Monthly Archives: December 2018

Writing Games for Christmas.

As well as the religious significance of the festival, Christmas is a time for present giving and receiving, drinking and eating, friends and family, hearty walks and slumping in front of the TV. Yes it can all get a bit much, especially for writerly types who find everything going on around them too distracting to be able to settle down and just write. And it gets worse when the new presents start to pall (or break), the over -indulgence takes its toll on your digestive system, and all around you show every sign of getting really, really fed up with each other.

Pens to the rescue! Why not push aside the meal left overs, and gather everybody round the table for a few word based games. Never mind they say they can’t write, hate parlour games, wish you’d go and take a running jump at yourself … With a bit of coaxing grannies and grandchildren, friends and nearly new foes, will be prepared to have a go. It will be a bit different and – who knows – they may end up enjoying themselves. Any number can join in. Even if you’re on your own, you can still make it work for one. All you need is a pen and a sheet of paper.

Game number one: First Sentence / Last Sentence. Everybody writes two, preferably short, unrelated sentences down on their piece of paper and passes it to the person on their left. That person then has ten minutes to write a story that links the first sentence to the last – the more fantastical the better! Everybody then reads aloud the story they have made up and if you so wish you can decide on a winner and a reward.

Game number two: Ten word story. Choose a word, maybe Christmas or winter related (e.g. Snowflake, Present, Carol …). Set the timer for five minutes and write a story in TEN words that includes the chosen word. Read the stories aloud – it can be amazing how different each story will be.

Game number three: Brilliant first lines. Everyone knows that the best books grab your attention from the start. Just think of “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” from the beginning of George Orwell’s 1984. Set the timer for ten minutes and write as many attention grabbing opening lines as you can think of. Read them out when everyone has finished and choose the best. (As a bonus, a great first line could be the start of your next novel – once you have time to devout to ‘proper’ writing again.

This will be my last post for a week or so. I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year.

Links to my books and social media


Christmas Teen Reads

On with the shameless self promotion! If you are still looking for books for your teen-age friends and family members, I have two you might be interested in. Both deal with serious contemporary ‘ishoos’ (alcohol, anorexia, absent parents, acne, abduction – and that is just some of the ‘a’s) in fast-paced stories that will make you smile if not burst out laughing. Both are available from Amazon as e-books or print copies, and from independent bookshops if you happen to be in the Coventry Kenilworth area.

And Alex Still Has Acne – The blurb: Life 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 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?

And here are a couple of reviews of And Alex Still Has Acne: 

Teenager Alex’s life isn’t easy. Not only does he have to cope with acne and an ever increasing appetite, his younger sister Nicky and best friend Sam are both struggling with secrets which they end up confiding in him. Can Alex help them both? And will his acne ever go? An enjoyable story told at times in multiple viewpoints, from debut children’s author Margaret Egrot

Focusing on best friends Alex and Sam, ‘And Alex Still Has Acne’ hones in on the trials and tribulations of life as a modern-day teenager in Britain. An enjoyable plot with likeable characters and some twists and turns along the way, the boys’ friendship forms the backbone of the story – from how they laugh, tease and wind each other up during their more carefree days, to how they are there for each other during more challenging times. A good, easy read, there are plenty of moments to make the reader smile when the boys are together, as well as a hidden underlying sadness which surfaces as the book continues and the reader learns what each has to deal with away from each other behind closed doors as they return to their families. The strength of the boys’ friendship becomes also more apparent as the book continues and we see them offering each other support in their respective dilemmas. A well written book with plenty of moments to keep the reader turning the pages, And Alex Still Has Acne is ideal for readers of teenage years and above. I look forward to reading more from Margaret Egrot!

Girl Friends: The blurb:  Nothing 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? And can Courtney and her new found friends rescue Grace before it is too late?

Reviews for Girl Friends: 

Very well written story about the troubling issues in dysfunctional families. Margaret Egrot’s background gives true insight into the theme and it was believable with likeable characters. The story flowed with ease and, although it was sad at time, I enjoyed reading it in one sitting.

Should a Girl Living In Proverty Give Up? What happens when teen-aged Courtney has to be the adult in her family of two very young sisters and an alcohol addled mother? Then what happens when she must also save her best friend from an abusive boyfriend? How does Courtney keep her dreams of going on to college when she’s faced with dire prospects and told there is no future for her by her own mother? There are no easy answers for this insightful-beyond-her years girl. Ms. Egrot’s characters have very human flaws and with personal demons of his/her own to overcome. There are no villains and no heroes in this story. The book lends itself well for further group study.

