We lay in bed all day waiting for Barbara to lie down.
I’m referring to one of the verbs that give me and other writers a lot of grief – the difference between lie, lay, and laid. That and certain words that mean one thing when used as a compound, and something else when used separately, can mess up an otherwise well-written tale.
And so therein “lies” the problem:
Lie as an intransitive verb: I am lying down with my balloons.
Lay as a transitive verb: John, please lay the balloon tree on the table.
Sounds simple but when we move to the past tense, complications arise. For example, the present tense of lie is lie. Example: He lies on the rug. The past tense is lay. Example: Robert lay on the floor. The past participle is lain. Example: He’d lain in that bed for some time.
The present tense of lay is lay. Example: I lay my purse on the table. The past tense is laid. Example: Barbara laid her balloons in the cart. The past participle is laid. She’d laid the bags on the table an hour ago.
Looking at compound words, I found that certain words, when used separately or as a compound, mean two different things. One example is setup. Is it set up, set-up or setup? So I went to my trusty dictionary.
“Setup” is a noun, while “set up” is a verb. But it’s not quite that simple. You always use “set up” when you’re using it for a verb, so….
You must set up your computer software.
Mary set up her balloon tree.
Frank set up a bank account for his client.
As a noun and adjective, you would use either setup or set-up and each means different things. Setup is the noun or adjective used pertaining to computers and their setup. Set-up is the noun or adjective used pertaining to things unrelated to computers and their setup. So…
This PC setup screen is unique.
The computer’s setup is compact.
That bag of pot was a set-up from the beginning.
Some banks charge exorbitant set-up fees
The set-up of her entertainment center is precarious.
Sometime versus some time. It sounds simple, but isn’t…quite. When “some time” is used as a certain / unspecified duration of time, use “some time.” Example: I spent some time looking for the rose balloon. When “sometime” is used as an adjective meaning “former,” it’s one word. Example: That balloon salesperson is my sometime friend. If we’re referring to an unspecified point of time in the future, either “sometime” or “some time” is appropriate. Example. I plan to travel to the islands sometime / some time next year.
As I continue my work, if I find other compound words that stump me, I will post them in a future blog. For now, I have it clear in my mind which of the above words to use in my work-in-progress. Somehow, though, when I get engrossed in the heat of the scene, I’m liable to forget and mix up the verbs. A wise instructor once told me that English was the most difficult language to learn. I think she had it right.
Do you find yourself struggling with “lie” versus “lay,” or any of the compound words? I would like to hear about your experiences with compounds and words like “lie/lay,” and how you worked your way around them.
Marge Simon has mastered many talents – poetry, art, editing, short stories, and…cooking. She edits the journal Star*Line. Her collaboration on Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet with Charlee Jacob won a Bram Stoker Award in 2008. She has received the Rhysling Award for her poetry, and the James award for her illustrations. When she’s not writing or painting, she enjoys catering to the monsters we know and love and will be happy to share her recipe for Zombie’s Delight. So tonight, I will chat with Marge about her writing and other talents.
BARBARA: That meal you’ve got going is a zombie’s delight. So yes, you’ve got me curious about the recipe.
MARGE: All right, Barbara, Zombie’s Delight is a secret family recipe which I’ve been given permission to reveal only once:
Purchase hand fresh from your local Hand Stand. Make sure it is tender by pinching the skin. A male hand, bone in, is best; some female hands, if adequate, will suffice.
Prep hand with garlic salt. Boil five minutes on medium heat. Drain juice, put aside.
Place in large kettle. Combine 2 cups chopped celery, 1/2 cup diced liverwurst, 6 used bandages (preferably gauze), 1/3 cup toenail clippings, 1 egg, slightly beaten, 5 cups watery plasma, 2 tbsp. Saki, 1 cup wallpaper paste. Pour over hand. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. You’ll know when it has the right consistency. Remove from heat. Chill one hour. Pour or scrape into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 hours, or until the aroma becomes overwhelming.
Serve warm with the au jus you set aside and probably forgot about.
BARBARA: Moving onto writing – I noticed you used your own illustrations for Vectors as you did with Artist of Antithesis. Many publishers prefer to assign their own cover art to their books. How did you approach the publisher about using your own?
MARGE: In both cases you mention, the editor/publisher knew I was/am an artist. In fact, I’ve never had a problem with providing cover art for my collections. As fate may bring luck, I’ve also illustrated five Bram Stoker winners. But I don’t for a minute think that it was on the strength of my art that the publication won.
BARBARA: How did collaborating work out for you and Charlee Jacob during your work on Vectors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration?
MARGE: Here’s how it happened. Charlee had written a series of poems about an apocalyptic virus that went global, infecting every mortal on this planet. In May of 2007, she invited me to join her as a kindred voice in this collection, as I have written numerous poems along the same lines.
Problems with collaborations? Charlee and I had no problems between us. If you want me to make this more exciting, Charlee and I had crazed fits and vowed to never to speak to each other again. I refused to change a single word, and so did she. But that isn’t so.
