Monthly Archives: July 2016

Something for the weekend.

Today is my wedding anniversary, a few days ago I bumped into an old colleague – which reminded me of another colleague from that era whose name, Caro, I always thought was wonderfully romantic, it is raining as I write, and this year is also the 75th anniversary of James Joyce’s death.

A string of (admittedly a little contrived) coincidences that have come together this afternoon, and also feature in a short story I wrote last year, Love in Waiting. Yes, even the James Joyce connection – but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.


     Love in Waiting

       As usual when she reached the hospital, she felt a new surge of energy and optimism for what the day might bring, and maintained her brisk pace. The regular staff on reception acknowledged her as she sped past them and along the corridor, exchanging the usual

“Morning, how are you?”

“Fine thanks. And you?”

Funny isn’t it, she thought, how even after all this time, none of us really knows anything about each other. Though probably, she thought further, the two women on reception knew a lot more about her than she did about them.

“That’s Dr. Niles. You know, the one who…”

“Oh yes, I wonder if he…”

“I can’t see it happening…”

“Ah well, she lives in hope, maybe that’s all she can do.”

“Poor thing, she must be getting desperate by now.”

Was it so bloody obvious? She hoped not. She hoped they had better things to gossip about.


Caro’s husband was involved in a head-on car crash on their wedding anniversary. Every days since, rain or shine, she has dressed smartly and set off for the nearby hospital with a well thumbed copy of Ulysses in the hope of a miracle, even on a rain soaked summer solstice.

Links: Love in Waiting is available as a single story down load, or as part of the anthology, Summer Thrills - coverSummer Thrills Summer Chills, published by Solstice in 2015


Poetry in prose.

We all think we know what poetry is, and what it isn’t.

On the IS side, according to Alexander Pope, poetry is ‘What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”

On the ISN’T side, several people still feel that it’s not poetry if it doesn’t rhyme: without rhyme, it’s just prose with pretentious line spacing.

wordfinder-backgroundWhat fiction writers and poets have in common is that their basic material is words. Poets sometimes argue that what is distinctive in their work is that every single word has to count, and carry meaning beyond the simple letters on the page. However a fiction writer thinks about words too, and not just which ones best carry the narrative forward. Like poets, want to create an atmosphere, grab attention, capture the reader’s imagination …

Martin Amis has reputedly said that he wants each word he chooses in his novels to be distinctive, and to make the hairs on the back of the reader’s neck stand up. Less literary authors may not be quite so ambitious, but they too want to captivate their readers and keep them turning the pages.

Children’s writers, especially, will use the sound of words to convey a picture of the action – ‘Splish, splash, splosh’ as a child jumps in puddles, for instance. Hard consonants give urgency to a word or phrase:  ‘Rising at the crack of dawn,’ for example, is a sharper than ‘getting up early.’ When two egos ‘clash’ it packs a harder punch than saying a couple don’t get on.

Fiction writers, like poets, pay attention to the sound of the words they write down. CauchyAnd, if they want to keep their reader’s attention, they also consider the length and content of each sentence, unlike in this sentence where I now digress to tell you about my dog’s health – very good, thank you for asking –  and fill you in on my plans for lunch – soup maybe, or salad, and complain that my husband still hasn’t finished painting the hall (but I shouldn’t complain really as he has been poorly, though he’s getting better, but he really should go back to see the doctor, but he won’t – you know what men are like), but all of this is distracting me from writing this blog, and somewhere along the way I seem to have lost you. Damn.

The apt choice of words, which also includes how they sound and look on the page, the balance of each phrase as the narrative builds, the length of each sentence/line or paragraph/verse – these are as important to the fiction writer as to the poet. Many writers, who have no intention of writing poems, have attended poetry workshops and come away with several valuable tips for improving their own craft.

The heading for an article about poetry in the Sunday Times last weekend was a line from Maya Angelou: ‘You may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust I rise.’ No rhyming, but feel the emotional punch in the repetition of ‘d’ and the imaginative juxtaposition of ‘trod’ and ‘rise.’ It certainly causes the hairs on the back of my neck to tingle, and makes me want to read more of her work. If only a random quote from one of my stories could have the same effect on potential readers!

If you like my blog, and would like to read more, you can find a selection of short stories and novels, mostly published by Solstice, on my Amazon author pages:



Happy Everybody Reads YA

Happy ‘Everybody Reads YA Sunday.’

