Donating a Book and a Smile

Diane Lynn Tibert
Expect the unexpected and you'll get caught off guard less often.

The writing world is filled with pleasant surprises, disappointments and moments you may want to remember and forget. Sometimes you can expect that something different will happen. Other times, when you’re doing something for the first time, you’re caught off guard by something that is done to you or something that you must do.

One of those ‘strange to me’ moments happened Monday when I hand-delivered a copy of Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove to my daughter’s school. It all began quite innocently enough. While picking her up for an appointment, I thought it’d be a great time to donate my book to her school library. The office secretary pointed me in the right direction and asked if the book she carried was of special importance to me.

“Yes,” I said with way too little confidence. I hesitated to say more, hoping I’d escape without fanfare. See, I really don’t like fanfare, being the centre of attention. I know it’s something I should get used to. After all, this business dictates that I meet others and show off what I’ve done.

Taking the plunge, I said, “I wrote it.”

That’s where a simple drop off turned into something more.  I was introduced to the librarian as the author. She produced a camera and wanted to take a picture of me and my book.

Gosh, I know I said I like old photographs of me, but I really don’t like getting my picture taken. Still, I took a deep breath, pulled my daughter under my arm and smiled. I smiled as though the librarian wasn’t going to steal my soul with that digital device. I smiled as if I had just been handed an award for my book. I smiled like I was never going to see that picture . . . ever.

The Stylish Blogger Award and My Favourite Things

AwardI wasn’t aware there were awards for blogging – I’m that new to Blogland. So when Laura Best bestowed The Stylish Blogger Award on me, I was quite surprised. Thank you, Laura.

Upon receiving this award, I’m to share five of my most favourite things. I’m going to skip the obvious – family, friends, writing – and move into my other five favourite things, things I’d like to enjoy every day, but don’t always get the chance to.

1) Sunshine: Whether it’s pouring through the windows, dancing on the water, revealing magic dust on minute snowflakes, highlighting my children’s hair, dappling the forest floor or cascading on my skin, I love it.

2) Cranberries: Cranberry sandwiches every day for all my school years have not turned me against this wonderful berry. I still love it. I eat them as a sauce in a bowl or on bread, in loaves and muffins, squeezed into juice and when nothing else is available, from a can. But the best way to eat a cranberry is in the fall when they are ripe and ready to burst. I love to pick one, put it in my mouth and test the strength of the skin until it explodes with flavour.

3) Music: It makes me laugh, curse out loud, smile, cry, think and dance. In 3.20 minutes, a song can make me consider another way of thinking, give me ideas or make me happy. Life without music would be unbearable.Diane Lynn Tibert

4) My camera: My love for photography is as old as my love for writing. After all these years, I’m still fascinated by the fact that I can capture an image in a fraction of a second. My many thousands of photographs remind me of a life that has passed. Long after the day turns into history, I can look at the pictures and remember my children as they were when they were toddlers beneath the table covered in Jello powder or surrounded by their stuffed animals the first day they moved from a crib to a real bed.

5) My pencil: It records my imagination in words and images. My first novel was written in pencil in a coiled Diane Lynn Tibertnotebook. Pencils of various quality and abilities have a special spot on my desk for quick notes, entries into my day planner and to work out a scene in a novel. My pencil creates visuals of my characters, reminds me with a quick sketch that they have long hair, wear their sword on the left or are missing a finger. I will never master the pencil, but I certainly have fun trying.

Now I have the pleasure of passing on The Stylish Blogger Award to five bloggers.

  1. Sandra Phinney: Sandra is an amazing writer based in Nova Scotia. She’s published in many formats including book, newspaper and magazine. I was fortunate to meet Sandra in 1999, just when she was getting started and I was dreaming of getting started. She has always been an inspiration to me.
  2. Jodi DeLong: Jodi is a garden writer based in Nova Scotia, author of Plants for Atlantic Gardens. I’ve been reading her gardening articles for many years in different publications.
  3. Thea Atkinson: Author of The Secret Language of Crows, Pray for Reign and others. Thea is based in Nova Scotia.
  4. Tracy: I recently discovered Tracy’s blog. I find her posts interesting and make me stop and think about my own life.
  5. Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn: Genevieve is a historical fiction author and editor based in Nova Scotia. Her posts contain helpful editing tips among other things.

