offer him there upon a hill.’
   Then Abraham arose in the night, and went with two servants to the hills, and Isaac as well.  They rode on asses.  Then on the third day, when they saw the hills, then Abraham said to the two servants thus: ‘Wait here with the asses!’
   Isaac carried the wood to the place, and Abraham carried his sword and fire.  Isaac then asked Abraham his father: ‘My father, where is the offering?  Here is wood.’  The father said: ‘God himself, my son, will provide the offering.’
   Then they came to the place, and he there raised an altar in the old manner.  Then he bound his son, and drew his sword.  When he was about to carry out [lit wished to begin] the deed, then God’s angel called quickly from heaven [lit heavens]: ‘Abraham!’  He answered at once.  The angel said to him: ‘Do not kill the child!’
   Then Abraham saw a ram amongst the brambles; and he raised up the ram as the offering.

We write for a lot of reasons. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy uses Middle English dialogue to represent language as it was in New York before she was born, along with what was (in the 1930s) modern English, to keep the reader engaged.

MN Stroh, author of the not-yet-released Rise of Betrayal, sprinkles elements of Middle English and Gaelic expressions throughout her historical literary novel. Her use of language is flawless, and it makes a huge difference, transforming the reader back to Ireland in 962 CE.

Or maybe you’re this person, who makes me smile.

The takeaway? Writing is art, and there is no wrong way to create art. Know your readers. Know the mood you’re trying to create. And go for it.

What do you think? Are there any words or expressions that you really hate? Anything you’re trying to get into common usage? Any English “rules” that you simply will never break? Or never follow? And did you see what I did there with the world wide web?


I might be a sleeper agent for the feminist agenda.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

A funny thing happened this week on Facebook. I was “outed” as a feminist. To my knowledge, that had never been a secret, but it caught some folks off guard. Apparently, their ideas about feminism clashed with their ideas about Christianity, and they couldn’t wrap their heads around someone who believes in both.

See also Jesus and the Role of Women by Zhava Glaser

Rather than ask questions, they went for the jugular. They called me names, called me insane, and a great cry rose up to “block” me. (Oh no. Please. Don’t block me.) To be fair, that’s standard Facebook etiquette. I just found it a little hard to swallow when those same people went on to post lovely pictures with inspiring Bible quotes about kindness.

While I identify feminism with a compelling hope for social equality, there are still Christians who believe…well, I’ll just let Pat Robertson explain it:

“[Feminism] is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” –Pat Robertson, as quoted in the New York Times, August 25, 1992

It’s an old quote but it’s making the rounds on Facebook, to thunderous applause. Or teary-eyed laughter, depending on your bent. The quote itself is bizarre on so many levels. I wondered why anyone would forward it. But after consideration, I see that this quote precisely encapsulates some people’s fears. And those who misuse the name of God to manipulate followers (::coughPatRobertsoncough::) capitalize on those fears.

Why would they do that? Besides the obvious (humans resist change), there is a more pressing concern: Politics. It’s interesting that this quote stresses political motives three times. If you’re a student of the Bible, as Robertson says he is, you know that the number three is of special significance. When something is said three times, take notice.

If we take out the emotion and the non-repeating accusations in Robertson’s quote, the one main point we’re left with, the reason for the scare tactics, the point he says three times–socialist, political movement, destroy capitalism–is fear of political change. And that is the reason this quote is still popular 25 years after it was first printed. Politics in the US is scary right now.

So, anyway, the Facebook people felt that I misrepresented myself by claiming to be a Christian for 38 years, studying the Bible, writing about Jesus, staying happily married to a man for 32 years and counting, staying home and homeschooling my five children, and admitting to feminist leanings only whenever the subject came up. I can see how that might confuse people into concluding that I’m a sleeper agent that will one day talk straight, Christian women into leaving their husbands to become Wiccan lesbians. Because, socialism.

Is it all just semantics?

My grown kids tell me it’s a generational thing. It’s the word that’s offensive, not the idea. They say the term feminism no longer means equal rights; it means anti-male. For that reason, a lot of people who genuinely believe in equality don’t call themselves feminists.

I get that. Some women who hate men call their hate feminism. Some men hate women and call it traditional values. Haters say anything to justify their own bad behavior. I’m still not throwing out the word.

