Category Archives: blogging

Time to slay your shibboleths?

Do you have any shibboleths it might be wise to get rid of?

A shibboleth is a long-standing belief or principle that all your friends and family would regard as wrong, out-dated, or no longer important. Like BBC news readers having to read any news bulletin after 8pm wearing a dinner jacket – on the radio! This practice has long gone, and even wearing a tie on TV has started to look a bit old fashioned.

Shibboleths abound in English grammar, although many are falling by the wayside. Who now worries about the split infinitive in ‘to boldly go…’? And who writes letters to the newspapers (or bloggers) if they spot a sentence starting with an ‘and’ or a ‘but’?

Shibboleth can also mean a phrase or use of language that distinguishes one group of people from another. In fact it first came into use in the English language to mean a word that a foreigner finds difficult to pronounce, such as ‘naphthalene’ (the stuff that goes into mothballs), or the French word for you, ‘tu,’ which flummoxes most non-native French speakers

cornLike many words in the English language it is foreign in origin, being Hebrew for an ear of corn. According to the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, when the Ephraimites were beaten in battle by the Gileadites, the Gileadites set up blockades by the river to stop their defeated enemies escaping. (Judges X11, 6)

Members of the two tribes looked similar and Israel tribethe only way to tell them apart was to get anyone crossing the river to say ‘shibboleth.’ Apparently no Ephraimite was able to make the ‘sh’ sound, so was promptly put to death.

To me, the link between the meaning for shibboleth in Hebrew, and its original meaning in English is obvious. But if anyone can tell me how it came to mean an out-dated belief, please get in touch!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read more of my work*, please try the links below:

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

*April 23rd being Shakespeare’s birthday (and the anniversary of his death), you may like to try one of my Shakespeare themed short stories:  A Midsummer Day’s Dream, Journey to the Fair Mountain, Chains of Magic, The Ghost Queen. All published by http://www.solsticepublishing.com, and available on Amazon Books for about £1/ $1.

 

Paying attention to detail

I recently read a book during which I was constantly distracted by typos, changes of tense mid paragraph and poor page layout. It wasn’t a great book, but these distractions certainly didn’t help keep my attention on the story-line.

Aspiring writers often ask what they need to do to get their book published. Well, aside from a cracking plot and believable characters which no doubt you have already, you need to do all the boring stuff too.

Even if you do not spend money on these matters, you need to ensure your manuscript is properly edited to avoid repetition and inconsistencies – your heroine can not be blonde on one page and brunette ten pages later, unless you point  out on a page in between that she has had her hair dyed. She can’t be allergic to eggs in chapter one and have an omelette in chapter fifteen, without her suffering dire consequences by chapter sixteen. You also need to check and re-check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and ensure there is consistency in the layout of pages, paragraphs and chapters, without the odd blank page appearing in between.

Friends and ‘beta readers’ can help with this, if you don’t want to pay for the services of professionals, but if this work isn’t done, your manuscript is unlikely to be picked out from the piles beside each desk in a publisher’s office.

You may have already decided to go down the self publishing route. Your cover, title and story might be enough to tempt a potential buyer. But if your editing, proofreading, and page layout screams ‘amateur’ rather than professional, that might be the only book you sell.

I have been lucky, most of my work has been published by Solstice – http://www.solsticepublishing.com – or other creditable publishers who undertake to get your work ‘bookshop ready’ before it goes on sale. But, even with proofreaders and editors and my final check over, the odd typo still remains. Just goes to show what a difficult, albeit vital, chore this is. (And, even though I’ve read it twice and run a spell checker over it, I can’t guarantee that this blog is fault free either!)

My Amazon author pages:

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

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

 

 

 

 

Meet author, David Court

 

david-courtDavid Court is a well known writer in Coventry UK. I met him first through the Coventry Writers’ Group, which meets monthly in the lovely Big Comfy Bookshop. We write in different genres, so the friendship is cheerfully supportive rather than competitive!

