#FridayFragment, 17.08.2018

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

“Never,” she said. She drummed her long, lacquered fingernails on the counter. “Never.”

He leaned his hands on the table and gave her a look.

“You’re being unreasonable.”

“Reason has nothing to do with it.”

“Reason has everything to do with it.” He picked up the bottle and thrust it at her.

She stubbornly shook her head.

“No,” she repeated emphatically. “I will not use artificial vanilla extract.”

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Peaches

Once again, it’s peach season – my favourite season. Well, apart from Christmas. And spring. And early fall. And… Whatever, you get the drift. And as I was thinking about how much I love peach season, I was reminded of one of my earliest blog posts, from 2010. So I looked it up, and thought it might be worth reposting. Here it is, from 22. August 2010 (excuse the rough edges; it was early days in the blogosphere for me). The picture is brand-new, though, from just now. Aren’t they gorgeous?

amovitam_peaches

Peaches

On the third day, God created plants. And I’m quite sure that at the very end, when he’d made all the other stuff, he said “Now, for the crowning achievement: The Peach!” And he created it round and fuzzy, juicy, yellow-and-pink and delectably sweet. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and morning were the third day.

I didn’t make any canned peaches last year, so we were reduced to buying the ones from the grocery store. The kids weren’t impressed; it’s just not the same, they said. And they are right, of course. Now, the thing is that when I was a kid myself, back in Germany, tinned peaches were one of my favourite things, a high treat that we didn’t get very often (there’s a fun recipe called “Falsche Spiegeleier”, Fake Fried Eggs, with is half a canned peach in a flat dish with vanilla custard poured around it. It does look like a fried egg, and is quite a yummy dessert). I thought they were wonderful. But then that was before I came to Canada, and experienced the marvel of real, fully-ripe, still-warm-from-the-sun peaches picked right off the tree. In fact, perhaps it was the peaches that lured me over the Atlantic to permanently settle here? (No, don’t tell my husband. It had nothing to do with marrying him at all. I only married him for his guitar, anyway.)

One of the things I like best about summer is bringing home a box of peaches from the farmer’s market or the orchard down the street, and having them sit on the kitchen counter for a few days, getting ever more ripe and tender; and then, while leaning over to get something from one of the upper cupboards, getting a big nose-full of that incomparable scent of soft sweetness. It’s beyond me why the makers of fake foods think they can reproduce that aroma with “peach flavouring”. Hah! I scorn their attempts, I laugh in their faces – hahahah!

Now to put all that goodness into jars for winter, when the snow flies and the scent the house is filled with is cinnamon simmering in the potpourri burner on the windowsill.

Life, the universe, and Peach Season. I love it.

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#FridayFragment: 03.08.2019

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

Slowly, unnoticed at first, the kettle came to a boil. A soft simmering sound, then bubbling, a gentle blowing; then faster and faster, sharp and shrill, the whistle screamed its message into the air. “I’m seething, roiling, boiling! Get me off the heat! Do it nowwwwwww!”

I knew exactly how it felt.

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Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! (or: “Platform 9 3/4”)

I got another runner-up win in a WritersDomain writing contest!! It was a Harry Potter FanFiction contest, in honour of Harry’s birthday, which is today, July 31. I’d never written fanfiction before (turned up my nose at it, if I’ve got to be honest), but this one I couldn’t resist. I mean, Harry Potter

And seeing as I was just there a year ago, at King’s Cross and the Platform 9 3/4 Store, that’s what I wrote about.

You can read it here: “Platform 9 3/4” – scroll down, mine is the third entry. On second thought, don’t scroll down, read the other two first. They’re really good. I might have to revise my opinion on fanfiction.

Life, the Universe, and Platform 9 3/4. Alohomora!

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#FridayFragment: 27.07.2018

Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: verso, showing oath. Via Wkimedia Commons.

I dropped my piece of toast, butter-side down.

“What the … ?” I stared. Blinked. Stared again.

But it was really there. Without a doubt. On my pantry shelf there sat an emerald-green dragon, all of four inches long from small smoke-spouting snout to lithe, whipping tail, its scales glittering in the light that fell through the doorway from the kitchen.

