Jaye Wells

Author Archives: Jayewells

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

Last night I took a self-defense class. It was offered at the karate studio where Spawn is taking classes. I’d never taken self-defense so I grabbed a friend and we went.

The class was divided into two sections: the discussion and the ass kicking. Guess which part was my favorite?

Did you know it only takes 12lbs. of pressure to break an ACL in someone’s knee? One swift side kick and that sucker is history. We learned lots of fun maneuvers for getting out of tight spots and fun places to punch people. I even got to break one of the karate boards with a hammer punch. Hi-yaaaa!

Also, I have finally signed up for a My Space account. Of course, me finally singing up probably marks the beginning of the end for its popularity. There’s not a lot on there now, but check it out. Can someone tell me what it’s for other than adding people to your friend list? Since I have a blog, I don’t really need it for that. But if there’s something cool you can do, I’d love to hear about it. Also, does anyone know how to change the background?

That’s all for today. Hope you all have a good one.

Kung Foo Fighting–Preschool Style

Spawn started karate last night. Or as Spongebob would say it, kare-ah-tay.

Yes, I do understand that training my child to fell me with one touch might be inadviseable. Yet, the instructor assured me that they stress the importance of not practicing their chops and kicks on the unsuspecting.

Spawn is a special child. I love him, of course. He is the best thing I’ve ever created. However, he also is what one might term a “spirited” child.

Take, for example, the fact he keeps trying to ride the dog like a horse. No matter how many times I say, “Buddy, Oscar is for petting, not for riding,” he keep trying. Oscar, Dog love him, takes it all in stride. He and Spawn have a symbiotic relationship. Oscar provides amusement for Spawn in return for unfettered access to the copious foodstuffs Spawn invariably drops in his wake.

Then there’s the fact Spawn is half goat. This comes from his father’s side of the family. The child will eat anything: mini-blinds, wood chips, paint straight from the walls, poo, loose change–the list goes on.

See? Spirited.

So, yes with the karate and the self-discipline it teaches. Worse case scenario, I learn the super-karate/Vulcan grip to stop him the next time he decides to run through the park yelling “shit” at the top of his lungs.


Raise your hand if you like David Sedaris? Yeah, me too.

I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing some personal essays. Essays were my first experience with creative writing, although I never called them that. Sometimes, I share stories from my life on the blog, but I haven’t written any real essays in quite a while. They’re calling me back.

I’m not talking about self-indulgent pap. Sedaris is so popular not only for his humor, but also because his work taps into uncomfortable truths about human nature. His sometimes-embarassing honesty is compelling because some much of our world is a facade of normalcy. I’m not saying I’m the next Sedaris, mind you.

But I’ve been thinking: With the advent of the blog, which came after Sedaris became so popular, is the market for personal essays gone? When anyone and everyone can post stories about their lives online is there a need for books doing the same thing? Or perhaps the question is: Is the bar set so high now that publishing essays would be next to impossible?

Pour Some Sugar on Me

The first fight Hubster and I ever had was at a fancy steakhouse. The future-Mr. Jaye dared to take the first bite of my much-anticipated Godiva chocolate souffle. Let’s just say he was just shy of pulling back a bloody nub.

The purpose of that anecdote was to explain how important chocolate is in my life. Not just chocolate, but sugar. Mmmmmmm. Lovely, sugary goodness. If I could, I would live on a mixture of cookies, chocolate milk and Bavarian cream donuts, with a few Cheetos thrown in for salty balance.

However, a combination of feeling sluggish, increased stress and a conversation with a girlfriend about the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup has caused me to declare a sugar fast. Actually, it’s a refined sugar fast.

After a trip to the local health food store, my house is filled with organic goodness. I also tossed out an alarming amount of leftover Halloween candy, a box of Vanilla Wafers, a case of those gummy fruit things for kids, and a bag of kettle popcorn.

Because I am the mom, I get to impose this fast on Mr. Jaye and Spawn as well. Mr. Jaye hasn’t complained yet, but he’s never really been a sugar freak like me. Spawn, on the other hand, may not know the difference since I was crafty and bought lots of alternative snacks.

What all of this is teaching me is that I am turning into my mother.

I often tease my mother about scarring me for life when I was younger. We were never one of those families that had a treasure trove of sugary and fat-filled snacks in the house. My mother would go to the bulk foods aisle at the health food store and stock up on carob malt balls, trails mix and organic peanut butter. Carob, if you’ve never had it, is a chocolate-impersonating food that tastes like wax.