Today I am sharing an excerpt from my short story, Chains of Magic, which is available on its own as a download. It is also available from my author page on Amazon books, as a download or in print, as part of the Solstice Publishing anthology, The Food of Love. (see links below)

Blurb: In a twist on Shakespeare’s play, Othello,  the young Desdemona falls head over heels in love with the aging Moor of Venice and dreams about what magic potions and foods she can use to win his love.

Excerpt:  Chains of magic       Othello would be coming to the house again very soon, she was sure of it; the next day even. Tomorrow! Yes, tomorrow was when she would start her campaign to charm him into loving her. She would ask cook to prepare something special. Not oysters of course, as Othello would not be able to eat the shellfish, however delicious, but something just as powerful.

Asparagus perhaps? Her newly betrothed friend had sworn by them. Asparagus tips steamed until just al dente to retain their potency, then lightly tossed in melted butter and sprinkled with flower pollen. And if that didn’t work she would cast her own spells and win him with magic.

She could! She should! She would! He was the breath of life to her. Smiling happily to herself, she reached up and put out the light.  

Links:Food of Love


Meet Author AA ABBOTT

I first met AA Abbott when she came to The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry with a group AA Abbottof Brummie* writers who were reading from their latest works. I was there as part of the audience but they are a lively and welcoming group (as well as being great writers) and we soon got chatting.

Both AA Abbott and I have short stories due to appear later this year in a Christmas anthology organised by two of the group members.

(*That’s Birmingham in England, for non UK followers!)

What is the title of your latest book?

TVT thumbnail (1)The Vodka Trail. The book is a suspense thriller featuring Kat, a young woman who was left orphaned and destitute as a teenager. Although she drifted on the margins of society for a while, she’s now in her twenties and has made a new life for herself. She’s determined to recover her family’s high-end vodka business in the former Soviet Union.

Back in Birmingham, local businessman Marty has become rich distributing the vodka across the world. He knows Kat has no intention of working with him, as she blames him for her parents’ deaths. Fearing for the future of his business, he decides to thwart her plans.

Unfortunately for them, both are kidnapped by terrorists in Kat’s homeland. Held hostage in a small cell, Kat and Marty realise their only chance of survival lies in co-operating.

I love the cover of The Vodka Trail, which was designed by Annika Wilkinson, who has a background in street art. I’ve asked her to design a new cover for “The Bride’s Trail” as well, to bring out the darkness and mystery in that story.

Kat and Marty appeared in my last book, The Bride’s Trail, too, but each book stands TBT front for AISalone from the other – my beta readers, who read a draft of The Vodka Trail, assured me of that.


 What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

Believe it or not, the biggest challenge is keeping away from books when I’m immersed in writing one. I love to read, but just as I subconsciously parrot a pastiche of someone’s accent when I’m talking to them, I’m painfully afraid of stealing choice phrases from other writers.  As soon as I finish writing a thriller, I have a delightful reading splurge.

As you might imagine, when I get the first printed proof copy, all that self-denial and hard work slaving over a hot keyboard suddenly seems worthwhile. It’s very satisfying to flick through that pristine book and see a tale well told.

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Seek feedback. Twenty beta readers saw an early draft of each of my books and gave me lots of recommendations for improvement. The Vodka Trail has also been professionally edited. For nearly a decade, I’ve belonged to a monthly writing group; we read short stories and novel chapters to each other. There’s plenty of criticism, but it’s always constructive.

 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a short story for a little girl. She’s the star and it’s about her world. Her father was the winning bidder for the story in a charity auction.

 What do you like to read?

You can’t go wrong with a good thriller. I’ve always loved Ruth Rendell (especially writing as Barbara Vine), John Grisham and Kate Atkinson’s detective stories. In the last year, I was blown away by Blood Libel, from Brummie writer Chuck Loyola. There’s a lot of talent in the West Midlands right now; I’ve also enjoyed Simon Fairbanks’ fantasy novels, David Moody and James Brogden’s horror, and the comic Clovenhoof series set in Sutton Coldfield. I adored Katharine D’Souza’s fiction so much that I asked her to edit my last two books.

 Where can readers find you?

Look inside suspense thriller  “The Vodka Trail” on Amazon.

AA Abbott is on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out for a free ebook and more!

Come along to The Vodka Trail launch party in Birmingham on 28th July!








Happy Everybody Reads YA Sunday

Happy ‘everybody reads YA’ Sunday blog share.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my latest teen novel, Girl Friends, which deals with a subject that is, sadly, often in the news these days. Last week even my local paper front page was devoted to a report on a safeguarding review of the failure to protect vulnerable girls from sexual exploitation.

Girl Friends, is a story – often humorous, despite the subject matter – about two such vulnerable girls. Courtney is a survivor who gets her life on track. But her best friend Grace thinks she’s found a fast track into modelling through her handsome older boyfriend. How wrong could she be? And can Courtney and new friends rescue in time?


Girl Friends - cover      Kal comes forward as we enter. Naturally I don’t know what his name is straight away, but I pick this up quickly from the conversation that goes on between Grace, him and the other men who are there. Even when they are not speaking English, it is still possible to pick up the names— Kal, Jayboy, Saqib and Davit. They are all old. Kal is the youngest and he must be at least twenty. I wonder, with mounting panic, which one Grace, or rather Kal—who seems something of a ringleader, or perhaps it’s just because his English is best—has in mind for me. I shrink down into my baggy sweater and pull another strand of hair over my face. This is so not my scene. But Grace seems fine or at least she is putting on a very good act of being relaxed and confident. She greets them all by name and she and Kal engage in a long kiss— tongues and everything. I turn away but Kal, surfacing from the snog looks across at me for the first time and says: “Who’s your little friend?”

Girl Friends has been described a funny but hard-hitting read for teenagers. Their parents, teachers and social workers might learn a few things too!



Stuff we think we know

Therwordfinder-backgrounde are some words or phrases in English that everybody is sure they know both the meaning of, and where that meaning came from.

Well, we probably do know the meaning; but being correct about their true origin is quite a different matter.

Here are a few examples:

Posh rich, well-off, upper class, exclusive, smart.

The story is that in the nineteenth century the more affluent travellers on the P&O ships sailed out to India from the UK on the port side and home on the starboard. Their tickets were therefore stamped P.O.S.H. However, etymologists think the more likely origin of the word is from the Romany for ‘half’ which became a slang term for ‘money.’

This didn’t stop P&O liking the story so much that it started to use the (false) posh definition in its own publicity.

Bikini two piece swim-suit for women.

This small garment was named, as we all know, after the tiny two piece atoll of that name in the Pacific. Actually the Bikini Atoll is made up of over 30 small coral islands, not just two. However, in 1946 two atom bombs were tested in the area and the swimwear designer, in a somewhat tacky lapse of good taste, named his new creation after these because ‘of the explosive effect the suit would have on men.’ Later he felt obliged to insist he had named it after the whole atoll after all.

Okay /OK fine, yes, not bad.

OK is said to derive from a fad in nineteenth century America, for both abbreviating and thumbs upmisspelling common phrases – in this case ‘all correct.’ This might actually be true, though its popularity grew in the presidential election of 1840 because the nickname for the candidate, Martin Van Buren, was Old Kinderhook (OK – get it?). The candidate went on to become the eighth American president, and ‘okay’ is now perhaps the most universally understood term of assent / approval.

But it might just have come from the American-Indian word for ‘yes’ –‘okeh.’

Finally here’s a phrase / acronym that is also understood worldwide.

S.O.S. – HELP!

sinking shipOkay, we all know that this means ‘Save Our Souls.’ Or if not that – ‘Save Our Ships.’ Many of us can tap out the Morse code for the phrase too.

In fact, the original Morse code was CQD (seek you; danger), but in 1908 SOS was chosen because the code – three dots, three dashes, three dots – was easier to remember and transmit.

So the truth is, SOS isn’t either a phrase or an acronym; it is simply three letters.

If you have enjoyed reading my blog, you may like to read one of my novels or short stories that are available from Amazon Books:





Happy Everybody reads YA Sunday

Happy ‘Everybody Reads YA’ Sunday!

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my short story, Sleeping Beauty, a contemporary story that has its roots in a well-known folk tale – or three!


It seemed a funny idea of a quest to me, and Mum never got round to telling me this story, or teaching me to read properly. She got sick and died, and all I had left to remember her by was a head full of fairy tales and the recollection of her scent: l’air du temps, according to the label I eventually learnt to read. The scent still clung faintly to her dresses and a coat that Dad had hidden in the back of my wardrobe when Sukie moved in. Sometimes I would sit in my wardrobe and pull the door close, just to breath in the memories of a happier, safer, time. 

Blurb: sleeping beauty

Dawn has been in a coma for a year and is visited in hospital every day by her devoted father, occasionally by the ghost of her dead mother, and once by her vicious stepmother, Sukie. Unable to move a muscle she monitors their coming and going and relives the events that lead to her accident. She yearns to wake up and live like a teenager again, but nothing so far has been able to rouse her from her deep, deep sleep. Then, on her fourteenth birthday she is visited by a mysterious delivery boy with a strange package.