Monthly Archives: November 2017

Christmas Phobias

Soon we will be celebrating Christmas. Our mundane routines taken over by the christmas crackerexcitement of visits to and from our loved ones, preparing and consuming food, drinking, parties …

Bring it on! But not quite yet – I like Christmas as much as the next person, but prefer to restrict it to the fortnight encompassing the 25th and New Year’s Eve. So, as it is not yet December, I feel entitled to spend a bit of time on the perils – for some – of the Christmas holidays.

Pity the poor person who is expected to join in a round of parties but has cherophobia (fear of gaiety), or chorophobia (dancing). Maybe their fears are more entrenched and they have koinoniphobia (fear of a room full of people), and the ensuing noise (noctiphobia), or smells (bromidrosiphobia – fear of body odour). Christmas

As for all meals, what fun do you get out of Christmas dinner if you suffer from deinophobia (fear of dining and over-dinner conversation)? Or potophobia? (fear of alcohol – also known, more obviously, as alcoholophobia).

Then there is the whole palavar of traveling around during the festive season, especially of you suffer from amaxophobia (fear of riding in a motorcar), or nostophobia (fear of returning home). What if other relatives will be there and you are afflicted by pentheraphobia (fear of your mother-in-law)? Christmas travel in the northern hemisphere may be tricky too if you suffer from chionophobia (fear of snow).

No doubt there are a lot of anxieties around giving and receiving gifts, not least for someone related to a writer (who has a new novel to shift), and suffers from bibliophobia (fear of books).

I must apologise to those of you who have read this far with growing annoyance. Maybe you suffer from phobologophobia – a fear of, or aversion to, phobia words!

However, if you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read more of my work, please go to my Amazon author page where you can find several novels and short stories, including one in the anthology – Festive Treats – that is free to download.

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

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

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Text Speak and ‘Proper’ Writing

There are stories about people attempting to write novels using Twitter (so much easier now that you have 280 characters to play with!). The process may certainly help concentrate the mind, and cut out padding, though this maybe counteracted by a lavish application of txt spk and emoticons, so you can pack more in each episode / tweet. Why write a tweet about someone feeling sad, if you can simply slip in a down-at-mouth emoji? The same goes for text messages.

text1For some people, text messaging abbreviations we are all familiar with (even if some of us are not too sure what they mean) illustrate an accelerating decline in standards of written English – there have been newspaper articles about candidates answering essay questions in public examinations using text speak, ffs!

But, according to researchers at Binghampton University, New York, use of emoticons, irregular spellings and abbreviations, and imaginative use of exclamation marks andtext 2 other forms of punctuation are def not sloppy, but an attempt to convey additional meaning. Whilst perhaps not a gr8 thing to do in every written document, their use can indicate that the writer is thinking about what they are trying to communicate and, if it comes across as a bit harsh, trying to soften the impact. (smiley face).

A texter is aware that the receiver of their message is not in front of them, so cannot make use of non-linguistic clues – the smile, to soften a blunt comment, the pitch of the voice to convey a certain amount of doubt rather than intransigence, or the breathlessness to illustrate that you really are sooo sorry to be keeping you waiting, but are coming as fast as you can …

The researchers also suggest that the omission of a full stop in a text message can indicate sincerity. They found that people who received a one word response to a text, which included a full stop, felt the response was less enthusiastic or genuine than if it came without one. For example, someone who replied ‘yeah’ to an invitation to meet up that evening, was more likely to keep the appointment than one who responded ‘yeah.’ The researchers were so taken by this that the title of their study is called Punctuation in text messaging may convey abruptness. Period. (Published in Computers in Human Behaviour, 2017)

Are there any lessons in this for writers of novels, short stories and plays? Not least, perhaps, it illustrates the importance of thinking about how words are received by a reader or, in dialogue, by other characters in the story. As we wax lyrical, with words tumbling onto the page, maybe we should pause every so often to think, hmm – how will this be interpreted? Who is receiving this? Just a thought. LOL

If you have enjoyed this post, and would like to read more of my work, please go to my Amazon book page.

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

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

Or go to my publisher’s website:

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

Ever fancied a spot of polysemy?

Despite it sounding a bit like polygamy, there is nothing naughty or illegal about it. Polysemy is derived from the Greek polusemos – having many meanings. Its opposite is monosemy – having one meaning / unambiguous. Writers practice polysemy pen to paperevery time they put pen to paper, without thinking about it. (See? How many meanings are there to the word pen? Or practice?)

