Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Art of Rhetoric

What am I like, writing a blog on rhetoric?

Don’t worry, that is a rhetorical question, as is your possible answer to the question (if you’d decided to provide one after all) ‘Who cares?’

Rhetoric had its origins in Mesopotamia, but is largely associated with ancient Greece where, alongside grammar and logic, it was regarded as one of the three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetor is the ancient Greek for a public speaker.

Cicero

Cicero

Rhetoric was part of a scholar’s education from the time of the ancient Greeks, through ancient Rome (Cicero being perhaps the most famous of the Roman practitioners) and into the twentieth century. One could argue that modern university courses in ‘communication studies’ are continuing the tradition.

 

Aristotle

Aristotle

Rhetoric – the fine art of constructing sound arguments – according to Aristotle, was largely  seen as a good subject to teach. However, even all those centuries ago, Plato could see that, in the wrong hands, it could be used to justify bad actions. He likened the specious rhetoric used by the Sophists to justify murdering Socrates, to cooking – which he saw as the means of masking unhealthy food by making it taste good.

 

Today, the word sounds old fashioned and pompous, and we often associate it with bombastic speakers and empty arguments (the image of a tub-thumping rabble-rouser springs to mind). But its first two meanings in my latest Collins dictionary are:

  • The study of the technique of using language effectively
  • The art of using speech to persuade, influence, or please …

Such aims are not a million miles away from what a writer tries to do, when sitting down to write a story that they want someone to read, be moved by, and sufficiently motivated to go out and buy their next book.

And in case you are still wondering what exactly a rhetorical question is, it is a question to which no answer is required. Who knew?

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please go to my Amazon author page: 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

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Want to win a book?

Announcement posterToday I am passing my blog to Solstice Publishing who are running a give-away competition to promote one of their latest anthologies  I don’t have a story in it myself as I have been busy on my own collection of Shakespeare themed stories, Cast Off, which Solstice will be publishing later in the summer. But I know many of the authors through the Solstice ‘family.’

ENTER TO WIN! That’s all you have to do. We at Solstice Publishing are celebrating Plots & Schemes Vol. 1 becoming a best seller in Germany during its release by giving away three autographed copies of the print edition of this fabulous anthology.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/237966-plots-schemes-vol-1

All you have to do is click on the Goodreads link between May 26 and June 9 and enter. It’s that simple. Once the contest ends, Goodreads will notify us of the winners names and you will receive your copy.

Her child vanishes in a puff of smoke …

When Murder is on the Itinerary …

An eavesdropped comment leads to an impossible scheme …

Mysterious events pull Dana into danger …

A rock star’s murder leaves Emlyn Goode questioning everything she knows about herself …

Murder most foul puts this cop to the test …

One murder, one plan, two possible outcomes …

Losing your mind is scary …

If you’re not at the beach, the Tough Luck stories will take you there …

Trail Town Texas leans heavily on their sheriff …

Murder, kidnapping, mysterious events, and more are our treat to you in this wonderfulFacebook and Twitter post 11 (1) anthology from Solstice Publishing. Discover the talents of K.C. Sprayberry, Debbie De Louise, Donna Alice Patton, E.B. Sullivan, Susan Lynn Solomon, Johnny Gunn, K.A. Meng, Leah Hamrick, Lois Crockett, and Stephy Smith.

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B072L7KZ6K

Here’s a little taste of what you’ll find inside this intriguing book!

A smile was on his face. Despite the fact that he was supposed to connect with the egg donor of this lovely child, he had no thoughts of doing that or returning the kid at the appointed time. His timing was perfect. The child—Lanie is such an idiotic name; I’ll have to come up with another one—would be five in a few days. In time, she would forget there had been his loser ex in her life. She—Sheila will regret divorcing me—had battered through his training, all he’d gone through to make her a compliant and complacent wife. She’d run away after he ordered her to get an abortion.

Good thing the bitch ignored me. I wouldn’t have this gorgeous child to raise to be like me.

Granted the child was weak now, but he would fix that, as soon as he made sure they vanished forever. No one would stop him from raising his daughter as he saw fit, and that meant keeping her away from her weakling of a mother.

Quietly, Mark Jannson, scion of the globally famous Jannson family, whose assets numbered in the billions, removed anything he considered important from his lavishly furnished thirty room mansion located in the mountains above Denver. His mother’s jewels were carefully packed into a leather satchel, to be given to his daughter, if she remained true to the Jannson name. The woman who called herself his mother had been consigned to a hovel in the southeast somewhere, once she showed her true colors by attempting to take him from his father.

“Let the bitch live in poverty the rest of her life,” he whispered.

https://youtu.be/3xUn1SZZrF8

Starting May 26, 2017, simply click on the link provided and enter. If you aren’t a member of Goodreads, you can join easily. This is a great place to discover books by new and exciting authors and be in on the fun of all sorts of entertainment!

solstice logo (1)

Whose language is it anyway?

