Monthly Archives: January 2017

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Hello and welcome to this week’s ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

This week I’m sharing an extract from my short story, A Midsummer Day’s Dream, part of the Shakespeare’s women project.

Student Mia is rehearsing a scene in the woods from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her boyfriend and two other friends. But she finds that sun, drink, and drama don’t mix!


a midsummer day's dream       Everybody poured themselves a fresh drink, and Mia, knowing that it was far from wise (not with her head for drink, not in this heat, not on a nearly empty stomach— but what the hell, suddenly it didn’t seem the day could get any worse) drank most of her glass down in one gulp. Lenny then called them to order.

In the distance, but in reality only a few feet from her, Lenny was marshalling the others into action. Mia felt thick-headed and slightly sick. If I just sit down for a minute I might feel better, she thought, and lowered herself gingerly onto the ground. As Lenny passed near her, attempting once more to persuade Helen over something or other—Mia was fast getting beyond caring—a sheet of paper fell from his trouser pocket. Mia leant forward and picked it up.  She knew at once what it was.

Links for A Midsummer Day’s Dream

Or, if you want to read other stories in the Shakespeare’s women project (suitable for YA, new adult, and adult readers), try my Amazon Author pages:




Intelligence – fact or fable?


My dog was very pleased to point out to me at the weekend that an article in The Times listed the cairn terrier as the small breed with the most intelligence.

The big dog rated as most intelligent is the collie who, apparently, enjoys being mentally stimulated with such well know brain teasers as tug of war, or fetching a ball.

Really? If those are marks of intelligence, never mind the dog, I’m up there with the gods!


My dictionary defines intelligence as:

  • the ability to perceive and comprehend meaning
  • good mental capacity
  • military information about enemies
  • a group, or department, dealing with such information

The word has roots in the Latin ‘intellegere’ – to discern / comprehend. But, according to my etymology dictionary, the word also has its origins in the roots of the word legend.

A legend, as you know, is a popular story handed down from earlier times whose veracity is uncertain – a marvelous story in fact. It’s Latin origins are in ‘legenda’ – passages to be read, and ‘legere’ – to read. However, in a pre-reading era ‘legere’ originally meant to gather / collect.

As intelligence (certainly in the military context) has to be collected or gathered, the common root  for cauchythe two words is obvious. Or is that just a ‘marvelous story,’ like the cairn’s legendary cleverness?

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read more of my work, check out my ‘Published work’ page or go to one of my Amazon author pages:

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to my ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I am working my way through imagined back stories for some of the female characters in Shakespeare plays. When I have completed a round dozen, maybe I will publish an anthology. Stories are mostly suitable for YA, new adult and adult readers. Four of the stories have already been published by Solstice (See my ‘Published Work’ blog page for more details).

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Chains of Magic in which the teenage Desdemona works on how to get Othello to fall in love with her.


Othello’s stories had cast a spell on her but she was going to learn from this and use her own charms on her father to ensure the noble general was invited again. She would remind her father that the moor was destined to be of continuing service to the state so he, Brabantio, leading senator, was obliged to entertain him generously. She could organize bigger and better meals on his behalf, and could hide her curiosity behind her customary maidenly modesty whilst finding out more about the man she loved. She gasped and sat up straight in bed. Love! What was she thinking! Othello, The Moor of Venice, could have no thought of marrying her, a mere slip of a girl – and white as a lily too. Besides, she had been too shy to speak to him that evening, and would never be allowed to be alone in his company nor did she know anyone she could confide in, or use as a go-between.

Links: Chains of Magic is available as a stand alone e-book through the following links.Chains of magic

The story is also part of the Solstice Anthology, The Food of Love, available through my Amazon author pages.


Realistic Dialogue

Realistic dialogue is a make or break for most novels and all plays. If it sounds phony to the readers, they won’t believe in the characters uttering it. And yet ….

Listen to yourself. Most people don’t talk in proper sentences – they start and stop, jump P1000134between past and present tenses, and between singular and plural. They repeat themselves, or miss whole bits out. And interruptions rarely come exactly as we plan. Usually we make ourselves understood, but that maybe because our listener has a lot of other non-verbal and contextual clues to go on. And I haven’t even mentioned the ‘umms’ and ‘ers’ that pepper our conversations.

When writing, we may want to show a character as hesitant or inarticulate, but a reader will quickly get bored if we copy speech patterns too literally. Likewise with swear words. A character may use colourful language, but if every other word is a swear word, a reader switches off. Better to use a few choice phrases and descriptions and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination.

I learnt this the hard way when writing my YA novel, Girl Friends. Having worked for many years with teenagers and their parents with similar backgrounds to the girls in the book I was used to ‘f**k’ being the most frequent word in any sentence, and ‘c**t’ being a distant, but still all too frequent, second. When I started writing the conversations between the girls, or between Courtney and her mother, I wrote pretty much the phrases I had overheard. Then a (very successful) writer friend told me I would be lucky to get it published if I left all the swearing in. She added, for good measure, that she also found it all a bit boring after the first couple of pages.

So I cut out most of the swearing (over 200 ‘f**ks’ as a start!), and soon found a publisher (Solstice). Since then, several people who have read the book have commented on how realistic the dialogue is, and how well I must know what I was writing about and the young people involved. I’m pleased they approve, but the dialogue isn’t realistic really. Convincing may be a better word.


Girl Friends - cover


Happy Everybody Reads YA


Hello and welcome to the first ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare for 2017.

And Alex -coverToday I’m sharing an excerpt from my first YA novel, And Alex Still has Acne, which I’m pleased to say keeps hovering just outside the bestseller ranking for YA books for boys on the UK Amazon site without any special promotion. And it’s not doing too badly in the USA either. (Of course I would prefer it to be IN the bestseller lists …)

One reason it has sold well since Christmas maybe because of reviews like the one on the American site of a story of mine that appeared in the Festive Treats anthology

( :

I honestly have a hard time with picking a favorite story in this collection. Yet, I will begin with Margaret Egrot. Egrot writes well and has a talent for imagery. One could not only feel the emotions of the main character Mary McCarthy but I felt as if I was inside her home and spent the day with her. From the details of the market to Jane’s kindness, this story will have you going instantly to Egrot’s amazon page. I immediately purchased her novel about Alex.

 I really do hope the reviewer enjoys reading about Alex, his friend Sam and his sister Nicky, as much as reading about Mary and Jane!


“God Alex, you’re a messy eater! Well what’ll we do now?”

Alex shrugged. “Dunno. It’s still too early to go home.”

“You can come back to my place for tea if you like. It’s not so bad really, and I’m still hungry.”

“Me too. What you got to eat at home?”

“Nothing, unless Mum’s stocked the fridge since breakfast this morning, which, I think not. We’ll have to get something on the way home.”

“But you haven’t got any money.”



“So, what?”

“Sam, you’re not going to nick stuff are you?”

“All property is theft. Weren’t you paying attention in history last week? At least that’s what I think that Marx bloke said. I need to eat to live and if Mum is too drunk to shop, I’ve got to find other ways of feeding us.”


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?


Amazon author pages:



The meaning of trump

Not long now before the president-elect of America becomes president, and already a raft of plays on the word ‘trump’ and associated spin-offs is entering daily discourse.

But what about the existing meanings? playing-cards

There’s ‘trump’ – as in trump card, the strongest card in the pack, or any card in the pack chosen as trumps.

To trump someone or something (as in cards) is to take a decisive or advantageous action.

Trump can also mean to outdo or surpass.  (‘Her desire for them to visit her mother after lunch on Saturday, always trumped his desire for a quiet afternoon of TV sport.’)

To trump up is to concoct (a charge) so as to deceive or implicate someone.

Trumpery is foolish talk, or a worthless article.

A trump can also mean a fine or reliable person.

‘Trumps’ is any of the suit of cards that is selected as the lead suit for a game. To come up trumps (or turn up trumps) is to bring about a happy, and often unexpected, conclusion to events.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrump’ is used sometimes to mean a trumpet, or the sound that comes from one. It can also mean to proclaim something with a flourish (with or without a trumpet fanfare).

The origins of the word ‘trump’ are probably from the word for trumpet, like Middle English – trumpe / trompe (Spanish ‘trompa’ and Italian ‘tromba’), and is linked to the Latin ‘tuba’ for pipe.

‘Trumpery’ however seems to come via a different route –from the French (via Latin) tromperie (nonsense / deceit).


So, quite a mixed bag of meanings!

If you have enjoyed this post and would like to know more about my work, please check out the PUBLISHED WORK page on this blog, or go to one of my Amazon Author pages:

Spelling to drive you mad.

Hello and welcome to my first blog for 2017.

It has been said (Mark Twain? Oscar Wilde?) that America and Britain are two countries divided by a common language. True in part. But if the English language has enough idiosyncracies to confuse native speakers (whichever side of the pond), what about the millions of people for whom it is not their first language?

Here is a limerick* to test your skills at pronunciation (or you patience). It was sent into The Times on Tuesday by Alec Gallagher.

There was an old woman from Slough

Who once had a terrible cough.

She sounded quite rough

But battled on through.

I’m sure she’ll get over it though.shamrock

*A true limerick is a five line comic verse where the first, second and fifth lines should rhyme and have three metrical feet, and the third and fourth lines should rhyme,and have two metrical feet. There is a county and port in SW Ireland called Limerick and the term ‘limerick’ is thought to come from the nineteenth century refrain ‘will you come to Limerick?’ sung between nonsense verses at a party.

If the limerick above isn’t enough of a challenge, try the poem below by ‘Anonymous.’

I take it you already know

Of tough and bough and cough and dough.

Others may stumble, but not you

On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.

Well done! And now you wish, perhaps

To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word

That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

And dead is said like bed, not bead:

For goodness sake, don’t call it ‘deed’!

Watch out for meat and great and threat.

(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.)

A moth is not a moth in mother,

Nor both in bother, broth in brother.

And here is not a match for there.

Nor dear and fear for bear and pear.

And then there’s dose and rose and lose

Just look them up – and goose and choose.

And cork and work and card and ward.

And do and go, then thwart and cart – 

Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start.

A dreadful language? Why, man alive!

I’d mastered it when I was five!

And yet to write it, the more I try,

I’ll not learn till the day I die.

So why is the English language full of such crazy variations in spelling and pronunciation that are sure to catch out the unwary foreigner? In no small part it is because it is full of words and spellings we’ve absorbed over the centuries from said foreigners. Maybe more about this in future blogs during 2017…..

If you have enjoyed reading this blog and would like to find out more about my stories and novels and how to get hold of them, switch to the PUBLISHED WORK page on this blog, or go to my Amazon author book page: