A short story from a writers’ group anthology.

I’ve been a bit busy, and feeling a bit ‘meh’ this week and not got round to writing a post till now. I’ve taken a lazy option and used an excerpt of a short story.  It’s from the story Ianthcov2 contributed to the Coventry Writers’ Group anthology before Christmas. We didn’t organise a launch then in case the weather was bad. Instead we arranged it for the beginning of this month. And – guess what? – we had to cancel due to heavy snow. The anthology is called Stories to Make you Smile, but this was no laughing matter!

Anyway, here are the opening paragraphs of my contribution – Storm in a B Cup.

 I was eating toast and nearly didn’t take the call.

       “Hello?” I said eventually, still chewing and coughing slightly as a crumb caught in the back of my throat. I took a sip of tea to clear it.

       “Andrea Peterson?” It was a man’s voice, heavily accented, and nasal, as if he had a cold or was holding his nose. I thought he might be East European, but I’m not very good at accents.

        I “uh-hu’d,” in the affirmative. That, and the tea, helped shift the crumb.

       “Andrea Peterson, we have your father.”

       There was a pause. He, presumably, to let the import of what he’d said sink in. Me because my father had been dead for over two years.

       “Sorry, I think you have the wrong number.” I was about to switch off, but the man cut in quickly.

       “He’s safe – for now. Fifty grand by the weekend or he loses a finger every day you delay. We’ll be in touch.”

       The phone went dead. I took another mouthful of toast. It had to be a mistake. But the man – Russian, I’d decided it had to be a Russian, because this was the sort of thing Russians did in films – knew my name and my mobile phone number. Knew my new name in fact as, since the gender re-assignment surgery, I had stopped calling myself Andrew.

       How had he got hold of my mobile number? Was this part of a new spate of transphobic trolling? I’d had a fair bit of that in the past few years. I scrolled through my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Nothing. So far, this call was a one off.

       But the thing about chopping off Dad’s fingers bothered me. Was it some kind of coded digital message? How do you chop a finger off a dead man anyway? So dead, in fact, his ashes had been deposited in an old cocoa tin on my mantelpiece whilst I decided what to do with them. I needed to agree his final resting place with my brother, who currently wasn’t speaking to me. Or maybe he was – but I’d made it a rule two years ago not to open letters addressed to Andrew Peterson, and he knew that. Besides, I’d been told by an old neighbour that he had moved to a new flat and salon, but she didn’t have any contact details.

       I finished my toast, took three hormone boosting pills with a few swigs of my now cold tea, and rinsed the mug and plate under the hot tap.

       The phone rang again. I picked up quickly this time.

       “Don’t phone the Police.” He rang off before I had time to say a word. This time I felt the accent had a hint of Welsh, but the line went dead so quickly, I may have just imagined it. I sat looking at the phone screen – option one seemed to have been ruled out before I’d even thought of it.

       The tablets always made me feel a bit queasy for a bit after I’d taken them. But it was worth it – my breasts had been growing since the start of the hormone treatment and I was a decent B cup size now. I felt them appreciatively, and for a moment they took my mind off the recent phone calls.      Then the phone rang again.

       “Yes?” This time I forgot to modulate my voice in the way I’d been taught, and the word came out as a basso bark.

       “Hey, steady! What’s this with the macho aggression?” It was my transition mentor. I was due to see her in an hour.

       “Clare, I’m sorry.” I willed my voice up half an octave. “Been having a bit of bother over the phone. I thought it might be them again.”

       “Trannie haters?” I hated Clare using that term – in her book it seemed to cover ninety percent of the population. But I had never known how to tell her, and just now didn’t feel like the right time either.

       “Don’t think so. It was about my Dad.”

       “Poor you. You think you’ve got them dead and buried, but there’s always something still needs doing. No peace for the wicked eh?”

       I glanced at the cocoa tin. For the second time in less than a minute I felt Clare’s counselling skills were somewhat lacking. But she’d been through the system, well not the full bells and whistles – she’d decided to keep her bells and whistle intact – so, in the absence of any other mentors being available, I was stuck with her.

        “Anyway,” she went on, “I’m just ringing to say I’m running terribly behind this morning, can we leave it till the same time tomorrow? That’s great. You’re a star. Must dash” She rang off without waiting for a reply. I didn’t believe she was too busy. More likely she had been out on a date last night and still hadn’t got home. Clare never seemed short of male partners looking for something a bit different.