Pen Names are Good. Or are they Bad?

Several years ago while having my eyes tested, the optometrist asked me if I ever hesitated to make decisions. A little confused, I asked why. “You’re the quickest patient I ever had for giving answers,” he said. Each time he changed the lens for me to see which was clearer than the other, my answer was immediate.

I still give quick answers unless there is an important reason to ponder. However, I’ve learnt over the years that sometimes pondering can taint an answer. Gut reaction is sometimes better.

Diana Lynn Tibert
I love my name.

When it came to deciding if I wanted to use a pen name for my youth novel, I thought long and hard about the consequences. After all, I had become attached to the name I had grown up with. I had even researched and found it had arrived in Canada in 1751. Although the spelling had changed over the centuries, it was the name given to me at birth.

The surname doesn’t accurately reflect who I am, just who my father’s father’s father was. He was German and could trace all his ancestors back to Germany. However, I am an equal mixture of four cultures: German, Scottish, English and Irish.

Still, the name on my official records stood above the other three surnames of my ancestors.

With the deadline for my novel approaching, I flipped back and forth from, No, don’t use a pen name to, Yes, use a pen name.

The argument for not using a pen name was obvious. My real name was my name. It had already been published, so readers may recognise it. It could easily be found all over the web. I could claim that book as mine without explanation.

The argument for using a pen name was also obvious. I could create a name easily pronounced, easily spelt and easily remembered. After all, adults couldn’t pronounce it properly so how could I expect a ten-year-old to do so? Secretaries copying information from one source to another couldn’t even get the spelling right to keep my medical records straight.

Diane Lynn Tibert
Juggling more than one name may be a wee bit confusing.

I thought about creating a pen name for a month, considering the pros and cons. Then one morning, before opening my eyes, a name materialized in my head. I admit I was half asleep when I thought of it. I asked myself, “What name would not only appeal to kids, but be easily remembered by them?”

Candy McMudd popped in my head. I got up and immediately wrote it down. There, I had decided in that one second that I should use a pen name and what that pen name would be. All day, I played with the idea. Maybe it wasn’t the best. Maybe I should rethink this idea. Then I’d remind myself that gut reactions were better than long pondering discussions with one self.

And Candy McMudd was born. She would be the author of all my children’s books and similar material.

Now and again, I wonder if my decision was the right one. I feel a little uncertain about saying, “I’m Candy McMudd.” when promoting my book. I feel I must explain that it is just a name, one that is easy to remember, spell and pronounce.

On the other hand, books sold over the Internet don’t need me to say that. It doesn’t really matter what name is attached to a title as long as readers recognise it.

Throughout my nonfiction career, I’ve used my given name. Now that I feel I’m on the verge of my fiction career, I must decide what I’ll use. Should I simply use my given name or use both my given name for nonfiction and Candy McMudd for everything else? Or should I chose a third and use it for my adult fiction?

Diane Lynn Tibert
How many names should one person have?

I feel like I’m going through an identity crisis.

It will probably be years before I know for sure if my decisions were good or a not so good. Until then, I’ll just keep on writing with whatever name tag I’m wearing.

Do you use a pen name? If so, how do you feel about it?

“I’m glad you’re a writer,” he said.

Diane Lynn Tibert
Taking an unscheduled tour of the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park with the kids is just one advantage of working at home.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling to meet a deadline. Everyone else in the house was doing their thing: chatting, playing games or watching television. I was at the computer, forming sentences, creating paragraphs and editing to get an article completed.

The commotion in the kitchen – where my make-shift office is located – was more distracting than usual. It was a no-school day, so all the kids were home. Blocking out noise, refereeing arguments and serving meals are the disadvantage of working at home.

