Monthly Archives: September 2018

Scrabbling for a new word?

The English language is constantly changing. If it didn’t, we’d still talk (and spell) like people in the time of Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Beowulf. Which wouldn’t really be a beowulfproblem – the problem we have now is because, as the language has evolved, we have lost the ability to understand how it was written and spoken in centuries gone by. We don’t get the puns in Shakespeare (were they funny even then?) We realise words must have been pronounced differently in Chaucer’s time to make any rhythmic sense. And the different spelling / pronunciation / syntax in Beowulf makes that poem almost completely incomprehensible for modern readers and listeners. Though the word Hwaet is still about the most effective way to open a poem, ever. It certainly makes you sit up and listen – much more than its feeble translation – so.

New words enter the lexicon every year and, if they catch on, they find their way into dictionaries. Purists sometimes tut-tut, others just accept it; after all there is no rule forcing you to say ‘misspoke’ if you don’t want to – you can still use the good old-fashioned ‘lie.’

American English and British English have diverged over the years – not for nothing are we described as two nations divided by a common language (a ‘fanny bag’ sounds a bit saucy to an English woman – we prefer to strap on a ‘bum bag.’)

scrabbleThe gap has just got wider, causing consternation in Scrabble playing households. English players rely on the Collins Official Scrabble Wordlist, Americans rely on Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. The latter has just published its sixth edition with around 300 new words with which to out-play your opponent. On this side of the pond we have to wait till May 2019 for Collins to update their last edition.

American players can now put emoji and frowny on the board, alongside zomboid (like a zombie), twerk (dance whilst wiggling your bum, sorry – fanny), beatdown (massive defeat), sheeple (people who are docile / sheep like), bizjet (business jet). Handy two letter words that are now accepted, include ew (expression of disgust) and OK (I hadn’t realised this was not acceptable in the UK – but I’ve just checked in my Collins dictionary, where it is written as O.K.  – so therefore not okay).

Not that the Brits should despair. Although Scrabble was invented by a New Yorker, American players who want to compete internationally have to learn to use a larger board and use words only contained in the Collins dictionary. Which may come as a surprise to some – or as the latest Official Scrabble Players Dictionary would have it: Yowza!

Links to my books

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A Busy Day (not) Writing.

Up at 6am and off to the pool for a swim. After all a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, saves time showering at home and all those laps provide thinking time for plots and character development.

Home to cook and eat breakfast (can’t be creative on an empty stomach)

9am. Check emails, Twitter and Facebook. Need to keep in touch with putative readers and do a bit of marketing. So what if I get side-tracked by videos of cute kittens andP1000226 playful puppies – they could make it into a story one day.

10.30. Time to take the dog for a walk, fetch the paper, pick up a bit of shopping. Put a wash on when I get home – more thinking time.

11.30. Coffee break and read the paper. Not just to keep abreast of the news, but authorial research, you understand. There may be something about authors; or book, film, and play reviews. Even stuff about language and grammar which could come in useful for my blog.

12.00. My goodness, the room looks dusty, better give it a quick tidy. Put the wash out on the line, pull up a few weeds and some essential dead-heading whilst I’m out there. Clearing the decks so I can get down to work. Except I’m a bit hungry …

1pm. Time to prepare and eat lunch – food for the mind.

2pm. Another stint at Twitter and Facebook. And now it really is time to get down to work. Must just clean the keyboard and screen first. Spend time looking at the now Cauchy - pensivespotless screen and chewing my thumb.

4pm. Dog is fussing round wanting another walk – might as well give in as I’ll get no peace otherwise.

5pm. A little light Pilates. All that sitting staring at a screen is bad for the back – pre-emptive action needed!

5.30. Gosh, is that the time? I really MUST write something. 700 words simply fly along. Result!

Reward myself with a choc-ice. Still hungry, so …

7pm. Cook and eat supper.

8pm Attend friend’s launch – her 30th book. Buy a copy. She tells me she’s half way through the sequel. She promises to buy a copy of mine when I get round to finishing it. How rude!

