Choose and Use the Correct Word

Or are they?

Or are they?

It’s always a wonderful feeling when you meet someone who loves words as much as you do. I had that experience about a week or so ago when I came across a post by Mark Schultz, Word Refiner. Don’t you just love his title? I know I do.

Mark’s article works perfectly with the type of posts I publish for The Weight of Words. When I first read it, I sensed a kindred spirit, and, dare I say it, a fellow member of the Grammar Police.

According to Mark’s bio on the Word Refiner webpage, he has been “purifying documents of all kinds for over 40 years.” What’s not to love with such an impressive resume?

So, without further ado, I give you Homonyms Hurt Your Writing. Enjoy!

A Fresh Perspective

banyan-tree-shoppingI started the following short story several months ago, and while I had an idea of how I wanted the tale to begin, I honestly wasn’t sure how it should end.  So I let it sit, worked on other writing projects, and forgot about it.  I came across this piece five days ago and still didn’t know how things were going to turn out for my protagonist, but I felt more inclined to take the journey with her.  I’m pleased with the outcome, and I hope you will be, too.  Enjoy!

A Fresh Perspective

I Went Hunting in the Bushlands – Guest Post by Don Ake


It is my very great pleasure to be able to share this guest post by fellow author and blogger, Don Ake.  Don, who should have been a standup comedian, but he informs me that his timing was off, frequently blogs at Ake’s Pains about everyday life.  It is his unique perspective on otherwise common occurrences that make his posts so memorable.  You simply cannot get through one without laughing until your eyes tear up all the while shaking your head and saying, “Oh, Don…”

So, without further ado, please enjoy Don Ake’s guest post:

I Went Hunting in the Bushlands

GetAttachment (2)Sometimes men have to do things they don’t really want to do all for the benefit of their marriage. Okay, many times we must do these unpleasant things. All right, often it seems that marriage can be just one uncomfortable thing after another.

Recently, I did something for the first time in my life in an attempt to please my wife. I actually went to a nursery and landscaping store to buy some shrubbery for my wife’s birthday.   Now you must understand I am not a horticulturalist. I am probably a horti-counterculturalist. I am not interested at all in bushes or shrubs. I don’t even notice them unless they grow so much they get in my way or they start to die. At which time I say astute things to my wife such as, “That shrub needs trimmed,” or “That bush looks likes its dying; maybe you should do something.”

So, why did I find myself anxiously looking over a large selection of greenery? Two years ago the township decided to clean the drainage ditch at the side of our yard for the first time in 19 years. They came out one day without warning and completed the task. They had the option of clearing all vegetation within five feet from the ditch to give their equipment proper clearance. Fortunately, to get to our ditch they could have gained access by clearing only about a foot of foliage. Unfortunately, they decided to take the whole five feet.

My wife had spent years getting that part of the yard just how she liked it. It was beautiful, even to a horti-counterculturalist like me. My wife was livid. She wanted to scream at our trustees. Of course, screaming wouldn’t bring back the plants and such, so I offered to pay for professional landscapers to redo the area next year.

But my wife didn’t take the deal. Probably a combination of principle (Why should we pay for someone else’s stupid behavior) and personal feelings (This is my yard and I will deal with it.) However, what was left of the bushes and shrubs after the township massacre started to regenerate. Just like when we suffer a setback in life and think the situation will be horrible forever, it does get better over time. In this case, the bank actually started to fill in wonderfully. It looked great except for two noticeable gaps.

Of course, men are great for closing gaps. We don’t like gaps. Gaps are bad. So, I made the decision to buy my wife some shrubbery for her birthday, and thus I stood in the middle of this garden store with nary a clue as to what I needed.

Fortunately, Brad soon appeared to assist me. Brad was a handsome, strapping young lad, and I’m sure the local women enjoyed having Brad tend to their bush and shrub needs. But Brad was not just “beefcake,” he was very knowledgeable about his products. Of course, my questions were limited to, “How big does that one get?” I selected a holly-type bush, and Brad suggested I get a male and a female. Apparently, these plants engage in some type of procreating activity. Who knew? I must have missed that lesson in biology class. I had no idea how they accomplished this, but they must do it after dark because I have never, ever, witnessed this hot action and am sure I would remember if I had.

So, I got the two holly “love” shrubs and bought a Korean type plant just in case my wife did not like the other selections. You might say I bought the third plant literally “to hedge my bet.” Har, har, double har!

When my wife saw the bushes, she was not pleased. We have our own domains in this marriage, and by my purchase, I had crossed into my wife’s landscaping territory. I knew that was a risk but thought that I had the benefit that it was a birthday gift going for me. I was wrong.

She looked scornfully at the holly plants and said I wasted my money because she could easily transplant some from her mother’s yard. I’m thinking, “If this was so easy to do, why wasn’t it done at any time in the last two years?” Of course, I don’t say this out loud because you don’t stay married for 30 plus years by actually saying every thought that comes to mind. Do you?

I had prepared for this outcome however. I had told Brad that my wife might not like my choices, and he assured me the shrubs could be returned if not damaged. So, I calmly presented the receipt to my wife and encouraged her to take them back and get what she wanted.

Secretly, I hoped that she would keep them. I had made the trip to the nursery, and I had actually put some effort into my choices. In addition, for GetAttachmentsome strange reason I was growing fond (har again!) of the Korean one. Now there would have been a time that I might not have wanted my wife to interact with that plant-stud Brad, but it wasn’t an issue now.

I believe after the shock wore off, my wife realized that I had tried to do a good thing, and she decided to plant the bushes. She ignored my advice not to plant the Korean one on the north side of the property. My concern was that a North Korean plot would turn into a communist plant, and I knew from old movies how damaging a communist plant could be to your operation.

So my wife is happy. I am happy. And the bushes appear to be enjoying their new home. I don’t know if the male and female have engaged in, well, nature type activity yet, but I’m sure they will when they get to know each other better and the time is right.

Seeing Is Believing

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then allow me to share with you what this beholder has been eyeing up lately. My appreciation for art in all its many forms wasn’t developed by education or by listening to the critics but rather by finding what I liked and seeking out more of the same. I’ve applied this to the books I read, the way I write, paintings and photography I view, the music I listen to, and the food I eat. Today, let’s focus on visual art.

Michael Ferguson is an abstract artist whose work I found in my Twitter feed. I must have been following someone who retweeted Michael’s art, because the icon he uses for his profile, his own piece titled Essence, immediately caught my eye.

Through our conversations, I’ve learned that many things besides a paintbrush can be used for applying paint to an artist’s chosen surface. Cereal boxes remain among my favorite tools that Michael has used in his creative process. Like many things in life to which I never limit myself to one favorite, I really couldn’t say which of Michael’s pieces I like best. For the sake of space, I’m going to feature Shapes – World simply because my eye landed on this vibrant, colorful piece first. My initial thought upon seeing it was that it looked like a painted dreamscape.


Shapes-World by Michael Ferguson

I also met photographer, Robert Nacke, on Twitter. Robert’s work resonates with me because he has a unique ability to capture familiar images and present them in a simple yet elegant way. I’ve seen many of his chosen subjects in my everyday life, but don’t think for one minute that this makes them commonplace.

The plump goose crossing the road or the doe with her spotted fawns are brought closer with a fine eye for detail and elevated to the level of art. You can’t help but feel as if what matters and/or what is special in life are important to Robert, too.


Traveling Song by Robert Nacke

But my association with artists on Twitter didn’t end there. Photographer Rosita Larsson caught my heart with her picture of bleeding hearts, my favorite childhood flower. When I think of Rosita’s work, warmth and freshness always come to mind. I thought her florals were my favorites until I had the pleasure of viewing her forest scenes, nature abstracts, buildings, and landscapes, and I realized that I loved everything she shoots.