Last week, BBC Radio 4 had a short feature on American words that have come into common usage on this side of the pond. Although it is not quite that simple! It would flagsseem that many of us Brits are using American words without being aware we are doing it. Or believing a term is American when in fact it has a long and noble record of usage in England.

Here are some of the points made in the programme (program?) along with a few of my own

  1. Words we know are American, but like anyway: Movie, cool, cookie. A lot of words came to England in the last century via films (movies), popular music and books: concrete overcoats, taken for a ride, bump off.  Somehow the American terms seemed more glamorous, especially to teenagers, who found them ‘cool.’

2. Words we know are American and tend to dislike, often because they are verbs that started out as nouns: to diarise, to reach out, to impact. Many of these terms were associated with business, so rather ‘uncool,’ as well as being less acceptable to an older, more conservative age-group.

3. Words that are in such common usage, we never think of as being American: hangover, commuter, double-decker. (So, if you commute into work on a double-decker bus suffering from a hangover – can you fool yourself that you are living the American dream?)

4. Words we are sure, wrongly, are American: gotten, trash, wow. In fact the first two appear in Shakespeare plays, and ‘wow’ is sixteenth century Scottish. The words probably travelled to America with the Pilgrim Fathers, got forgotten in the UK, and then travelled back to the old country in the twentieth century.

5. Words that appear both sides of the Atlantic, but mean something different: baby (UK – girlfriend/ darling), pants (UK – underpants), pavement (UK – where the pedestrians go, not the cars).

6. Words that mean the same, but are spelt differently: color, honor, program. It is commonly understood that Webster (of dictionary fame) pioneered this form of spelling as he wanted to standardise written American, and thought he’d simplify it whilst he was at it. True, but a lot of such words started out in English minus the ‘u’ etc. centuries ago, and just got embellished over time.

imagesThe Oxford English Dictionary lists 26.000 Americanisms in English. These, along with all the words we’ve adopted from the Greeks and Romans, India and beyond, just add to the richness of the language (and the confusion of foreigners and natives alike).

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read more of my work, go to one of my Amazon author pages. Watch out for my collection of short, Shakespeare themed, stories due out shortly.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

A Dark Truth

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

But today I’m not starting with a happy story. Last week the BBC showed ‘Three Girls’ over three nights. This was a gripping, harrowing, and horrifying dramatization of the sexual abuse, and other violence, a number of young girls experienced from a group of older men to in a northern town in England. Meanwhile the authorities, with some notable exceptions, stood by passively. Worse, when told about the abuse, they decided it was part of a lifestyle choice by the girls, even though all of them were under the age of consent. It seemed that nobody wanted to take any action against the men because they were Pakistani, and the authorities didn’t want to be accused of racism. Thanks to a determined youth worker, a doughty investigative journalist and the courage of the young victims themselves, cases were eventually brought to court and the abusers sent to prison. But there is a lot more of this out there, and more cases are slowly coming to court.

Why am I telling you this in a blog about YA books?                                                                     Girl Friends - coverBecause in my book, Girl Friends, the narrator, Courtney, is worried about her best friend‘s new boyfriend and the men he is introducing her to. She watches helplessly as her friend grows apart, drops out of school, starts drinking and taking drugs.  Only with the help of another girl, who’s ‘been there, done that,’ does she fully understand what is happening. Then it is a question of how to rescue her friend.  This being a novel, it all ends happily. If only real life could be like that!

Girl Friends deals with some tricky issues, not just sexual exploitation. It notes in passing that abusers can be white, and vicitms are sometimes black. But it is not a morality tale. It was written as an adventure story and is also funny, with a wry look at teenage angst and friendship, and Courtney’s chaotic family life.  It would be great, too, if it gives young teenagers (or their parents or teachers) some insight into how a they or a friend could be sucked into the appalling situation these ‘three girls’ found themselves in, and how to spot the warning signs before it is too late.

Excerpt:

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?”

Links:

Girl Friends  is available from Amazon:

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

It is published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

 

 

 

Thirteen Tales From Shakespeare.

Today, for my #SundayBlogShare, I am delighted to reveal the news that Solstice Publishing has accepted my collection of short stories based on plays by Shakespeare. Iwilliam_shakespeares_first_folio_1623 had intended to get the collection ready for publication in 2016, the 400th anniversary of his death. But ‘stuff happens’ and I hadn’t written enough till earlier this year. So I’m celebrating the 401st anniversary instead!