My kids don’t go to a babysitter’s or a daycare on a no-school day even though it’s a work day for me. They can sleep in, we can stay home and if we want, we can take a day trip to a museum, beach or visit with family. Storm days, sick days and any other stay-home day are a breeze because I’m already home. That’s the advantage of working at home.

But on this day, the day I struggled to meet a deadline with the noise level continuing to rise, working at home with kids in the house didn’t seem like an advantage at all.

For a moment, I sat back in my chair and took a deep breath. I knew I’d eventually finish the article – I’d done it many times before under worse circumstances – but that day, it just seemed like more of a challenge.

That’s when my youngest, only seven years old, crawled onto my lap. He’d been bugging me earlier about finishing the back cover for the book he’d written and I thought he was going to ask about it again even though I told him I didn’t have time until later. But he didn’t. Instead, he looked at the computer and gave me a big hug. Then he looked up at me and said, “I’m glad you’re a writer.”

He gave me a sweet little smile, jumped off my lap then raced off to play with his older brother. As I watched him go, I couldn’t help but smile, too.

My energy renewed, I returned to the keyboard to finish the article. I was happy, too, that I was a writer and had a deadline to meet and that my kids were at home with me.

My List is My Ticket to Productivity

Diane Lynn Tibert
I love rambling along the garden path but a list reminds me I have important things to do.

More than a dozen years ago while taking a break from installing vinyl siding on a building we were renovating on the Shearwater Air Force Base, I took out a list I was following. Another worker – the fellow who amazed me by driving his motorcycle ten months of the year – leaned over and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was checking my weekly list.

He chuckled and said, “I used to make lists, but I’d never follow them. I’d have to make a note to remind me to look at the list.”

To this day I think about his comment every time I make a new list. He was right in many ways. People make lists all the time only to forget about them the moment they’ve been made. I’m guilty of that. I’ve made many lists over the years that were useless, useless in the fact that I didn’t follow them.

Still, it doesn’t mean lists are useless. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes the things on the list weren’t as important as first believed.

In fact, lists are very important to me. They remind me of what I need to do. Without them, I ramble, dilly-dally, believing there’s nothing important to do, and I daydream, wondering what I might do.

Sometimes it takes a few weeks for me to realise I’ve been without a list for too long. It’s when it suddenly occurs to me that nothing is done on an assignment and the deadline is fast approaching, or a project I intended to start was forgotten about.

Making a list of things to do gets me moving forward. I check them off when completed, and if I finish the list, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something.

Do you find yourself floundering, wondering why you can’t get things done? Then maybe a list will help you get back on track.

Because There is No Need for a Comma

Diane Lynn Tibert
The past has always intrigued me and has kept my feet grounded in the present.

I’m a little old fashioned, holding fast to what I learnt years ago from parents old enough to be my grandparents. When it comes to the basics of life, I won’t budge. Meat and potatoes are still a good supper, wearing a hat – regardless of how dorky looking – is still wise to keep in the heat and commas never go before because.

Commas before because, you say? What’s that all about? No one puts commas before because.

Well, actually a small group of individuals do. I’m not sure where this trend began, but it’s not old school and it’s not common in Nova Scotia. Perhaps it was brought in from the west or by our neighbours to the south.

The first time I noticed a comma before because was in my daughter’s homework assignment in October of 2010. It stuck out like a sore thumb. I told her that the punctuation was incorrect and we changed it. However, she told me her English teacher had told her to put it there.

I politely told her the teacher was wrong; we don’t do that in Nova Scotia – not in all of Canada from what I’ve experienced.

Not a month later, I found the editor of my manuscript had done the same thing: put a comma before because. Now that really got me curious. Had I been making this punctuation mistake all my life?

I jumped on the Internet and googled the comma and because. I found several sites, some supported the comma, some tossed it and others said it didn’t matter.

One site brought the truth to the forefront:

Commas do not go in front of because because the simple act of adding that word makes what follows a sub-ordinate clause which isn’t separated from the front of the sentence with a comma.

The Chicago Manual of Style didn’t give a good reason to include the comma. If it is just to clarify, then perhaps the sentence should be rewritten.

