Thursday, December 2, 2021

Those pesky commas again!

Lately I've been seeing sentences with independent clauses joined by a conjunction in which the comma follows the conjunction. For example, She went to town but, he stayed home.

Where did this come from? I've checked The Chicago Manual of Style and other authorities, and the standard still seems to apply. 

When independent clauses are joined by conjunctions, including and, but, or, so, yet, or others, the conjunction is preceded by a comma. The comma does not follow the conjunction unless there’s an intervening phrase.

We locked the door, but the burglar was already inside.

The news shocked everyone in the room, and one man fainted.

Do we want to offer health care to all, or are we interested only in our own situation?

The car wouldn't start, so we took a taxi.


Timothy played the guitar and Betty sang.

Go to the grocery for some celery and pay with cash.

CORRECT. Madelyn charged full speed, meeting life head-on, but Sarah held back, testing the waters before jumping in. (A semicolon could be used instead of the comma before but.)

INCORRECT. Madelyn charged full speed but, Sarah held back.

In sentences with short, closely related independent clauses, the comma may be omitted.

Leonard went north and Henry went south. I ordered fish and he chose steak.

The conjunction but shows a stronger separation and frequently needs the comma. I ordered fish, but he chose steak.

A comma is not normally used between the parts of a compound predicate—that is, two or more verbs having the same subject, as distinct from two independent clauses—though it may occasionally be needed to avoid misreading or to indicate a pause.

He had accompanied Sanford and had volunteered to write the report.

Kelleher tried to see the mayor but was told he was out of town.


She recognized the man who entered the room, and gasped. (The comma shows that she gasped, not the man who entered.)

Friday, March 5, 2021

First Friday! Eldering. Whitaker. Vidler

 Finally! It’s First Friday and three authors post their 150-word stories based on a single photo.

Photo by LM Whitaker


Ghost in the Graveyard

Gracie loved playing hide-and-seek with her older brothers, but not the regular daytime one; the one played at night called ghost in the graveyard.

One night the brothers agreed to be the seekers and allowed Gracie to hide.  She quietly snuck over to the old stump; the remnant of a tree taken out by lightning many years prior.  She crawled through the brambles and sat propped up against the stump.  After looking for about an hour and not finding Gracie, they finally decided it was getting too dark and cold and went into the house.  They all agreed that Grace was probably in her bed.

The boys checked on Gracie but could not find her.  All the neighbors, family and friends went on a search for Gracie.  For many days, the search continued.  No one ever found Gracie, slumped in eternal sleep hidden behind the old stump and brambles.


 Erin looked in dismay at the derelict, ivy-encased cabin.  At one time the property must have been lovely, but that was years, decades ago. Mounds of vinca, leggy azaleas, and escaped irises competed for the dappled sun, scarce under the sprawling live oaks.

Walking gingerly through the tangle of vines, Erin yelped as her foot struck a hidden birdbath.  An oakleaf hydrangea sheltered a painted stone: Kitty’s final resting place.

She continued her trespass through the memory cemetery of a stranger’s life, uncovering a turtle, a bunny, an angel.  Next to a stump she found a headless child, half buried in the sandy soil.  The statue, now upright, grasped its flowing skirt, creating a dirty bowl.  Erin sat on the stump and wondered if these effigies should be, could be, displaced.

She stood to leave, giving the statue one backwards glance. The bowl was no longer empty, the child’s head having found its way home.

Erin screamed.


When the Bough Broke

Drawn by memories, Caroline followed the rutted track to the once-proud house. She parked the car and stared at the blackened ruins. Vines climbed the pillars and sprouted from the chimney, all that remained. She’d hoped never to come here again, but Simon’s passing forced her return. Over the years, he’d refused many offers for the land. He said his heart was buried here, and it was.

She saw the ancient oak as if it still stood, the old tire swinging from the huge limb. Heard Julia’s delighted shrieks as she swung higher and higher above the little white figure she called her friend.

Until the bough broke.

Their hearts broke with their daughter’s neck. Simon cut down the oak the next day, and they buried Julia nearby. A year later, in a final blow, lightning burned the house.

Caroline fell to her knees by the broken figure and wept.

 About the Authors


At Amazon
Ms. Eldering is an award-winning author.  Her stories “Train of Clues,” “The Proposal,” “Tulip Kiss,” “Butterfly Halves,” and “Zombies Amuck have placed in a variety of contests.  Her story “Bride-and-Seek” was selected for the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop (SCWW) anthology, the Petigru Review. 

Ms.Eldering makes her home in upstate South Carolina and loves to travel, read, and crochet.  When she’s not busy working her full-time job, she can be found at various book or craft events.

You can find her at and

The Ties of Time

Moving to a new town was difficult enough, but that was only the beginning of what life had in store for Kelly Watson. Soon, a strange connection to her old family home led her down a path riddled with family secrets and mystery. 



Linda M Whitaker is a retail data scientist, and a writer of science and technology thrillers, as well as a few creepy short stories.  By day she plays with numbers, by night, with words.


