Tag Archives: reviewing

Commas, what is the point of them anyway?

Today I’ve been revising the various rules about correct comma usage. And I’m somewhat appalled at the absurdity of several of them. Who made up these rules anyway? What exactly is the purpose of a comma?

For example – this is apparently correct:

Jim carried the ladders, and his partner cleaned the windows.

It is apparently correct because there are two clauses in the sentence which can exist without being joined. SO WHAT? What is the point of the word ‘and’ then? Would anyone not understand this sentence if it excluded the comma? Really?

Another example this time of an introduction taking a comma.

‘In ancient Rome, it was considered good practice to eat while lying on your side.’

The purpose of this comma? Do we need to punctuate this sentence with a comma? Would it really be so bad if people decided where to take their own breath? Is ‘ancient Rome’ so important as context that we need to dwell on it longer than the rest of the sentence?

More supposedly correct comma madness:

“Yes, Mark, that is correct.”

But we already capitalise Mark to indicate he is a person! Why do we need to separate the word as well? Does ‘Mark’ have herpes or something? Try reading this out loud and take a pause at each comma – does it sound good? Not to my ears. It sounds like the speaker is being sarcastic or aggressive. What if they are agreeing with Mark or congratulating him? Surely the important part of the sentence is the ‘correct’ or the ‘yes’ part?

And the mess all this comma prescription gets us into:

‘I can not attend on Wednesday. However, I will attend next week.’

All to avoid the awful crime of this incorrectly punctuated variation:

“I can not attend on Wednesday, however I will attend next week.”

Apparently you must not place a comma before ‘however’ they say. Why not? The rules insist on ‘and’ being  desecrated with a preceding comma. Is this a case of separate clauses or just rules for the sake of rules? I would take a breath where the second example indicates unless I’m seeking to make a big point about attending next week.

So it appears that rules have reigned comma usage for eons. I wonder how many good sentences have been ruined in the process and how many debates and re-writes have resulted? Why not simply use them to avoid ambiguity or to denote breath taking in a longer sentence? I can hear the chorus of disapproval from purists even as I write the words (without commas).

And lastly consider the Oxford comma. Why? Does this extra mark add anything at all?

“I bought oranges, apples, and bananas.”

“I met Aunt Lucy, Jim, and Peter.”

If we needed to know in what combinations surely it would be better to break up the sentence and avoid the possible ambiguity? If Aunt Lucy is on her own or with someone then simply state that facts we need to read.

So I’m off to howl at the moon and immerse myself in more important things while contemplating the rule book. So much for easily read script and smoothness of language. Far better to pepper the page with commas. Yeah right! Rant over.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

It’s not a matter of life or death, it’s more serious than that……… the riddle of unloved sci-fi

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

Following a late night debate over a beer or two, I recently researched the best selling films of all time

I like all kinds of fiction and non-fiction in films, TV and books. I like comedy, horror, adventures dramas and such like. I only draw the line at ‘crud’ and the majority of chick flicks. So that also rules out anything Twilight related. (Yes I can’t stand them – for me the Underworld series is a far better story)

I began writing Sean Yeager Adventures because it felt right and because it arose from my interests as a youngster. We used to have no end of sci-fi on TV: UFO, Dr Who, Star Trek, Blake’s 7. And at the lighter end we had Danger Mouse, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and many more. I guess some of it rubbed off and then Star Wars happened…

So back to the film stats. It turns out that nearly 1/3 of the top selling films of all time are sci-fi and they account for just under 1/3 of the gross income for the top 50 (that’s about 28% or $13.2 Bn).

The big winners are of course well known:

  • Avatar
  • Star Wars
  • Transformers
  • Inception
  • ET
  • Jurassic Park
  • The Matrix

To which we can add other big films like the Terminator, Alien and Star Trek series who fall outside the top 50.

And my point is?

Simply this – how come there are so few top selling books that are sci-fi?

I don’t believe for a second that sci-fi lovers don’t buy or read books.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

To boldly go where no man has gone before……….. Sean Yeager in print now

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

After months of crafting, designing, huffing and puffing… Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief is available in deluxe print!  Hurray!

