Monthly Archives: April 2012

Fun Fact Friday – The Gold of Troy

Heinrich Schleimann was a 19th Century German archaeologist, whose fascination with Homeric legends led him to excavate a site in Western Turkey – Hissarlik – which was reputed to be the site of the City of Troy.   This was held to be a foolish and romantic quest, as the Homeric epics were, at the time, believed by Europeans to entirely mythical in nature.

It was the dawn of archaeology, and many of the practices of excavation that we take for granted today had not yet been developed.  Schleimann looked at this hill, and he decided that Homer’s Troy was buried at the bottom of it.  So, he and his crews dug.  And dug and dug and dug.  In so doing, they dismantled the archaeological record of centuries (if not millenia) of settlement of the site.  They dug through – and past – the level at which archaeologists now believe the Homeric city would have stood, if it did, indeed, exist at that site.  (Which is unknown, because, sadly, all evidence was destroyed by the ongoing excavation.)

Finally, they reached the lowest levels.  And they found gold!  Schleimann said that, as soon as he saw the glint of gold in the dirt, he sent the workers home, choosing instead to excavate the treasure himself, assisted only by his wife, Sophia.  What he named “Priam’s Treasure” was a marvelous cache of artifacts, which included jewelry (“The Jewels of Helen”), weaponry, and sumptuous metal household items.

That’s Sophia Schleimann, wearing the Jewels of Helen.

There are a couple of problems with Schleimann’s connection between these items and the Trojan Wars.  First, they’re too early.  (Ooops – maybe Helen AND the Trojans were all into retro?  No wonder they lost the war, if all their weaponry was outdated.)  Second, some of the workmen reported having located items that were part of “Priam’s Treasure” in other sites – graves, for example – and shown them to Schleimann.  They were reportedly quite surprised to see those same items “discovered” in Hissarlik!

Schleimann smuggled most of the treasure out of Turkey.  It finally found a home in the Berlin Museum, where it was wrangled over by governments until 1945, at which point it disappeared.

There were rumors that the artifacts were in Soviet hands, which the Soviets denied most earnestly.  Imagine everyone’s surprise, then, when they were “rediscovered” in the Pushkin Museum.

Of course, the Russians were eager to abide by the treaties with Germany that called for the repatriation of all looted art and treasures.  Well, no.  They’re claiming the treasure as compensation for damage done to Russian cities by German attacks.

So, the items looted from Turkey by Schleimann ended up being looted from Germany by the Soviets.

I’m waiting for Turkey to invade Russia to retrieve it all.  Complete the circle, as it were.

Why do we care?  Well… Why wouldn’t we?

The wrong guy won.  Just sayin’.

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Red Pencil Thursday Critique

I submitted the first 500 words of my WIP to Mia Marlowe’s Red Pencil Thursday Critique Group, and it was posted today!

The feedback I’ve received is really, really helpful.  I have plenty of notes in my Revisions notebook, so when the first draft is finished, I’ll have them to refer to.

http://miamarlowe.com/blog/2012/04/red-pencil-thursday-32/#comment-6443

Head on over and take a look!

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Prince SPaGhetti Day – The Common Comma

People are funny about commas.  They either love them or hate them.

Some have been so confused by English teachers through the ages that they’ve completely given up on the rules, which seemed to vary from teacher to teacher.  Others cling with desperation to what their fourth-grade (or fifth, sixth, etc.) teachers told them, and nobody can dissuade them.  Not even the Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White, or any other so-called experts.

Of course, I believe that I’m an expert in commas.  Which means that I have a few rules of my own to impart.  (What follows is by no means an exhaustive list.  I shall not go into depth, for example, on the Holy Oxford Comma; I’ll save that for another post.  But these are some handy rules that, if they’re followed, will ensure that you won’t run afoul of obsessive people like me who find commas and their proper use worth thinking about.)