Linda started writing around 2011 when she took her first mystery class with Ellen Hart, a prolificMinneapolis mystery author. Though Linda lived in Minnesota only a few years, she quickly learned the benefits of writing fiction as a means to hide from the long, dark, cold winters.

The Crucible of Steele

Fast forward a decade, and the many years of learning and perseverance have finally led to her debut novel. The Crucible of Steele is a fast-paced techno-thriller filled with unexpected twists, ethical entanglements and provocative science.  Buy here, or visit her website,, or facebook page, for more details.

Today Linda resides with her husband in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  She loves running in the forest, gardening, cooking, and playing with her dog and cat.


Free 5/5 at Amazon
Ellis is filling in for someone who couldn’t make it this month. She’s the author of five suspense novels (one with Jim Christopher) and two short story collections.

Haunting Refrain

Suspense, a little romance, a touch of paranormal . . . (Free this weekend)

Photographer Kate McGuire hopes for a little fun in her life when she joins a parapsychology experiment--visions of murder aren’t part of the plan. Then her eccentric friend Venice, a complication all by herself, leaks the story to a reporter, and Kate’s life turns upside down. The police don’t take her seriously, but the murderer does.


If you’d like to join in, leave your 150-word story in the comments. Or let me know you’d like to participate. I’d love to have you. Ellis at ellisvidler dot net.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The right words have impact

By Lloyd Arnold, Public Domain
This is a story I’ve read and heard about for years (you probably have too), but not even Snopes can really confirm it. It doesn’t matter; it’s still a great story. In a discussion about brevity, someone bet Ernest Hemingway he couldn’t write a story in six words. He took the bet. This is the story attributed to him.

For sale, baby shoes, never used.
Can six words bring you to tears? They can me. At least these six words can. This story has images, pathos, tragedy, and despair. It shows, it doesn’t tell. It’s a magnificent story. Hemingway is also supposed to have said it was his best work. I might argue with that, but it’s certainly a powerful work.
Based on Hemingway’s words, someone put together a little book about life in six words. (I really need to find the name and get a copy.) One that stuck was “I still make coffee for two,” by Zak Nelson. Another poignant tale.
Okay, got off my duff and looked for it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. (Since I looked, the Smith Magazine site has gone down--thanks, Donnell, for letting me know.)

It’s all there, making this blog completely superfluous (maybe not entirely—how often do I get to use that word?).
Have any you’d like to share? I’m thinking but to no avail. (Is that six words?)

NOTE: Sorry, no First Friday stories this month. EV

Friday, January 1, 2021

First Friday, First Day of 2021! Barley, Blackburn, Drier!

First Friday! What a fun way to start the New Year! Three talented authors give their ideas on one photo. 


"Savannah.  Are you out there?"

"mmhmm mmm . . . "

"What are you doing out there?  Come in and start getting ready for the party."

"       ."

"It was your idea to have this shindig. Let's get this thing going.  People will be here soon."  Tom walked out the door onto the patio, stopping when he saw his wife on the ground.

He rushed to her side, noticed the tea slopped over into the saucer, next noticing the potent smell as he caught sight of the empty bottle next to Savannah's horizontal body.

"Aw, jeez."  he mumbled.

A burp and a giggle from Savannah.

"You finished off my bottle of Pappy Old Van Winkle?! "

"Yesh. Twenty-two toushand dollahs."

"You raised hell and said it was a ridiculous waste of money.  Gone.  Unbelievable."

" . . .  Jan. 20th.  Ish a speshal day.  Biden deserves nuthin' lesh than ol' Pappy."  burp.

Tom nodded.  "Try to get yourself together.  I'll go get us another bottle."


"My Sister Shirley"

“What was your relationship to the deceased?”

Was. I kept staring at Shirley. What was my relationship.

“Ms. Baker, I need you to concentrate,” the cop said, probably for the second or third time.

“She was my sister,” I said. “Shirley Baker.”

“You say she called you this morning?”

I nodded. “She wanted to show me something. She invited me over for tea.”

“And that’s when you discovered her?”

I nodded again. “She said it was important.”

“What was important, Ms. Baker?”

“Tea, of course!” I smiled. In fact, I laughed. The cop, however, was not laughing.

“What’s so funny?” he asked me.

“Tea!” I pointed. “What a find.”

Okay, so now the cop was outright frowning. “Find?”

“She finally found our grandmother’s china pattern. She must have gone antiquing again yesterday.” I smiled at the cop. “My sister Shirley died happy, sir. Whatever killed her.”

“Correction, Ms. Baker. Whoever killed her.”


“Tragedy,” Belle said.

“And he was so young,” her sister, Janie, said.

“Do you think it was a heart attack?” Belle’s forehead wrinkled.

“Probably,” George said, eyeing the overturned cup of tea. “He was only having a quiet breakfast.”

“It’s so sad, he always worried about dying in the winter. He hated dead leaves, felt like it was an omen.” Belle started to reach for the cup, to set it on the saucer.