A woman who seeks to put men down is a sexist. A person who seeks to lift women up to create equality is a feminist. The men and boys in my life know that I’ll fight just as ferociously for their rights as I do for females. They also know I probably won’t have to.

Why not use a more neutral term, like humanism or egalitarianism? Because humanism includes rejecting a belief in a Higher Power, so that doesn’t fit my Christian faith. Egalitarianism encompasses so much more than male/female relationships. And it’s tame. When we hear the word feminist, the female cannot be ignored.

Malala Yousafzai survived being shot in the head as a child for speaking up about educational inequality under Taliban rule. She still fights for the right of girls to be educated. Photo by Russell Watkins, Dept for International Development CC BY 2.0

I will continue to call myself a feminist as long as women and girls worldwide are considered the property of men; as long as women and girls worldwide are denied education, jobs, and decent healthcare; as long as women and girls are blamed for “provoking” or “allowing” violence against themselves; as long as preachers blame wives for their husband’s infidelity, and encourage women to stay with abusive men; and as long as the Constitution of the United States does not guarantee equal rights to all persons regardless of their sex.

When injustices against women and girls are righted, we will no longer need to keep emphasizing female empowerment. Until then, I’m a feminist. Deal with it.

 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28, NIV

1/22/2017 UPDATE: More Facebook drama ensued after I posted the link to this post on my wall, as one dude started right up with stereotyping. That led to a back-and-forth between us. I stopped, and he and his buddies continued. At the end, it was one dude literally saying nothing else except for calling me a “feminazi”.

Anyway, one of my real-life friends told me face-to-face that I sounded angry in my response to the dude on Facebook. I wasn’t angry. (If I get angry, I say so.) But since I respect my friend’s judgement, and I know she’s got my back, I deleted the comments, but left the link.

Whew! I’m glad this week is over. Be well, peeps.


Hanging my head, I present The Excuse.

Good New Year, Writer Peeps!


Picture from The Book of Limericks, 1888. Artist unknown. Public domain-copyright expired.

The writing mantra, “It doesn’t have to be good; it has to be done,” has served me well in my years of corporate writing, periodical writing, ghostwriting, and copy editing. Because you will never sell what you never finish. Fact.

So, when I talk with writers, I ask about their progress, even (especially) when I suspect they’ve made none. I roll my eyes when they claim they’re too busy to write. I stare down pre-published hopefuls and demand, “You make the time!” In short, I’ve been kind of a bully–but I hope in a benevolent, head-matron kind of way.

Now it’s my turn to hang my head and mumble, “I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff.” Since March 2016, my family literally has not gone one month without a major crisis or event. I keep thinking I can get back to normalcy, and then something else happens. Not the least of these problems is my recurring iritis, which comes with a treatment that causes glaucoma, and threatens to end my editing career altogether.

“Saint Lucy” by artist Ginny Donahue

If you don’t know what iritis is, imagine gouging out the irises of your eyes, little by little, with a pickle fork, then shoving hot metal skewers through sightless sockets into your brain, over and over and over again. But iritis hurts quite a bit more. It’s good I’m not a spy. During a bout of iritis, I would–without hesitation–blab state secrets for a shot of morphine.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been writing blog posts. Sometimes, life really does get in the way of writing. Apparently.

There it is–my excuse. I hope that you’ll cut me some slack, and I guess I can cut you some slack in return. But don’t you dare let me off the hook. I’m no sissy pants. It’s not impossible to write a blog while wearing sunglasses, with the computer screen magnified to 300%.

And I’m not letting you off the hook either. You need to get your book finished. No one else can write your story. If you don’t write it, you will leave the world with an empty place that can never be filled. And that would be sad. Dictate into your phone’s recorder as you walk. Carry a notebook and pen and scribble notes while you wait in lines. Find the time! But only, you know, if life isn’t really getting in the way too much. Take care of your family and your health first.

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” –Stephen King


While I hopefully have you all softened up with my tearless sob story, I’d like to ask a favor. I’m steadily redesigning this site to merge with other sites I had. I want this to be a central hub. Right now, some catagories and links are still a little wonky, and I’m on that. But I need someone with normal eyes to answer my question. Is the font on this site too small? How is it coming through on your device? If you could let me know, that would be a big help. In fact, if anything is coming through “wrong,” I’d like to know, so I can fix it.


