Monthly Archives: October 2017

It’s only a novel!

On my last blog I quoted from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey on the (over) use of theghost word ‘nice.’ Having re-read that section in order to write the blog, I decided to re-read the whole book. It is a spoof on the ‘Gothic’ novels that were fashionable at the time (often written by ‘lady novelists’) and there’s plenty of gentle humour in it. So, being easily scared, it’s my ideal reading material for Halloween.

Jane Austen, may not have been keen on what she saw as the overblown writing of some of her contemporaries, but she was proud to be a writer of novels herself and, in Northanger Abbey, she offers up a robust defence of novels and novelists, that is still relevant today, (How many people do you know who proudly tell you that they “never read novels”?)

Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions haveNorthanger abbey afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost so many as our readers. …

“And what are you reading Miss – ?” “Oh, it is only a novel,” replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. …

Or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.

Some of us are more successful than others at getting all this across, but, her words paint an inspirational picture of what we’d like to achieve!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon author pages, where you will find stories from £/$0.00 to £/$15.00

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A very nice blog today?

 

Writers sometimes strain to use different words when plain and simple is just fine. A common error is to seek desperately for different ways of indicating speech:

I shouted / he screamed / she bellowed / they wailed / we whispered …

None of these is wrong, but too many (especially the more elaborate), can distract from the dialogue. Indeed, there is nothing wrong, and plenty right about the humble – ‘she said’. The reader can concentrate on the dialogue, but is clear about which character is speaking. Alternatively, the speech can stand alone, and the follow-up phrase can indicate who is speaking, and the tone in which it was spoken.

‘“I see you have thrown out my mother’s photo.” Only the slight reddening of her neck indicated her anger.’

Instead of struggling to find alternatives to ‘said’, maybe we should expend our energy on words that can regularly slip into our work without us noticing.

Like ‘nice.’ Jane Austen

Jane Austen had plenty to say on the over-use of this word. When Catherine, in Northanger Abbey, is talking to Henry Tilney:

“… but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?”

“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk and you two are very nice ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy or refinement: people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now, every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.”

 

Another word that crops up a bit too often, even with the likes of Henry Tilney (though I suspect in the above speech he was just being sarcastic) is ‘very’. Again, the constant repetition of the word shows a lack of imagination and can get boring. There are plenty of alternatives to using ‘very’ before a word. Here are a few examples:

  • Very rich – wealthy / loaded
  • Very poor – destitute / impoverished
  • Very loud – noisy / deafening
  • Very quiet – hushed
  • Very often – frequently
  • Very rarely – seldom
  • Very short – brief
  • Very long – lengthy

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Let’s talk peace!

Leafing through my Latin dictionary (as one does) I came across the word pax. I think we all know that the word has something to do with peace, as opposed to war. These days the word is largely used in reference to children’s games: ‘Pax’ as in wanting to call an end to a game, or declare immunity from any consequences of a game. The word is often called out while crossing fingers, and /or holding up one’s hands. Even in this context, the word has an old fashioned feel to it, and doesn’t appear much in the dialogue of modern books for children.

Pax is still to be found as part of a Latin tag in more literary or historical books. For roman soldierexample:

  • Pax Romana – the long peace of the Roman Empire brought about by the impressive strength of the Roman military.
  • Pax Britannica – a similar state of peace imposed by the British on members of its colonial empire (when there was one!).
  • Pax in Bello – peace in war, whereby fighting continues, but at a reduced rate.

Pax, from these examples, would seem to be used in association with more bellicose activity. Not so the ‘pax vobiscum’ (Peace be with you) that Christ is reported to have said to the apostles on the first Easter morning.

 

45paxPAX was the name given by the Romans to their goddess of peace. The Greeks called their goddess of peace Irene, from the Greek eirenikos (peace). The word eirenic / irenic, meaning tending towards conciliation, or promoting peace, is clearly linked to the name Irene. Not so the word ire, and all its angry associations!

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Anthology or collection?

Tom Hanks, the movie star sometimes dubbed the ‘all round nicest guy in Hollywood,’ has just published a collection of short stories, called Uncommon Type – some stories. And – really quite annoyingly for those who like popular figures to have feet of clay – it’s been well received by the critics. Not content with being a household name as an actor, the man is now going to be hailed as a writer of considerable talent too.

Short stories have increased in popularity recently and his new publication won’t have set back this resurgence. But why is Mr Hanks book of short stories called a collection and not an anthology?