Tempted  to read more? Please go to one of my Amazon author pages. There’s still time to order them before Christmas!

Christmas Presents? Why not try a collection of short stories.

Just in case you are wondering what to buy for some of your friends or family for Christmas, and just in case you were thinking you might by them a book, and just in case your preference is for a collection of short stories that might – just might – show you to be a thoughtful, almost erudite, and witty present giver, may I suggest CAST OFF, my collection of short stories based on some of the female characters in plays by Shakespeare?

Here’s what it says on the back cover: “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 shor stories, the author suggests a few answers to these and other questions.”

Thirteen female characters are featured, uusually with their own interpretation of the play they are linked to – from Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, to Sycorax the witch who never actually appears on stage in The Tempest. In most of the stories there is a modern, feminist, take that is quite at odds with the character as Shakespeare imagined her – or is it? There is often a clue in the original that his women characters were yearning for something more than tight frocks and a husband.

The collection has recieved positive reviews: 

One word for this short story anthology? Original. Certainly an odd descriptor for a collection of tales based on the characters in another’s works, but Mrs. Egrot weaves intriguing story lines utilizing some of Shakespeare lesser known supporting characters, and spin-offs from his heroines. My favorite two? “Time Out of Mind” affected me on an emotional level, and “Ban! Ban! Cacaliban” left me wanting more. Each story stands alone on its own merit. If you’ve never even heard of the bard, and you were born in a cave and raised by wolves, you will find a tale here to fall in love with. Thoroughly enjoyed.

Cast Off by novelist and playwright Margaret Egrot is an ingenious concept for a short story collection. The thirteen stories are all inspired by female characters from Shakespeare’s plays, offering new perspectives and twists on characters often overshadowed by their male counterparts. Some of the stories are set with the world of the play themselves. These develop female characters who barely feature in the original work. One such example is the witch Sycorax, an offscreen presence in The Tempest, who Egrot brings to life in Ban! Ban! Caliban! by narrating her backstory. Other stories depict a more prominent Shakespearian character, such as Othello’s Desdemona or Measure for Measure’s Isabella, yet offer their version of the events in the play. Further range is found in A Midsummer’s Day’s Dream which is a contemporary story with four students in place of the traditional leads; The Tangled Knot presents Twelfth Night’s Olivia from the comical voice of the Clown; whilst Is Not This Well? features an actress criticising the Bard himself for his misogynistic treatment of Kate in The Taming of the Shrew. As you can see, no two stories are the same, despite the intrinsic Shakespeare theme. The diversity of the collection is testament to Egrot’s vast talent and a guarantee that you will never get bored as you turn the pages. Be assured, as Egrot writes in her foreword, there is no pressure to be familiar with Shakespeare’s work to enjoy these stories. However, any fans of the Bard will gain an extra kick of enjoyment from spotting direct quotes from Shakespeare’s work, hidden within the stories like a DVD Easter Egg. Cast Off is proof that Shakespeare’s legacy is alive and well. Egrot reinvents the source material with a fresh feminist perspective and injects plenty of original ideas into her homage to Shakespeare’s overlooked heroines.

 Intrigued? You can buy the collection as an e-book or print edition from Amazon using this link:

Or via my Amazon author pages:

The Woodsman – a story for a winter evening.

            It had been a convivial evening. The young couple were pleasant, if the girl was a bit giggly and the young man rather ponderous. They said they were new teachers and were walking Hadrian’s Wall, at the start of the winter holiday. Arthur met them whilst out collecting firewood, got chatting, and invited them back to have supper with him and his wife. They didn’t get many visitors to their isolated cottage at this time of year, he said. He and Martha would love to have a bit of company.

            Martha’s stew easily stretched to four helpings, along with the loaf of homemade bread. They opened a couple of cans of Strongbow, and then whilst they chatted about the history and geographyof the locality, and the associated folklore – Arthur was something of an expert on local witches, supernatural spirits, and haunted habitats – Martha disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of her home made blackberry wine. Kirsty and Ben sipped it tentatively at first, but it really was delicious and they readily accepted another glass. Arthur felt he should tell them it was very strong – but it was too late, Martha had already poured a third helping into their glasses.

            Ben looked at his phone and gave an exclamation. It was so much later than he thought and the hotel locked up at eleven – thirty. They would have to go. Kirsty agreed, but insisted on a final selfie with Ben and their hosts. Then they made for the door, a little unsteadily.