BARBARA: From what I’ve seen in Night to Dawn, you wear several hats: illustrator, poet, and fiction writer. Which one do you like best?
MARGE: I like them all. I also wear an editor’s hat (for Star*Line, digest for the SF Poetry Association). Then there is my TV talk show: DEADLY SURVIVORS and my Food Channel show: DYING TO EAT.
Oh, as for the other hats–I love multitasking. I’m happiest having something going in all departments.
BARBARA: I notice that you’ve collaborated with other artists for the Night to Dawn illustrations. How does collaborating work for illustrations, especially if you and the other artist live miles apart?
MARGE: Cathy Buburuz (Saskatchewan, Canada) and I “met” thanks to ETOU magazine, about 1989. I was so intrigued by a cover she did, I had to get acquainted. We started collaborating long distance snail mail in the 90’s. I thought her excellent designs would work well with my (then) stylized pen/ink line and vice versa. She agreed, and for about a decade, we continued to work on art–mostly dark fantasy. She would send me about five or more unfinished compositions or vice versa. Cathy marketed our collaborations both in the USA and abroad. It was a wonderful experience, which continues with our work that she still has available.
Today, you don’t need to wait weeks to do collaborations, thanks to the Internet. I can’t think of anyone else that I’ve collaborated with in a long time, and I don’t do digital art, though I now use Photoshop for enhancing my paintings/illustrations.
BARBARA: What has been the most challenging part of the writing/illustration process?
MARGE: Leaping off very small buildings (outhouses) to get attention on U-Tube. Singing shocking songs in London Square. Pointing at my own paintings/book display, saying, “OMG!!”
Seriously, “challenging” is a personal word for me. I challenge myself. I know what I think I can do. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. Other times, I see I’ve gone over the top and need to scrap it.
Writing a novel would be a real challenge for me. But I’ve always tended to write flash fiction–that’s a fun challenge. A book would be too much like work, and besides, I’ve a short attention span. (That is my excuse, anyway!)
BARBARA: When did you first get into writing? Where did you get your first credit?
MARGE: If you mean professionally, that’s hard to say. I’d guess somewhere in the mid-80’s. Which makes me old enough to be a witch. My first big (to me) credit was Bradley Strahan’s Visions, Black Buzzard Press. It was an all SF theme, and I’d never written a SF poem until that time –never even heard of one. Wrote one anyway. He took it. After that, I got into Amazing Stories with poetry. Around the same time, I started doing pen/ink stylized art –mostly dark which was well-accepted. My style and media are constantly evolving; I prefer watercolor with oil or watercolor pencils nowadays.
BARBARA: Which contemporary authors would you recommend to readers who love dark fantasy?
MARGE: Peter Beagle, Harlan Ellison, Charles Beaumont, Ted Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Boston, Gene O’Neill, Stephen King, Elizabeth Massie, Cormac McCarthy, to name a few writers of dark sf and fantasy. I know this may be contradictory, considering my recipe and lifestyle, but horror per se doesn’t appeal to me.
BARBARA: What do you believe the future holds for dark fantasy and supernatural thrillers? Will ebooks replace paperbacks, do you think?
MARGE: Don’t know. But as for what I hope–NO. A book is to be held and cradled, if you will. A book can be laid down on a surface where you know what it is by the cover and then you pick it up and start reading it again. You can have a personal relationship while reading it. A book has its own smell. It gives you secrets.
BARBARA: What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators?
Tom Johnson has published over thirty books with publishers like Filament Books, Altus Press, and now Night to Dawn Books. Characters like the Black Ghost and Masked Avenger has provided grist for his pulp fiction, and Tom has drawn on his experiences in the Army as well. Tom and his wife Ginger helped edit the Fading Shadows magazines and Tales of Mask & Mayhem. Their efforts on keeping pulp alive earned them the Lamont award in 1991, and in 2005, Johnson became among Preditors & Editors’ top ten finalists for Jur: a Story of Pre-Dawn Earth. During the past year, he has created a new science fiction series with Pangaea: Eden’s Planet, and now his sequel, Pangaea: Eden’s Children. His upcoming SF novel, Tunnel through Space, will come out later this summer.
BARBARA CUSTER: When did you first begin writing?
TOM JOHNSON: I was a Desk Sergeant for the Army MPs in France when I first started writing fiction, sometime around 1964 or ’65. On slow nights, when there wasn’t much activity going on, I got awfully bored while my units were out on patrol, and I enjoyed working out plots and creating characters, then coming up with situations to move the stories along. Unfortunately, I never pursued my interest in writing until after Vietnam. In 1970, I wrote the first two novels in the Jur series in long hand, and hired a professional typist to put the first one into manuscript form. But when the first novel didn’t sell right away, I left the second one in long hand and that’s where they stayed for thirty years.
BARBARA CUSTER: How did your experiences in Vietnam affect your writing process?