Deluxe because it is a 6×9 inch book size which shows off the cover and makes it very easy to read.

For those who don’t already know – the book series is a mixture of adventure, comedy, action, science fiction and mystery. A bit like a cross between Young James Bond, Men in Black, Star Wars, Artemis Fowl and elements of Monty Python / Red Dwarf / Hitchhikers Guide. We’re not in Star Trek territory yet. Watch that space though, Star Trek is converging all the time…

The DNA Thief sets the scene at breathtaking speed and Hunters Hunted is set to build on the mysteries and action  in a big way.

It’s a big milestone for us and very soon we’ll be speaking to libraries and bookstores about stocking the physical books. It’s funny there is something about holding print in your hand that makes a real difference….

Meantime, on with the series. Hunters Hunted is nearing completion and will see the light of day first as an e-book initially with print to follow.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett








It’s life Jim but not as we know it …….. villains never give in

Just like my evil nemesis Egbert Von Krankhausen I never give up in waving a virtual flag at those readers who are seriously missing out on a good thing. I mean come on everyone over here! Aren’t you bored of vampires yet? Sean Yeager awaits! The true spiritual successor to Parry Hotter and Dartemis Owl.

In a move that is bound to spread tremors and tsunamis across the world I am transporting Sean Yeager to a whole new dimension for the holiday period. A dimension of lending. That’s right the Kindle lending scheme. Now you have no excuses – read and enjoy!  Or I’ll send Krankhausen after you…..

Is it life Jim or is it opting for the inevitable? I’ll beam up again soon with news from the front. One thing is clear there will be no cosy little romance picnic to spoil the action. Yes that is a direct dig at Star Wars who made me cringe for what seemed like eternity with that dire excuse for a love story between ‘To be Darth’ and ‘Oh look I’m pregnant with twins and the best sci-fi gizmos and forces ever can’t save me’.

With Hunters Hunted steaming up the mirrors and generally leaping off the page to climb new mountains, The DNA Thief will soon be joined by another. Yes folks its going to be Empire Strikes Back time. Aliens with a plural instead of the singular dark, shifty stomach ache and pregnancy metaphor. (Ouch!) It’s building up nicely into a spaghetti car crash of gargantuan proportions. Try saying that quickly!  (“That, that, that…..”)

So in the run up to Happy Holidays of all colours and creeds consider this: Sean Yeager is out there somewhere hiding from his enemies and hoping that Santa isn’t laser blasted to a crisp by his trigger happy protectors. (Could be worse, have you met Krankhausen? Now he has some serious personal issues man!)

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

What is ‘good’ writing?

D.M. Jarrett author of Sean Yeager Adventures muses on the balancing act of what makes writing ‘good’.

Recently, I signed up to review another author’s book and while I’ve yet to begin the task it has me thinking. I’m wondering about what to comment on in the review and what my yardstick should be. Should it be about the standard of the writing or my impression of the work as a reader. Should it be about the plot or a combination of all the above? It’s tricky. And then of course I don’t want to be too kind or too cruel because I’ve been through the hours and hours of creating a work until you are sick of the sight of it. (Temporarily sick of course).

I have found in the past that when you are involved in something (such as writing, designing or music) your focus shifts and you become almost incapable of stepping back from the small details to see things as others do. It’s almost a curse. Yes I quite like that song but rhyming ‘fall’ with ‘crumble’ and ‘stumble’ is making me feel ill. There was once a song I heard so many times that it could almost induce physical vomiting whenever the first few bars were played because I hated aspects of it so much. Fortunately, someone eventually culled it from radio play lists and there was a suitable parody (but it didn’t go anywhere near far enough to my mind.)

So what is ‘good writing’? Would you recognise it knocking at your front door and inviting itself in for dinner? It’s a tricky one and no doubt liable to split academics down the middle let alone bloggers. So I’ll settle for giving my thoughts as subjective as they are:

1) Readability – I look for a good smooth read which flows and is relatively easy to follow. I’m not keen on heavy reads where I have to repeat read sentences to understand the intended meaning. Neither am I keen on use of language which fails to paint a picture in my head. I find it’s working when I almost forget about the words and I’m carried away with the ideas and events being portrayed.

2) Plot – I always want to know what’s going on. I absolutely hate being taken on a wild goose chase with characters who have no clear fit to the flow of the story. Some authors drive me nuts with lengthy parallel plots where inevitably one is preferable or more entertaining than the other. And worse when it all comes together at the end in a giant twist. More than likely I’ve given up caring by Chapter 5!  Okay it can be clever, but I don’t like being sold a pup as a reader. Leave out the dull stuff and keep me enthralled or laughing or scared. I actually really, really, really, do not care what the characters have for breakfast or what they think of their father unless it is directly relevant to the plot line.

3) Genre & style – I’ll read almost anything but it has to evoke emotion for me to want to read on. It can be any of the main reactions – laugh, cry, tremble, be excited, be amazed – preferably several of them at once. However if a story does not make me want to care then (unsurprisingly) I won’t bother to care and may well put the book down. I’m not big on concept books or shallow books unless they bring out a reaction and I find the best books work on all these levels, so I choose to read them instead.

4) ‘Universe’ – I enjoy being taken somewhere else during the read. Sometimes it can be the best part of the book for me. I still want to feel and read easily, but if the places and events are sufficiently interesting it can carry an otherwise poor plot. There are several books I’ve read where the style and setting were on reflection far better than the eventual story which in some cases was actually pitifully poor, predictable or worse unremarkable.

5) Use of words – I would imagine my vocabulary is about average for a graduate, nothing amazing and a reasonable understanding of less common word meanings. I like seeing interesting words in books where their meaning flows well and adds something, it restores the brain a little. On the other hand, there are some writers who find it necessary to use obscure language and structures, which not only cloud their intended meaning but also irritate the hell out of me. Ironically, I don’t mind if they invent words so long as the meaning is disclosed, but force me to reach for a dictionary more than a couple of times and I’m unlikely to forgive the  book. And never write in slang or phonetic language to evoke a character unless you absolutely have to, which is still never. A few odd words here or there will do. But frankly I’m not interested in how clever, clever it is and in one very notable book it is completely wrong in context as well. As in totally implausible and unnecessary.

6) Overall impact – This is probably the most personal aspect for any reader I would guess. My preference is to have a positive overall impact because it feels like a chore if you’ve read a sizable book to arrive at a negative or unclear ending. I hate endings where you have to guess what the outcome was and I also dislike endings where it’s a laboured denouement with all loose aspects closed off. A short third act with a clear outcome tending towards positive, or at least hopeful, usually does it for me. All the better if there is a plausible twist at the end. Best of all show us an ending we could not possibly have thought of ourselves and which makes sense.

7) Deus Ex Machina – Otherwise known as cheating with plot twists and outcomes. Makes my blood boil and has been known to spoil books and films completely. Unless we’re in a fantasy and magic genre, I really don’t want to read about impossible escapes and invisible plot devices that only arrive in the last few pages. ‘It was all a dream’ has to be the worst of the worst excuse second only to ‘they imagined it all (the whole story) in their last moments of life’ . Err nope I’m calling the plot police and charging the writer with abuse of writer privileges. The bond between writer and reader (in my opinion) is that the reader is not to be short-changed on page 450 (or whatever) having read the previous build ups and tensions. Nor do I like the swings into the absurd that pepper so many films. e.g. despite being shot 15 times our hero managed to climb a mountain appear at the last second inside a locked building and save the helpless captives, all because he is the hero. No stop right there! Call the plot police! Shoot on sight with nuclear, water cannon, toffee apples (yes it’s easy to cheat isn’t it?).

So your honour, the subjective terms of ‘good writing’ have mostly to do with what we personally want from a book. ‘Incredible, how did you figure that out?’ the jury cried. Make us laugh, cry and jump then give us a decent resolution. Easy huh? (err yeah right).

In the meantime, I’ll do my best and reach for the birch twig each time I catch myself breaking one of my own  rules. (Anyone have some bandages and liniment going spare?)

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager website