If You Have a Crutch, Use It! Language crutches and discourse markers

On a recent phone call, the person I was talking to ended nearly every inquiry with “Perfect,” even if it had no application to our topic of discussion. I eventually realized she was using this as a filler word, also called discourse marker, to fill in the silence that accompanies speech between humans. People used to commonly use “awesome.” Others over the years have included the British “brilliant,” the old-fashioned “groovy,” the hipster “right on,” and a slew of others, including “um,” “ah,” and “like.”

Discourse markers fascinate me. Although they do nothing to add to the content of speech, simply slowing the discussion down and, if extreme, distracting listeners who start counting the number sprinkled here and there. They can give hints about the speaker’s age and, I believe, a bit about his background, educational level, gender, lack of social ease, and social class.

Women tend to use them more than men, as if fearful that silence equates to boredom. Men tend to overdo the F-word. I’ve eavesdropped on men talking to one another during which a variation of “f—-ng” served as noun, verb, object for nearly the entire conversation.

My grandson picked up a filler word relatively young. At the age of six, he started prefacing his discourses with “literally,” which he probably heard his big brother using. It does serve to facilitate his language because (1) it sounds somewhat adult, (2) it grants him a few seconds to organize his thoughts before spewing. His big brother seems to avoid many of the common discourse markers. For some unknown reason, he doesn’t feel obligated to fill in every second with speech. On the other hand, my granddaughter could serve as the poster child for filler words. Like a traditional Valley Girl (which she is not), she uses the word “like” in every sentence.

I figured out why. Her brain is speeding so quickly, she has to allow her mouth to catch up. There are some valid reasons to use discourse markers. Some others are to slow down your news, particularly if it’s bad; to show you’re thinking; to stall for time. In my example, my phone partner indicated she was listening to me and working to resolve our problem.

This verbal shorthand seems to operate well only when talking out loud. Still many experts say using them too much makes the speaker appear unprofessional and scrambling or pompous and wordy. Best to try to avoid their overuse.

Can you imagine how boring a written passage would be if laden with filler words? Hmmm. Maybe not. Might make the story ultra-realistic and relatable. As a writer, I find the idea intriguing and challenging. Perhaps it’s exactly what I need. You know?

WRITING A POEM IS DISCOVERING [Robert Frost]

 

 

 

 

I find myself turning more to poetry the older I get. Maybe because I’m uncertain about the process of aging. I thought I’d have more answers, but I get more uncertain with each passing day. It seems I can come to grips with that uncertainty, and, by the way, with insomnia, by indulging myself.

Here is a line 

Here is a line,

A place, a space,

Where she is and she is not.

Containing finite territory and infinite ether.

Side by side. Both parts are her. Seen and unseen.

How can this be? Yet it is.

 

“Metastatic breast cancer.”

She speaks with practiced ease from saying the words a thousand times,

Thinking them a million times.

Where she is now will become the reverse,

an absence.

Where she is now will transmute into a void.

How will I know her shape when she is gone?

Both halves exist now. Her and not-her.

Both halves will continue afterwards. Her and not her.

She walks, a shape, a shade, at the same time,

Her presence, gradually losing substance until she becomes her own counterpart.

 

I wait day by day.

Grasp the wisps of her

Flowing through my fingers like fog.

Hardly satisfactory, now or then,

Until she is missing.

Only a hollow,

Nothing to be done

Except fill the outlines of both sides of her with my pain

(©) 2019.

Help! I Fell Off the Social Media Craze and Can’t Get Up. Harnessing social media to influence people.

People continually advise authors, along with realtors, inventors, political strategists, and salespeople, to harness the power of social media to reach out to the public. All well and good, but the methods to achieve this are sorely limited, partly by their very numbers and variety and the amount of time required to become skilled at using them. The basics are to create a web page, initiate a blog, tell everyone you know how to get on them, jump on Facebook and Twitter, add a newsletter and other outlets as you’re able. But the strategies to accomplish this successfully are a mystery to me as dark and deep as the methods to build the Egyptian pyramids.