P.S. I didn’t forget Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But I don’t have anything prepared to honor the day properly. I recommend you check out MLK Day: Meet 9 lesser known women behind the civil rights era’s biggest achievements by Alison Durkee at .Mic. I found it informative, fresh, and an encouragement to me, as a woman, that women have always and will always play an integral role in social change.




It’s not morality, people. It’s just grammar.

science-and-technology from publicdomainpictures dot net
Image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net

Hello, writer peeps!

I’ve been floundering to stay in the blogosphere lately. Life threw my schedule back, but rest assured, writers are always on my mind.

Disclosure: Sometimes I think about illustrators.

When I’m not writing, I lurk online in writers groups and Facebook pages, watching writers attack each other and bicker over grammar. Oh, look, luvswords87 misspelled something in her post. BURN HER!!!

It goes like this: Grammar bully jumps on a writer who makes a grammatical error or even a simple typo. Then (and often in that very first criticism), the bully makes a mistake–because only God is perfect. That prompts other crazed grammar bullies to jump in with their clubs and torches, until the whole venomous rant culminates in the original poster apologizing, deleting, and questioning her career choice. Over a comma.

Chill out. It’s not morality, people. It’s just grammar.

Disclosure: This editor secretly smiles at the poetic justice of mistakes made by grammar bullies.

Don’t get me wrong. Grammar matters. I love grammar. Love it. Copy editing is my chosen profession.

Disclosure: “Chosen profession” does not equal mad cash. Frazierhead the Mechanic pays our bills. I buy the chocolate.

Still, as much as I love grammar, I love people more. Grammar rules only exist to help people communicate. Bullying leads to fear of not being perfect, which can stifle writers to the point of never finishing projects. I don’t want you to lose your writing momentum. Writers (myself included) are insecure enough without taking every would-be critic seriously.


angel grammar memeFirst things first: Don’t bully others. I will never correct your grammar unless you hire me to. For your own sake as well as the sake of others, I urge you to stick to that rule. Unsolicited criticism makes you look bad, and that hurts your brand. No one buys the line that you’re only trying to help.

Sometimes editors or proofreaders look for chances to correct. I promise you, that will backfire. Instead of seeing how good you are at finding mistakes, people will search for your mistakes. They will look for them. They will find them. And they will kill your brand.

Actually help each other. Writers are not in competition with one another. Instead of tearing down other writers, give encouragement. Compliment good work and overlook mistakes.

Know your enemy.  Keep in mind that a lot of these bullies rely on memories of what they learned in English class ten years ago.

Grammar bullies who insist you should never begin a sentence with a conjunction, or never end a sentence with a preposition, have outdated knowledge. Those rules no longer apply to correct American English. Bullies who say you must always add one space (or two spaces) between sentences, or insist on using (or not using) serial commas, don’t realize that spacing and commas are style choices. And those who insist their “style” is choosing what they think looks best don’t know what grammarians mean by style choice. I could go on, but you get it.

Toughen up.  Ignore trivial criticism, no matter how tempting it is to answer. OR… come up with an all-purpose comeback. “I know you are, but what am I?” works beautifully.

CRITIC: You ended a sentence with a preposition.
ANSWER: I know you are, but what am I?
CRITIC: That doesn’t even make sense.
ANSWER: I know you are, but what am I?

See? Bulletproof.

Do not apologize. If you hurt someone with an insensitive remark, you should apologize. If you make a grammatical blunder, so what? Everybody makes mistakes. That’s not a moral failure. Don’t apologize.

Do your best, of course, but your priority as a writer is to follow the Muse. You can always hire a professional proofreader to clean things up when you finish.

Do you have an all-purpose comeback to grammar bullies? Have you taken bad advice from a grammar bully? Do you have a quick grammar question and want a straight answer from a professional copy editor, no charge? Post your comments and questions below. I promise not to correct you unless you ask me to. 🙂





Hezekiah’s Passover: Wrong but Still Right

Moses_and_Pharaoh_painting by Arkadi Natanov
Moses and Pharoah. Painting by Arkadi Natanov, courtesy of Center for Jewish History, NYC. No restrictions.

