Friday, November 28, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person would not abandon you in your hour of need--not when you face potential pitfalls at every turn: an avalanche of apostrophes, a mountain of misplaced modifiers, and a desert of dangling participles. The horror! In truth, Mrs. G. P. gets it, but fervently hopes that "get" is a word you choose to forget. Excellent writing, (the only kind that merits discussion) has no place for such a silly word, a word tossed about hither and yon, a word which is the first and last resort of a lazy lay-about. When Mrs. G.P. reads that it's time to "get going", or for people to "get to know each other", she feels quite faint. Once she has recovered (with the help of a strong pot of tea and some lovely biscuits), she firmly replaces the offending word with a proper verb.

While our favorite grammarian is deciding which topic to embark upon next (there are so many, after all), she hears a knock at the door. Delighted by the thought of an unexpected guest, Mrs. G.P. perks up and answers the door. An older gentleman looking very dapper in a morning coat and top hat greets Mrs. G.P. with a shy smile.

"Please pardon the intrusion, dear lady, but having read your blog posts, I feel that you are a kindred spirit and wish to make your acquaintance."

Although accustomed to the admiration of her devotees, Mrs. G.P. is nonetheless humbled and flattered by the attention.

"Do, tell," she replies, giving him an arch look before inviting him into her office. "Clearly, only an Englishman, such as yourself, could appreciate the beauty of our shared language."

With a flourish, the gentleman tips his hat to Mrs. Grammar Person before removing it. "I hope you don't think it impolite that I've come to take a peek at you, but your writing has piqued my interest. In fact, I am at the peak of my curiosity."

Mrs. G.P. claps her hands with amusement. "Bravo! Well done! How clever of you. That someone so discreet can comprehend such discrete possibilities; it's wonderful."

Beaming at her, the guest nods in agreement. "And how fascinating that both words derive from the same Latin word, discretus, which means separated. Don't you agree?"

Of course Mrs. Grammar Person agrees--how could she not, when she carefully analyzes the origin of each word she encounters? For example, continuously means continuing uninterrupted while continually means continuing over a long period of time with interruption. So interesting!

"May I beg your indulgence?" asks the esteemed gentleman, lightly kissing the hand of the startled Mrs. G.P. "Although I fear I might've gone too far already…"

Our favorite grammarian quickly recovers her composure and makes a confession to her befuddled guest. "One prays to hear high praise, yet it preys upon one's mind to desire it too much."

The gentleman chuckles. "At the risk of exaggerating to the point of hyperbole, I must say, Mrs. Grammar Person, you are the jewel in the crown. I feel I have overstayed my welcome and will take my leave now. I hope to visit you again soon. I would consider it the highest honor." He tips his hat and turns to go.

Mrs. G.P. sees him to the door. "But I never asked you your name, sir, how terribly rude of me."

The gentleman replies, cheerfully, "My name is Mr. Syntax, and it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

With a knowing smile, Mrs. GP nods. "I sense that we will become fast friends, indeed!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person, heeding your cry for help, has returned, delighted to be of service once again. Like you, Mrs. G.P revels in the knowledge that, while fashions may come and go (both the tasteful and the tacky), exceptional grammar never goes out of style. It is her fervent hope that her words of wisdom serve to complement your knowledge so that you receive nothing but compliments in your writing.

Mrs. G.P. marvels at the difference a single letter can make! She knows that the effect of her words deeply affect you. Especially once you come to realize that effect is a noun and affect is a verb.

She brings you these tidbits so that you may take them with you, safely ensconced in your heart, along with your affection for your favorite grammarian. Coyly, Mrs. Grammar Person reminds you that you bring things toward you, but take things away from you.

Mrs. G. P. wants you to know that you can always count on her. And speaking of counting, here is a handy rule: when using "fewer" or "less" in a sentence, if you can count it, use the word "fewer", if you cannot, use the word "less".  Another excellent rule to live by is this one:  Less is more. Nobody likes to hear anything twice, so it's best to avoid being repetitious, redundant, reiterative, and duplicative in your writing, dear ones. As Shakespeare taught us, brevity is the soul of wit!