I went online with the publication of my second novel, about 5 years ago. Despite regular postings (all right, perhaps not as regular as they should have been), sign-ups have never shown a dramatic increase, nor have sales of books. I usually feel as if I’m talking to myself, okay in my case, for I mine the postings for nuggets I can use for my syndicated features and other freelance work. I tell myself that someday I’ll pull items together to publish a collection of think pieces. Sure. Just like someday I’ll lose those final 15 excess pounds. Nagging at the back of my mind is a sneaking suspicions I’m wasting my time.

I’ve tried to initiate a social media wave or trend on behalf of other, non-writing activities, to promote a conference or advertise a holiday festival. I’ve posted myself and begged others to do the same. To no impact. Still it’s tempting to think, “If I could reach out to five people, and they could reach out to five, and those could reach out to five, I’d soon reach a mob.” Doesn’t seem to work for me.

I’d still be a skeptic except for the coincidence of my witnessing an actual social media blitz which I initiated without intention. Some time ago I became aware of a great, free, online movie service marketed through libraries. Kanopy offers movies at no charge to library card holders of participating libraries. These aren’t usually brand new, big ticket, glitzy movies. They tend to be “artsy,” foreign and classic movies that appeal to smaller audiences. But they’re great. I’ve caught up on a number of favorites and ordered kids’ movies for my grandson. I’m currently watching Frank and Robot, a near-future fantasy with Frank Langella.

I happened to mention Kanopy to several friends at lunch. One went home and posted a remark on her Facebook account. Overnight several of her contacts talked about how great the service is. Shortly after more people contacted her with raving positive reviews. With one contact, I’d estimate at least ten people reacted initially, and who knows how many have praised and advertised Kanopy since then?

So I witnessed a social media trend right in front of me. Why was the Kanopy item so popular? Ideas: Everyone likes movies of some sort or another. Everyone likes free services. Everyone likes to share information that shows them to be early adapters or in the know.

Now if I could just apply these lessons to selling my books, I might have a chance of building a base for my own writing. I’m still struggling with that. The real challenge.

The Writer’s Gift: Guest appearance by author Mary Cunningham

I still remember my third grade teacher giving me one last piece of advice before summer vacation. “Mary, whatever you do, don’t stop writing.” I wasn’t sure, then, what she meant. Had I been writing in third grade? What made her think I should keep writing?

Finally it hit me, and sure enough, forty-some-odd years later, my first book was published. I’m a slow learner.

During those “between” years I read and I read. I’ll never forget the summer I discovered sports biographies. A whole set of them! Probably due to my yet-to-be-discovered OCD, I read them in order – A-Z.

I tore through the biographies in record time. Patty Berg, Jim Brown, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzales, Byron Nelson, Warren Spahn. Each book put me into the game, the match, the tournament. I was there swinging a golf club with Patty Berg or running for a touchdown with Jim Brown. Then, the unbelievable happened. I finished Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Finished. Caput. A through Z. There were no more. I was crushed.

I muddled along reading Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and then got bored with the writing and storylines I considered beneath my reading and comprehension level.

As luck would have it, around that time my aunt replaced the ancient librarian (Miss Georgia Stockslaver – yes, that was her real name!) who had been in her position for, oh, around 108 years, give or take a few. What a refreshing change! Nothing against Miss Georgia, but she single-handedly destroyed my older brother’s love of reading. It was the summer after his fourth-grade school year. He took “The Bears of Blue River” to the front desk to check it out. Miss Georgia wouldn’t let him read it. “This is a Fifth Grade book. You’ll have to wait until you’re in the fifth grade!” It was late July, just over a month away from the start of his fifth-grade year. My brother, who had a bit of a stubborn streak, left the library and to my knowledge, never returned.

