Emily paused to catch her breath. A backwards glance revealed only trees and shadows. She lowered the hood of her cloak; felt the cool breeze on her face. Maybe she’d lost him?

A howl echoed through the trees. Emily inhaled sharply.



Think you have the answer to the ultimate question?

Come check out this week’s gargleblaster over at yeah write.

There’s still time to share your 42-word answer.

Image credit:  Nelleke @ deviantART

Writing Kick Ass Sentences

SaffronSentences are the backbone of communication. They allow us to express thoughts and ideas in a way that is easy to understand. So, what exactly is a sentence? Today, we’re going to look at the key elements all sentences require, as well as some things you can do to ensure your sentences are the very best they can be.

The Essentials

First of all, a sentence should always contain a complete thought. And, in order for a sentence to truly be a sentence, it must also contain a subject and a predicate.

The Subject

Example Sentence: Fred, the fragrant foodie, stopped to smell the spicy saffron.

The subject is the heart of a sentence; it tells us who or what is performing the action or being described. The subject will always include a noun or pronoun (e.g., Fred), but it can also include the modifiers (e.g., Fred, the fragrant foodie).

An easy way to determine the subject is to isolate the verb and put who or what before it.

A Side Note about Imperative Sentences

When we use the imperative, the subject is always you, but it is not typically expressed (e.g., Stop right there!).

The Predicate

So if the subject is the heart of a sentence, then the predicate is the lungs. It describes the subject or tells us what the subject is doing. The predicate will always include a verb (e.g., stopped), but it can also include objects, complements, and other phrases (e.g., stopped to smell the spicy saffron).

An easy way to determine the predicate in a sentence is to ask: What did/does the subject do?


Example Sentence: Flora gave Fred a bountiful basket of fresh fruit.

In English grammar, there are two types of objects: direct and indirect. A direct object points to the person or thing affected by the verb’s action. You can usually figure out the direct object by isolating the verb and putting whom or what after it (gave what? a bountiful basket).

An indirect object points to the person or thing that receives the direct object. You can usually figure out the indirect object by isolating the verb and putting to whom or to what after it (gave to whom? Fred).


Example Sentence: The chef who cooked this fine meal was Fred’s first protégé.

In English grammar, a complement refers to something that completes, and there are two kinds: subject complements and object complements. A subject complement gives us details that complete our understanding of the subject. Normally, it will be a noun, pronoun, or adjective that follows a linking verb.

So, in the example sentence, Fred’s first protégé is the subject complement because it completes our understanding of the chef, and follows the linking verb, was.

Similarly, an object complement gives us information that completes our understanding of the object. In the above sentence, the direct object is meal and the object complement is fine.

Crafting Sentences

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what makes a sentence, let’s look at how to craft sentences that kick ass.

  1. Be concise.

    Express your idea or thought in simple, straightforward language. Be direct. Don’t use run-on sentences.

  2. Be clear.

    Choose your words carefully and structure your sentences so they are easy to follow.

  3. Reduce redundancy.

    Instead of saying things like true fact or free gift or 12 midnight, say fact or gift or midnight. Same goes for modifiers. Instead of describing someone as stubborn and obstinate, pick one.

  4. Eliminate clichés and wordiness.

    Adding unnecessary jargon can make sentences long and difficult to understand. And adding clichés can make your whole paragraph sound clichéd.

  5. Test your sentence.

    Is it easy to determine the subject and the predicate? What about objects and complements? If you read your sentence out loud, does it make sense? Does it clearly express the idea or thought it’s supposed to?

For more detailed tips, check out Writing Concise Sentences in the Capital Community College Foundation’s Guide to Grammar and Writing.

This article was originally written as part of the 2014 yeah write summer series.

Image credit: robynmac @

Fighting Words


Fighting Words

There was a time we were restrained.
Cold shoulders. Pregnant silences.
And civilized combat

Funny what the years wear away.
My patience. Your inside voice.

Now look at the unfettered remains.
Hot heads. Guerrilla tactics.
And a tinderbox full of wounded egos.

Linking up with the summer series supergrid over at yeah write.

My piece is a 42-word gargleblaster, inspired by this week’s optional question prompt.

Image credit:  Grinch7 deviantART




Daylight creeps in
With long glowing fingers
Traces the contours of your face
And shines a light on my equivocation.

I float inside the silence that is poured
By these suspended moments
Trace the roads not taken
With weathered hands
And wonder.


Linking up with the summer series supergrid
over at yeah write. My piece is a 42-word
gargleblaster, inspired by this week’s optional
question prompt.


Image credit:  Lostinmymind89 deviantART

Fiction Hiatus and Writing Workshops

Beach ViewToday, I’m popping in to tell you two things. The first is that I will be working on my novel for the next couple of weeks, so I might not post any fiction for a while (but I’ll try to stay on top of my non-fiction posts). If you’re really jonesing for a story to read, check out my fiction archives. You might find something there that tickles your fancy. I would also suggest checking out some of the blogs I love, which you’ll find listed further down the page on the right.

The second is that I am also running an online writing workshop this summer, along with my friend and colleague, Natalie DeYoung of Cat Lady Sings. The workshops will run once a week—and the first one begins next week! This is part of the annual yeah write summer series, which is all about building community through writing.

SS-I-72x1200If you are interested in participating in the workshop, you can register here. You’ll find Natalie and me in the Gold Lounge. The cost of the workshop is $50/week, which is a great deal for a week of one-on-one work with a professional editor!

All you need to participate is a piece of writing (up to 1200 words) that you’d like to improve. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Natalie or I will work with you throughout the week to tweak and polish your writing. At the end of the week, you will have a stronger piece of writing and we will provide you with a written assessment of your writing, including your strengths and advice to deal with any areas that might need improving.

I hope to see some of you in the workshops!


Image credit:  Olga Khoroshunova

The Pilot


The Pilot

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked, his voice a perfect blend of concern and compassion.

I sighed. “As soon as I got out of the cryo chamber.” How many times had I said that in the last three days? “The star on the viewer wasn’t right. It should have been a red dwarf. But I guess the computer woke me up because something went wrong.”

“What went wrong?” He leaned forward in his chair, pen poised above a notepad.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was too busy worrying about surviving the crash into your atmosphere.” Memories of the planet’s surface rushing to greet me flooded through my brain. I still couldn’t believe I’d survived.

Neither could they.

The alien psychiatrist nodded sympathetically, but his eyes belied his doubt. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t really blame him. Who knew there was another planet with sentient life that looked like humans? And the odds that I would end up here by accident must have been infinitesimal. It didn’t help that my ship had engaged its self-destruct protocol as soon as we entered the alien atmosphere. I was lucky I got out before it imploded.

“You understand that we’ve found no evidence to corroborate your story?” He tapped his pen against the notepad.

“Yes,” I said.

“How do you explain that?”

“I can’t. I’m not an astrophysicist. I’m just a pilot.”

The psychiatrist sat back in his chair. His pen rested against his lips. “So what made you go to our Supreme Leader’s private residence?”

More of the same questions. I sighed again. “It’s just where I ended up. I didn’t know whose house it was.”

“I see,” he said.

I’m not sure he saw anything. He thought I was either a terrorist pretending to be crazy or just a crazy person with massive delusions. He clearly didn’t believe I was an alien.

“You’ll get the DNA test back soon, right?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Maybe you should just wait to see the results. I know we look alike, but I’m really not from here.”

“You’re just lost,” he said.

It was my turn to nod and his turn to sigh.

He looked at his watch. “Okay, let’s take a break. I’ll go check on the tests.”

I watched him leave, then turned to look out the window at the alien world. It was a lot like home, but the vegetation was different, and the sky was more purple than blue. It also had fewer people than Earth. I remembered the vast expanses of virgin land I’d seen as my ship plummeted toward the surface. Pristine. Unspoiled.

As the minutes ticked by, I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes. The sound of the door crashing open awakened me. I turned sleepy eyes toward the psychiatrist.

“Who are you and why are you here?” The concern and compassion had disappeared, replaced with anger. And fear, I think.

“You got the test results,” I said.

He tossed some papers on the table and visibly tried to collect himself. “Yes. You were telling the truth. You’re not from here.”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

He pointed to a line in the test results. “This is not biological. Your DNA has been altered.”

“More like augmented,” I said.


I looked at him. “I think you already know why.”

He dropped into his chair. “So the fact that everyone who’s come into contact with you is sick is no accident?”

I shook my head.

“You said you were lost,” he said.

“I lied.”

He nodded and his shoulders slumped. “How long do we have?”

“Your species will be extinct in about a week. The disease is very aggressive.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Why us?” he finally asked. “Why here?”

I smiled. “Because your planet is beautiful.”


This is my submission for this week’s speakeasy challenge, in which we had to use this sentence as our first line: “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. And we had to make some reference to a photo prompt, which you can see if you click through to the challenge page.

An announcement for those of you who are writers: I will be running a writing workshop this summer, in cahoots with my fellow speakeasy editor, Natalie. It will give you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional editor at a total steal! You can register over at yeah write (my workshop is the Gold Lounge/Tier 3).
Or you can email me for more details.


Image credit: Dan Verkys @ deviantART