  1. If you have a list of items, you should separate them with commas.  Example:  Joe, Bob, Joe Bob, and Bobby Jo all went to the fair.  Now, some of you will look at that list and say that the comma before “and Bobby Jo” is unnecessary.  Indeed, I was also taught that this was an incorrect usage.  That comma, also known as the Holy Oxford Comma, is a miracle of clarity.  And that’s why we use these lovely little curlycues in lists:  to make things clearer.  (By the way, I’m the only person who refers to the Oxford Comma as Holy.  But if you would like to join me in my comma crusade, feel free!)  I’m sure you can see why the other commas are necessary, even if the HOC is under dispute.  Without them, the sentence would read:  Joe Bob Joe Bob and Bobby Jo all went to the fair.  And that’s just plain silly.
  2. If you have two independent clauses in a sentence, you should insert a comma before the conjunction.  (Conjunctions are words like and, but, or, for, nor, yet, and so.)  (Independent clauses have a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence.)  Example:  Joe, Bob, Joe Bob, and Bobby Jo all went to the fair, and Joe Bob and Bobbie Jo rode through the Tunnel of Love.
  3. When you have something called a parenthetical, which are phrases and words that aren’t necessary to the meaning of the sentence.  These can occur anywhere in a sentence, and they’re always set apart by commas.  Here’s an example of one at the beginning of the sentence:  Because they’re engaged, Joe Bob and Bobbie Jo rode through the Tunnel of Love.  Here’s one at the end:  Joe Bob and Bobbie Jo rode through the Tunnel of Love, LOL!  And here’s one in the middle:  Joe Bob and Bobbie Jo, who are engaged, rode through the Tunnel of Love.
  4. In dialogue, if a “dialogue tag” is used.  I know, I know.  What’s a dialogue tag?  Well, a dialogue tag is a phrase used to identify the speaker in dialogue.  The most common of these is “said”.  Example:  Joe Bob said, “Let’s go to the fair!”  Or, if the dialogue tag occurs in the middle of the spoken sentence, it’s completely set off by commas.  Example:  “Let’s go to the fair,” Joe Bob said, “so that Bobbie Jo and I can ride through the Tunnel of Love!”  (Yes, there are exceptions, which will be addressed in a later, even more fascinating post on dialogue tags.  I know you can hardly wait.)

No matter what your English teacher told you, DO NOT add a comma every time you’d pause when speaking.  If your English teacher told you to do that, your English teacher was wrong.

Re-read whatever you’ve written before you send it out.  Check specifically for commas; do you have too many?  Too few?  (True Fact:  When I write, the comma fairy follows behind me, sprinkling those pesky little bits of punctuation throughout my text, whether they’re needed or not.  By the time anyone sees what I’ve written, I’ve gone through with an M-16, slaying those bad boys.)

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, find a Beta Reader who is obsessive about commas.  She may be a little strange, but she’s worth the trouble.  I promise.

(By the way, if anyone wants to write the love story of Joe Bob and Bobby Jo, feel free.  OR of Joe, Bob, Joe Bob, and Bobby Jo, if that’s how you roll.  We’re all open-minded here.)

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Prince SPaGhetti Day – The Prince’s Tale

Today’s man is someone I’ve had a secret passion for since I was around eleven years old.

I was at home, sick, and I picked up a copy of The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey.  In it, Inspector Alan Grant is dying of boredom and driving his friends crazy, as a result.  He has a broken leg, you see, and – as with Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window – it lesds him to all sorts of curiosities.  A friend of his (Alan Grant’s, not Jimmy Stewart’s) gives him a hodgepodge of items, one of which is a copy of a portrait of Richard III.

Only Grant, who felt he could make accurate judgments of a person’s character simply by looking at their faces, can’t believe that Richard was the monster that English schoolchildren had been raised to believe he was.  The Richard of the portrait, according to Grant, was kind and generous.

In order to prove his point, he sets his friends to researching contemporary writings about Richard and his poor, murdered nephews.  And in so doing, he proves that Richard has been wronged by History.  (And by Shakespeare, which probably amounts to the same thing.)

The tragic tale of the misjudged king touched my preadolescent heart (and ignited my always-overactive desire to see justice done, nearly 500 years later).  It also led to my predilection for tortured heroes, most recently finding expression in my Snape obsession.  But we won’t go there.

One completely bizarre coincidence… many years later, my mother was doing the family tree.  And she traced my dad’s family back way beyond the 15th century, but it’s what she found there that is pertinent.  I’m descended from Thomas Stanley, later Earl of Derby, who betrayed Richard on the field of battle in favor of his stepson, Henry Tudor.  In so doing, he turned the tide of the battle against Richard, leading to the king’s death and the rise of the Tudors to the throne of England.

