END OF A YEAR

So, here we are at the end of another year. It’s gone too quick. It doesn’t seem real that I have been home from work for almost 12 months following redundancy, and what have I achieved in that time? Nothing and yet lots. A big family wedding, a successful Walk for George and George making great progress, and following in artistic footsteps, two lovely trips abroad, read some great books, editing and proofing work coming in.

Yet, as an author, it’s scary to think I haven’t written one word of a novel although I have spent many hours editing and checking several works. Back last January I started writing a new novel with plans to do a lot of research and visiting the places I use in the book, but none of that has happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but last Christmas after my husband’s car let us down very badly on Christmas Eve, leaving us stuck in the perishing cold and snow on the M4, we decided to trade both his and mine in for another as we don’t need two cars now I am at home all day.

But my time home hasn’t been idle. I began blogging. If nothing else it has kept me writing and now I am ready to pick up the novels again and ensure that 2012 is the year hopefully I am published and in print.

I also met the lovely Linn B Halton, and helped her get loveahappyending.com up and running and editing Kit’s Corner and through the group, have made lots of new friends and colleagues who share the same passion for writing and books.

And for the first time in eight years I was able to host the writing group I belong to (the Ivy Writers) at my home. We meet one evening a month in one another’s home. Whilst I was working and with my husband working late shifts it was impossible for me to host this. Instead of meeting of an evening, we were able to meet of an afternoon.

I had planned to paint more pictures with so much free time, but that hasn’t materialised either. But I have been able to sell several, one before the paint even had time to dry! I had been offered a place at an exhibition but had to decline as I could not get to the venue on the required dates to deliver and collect.

So, what will 2012 bring? A hard, difficult few months ahead, that’s for sure. In a fortnight’s time my husband goes into hospital for a hip replacement, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds as he has a spinal problem. The equipment needed at home to help in his rehabilitation and recuperation has been installed: the toilet seat has been raised and a frame around it so he can lower and raise himself properly.  I have to use this too and feel like a little schoolgirl again as my feet don’t touch the floor when sitting on this. His armchair has been raised on blocks, the walking sticks and knicker-puller-on tool, his gadget for pulling on his socks and a very long shoe horn delivered.  He won’t be able to drive for at least 8 weeks and it will be probably 3 months before he will be able to return to work.  So all in all, a good thing I am at home all day to help him. We will have lots of laughs and no doubt a few frayed tempers and tears, his and mine. But we will manage. And hopefully, once he is back in his workboots, out of pain and fit again, we will see our garden blossom even if it is me having to do all the backbreaking planting.

In 2012 I have the opportunity to exhibit art at two venues and, with many fingers crossed, will see my novel Every Step of the Way finally published. There’s a new birth imminent in the family which will bring much joy to all of us, a summer holiday already booked and no doubt a trip to Spain to visit my brother and his wife. And one or two other irons in the fire that need a bit of prodding to mould into what I know will be a great, happy and successful year. One I am looking forward to as I raise a glass to the midnight chimes and fireworks and say:

“HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS                                                AND WISH YOU ALL A SUCCESSFUL YEAR TOO!”

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Wish I Were Here!

The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow … and wind and rain and hail and thunder and lightening. Yesterday, here where I live we’ve had the lot thrown at us. And that was just for starters! This morning, a light dusting of icing snow covers the rooftops and ground. The forecast this week is for more lousy winter weather to come. I hate the winter and the cold and wish I could escape it, just for the season, or better still, for good. Oh, what I’d give to be able to run away and hide away from it all. Given the opportunity (and the money) I would leave cold windy England and head to the sun.

So here’s where I would much rather be:

It’s a beautiful villa nestled right at the edge of the sea in Corfu, Greece.  I love the Greek islands and all things Greek. Sadly, I have to wait eight months before I will be there again. Meanwhile, there’s not a lot I can do but curl up by the fire, open a bottle of champagne, and read a book.

But not just any book! Today sees the launch of one I know is a cracker, and I’m not talking Christmas cracker here. I’m talking about REACHING FOR THE STARS, the new novel by writer Janice Horton. A fun read concerning a celebrity chef determined to throw it all away for the love of a woman. I’ve been lucky in being able to read this book prelaunch, in its raw state, before the ingredients were well mixed, left to rise, stirred with many emotions and seasoned with the lovely humour Ms Horton writes so well into her novels. And now, the book having been baked to perfection, I can read it in its mature, lovingly crafted state. And there’s no need to wait for it to cool before opening that first page.