April 22, 2016. Passover starts at sunset tonight. I’m not celebrating this year because of my current circumstances. Maybe your circumstances are preventing you from celebrating, too. If that’s the case, you and I can be encouraged together by the Biblical account of a Passover when so much went wrong, but even more went right.

See also: 10 Ways to Remember Passover if You Don’t Celebrate

One Passover, King Hezekiah sent invitations to the people of Israel, Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh to join together to celebrate the LORD’s Passover. He’d chosen a date that was a month past the appointed time according to the Law, because that seemed right to both the king and the people, due to their circumstances.

A month late, the people came in droves, and many took the elements without first purifying themselves as commanded in the Law. They were eager to jump right in and to get right with God, but they unintentionally violated God’s written commandments. What do you suppose happened? Rejection? Disease? General smiting?

No. God pardoned “everyone who sets their heart on seeking God…even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary” (2 Chronicles 30:19). God healed them, and their prayers reached heaven. Everyone was so blessed by their experience that they stayed an extra week, rejoicing and encouraging one another.

“The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, along with the priests and Levites and all who had assembled from Israel, including the foreigners who had come from Israel and also those who resided in Judah. There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.”  (2 Chronicles 30:25-27)

Read the whole story in 2 Chronicles 30

Contrary to popular belief, God is not looking for some slip-up to blame us for. God is loving and kind! If we “set our heart [determine] to seek God,” he will hear our prayers.

Why do you suppose that Hezekiah decided to set up a Passover celebration a month late, instead of waiting for the appointed time the next year? What do you think made him believe that God would pardon the unpurified? Under similar circumstances, I’m not so sure that I would have made the same choices. What about you? Why or why not?

May God bless you and hear your prayer every single day that you determine to seek him.


Pssst! Hey Christians: Did you know that the Last Supper that Jesus took with his disciples was a Passover seder? Find out what Passover looks like for followers of Jesus in the 3 minute video below.

Distracted Writing

Image (1)
Dad swinging my daughter Elisabeth

I’m distracted. My conscious thought is pinballing between dozens of logistics and social commitments, regrets and what ifs, bits and pieces of about six works in progress, the memory of an arcade pinball machine that my dad once brought home as a surprise, and wondering whether I brushed my hair today and what my kids are eating for dinner and how my mom is doing and…

Image (21)
Dad & Mom: forever love

My daddy died. He was 86, ambulatory and lucid right up to the end. He and Mom had just celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. He died peacefully in his sleep after an evening of visiting with family, including playing on the floor with his great grandson, whom he adored. Not a bad way to go. Still. My heart is broken.


I had been making great progress on an e-book that I’m writing. Then, suddenly, it didn’t matter anymore.

Usually in times of stress, I immerse myself in writing and editing. Work focuses my mind and gives me a break from overwhelming feelings. But that is, for now, impossible, so I put aside my work in progress and decided to write my feelings instead, to turn all that emotion into a new creation. But the only word that came out was sad.

Daddy used to tell me, “Girl, there ain’t no reason on this earth that you cannot do exactly what you wish, if you put your mind to it.” (He pronounced the wish like whoosh.)

So, for my dad and for myself, I won’t stop writing. I’m carrying around a pad and pen and scribbling notes–even one word notes like “sad”–as random events and emotions come to mind. They’re not cohesive, but who knows what may come of it? And I’m writing this blog post, which I know isn’t formatted correctly to look right, but I don’t care today. At least I showed up.

I’m new to this phase of life, and I still have lots to figure out. But I “whoosh” to write. And I’ll find a way.

How about you? How have you dealt with following your dreams in the midst of soul-crushing distraction? I’d love to hear from you.

And if you’d like to leave a comment on my daddy’s memorial page, I’d appreciate that, too. It isn’t finished, because I’m distracted, but I’m working on it.

poppop pinch all slide frame
Always a prankster. Dad with my kids (L-R): Angela, Michael, and Elliot.



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Est. Mayim Bialik 2015

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I'm inspired, so I inspire

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A personal blog by John Parsons, author of the Hebrew for Christians web site.

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My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1


Using what's on hand.

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

M.N. Stroh

Historical Fiction

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