Yes, I do feel guilty.  How did you guess?

P.S.  If you can get your hands on The Daughter of Time, read it!  It’s widely held to be one of the best mystery stories ever written, and I concur!

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Book Review – The Witness, by Nora Roberts

When I buy a Nora Roberts book, I have certain expectations.  I know her heroes and heroines.  I know the basic plotlines.

Basically, I’m looking for a comfortable read from a master storyteller.  And that’s not exactly what I got this time.

The masterful storytelling was still there.  And yet, her characters weren’t variations on the same (awesome) theme.  The heroine reads a bit like Temperance Brennan in Bones sounds.  Brilliant, literal, a bit beyond socially awkward.

Her growth in this, from frightened girl to ever-vigilant fugitive to, finally, secure and loving woman, is deftly shown and entirely believable.  The hero, a bit lower-key than the normal Roberts hero, but definitely as strong, is the perfect mate for her.

The writing in this one wasn’t quite as smooth as always, but Roberts was trying something new.  And she succeeded very well. (My one criticism – as is often the case – is that the editing is not wonderful.  I really wish that publishers would take spelling as seriously as they do their bottom lines.)

All in all, I heartily recommend the book, and I commend Nora Roberts for taking the risk of deviating from a proven formula.  She did it very well, indeed.

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Fun Facts Friday – Annie Talbot

Here are five fun facts about me!

  1. I will go the extra mile for a pun, no matter how bad.  Seriously. It’s evil.
  2. My favorite vegetable is asparagus.  (This is important, because I love veggies, and there are many to choose from.  Which, I suppose, is a Bonus Fact.)
  3. My favorite color, at the moment, is blue.
  4. I drive hybrids.  The two family cars are a Prius and a Highlander Hybrid.  Both blue.
  5. I have a deep and abiding love for Monty Python.  This is how I know I’m capable of commitment.

Tell me some fun facts about yourself!

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Prince SPaGhetti Day – Homonymophobia

So, my second post on Prince Spaghetti Day is going to be about the dreaded SPaG Monster.  In my many years as a reader, a writer, and an editor, I’ve seen the wide variety of things that people just can’t seem to get a handle on, writing-wise.

Today, I’d like to tackle homonyms.

Homonyms are divided into two groups:  homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently) and homographs (words that are spelled the same, but sound or mean different things).  For writers, it’s not the homographs that present the problems, it’s the homophones.  And they don’t just challenge those of us swimming around in the muck, trying to get experience; bestselling authors (and their copyeditors) have trouble with them, too!

So, what are examples of these pesky creatures?

  • its and it’s – Guess what!  The apostrophe signals the contraction, not possession.  So, “it’s” = it + is, while “its” means “belonging to it”.  Used in a sentence, they would be:  It’s always fun to watch the kitten playing with its ball.

Right.  Clear as mud, I’m sure.  Let’s try another one!

  • there, their, and they’re – Again, the apostrophe is telling us that we’re dealing with a contraction.  So “they’re” = they + are.  “There” is has the virtue of being both a homophone and a homograph.  It can mean “that place” (Put it “there”.); it can be an introductory word in a declarative sentence in which the verb precedes the noun (“There” is no hope.).  And then “their” is the possessive of “they”.  Used in a sentence, we’d say:  There is no way they’re going to get their work done before the deadline.

Ugh.  It’s worse!

Other really common ones include:

  • affect/effect
  • stationary/stationery
  • eminent/immanent/imminent
  • principal/principle
  • altar/alter
  • site/sight/cite
  • discreet/discrete
  • forward/foreward
  • hear/here
  • bear/bare
  • lead/led (Just a word here… “led” is the past tense of the verb “to lead”.  It’s an entirely different word from “lead”, the element. Necessity led Paul to lead the group to the safety of the lead mine.
  • passed/past

Anyway, there are a lot of these little suckers.  And it’s easy to get tripped up!  Spellcheck generally doesn’t help you with homonyms; if you’ve spelled the right word the wrong way, you’re screwed!  So, keep in mind that there are a lot of words that sound the same and look different.  And, if it’s not your strong suit, make sure that one of your beta readers or critique partners is a fantastic speller!

Do you have any favorite homonyms?

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