Nicky Mair to Host a Book Signing in Houston

Nicky Mair to Host a Book Signing in Houston

Nicky Mair, author of Welcome to Aberdeen, the Silver City by the Sea, will be hosting a book signing event on February 4th, 2023 from 5-8pm, at the Silver Street Studios Studio #314 in Houston, TX.

Silver Street Studios
2000 Edwards St., Studio #314
Houston, TX 77007

February 4, 2023


Good luck at your event, Nicky!

Grammar Series: All About Punctuation

Grammar Series: All About Punctuation

Everyone knows when to use a period, but what about those punctuation marks scattered throughout your manuscript? Understanding their use might be the difference between a well-crafted book and a poorly written one. Punctuation doesn’t have to be painful if you know the difference and when to use it. When used correctly, it can elevate your writing.

Let’s take a trip back to grammar school, shall we? These basics might seem elementary, but they’re oh-so-important, and it never hurts to brush up on your grammar skills. Here, we’ll break down the most commonly used punctuation and when and how to use each.


Commas separate clauses, such as two independent clauses or an introductory one. You’ll find them often before a conjunction like “and,” “but, “yet,” and “or.” Not sure when to use it? If the two clauses could stand alone as separate sentences, you can combine them with a comma.

Example: She drove to the store, and then she went inside.

(No comma: She drove to the store but it was closed.)

Likewise, use them between items in a series or list.

Example: She went to Target, Macy’s, and Home Depot.

The Oxford Comma, also known as a serial comma, is the comma that comes before the last item in a list. Highly debated as to the necessity of this punctuation mark and can vary between languages (such as British English and American English), but technically, there’s no right or wrong way. It depends on style preferences. When in doubt, ask your editor. Here are two examples:

He visited France, Italy, and Germany. (with serial comma)

He visited France, Italy and Germany. (without serial comma)


Oh, the notorious semi-colon. This often misused, misunderstood punctuation mark causes writers many a headache. Often used to replace the word “and,” it combines two closely related thoughts. Perhaps a more concise way to eliminate the need for an extra word when you don’t want to separate into two sentences. Another common use is to separate detailed lists where a comma would be confusing. It also can precede words like “however” and “therefore,” as in the examples below.

Example: He loved golf; however, he wasn’t very skilled.

Example: Let’s go to the store; I need to buy milk.

Example: They visited Orlando, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Charlotte, North Carolina.


Unlike some punctuation that can serve various purposes, colons are mainly dedicated to offsetting lists, bullets, or a series of items.

Example: At the store, we need to get the following:

It also can be used to summarize a sentence. In these instances, the word after the colon is typically capitalized.

Example: She felt two things when she entered the room: Cold and nervous.


Let’s clarify one thing: Not all dashes are created equal. (See what we did with the colon there?) Hyphens are the smallest of dashes and used for two primary purposes. First, use a hyphen to add a prefix to a word, such as ex-husband and re-enter. Next, use a hyphen to make a compound word like high-rise and mother-in-law. Here are two more examples.

Example: The two women were co-authors of the book.

Example: The children rode the merry-go-round at the park.



What separates dashes from hyphens is their length (dashes are longer) and their use. Here’s an easy way to remember: En dashes (–) are about the width of an N, and Em dashes (—) are about the width of an M.

En dashes show ranges, such as page numbers, dates, and times. However, en dashes are often replaced with a simple hyphen.

Example: I’ll book you from 2:00–3:00.

Example: Please read pages 56–61.

On the other hand, em dashes show pauses or breaks in the sentence, much like commas. They help offset a side thought, as in the example below. Their use is very much a stylistic preference; some writers prefer them to commas or vice versa.

Example: Starchy vegetables—such as potatoes and corn—are high in antioxidants.

You can also use an Em dash to cut off a sentence or dialogue.

Example: “Did you pick up the—”
“The dry cleaning? Yes, I did.”


These curved brackets represent an explanation or afterthought as part of the sentence. They’re often interchangeable with em dashes. Use them to enclose supplemental information, such as comments and digressions.

Example: The students (and their teacher) went on a field trip.

Example: Using proper punctuation is hard. (But don’t say that to your editor.)

Notice how the entire sentence, including the period, is inside the parentheses.

Quotation marks

Quotation marks indicate the spoken word or something that is a direct quote. They’re used in pairs, meaning that if you start a quote, don’t forget to close it at the end. In most cases, quotation marks always go outside the punctuation.

When quoting within a quote, use single quotation marks. For example, if the internal quote comes at the end of the sentence, you will end up with single and double quotation marks side-by-side.

Example: Mary said, “My teacher said I’m one of her ‘favorite students.’”

Example: “Summer is my favorite season,” Johnny said.

Finally, use quotation marks when mentioning shorter works, such as essays, short stories, and poems.