       The phone rang again almost immediately.

       “Hello?” I remembered to use my lilting contralto this time. ……

Want to read more? The anthology is available on Amazon in print and as an e-book. here is the link if you are interested: myBook.to/StoriesSmile


Who says ‘whom’ these days?

I was brought up to use the word whom when writing ‘correct’ English prose. Whom isHemingway the accusative form of who, as in the title of Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), or in the phrase – I didn’t realise to whom I was talking.

The first phrase is a truly memorable title for a book (and is taken from an equally evocative sermon by the poet John Donne, when he was the Dean of St Paul’s, London – never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee But the latter comes across as clumsy and old fashioned. Wouldn’t it sound better to write: I didn’t realise who I john-donne-1-638was talking to (complete with stranded preposition – but that’s for another blog)?

The fact is, whom is used less and less these days, and almost never in conversation. Publishing houses and newspapers will have their preferred style guide, which it is wise to follow if you want them to publish your work, but otherwise it seems that it is perfectly OK to use who, and perfectly OK to use whom. You choose.

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It’s snowing, in other words.


It has been snowing for the past couple of days. That’s a rare, but not completely unknown, event for the beginning of March in this part of the world (Coventry UK). But the snow that fell seemed different from our usual moist mush – each flake has seemed unusually small and dry. And it has been blown about by high winds leaving large parts of the pavements almost clear of snow and other parts with deep drifts. I tried googling to see if there is a special word for this type of snow and it just might be ‘soft hail’ or graupel – a word that came into English in the nineteenth century from the German graupe, meaning pearl barley.

The Inuit are said to have 100 words for snow, which does seem rather a lot, even for such a snow bound region. However theresnow flake are several words in English that, if not exactly synonyms for snow, can be used for different types of snowy conditions. Some are quite well known – blizzard, sleet, slush …

Here are a few less familiar terms that you can try impressing your friends with, next time you’re out for a winter walk – though you may end up with a snowball in your face.

Onding: a heavy fall of snow, but not enough for a blizzard (from Scots / NE England dialects).

Skift: a light fall of snow (probably nineteenth century)

Sposh: slushy snow (based on the archaic meaning of posh – a slushy mess of mud and broken ice).

Neve: compacted granular snow, such as you find on top of glaciers. (The word is originally from the Latin for snow – nix. Other derivations include niveous – resembling snow, and subnivean – under the snow.)

Grue: thin floating ice or snow. To grue can also mean to shiver with cold or fear – perhaps at something gruesome? (Nineteenth century)

Corn snow:  granular snow formed by a mix of thawing and freezing. (It is an early twentieth century term, used to describe the best snow for the newly popular sport of skiing).

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Still in the Mood for Love?

Today my blog has been taken over by writers from Solstice Publishing, whose anthology, Cupid’s Arrow, Vol 2, was published last week.

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Valentine’s Day encompasses romance for all ages. People go out of their way to show their affection for the one they love with flowers, candy, perhaps a special meal. Just how did this day come to be?

Valentine’s Day can be traced back to the third century, when Emperor Claudius III of Rom decided young men made better soldiers than those with wives and families to care for. Valentine, a young man who preached the word, felt this was injustice at its worst. He defied the emperor and performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Once his actions were discovered, the emperor ordered he be put to death.

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Today, we honor his memory by celebrating romance with the one we love. To honor St. Valentine, Solstice Publishing presents Cupid’s Arrow Vol. 2, a collection of tales of love.


An essence of bliss makes everything delicious.

Her last word before kissing him was, “Hush.”

Never say never…

She’s not your grandmother’s matchmaker.

Separated by the winds of war

They meet time after time…

Can love possibly come again?

Real life isn’t a fairy tale… or is it?

Love is a wonderful spell.

Love is a special feeling between couples. The sweetness of caring deeply for each other. A waterfall of romance is brought to you E.B. Sullivan, Jeffery Martin Botzenhart, A.A. Schenna, Adam Zorzi, K.C. Sprayberry, A.J. Kohler, Veronica Peters, Noelle Myers, and Palvi Sharma

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Grammar query – Is it I, or me, that’s wrong?