So good luck, Janice Horton. This book deserves to take off with a bang and reach the zenith, if not in the stars, certainly in the book charts.

Buy Reaching for the Stars

To Italic or Not to Italic?

“Italics: a style of printing type chiefly used to indicate emphasis or a foreign word.”                                           (definition from Collins English Dictionary, 2010)

Many authors are confused when it comes to using italic in their writing, but within publishing the conventions are fairly simple, and the above definition sums it up very neatly. Follow this and you won’t go far wrong.

So, what should be put into italic? Basically, relatively little. There is no rule at all that says you have to use italics for anything. When we speak, the intonation and body language we use illustrates the emphasis we put on any one word or phrase, often by that annoying habit of people wagging their index fingers as if being a quotation mark. In writing, we have to use other means. In handwriting unless you were a calligrapher, the method used was either a different coloured ink or underlining. This has developed into the internationally accepted standard of italic font as used by the printing industry. In typesetting, a word underscored means “put into italic”.

Text that is interspersed constantly with normal and italic fonts is hard on the eye. The best guide is to only put into italic a word that you want put emphasis on, to enable the reader to fully understand and engage in the meaning. For example: “You will do it” and “You will do it” each have a different meaning. The first, a soft, supportive statement; the second, an imperative order.

A word on underlining. Do not use this in novels or reference books, especially when self-publishing. With the narrow spacing between lines, underscoring makes reading tiresome and difficult, and in ebooks it highlights a word for other means. Do not use underline and bold together, and definitely a big no no is Italic, underline and bold. NO NO This is out and out overkill!

Apart from highlighting a word for emphasis, we also put into italic any foreign word or phrase borrowed from another language and has not yet become part of everyday English language usage, particularly French and Latin. For example, terminus a quo would be in italic; status quo, not italic – the former an uncommon phrase, the latter now part of everyday English. But the writer doesn’t necessarily know what is still a foreign word or what has now become an accepted word in English. This is where having a comprehensive, up-to-date dictionary is worth the cost. Ones such as the Collins English Dictionary or the OED will list words with their correct italic/capitalisation format. 

What does cause confusion is where foreign food and drink are concerned. You wouldn’t expect to see quiche or spaghetti bolognaise or linguine in italic, however coq au vin and Coquilles St Jacques would be. Likewise, you would have a glass of burgundy or perhaps you’d prefer the Cote du Rhone. None of these words would look or be wrong if they were in normal font. It’s a matter of choice or editorial preference or house style. What is important is to be consistent. If you put a word in italic, ensure every time you use that word in your book it is in italic.

Most publishing houses have their own rules and guidelines on this matter, and if writing for one of them, obtain a copy of the in‑house style sheet. Newspapers also have their own convention.

What about when citing songs, books, film or play titles, newspapers and magazines, painting titles? The modern convention is for these to be in normal font but there is nothing wrong in putting into italic if you must or if the house style dictates. What they shouldn’t be in is quotation marks. Quotation marks are for dialogue and quotes; that’s what they’re there for, that’s their job. If you decide to put titles into italic, that’s fine too. Nothing wrong in doing so. An accepted convention, even in the press industry, is to italicise the names of newspapers, journals and books, but even that convention is slowly eroding and everything kept in normal font. The main factor in all is consistency throughout the document, the only rule here being, if you use italic for a newspaper title, use it for any book or magazine title, too, within that book. Note: the word “the” does not go in italic nor should it be capitalised: the Guardian, the Sunday Observer. (More on capitalisation in a later blog.) However, if a book title is published as “The War of the Worlds”, then “the” should be set to italic too.

Punctuation with italic: any punctuation that follows an italicised word/s or should be in normal font. With quotation marks, if the whole sentence or quote is in italic, it is acceptable for the opening and closing quote marks to be italic although it is now common for normal font quotation marks to be used and only the actual quoted words in italic. Again, this is a matter of preference.

Location and place names, names of shops and venues, pop groups etc, brand names, pub names, should be in normal font. Names of ships, trains, TV and radio shows are acceptable in italics.

But the use of italic doesn’t end here. You can put whole paragraphs or sections into italic if you want to show something by way of illustration or to make it stand out from the rest, ie a letter or a quotation, or different sections, if perhaps writing from, say, two different viewpoints or timeframes, such as in a timeslip novel. Any sections in italic should begin on a new line, and any word/s that would normally be emphasised in italic within that paragraph or section, put to normal font. You could even write the whole book in italic if that is your want, reversing the font switch.

So really there are only two things to consider: 1) use for emphasis only and for foreign words, 2) be consistent in whichever choice you make within a document.

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