“Don’t you think we should wait for the police?” A stern look from George.

“Police? For what? Did you call them?” Belle jerked her hand back.

“I didn’t call them.” George looked at the two sisters. “Isn’t it what you’re supposed to do? All the mystery novels and TV shows have the police showing up and announcing it may be murder.”

“Murder!” Belle gasped, looked at her sister and husband, George.

Janie smiled.

 About the Authors

Kaye Barley 

Kaye Wilkinson Barley is the author of WHIMSEY: A Novel. She lives with her husband, Don, in the North Carolina mountains along with Annabelle Barley, the Princess Corgi.

Kaye is the author, along with being co-photographer with husband Don, of the new photo essay book "Carousels of Paris."

They are also contributing co-authors/co-photographers of the book "My Name is Harley and This is My Story," a photobook written by Harley about his life in the North Carolina mountains, his travels and escapades.

Kaye was a contributor to "Blood on the Bayou" - The Anthony winning Bouchercon Anthology 2016 edited by Greg Herren, published by Down & Out Books.

Kaye was also a contributor to three regional Western North Carolina anthologies - - - "Clothes Lines," "Women's Spaces Women's Places," and "It's All Relative." All edited by Celia H. Miles and Nancy Dillingham.

Author Webpage:



Carousels of Paris

I’ve been fascinated by carousels since I was a little girl.

The French are also lovers of carousels, as witnessed by the many seen in parks and even on street corners.

Donald and I have managed to capture images of several of those carousels.

Our book captures the colorful motion of everyday life in the City of Light while chronicling the history and characteristics of these unique attractions.

Carousels are much more than amusement rides. They are emblematic of the fantastical and the fun, the wild and the tamed. With their varying degrees of ornamentation and craftsmanship, Parisian carousels have for more than a century signaled delight and merriment for children while igniting the still small spark of whimsy among adults.

Cindy Blackburn

Cindy Blackburn writes cozy mysteries because she thinks grim reality is way overrated. When she's not thinking up unlikely plot twists and ironing out the quirks and kinks of her lovable characters, Cindy is feeding her fat cat Betty or taking long walks with her cute hubby John. A native Vermonter who hates snow, Cindy divides her time between the south and the north. Most of the year you'll find her in South Carolina. But come summer she'll be on the porch of her lakeside shack in Vermont. Yep, it's a place very similar to Lake Elizabeth. Cindy's favorite TV show is Young Sheldon, her favorite movie is Moonstruck, and her favorite color is purple. Cindy dislikes vacuuming, traffic, and lima beans. 



Welcome to Lake Elizabeth, Vermont, where Santa Claus is due to arrive any day now, and Cassie Baxter is going nuts. Who wouldn't go nuts? This is her first Christmas with her adopted son Truman, and she's determined to make it memorable. But that human skull the kid found when he was searching for Christmas decorations in the attic wasn't exactly part of the plan. And Joe Wylie, Cassie's supposed boyfriend, isn't making life any easier during this frantic week before the holiday either. Then there's Cassie's father, and her best friend Bambi, and her other best friend Sarah, and all those crazy, quirky, kooky neighbors that make Lake Elizabeth--Lake Elizabeth! Santa's sure to have a jolly good time when he finally does come to town! Ho Ho Ho

 Be on the lookout for Unaware: The fourth Cassie Baxter Mystery will be coming your way this spring!!

Michele Drier

Michele Drier is a fifth generation Californian. During her career in journalism, she won awards for investigative series. She is the past president of Capitol Crimes,a Sisters in Crime chapter, the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime and co-chaired  Bouchercon 2020.

Her Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries are Edited for Death, (called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review), Labeled for Death and Delta for Death. A stand-alone, Ashes of Memories was published May 2017.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, named the best paranormal vampire series of 2014 by PRG. Currently writing Book Eleven, SNAP: Pandemic Games.

Her new series is the Stained Glass Mysteries, Stain on the Soul and Tapestry of Tears, and she’s working on the third, Resurrection of the Roses.

Visit her webpage,

Or her Facebook page, ,

Or find her on her author page at


Tapestry of Tears

History had always been a strong magnet for Rosalind Duke.
She took up the medieval craft of making stained glass and was building a solid international reputation, taking on larger and larger commissions. Her idyllic life with her husband, Winston Duke, an art historian at UCLA, was cut short when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
After moving to a small town on the Oregon coast, she’s offered a commission to translate the medieval embroidery, The Bayeux Tapestry, into stained glass for a museum at a small Wisconsin university. Roz jumps at the chance. Not only to try to transfer the Tapestry into a new medium, but to spend time in Southern England and Northern France, tracing the path taken by the invading Normans under William the Conqueror.
But the 21st century drags her back when she finds a body crumpled against a wall in an ancient stone church in the small town of Lympne, on the southern coast of England. Has she walked into a contemporary murder?


Won't you join in? Post your 150-word take in the comments. We'd love to see it.