As I walked down the bulk food aisle yesterday with Spawn, I actually considered the carob trail mix. Spawn must have a genetic memory of my aversion to carob and talked me out of it in lieu of banana chips and yogurt covered raisins. I did buy the organic peanut butter, though.

I’m not really sure of the point of this post. Except if I start saying things like “Wash one elephant at a time,” or “That’s no hill for a stepper,” please send reinforcements because at that point my transformation into my mother will almost be complete.

In the meantime, you might want to steer clear because until the sugar withdrawl is over it might get a little dicey around here. You’ve been warned.


(Cue music)
Do your participles hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Is your phrase tied up in knots?
Are there problems with your prose?
Should you toss words over your shoulder
Like a gramma-tical solider?
Do your participles hang low?

My friends, today we’re addressing a blight on the face of all good writing–dangling participles. These malignant phrases are so misunderstood, yet so prevalent, I felt an entire entry was warranted.

Unabashedly stolen from AskOxford.com:

A participle should describe the grammatical subject of the main clause, as in the sentence ‘Walking down the road, I bumped into a friend’. A dangling participle is one that the speaker really intends to describe something other than the grammatical subject of the sentence. If we interpret ‘Riding along on my bicycle, a dog knocked me over’ grammatically, the participle riding must relate to dog, so we end up with a dog that has first stolen a bicycle and then ridden it carelessly! The speaker really means riding to relate to me, and anyone reading or hearing the sentence would understand this. As a rule, however, it’s best to construct sentences so that they say what you really mean them to.

Many writers believe any sentence with an –ing verb is a dangling participle. But this is not the case. As long as the participle (the –ing verb part) modifies the correct subject in the main clause you’re okay.

“Licking my lips, I watched him eat the chocolate mousse.”
-Is okay, not great writing, but grammatically proper.

“Licking my lips, the man ate the chocolate mousse as I watched.”
-Is not only wrong, but it is really funny (and somewhat naughty) if you think about it.

As I said before, an occasional participle to start a sentence is okay. If you’re writing first person it can be an effective device for avoiding the constant “I” to start each sentence.

What should be avoided at all costs is lack of clarity. Dangling participles are confusing to readers. They cause the eye to pause as one attempts to understand what the writer was trying to convey. That is a no-no.

However, just so the dangling participle doesn’t have hurt feelings–because, after all, it’s fun to say the word dangle–today is game day.

In comments, please contribute one or more sentences using humorous dangling participles. I think by showing examples of outrageous danglers, we can all come to learn just why they should be avoided.

Have at it.

Editors Do It Grammatically

In the vein of yesterday’s discussion, I’d like to continue talking about proofreading and editing.

First, these are not skills people are born with. Some people have a knack for it, but unlike writing, there are more hard and fast rules. Granted, editing–the process of massaging the text for content, clarity, format and style–allows for more flexibility with the rules.

Second, every writer must learn how to both proofread and edit. In this day and age, it is not enough to write a great story. If it’s mired down in poor grammar, hideous sentence structure and unclear organization it ain’t getting published–for the most part.

Third, there is a difference between editing and proofing. Editing is closer to what we writers call revisions. It’s about making the piece clear and you’re working on several levels to achieve this–clarity, content, format, style, citation (if applicable), plot development, etc. Proofing comes after these edits, or revisions. This is what a lot of people think editing is–ruthlessly hunting down grammar, typos, punctuation, spelling, etc. So one might argue that the editing stage is about content and proofing is about mechanics.

While copy editing may come intuitively to a lot of writers as they try to make their story more effective, I’d argue that proofing is what gives people the hives. Memories of Miss Knucklerapper, your fourth grade teacher, lecturing about the correct placement of a comma can cause cold sweats.

But really, proofing is probably the easiest to learn because there are set rules. Some debate exists in the word nerd community about some of the topics, but for the most part there are accepted rules. This is why we have the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press Style Book. Although, those are more concerned with agreed-upon styles for spelling and usage than punctuation or grammar. But still, it is helpful to be familiar with both.

Other fantastic resources for the proof-phobic exist. We’ve all heard of the fabulous Strunk & White Elements of Style–which is essential for effective editing. Another hint is that many dictionaries have punctuation guides in the back, usually in an addenda, for a quick and dirty explanation of how to use the semicolon. For advanced students of all things punctuational, Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Struss is a hilarious and wonderful overview of grammar and punctuation for those of us who cringe at restaurant menus and flyers.

Here is an excellent overview of proofing and editing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University of Colorado at Boulder has a good symbols for proofreaders and editors.

