Eighth Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Shattered Faith by Elle Scott

Eighth day giveaway: Shattered Faith by Elle Scott

You never know the strength of your faith, until it is tested.

When Elle Scott’s life crumbled around her, she thought God had abandoned her, His perceived silence resulted in a total loss of her faith and hope

and left her near suicide, until, she learned the reason God fell silent and the expectations He held for her.

Sentenced to nearly four years in a Federal Prison for a crime she did not commit destroyed every belief she held true. Her young children left in dire conditions, her life in ruins, and her Heavenly Father nowhere to be found.

This is a true story of courage, inspiration, redemption and restored faith.

Grab your Eighth Day Giveaway

Shattered Faith is free TODAY, December 21, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY41Z7W

Seventh Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

The Spectra Unearthed by Christie Valentine Powell

seventh day giveaway: The Spectra Unearthed by Christie Valentine Powell

Keita thought that being a princess was nothing but trouble even before the power-hungry Stygians took over the Spectra kingdoms. Now she’s on the run, hunted at every turn, and able to trust only a few other royal exiles. Of course she’d like to make her life safe again, but among the enemy’s ranks is the Nome king, Jasper Smelt. A former friend, Jasper insists he wants to keep her safe, but his pitch-black dungeon and fiery threats suggest otherwise. Trapped inside his desert kingdom, Keita sees the results of Stygian cruelty. She wants to help, but how can she face Jasper, someone with abilities she couldn’t begin to fight, someone who fears everything…except her?

About the Author

Christie Valentine Powell wrote her first story in second grade, and she has been writing ever since. She published her first book in 2015. Her other hobbies include making toys, hobby farming, and eating at Asian buffets. She lives near the sunniest city in the world with her husband, four children, and many chickens.

Grab your Seventh Day Giveaway

The Spectra Unearthed is free TODAY, December 20, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M4GL59X/

Hedges and Qualifiers | Liar, Liar

hedges and qualifiers quote Pamela MeyerWe complete the barrier object series with our final entry: hedges and qualifiers.

These rhetorical tidbits come in many forms. The terms “hedge” and “qualifier” are interchangeable. They denote words or phrases that damper the strength of a statement.

Hedges and Qualifiers

Grammatical hedges are literally named after a type of barrier. When we hedge, we use defensive language, something to retreat behind should anyone question our words. This is the rhetoric of the lawyer, the politician, the blogger, pretty much anyone in the service industry… and, well, everyone.

Everyone hedges to some degree or another. When you hedge too much, though, you look like a weasel.

Verbal Hedges

In this category we have “tempered” linking verbs and verb phrases. Consider the softening effect of the following:

  • seem
  • appear
  • look
  • tend to [verb]
  • try to [verb]
  • seem to have [verb]-ed

“He seemed angry” literally means there’s a possibility he wasn’t, but when you hear this spoken aloud, you assume the person in question was angry and the speaker is too polite to say it directly.

Similarly, “I tend to sleep in on weekends” comes from the mouth of someone who definitely sleeps in every weekend they possibly can but doesn’t want to sound like a lazy schmoe.

Politeness plays a huge role in hedging, as does conversational manipulation.

As a subcategory of verbal hedges, we have the conditional modals may, might, could, should, and would. If you compare them with their more solid modal counterparts, the hedge becomes glaring. For example,

  1. She might meet us at the restaurant.
  2. She must meet us at the restaurant.

Speaker #2 ain’t playing any games. Modal hedges shift from that concrete meaning to one with more wiggle room:

  • must → may or might
  • can → could
  • shall → should
  • will → would

And this simple shift makes a world of difference in responsibility to follow through.

As discussed in the article on Expanded Verb Structures, simpler structures are better. If you can eliminate a hedging modal for its concrete counterpart and still maintain the integrity of your narrative, good. But if you can eliminate the modal all together, better.

Adverbial and Adjectival Hedges

This type of hedge is a “fine tuner.” It emerges when a speaker wants to be meticulous about their language, again, to cover their backside from questions that a more direct discourse might elicit.

(Sidenote: yes, I’m using hedges to talk about hedges; like all barrier objects, they’re not always bad.)

