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Feedback Friday – 9/9/16

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Welcome to the first installment of Feedback Friday, where I’ll answer your writing-related questions. If you want your question featured here, just leave a comment anywhere on this blog with the words “Feedback Friday” somewhere in your question or you can shoot me an email at thirdaxe at gmail dot com. Please, make sure you put “Feedback Friday” as the subject line.

Our first question comes from Heather in South Carolina, who wants to know the primary differences between a comma, a full colon, and a semicolon so that she knows when to use each one correctly.

In the written language, commas are intended to create a brief pause, mostly in order to separate ideas in the reader’s mind. For instance, if you have a series of three or more items such as a pen, a piece of paper, and an idea, use commas to separate out each of the items so they don’t run together and create confusion. You do not need a comma to separate two items joined by a conjunction, like Jack and Jill, because there is no need for a pause. The conjunction takes care of that.

You should also use commas to set off any kind of an introductory clause. For example, this is one type of introductory clause that needs to be set off with a comma. Because commas are the most misused piece of punctuation, I will eventually have a video in the lecture series dedicated just to their usage. Notice how at the end of the “because” statement, we need a slight pause to show that the introductory element is ending and the main sentence is beginning. Using commas after introductory statements increases clarity and decreases the chance of misunderstanding.

You also need commas to separate two full sentences joined by a conjunction. For instance, I want to make sure that you understand the basic fundamentals of when to use a comma, but I also don’t want to insult your intelligence by making it too simple. To that end, I’ll provide examples embedded throughout this post to illustrate when you should use them, so you can absorb for yourself the rhythm of when you need that pause.

There are many more rules for when you should or should not use a comma, but for now, let’s just focus on those three as the most important fundamentals.

To understand the semicolon, you must understand not only the comma but also the period. If the comma creates a pause, the period represents a full stop. You use periods to indicate to the audience that that thought has concluded and are now transitioning to a new thought. The semicolon is somewhere between a full stop and a pause. Typically, there are two primary instances when you should use a semicolon:

1) If you have two complete sentences that you want to link together, BUT you do not want to use a conjunction because you want to show a connection between those two thoughts, the semicolon links them together. Friendship is the most valuable gift in life; it can heal almost any wound and makes each day a little brighter. Notice how the semicolon joins those two complete thoughts. A period or a conjunction would slow down the reader too much and lose the connection between the sentiments. A comma is too weak of a pause, so the semicolon is the perfect happy median between the two.

2) If you have a complex series, you need to set off the main elements with semicolons to make it clear where each one begins and ends. For instance, in this blog entry we are covering commas, which create a pause in written language; periods, which create a full stop; and semicolons, which fall somewhere in between a full stop and a pause. If we only used commas to separate those three main elements, that phrase would be nearly unreadable because it would be too cluttered. The semicolon shows perfectly where the major breaks should occur.

Finally, we have the full colon. Typically, the colon is used to introduce a series/list or further clarify some thought. If you noticed earlier, before my series of two points about semicolons, I used a colon to introduce that a list was to follow. We can do that in a sentence, too. For instance, a good sentence contains several key elements: a clear subject, a strong verb, and proper punctuation for starters.

You can also use the  colon to further clarify. This falls under two primary subcategories: 1) introducing a concluding explanation and 2) introducing an appositive (if you’re unsure of what an appositive is, that could be the next Feedback Friday segment). For the concluding explanation, consider the following example. A homemade meal nourishes the soul: it involves time, preparation, and attention to detail. While you could argue that a semicolon would serve here just as well, in this particular example, the colon more definitively shows that the second sentence more clearly explains the first. For introducing an appositive, think about this example. Homemade meals taste better for one simple reason: love. In both of these examples, the colon is used to set off an element that provides more explanation or clarification for what preceded it.

So there’s your explanation of the primary differences between a comma, a semicolon, and a colon. Hope to see you back here next week for our next Friday Feedback.

Vocabulary Wednesday – September 7, 2016

TheProfessor
My apologies for my absence from the blog. I’ve been working on the videos, typing on a couple of side manuscripts that I want to release, and writing on book five, so something had to give. Unfortunately the blog is what got neglected.