            “I hope we don’t meet any of your Ghoulies in the woods on our way back,” Kirsty giggled.

            “Don’t worry about that,” saidArthur, as he showed them out. “You’ll be fine – just don’t go wandering off the path into a snow-drift. Here’s your torch. Oh, you must have left it on, the battery’s nearly dead. Never mind, there’s a good moon.”

            The young couple thanked the old couple profusely for their hospitality, and then set off unsteadily towards the wood. Arthur turned back into the cottage where Martha was waiting with a white sheet.

“You mind you don’t slip on the ice, and sprain yourankle again,” she said as he took it from her with a laugh. He ran noiselessly down a little side track to the point where the main path cut across. Here he paused behind a tree to drape himself in the white sheet and to listen out for the arrival of the young couple. Soon they tottered past, holding onto each other; the torch a dim glimmer in front of them. Silently, Arthur stepped outbehind them.

“Whoooh” he moaned and flapped his arms. They turned, shrieked, and stumbled as fast as they could down the slippery path, gibbering with fear. Arthur grinned to himself under his sheet.

“You silly old fool,” Martha said indulgently when he limped back through the door.

“I know,” he said as he folded the sheet, and she put it away for the next time. “I know, but it makes their holiday, doesn’t it?”

If you enjoyed this story, you may like to read more of my work. Here are the links to my books and social media


A Word about Holly

There is a small holly tree in my garden that has never had berries. Thanks to an article I read recently I now know why. You can have male or female holly trees and only the female has the berries. My rather weedy specimen is obviously a male and its value as an adornment for Christmas wreaths and flower arrangements is thus sadly reduced.

Holly, like ivy, has a particular relationship with Christmas. In some regions it is also known as prickly Christmas, or the Christmas thorn. But it is also associated with other parts of the Christian calendar albeit the seasons are a bit out of kilter: The white flowers in spring represent the purity of the winter virgin birth we are soon to celebrate, whereas the red berries in winter represent Christ’s blood, and the prickly leaves the crown of thorns, from Easter. The bark represents the bitterness of Christ’s suffering.

The Old English word for holly is holegn, which is the origin of holm, as in holm oak – an evergreen oak tree with prickly leaves like the holly. This is not to be confused with the word holm you find in village names such as Holmbury, or Holmdale, or islands such as Gateholm. This holm indicates settlements that have developed on an island or on a stretch of low flat land near a river (from the Old Norse holmr, island, and the Old English holm, sea). Of course there could well have been holly trees there too – even before the birth of Christ – for which the human and other inhabitants would be grateful. Unappetising though it may sound, the leaves are useful cattle fodder in winter, deer browse on them too, and blue tits love the small grub (holly leaf minor) that the tree often hosts.

Just a few things to think about when you prick your finger as you rush to complete those natural’table decorations you decided on this year.

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Getting Festive

December already and almost time to be thinking of buying presents, the Christmas card list, Christmas day lunch and putting up the decorations. Plenty of households around me have got all this in hand – to judge from the number of twinkling lights in the front room windows. I haven’t got further than pointing out to my husband that my favourite scent is running out.

If you need to kick start you Christmas spirit, why not download Festive Treats. It’s free (which might explain why it has been an Amazon best seller continuously since its publication two years ago), and it’s full of quirky, good humoured, not to say humorous, short stories about the Christmas period. (Declaration of interest, one of the stories – Mary’s Christmas– is mine).

Although the anthology received a one star review from a dissatisfied reader (had she had a story for the anthology rejected? Or really didn’t like one of the authors?), the stories have been generally well received and garnered many four and five star reviews. Here is a selection from the more typical reviews:

“This is a lovely, if rather eclectic, mix of yuletide short stories. I really enjoyed reading these tales, some are feel-good, others somewhat irreverent and cheeky, and a few slightly darker takes on the Christmas season. For me, there is something for everyone and it is definitely well worth a read to get you in the Christmas spirit!”

“Great book full of some really fun, sweet, lovely and thoughtful short stories. Perfect for those moments over the Christmas holidays when you want to sit down and read but know you haven’t much time!”

“The stand-out story in this book is Mary’s Christmas. I also enjoyed Katharine D’souza’s tales as well. As with any compilation there is bound to be one or two (at least) that are not to your taste. But for free you shouldn’t really complain.”

Ah yes, did I mention it was FREE?

Here is the link if you’re tempted – after all, what have you got to lose?

Links to my books and social media