My Collins dictionary describes an anthology as ‘any printed collection of literary pieces, songs, works of art etc.’ This sounds pretty much like calling an anthology an, er, collection by another name. However the crucial difference, as the dictionary also states, is that in an anthology the stories and poems are written by various authors and a collection only solstice logo (1)includes the work of one author. This is the distinction used by my publisher. Hence, a number of my Shakespeare character stories have appeared in anthologies, alongside the work of other authors, that Solstice Publishing have produced in the last couple of years. But this year, when they published these stories in the same volume as several more that I alone had written, the ensuing publication was called a collection – CAST OFF.

Links:Cast Off

 

 

 

Meet author Josie Montano

Josie Montano is an award-winning author, and has just released her sixtieth book in over Josie 120 years within the publishing industry. She has been internationally published, translated into Italian, and writes under two pseudonyms – fiction under the name of Montano, and resources on Autism under the name Santomauro.

Josie also dabbles in freelance having had a variety of differing articles and regular columns published. Her play ‘The Great Escape, Italian Style’ trod the boards at the Gympie Rush Festival. She has contributed to technical handbooks, narrative scripts as well as co-edited an international journal. She has been short-listed for a variety of literary awards and acquired many achievements over the years. These include a residency with the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust, and she has been a presenter with ‘Out of the Box’.

She grew up in rural Australia within a strong Italian community. From the age of nine, she self-published her own books for borrowing at the school library, and received her first rejection letter from Golden Books when she was thirteen.

 What is the title of your latest book?

STUFF THEY DON’T TEACH YOU AT SCHOOL. Everything from acne, after-parties andJosie 2 alcohol to wannabes, waxing and zits – this is a thorough A to Z dictionary handbook for teens full of the stuff that really counts but doesn’t get a mention at school.

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

Challenging: making deadlines! Putting your work out there for people to judge, criticise or/and love.

Rewarding:  seeing your labour of love in book form, holding that first copy in print, having readers love your work – it’s all worth it!

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Keep writing, EVERY DAY! Rub shoulders, network, attend conferences, workshops, writing courses etc, to hone your craft. Don’t assume you ‘know it all.’ Even after 60 published works I am always refining and learning.

 What are you working on at the moment?

Josie cartoonI always have a few pots, or should I say stories, on the boil. I have been contracted for three upcoming picture books and, a total contrast, I am also on a deadline for a contracted, non-fiction, resource on Autism and relationships.

 What do you like to read?

I can vary from a soppy trashy romance, a children’s book, a classic, to a soap magazine. I recently created a ‘Classics’ bookclub so we can read the classics eg: Brontes, Jane Austin, Ernest Hemingway etc.

 Where can readers find you?

http://www.booksbyjosie.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/Josie-Montano-Author-88023619410/

 

 

 

Could you punch a puppy?

We’ll get onto puppies in a minute. First I want to talk about clichés and jargon. A cliché, in case you need reminding, is any word or expression that has lost much of its force cauchythrough overuse. The word comes from the French – clicher – to stereotype. Jargon is specialised language for self selecting groups etc, often characterised by pretentious syntax or vocabulary. (Possibly from the Latin or old French for ‘confused talk’.)

The language of business is full of clichés and jargon. Some phrases, that might have sounded quite fresh and clever at the first conference where they were used – going for the low hanging fruit was an original concept once – soon become another piece of overused jargon. When working in one office some years ago, my colleagues and I frequently used to try to get as many into a meeting as possible. Rather sad, maybe – but it was our idea of fun on a slow afternoon. I remember being particularly fond of ‘putting an idea in the lift and seeing what floor it came out on.’ (No I’m not quite sure what it means, either). A colleague enjoyed ‘running that one up the flagpole.’

A few months ago the jobs website, Glassdoor, polled 2,000 workers for their most hated phrases. The day after the results were issued, The Times wrote a leader using some of their choicer pet hates. Apologies if it sets your teeth on edge, but I thought the article was so funny (especially the bit about the kimono – a new one for me) that I’m going to re-produce a couple of paragraphs. My justification for putting such an excerpt on this blog is as a reminder that writers need, first, to recognise jargon and clichés when they see them. And then avoid them like the plague  (Oops!)