Back to my reading boredom. Between my eight grade and freshman year, the new librarian, my beloved Aunt Gertrude, began setting books aside she thought I’d enjoy reading. Knowing my love of time travel and science fiction, she suggested H. G. Wells. I imagined flying on rocket ships to the moon and, especially, taking a time machine that could send me any place my heart desired in history or the future. This book, no doubt, led to my 5-book middle-grade time-travel series, Cynthia’s Attic.

Slowly, but surely, my love of reading gravitated to writing, thanks to my dad. My first appreciation for his writing began to grow when I’d go with him to do interviews for his daily human interest column for the Courier-Journal. I’d listen to his subjects talk about their lives, their work, their interests and they didn’t seem all that interesting to me. The questions and, especially, the long-drawn out answers made no sense. How could anyone put a cohesive story together from this mish-mash of material.

But as Dad formed stories from information he’d gathered on his notepad, (That was before tape recorders became small and manageable), then spend hours editing before he submitted it to the newspaper editor, I discovered a writer’s true gift: To pull out words, sentences, and paragraphs from rambling statements and situations, and make them interesting and exciting. My dad had that ability to write characters and scenes that just jumped off the page and grabbed the reader. I aspire to that.

As writers, we love our writing, don’t we? Nothing makes us happier than to write a line of poetry or prose, sit back and say, “Wow! That’s good!” A few years back I had the honor of listening to Georgia author, Terry Kay, give a keynote address and something he said has stayed with me ever since. I’m paraphrasing here. He might’ve used a bit saltier language: “I don’t care how your writing makes you feel. All that matters is how it makes the reader feel.”

If you’re a writer and would like to be remembered, the most important advice is to make your readers feel something.

 

MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER: Mayhem & Murder: Synopsis

Andi’s step-mother is a real piece of work! But is Ruby a murderer?

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will lead to the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby will be the main suspect.

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with the charming local sheriff, Manual Rodriquez. After an embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, a chance to check out an eyewitness to the murder leads her to Las Vegas.

In Vegas, a mysterious meeting in the Bodies Exhibition, a body preserving in the prep-room, and an evasive owner of a dance studio, give Andi clues to help Ruby. But when Andi is mercilessly drugged and locked in a storage room, she realizes dear old step-mom isn’t the only one in jeopardy.

 

REVIEW BLURBS FOR MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER!  

“If Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum were a travel agent, she’d fit right in working this case alongside Andi, a wanna-be detective readers are sure to love.” —Regan Black, USA Today bestselling author of the Escape Club Heroes and Knight Traveler novels.

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder...WOW. Snappy dialog, quirky characters, opens with a curious bang and yanked me through the pages. A fun, fantastic read. “—Jean Rabe, USA Today Bestselling author, Piper Blackwell Mysteries.

“Grab a margarita and hold on tight; you’re in for a wild ride.” —Karen MacInerney, Agatha Award nominee and author of the Dewberry Farms Mysteries

“Charming, lively, and unpredictable, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder excels in a vivid story mystery fans will relish.”—Diane Donovan, Senior Editor Midwest Book Review

 

PURCHASE MARGARITAS, MAYHEM & MURDER: 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076N6KBM3

B & N Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/margaritas-mayhem-murder-mary-cunningham/1127355519?type=eBook

 

FIND MARY ON SOCIAL MEDIA: 

MARY CUNNINGHAM – Author Bio 

Author, Mary Cunningham, grew on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn.”

Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired characters, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for her award-winning middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic. The setting is in her childhood home in Southern Indiana. Family stories and ancestors comprise the storylines. There are currently five books in the series: The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou, The Magician’s Castle, and Legend of Lupin Woods.

Through a horrifying stint as a travel agent and more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism, she received inspiration for the character, Andi Anna Jones, travel agent/amateur sleuth, Mary’s latest adult mystery series. She’s currently writing Book # 2 of the series, along with another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max and Maddie, an historical time-travel, and a biography about a former Army brat/University of Connecticut women’s basketball player who started a non-profit foundation to create scholarships for children of deployed veterans.