She manages to imbue every picture with such clarity that you want to reach out and touch the scene just to feel the velvety dampness of the petal or the heat radiating from a sundrenched stone wall. Rosita’s art breathes life and lifts your spirits all at once.


Bleeding Heart Up Close by Rosita Larsson

What I love about the work of photographer Irfan Dar is how he fluctuates between wide open pictures with simple objects just catching your eye to close up pictures of intense focus. Whether it’s crisp detail or softened edges, black and white or color, Irfan’s work always has a touch of the exotic in it.

I sense motion in Irfan’s pictures even if it’s just the mist moving subtly across a dense forest or grains of sand shifting beneath a camel’s feet. His photographs will make you want to travel to the places he has been and see the things he has seen.

Solitary by Irfan Dar

Solitary by Irfan Dar

Ismo Raisanen photographs astound me with the depth of color he captures. It’s as if nature gives the very best show when he’s taking pictures. Even snowy winter scenes are brought to life with a range of shades I wouldn’t usually have associated with the season.

The other quality I like about his pictures is how he uses natural lighting to enhance the colors of the landscapes he photographs. Of course sunny scenes depict light in a most spectacular way, but you won’t be disappointed with his shady scenes that provide a great sensory experience to all who view them.

Midsummer Night's Magic

Midsummer Night’s Magic by Ismo Raisanen

I was first drawn to Derrick Scofield’s photographs when he tweeted the South Fork Trestle in color and black and white. Both pictures were equally beautiful in their own way, almost as if he had taken pictures of two completely different bridges.

Derrick presents a wide range of subject matter for his photographs, and this variety lends even more appeal to his artwork. One might be tempted to think he snapped a series of random shots, but closer inspection will reveal that this is the work of a talented photographer because no one person is that lucky. Each scene appears exactly how it should have been photographed, capturing the moment perfectly, lending an emotional quality to the picture.

South Fork Trestle

South Fork Trestle by Derrick Scofield

South Fork Trestle 2 by Derrick Scofield

South Fork Trestle 2 by Derrick Scofield

I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of some of the finest artists on social media today who I have the pleasure of calling my friends.

Commenter vs. Commentator

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Today’s The Weight of Words is one that made me pause for a moment. Until recently, I never had cause to use the word commenter. My own blog post prompted a quick search on the difference between commenter and commentator. As mentioned in a recent post, Get It Right the First Time…Oops…, I grind my teeth when I post something with a typo or incorrectly used word or phrase.

So, to prevent that from happening to me or anyone else, here is an explanation on the difference and correct usage of commenter vs. commentator. I wasn’t at all surprised to see the definition of commenter has been influenced by social media!

Encouragement vs. Insult

I believe one of the cruelest insults a person can level at someone is to refer to that person as an amateur. At one time, we were all new to whatever it was we were pursuing.

Before the advent of social media, where everything a person does is on display from day one, some people had the opportunity to hone their craft to perfection without being in the constant spotlight, thus looking professional and well established when they joined social media. Stop and think for a minute: This is only how it appears.

GiveBack_webWe may never see every person’s humble beginnings, but rest assured every person has one. Instead of resorting to insults, privately distributed constructive criticism is what the situation calls for. If you, the commenter, don’t believe you can do this, simply refrain.

I’m not suggesting we become a world of wimps who shrivel at every negative comment. Just remember to be tactful and professional with your advice. It is possible to build people up even as you’re pointing out what they did wrong.

Share both your positive and negative experiences, offer your resources, give as well as take, and let the new person stand on your shoulders until they are strong enough to stand on their own two feet. It’s amazing how great you’ll feel when you do.

This advice also applies when helping someone who has been at a particular craft for a while and may still need instruction.  Again, encourage them and watch your fellow artist thrive under your beneficial tutelage rather than recoil from your scathing remark.