Types

Adverbial and adjectival hedges gravitate toward certain semantic categories, including:

  • ­Smallness: a bit, a little, slight(ly), at least
  • ­Variety: kind of, sort of
  • ­Frequency: often, sometimes, rarely
  • Degree: rather, quite, somewhat
  • Untruth: not very, not actually, not really, not certain, unsure

But here’s the thing: in most cases, these “specifications” add nothing more than word count. Someone who is “a little tired” is tired. If you’re “kind of annoyed,” you’re annoyed. When the hero makes a “slight grimace,” he grimaces. We don’t have to shy away from direct speech, particularly in expositional narrative.

Bolsters

As for the “untruth” category, its opposite falls under the linguistic pattern of bolstering, which is yet another tell for deception. We’ve all encountered a boor who interrupts a conversation with, “Well, actually…” and then proceeds to give their opinion rather than fact.

It’s a long-standing joke that anytime someone begins a statement with, “Honestly,” or its equivalent, they’re about to lie. This includes longer phrases like “in truth,” “in fact,” “in all candor,” “in all honesty,” and so forth. The instant we try to convince others of how genuine we are, we plant a seed of doubt.

If you’re shoring up your work with bolsters, they will have much the same effect as hedges.

They are both barriers.

Qualifying phrases

Hedge types expand into the rhetoric layer of language with phrases that temper responsibility. For example:

  • As far as I know…
  • To my understanding…
  • From what I can see…
  • By and large…

Each of these leaves more than enough room for a speaker to weasel out of their words. Unless you absolutely need them in your narrative, they are prime for culling.

When to Hedge

Hedges and qualifiers are 100% okay in spoken dialogue, as long as they suit the character. So too are they appropriate for narrative, but only if they add the nuance intended. In many cases, there are better alternatives to a hedge.

If, for example, your hero favors your heroine with a “slight smile” and the slightness of it plays into the scene, it’s appropriate. But a dozen other descriptors could convey the same effect or a better one.

  • He favored her with a feeble smile.
  • …a wry smile
  • …an anemic smile
  • …a guarded smile.

Or, if you’re going the analogy route,

  • His smile was like a cup of weak tea.

All of these examples build on that more generic hedge of “slight.” But “slight” has its own charm, too, as long as it’s not modifying everything under the sun.

In Summary

Barrier objects create defensive writing, and defensive writing weakens your story. Our next section discusses a tool we can use to strengthen it instead.

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Up next: The Cooperative Principle

Previous: Expanded Verb Structures

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Sixth Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Danny Boy by Melinda D. Turner

sixth day giveaway: Danny Boy by Melinda D. Turner

At times hilarious, at times heart-wrenching; full of wit and wisdom, “Danny Boy” is a must-read for anyone struggling to care for a special needs child.

This true story explores the lessons we can learn from people with disabilities and the reasons why a loving God allows some to struggle and suffer, while others enjoy healthy bodies.

Told from the perspective of the oldest sister in a family with a severely disabled child, this collection of real-life, behind-the-scenes experiences highlights the difficulties, disasters, and poignant moments that inevitably happen when caring for those with special needs. See the effect these experiences have had on each member of the family over the course of nearly 35 years of round-the-clock care for brother and son.

Prologue

“I was not quite eight years old when Danny was born. Even at that young age I can remember the exact moment I knew my life, my family’s lives, everything we had known up to that point had changed forever.

It was evening in early summer. I walked to my parents’ bedroom at the end of the upstairs hallway wearing a soft summer nightgown and lurked silently, just inside the doorway. Mom and Dad stood side-by-side, arms around each other with their backs to me, looking down on their newborn son as he lay under the bilirubin lights in his crib. I don’t remember any words being spoken—only that I think mom was crying. Or maybe the baby was. What I do remember as the scene was forever stamped on my consciousness is that I knew something was wrong. Maybe not even wrong. Just different. This baby was different. And somehow, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. And it never has been.”

Grab your Sixth Day Giveaway

Danny Boy is free on Amazon TODAY, December 19th TOMORROW, December 20th:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077JJMK6Y/

Scheduling mishaps happen, my people. Mark your calendars to grab this one tomorrow, along with the Day 7 title.

Fifth Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

In Her Dreams by Joanna Reeder

fifth day giveaway: In Her Dreams by Joanna Reeder

So, I have this curse… I experience the memories of dead people while I sleep.