When Mrs. Grammar Person hears of the mistakes her writers frequently make, she feels an attack of the vapors coming on and must immediately lie down. She lays her head on the pillow and waits for her devotees to understand the difference between lie and lay. Lay must always have an object. Thus, you lay the book on the counter, but lie down. One way to remember this is to tell yourself that people lie, but Mrs. G. P. disagrees, believing that most people are honest and good.

Mrs. Grammar Person has enjoyed chatting with you today and hopes that you follow her advice, not out of admiration for her, but because of its own intrinsic worth. Mrs. G. P. will sleep well tonight knowing that you understand "it's" is a contraction of it and is, while "its"is the possessive form and requires no apostrophe. Ever.

Mrs. Grammar Person fondly bids you adieu, Gentle Writers, comforted by the thought that your paths will cross again.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, for help has arrived.  Rest assured that your grimaces and groans, your grinding of teeth have not gone unnoticed. And because Mrs. Grammar Person abhors the grinding of perfectly good teeth, she has agreed to impart her timely wisdom to those afflicted with self-doubt.

In a stage whisper, Mrs. Grammar Person explains that although she is your true friend, spell-check is not. Spell-check is fickle and delights in trickery. He will make you believe that it's morning when, in fact, you're in mourning, or that you should waver when you are seeking a waiver. He doesn't care if your simple please turns into multiple pleas, and he will most likely desert you if you ask for dessert.  

Mrs. G.P. wishes to remind you for whom the bell tolls (if you must ask, it tolls for thee). When in doubt as to whether to use who or whom, simply substitute the word him. If him will do nicely, then the word you want is whom. Mrs. G.P. shudders to think that you would even consider writing "For he the bell tolls." She keeps her smelling salts handy, just in case.

Being an agreeable person, herself, Mrs. G.P. insists that all her nouns and verbs also agree; therefore, a swarm of bees searches for honey, but the two straggler bees search on their own. How sweet the sound of proper grammar!

While Mrs. G.P. has nothing but admiration for writers who seek perfection, she cautions that nobody is perfect (except for her, of course). To that end, she cautions you about using the pronoun "I" when the word you seek is "me". To write that "the teacher allows Joe and I to go to the playground" is tantamount to writing, "the teacher allows "I" to go to the playground." Whenever she sees this transgression, Mrs. G.P. slams the offending book shut, never to be opened again.

Now, it is time to bid farewell to Mrs. Grammar Person, but, before she takes her leave, she asks you to remember that: it is always darkest before the dawn, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, you should keep your chin up and, if you don't stop using clichés, Mrs. Grammar Person will march back here and rap your knuckles with a ruler!

Once she is satisfied that you have learned your lesson, Mrs. G.P. gently pats you on the head and heads off to the library, casually tossing out her final words of wisdom , words that shake your very foundation: "Remember, my dears, you can end a sentence with a preposition and you can split an infinitive!"


Friday, November 21, 2014

My Imaginary Friends

As far as life experiences go, mine are not that exciting. I've never climbed Mount Everest or learned to scuba dive; I've never hiked the Appalachian Trail or stared down a tiger. I've never had my heart broken or made an enemy (that I know of); I've never been in a fistfight or a screaming match; I can't even hold a grudge (I've tried, but I'm so easily distracted...) 

Um, where was I? Oh, yeah, leading an ordinary, unexciting life. So, what makes me think that I have something to write about? How can I possibly write a novel about someone else's adventures when I've had so few of my own? This is where an imagination would come in handy--and I wish I knew where to buy one. The truth is that we writers spend a lot of time working alone, trying to fend off our inner critics; is it any wonder we’re plagued with self-doubt? But, we all share the same fear: Can I pull this off? Can I speak in the voice of a ten year old child, or a nuclear scientist, or an alien from another dimension, and not be laughed out of town? 

Being a writer takes a leap of faith and the support of your inner circle. It takes a thick skin to withstand the barbs of the impossible-to-please crowd. And, more than anything, it takes a love of the craft, the joy you find in your characters who are very real to you.  When Charles Dickens was writing "The Old Curiosity Shop," a friend stopped by to find him sobbing at his desk with an inkpot smashed against the wall. The friend hurried over to ask what was wrong. Brokenhearted, Dickens replied, "Little Nell died!" I admit it, I cried for Little Nell, too.