I offer the example set by James Michael Kahle, master glassblower, as the standard for how one should give back to those who are new to any form of art. Whether it is glassblowing, photography, writing, or painting, Mr. Kahle’s attitude toward approaching art and teaching others is inspiring. In fact, many of the lessons he applies to his art can be applied to life in general.

Some of Mr. Kahle’s views featured in the PBS documentary about his glassblowing, Turning Fire Into Ice, include his commitment to his art, his persistence when accepting challenges, listening to your art versus popular opinion, not dwelling on a setback, and, the most impressive, giving back and/or instructing future generations for free.

The world would be a considerably better place if we all adopted Mr. Kahle’s belief that if you don’t give back then you don’t have the right to take and what would the future be if we don’t give back now?

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 10

Release the books and free your writing!

Release the books and free your writing!

Writing is art, and art is messy. When I realized this, my inner drill sergeant, who fears disorganization, freaked out. Then there is the side of me that yearns for the freedom that comes with creating art, to not have to worry about meeting arbitrary deadlines I’ve set for myself, to not fear the loose ends of my creative process. In short, order and chaos are at war in my brain.

Further frustrating my creative writing process is the fact that I stopped reading to devote time to my writing. Funny thing: the writing dried up.

I’ve heard it said more than once that to be a good writer you must read. That shouldn’t have been a problem for me since I own a private library and consume books the way a starving person attacks food. When I read, everything else fades into the background.

What I need to do is apply my love for books and the way I approach reading to my writing life. The problem is that I’m so structured in everything I do, my attitudes toward books and/or reading isn’t going to help my writing very much if I don’t learn to cut loose just a little.

Here’s my list of things I need to do:

  1. Read outside my favorite genre, historical fiction
  2. Quit lining up my books on shelves like obedient soldiers, take them with me everywhere
  3. Travel with a notebook to capture anything and everything that pops into my head because it may prove to be beneficial to my writing
  4. Quit deluding myself that I’ll ever have everything done all at once

And now I’m laughing at myself because my list is perfectly numbered and ordered. The important thing is that I recognize my need to lighten up, enjoy my writing, and live a peaceful life.

Write Happy!

Every Day Should Be Sundae

Not everything I read is in my favorite genre, historical fiction. Last week, while checking out a patron at the library, I happened upon a wonderful book called No-Churn Ice Cream by Leslie Bilderback. I didn’t have the opportunity to glance at the recipes, but the no-churn aspect caught my eye. I don’t own an ice cream maker and have no plan to buy one in the near future. I’ve also heard that the salt required for the freezing process with a machine can be costly. So, I placed a hold on the next available copy and waited.51G5hIs8XuL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

I’m such a skeptic that while I waited, I convinced myself that homemade ice cream would still be costly and that there is no possible way to make it without an investment in some sort of machinery. I am so glad I was completely wrong.

The ice cream recipes featured in Ms. Bilderback’s book are simple, elegant, and even without having made one yet, I’m sure they are delicious. They range from the basic vanilla and chocolate to the adventurous strawberry-rhubarb, pineapple-pepper, and lavender. The book also features sorbet and gelato in unique combinations.

My favorite part of the book is the ingredient list. You won’t be scouring the Internet for bizarre items available at an outrageous price from countries you’ve never heard of. This fact only strengthened my need to own this particular book.

If you love ice cream, and who doesn’t, No-Churn Ice Cream should be the next book you check out or purchase.

Night Flight

9c019efa-62b4-49a3-8d25-06bde493c6e7The rhythmic drumming of hooves from a single horse is followed within thirty seconds by the chaotic stampede of many horses. Branches slap the riders’ faces as they race beneath the low branches in pursuit of a lone horseman.

The forest reverberates with the sound of man and beast: leather saddles creaking, hilted swords rattling, shouts from the pursuers, and powerful blasts of breath from their steeds. All of it fading, fading into the distance as the last of the leaves disturbed from the branches glide silently to the ground, touching earth without so much as a sigh.

