On an Effulgence of Commas, a Criticism of Kindles, and Other Stuff

Commas, are inserted into sentences, to separate phrases, and items, in lists.

If it did not hurt your brain to read that sentence, there is something wrong with you. Really. Imagine reading through paragraph after paragraph of that stuff. Then imagine a book filled with such a mish-mash.

It sure caused me pain to write it. And it hurts any would-be author to produce a complete novel rife with such grammatical errors. In fact, it can destroy any hope he – or she – ever had of creating an audience for any future work. Certainly, anyone who ever read that first grammatical disaster will never attempt to read another by him.

And I just attempted to read 2 such works. Both were free downloads for the Kindle platform, and both suffered from the same malady – to whit, an effulgence of commas. It seemed to me the authors thought if a few commas were the mark of a well-educated writer, lots of comas hailed the appearance of another Hemingway.

They do not.

Both novels showed a clever approach to plots and well constructed characters. However, the overuse of commas made heavy weather of the reading. I simply could not wade through all of the grammatical abuse just to get to the end of the story. It irritated the hell out of me, in fact. If I had known the author personally it would have hurt me to know he’d embarrassed himself in such a manner.

Please. If you have the slightest suspicion that you just possibly might not know what you’re about when it comes to English grammar, take the time to read – and study what you read – novels by Summerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Eyre, Agatha Christie and other truly successful authors. Then try to write another novel. Do yourself – and me, your potential reader  –  a very big favor, and take this advice to heart.

Analyze how these authors use comas, and semi-colons, and exclamation points.  Learn simple stuff like that from successful authors. If that does not work for you, if you cannot wade through another high-school English text book and get a good grip on the basic rules of the road for the English language, learn by doing. Write a few paragraphs and read it aloud to yourself to understand how the punctuation marks you’ve tossed into your work in your typical helter-skelter fashion affect the flow of your reading.

If you finally give up and admit your utter ignorance of the use of English grammar, buy a nice box of chocolates and walk over to the home of your high-school English teacher, hand her the box of chocolates as you apologize in a truly abject fashion for ignoring her every word through every class she ever taught, and beg her to help you out now.

Do whatever you need to do to figure out how to use punctuation correctly. Either do that or study another language – actually study it as if your life depended on it, because it does. Because you will never, ever, become a successful author in the English language if you cannot learn the use of such a simple tool as the comma. Maybe you’ll have better luck in Spanish, or perhaps Ukrainian, or Mandarin Chinese.

Or hire a professional editor. They cost a fortune and they will tire, very quickly, of dealing with your determined ignorance when it comes to grammar. So be prepared to hire several, at amazingly high rates per hour.

Those few paragraphs were actually written to encourage you to apply yourself to your writing. Just because you have a book or two in you does not mean you have the skills to write well enough to attract – and keep – an audience.

That requires work – and study. Develop your tools and hone your skills. The English language is a tool. Do not insult your readers by writing badly. Please.

And now for the Kindle, Heaven’s gift to the Indy author. I love it. But I absolutely hate (with a passion) the flat file system. Have you ever tried to delete a book from the Kindle? There are at least two files for each book, and if you read as much as I do – reading keeps me from writing, you see, so I read a lot – you find yourself with several duds that, by their very presence, cause embarrassment to all of the authors’ works that you want to keep on your Kindle. In fact, I created a folder titled “Junk” and dump all of the impossible-to-read stuff in there. Sadly, the Kindle OS refuses to ‘see’ any folders you create so you cannot simply go into the directory structure and delete the contents of the Junk folder. That would be way too easy. Why don’t they create such a folder for us???

Another irritant I have with the device is that you are only allowed to create one layer of  folders, such as:  sci-fi, mysteries, cooking, historical fiction, and so on. What Kindle does not allow you to do is to go into one of those top-level folders and create a set of folders for each author. That would make way too much sense.

That takes care of my two gripes for this week. Your comments would be very welcome.

But I have a few smaller bits to cover.

Fist, I recently acquired a laptop. My rambling lifestyle (which can be somewhat of a drag at times, especially when all you have to work on is a desktop PC) is not really conducive to the use of a PC and a library that takes up fifteen large cardboard boxes (So I got rid of my library and bought a laptop). I really do not mind travelling and meeting new people and seeing new places. I just mind typing on itty-bitty keyboards. The keys are in all the wrong places when your fingers are the size of breadsticks (though not nearly so flexible).  And that swipe pad instead of a mouse, and those two ginormous fat keys below it are way too sensitive for me. All I have to do is breathe in their general direction and weird things happen on my screen. Emails disappear from my in-box, whatever page is in my browser is rapidly replaced by a page with three or four X’s in the URL bar, and the Huffington Post is always lurking in the background attempting to replace townhall.com.

I want a full-sized keyboard, a real 2-button mouse with a scroll wheel and a full screen. Only I also want the portability of a laptop. And batteries that last for days, not hours.

Oh, well.

I spent most of this year either thinking about, researching or writing a novel with a co-author, Tony Attanasio. Tony is a former detective sergeant with the NYPD, and worked for about ten years with the DEA and worked as liaison with the CIA in Europe. He’s been there, and done that, and he is a man easy to admire and respect. But we had what can best be called “Artistic Differences” brought on by a third party whose interest in the novel was very important to Tony. I do not blame either of them. I can’t, because I admire them far too much. We just had differences of opinion. So I backed out of the project. Which left me with several large holes in my productivity for the year. But that’s just too bad for me. I wish them both well. And Tony and I still have a friendship, and a lunch date in Palatka some time later this year.

I am now living on a 10-acre ranchette about twenty miles west of Ocala, along with fifteen ‘Fainting goats”, five horses, a dozen-odd chickens, a cat and two white Great Pyrenees. And trees. And you can’t hear the cars on the road.

So now that I am settled in (it doesn’t take long), I am going to be writing again. Lots of writing, comfortably broken up by a bit of work around the place, and living quietly while I make up for lost time.

Is there such a thing as ‘making up for lost time’?  I’m not sure we can really do that. But I’m going to try.

On Saturday, 8 September, I will be in Green Cove Springs, Fl, where I will be speaking to the North Florida Writer’s Group. Since I refuse to prepare notes, or waste time rehearsing, I will be speaking off-the-cuff (winging it) “On Writing”. This will be at the “Historic Grounds bookstore/Gift Shop” on Walnut Street, just of Hwy 17 in dynamic downtown Green Cove, at 2 p.m.

You will be most welcome, should you stop by.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. Those words were written a few years ago. Frankly speaking, the literary well has dried up. I now live in Dunnellon, Fl, where I amworking as the caretaker on a horse farm and looking to build a workshop here on the property where I can get back to building furniture. With any luck I will be sinking piers some time early in November and hope to have the floor joists ready for flooring by the end of the month. I'll get back to you on that.
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5 Responses to On an Effulgence of Commas, a Criticism of Kindles, and Other Stuff

  1. Sara Flower says:

    I can understand the frustration about Kindles. As for making up for lost time, I think one can do that! 🙂 Where you are staying now sounds wonderfully inspiring. I love the quiet-ness of the country. Jealous!

    • I’m in Dunnellon, Fl. Where are you, that you’re jealous of little old me?

      • Sara Flower says:

        lol! I live in Ontario but I’m in the city right now. I like my high rise apartment, but in a few years I want to have my house in the woods. 🙂

      • It’s much warmer here in Florida during the winter months. I’ve had to work outdoors in blizzards in Nevada, so I have no love in my heart for cold weather. If you ever change your mind about things like that, I’m sure we would all be very happy to welcome you to Florida!

      • Sara Flower says:

        I’ve seen my share of (too many) blizzards here. I begin to become bitter once February hits, while you are enjoying pleasant weather in Florida I am sure. I do plan to have a winter home somewhere in the southern states one day, and Florida might just be the perfect spot! 🙂

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