One second I’m dreading that midterm in the morning, and the next I’m attending a ball that could be the movie set of an Austen or Bronte novel.

Pretty cool right?

Did you catch that I call it a curse?

See, not everyone lives a life full of joy, true love, and happy endings. Sure, I get to re-live the good memories. But I also get to experience pain, heartbreaks, and sometimes even death.

For a long time, I had zero friends so when I dreamed of Victorian-era Lucy (who just got engaged… eek!) I had an escape. And then Lucy met her future cousin-in-law, Andrew. **swoon**

My life felt less… tragic when the Lucy dreams started. Oh! And I met this new boy, Duncan and finally had a friend. (He’s easy on the eyes too…**sigh**)

But one night I changed the outcome of one of my dreams by accident and shifted my reality in a major way, so now I have to make some important decisions about choices and control. And what I believe is right.

About the Author

Joanna Reeder creates scintillating but clean YA novels while chasing 3 littles and a hubby. “A Dr. Pepper a day keeps insanity away!” Joanna grew up and lives in Northern Utah. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah.

In Her Dreams is the first in the In Her Dreams trilogy.  Trapped In Her Dreams (Book 2) and Purpose In Her Dreams (Book 3) are FREE on Amazon through Kindle Unlimited.

Joanna is currently working with three other authors on a collaboration universe about a school for shifters. The first in the universe, Shifted, (Book 1 in the Siren Prophesy) released January 8, 2019.

Grab your Fifth Day Giveaway

In Her Dreams is free on Amazon TODAY ONLY, December 18:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079ZMV7XK/

Fourth Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Master of Emotion by D. Ogden Huff

fourth day Master of Emotion by D. Ogden Huff

When a reclusive teen with the enhanced ability to read others’ emotions finds more teens with similar sensory powers, he must confront his fears before a budding romance and his twin brother’s life fall into the hands of the devious doctor who created them all.

Beau could change if he wanted. But he won’t do it. Now his extroverted brother expects him to embrace his abnormality, too? His twin brother calls it his “ability”–Beau’s gift for experiencing someone else’s emotions with just a touch. But when he’s surrounded by an onslaught of overactive teenage emotion and a brother who eagerly touches everyone to read their thoughts, his ability seems like a curse. The safest way out is to put up a wall and hide behind it.

What is it about a girl and danger that makes a seventeen-year-old guy leap forward when he ought to step back? Of course, Beau will be the first to admit the girl is totally worth the trauma. And it’s kinda amazing finding five more sensory enhanced teenagers, just like him, though they seriously invade his personal space. Then just when he thought life had finally cut him a break, they end up as lab rats to the psycho doctor who killed their mothers and made them orphans. What Beau didn’t see coming was having the most painful threat come from one of their own. What’s a guy have to do to survive it all?

MASTER OF EMOTION is Book 1 of the completed TOO SENSITIVE four-book series, available on Amazon.

About the Author

Fourth day author D. Ogden HuffD. Ogden Huff is a sun addict who moved to Arizona at the age of two. She’s lived there ever since, except for a two year stint in Utah where she discovered that she gets cold just looking at pictures of snow. Thankfully, she lives in sunny Phoenix with the man of her dreams and a house full of kids and grandkids. They are the funniest people she knows, and choking at the dinner table is a daily hazard of their contagious laughter. Find out more at www.dogdenhuff.com.

Grab your Fourth Day Giveaway

Master of Emotion is free on Amazon TODAY ONLY, December 17:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006JNAX2M/

Third Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Quick and Clever Kids’ Crafts by Deb Graham

third day Deb Graham Kids Crafts

A go-to for any parent, teacher, scout leader, or friend of children. Loaded with easy crafts a child can do with little or no assistance, unleashing creativity with materials you probably already have on hand.  Bonus: a whole section on swaps,  little pieces of artwork on a safety pin! Quick and Clever Kids’ Crafts is just what you need for long wintery days.

About the Author

Deb Graham is an author of twenty books, with a background in scouting and stand-up comedy. Be sure to check out the other books in the Busy Kids, Happy Kids series.