Belsante leans her whole body against the wet bark of the tree behind which she hides; her dress draws the moisture like a man dying of thirst. She presses her palms and cheek into the bark until it imprints her skin, but still she does not move. The rasp of her breath, steel against whetstone, swells and recedes in her ears.

Theobald left her with the promise of return and a scrap of cloth, the corners cross-tied into a knot, wherein he had placed a chunk of bread and a leather flask of wine. He barely had time to kiss her goodbye before he mounted his stallion, Saracen, and led her father’s retainers away from her hiding place.

They agreed that Belsante should make her way to the very abbey where her father planned to have her imprisoned upon learning of her desire to marry Theobald, a mere merchant’s son. It’s not that Belsante isn’t devout toward her faith or unwilling to attend the needs of the poor; she simply wants to marry the man with whom she had fallen in love and not the aging Duke her father had chosen for her. Furthermore, her father would never think to look for her there.

The Abbess, a kind woman with a progressive mind, doesn’t believe in making a girl serve against her will, no matter how generous the endowment from said girl’s father. The young lovers trust her to help in their plan to escape France. Where they’ll go and how they’ll make a living afterward is anyone’s guess. Theobald had proposed selling Saracen, the only thing of value he possesses, but the couple doesn’t know how to go about doing so without attracting attention.

When she can no longer hear the sound of hooves hammering the ground, Belsante peeks around the tree trunk. Twilight and mist dim the woods; she will need to hurry if she wants to reach the abbey before she is caught. The threat of wolves hastens her steps.

The young girl travels throughout the night, and as dawn approaches the horizon, she sees the walls of the abbey on the edge of town. She also sees her father’s men leading Saracen, his mouth flecked with foam, his sweat-glistened sides heaving. Theobald does not sit astride the majestic, black horse who limps as he walks.

Belsante cannot hear the conversation between her father’s men and the Abbess, but she can tell from the determined shake of the Abbess’ head that she is aware of the night’s events. With much hand gesturing, the elderly woman encourages the men to leave, convincing them that Belsante is not within the walls of the abbey.

Again, the distraught girl must hide among the trees until the men leave. She emerges to see the Abbess waiting for her; a gentle beckoning draws Belsante from the woods. The Abbess’ arms are open, and the weary girl falls into them, weeping.

“His mount threw a shoe. They overtook Theobald before he could escape,” the Abbess says.

“They rode him down like a dog,” Belsante cries, her voice anguished.

“What will you do, my child?”

Belsante lifts her tear-streaked face from the Abbess’ ample bosom.

“Do you know where they have laid my love?”

“His body has been returned to his family. He will be interred in the cemetery of the town where they reside.”

Steel stronger than any blade enters Belsante’s body as she stands before the Abbess, shoulders rigid, head held high.

“I will take holy orders. My life will be given to serve those among whom Theobald lived.”

The Abbess’ eyes look down and away; she knows the impetuousness of young women often fades once the hardships of life in the abbey become apparent. When she looks into Belsante’s face, she observes strength born of loss. The old woman nods her head in agreement.

“Welcome, my child.”

Get It Write the First Time…Oops…


I just about fall out of my chair laughing when I see “peeked my interest” or “peaked my interest.” This usually happens on places like Facebook or Twitter because people don’t seem too concerned with the editorial process on social media. When this slips into a book, I just about have a fit. If I was in charge, this type of offense would have me storming into an editor’s office with a pink slip.

Now I don’t mean to sound snooty; I admit to using my Google search bar as a spell checker. I also admit to the occasional mistake in a blog or Facebook post and Twitter tweet. I grind my teeth when this happens.

Still, if you’re going to employ a phrase, please take the time to double check the wording and etymology of phrase to ensure that you’re using it correctly. The following link explains the difference and appropriate use of pique, peak, and peek. I found it to be most useful with tips on how to remember which \ˈpēk\ is correct for your sentence.

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