Cunningham is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

Car Troubles and Angels

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I have trouble in cars. The nine wrecks I had in one year as I tooled around Houston qualifies me as a road disaster. Sarah, my haphazard angel (in the book series), causes trouble in vehicles. She has accidents in red high heels too. She often tumbles into someone, knocks them down and falls on top of them.

Not all car disasters have been my fault. Houston has other crazy, inept drivers besides me.

These days, I drive a red car. In fact, my last two cars have been red. If another one is in my future, it will be red too. Why? Not because the color attracts the police, but because others can easily see me. I have no desire to own a gray color. Steely colors blend with the road. If you can’t see me coming, you can’t get out of the way.

However, speeding in a red car does gain a patrolman’s attention. I once was going about 95 on Texas Highway 6, speeding to meet a friend for lunch. I was late, as usual, and even though I’d been there many times, I didn’t remember how to get to the spot. Like Sarah, the scatterbrained, dyslexic angel I write about, I have no sense of direction, and it makes no difference if I’ve been to a location before.

The nice patrolman pulled me over. After the identities, he asked why I was in a hurry.

“Well, officer, it’s like this, I always drive fast when I don’t know where I’m going. I have to hurry up because I’m so lost. Going faster means I have a better chance of finding my destination before time runs out.”

He scratched his head and smiled. “What are you trying to find?”

After I told him, he said the place was up the road and if I traveled the speed limit, I’d get there in ten minutes. He was super nice. I drove slowly away with a warning instead of a ticket.

Sometimes, I’m totally innocent. Like the day I went to court.I was called for jury duty and left early enough to wander about Houston’s freeways. The bizarre experience that followed was my red car’s fault, not mine.I arrived at the court annex, parked, gathered my purse and grasped the door handle to get out. Oops! No way!The lever was broken. I was trapped!

I decided to crawl over the console to exit on the passenger side. Oh, my goodness! People were walking around and would see me.Should I go feet first? Bottom first? Those small car spaces aren’t made for tall people. I finally made it out. Plenty of people inside the courthouse were on their way to jail. I didn’t tell them how I escaped confinement. It’s my secret.

In my humorous, Sarah books, some of the episodes are based on my life experiences. Sarah is a dyslexic angel who comes to earth to help humans find romance. In Sarah: Laney’s Angel, Sarah, masquerading as a bride, is dressed in a wedding dress and veil. She doesn’t know how to drive, but she’s in a car. She accidentally thrusts the thing into reverse and totals the hero’s car as he sits behind her in his expensive sports vehicle. She tells him she was on the way to her wedding. Being the kind, Texas guy that he is, he offers to take her to the church. As they ride along, he discovers Sarah doesn’t know where the church is. Oh my. I enjoyed writing that scene. Stuff happens in Sarah’s adventures. Count on it.

A new Sarah book comes out in July 2018.  Sarah must help a young woman lose weight and gain confidence. She also must find a mate for the lady. Just wait till you read her adventures in the gym.

All the Sarah books are set in Texas.My Sarah Series has ten books, but two books have three stories in them. Novellas were combined into a print selection. In Sarah and Three Times a Charm, or Sarah and a Family Affair, you receive several stories.

I’ve written two serious books. The latest is Mattie’s Choice. It’s historical, Christian, women’s fiction, loosely based on family experiences, and helps the reader consider attitudes and social mores. My mother-in-law was married to a demanding man who refused to let her see her family. Research shows that controlling men do this, even today. In 1925, women had few choices, but more are available today. Women can choose not to live in an abusive household. There’s humor in the book, but there’s also a lot about faith, or the lack of it.Clue into Kindness is a contemporary novella with a similar theme.

Want to know more about my books? Here you go. http://amzn.to/2hwc6nB and http://gaynlewis.blogspot.com/

 

(Guest blogger Gay N. Lewis, a Texas minister’s wife, writes about angels and romance. She and her husband primarily have served churches in Texas. Before becoming a full time author, her livelihood embraced interior design, photography, and communication.)