For example, “He didn’t run because he was afraid.” clearly states he didn’t run because he was afraid to run. Because is used because the writer is telling the reader why he didn’t run.

I wouldn’t write, “He didn’t run, because he was afraid.” if I wanted to say he didn’t run, but not because he was afraid to, but for another reason. If so, the sentence would be rewritten into two sentences to be correct: “He didn’t run. He was afraid.”

The whole idea of using because is to explain the first half of the sentence.

Another website supporting the comma used yet another poor example. Adding a comma does not reduce the confusion created by this writer because the sentence begs to be misunderstood.

The sentence reads: “I knew that President Nixon would resign that morning, because my sister-in-law worked in the White House and she called me with the news.”

A comment on this exact sentence – which seems to have made its rounds on the Internet – posted on another site notes the missing comma before the and: “I knew that President Nixon would resign that morning because my sister-in-law worked in the White House, (add comma here) and she called me with the news.”

I wouldn’t have written the sentence either way, so the commas utilized wouldn’t come in to play. Instead, I would have written: “I knew President Nixon would resign that morning because my sister-in-law, who worked in the White House, called me with the news.”

There. No confusing on the part of the reader.
I think some people are trying to support the use of commas before because by writing poor sentences. Using poor examples to prove a point is . . . pointless. It’s like smashing your vehicle into a power pole and saying, “Officer, I knew it was crazy to go out in this snow storm, and, yes, I did hear the warnings on the radio for drivers to stay off the roads, but I have all-season tires and . . . well, I really needed new floor mats for the car.”

Personally, I can’t ever recall seeing a comma before because in any books, magazine articles or newspaper stories. It would stand out like whip cream on a sandwich. The next time you’re reading published material, look for the comma. I doubt you’ll find one.

A few websites suggest the comma before because is optional, so to be on the safe side, always use it. Personally, I don’t believe editors, who are already pressed for space, will add unnecessary characters, meaning they (or you) will have to remove them.

That’s my opinion, and I’ll need a darn good reason to change it. Adding commas to poorly constructed sentences is not one of them.

The First Step in Blogland

Diane Lynn Tibert
First steps can be scary . . . and wet.

Goals trigger actions. This year, one of my goals is to begin a blog. So here I am . . . my first step in Blogland. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll write about but many things come to mind. Although I am a writer in the heart, a dreamer in the soul, I’ve experienced many things over the years and held many positions in the workforce. All those floors I’ve mopped and seedlings I’ve planted seem necessary to create the characters in my stories.

But first, let me introduce myself.

I’m Diane Lynn Tibert, native of Cole Harbour, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, Canada. My roots have grown in this soil for more than 250 years and stretch across the Atlantic to Scotland, England, Ireland and Germany.

I’ve been a writer my entire life even when I didn’t know it. The earliest stories were created in grade one. I’d write about the adventures my friends and I enjoyed in the woods surrounding our homes. By the time I was in grade three, my friend, Beverley Davis, and I were writing plays in Campfire Notebooks. I’m not sure how many we filled, and I don’t know what happened to them, but for one day, I wish I could sit and read them.

High school was a mix of homework, hanging out with friends and writing novels. Back then, I dreamt of getting published but was terrified to share my writing with anyone. After graduation, physical work consumed my days, and years passed before I realised the many jobs that never satisfied me were simply keeping me from what I truly needed to do: write.

My first piece, an article about gardening, appeared in 1998. Since then, my by-line has appeared hundreds of times in newspapers and magazines. My interests have changed over the years but the nice thing about writing is that regardless of how I feel, what I’m doing or where I’m at in life, I can write about it. Just as I can’t remember when the spark of writing began in my life, neither can I see the spark fading. It is one constant in life I can always turn to.

My blog will be about writing, the writing world and whatever inspires me to do what I do within that world. The writing business is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Just when you think you know enough to get it right, you learn you need to know more. Then you learn you must unlearn things taught to you while in school – how crazy is that?

So here’s the newest blogget’s first footprint in Blogland. I hope the weather is . . . unpredictable.