… Time is short so we won’t try boiling the ocean. Rows and rows of ducks need to be lined up so that, going forward we can, er, go forward. There is a whole strategic staircase to be mounted here. So never mind mere blue sky thinking, this is an invitation to be part of a thought shower, where we can all throw some ideas at the wall and see if anything sticks. Once that is done we can take a helicopter view of the situation, and cascade what we observe. …                                                                                                                                              … What mental toolbox do we need to become true language champions? Radical change

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(despite my grim look, no dogs were harmed during the preparation of this blog.)

means having the courage to open the kimono (sorry about that), revealing and then peeling the onion till we uncover core values. At that point we must drill down until we reach granularity. Of course this may mean dealing with some sacred cows. But all change is loss, and even if the optics are bad, you sometimes have to be prepared to punch the puppy. … (Not literally, I am assured; punching a puppy means doing something unsavoury for the good of the company.)

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please take a look at my Amazon author page. There is usually at least one free story on offer, so you can try before you buy. 

 

 

 

Meet author Adam Zorzi

Adam was born in Venice, but educated in New York City and continues to live there. His passion is travel and he counts himself lucky to have a job that gives him that opportunity. He writes non-fiction for work – proposals, reports, and studies.  He started writing fiction about 5 years ago to entertain himself, took a creative writing class, and joined a writers’ group when he felt he had something to share. That made writing fiction even more fun and challenging for him. He takes every advantage of living in NYC with its concerts, art, and films. People-watching, he says, is a great source of inspiration.

What is the title of your latest book? adam 2

Auld Acquaintances (234 pages, Solstice Publishing, $16.99) is my first holiday paranormal romance. Set in Williamsburg, Virginia, a Colonial ghost who discovered her husband’s betrayal at a New Year’s Eve party, and promptly hurled herself out of her bedroom window, tries to stop the wedding of a contemporary couple who plan to wed on New Year’s Eve. She has reason to believe the groom is a cad. The couple, who are both university professors, refuse to believe a ghost could be the one who is interfering with their plans by stealing jewelry, destroying bridal party gowns, and poisoning a wedding guest. They believe someone in their circle of friends and family and colleagues is playing a cruel practical joke. They don’t really doubt each other, but someone is standing between them and marriage. Because it’s romance, there’s a happy ever after ending.

Your readers might find some of the holiday customs sound familiar. Williamsburg was established as part of England’s Virginia Colony in 1623 and is home to the College of William & Mary—the second oldest college in the United States—named for King William III and Queen Mary II. The historic colonial district of Williamsburg has been preserved as it was during its pre-Revolutionary War period and attracts a large number of visitors adam 4during the holiday season for colonial music, decorations, and activities.

I also have a short story Low Country Boil in the latest volume (No. 6) of the Solstice Publishing horror anthology Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. It’s not gory horror. It’s more what if? What if persons entrusted to protect the county don’t, and what are the consequences? The story follows a law enforcement transplant from Maine to a county in the southern United States and how adjusting to her new environment isn’t great for maintaining law and order.

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

 I’ll start with the most rewarding. Freedom of expression. No matter what is going on in the world or household, I create a world, populate it with characters I find interesting, and tell a story that intrigues me and sometimes quietly draws attention to issues important to me. I enjoy researching backgrounds for settings and characters and discover all kinds of new and often irrelevant information. It’s an education. Most importantly to me, it’s fun. I truly enjoy it.

As for challenges, I sometimes write myself into a corner. I don’t plot meticulously beforehand so I have to reroute the story. There are also times when I know exactly what I want to happen and it simply doesn’t read properly on the page. I keep writing that scene until it flows and move on.

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

 Write. Write anything. Get used to expressing yourself on the page. Try different word counts— 5,000 words tells a different story than 1,000. Write the same story from different points of view (POV). Try a new genre. Don’t wait for an assignment. Write letters to the editor of a publication about a story or a letter to fictional characters.

You can’t talk/sell yourself into being an author. You have to have something on pages for an editor, agent, publisher, reading group to read.

What are you working on at the moment?adam 3

A paranormal beach read. I never expected to be a paranormal writer, but my characters usually have an eternal love. If one of them dies, it’s reasonable to me that they would try to reunite.

I’m also working on a four-part family saga that isn’t paranormal. It’s set in places I enjoy visiting and want to create characters who live there. One family member works in the Orkney Islands and another in Mallorca.

What do you like to read?

Autobiographies. I like hearing how a person tells their life story. I’m not interested in any particular industry. I’ve read books by sailors, actors, singers, business leaders, scientists, and political leaders. I rarely read biographies because someone else tells the story often from a scholarly or salacious POV.

I also read mystery and suspense. Right now, I’m enjoying Nordic crime series. One, by Kati Hekkapelto, is set in Finland and another, by Ragnar Jonasson is set in Iceland.

 Where can readers find you?

solstice logo (1)