When to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ in a piece of writing can cause arguments, confusion, and – if you pen to paperthink you’re in the right – a severe dose of smugness about other people’s ignorance. But the correct usage is not always straightforward. Some years ago, in The State of the Language, Philip Howard wrote: “Already, even educated users of English, such as journalists, suffer from chronic uncertainty about the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and the other cases of pronouns.”

Old school grammarians, like Sir Ernest Gowers in Plain Words, have been quite clear about what they think is right: if the first pronoun is in the object case then the pronoun following ‘and’ must also be in the object case, as in ‘between him and me,’ or ‘he decided to let her go, but not me.’ Moreover in educated society, I was brought up to believe, the subject case should be used with the verb ‘to be.’

I tend to the old school usage, and sometimes have to stop myself jumping in with a correction when I hear people say things like ‘between you and I’ instead of my preferred ‘between you and me.’ But more modern grammarians, such as Oliver Kamm, have said there is no rule for or against using ‘I’ or ‘me’ in such a phrase. It’s just a question of what you are used to – although publishers and newspapers will have their house style rules, and writers will be expected to conform with these, whatever they personally prefer. pen and paper

You can’t blame modern teaching methods, or the vogue for more informal speech, as the quandary over which is correct goes back hundreds of years. After all, the greatest writer of them all, William Shakespeare, has written ‘All debts are cleared between you and I’ (Merchant of Venice) or ‘… Cassio and she together,’ (Othello), so if it is OK by him ….

No doubt I will continue to say and write ‘between you and me’ etc. because that is what I am comfortable with. But I should accept that it is a convention I am comfortable with pen and paper 2not a grammatical rule, and that to use ‘I’ instead of ‘me’ is not a blunder (even if my computer’s spell checker agrees with me!)

Anyway, I too am inconsistent. I have never answered the question ‘who is that?’ with the phrase ‘It is I.‘  To me ‘I’ sounds pretentious and ‘me’ sounds much more natural – even if it is not strictly grammatical for those who take their subject case pronouns very seriously!

More of my published work can be found at:

You can find me on Facebook: fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

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Is a scapegoat what we think it is?

A few posts ago (on 4th February), I wrote about how the term whipping boy was used wrongly to mean a scapegoat. Which doesn’t mean to say that people should be called to account if they use the term – of course not; that would just be being pedantic. But why should those of us who now know its false derivation, not view the term with a supercilious smirk?

What about the word scapegoat though? Does that still mean, er, scapegoat – a person made to take the blame for one or more others? It seems so. The word was first used in 1530 by William Tyndale in his translation of The Bible from Hebrew. He took the wordGoats Go.. Inspecting. Azazel to mean ‘the goote on which the lotte fell to scape.’ (OT, Leviticus, Chapter 8). In the Mosaic ritual for the Day of Atonement two goats are selected: one to be sacrificed, the other to be laden with the sins of the community and sent off into the wild – literally, the goat that escapes.

Since Tyndale, other animals have been used in literature for the same purpose, usually with humorous intent. But scapegoose, scapehorse and scapecat, have never really caught on.

That deals with the goat bit of the word. Does scape also mean what we think it does? I believe so. My dictionary describes it as an archaic word for escape – as in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when Cassius says to Brutus:

“How scaped I killing, when I crossed you so?” (Act IV, scene 3).

By the way, if you find anything wrong with this post, don’t blame me. Blame the spell checker – my usual scapegoat for any spelling, grammatical or other mistakes.

This post is going out on 14th February, Valentine’s Day. Would you like a gentle love story to read? Then try my short story, Sleeping Beauty. You might think the young heroine is a scapegoat at first – until it all ends happily ever after.


NB: Most of my novels and short stories can be found on Amazon Books:



or http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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AND ALEX STILL HAS ACNE is free to download 10th and 11th February.


Still short of cash post Christmas and wanting something new to read?

I have just renewed my contract with Solstice for And Alex Still has Acne – a short novel for teenagers about family, friendship, and some of the trials of being a teenager. To celebrate the new contract I am offering the novel as a free download on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th February.

Blurb:And Alex -cover

Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He enjoys school, has a best friend Sam, and a pretty and only mildly irritating younger sister, Nicky. But then Sam starts acting strangely, and so does Nicky – and both insist on sharing secrets with him and making him promise not to tell anyone. Then Nicky goes missing and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?


Alex sat silently…

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