From now on for the vocabulary entries, I’m only going to offer ten new words each week because twenty just takes too much time to create. I’d rather deliver ten quality words a week than not get the entry completed. So without further ado, here are you Vocabulary Wednesday words for this week:

Badinage – (n) playful banter.  (v) to banter or tease with. [origin is from the French  word badin – to joke. First appeared in English in the the mid-1600’s] Usage: Having been friends for over 30 years, we have developed a badinage that is both predictable and comforting.

Baleful – (adj) menacing; pernicious; obsolete; wretched; miserable. [origin from Old English bealofull. First appeared about 1000 AD] Usage: His baleful stare caused the onlookers to back away slowly.

Bastinado – (n) punishment by beating the feet with a stick; the stick used. (v) to punish in this manner. [origin from the Spanish word bastonada. First appeared in English in the late 1500’s] Usage: The magistrate ordered bastinado for the five protestors to be carried out at sunrise.

Billet – (n) a sleeping spot for a sailor or soldier; an assignment/job; ticket/note; a stick of wood. (v) to assign a sleeping spot. [origin from Middle English bylet or billett. First appeared in English in the late 1300’s] Usage: After two days of non-stop drills, we collapsed on our billets and slept the sleep of the truly exhausted.

Blandish – (v) to coax by flattery or caresses. [origin from Middle English blandisshen. First appeared in English in the mid- to late-1300’s] Usage: This dance was one we had danced many times, her blandishing me with all the right words and me caving in as I knew I would.

Brassard – (n) a mourning band worn on the arm; a badge worn on the arm. [origin from the French word bras – arm. First appeared in English in the early-1800’s] Usage: As was custom in the village, the mourners donned their brassards before moving to the chapel for the receiving of friends and family.

Brigand – (n) a robber; a bandit. [origin is a variant of Middle English briga, Middle French brigand , and Old Italian brigante – companion, member of an armed company. First appeared in English in the mid-1300’s] Usage: The brigands rushed forward from their hiding places and attacked our company without warning.

Brocade – (n) a rich silken fabric with a raised pattern. (v) to weave with a raised design or figure [origin Spanish brocado and Italian broccato – embossed. First appeared in English in the mid-1500’s] Usage: The brocade table napkins were an elegant touch to the ceremony.

Bucolic – (adj) pastoral; rustic. (n) a poem dealing with simple country life. [origin from the Latin būcolicus and Greek boukolikós – rustic. First appeared in English in the mid-1500’s] Usage: With the clucks of chickens and the brays of donkeys, the farm was the ideal bucolic setting.

Burin – (n) an engraving tool for cutting furrows in metal. [origin from French and Italian burino -graving tool. First appeared in English in the mid-1600’s] Usage: The craftsman handled the burin deftly, developing a stylish pattern within minutes.

Apologies

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My apologies for no updates on the blog recently. I’ve been working like crazy to get the writing process videos finished for the beginning of the college semester, and there just haven’t been enough hours in the day to get everything done. Hopefully next week I can get rolling with all the new segments on the blog and online classroom. Until then, you should totally subscribe to my YouTube channel.

A New Direction

TheProfessor
When I first started this blog back in 2009, I did so for the primary purpose of having a medium to keep my writing skills sharp during the academic year when I didn’t have time to work on a book or stories. The secondary purpose was to reach my readers on a more direct level so that we could interact. From the outset, I approached this blog with the simple guideline that I wrote about whatever I wanted on any given day. Any subject was fair game. I feel like I wrote some pretty strong pieces through this medium, and for the most part I have no regrets about the blog itself.

However, times have changed, as have my circumstances. During my incarceration, I thought long and hard about what I would like to do here once I got out. At heart, in addition to being a writer (I will always consider myself a writer first and foremost), I am an educator, someone who thrives on helping others expand their own skills and improve their lives, but when I left the system in 2014, I left permanently because of the soul-crushing bureaucracy and the insane for-profit business model overtaking higher education. Now, with the stigma associated with my current situation, I couldn’t return to the profession if I wanted to. But that doesn’t mean I cannot still teach on my own terms.

To that end, I am going to turn my blog into an online classroom of sorts. I will have at least four new weekly segments dedicated to the craft of writing. First and foremost, there will be a video lecture series in which I share some of what I know. Each video will be roughly 10 minutes in length and will cover mostly the material I used to share in the classroom. Second, there will be a day dedicated to vocabulary. Each week I will share 20 or so new words with definitions, usages, and etymologies. Third, one day a week, I will open up the blog for questions on the subject of writing and will offer the best feedback I can. PLEASE NOTE: I will not read and critique manuscripts. I do not have the time or energy for that. Last, I will also share a weekly book review of a novel I feel is worthy of study by aspiring writers. These reviews will be done solely at my discretion and will be limited to books already published (and usually fairly successful and/or acclaimed). These four segments will be the meat of my new blog, and if popularity warrants, I will continue for as long as possible. I may still have a fifth segment where I have a weekly Rambling on some topic of my choosing, but I’m not certain of that yet.

There are two primary reasons why I want to make these changes at this time. For starters, as I said, I am still at heart an educator, and as such I still feel a burning passion to share my knowledge with others. I love language–the sound of words; the power of a well-constructed sentence; the ability to evoke emotions, challenge assumptions, and affect persuasion. I want other to partake in this great dance and find their own voices to add to the chorus. The second reason for these changes is more selfish. I feel like this new format will help me reach a broader audience, not just for this blog but also for my own writings. Only time will tell if that proves true.

I will continue to write and publish my own works. Book five of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series is already in progress. In addition to that, I intend to write more Sam Skeen novellas. I also have a futuristic urban fantasy series that I will begin as soon as I finish book five. Finally, I have decided to revisit some of my older writings and see if anything can be salvaged from that scrapheap. If people like it, I will continue to develop those ideas; if not, I’ll march forward with the other three series.

There is much work to be done–on the blog, with books, around my home, and in my personal life. It may take another week or do to get the new format launched, but it is coming soon. I want to have the first couple of videos finished and ready to upload to YouTube before giving this site its makeover. Please, stay tuned for all that’s coming, for the future feels promising to me for the first time in many years. Finally, thank you for all of the love and support you have shown me over the last week. My heart is full and I am blessed beyond measure by all of the messages and comments I’ve received. With you behind me, there is no limit to how far I can go.

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Low-Down, Desperate, & Damned

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Here are the early reviews of The Unquenchable Fire:

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great story about redemption and realizing one’s purpose in life, even when that purpose seemed no longer viable. I did find the bible verses a bit canned, but that’s something I’m dealing with in the real world as well so it was only a minor hitch that did not take away from the prose. Sam Skeen is certainly someone I’d like to get to know better.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Some of D.A. Adams’ best work! March 3, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
D.A. Adams has done it again. He has used his great storytelling, richly developed characters and intense battle sequences to weave a tale of excitement, adventure and redemption in this supernatural western. If you were a fan of the ‘Preacher’ comic by Garth Ennis in the mid/late 90s, this is right up your alley. Fantastic work!

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Great story! March 1, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Pale Rider meets Supernatural.

I seriously enjoyed this story. Great western story with paranormal elements and a few philosophical struggles to thoroughly stir the pot. I hope to see further adventures from these characters, as well as some back story for one Mr. Sam Skeen.

 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U3BY5MA

Disability Appeal Update

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Here’s an update on my situation. The last few weeks of winter have been fairly difficult. The severe cold temps have made my symptoms flare up just as bad as before, so all of my gains from the paleo program have been wiped out. I’m not giving up on the dietary changes, and I’m hoping warmer weather will bring about some improvements to my health.

My appeal for disability has been filed, and my information has all been sent to the attorney’s office, so hopefully there will be some movement on that front soon. On a related note, anyone who has known me since before all of this started, if you would be willing to write a letter on my behalf describing the diminished capacity you have witnessed, please contact me. I need all of the evidence I can get.

In case you missed it, I have a new release that came out Saturday. The Unquenchable Fire is a novella for the Outlaws of Fiction and the first release of the Sam Skeen saga.

I still need to raise more funds to get through the next couple of months. The brutal cold made me turn on the electric heaters along with the wood stove, so my upcoming electric bill is going to be pretty steep. If you can please help out by donating or sharing the link around, I would be most grateful.

Once again, thank you to everyone for the love and support you have shown. It’s truly kept me from sinking into utter despair, but as long as you all believe in me, I will continue to fight and scrap to regain my health.

Just for fun, here’s a pic from a photo shoot we did before the symptoms got the better of me:

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