Monthly Archives: February 2017

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare. On Wednesday I’m guesting the sci/fi and horror writer, David Court, on my blog. I haven’t tried writing in either genre myself – yet! I’ve dabbled a little bit with fantasy (Sleeping Beauty, The Ghost Queen) but the nearest I’ve got to horror is a slightly spooky house in And Alex Still has Acne. One day maybe I’ll have a proper go at horror. Meanwhile here is a, not very horrifying, excerpt from And Alex … 


They were standing now on the opposite side of the road to a particularly dilapidated house. Several of the windows were boarded up, and one of the upstairs ones was smashed. The downstairs ones were still intact, but even in the half-light the boys could see that the curtains drawn across them were ripped and grimy. It looked deserted but, crucially, across the front gate were the remains of police tape that had obviously been cut through. The front door had wooden planks nailed across. The wood was strikingly clean against the rest of the building indicating that it had recently been added. This was the one. The boys crossed the road and peered about tentatively. “It looks pretty deserted, but do you think we should try the back?”

You’ll need to read the book to find out what they do next …


Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He And Alex -coverenjoys 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?





New website for play reviews

barb-1-b-w-2-1Barbara Goulden is a well known reporter, theatre critic, novelist and aspiring playwright from Coventry UK. Earlier this year she and a few reporter friends and theatre enthusiasts launched a website where they could post reviews of plays being performed locally. Not just amateur performances, but those at professional theatres too, including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performances in Stratford upon Avon.

Below Barbara talks about how the website came about, and what else she is involved in on the literary front.

“Our new website, Elementary What’s On, started with me moaning about the fact thatelementary-whatson our local daily and weekly newspapers no longer have enough staff to review plays and shows being staged in Coventry and Warwickshire.

As a reporter for 40 years, I’ve had the privilege of being among first night audiences for some tremendous performances by both amateur and professional theatre companies.

I still remember Antony Sher making every word count while hanging upside down on a rope in the Swan Theatre at Stratford.

But these days there are hardly enough reporters to cover council meetings, let alone stage performances.

Recently the smaller studio at the Belgrade in Coventry had a terrific play called Ostrich Boys. It was full of life and humour but the play disappeared without trace because so few people knew how good it was.

I was saying how sad this was to the former deputy editor of Coventry Telegraph, where I used to work.  He promptly challenged me to start a website specifically dedicated to all our local theatres, both amateur and professional.

A month later, our site, Elementary What’s On, was born after much beating of heads against laptops and a good deal of arguing amongst what became a core group of four.

The most rewarding aspect so far has been the enthusiastic response we’ve received from all the theatres we aim to visit.

They are well aware that today they get nothing like the support they once did. As a result few people know what’s available to see locally or just how good a play might be.

Of course not all reviews will be good. Nor can we review everything ourselves. But between us we have enough theatre-loving friends who are willing to contribute 300 words or so in exchange for complimentary tickets for a play which they hope will be great but they’ll take a chance on it being boring, or a mixture of the two.

In one of my recent reviews I talked about sitting in an audience of 850 people and seeming to be the only one not laughing.  It was farce. And that carries its own cult following.

Right now I’m looking forward to La Strada at the Belgrade, a play that stands a good chance of touring nationally before winding up in the West End.

It won’t be an altogether happy tale – I know that already. But Les Miserables seems to be still doing rather well.

… Other stuff:

Since leaving full-time work as a reporter I’ve been able to write a couple of novels which were printed with the help of Chipmunka Publishing, a charity that’s happy to work with any author who tries to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

In my case I tried to inject some humour into the serious business of schizophrenia, a condition that  affects one in 100 of us at some stage in our lives, including my much-loved late sister.

People only see the shock-horror headlines about this condition which are far from reality for most sufferers, a third of whom do recover. I knew my sister was delusional, but  I also knew she would never hurt anyone, except herself.

At the moment I am trying, not too successfully, to write a play about all we have lost in the regional press and the inevitable consequences of fake news feeding on itself via the internet. I will persist.

My tips for other writers are simply stick at it – have a look at how many rejection slips most of today’s top authors receive – and really study the agents’ section of the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook.  If you can convince an agent with an example of your work then you stand a far better chance of being published.

Having said that, if you really need closure on a piece of writing you believe in, then consider self-publishing. It’s very therapeutic and lets you move on to the next book.”

Links: The website is

Barbara’s novels are:  Knock Knock, Who’s There? and Knocking on Haven’s Door. Both are available from Amazon Books.


Writing tips from the past

Today I thought I’d share an excerpt from a novel for teenagers that I enjoyed reading when I was in my early teens – I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  It was my favourite book then, and I read it several times. I read it again this year and hoped, unlike with some books I remembered fondly from years ago, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Not at all – it still seemed fresh and funny and, despite being first published in 1949, I felt it had hardly dated.

The Ruined Walls and Gateway of a Castle null by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851Cassandra, the seventeen year old protagonist, lives in increasing poverty in a cold and leaky castle with her sister, brother, stepmother and father. He had been a celebrated writer once, but was now suffering from long-term writer’s block.

Cassandra decides to write a diary and the book chronicles six months of her life in which she records the largely mundane, but often humorous, events of her life. These include trying to get her father writing again, getting her sister married off to their new landlord, and warding off the attentions of the love-sick Stephen.

She also discusses her attempts to become a writer, dispensing along the way quite a few tips for the aspiring author, as the excerpt below shows:


I am writing this journal partly to practise my newly acquired speed-writing skills, and partly to teach myself how to write a novel. I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations. It ought to be good for my style to dash along without much thought, as up to now my stories have been stiff and self-conscious. The only time my father obliged me by reading one of them, he said I combined stateliness with a desperate effort to be funny. He told me to relax and let the words flow.

Good advice she (if not her father himself) follows with some success.


I Capture the Castle is available in several print versions from Amazon books. There are also a couple of audio versions on Amazon.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read some of my novels or short stories (maybe to see if I manage to avoid being too stiff and self-conscious) you can find more information on my Published Work page, or on one of my Amazon author pages:


So who is this Valentine Bloke?

St Valentine – the chap responsible for expensive bouquets, sickly milk chocolate treats, bunch-of-flowerscheesy cards, and a positive smorgasbord of romance themed publications. Not to mention, sulks and hurt silences in the households where his special day has been forgotten by that ‘significant other.’

Yes, everybody knows the 14th February is Valentine’s Day. Would it surprise you to know that Valentine himself had nothing to do with the passion for protestations of romantic love on this day?

Would it surprise you further to know that  there were possibly two St Valentines? One a Roman priest turned Christian who was martyred in AD269. The other the Bishop of Terni who was also martyred. His feast day is February 14th – and that provides the likely link of the name to our celebrations in subsequent centuries.

14th February was traditionally associated with the beginning of the mating season for birds. In the middles ages it also became the day when young lovers would exchange tokens of their affection. (Well we all know about the birds and the bees and where that leads, so this link seems fairly obvious!)

Solstice Publishing, like many other publishers, produces anthologies of Valentine’s Day themed stories each year at about this time – check out their website: for the latest one, as well as past issues. I have written stories for two of the anthologies in recent years, and these are now available as stand alone short stories. They are less fattening than chocolate, don’t fade like roses and, at under a £/$1.00, cost less than your average card. Yum.


Chains of Magic –

Sleeping Beauty –


Happy Everybody Reads YA

Hello and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Chains of Magic, a short story that appears in The Food of Love – an anthology released by Solstice Publishing in time for Valentine’s Day in 2015. The Food of Love contains 10 short stories that are suitable for adult and YA readers. Moreover, each story is linked to a particular recipe – hence the title.


Brabantio hesitated before entering his office. He had felt helpless to argue. DesdemonaChains of magic could be very persuasive when she wanted to be and, in truth, he really loved sticky fig pudding. He would have been lost without her to sort the dinner arrangements. But was it what his wife would have agreed to? Would she herself have sat down with a black man, however noble? And would she have allowed her unmarried daughter to sit next to one? He doubted it. Oh dear, what troubles had he unleashed upon himself? He was sure no good was going to come of such a break from custom. His daughter would be doomed to spinsterhood, and he would be the laughing stock of Venice.


A few years ago I started on a project to imagine the life and thoughts of some of Shakespeare’s heroines when they are off stage. This story about Desdemona’s plans to woo and win Othello through food – and anything else it takes – is part of this project.


Is it me or is it I?


Rules of grammar have long been a minefield for students and writers alike. Times change, the rules change, and – if you are a bit of a pedant like me, the anxiety about getting it right only increases as we get older. So I have found it comforting recently to read ‘guides’ by people like Olive Kamm who talks about grammatical ‘conventions’ rather than rules.

Take, for example, the use of ‘I’ or ‘me.’ Traditional grammarians and established writing style guides, such as Plain Words by Sir Earnest Gowers, state that the phrase: ‘Between you and me’ is correct, and ‘between you and I’ is wrong. Various arguments about nouns and conjoined pronouns, and coordinate phrases are put forward to support this. I won’t bore you with these – I don’t properly understand them myself!

Suffice to say that, whereas my preferred phrase will remain ‘between you and me,’ I william_shakespeares_first_folio_1623should not be sniffy about anybody who uses the other phrase. Particularly as one of the greatest writers ever uses ‘… you and I’ from time to time:

“All debts are cleared between you and I.” (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)

And he applies it to other pronouns too:

“Yes, you have seen Cassio and she together.” (Shakespeare, Othello).

If you write, and want to get your work published, you will find that publishers have a house style that you will be expected to comply with. This will often be in line with traditional grammar guides. Moreover, as I am finding as I write this, the spelling and grammar checks in Word and for my blog share my preference (Yay!)

However I shouldn’t get too smug about this. As Kamm has reminded me, I am writing in line with a convention not a rule. It isn’t a mistake or a sign of illiteracy to choose a different convention – and if you do, you can cite the most famous wordsmith in the world to support your decision. (Mind, as history shows,  it seems he wasn’t too sure how to spell his own name – but that’s a different story.)

Chains of magic

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, you may like to read one of the short stories from my Shakespeare project. Chains of Magic, based on Othello, is suitable for teen and adult readers.






Happy Everybody Reads YA.

Welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m thinking ahead to Valentine’s Day and sharing an excerpt from a story in the anthology published last year by Summer Solstice called First Love. This is an anthology of stories that capture “that magic moment for a teen. The realisation that the person you’ve liked is a little more than a friend. Chance meetings. Old friendships. Even a social media post. These can all lead to that first love.”

In one of the stories, Sleeping Beauty, that first moment comes as an out of body experience!


Suddenly the boy shot up and joined hands with Mum above the bed. They both smiled at sleeping beautyme.  “Good luck, my darling,” said my mother as she blew me a kiss. “See you!” said the boy, putting both thumbs in the air. Then they both faded away through the wall of the ward.  Dad shook himself as if coming out of a trance. He looked at the nurse.  “Am I dreaming, or is my daughter really back with us? And what has happened to that funny delivery boy, or whatever he was. Bursting in like that, and then just disappearing?” “It’s not a dream,” said the nurse, shaking herself too. “Just look at her cheeks—all pink and glowing, and it’s not the ventilator doing it for her any more. It must be something to do with that boy. What do you think is in the box he left?”


First Love


First Love contains eight short stories and is available as an e-book or a print copy.

Sleeping Beauty is available as a stand-alone story, but only as an e-book.