Both Chicago and AP are available online for a subscription, but the books are available at any used book store (just check the date to make sure you’re getting a recent edition). If you’re wondering, AP generally is for magazines and newspapers, while Chicago is used in book publishing and academic circles.

Does anyone else have any resources to suggest for the grammatically challenged?

Note: This entry was written very quickly before I rush out the door. Ironic, isn’t it, that I didn’t have time to edit or proof this? Don’t email me calling me a fraud; I’m well aware of this already.

Taking it Old Skool

The meeting with the recruiter went pretty well. Apparently there is a high demand for copy editors and proofreaders in the area. Should hear something soon.

They made me take two tests to prove I knew what I was doing. I did pretty well, but, man, I hate proofing online. It took me twice as long to find typos because I don’t trust my eyes when the words are electronic. This is my excuse for the typos I always find on the Blahg after I post. For some reason I just don’t see words as well onscreen.

Basically, I’m old school. Print that baby out and attack it viciously with a red pen. I’m the same way about reading. No offense to my e-book-published brethren, but I need to feel the paper in my hands.

Paper is a multi-sensory experience: the musty scent, the swish when you turn the page, the texture of the paper which tells you whether it’s expensive or glorified pulp… It’s downright sensual and that’s the way I like it.

How about you? Do you like it hard or soft? Copy, pervert–copy.


Welcome to November. Has anyone else noticed that the marketing for Christmas starts earlier every year?

I feel like I already need a spa day and we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet. If anyone would like to donate to the Send a Writer to the Spa fund, let me know.

Today, I’m meeting with a company that specializes in freelance and contract jobs for creative professionals. I’m a little nervous; though I’m not sure why. Even though I haven’t freelanced in a year, I’ve probably written and edited more in that year than I used to in my magazine editor position. Perhaps it’s the prospect of having to answer to someone again. But man, it would be nice to earn actual money for playing with words.

I promise my posts will be fun again once life settles down a bit. In the meantime, why not torture a beaver?


Happy Halloween, kiddies!

Someone absconded with my witch hat with the purple hair, so I was forced to use the cat ear headband a friend gave me as party of a Halloween goodie bag. So I guess my costume is mom with cat ears.

In honor of Halloween, I have a few tricks and treats for you.

First, how much do you know about Samhain? I had no idea until about two months ago how that word is supposed to be said–“Sow-en” not “Sam-hayne”. Although, I think the second pronunciation is accepted in some circles.

Second, a fascinating interview with Anne Rice, queen of the night.

Third, I’m gonna have to send you back to Witch School.*

Fourth, doing some research into witches for a book? Don’t know your cinquefoil from your cyclamen? Check out the Magickal Cat herbal grimoire.

I hope everyone has a spooky holiday. I’ll be back tomorrow with a sugar hangover.

*Anyone who can figure out the song I’m referencing gets a piece of candy corn.


Man alive! Is it Halloween already? Yeah, I know it’s tomorrow, but still. How the heck did it get to almost be November again?

Anyway, today is the obligatory Halloween post on the Blahg. I spent yesterday carving a pumpkin to look like Thomas the Tank Engine and roasting pumpkin seeds. That is all in addition to taking care of gimp hubby. If I get the energy, I’ll take a pic of the pumpkin.

We’re doing the traditional trick or treat thing around here. Spawn is going as…Thomas the Tanks engine. Are we sensing a theme yet?

I don’t really dress up, although I do have witch hat with a long purple wig attached that I wear. I miss the days when I actually put thought into my own Halloween costume and had parties to attend.

The best year was the one where I decided to go as the chick M&M–you know, the green one with the go-go boots.

My problem was I started talking about this costume at least two months before Halloween. Here’s a hint about me, the more I talk about something the less likely it is that I will actually follow through.

Instead of buying the real M&M costume, I decided I’d make my own. So the day before the party , I went to the craft store. Bought a large green t-shirt and foam tape. Taped an M on the shirt, put on my white go-go boots left over form a college party I once attended. Voila–an M&M! Or so I thought.

Except it was apparent a few seconds into the party that no one knew what the hell I was. First of all, you’re probably all aware the M&Ms are round. At that time in my life—I was a size 8. I’m 5’7″. Thus, not so round. Second, the foam tape threw people off for some reason.

The consensus at the party was that I was either a blade of grass or a scallion.

On second thought, maybe it’s best I don’t have to create my own costume any more…

Is anyone out there dressing up? And does anyone else have an embarassing costume story?