What is the title of your latest book?

 Scenes of Mild Peril – It’s a collection of around two-and-a-half years’ worth of short stories, some of which have appeared in anthologies for other publishers, some of which are brand new to this collection.  It’s a collection of short tales and poems – some sci-fi, some horror, some satire. It’s with my publisher and a trusty editor now, so should see release later this year.

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

 For me, the most challenging aspect is finding the time.  I have to fit writing around my full-time job which can be a struggle at times, because I’ve set myself the challenge of writing at least a thousand words per day – and that challenge seems impossible on certain days!

The most rewarding aspect has to be when complete strangers get in touch to say they’ve enjoyed your stuff – lots of people don’t realise how critical reviews are to the writer. It’s the reader feedback that keeps me going, and it’s that that makes it all worthwhile.

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Write, write, write and read, read, read!  It may seem obvious, but – as with anything – the more you write, the better you’ll get. Even over the space of a few years, I can see how my writing has improved when I look back at some of my earlier attempts.   Reading stuff by other people is critical too – mainly so you don’t stagnate, but also because you’ll learn to recognise various techniques and can adapt them into your own writing.

 What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve had an idea for a science-fiction series bouncing around in my head for the last decade, so finally took the plunge and put it to paper.  I finished the first draft of Recreant at the start of the year, and am currently going through the painful editing process. It’s a space opera – a mix of political intrigue and loads of old fashioned space battles. My elevator pitch for it is “Star Wars meets the Fourth Protocol”. I’m really pleased with it.

 What do you like to read?

My reading habits match my writing ones – I’m a sucker for a good short story (Ray Bradbury is the absolute master of them) and horror (in which the Borderlands series are top-notch).  I’m also a huge fan of comics – I grew up reading 2000ad whilst all my friends were into the Beano and Dandy – and am thoroughly enjoying Saga (Vaughan and Staples) and Michael Carroll’s run on Judge Dredd.

 Where can readers find you?david-2

 I’ve got a blog which you can find at www.davidjcourt.co.uk.  My Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.co.uk/David-Court/e/B00GMCNVRE which has a link to all the stuff I’ve released so far. If you’re tempted by my work, the best place to start is Forever and Ever, Armageddon – Super Alpha Turbo Extreme which is a collection of all my released short stories to date.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

 

 

 

 

New website for play reviews

barb-1-b-w-2-1Barbara Goulden is a well known reporter, theatre critic, novelist and aspiring playwright from Coventry UK. Earlier this year she and a few reporter friends and theatre enthusiasts launched a website where they could post reviews of plays being performed locally. Not just amateur performances, but those at professional theatres too, including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performances in Stratford upon Avon.

Below Barbara talks about how the website came about, and what else she is involved in on the literary front.

“Our new website, Elementary What’s On, www.elementarywhatson.com started with me moaning about the fact thatelementary-whatson our local daily and weekly newspapers no longer have enough staff to review plays and shows being staged in Coventry and Warwickshire.

As a reporter for 40 years, I’ve had the privilege of being among first night audiences for some tremendous performances by both amateur and professional theatre companies.

I still remember Antony Sher making every word count while hanging upside down on a rope in the Swan Theatre at Stratford.

But these days there are hardly enough reporters to cover council meetings, let alone stage performances.

Recently the smaller studio at the Belgrade in Coventry had a terrific play called Ostrich Boys. It was full of life and humour but the play disappeared without trace because so few people knew how good it was.

I was saying how sad this was to the former deputy editor of Coventry Telegraph, where I used to work.  He promptly challenged me to start a website specifically dedicated to all our local theatres, both amateur and professional.

A month later, our site, Elementary What’s On, was born after much beating of heads against laptops and a good deal of arguing amongst what became a core group of four.

The most rewarding aspect so far has been the enthusiastic response we’ve received from all the theatres we aim to visit.

They are well aware that today they get nothing like the support they once did. As a result few people know what’s available to see locally or just how good a play might be.

Of course not all reviews will be good. Nor can we review everything ourselves. But between us we have enough theatre-loving friends who are willing to contribute 300 words or so in exchange for complimentary tickets for a play which they hope will be great but they’ll take a chance on it being boring, or a mixture of the two.

In one of my recent reviews I talked about sitting in an audience of 850 people and seeming to be the only one not laughing.  It was farce. And that carries its own cult following.

Right now I’m looking forward to La Strada at the Belgrade, a play that stands a good chance of touring nationally before winding up in the West End.

It won’t be an altogether happy tale – I know that already. But Les Miserables seems to be still doing rather well.

… Other stuff:

Since leaving full-time work as a reporter I’ve been able to write a couple of novels which were printed with the help of Chipmunka Publishing, a charity that’s happy to work with any author who tries to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

In my case I tried to inject some humour into the serious business of schizophrenia, a condition that  affects one in 100 of us at some stage in our lives, including my much-loved late sister.

People only see the shock-horror headlines about this condition which are far from reality for most sufferers, a third of whom do recover. I knew my sister was delusional, but  I also knew she would never hurt anyone, except herself.

At the moment I am trying, not too successfully, to write a play about all we have lost in the regional press and the inevitable consequences of fake news feeding on itself via the internet. I will persist.

My tips for other writers are simply stick at it – have a look at how many rejection slips most of today’s top authors receive – and really study the agents’ section of the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook.  If you can convince an agent with an example of your work then you stand a far better chance of being published.

Having said that, if you really need closure on a piece of writing you believe in, then consider self-publishing. It’s very therapeutic and lets you move on to the next book.”

Links: The website is   www.elementarywhatson.com

Barbara’s novels are:  Knock Knock, Who’s There? and Knocking on Haven’s Door. Both are available from Amazon Books.

 

Where did the word ‘blog’ come from?

I’ve been writing this blog since March, and never once given a thought as to where the word ‘blog’ came from. That is, until today, when I decided to do a bit of ferreting around on the Internet. Here is what I found.

Not surprisingly, the word is quite new – less than twenty years old. In 1997 Jorn Barger used the term ‘weblog’ to describe a discussion paper or informal website that was published on the World Wide Web. This was shortened to ‘blog’ by Peter Merholz in 1999. Both used the term as a noun only. But very shortly after, one Evan Williams used the term as both a noun and a verb, and also coined the term ‘blogger.’ So now you know!

Throughout this century the popularity of reading and writing blogs has grown enormously. You can find a blog for every human activity in a multitude of interpretations – news, politics, cooking, child care…. You name it, there’s a choice of blogs about it. We also have ‘micro-blogging’ (e.g. on Twitter) and ‘vlogs’ – video blogging.

By and large, blogs are benign ways of exchanging information between people of similar or compatible interests, advertising and informing people of your services (or latest book – see below!), or getting something off your chest. One can learn a lot of new stuff and make a lot of new friends via blogs. There is a dark side, however, especially in regard to news and especially, especially, politics. As Obama (who famously didn’t want to be parted from his Blackberry and the digital world when he became president) is quoted as saying:

obama

‘If the direction of the news is all blogoshere, all opinions, with no serious fact checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, then what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void, but not a lot of mutual understanding.’

 

I don’t feel you need worry about Obama’s concerns too much when you are reading this blog. And, if you’ve read this far, here is a reward. Solstice Publishing has placed my latest YA novel – Girl Friends – on a free promotion for this Wednesday 16th November:

MyBook.to/GirlFriends

If an anthology is more to your taste, then you can read my story – Mary’s Christmas –  in the Pigeon Park Press anthology – Festive Treats. The anthology is free to download until Christmas.

myBook.to/FestiveTreats

(Check out the page on this blog re published work for more information)