The English language is awash with words that mean more than one thing. It’s one of its glories and, when trying to select words that will avoid all ambiguity, or expressly pinning them down to one meaning, the language can end up turgid and dull. Few people read a law report for fun.

If so inclined, you can have fun with polysemy at your reader’s expense: For example, if I offer you a ‘fulsome apology for any offence given.’ Am I truly sorry and offering a sincere apology? Am I being a little bit over the top because I can’t really see what you’ve got to be offended about? Or am I being offensively insincere? The word fulsome embraces all those meanings.

Ambiguity is usually easily avoided by the context in which a word is used.

Putting pen to paper. / Putting sheep in a pen.

The two of them were rowing [across the lake] [about the cost of hiring a boat]

And, despite the number of words with more than one meaning, we rarely are confused. What is ambiguous, for example, about wanting to get all your ducks in a row? (Oh, my fulsome apologies if that leaves you a bit puzzled).

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read more of my work, please go to Cast Offone of my Amazon author pages. Where you can find stories, anthologies, or novels from £/$0.00 to £/$15.00

Stories from my collection, Cast Off, are being read at the Criterion Theatre, Coventry on Thursday 23rd November at 7.30pm. The event is FREE.

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

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

 

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

 

 

Why go to a writers’ group?

Aspiring writers are always encouraged to attend a writers’ group. It certainly helped me make the shift from writing factual reports and practice manuals for work, to fiction. I still go to my local group for the camaraderie, and the tips. Sometimes I even have one to offer myself.

The Coventry Writers’ Group includes a writer who has many successful publications under her belt. Others have won prizes for their work, or contribute regularly to magazines, or are gaining a reputation as performance poets. Some are just starting out and looking for advice. One member recently self-published a novel and was willing to use his experience to help the group publish something together. We were keen to take up his offer and decided to compile an anthology. Once this was agreed, the idea was to get it out before Christmas.

We had published a couple of anthologies some years ago, but that was when we had a member who ran a small publishing house, guided us through the whole process, and sorted the printing and publishing. This time it was totally in-house – though it would have been impossible without the hard work of our volunteer publisher to co-ordinate it all.  Also his patience, as some people were late getting their work to him, asked for changes to the font, disagreed over the cover … you can imagine the scene!

Apart from a vague rule about the length of a poem or story, the only other stricture was that the entry should, if not make readers laugh out loud, at least make them smile. As for what the authors would get out of the anthology – if you have never been published before it is a thrill to see your work in print. Or if, like me, you already have a modest portfolio, it is recommended marketing practice to be able to offer something shorter (and cheaper) than your novels so potential readers can check you out before making a more expensive commitment.

So here we are. Within the time scale we had set ourselves, the group has produced its anthcov2new anthology, Stories to Make You Smile. The content reflects the make-up of the group, with contributions from the full-time writers, the never before been published members, and the majority of us who are somewhere in between.

The anthology is an eclectic mix. Not every story or poem will appeal to everyone, but it is bound to contain something to make you smile. It is now on Amazon both as a print book (£4.00) and e-book (£0.99). Just in time for a real or virtual Christmas stocking. A good enough reason – for me anyway – to be part of a writers’ group!

Links: 

Stories to Make You Smile: myBook.to/StoriesSmile

http://amzn.eu/5i4b5mh

A superfluous word can be useful.

Did you notice that I started my last blog with the word ‘so’? Did it annoy you? Apparently the BBC has been deluged with complaints about interviewees starting every response with the word. And on Tuesday, there was an article in the Times, as well as an editorial, in response to this. Though, in fairness, the paper didn’t seem to take the issue too seriously.

In all probability hapless interviewees are just playing for time, gathering their thoughts, or feeling nervous. They’ve been told not to say ‘um,’ ‘well,’ and ‘er’ and, in avoiding these words (and knowing ‘like’ is the domain of the young), they’ve hit on ‘so.’

‘So’ is a relatively new kid on the block, perhaps first used by programmers in Silicon Valley in the 1990s. But there are others to choose from – ‘look,’ ‘sure,’ ‘no problem,’ ‘yeah’ that have a modern feel if you want to ring the changes.

Use of such, seemingly uneccessary, words is not a new phenomenon – my father used to call one of his colleagues ‘Ahbut Umwell’ (only behind his back, of course) because he would invariably start his entry into a discussion with one or other phrase.