10pm. Back home. Check what I’ve written during the day. Delete half of it. Check emails, Twitter and Facebook. Friend has already tweeted and added photos to Facebook about her launch.

11pm. Into bed to read the start of friend’s book. It’s really rather good – where does she find the time to write so much?

I do get some things finished! Links to my books

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

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

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FREE E-Books all this week.

On my last blog I posted the blurb and excerpts from my two YA novels that are currently free to download from Amazon books. And many thanks to those of you who downloaded a copy – you’ve put me back into the best seller rankings again!

Today I am posting the blurb and an excerpt from my collection of short stories, CAST OFF, which is also free to download until the 22nd September.

Blurb: Have you ever thought what a Shakespeare character might be thinking or doing when she’s not on stage? Does she like the role that’s been created for her? Would she prefer a different plot? Or love interest? How does she really feel about all that cross dressing? In this light-hearted collection of short stories, the author suggests a few answers to these and other questions.

Excerpt from – Is Not this Well? (based on The Taming of the Shrew):

Cast OffI felt I had to put a stop to it. Making people laugh is all very well; but not at my expense it isn’t. Besides, his proposed plot was bound to spoil his reputation one day, when people became more sensitive about such matters. I felt he should be more careful, even though, seeing as this was early days in his career, he didn’t have much of a reputation to spoil. However, it was my character he was slagging off, and I had a right to look out for my own reputation, never mind his.

His study door was open and I marched straight in without knocking, which I knew he hated, and put both hands on the back of his chair.

“Why do you want to write a play that will make you look like a mis… a mis…” I started.

“Misogynist?” he filled in, slapping down his quill impatiently.

He was always like that. Good with words, even ones that were not yet in common use. And if he couldn’t find the right word—well, he just made one up!

I nodded. Misogynist sounded like just the word I was looking for. Having given me the word, he shrugged dismissively and, picking up his quill again, turned back to his writing. I poked him sharply. So what if he hated being interrupted when he was working, he still hadn’t answered my question.

“Why do you want to look like a misogynist, and why do you have to portray me as such a cow in the process? You know me well enough by now; I don’t mind playing a feisty character if that’s what you want – give as good as I get and all that jazz. But you’re making me out to be a monster.”

He shook his head crossly, and a small spray of dead skin floated from his scalp. He really ought to do something about that bald patch, I thought, as I brushed the dandruff from the front of my dress with theatrical sweeps. Also I noted, but only to myself, by letting his hair grow all long and wispy around the sides he was only drawing attention to it.

“You’ve got to be larger than life and frighten all the men away, or the rest of the play won’t work,” he said, without stopping writing.

“I’m okay with that,” I conceded grudgingly, but I wasn’t letting him off the hook yet. “But why do I have to be such a shrew as well?”

He paused again and turned towards me. This time his face lit up. He really is quite good-looking when he smiles, even with a flaky pate.

“Thanks Kate,” he said, and I’d have sworn he was about to reach round and pat my bum till he remembered what happened last time. “You’ve given me a great idea for the title.”

He turned his back again, shuffled through his papers till he came to the first page, and re-inked his quill. He scratched out the title at the top and wrote instead in big bold letters. The Taming of the Shrew. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thumped him before, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

 

Links to free downloads (to 22nd September).

TIP: Try right clicking on the links  if left clicking doesn’t work.

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne  http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

  myBook.to/GirlFriends http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

Links to all my books

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

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

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https://twitter.com/meegrot

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OFFER – Free e-books.

On Monday I am reading an extract from one of my short stories at a literary event in Warwick (Merchants, Swan Street, 7.30pm, price £3.00). The theme is ‘Once upon a word – stories and poems based on fairy tales and traditional stories’. My contribution is a modern twist on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. This story was published in the Solstice anthology, First Love, which is still available on Amazon. But Sleeping Beauty is no longer available as a stand-alone download.