TOM JOHNSON: I think the jungles of Vietnam inspired me more than anything. The setting was perfect for an action adventure novel; and we had a few real adventures ourselves over there! Every day was a story, and for anyone as impressionable as me, I could see dinosaurs or ancient civilizations everywhere I looked. When I returned to the States, I had to put my stories on paper. Those lonely nights back in France resurfaced, and I remembered some of those plots and characters I had created, and before I knew it, the stories began unraveling as fast as my pen could move across the page.
BARBARA CUSTER: You enjoyed a great run on Echoes, Detective Mystery Stories, and your other magazines. Do you have any back copies available?
TOM JOHNSON: Yes, Echoes ran from 1982 until we retired in 2004; 100 issues in magazine form, then another 57 issues as a newsletter. In 1995, we started a string of fiction magazines, which included Detective Mystery Stories and others. I think we published over 300 issues of the fiction magazines, and probably had a hundred writers and a dozen artists contributing to the titles. We started a trend that is still going today, although the quality of the publications has improved greatly since the advent of POD (publish on demand) technology. When we retired, we stored a lot of back issues, and occasionally still sell copies.
BARBARA CUSTER: How did you come up with the idea for your Pangaea tales?
TOM JOHNSON: In the Jur novels, there is an ancient civilization called the Gen-sis, or First Ones, that existed with the dinosaurs. However, with Jur, the stories centered around people from the twenty-first century accidentally falling through time portals and finding themselves in the Jurassic Period. But I never really explained who this ancient civilization was, or where they come from. Pangaea begins sixty million years before the Jurassic Period, and tells the story of the First Ones. So, though Pangaea and Jur are connected in that respect, they are two different series; one following the First Ones, the other following people from our own time who encounter the Gen-sis.
BARBARA CUSTER: What do you find most difficult about your work-in-progress?
TOM JOHNSON: That’s easy. Wordage. When I studied in school, we were taught to use all the little helpers available to a writer: adverbs, adjectives, and a lot of passive voice. Today, publishers and editors want shorter sentences, tighter, and less little helpers. Absolutely no passive voice. So, for someone coming from a period when it was all right to use them, to a period in which they are avoided like the plague, Iâ€™ve got to add more story in shorter sentences. Sometimes, it is completely alien to me.
BARBARA CUSTER: What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
TOM JOHNSON: Creating characters and plots. I won’t start a story until I have the plot, and I must be happy with my characters in order for the story to work. I want them to be real, not just names on paper. They become someone I know, someone I can connect to. Basically, they are my friends. No matter how flowery the language of the story, if your characters don’t feel real, you won’t pull the reader into the adventure.
BARBARA CUSTER: Your “soul stealer” short stories have gone well for NTD and now for your anthology Blood Moons and Nightscapes. Where did you get your idea for these tales?
TOM JOHNSON: As an accident investigator in law enforcement, as well as a soldier in Vietnam, I saw violent death. A car slams head on into a tree, and what’s left of the driver and passengers can be scrapped off the windshield. Maybe there was a baby, or young child in the front seat. Or a bullet bows a soldier’s face half off or worse. Death can come when we don’t expect it, and it may be very violent. I would like to think that there are angels or soul stealers out there, who could help those victims meet that sudden, violent death and cross over. That’s why I created the soul stealer stories, I think.
BARBARA CUSTER: Tell the readers about your latest release.
TOM JOHNSON: Pangaea: Eden’s Children is the sequel to last year’s Pangaea: Eden’s Planet. In Eden’s Planet, a rocket ship from 2023 crashes back to Earth after going through a time warp in space. But the planet they land on is Earth 250 million years in the past, known as the Permian Period, sixty million years before the dinosaurs. However, there are terrible reptiles and other denizens in this period just as awesome as T-Rex. Plus, the crew is aware of a coming catastrophe that will wipe out all living creatures in this period. The story is about their survival. Then, in Eden’s Children, I had to fast forward the scene sixty million years, when the descendants of that rocket ship have resettled the Earth, and the problems they are facing. Pangaea, by the way, refers to the super continent, before it broke apart to form the continents that we are familiar with today. Imagine a world with one continent and one ocean. That was Pangaea, the world as it was then.
BARBARA CUSTER: What advice would you give to a person trying to get their short story / novel published?
TOM JOHNSON: Never give up. It was 32 years from the time I wrote my first novel in 1970 to when it was finally published in 2002. Since then, I’ve written seven fiction novels and numerous anthologies of short stories, as well as nonfiction books. All published. So if your heart is really into writing, then stick with it. The greatest reward is not in the money you make, but the pleasure of creating something others will enjoy. Write every day, as the experience will improve your abilities. And read the current genre of books you prefer, so you will know what the publishers are looking for. But above all, unless your aim is that of becoming a writer-for-hire, don’t compromise your goals just for the sake of being published. Write what YOU are interested in, not what someone else wants you to write.