The collection is called Cast Off. Each story is between 1,000 and 5,000 words long. Each has, as the central figure, one of the bard’s female characters. The story is built around what they might have been doing, or thinking about, during the times they were not on stage – writing their diary, arguing about what lines they’ve been given, wondering whether to go back on stage for the final act …

Mostly they are light-hearted. Although they make use of the plots in the plays, they are meant to engage the general reader who does not go to the theatre often,  let alone to Shakespeare; people who enjoy the occasional trip out to see a play by Shakespeare; and even people who know his work well (so may recognise the odd quotation or reference). But they shouldn’t upset the scholars either – there is nothing too iconoclastic!

Some people may have already read one or more of the stories, as four have appeared in different anthologies, published by Solstice, in recent years: lets have fun 3-001

Chains of Magic – The Food of Love

Journey to the Fair Mountain – A Winter Holiday Anthology

The Ghost Queen – Realms of Fantastic Stories, Volume 1.

A Midsummer Day’s Dream – Let’s Have Fun, Volume Three

All these anthologies are available from the Solstice website: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

Or via my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

 

How are your apostrophes today?

How are your apostrophes? Does that question look odd to you? Do you feel you need an apostrophe before the ‘s’? The answer is no, but there does appear to be a growing amount of confusion about when and where an apostrophe should be used

For example, over the last few days I have been helping with the shortlisting of applicants for a senior post in a local company. We have had a large number of applications, and many have impressive work records. It has been hard work making the selection for interview.

What has been noticeable though, even within this group of highly intelligent, articulate, experienced and educated candidates (a degree is an essential requirement, a management qualification, desirable), is that quite a few do not know how to use an apostrophe correctly. Examples of misuse include apostrophes being inserted before the ‘s’ in plurals –  ‘I have been a senior manager for many year’s.’ Or dates – ‘during the 1980’s I…’  

As you know (of course), there are only two kinds of apostrophe:

The apostrophe that denotes possessionMargaret’s blog, the dog’s bone (or, if there are several of them, the dogs’ bones) …

And the apostrophe used to indicate that one or more letters have been omitted – It’s a bit chilly today, so I won’t be swimming. Instead of It is a bit chilly today, so I will not be swimming.

In Bristol, UK, one man has felt so impassioned about the misuse of the apostrophe by shop keepers and other local businesses that he has taken to creeping out in the dead of night to correct their mistakes. At risk to life and limb (Bristol is not the safest city in the world after dark) he climbs a step-ladder to paint over offending apostrophes (or insert them where needed). He’s even made his own gadget for reaching the hard to get to signs.

Earlier this year this self-styled grammar vigilante featured in the local and national news. His interview with BBC Radio Bristol is on Facebook, so you can see more about the ‘apostrophiser’ on this link:

https://www.facebook.com/bbcradiobristol/videos/1359545534102549/

Some of the abuses of the apostrophe simply add to the gaiety of life, and allow clever folk to have fun at the expense of our less literate compatriots.  The fruit stall selling  ‘Potatoe’s and tomatoe’s, for example, or the business advertising itself as a Gentlemans Outfitter.

It is true, too, that we can be overly pedantic. Grammar, after all, is there to assist with clarity, and language is an evolving entity with spelling and grammar changing over time. If it didn’t, we’d all be writing like Chaucer, or still communicating via ‘uggs’ and shrugs, like cavemen.

But for now, the apostrophe is still in the game. So, like the tennis backhand or the football cycle kick (I think  that’s the right term), it should be played selectively and appropriately.

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read one of my stories or novels, you can find more about them on my blog page for published work, or go to:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

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

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Journey to the Fair Mountain. This is a short e-book available from Amazon and Solstice Publishing. It is based on Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Why did Gertrude marry Hamlet’s father? And why did she marry his brother so quickly after his death? No one really knows, but ….

Excerpt:

“Come brother; do not keep our cousin standing there in the cold.” I looked up and saw for the first time another man, a lighted candle in his hand, framed in the glow of a great fire at the end of the hall. A big man, regal in his bearing. Older than his brother, who was still stroking my hand, yet not old like my father or the old retainer. His short hair was sable silvered, but his beard was still black and neatly trimmed. His eyes were steel grey and piercing and his mouth firm, though he smiled kindly enough as I approached. His height was remarkable—he was taller than any man I knew—and his shoulders were broad. He seemed to me like a Hercules among men. I could tell at once that this was someone who was used giving orders, and to them being obeyed. This time, there was no mistaking who this man was: the king, my future husband.

Blurb:

A young girl’s life is changed forever when her only brother is killed in a hunting accident. Only an arranged marriage to a distant cousin will save the family home for her mother and sisters when her father dies. Love doesn’t come into it.

Links:Journey to the Fair Mountain

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B019CULSW2

 myBook.to/JourneyToTheFairMountain

 Journey to the Fair Mountain also features in the Winter Holiday Anthology, published by Solstice (www.solsticepublishing. com): http://bookgoodies.com/a/B017T6UJ8K