However, to tie in with the Warwick event, three of my full length works will be FREE to download from 18th – 22nd September. You are welcome to download any or all of them. If you read them too, so much the better; and if you have time to leave a review (a few words will be fine, preferably positive, but honesty is important) you will be my best friend forever.

Here, as a teaser, are the blurb and closing sentences for the two novels. They are aimed at the YA market, but I know several adults who have read them and – to my face at least – said they enjoyed them.

And Alex Still Has Acne

And Alex -coverLife 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 Alex, making him promise not to tell anyone. The Nicky goes missing, and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?

They stopped for a moment to look up as the sun finally sank beneath the horizon leaving, briefly, a pink and gold tinge to the landscape. Now they would have to walk most of the way in the dark; but tomorrow was going to be OK.

Girl Friends

Girl Friends - coverNothing is working out for Courtney, and even Grace, her beautiful best friend, has no time for her now she has a boyfriend who has promised to get her a modelling contract. Courtney senses something is wrong – what is Grace getting herself into? Can Courtney and her new found friends rescue Grace before it is too late?

And Laurence? You may be asking yourself why I haven’t mentioned him yet. What’s happened to that budding relationship? Well, tomorrow Laurence and I are going camping for a week before the autumn term starts at the college. So I’d better stop writing now – got to go and pack.

On Wednesday I’ll provide excerpts from my collection of short stories, CAST OFF, which is also free to download. Meanwhile, here are the links to the two novels and the anthology listed above.

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne – FREE 18-22nd September http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

myBook.to/GirlFriends – FREE 18-22nd September http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

 First Love Anthology http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01BH43NXS

 Links to all my books

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

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

fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

https://twitter.com/meegrot

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Meet Author – Jim Cronin.

Jim CJim is a retired middle school science teacher, who now works part-time as an educator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He has been married for forty years to the love of his life. They raised two incredible sons, and now have four amazing grandchildren to spoil rotten.

Jim was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in Arlington, Virginia, before moving to Denver where he attended High School and eventually college at Colorado State University, graduating with a degree in Zoology and a teacher certification. He and his wife currently live near Denver in the small town of Parker.

After writing The Brin Archives trilogy, Jim wanted to try his hand at reaching a new audience. The idea of a nerdy teenager with few friends suddenly learning the fate of all earth depends on him struck him as a fun sci-fi adventure. He hopes you’ll find it fun too!

 What is the title of your latest book? Aeon Rises – Justin Madrid is your average teenJim C cover nerd, outcast among his peers because intense migraines result every time he tries to look at a video screen. No computer games, no smart phone, nothing the other kids enjoy. Then, out of the blue, the aliens try to kill him. That was the day everything changed. That was the day he learned he was not who he always believed, and that the fate of humans everywhere depended on him. [You can read chapter one of Aeon Rises at the end of this blog.]

 What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? – The most challenging is getting all that crazy grammar and punctuation right. I was a science teacher after all, not language arts. The easiest part is simply listening to the voices in my head as the characters in the stories tell me what is going on with them. My job is easy. I write down what they tell me.

The most rewarding part is completing a new novel. There is something very satisfying about starting out on a new project with nothing more than an idea for a story, and watching it through completion.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Stick with it, get advice from experienced writers, and find a couple of good editors. I received over a hundred rejections before Solstice Publishing took me under their wing. Since then, I have seen the value of good editors and how they can help make my story great. Learning everything from writing tricks, different styles, and marketing strategies from those who have been through it all before me is an invaluable help. I have found most authors very willing to talk with me about all of this.

 What are you working on at the moment? I am working on a series of short stories now. My idea is to provide science teachers with a set of stories about real science concepts, but told through a sci-fi / fantasy lens. My hope is that the students will find the stories a fun and enticing entry into a wide range of scientific concepts before the boring textbooks kill their interest. I currently have about four of these done, I hope to write about a dozen before compiling them all into an anthology. 