What should a writer do about this problem, if it actually is a problem? First, recognise it is not a big deal. It may not be good grammar in a written disposition. But it is an authentic part of everyday speech, and has its place in written dialogue – a verbal tic that helps fix a character’s personality.

As for my use of ‘so,’ in my last blog – was I just being a bit sloppy? No doubt socio-linguists would excuse me on the grounds that apparently superfluous words can convey subtle meanings. The use of ‘so,’ for example, may denote the speaker’s confidence. That must be it – I was reporting back on a radio session that had turned out better than I’d feared. My opening word was there to subtly convey this to you.

So there you go!

If you have enjoyed reading this, and would like to find more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon author pages. There is always at least one free story you can download.

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

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

That Dreaded Radio Interview – follow up!

radio_studio_3.fw

And so, on Sunday afternoon I found myself standing  nervously in the cold in Stratford-upon-Avon, waiting to be let into the radio studio. It helped that the presenter was also waiting to be let in, and could assure me that I was expected. Yes, I had the right time and the right place. He was also confident that somebody, soon, would hear the bell and come to the door.

My own confidence increased as it was obvious the presenter, (Nick Le Mesurier – see his comment and links at the foot of my last post), was fully prepared for the programme, was very re-assuring, and had a range of plan Bs in case anything went wrong. This included a plan to cover the fact that a co-interviewee,  Andrea Mbarushimana, was lost somewhere in Stratford and might not arrive before it was our turn to go into the studio. Fortunately she arrived in the nick of time.

Both of us stayed in the studio for the duration of the programme, Stratford Words, which had the theme of hidden voices. After general introductions, a poem to mark armistice day and a quiz, it was straight over to me to chat briefly about my collection of short stories, Cast Off. Each story is the ‘hidden voice’ of a female character in a Shakespeare play, so the book fitted well with the theme.  I talked a bit about how I came to write the collection, then read an extract from one of the stories. Nick prompted me to tell listeners how they could get hold of my book, and I was able to advertise my launch event at the Criterion Theatre, Coventry, on 23rd November, where local actors will be reading from selected stories. In short, I covered all the points I wanted to, without too many ‘ers,’ ‘umms,’ or embarrassed pauses. Result!

The next part of the programme, a pre-recorded interview and short story from an Armenian lady now living in Warwickshire, went smoothly. Then Andrea was introduced, talked a  little about her life, and read a story inspired by her time as a VSO in Rwanda.

A monologue then, with an elderly ex-prisoner’s perspective, from Nick, who is an established local writer as well as radio presenter. This was followed by the answers to the quiz and, finally, a short poem from Andrea.

The hour flew by. It was great to be involved. But a great privilege too, to witness how the whole show came together and, with impeccable timing, finished bang on 5pm. I hope the listeners enjoyed it as much as I did.

Link to my story, Cast Off:

Cast Off

 

 

myBook.to/CastOff

 

 

 

 

Link to Stratford Words: www.welcomberadio.co.uk/stratford-words

 

That dreaded radio interview!

The other day, out of the blue, I received an email asking if I wanted to take part in a radio programme to talk about my recent book and, maybe, read an excerpt from it.

radio_studio_3.fwGulp! I have tended to avoid such invitations. I may have the face for radio, but not necessarily the voice.

However I realise that it is a valuable addition to the opportunities writers have to promote their work, and maybe I should take the plunge. So, after a mild panic attack, I emailed back to say ‘yes.’ Then settled down for a more serious panic session.

More constructively, I started to think about what to do in preparation.

Here’s what I’ve thought about so far. I would welcome other suggestions – bearing in mind I’m slotted in for an interview this Sunday.

  1. Clarify what is expected. E.g. Who else will be there? How long will the interview last? What will the format be – question and answer? readings?
  2. Which book / books will the interview cover?
  3. Does the interviewer want to know more about my work in advance? And more about me?
  4. Where is the studio? Is there parking? How soon before I am on air will I need to arrive?

So far I know what time I will be on air, what book we will talk about mostly, and which Cast Offexcerpt the interviewer would like me to read. The interviewer is particularly interested in Cast Off, my collection of Shakespeare themed stories. This isn’t surprising as he has a new programme on Stratford’s community radio. He will also give me a chance to promote my book event (with readings done by professionally trained readers) which will take place at a community theatre in Coventry later in the month.

And now I must go and practice reading my excerpt aloud. (But why is it my tongue suddenly feels too big for my mouth, making the words hard to come out?)

Links:

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff