Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

30 August 2010

Guest blogger: Linda Weaver Clarke

Today, I'm happy to host Linda Weaver Clarke, who was interviewed here on my blog a year ago. Linda's guest post discusses her decision to change from writing romance novels to writing mysteries with an intriguing twist: They focus on the growing problem of theft of archaeological artifacts.

Romance vs. Mystery!

by Linda Weaver Clarke

I have written five historical romance novels but have now changed to mystery. The writing process is quite a change and requires a completely different mind set. Writing a mystery is so different from telling a love story. With romance, you plan out the plot around the meeting of a couple. As you write, you develop some sort of charisma between the characters, making the reader feel excited that one day they're going to hit it off and fall in love. You, as the reader, know what the outcome will be.

But with a mystery, the reader is in the dark. The author has to come up with a plot solution that no one knows about until toward the end of the story and hope they haven’t figured it out. In a mystery, you may or may not allow your reader to know who the bad guys are, according to whether it’s just a mystery or mystery suspense. Do you know the difference between a mystery and a mystery suspense novel? In a mystery, when a knock is heard at the door, the reader doesn't know who's behind it. With mystery suspense, the reader knows who's behind the door and yells to the heroine, "Don't open the door!"

Anasazi Intrigue is the first book in a mystery adventure series called “The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.” It’s about a flood that takes out several homes in a small town, the importance of preserving ancient artifacts, and a few puzzling and mysterious events. Julia is a reporter, and when she finds out about a possible poison spill that kills some fish and neighbor's pets, she has a feeling that something isn’t quite right. Before she realizes what is happening, Julia finds out that this incident is much bigger and more dangerous than she thought. With dead fish turning up, a flood devastating a town, and miscreants chasing John and Julia, they have their hands full.

Artifact theft is an intriguing subject. In my research, I found that archaeological thievery is becoming more and more of a problem every year. Did you know that looting is second only to selling illegal drugs? While researching the second book in this series, Mayan Intrigue, my eyes were opened to the similar problems they have in southern Mexico. When an ancient ruin is discovered, it doesn’t take long for thieves to take it apart because the Mayas used astrological alignments when planning their cities. Looters have learned the layout of the Mayan cities so they know where to dig. With this knowledge, they can loot a sacred temple in a few days. I also found that artifact theft in Mexico has been taken over by drug dealers from Columbia. Since organized crime took over, there has also been an increase in violence.

Mayan Intrigue will be released on 30 August, and I’m having a week-long celebration with a book give-away at my blog at from 30 August to 6 September. To enter the contest, leave a comment and include your email address.

Mayan Intrigue is about the discovery of a priceless artifact that puts Julia’s life in great danger. While on assignment for the newspaper, John and Julia try to enjoy a romantic vacation among the Mayan ruins, but when Julia accidentally comes upon a couple of suspicious men exchanging an item, she turns and leaves but it’s too late. Before John and Julia realize what's going on, they find themselves running for their lives through the jungles of the Yucatan. To read an excerpt from each of my books, you can visit

26 August 2010

Double trouble: correlative conjunctions

In a previous post, I discussed coordinating conjunctions such as "and" and "but." Today's topic is correlative conjunctions, that is, the conjunctions used in pairs to link words, phrases, or clauses. The correlative conjunctions include:
• either . . . or
• neither . . . nor
• both . . . and
• not only . . . but also
• though . . . yet
• whether . . . or
• as . . . as
• if . . . then
• rather . . . than

Here are correlative conjunctions used correctly in sentences.

Both Joe and Bob are going to the con.
Neither Joe nor Bob plans to wear Bob's Klingon costume.
• Joe owns a pair of blue gauze wings with sequins, so he will dress either as a fairy or as a butterfly.
If Joe chooses to dress as a butterfly, then Bob will dress as a cocoon.
• Susan not only wants to wear Joe's wings herself but also is angry that he refused her plea to borrow them.
• Susan has not yet decided whether to wear Bob's Klingon costume or to sew a new costume.
• Joe would rather stay home than wear Bob's ratty Klingon uniform.

A few simple rules govern their use.

1. Use both halves of the conjunction. 

Examples of breaking this rule:

Neither Joe or Bob plans to dress as a Klingon. This is wrong because "neither" pairs  with "nor," not "or."

Susan not only wants to wear Joe's wings herself but is angry that he refused her plea to borrow them. This is wrong because "not only" pairs with "but also," not "but."

If Joe chooses to dress as a butterfly, Bob will dress as a cocoon. This is wrong because "if" pairs with "then." However, when the meaning is clear, many editors would consider it acceptable to leave out the "then" in an "if . . . then" construction.

2. The two halves of the conjunction should join equal and parallel parts of speech—two nouns, for example, or two prepositional phrases or two predicates.

This rule sounds easy, but in practice, it can be tricky to make the parts of speech equal. Examples of breaking this rule:

Susan has not yet decided whether to wear Bob's Klingon costume or stay home from the con. This is wrong because the first half of the conjunction introduces a prepositional phrase starting with "to," whereas the second half of the conjunction introduces a predicate. The solution is to add a "to" after the "or."

Joe plans to wear neither Bob's Klingon costume nor to wear last year's Superman costume. This is wrong because the first part of speech is a noun phrase, whereas the second is a prepositional phrase. The second "to wear" should be cut.

The study subjects included both 60 Alaskan husky dogs and 170 other breeds. This is wrong because "60 dogs" is not parallel to "170 breeds." One possible fix is, "The study subjects included both 60 Alaskan husky dogs and 350 dogs from 170 other breeds."

3. When "either . . . or" or "neither . . . nor" join subjects, the verb matches the second subject. When both subjects are singular, then the verb is singular, even though there are two subjects.

All of the following are correct sentences:

• Neither I nor my sister is giving the bride a gift.
• Neither my sister nor my brothers are attending the wedding.
• Neither my brothers nor my sister is attending the wedding.
• Either my sister or I am going to tell the bride why.

4. Correlative conjunctions join two elements. Exceptions to this rule can be made for most correlative conjunctions except "neither . . . nor" and "either . . . or."

Examples of breaking this rule:

On the day of the wedding, my sister plans to be either unavailable, unwell, or unhinged. This is wrong because the conjunction joins three elements. Also, it is impolite to attend a wedding unhinged.

Neither Joe, Bob, nor Cindy want to wear the Klingon uniform. This is wrong because the conjunction joins three elements.


Coming soon

  • guest blog post by Linda Weaver Clarke

  • interview with author Steve Malley

11 August 2010

A joining of equals: a look at coordinating conjunctions

The coordinating conjunctions—and, but, for, nor, or—are, when I am wearing my copyeditor's hat, my favorite parts of speech, for writers make few mistakes when using them.

cats and cushion covers (A comma after "cats" would be wrong.)

Coordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that join sentence elements of the same type (noun, predicate, clause, and so on) and weight (they do not join independent and dependent clauses).

I won't spell out the rules for using coordinating conjunctions. (If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments.) Instead, I'll focus on the problems I most often see.

Tricky point 1: "including"

A list following the word "including" should contain "and," not "or":

• I bought groceries yesterday, including eggs, milk, and bread.

"Including" means that all of the items that follow are part of the whole. So "and" is the proper conjunction.

If you give a complete list of items, then do not use "including."

Tricky point 2: lists of options

The word "and/or" is not an error, but it makes your sentence clunk. Use "or" when you have a list of choices:

• Please bring ouzo, grapes, or cheese to the party.

The hostess does not forbid you to bring grapes if you bring cheese; she merely offers options. As in many sentences with "or," the idea is not to limit the choices to one item but to say that at least one item is needed. Save "and/or" for legal writing or other occasions in which you need a belt-and-suspenders approach.

When you need "or" to limit the options to one, try a construction such as this:

• You may have either plum sorbet or chocolate-covered ants for dessert.

Tricky point 3: punctuation of two elements

When two complete sentences are joined by a coordinating conjunction, always put a comma before the "and" unless the sentences are very short.

• Mary pieces her quilts by hand, but I prefer to use a sewing machine.

When you have two predicates (or two adjectives or prepositional phrases), treat them as items in a series. Two items in a series are never separated by a comma unless a misunderstand could result.

• "You were my last hope," the dragon said and blew his nose. (no chance of confusion)
• "You were my last hope," the dragon said, and cried. (Without the comma, the reader may think he said it and then cried it out.)

If you want or need to create a space between two predicates, rewriting the sentence is preferable to using a comma:

• "You were my last hope," the dragon said and then loudly blew his nose. 
• "You were my last hope," the dragon said. He pulled out a lacy handkerchief and blew his nose.
• "You were my last hope," the dragon said. He blew his nose.
• "You were my last hope." The dragon blew his nose.

Tricky point 4: nonparallel elements

When elements in a row are not parallel, do not treat them as a series. An example of this mistake would be, "The tomcat is long, white, and wears a pink rhinestone collar." This sentence is wrong because there are two levels of parallel constructions here: "long" and "white" are parallel adjectives, and "is long [and] white" and "wears a ... collar" are parallel predicates. (Also, tomcats should not wear pink rhinestone collars.) The punctuation should reflect these two levels:

• The tomcat is long and white and wears a pink rhinestone collar.
• The tomcat is long and white, and he wears a pink rhinestone collar.


Coming soon

  • correlative conjunctions (both . . . and, neither . . . nor, not . . . but, not only . . . but also, whether . . . or)

06 August 2010

Contest winners announced

Thank you, everyone who entered last week's contest.

The two winners of Kathryne Kennedy's The Fire Lord's Lover are:



Congratulations, carrots and Lana! Carrots, please send me your mailing address so that Sourcebooks can get your book to you.

Lana, I still have your address unless it's changed.

03 August 2010

Contests, clarity of mind, and other news

One of the many reasons I became a full-time fiction writer was to achieve the clarity of mind to write fiction. My clients' work occupied too much of my thoughts.

"If only I had the clarity of mind to think of a blog topic."

As I was swinging a machete through my jungle of thoughts to make room to think up a topic for this week's post, I jotted down various pieces of news. I now have a postful of news on contests, a new review of my novel Like Mayflies in a Stream, and other topics.

I did at last come up with a topic: clarity of mind. I'll post that Thursday, 5 August, at the other blog I write for, NovelSpaces. Please join me there later this week to share ideas on clearing the mind for writing.



There's still time to enter last week's contest to win The Fire Lord's Lover by Kathryne Kennedy. Two copies will be given away, courtesy of Sourcebooks Casablanca. To enter, comment on last week's post here by 11:59 pm Pacific time, Wednesday 4 August.

Congratulations to Steve Malley, who won my contest of two weeks ago. He chose my novel Like Mayflies in a Stream as his prize, and it is now crossing the Pacific to him.

If you are on Facebook, Therese Walsh is running her "Big, Fat 49-Author Contest" here. Forty-nine books are being given away to more than 50 winners. There are books for every taste, so it's worth checking out.



Like Mayflies in a Stream received a nice review from Books For A Buck at



Hadley Rille Books will release books three and four in its Archaeology Series this fall. (Like Mayflies in a Stream was the second book in the series.) Coming in September is Song of the Swallow by K.L. Townsend, set in China 800 years ago. Next up is Secrets of the Canyon by Ann Walters, set in New Mexico 800 years ago. Learn more about the series here.



interview with writer and artist Steve Malley