Saturday, August 15, 2015

Books about Librarians

When was the last time you visited a library?  How long has it been since you asked a librarian a reference question?   These days, it seems like the only people who go to the library are those wanting to use the Internet or check out DVDs.  It's a favorite hang-out for the homeless or those seeking either an air-conditioned or heated place to camp out all day and night until closing.  The times they are a changin' as Bob Dylan says.

I started working in a law library in 1983.  It was the heyday of libraries. It was interesting work and we had a lot of lawyers as patrons, before Lexis/Nexis came along.  The library was in the civic center where all the county business took place.  Our library was between the Federal and the State building, so there was always a lot of buzz and never a boring day.  When the governor visited our library, his body guards were stationed atop the State Building with their rifles drawn and ready. Before Bill Clinton was nominated for a second term, he came to the old county courthouse to give a speech.  My friends and I walked over to see him and passed  through security that was similar to what you'd find at an airport.

The people I worked with were all college educated and three were former lawyers.  We used to have enjoyable conversations about politics, TV, movies, and each other (there was a lot of office politics that I did my best to steer clear of). I was one of the writers of the library's newsletter so it was fun coming up with ideas for my articles.  I got to go to other libraries on field trips on work time.  One of my favorite's was the National Archives in Laguna Niguel where I saw how and where all the boxes of data were stored.  I'll never forget the time when the library's electronic compact shelving malfunctioned and almost crushed to death one of my coworkers.

I used that background for the first novel I wrote that takes place in a library.  It is called "Death Among the Stacks: The Body in the Law Library".  I had Agatha Christie's detective, Hercule Poirot, in mind when I wrote this book with my husband.  We wanted it to be a story with multiple suspects who, in the last chapter, are summoned by the detective, who then grills them in front of everyone, saying why he suspected each one until he finally reveals whodunit.

Death Among the Stacks:
The Body in the Law Library
by Louise Hathaway

The second book about libraries I wrote is a romantic comedy.  It's about a librarian who goes to a performance at a mystery dinner theater where someone is actually killed--definitely not part of the act.  A handsome detective comes to investigate and she falls madly in love with him.  This one is a little racy: her fantasies about him are quite graphic (and very funny).

Watchin' the Detective:
A Mystery Dinner Romance
by Louise Hathaway

These books are available at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Kobo Books, Smashwords and Oyster

Available in paperback at Amazon

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Travel to New Orleans

Have you always wanted to go to New Orleans?  If so, come along with fictional characters Don and Isabella as they discover the wonders of New Orleans on their honeymoon. Learn about their favorite romantic spots, best places to eat, and favorite places to visit. This travelogue also includes helpful websites to consider before planning your next vacation.

Honeymoon in New Orleans
By Louise Hathaway

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Punctuation Can Be Fun

Many times when I’ve told people that I was an English Major, I am answered by a groan and someone saying, “I hated that class in school.”  Why?  They often answer, “Too much memorization of stupid rules.”  I’d like to stick up for those “stupid rules”: I think that they are important because misuse of punctuation marks can lead to confusion; and isn’t writing ultimately about communicating, not confusing?  Here’s the best description of the importance of these rules: “Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, take notice, or stop.”  This quote is taken from Lynne Truss’s book, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.”   She provides several funny examples of misused punctuation.  Consider her title.  It was taken from a sentence she read that was presumably was about the eating habits of pandas; but the way it’s written, it makes you think that the panda had a gun: he ate his food, shot his gun, and then walked away.  Obviously, that’s not what the writer intended and there shouldn’t be a comma in his description.  Frank McCourt, the noted writer and humorist, said that Lynne Truss should be nominated for sainthood; and he should know about the need for rules about punctuation: he taught English and most likely saw several examples of bad writing over the years.

Here’s a funny example from her book about the misuse of apostrophes: she had seen a sign about a large play area for kids that said: “Giant Kid’s Playground.”  Would you want your child playing with the kid of a giant?  I sure wouldn’t.

Do you overuse exclamation points in your writing?  Truss quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of them.  He says, “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”  She says that they are “like a big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited, breaks things, and laughs too loudly.”  This is definitely something we should keep in mind in our writing.  I do not want to over-use them.

I write books with my husband and he’s asked me for help in knowing where he should use commas.  I tell him to imagine saying a sentence aloud, and whenever you pause, you probably will need a comma or some other punctuation mark.  Like Lynne Truss says, “they tell us when to slow down.”

Have you ever wondered where to use a colon in your writing?  Here’s her rule: “they deliver the goods that have been invoiced by the preceding words.”  I use colons a lot in my writing and I love this rule. Here’s an example of the correct way to use a colon: in “The Hound of Baskerville”, Sherlock Holmes says, “This much is clear Watson: it was the baying of an enormous hound.”  The writer should imagine saying a delighted and satisfying, “Yes”, where the colon comes.  Colons are nearly always preceded by a complete sentence and are used to precede lists.  When should you use semi-colons?  They are used to combine two related complete sentences when there is no conjunction (and, or, nor, but).

I wonder if someday soon, because of text messaging and Twitter, things like good grammar, spelling, and punctuation will be seen as a dying art; like using a fountain pen and going to the post office to buy commemorative stamps to mail your correspondence and cards.  In my own fiction writing, I use a lot of sentence fragments because I think they make the paragraph more dramatic; so, there is a time and place to bend the rules; but I liked to think that when I read articles from Time Magazine or Smithsonian, the writers will continue to use sentences that deliver the goods and tell me when to slow down, take notice, or stop.  I have to admit, though, that misuse of punctuation marks can lead to some hilarious and unintended meanings which are always fun to catch.