Example: My favorite short story is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.


Apostrophes indicate possession. Who’s car is that? It’s Bob’s car. (The car belongs to Bob.) When the subject is plural, the apostrophe goes after the “s.”

Example: The student’s desk.
The students’ desks.

Use apostrophes to create contractions. For instance, “can’t” instead of “cannot.” Contractions help make your writing more concise and improve the overall flow.

Brushing up on grammar basics is a quick and easy way to be sure your writing is up to par. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned writer, there’s never a wrong time to review proper punctuation. So keep this guide on hand or bookmark it as a go-to reference for your next writing session, then come back for more grammar guides as we strive to make your work shine.

Grammar Series: Tighten Your Writing For Conciseness

Grammar Series: Tighten Your Writing For Conciseness

Concise writing is a skill that takes time and practice, but it’s worthwhile because it means your finished book will be much better. Why? Because concise writing is easier to read. Also, readers can quickly spot a book written by an amateur. It may sound as easy as cutting words to get to a lower word count, but conciseness is about much more than length. It’s a style and ability to set your work apart. So, just how do you tighten your writing for conciseness? Read on for 11 tips you can implement today.

Cut unnecessary words

Yes, this is the most obvious suggestion for tightening your writing. Cutting unnecessary words, or employing brevity, will instantly produce tighter copy. Take a look at a sentence and ask yourself:

  • “Is there a shorter way to say this?”
  • “Is every word here necessary?”
  • “If I remove or change a word, is the meaning still the same?”

Often, there’s a shorter way to say the same thing. For instance, “she nodded her head,” can be tightened to “she nodded.” The head is implied (Do you nod anything aside from your head?). Keep the following mantra in mind: Less is more. Aim to write less and say more at the same time. It sounds contradictory, but strong writing will follow this approach.

Avoid jargon

Knowledge of your audience and language is essential. Jargon, or overly technical vocabulary, might cause a reader to put a book down. Don’t be tempted by the power of thesaurus to throw in complicated words. The average novel is written between a 7th and 9th-grade reading level.

Simpler is better

You’ve heard the acronym KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. When in doubt, simpler is better for word choice, sentence length, etc. Why write “utilize” when you can say “use” (Hint: Did you know there’s a Microsoft Word tool that gives you statistics about your document, including average sentence length and reading level?)

Write in active voice

There are two main voices in writing: Active and Passive. You want to write in an active voice because it is considered stronger and more direct. An easy way to check your active voice is to ensure the subject is acting. You can recognize it by thinking, “Who did what to whom?” Here’s an example:

Active: The teacher passed out the exam.
Passive: The exam was passed out by the teacher.

See the difference? It’s a minor tweak but has a major impact on your writing. Many writing softwares can scan a document for passive voice, which is a great chance to catch it.

Check your adjectives and adverbs

Writers love adjectives and adverbs because they help describe your subject or setting. It’s fun to see how descriptive you can be, but all the exposition can get a little wordy. Try to cut a few qualifiers here and there to see if your description is still evident but in a more concise way. Adverbs are often unnecessary, and a stronger verb gets the same point across. Instead of “he ran quickly,” you could say “he dashed” or “he sprinted,” which implies quick running.

Remove unnecessary punctuation

If you’re a word person, chances are you love extra punctuation, such as colons, semi-colons, and dashes. However, setting a clause off with punctuation only increases the sentence length when it might have been possible to cut the sentence length or eliminate the clause. Re-read the passage to see if it’s necessary or if you can insert a period instead.

Remove “start to”

Did your character “start to stand,” or did she just “stand”? Did he “start to stir the pasta,” or did he just “stir” it? In most instances, “start to” is unnecessary and can be removed.

Do you really need “really”?

She’s really pretty. He’s very tired. Try replacing “really” and “very” with a stronger verb. Eliminating a descriptive word will greatly help brevity.

Use contractions for flow

Fiction writing should be natural, like how a person would speak. Contractions are more conversational and help with the overall flow. For example, instead of “I cannot come tomorrow,” say “I can’t come tomorrow.”

Cut a few dialogue tags

He said, she said. Yes, readers need to know who is speaking in a scene, but only some dialogue tags are necessary. When characters go back and forth in conversation, you don’t need to include their names each time. Once every couple of lines makes the scene flow easier and helps tighten the writing. However, it’s important to use tags when a new character enters the conversation or if there’s a big gap, such as internal thought or description.

“That” is a problem (sometimes)

We use the word “that” a lot because we believe it gives more specificity. In reality, many sentences can stand alone without it. Read the sentence and remove “that” — does it still make sense? Here’s an example:

Sara thought that the play was boring.

Sara thought the play was boring.

Now you have a better idea of writing concisely and how to achieve it. So, get your manuscript out and start revising! The finished product will be better for it.