Grab your Third Day Giveaway

Quick and Clever Kids’ Crafts is available for free on Amazon TODAY ONLY, December 16:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DBMR1IS

Second Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Fighting the Promise by F. Allan RothSecond Day: Fight the Promise by F. Allen Roth

When the Chinese conquered America, the government gave up without a fight—but the people didn’t.

Church leaders had cautioned the people that the collapse of their nation was the fulfillment of an ancient prophetic promise from the Book of Mormon. Fighting against the occupation, they warned, would be the same as fighting against God’s righteous judgment on a nation ripened in iniquity. They warned that those who fought God’s judgment would be destroyed, while those who humbly submitted would survive.

But when war came to their home, Bishop Stuart Holliwell and his family found themselves torn in an epic struggle between freedom and faith, and between love of their country and love of their God.

About the Author

Second Day author RothF. Allan Roth writes fantasy novels and LDS fiction. He and his wife, Jerelyn, served in the New York Rochester Mission from June 2017 until July 2018. They currently live in Idaho. At last count, they have seven children, twenty-five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren (with one more “great” on the way).

He likes to fly fish on the South Fork of the Snake River. He ties his own flies and builds his own bamboo fly rods and wooden boats. He’s also an amateur mycologist, and enjoys hunting wild mushrooms and berries.

Grab your Second Day Giveaway

The second day giveaway is available at a third of its list price. Fighting the Promise is $0.99 on December 15 on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HY5KSQH/

First Day | 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

Heads up, my lovely readers! In honor of the Christmas season, for the next 12 days, I bring news of 12 free ebooks! These titles are only free for one day each, so grab them quick!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

first day: Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

a tragic fire
a grieving student body
a class vice president forced to read the names of the dead at a memorial

What a way to start a senior year…

Taryn’s decided there’s no way she’s taking her late boyfriend’s place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of their friends is over, she’s resigning as VP. Really.

Until someone scribbles a disturbing list on a bathroom wall: WHO DESERVED TO DIE IN THE FIRE? The bullied Tim Jenks’ name tops the list, but more are quickly added. Taryn knows what it means. To get to the truth she has to come out from under her paisley comforter where she spent all summer, and go from grieving girlfriend to leading the fight against lies and bullies.

But, seriously, what stage of grief says Taryn has to be the one to fix what’s wrong at Ideal High? Maybe she’s the one who’s broken.

Grab your First Day Giveaway

Ideal High is available for free on Amazon TODAY ONLY, December 14th:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U1Q0QO8

 

Expanded Verb Structures | Liar, Liar

Pennebaker quote re: expanded verb structures

Our barrier object series continues with expanded verb structures. These come in a variety of forms.

A Rundown of Verb Features

In the simplest of sentences, the verb expresses only Tense, past or present.

  • John keeps a book on his nightstand; he reads before bedtime.
  • Mary celebrated her birthday all month long, and she partied hard.
  • Sam likes potatoes.

In English, future tense requires addition of a modal, will.

  • She will meet you at the restaurant.

The verb structure expands to accommodate this: “meet” loses its inflection and “will” assumes the tense feature.

As more verb features add into the mix, the structure expands further. Auxiliary verbs be and have assist in Aspect and Voice, and auxiliary do assumes the tense feature for negatives, emphatics, and the interrogative Mood.

  • John is keeping a book on his nightstand; he has read it before bedtime.
  • The book is opened each night.
  • Mary did celebrate her birthday all month long. She didn’t party too hard, though.
  • Does Sam like potatoes?

Modals (AKA ” discrepancies”) express conditional or hypothetical attitudes towards the words spoken.

  • She might meet you at the restaurant. (Or she might not, idk.)
  • She can meet you at the restaurant. (Don’t expect to meet her elsewhere, dude.)
  • She should meet you at the restaurant. (But who knows whether she actually will.)
  • Etc.

Each of these additions causes a subtle shift in meaning for the verb phrase as a whole. Whichever verb—modal, auxiliary, or main—appears at the front of the structure carries that essential Tense feature.

This tense-bearing verb, then, is the most important verb in any sentence, structure-wise. But semantics-wise, the main verb always carries that torch. And the farther apart they are, the more diluted that main verb becomes.

Expanded Verb Structures as Barriers

If a sentence requires additional nuances, these expanded verb structures serve a necessary purpose. However, especially in patterns of deception, extra nuances slip in unnecessarily, and the structure carries more baggage than needed.