What do you like to read? I will read almost anything, except maybe romance genre stuff. I love science fiction and fantasy, but also historical fiction, biographies, action/adventure, and science content books are all in my library.

 Where can readers find you? I am on Amazon.com:  https://www.amazon.com/Aeon-Rises-Jim-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07H5PCSJ4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1536631484&sr=8-4&keywords=Aeon+Rises

My Webpage:  http://jimcroninscienceedutainer.weebly.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JimCroninScienceEdutainer/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/authorjimcronin

Aeon Rises – Chapter One

“Okay Mom,” he yelled, yanking the blankets over his head. “Okay, I’m up already! Gimme a break! I don’t know why I have to get up before the sun. It only takes a minute to get ready.” Struggling through the fog in his head, Justin rubbed his eyes and shook his head trying to clear it.

“Man, that dream was so real.” The dream, so vivid only minutes ago, faded quickly as he awoke fully. Only a vague memory of his father, long dead now, spoke to him as they stood together among the stars. While most of the conversation was gone now, there was something about it being time. Time for what? That was so fricking weird.

As the dream faded completely, Justin gave in to the inevitable, sat up, and tossed the covers to one side.

Today began as every other day began…unfortunately for Justin. Still having homework with only a week left in the school year, his ever growing and never-ending mountain of chores, his ancient cell phone, and, most important of all, the lack of privacy in his own home were chief among his gripes.

“Don’t give me that tone of yours, young man. Just get yourself up here with a smile on your face and get your breakfast before you miss your bus.”

Mumbling through his hands as he scrubbed his face, Justin argued back. “Maybe if you would drive me to school I wouldn’t have to get up so fricking early just to catch the bus.” He made that mistake once before of saying this sort of thing loud enough for his mother to hear and did not want a repeat of that long lecture again, so he was more careful to not let her actually hear his response. The twice-daily torment on the rolling yellow prison was unbearable. Did she really need to remind me about the bus? As he brushed his teeth, a new strategy came to him and his mood brightened. His mind searched through dozens of ways to open the conversation once again before settling on what he considered the most irrefutable, and logical argument. Putting on his best Mom-pleasing smile and one last check in the mirror, he bounded up the stairs. The meadowlarks sang sweetly in the field behind the house as he entered the kitchen.

“So Mom, I heard they’re going to start charging extra to ride the bus next year…”

“Hurry and finish breakfast so you can fix your lunch, young man. The bus will be here before you know it.” Justin poured a bowl of Apple Jacks and chugged his orange juice, then went to examine the fridge. PB and J on whole grain bread, an apple and an organic juice box. “Don’t forget to take one of those packs of carrots too,” his mom called out as he stuffed everything into a reusable bag.

“And another thing. I’m not going to be your personal chauffer, mister. We are perfectly able to afford any sort of bus fee. It won’t kill you to take the bus. You could even do some homework or extra studying on the ride if you put your mind to it. Your grades aren’t so perfect you couldn’t put more effort into them, you know…” Her soapbox speech lasted for a good three minutes, rambling from one pointless reason to the next. Justin zoned her out—a skill perfected by most teenagers. He only caught the edges of her diatribe and forgot the details.

He sat back at the table and added some milk to his cereal, but did not lift the spoon to eat any of it. Two fingers of his left hand scratched nervously at the table. “I don’t like the bus. They bully me on the bus and nobody does anything about it.”

She moved to empty the dishwasher, but cocked her head, carefully measuring her son’s mood. “Have you reported it to the dean at school?”

Realizing he had made the comment too loudly, Justin shrugged his shoulders, sighed, and decided his best course of action was to finish his complaint before the “I am your mother and you can tell me anything,” speech started up. He gobbled up a mouthful of cereal while he organized his thoughts. “I tried once, but that only made it worse. Nobody would be a witness so all they got was a warning. Everyone except Kevin looks at me like I’m some sort of freak. I try to fit in, but I don’t know anything about the benefits of Xbox versus PlayStation. I can’t text them, or go on Snapchat to talk with them. They all laugh at me in the lunchroom. I don’t fit in with them, so I’m a target. You don’t understand. The school can’t do anything about it so I just try to ignore it. Besides, they’re right. I’m weird.”

Justin’s mom stood up with a handful of plates and turned to face him. Her eyes narrowed as she tilted her head. “What do you mean weird? What makes you say such a thing?”

Justin swallowed another spoonful of his breakfast, sat back, and leaned on one elbow as he faced his mom. “You know… just weird. I don’t like the same things other kids my age like. Those video games they play all the time give me headaches. The glasses you got me help some, but they’re trash. Can’t I get contacts like everyone else? I don’t get what they see in all those dumb You Tube videos. I mean, like really, what’s so hilarious about cats playing the piano after the first eighty-three times you’ve seen it? And I enjoy reading real books, not Audible or Overdrive everyone has. I mean, like real paper books. Real books never give me migraines. Those books just don’t feel right to me. You see? I’m just weird.”

His mother sighed and placed a gentle hand on Justin’s shoulder. “All that means is you have better things to occupy your brain and your time with than all the nonsense those other kids are filling their brains with. You’re not weird, honey, you’re more mature than they are. You’ll see. In a few years they’ll all catch up with you and things won’t seem so bad.”

Justin rolled his eyes at her well-meant remark, knowing she simply did not understand the problem. “So, in the meantime, can you like give me a ride in to school instead of making me ride the bus?” Her look instantly told him the answer had not changed. “Well then, can I get a real phone instead of this piece of crap? At least they won’t be able to mess with me about having a junk phone.” That last statement escaped his lips before he even realized it. He knew it was a mistake, but just couldn’t help himself again. Oh crap!

“Justin Madrid, we’ve been over this before.” His mother’s voices suddenly became a lot less motherly as she continued her efforts to clean up the kitchen. “You said it yourself: going on the internet gives you headaches, and you know how I feel about kids your age being able to text anyone at any time. You don’t need that sort of distraction. You know I don’t even have one of those idiotic smart phones myself. A phone should just be a phone. Now let’s not have any more of this nonsense. I have work to do. Finish your breakfast. If you want, I’ll go in and have a talk with the principal about the bullying.”

“No!” he shouted, spewing cereal from his mouth. “Don’t talk to anybody about anything, Mom.” He turned to face her. His hands gripped the table so hard his knuckles turned white. “You’ll only make things worse. I can deal with it on my own. School is just about over anyway. Maybe next year I won’t feel like such an alien.”

She turned to face him, her eyes wide as if in shock. The muscles in her forearms knotted as her grip on the dish towel tightened. The morning sun coming through the window caught Justin at the perfect angle. For a mere second, his eyes reflected golden the soft light, the way a dog or cat’s eyes reflect a car’s headlights at night.

His mother’s face paled and she dropped the plate she was drying. It shattered loudly all over the floor. She grabbed the counter top to steady herself before kneeling down to recover the shards.

“Mom! Are you okay?” He jumped up to help her pick up the pieces off the floor.

“I’m fine. It just slipped. Must have still been wet, I guess. What was it you said?”

“Nothing.”

“No, I’m serious.” Her voice trembled slightly despite her effort to control the fear. “What did you say about being an alien?”

Justin sighed, rolled his eyes again, and reached for another piece of broken plate, forcing up a few tears for added effect. “I just said that sometimes I feel like I’m so different from everyone else my age I must be from another planet or something. Don’t go all crazy over it, okay? You have enough to worry about taking care of us on your own and all. It’s just… like a kid thing, Okay? Let’s not turn it into a big deal. Don’t worry about me, I’ll figure it out.”

His mom sat up onto her knees and took Justin’s hands in hers, capturing his attention with her gentleness. “Justin, I know things have been tough for you lately. I’ve tried to be both parents to you, but you’re getting older now and I’m not sure how to handle some of the things you’re going through. I’m sorry your dad can’t be here for you.”

He felt her hands shaking as he saw the worry on her face. “I’m fine, Mom. You’re the best mom ever and I love you. The only way I even know anything at all about him is because of all the stories you tell me. Are you sure you’re okay?”

She tousled his hair and placed one hand on his cheek. “Just go get yourself changed before you miss the bus. I’ll finish up here.”

 

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Playing with words and meaning.

The Peterborough was a daily column in the Telegraph newspaper for best part of a century. it was almost always funny,  often knowing, and sometimes a bit saucy. One editor was asked where on earth such a column fitted in a newspaper known for its conservative – and Conservative – readership. He replied that he saw the column’s role as ‘the antidote to the rest of the paper.’ Certainly a respite from news of appalling events across the globe and nearer home.

Anecdotes were sent in by readers, or staff members – some of them were probably too good to be true, but they were included anyway. I recently came across a collection of ‘editor’s favourites’ and decided to share a few of the ones that, as well as perhaps making you smile, also illustrate what a wonderfully playful language English is. The French may have fancy descriptions – ‘jeu de mots’ and ‘double-entendre,’ for example – but their language can’t beat ours for sheer exuberance and humour, intentional or otherwise.

Here are a few of my favourites from this collection:

bikini topAdvertisement in a shop in Hawaii selling beachwear: You will never find better or more exciting bikinis than ours – they are simply the tops!

The house in a Scottish beauty spot offering: Bed and Breakfast with Local Honey.

The advert for a: collapsible bed – ideal for guests.

Under a poster outside a community hall there was an advert for a talk: Baldness – is there a cure? Under which someone had scrawled: No. Prepare to meet thy dome.

And in the local library there was another poster: Ecumenism means getting to know the opposite sects.

A rural council handout on the threat of sheep scab was headed: Mite Bite Might Bight Sheep.

This is from the short history of a boys preparatory school in which the music teacher said his favourite instrument was the viola, because so few boys played it.

Notice in an English public house: Don’t drink if you are driving – there is no cure for the mourning after.

A dentist with a sense of humour? Sign outside the building: Dental Surgeon 2th Floor.    dictionary

And finally, for the writers among you: “Your typing is very neat,” the office manager was overheard telling the new typist. “But you should use the office dictionary any time you are in doubt about a spelling.” “That wouldn’t work,” she replied. “I’m never in any doubt.” Ah, such connfidence!

 

Links to my books

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

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

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Are semicolons any use?

It is perfectly possible to write an essay, a book even, without using a semicolon. pen and paper 2Meaning can be conveyed just as easily with a comma or a full stop. Consequently there are no hard and fast rules for when you should or should not employ one.

But most of us still use them; at least now and then. Broadly there are four main situations where they can come in useful.

  1. To separate clauses:

It was nearly the end of the summer holidays; Emma would be starting her new school in a week.

Yes, either a comma or a full stop could be used, but a semicolon can be justified in giving a certain nuance to the meaning – was Emma dreading going to the new school?

  1. To create variety:

In a paragraph of short sentences, a longer sentence with two clauses separated by a semicolon, can help hold a reader’s attention.

It was raining. The mud was clinging to her boots. Her mac was sodden already. Her wet hair was dripping into her collar; and now her glasses had slipped right down her nose.

 To emphasise relatedness:

Susan wore a blue blouse with a black pleated skirt; Tom wore a blue shirt and black chinos.

  1. To separate items in a complex list:

I checked I had everything for the flight – passport, plane ticket and visa; eye-mask and blanket; travel sweets, an apple, and a small piece of chocolate.

For those that like grammar rules, some people argue that you should not use a semicolon after a short conjunction, such as and, but, or so. You should use one after long conjunctions – such as however. For the rest of us, maybe it’s whatever makes the sentence more intelligible, or interesting; that is the question we need to ask ourselves. (On re-reading that last sentence, I think a full stop would have been better.)

 

Links to my books

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

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

fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

https://twitter.com/meegrot