“Sssss!” it hissed at me.

“Sssss to you too!” I hissed back at it.

I should have known right there that I wasn’t quite in my right mind – having a hissing contest with a miniature dragon, rather than running screaming from the pantry or at least backing out slowly and carefully and then gently soaking my head in a sinkful of cold water until the hallucinations went away.

There was a knock on the front door.

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The Editor Pontificates: He Said, She Said

Punctuating dialogue seems to be a bĂȘte noire for a lot of fiction writers. Never mind what word you should use for describing your character’s utterance – he said, she yelled, it whispered, I answered – the real question seems to be, do you capitalise it or not? Which punctuation mark goes on the end of the sentence, inside the quotation marks, and what goes outside?

It’s not really that hard. Dialogue in fiction, I told the Offspring when we were homeschooling, is like speech bubbles in comic strips (I made them transcribe lots of Garfield comics to practise, poor things). The quotation marks are the speech bubble (somebody is saying something); the text is what goes inside the bubble (here’s what they’re saying); and the little pointy tail on the bubble is the speech tag (this is who is talking).

So if you picture your scene as a comic strip (or call it “graphic novel”, if that makes you feel more grown-up), all you need to do is put those speech bubbles in place and write down what you see.

The thing to keep in mind is that the speech bubble, pointy tail and all, is one unit. What that means is that speech and speech tag are one sentence, and you punctuate them accordingly: the speech tag is in lower case, because it’s the middle of the sentence. It’s easy to figure out: “he said” can’t be a sentence in its own right, ever – so you don’t capitalise it when it comes after a speech.

So here’s an example:

Steve comic 1

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” said Steve the Bear.

Easy speech tag, lower case. Question marks and exclamation marks stay just as they are, at the end of the sentence inside the bubble, so we know that the speaker is asking a question or exclaiming.

One slightly tricky case, however, is the period at the end of a speech. Because the speech and the speech tag are one sentence, English punctuation converts that period into a comma inside the quotation marks, and puts the period at the end of the speech tag instead.

Like so:

Steve comic 2

“Why on earth would you want to do that? That’s weird,” she said.

If you want to expand the speech tag, the period goes on the end of the expanded part, because it’s a part of the sentence:

“Why on earth would you want to do that? That’s weird,” she said, frowning at him.

This is the thing that trips people up the most, that comma/lowercase convention. The thing is that if you capitalise the word after the speech, you’ve started a new sentence – you’ve chopped off the pointy tail. A lone “He said” is just as disconcerting as a free-floating pointy speech bubble tail.

You are, of course, free to start a new sentence after a speech – often, a speech tag isn’t necessary; it’s clear who speaks without the pointy tail. And in that case, you want to keep the period as a period. Here, for example, I could say:

“Why on earth would you want to do that? That’s weird.” She frowned at him.

Another thing that’s a bit tricky is interjected speech tags – the speech tag in the middle of that sentence package. You read the first part of the speech, then look at where the tail is pointing, then read the rest of the text in the bubble. But once again, we’re dealing with one sentence here, so the speech tag is set off with commas, and what comes after a comma is always a lowercase letter.

Steve comic 3

“You’re right,” he said, “it was a silly idea. Never mind.”

If you break up the sentence inside the bubble with a speech tag, lowercase the letter in the second part of the quotation. If, however, your speech tag comes between two complete speech sentences, the second sentence still starts with an uppercase letter, just like it does inside the bubble:

“You’re right, it was a silly idea,” he said. “Never mind.”

And there you have it. Punctuation of direct speech, caps and lowercases, and Steve the Bear waxing Shakespearean on me.

“I can only blame the heat of the day for it,” she said, wrinkling her forehead, “it’s pretty toasty today.”

“You just can’t take compliments!” yelled Steve from the back of the couch. “Besides, bears don’t mind the heat.” His voice got quieter as he rolled down onto the couch cushions. “Have you seen my notebook? I’m sure I left it somewhere around here…”

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