It is the flawed and broken characters in literature, like Anna Karenina, or Madame Bovary, or the obsessive Captain Ahab, and the doomed Othello, who help us define our world-view. Their struggles become our struggles and we love them because of their flaws, not despite them.

Which brings me to my characters. Writing the Jamie Quinn mystery series has been challenging, but fun, because I truly love my characters: the reluctant attorney, Jamie Quinn, who keeps finding herself in the middle of murder investigations; her best friend, Grace, who is both smart and funny; her eco-hero boyfriend; Kip, and the drunk but well-meaning P.I., Duke Broussard. Although my characters insist on talking to me at the most inconvenient times (usually in the middle of the night), and not always coherently, I have no trouble forgiving them. And on those days when I am struggling with self-doubt, I just think about Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, two women who rarely traveled, had no adventures, no mortal enemies, and only a small circle of friends, yet they found plenty to write about. Then I smile and get back to work. 
(reprinted from my guest post on

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Me, Myself & Jamie Quinn

It’s not that I’m jealous, how could I be? That would be petty and immature of me, I’m sure you'd agree, especially when you consider how close she and I have become. We think so much alike now that we’re practically the same person! I must confess, though, it does irk me that Jamie has so many admirers and well-wishers. Everyone’s always clamoring to know: What is Jamie going to do next? How is Jamie feeling? Where has Jamie been? I know that I’m boring by comparison (Lord knows, I’m not the one having adventures!), but still, I’m standing right here, and I’m doing fine, if anyone is interested. I know they’re not, and I’m okay with that. The truth is I also want to know what Jamie’s been up to. She can be so secretive, especially when she knows that I’m desperate to know what she’s planning. And, when she finally decides to talk to me, it will surely be at the most inconvenient time, like while I’m grocery shopping, or at three o’clock in the morning. She doesn’t realize that I hang on her every word, that I rush to write it all down, sometimes texting it back to myself as I wait in line to pick up a burrito for dinner.  

Well, I have secrets, too. For example, Jamie has no idea that I have a little crush on her boyfriend, Kip–even though he’s twenty years younger than I am–and I’d like to keep that between us, if you don’t mind.  

I think what bothers me the most is how quickly everyone flocked to her. After all, Jamie’s only been around for a couple of years and I’ve lived here all my life. And even though we’re both family law attorneys and mediators, I’m quite certain that I’m the better lawyer. But no one cares about that. They just want to know if Jamie will ever get to see her dad, or if Kip will come back from Australia, or if Jamie and Grace’s friendship can survive the crisis coming up in Book 4, “Engaged in Danger”. All I can say is–you’ll have to ask Jamie Quinn, yourself, because she hasn’t told me a thing. I have a funny feeling I’ll be seeing her soon, though, probably around three in the morning. Maybe I should put a pot of coffee on, just in case. Don’t worry; I know exactly how she takes it–with lots of milk and three sugars, same as me. Like I said, we’re practically the same person.

This blog post originally appeared on the wonderful blog, Stop by for a great cup of coffee or tea!




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just want to say thanks!

Woo hoo! I just hit 100 reviews on Amazon for my book, "Death by Didgeridoo"! Thanks to all my readers and a special thanks to my reviewers! xoxo

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chasing the Muse

I wish I could tell you how to capture that vixen, the muse, the mythical creature who bestows inspiration--but it's simply not possible. She (mine is a she) is a shape-shifter who delights in dancing just out of reach, teasing me with fantastic tales sung in perfect pitch and enviable prose. When she does appear (and I never know when that will be), I must pretend that I can't see her for fear she'll leave me.

After countless attempts to conjure her, I've discovered that she finds water soothing and will whisper ideas in my ear when I'm swimming, or soaking in a fragrant bath. More importantly, I've learned what her favorite drink is. Sometimes, after a strong brew of energizing (and sleep-depriving) coffee, she will magically appear. Then, with a wink and a laugh, she will sit next to me, an ephemeral creature, her gossamer robes tickling my arm, and pluck ideas from my mind as if plucking a lute. Although the music isn't always beautiful, or even original, it is mine and it flows like the water my muse loves so much.

Barbara Venkataraman, chasing the muse, inspiration,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Check out "The New Book Review" Blog

Check out Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, "The New Book Review":  

The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning How To Do It Frugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read.

And thanks again, for the great review, Brad Teare!