Reader’s Choice: Your Writing Questions, Answered

Perhaps you’ve always wondered what the difference between “Master’s” and “masters” is, in the context of one’s graduate degree.

Maybe you’ve never quite understood the difference between “affect” and “effect.”

Possibly, the semicolon is a source of infinite confusion for you.

Whatever your writing-related quandary may be, comment below or send an e-mail to to get it all cleared up in an upcoming post!

I look forward to hearing from you!


6 thoughts on “Reader’s Choice: Your Writing Questions, Answered

  1. Really enjoy your stories/articles – great work!
    Michael W Updike – Singer/Songwriter
    Michael W. Updike
    I remember climbing those steps to the hospital thinking he was no longer
    that Daddy who I used to swing on like he was monkey bars; he was no longer
    the man who once told the karate champ who gave him some grief, “If ya don’t
    think I’m a man, climb on!” The champ walked away, by the way.
    He wasn’t the Dad I used to wrestle with on that green plastic couch with
    the duct tape patching the rips that I probably made in it. He was no longer
    the Dad who would wrap me up in his arms when I got scared when Little Joe
    or Hoss would get bush-whacked by the bad guys. He was no longer the Dad who
    should have beat my ass when I hooked him in the ear three times while he
    was teaching me to fish with a fly rod, but instead he just pulled his work
    hat down a little lower on his head to protect his ears.and took the fly rod
    away from me for the day.
    When they say, youth is wasted on the young, I know – now- just what they
    Ding. Ding. Seventh Floor. The Cancer Unit. One lung on a silver plate, the
    other lung begging for a breath of that sweet Virginia air, but all he’d get
    for a while was good old-fashioned seventh floor hospital air, replete with
    iodine and janitor perfume and rubbing alcohol. But that was yesterday and
    it appeared he was gonna make it at least through the surgery and live
    another day.
    “Look. It’s flying saucers! I’ve been seeing them for hours. How do their
    transmissions work?” he wheezed to me through his oxygen mask as I sat on
    the air conditioner beside his bed. It was clear, between the morphine and
    74 tough years, he was ‘seeing things’.
    I looked out and realized he was seeing the reflection of the room’s ceiling
    lights in his hospital window.
    “Their transmissions work sort of like a regular car”, was all I could bring
    myself to say. “They’re friendly, so I wouldn’t worry about them too much,
    “They’ve been out there for hours”
    “I wouldn’t worry about them, Pop.” I brushed back a tear from my eyes while
    his big blue eyes went from dreamy to dozy to closed.
    I looked on out at the flying saucers.
    My mind drifted back to a time before he was sick all the time, when nothing
    could take him down; nothing except maybe that heart attack he suffered back
    in the late ’70s, when he was 54 years old. If my buddy and I hadn’t been
    picking music there at the house that evening, he’d have died. Me and Donnie
    picked him up and stuffed him in the Chrysler and bee-lined it to the
    hospital – made in less than three minutes. He’d have died right there if we
    hadn’t got him there quick.
    But he did die that day.
    Donnie’s Mom was the emergency room nurse assisting the doctors that day.
    She said he had five heart attacks right there on the table; she only told
    me a long while later that he had to be shocked back to life.
    But here we were, twenty years later and back in a hospital and here I am
    going over the stupid and mean and immature things I had done to him,
    whether he knew about them or I had gotten away with them scot-free. But I
    didn’t have the courage to confess to him; I didn’t have the guts to start
    that conversation. So, I just lied to myself; said one day, I’ll talk to him
    about it.
    I just let him sleep.
    He had been diagnosed with dementia a few years back and between the trips
    to hospitals, going deaf and people treating him like he was less than
    human, there were the grandchildren. Especially, the grandson, James.
    A man’s man, I guess, would need a man’s boy as the best friend he ever had.
    James was what kept him alive for so long; James was that unconditional
    thing we always hear about when smart people talk about love. We sons had
    the baggage of life’s ups and downs, the good and bad, the choosing sides
    when Mom and Dad would fight and the well-deserved spankings and
    backs-of-hands. Yes, we had the baggage of.baggage.
    James only knew he loved Poppa and Poppa loved him. If he wanted to talk
    about fishing or why bugs had so many legs or how to use a crescent wrench,
    Poppa was there to help him or show him or tell him or just listen to James
    when he needed it.
    Poppas don’t have to worry about hiding while they take a drink, so they can
    be forever perfect in the grandchild’s mind, warts and all. They don’t have
    to leave for work before sunrise to keep the wolf away from the door; they
    don’t have to come home with the echoes of some bastard boss still ringing
    in their ears.
    They can just be Poppa, just sitting on the porch waiting for the grandson;
    just waiting to be Poppa once again. They can be Poppa taking a small boy
    fishing and being ever prouder with each fish the little fella caught. They
    can be the best ever at just sitting in the lawn chair watching a little kid
    turn three acorns and some gum balls into an army marching into battle.
    Poppas can turn a kid’s picture done with a couple broken Shoney’s crayons
    and a steno pad into a Van Gogh and keep it for years reliving it every time
    he opens the fridge for milk for his coffee.
    Well, Dad finally came home from the hospital and got so he could get back
    to his favorite chair on the back porch. And James continued to be his best
    friend and buddy; I just continued being his son and never letting him know
    how much I admired him or forgiving him or letting him forgive me.
    A few months later, he was about at the end of his life’s journey and back
    in the hospital.
    I had had eye surgery that day and couldn’t drive when “the call” came.
    “If you want to see Dad alive again, you better get to the hospital now!” my
    brother’s voice crackled.
    No one to drive me, couldn’t drive blind – I didn’t go. I wonder if there’s
    a part of the body where all the guilt builds up till it spills out of some
    unknown spout or vent or hole. I would suspect I was pretty near capacity.
    But there by his dying bedside was James and my brother; just like Dad would
    have ordered it, if you can order your deathbed scene.
    Cut! Print it, that’s a wrap! One deathbed scene in the can. Let’s get this
    place cleaned up, boys! Light’s fading quick.
    But you can’t program scenes like this and you can’t script the life that
    leads you to these types of scenes. You do what you do, you live with your
    sins, you live with the guilt and you try to do better.
    Sometimes you do better, sometimes your sins get the better of you and
    sometimes, if you’re really lucky and the stars line up just right, you
    learn to forgive yourself, you learn love yourself or someone else.
    Sometimes that love turns out to be unconditional.


      1. No, ma’am, just a story. I’ve written over 900 songs, stories, essays and articles. Got about ten album cuts of my songs and a few published mag articles – I just give ’em away. Your writings struck a chord – so to speak – with me… thought I’d share a little story about my Dad. Thanks for your time. 🙂 m

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I loved that story. Very poignant and personal. Have you submitted it anywhere? One of the most touching details is the about the way your dad only pulled his hat down lower over his head after each time you hooked his ear. I love that–and I love him, too, for it.


      3. Thank you very much, Ma’am! Coming from a significant author such as yourself that is high praise.
        No, I wouldn’t know where to submit it. All my songs that have been picked up have been through word-of-mouth and through Face Book.
        You are an awesome resource, thank you again for your comments – they mean a bunch to me…and to Dad, I’m sure.
        I have more stories that you may enjoy. Thanks, mike


      4. I hope I can someday live up to the title of “significant author.” I would not say I am there yet!
        I am sure I would enjoy some of your other writings. Do you post them anywhere–on a site or blog?


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