Compare the following two sentences:

  1. John was glaring at Mary.
  2. John glared at Mary.

Both give the reader the same semantic information, but Sentence #2 is more efficient about it. Sentence #1 has added a progressive aspect, even though there’s no other event occurring at the same time as John’s glare. The aspect, then, is gratuitous.

A single three-letter word might not be much for a reader to gloss over, but when it becomes a pattern of usage, that gloss becomes a game of leapfrog. This goes for extra modals as well as auxiliaries. Any string of function words beyond the main verb (the semantic powerhouse) merits scrutiny.

For example:

  • ­Mary frowned at this disclosure, any retort she might have made having been stifled.

­

Here we have 6 (six!) verbs in a row. They are two separate verb phrases, (she) might have made and having been stifled, both of which modify “retort.” Only the past participle stifled carries distinct concrete meaning, while everything else adds nuance.

And we can reduce the whole ungainly string into a single modifier and that past participle:

  • Mary frowned, her possible retorts stifled at this disclosure.

This revision gives the exact same semantic information to the reader, but without so much structure to stumble through.

Weak Verbs

In addition to unnecessary verb features, this barrier object occurs in a crop of semantically weak verbs. These are verbs that combine with other verbs or else with nouns that point to an event to create their overall meaning. For example:

  • ­find oneself [verb]-ing, begin [verb]-ing, start [verb]-ing, continue [verb]-ing
  • tend to [verb], want to [verb], like to [verb], need to [verb]
  • ­make a(n) X [where X = the noun form of a verb]
    • E.g., make a decision, make a reply, make an escape, make a choice
  • take a(n) X [where X = the noun form of a verb]
    • E.g., take a step, take a seat, take a shower, take a bite

An expanded verb of this ilk has inefficiency built into its structure.

Participles to Main Verbs

The [verb]-ing participles of the first bullet are where we find the more important semantics of the phrase. The reflexive nature of find oneself [verb]-ing creates distance between the subject and the action, as though a character isn’t wholly in control of themselves.

In the case of beginstart, and continue, unless the action gets interrupted, there’s no need to specify that it begins or continues, because that’s already implied in context. Compare,

  • He began shouting at the crowd.
  • He shouted at the crowd.

Both say the same thing, but the second is more direct. However, if we add an interruption, the “began [verb]-ing” structure becomes justified.

  • He began shouting at the crowd, but his wife clamped her hand across his mouth.

Aspects happen in concordance with another event. On their own, they become expendable.

Infinitive Strings

As with strings of modals and auxiliaries, weak verbs that take infinitives as their complements can stack up like a conga line.

  • My boss tends to want to get to work early.

Add in any aspects or moods, and this could easily spiral out of control.

(But confession: I’ve made a game out of stringing lots of verbs together in a plausible sentence. So far my longest string is nine: “She might have been being coerced to pretend to try to like to dance.” Once you hit the main verb, it’s over, haha.)

In these cases, outright revision is the best bet to eliminate the string, unless you really, truly need it.

  • My boss comes to work early if she can.

It’s not semantically exact, but it’s close enough that the same sense remains.

Light Verbs

Of particular note in our above list of weak verb examples, make and take fall into the category of light verbs, along with do, have, and give. If you look them up in the dictionary, their entries can span over multiple pages, because their meanings have diluted to a bland meh that requires modifiers. They are the unseasoned starches of the language.

And why would we purposefully use them? In many cases, these expanded verb structures have no different meaning than their simpler counterparts. If you make a decision, you decide; similarly, to make an escape = to escape, to take a seat = to sit, to take a bite = to bite, and so forth.

The primary difference lies in structure, not in semantics. Weak verb phrases say very little in a lot of words. Revising for more precise language simplifies these structures, which allows the reader to access the story without wading through that slew of extra verbiage.

The Litmus Test

When evaluating verb phrases, consider the following two questions:

  1. Does my tense-bearing verb communicate the main action of the sentence?
  2. If not, is there a good reason why?

Don’t bog down the reader with too much structure. Our brains actively look for the verb in the sentence, so keep it efficient.

Tl;dr, simple tenses are better; save the expanded verb structures for when they’re necessary.

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Up next: Hedges and Qualifiers

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