Category Archives: Writers, readers, teenage readers.

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

fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

https://twitter.com/meegrot

 solstice logo (1)

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

 

 

 

Writing together – a novel experience (2)

Ann and RobAs promised in my last blog, authors Ann Evans and Robert D. Tysall answer questions today about their recent collaboration on writing the supernatural / thriller The Bitter End.

 Why did you decide to collaborate?

Rob: I had no choice. Ann said ‘you’re doing it’ so I did! It’s my fault for having the idea in the first place.

Ann: Rob always comes up with great story ideas, but when he told me about this idea, I said I couldn’t write it. It was too deep and too dark. But he wouldn’t let the idea drop, so I made a start on the story and showed him. It wasn’t how he envisaged the story to go, so I said, right, we’re going to have to work on this one as a team.

How did you decide the genre and plot line?

Rob: With the plot line, it was both of us pushing one way, then the other. There was a lot of discussion about what might happen in the story. But often things would take us both by surprise.

With the genre, the way I first described it to Ann made the decision for us – it was always going to be a supernatural thriller. Although some reviewers have suggested that it’s bordering on horror and would make a great horror film.

Ann: We started with a basic story line, which revolved very much around the character Lamia. Then we had to create the more ‘normal’ world that she’d decided to inhabit. I think the personalities and lifestyle of the characters then dictated the plot and where it was going.

Who does what?

Rob:  As Ann is a magnificent typist she puts it down. I lounge on the settee, with a G&T, waffling away until I drop off! She never stops adding life to the bones.

Ann: Most definitely I do all the typing. I’m a far better speller and a quicker typist. He does sit there dictating. At times, it feels a bit like Barbara Cartland dictating to her secretary – minus the feather boa! Actually though, prior to writing any new scene, we’ll have discussed it at length, so we know where we’re going with it.

How do you ensure it all joins up?

Rob: The joining up can be a problem if we’ve discussed scenes out of context. But by going over and over each section, we make it work smoothly.

Ann: That’s the reason just one of us does the typing.  If we were both typing bits into the manuscript it would be a disaster.  We work together moving the story forward. When I’m alone, I’ll go over what we’ve done, dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s and so on.  That’s except for Lamia’s demonic speeches, Rob often writes those when he’s alone, then emails them through to me.  I imagine he closes the curtains, drinks blood and plays Black Sabbath music to get in the mood!

How do you critique each other’s work?

Rob:  We critique by again continually going over areas – and getting help on any medical scenes by people with very big brains (the wife!).

Ann: I have to admit, the very first time Rob said that something I’d written needed changing, I almost cried! However, a took a deep breath, and listened to what he had in mind. And that’s how it’s gone throughout the whole book. Anything that jars or doesn’t sound exactly right, we work on, rephrasing, finding a different way of saying it, until we’re both happy.

Any arguments and if so, how do you resolve them?

Rob: No arguments. If Ann feels something is really needed or important, it generally goes in. The same for myself. We both respect each other in that way and we seem to be on the same wavelength with our books.

Ann:  I agree, we don’t argue. What would be the point? If someone wins the argument, that piece of text might stay, but the other person would begrudge it being there.  It has to be compromise all the way. However, there’s been a few times when his ideas have shocked me, and I’ve actually screamed, “No!! You can’t kill ….” “Oh yes you can,” says Rob. And when I’ve got over the shock and horror at his plans for a certain character or two, I realise that if it shocked/surprised me, it will shock/surprise the reader too.

When do you decide it’s finally finished?

Rob: When we reach a definitive section that ties it all up.

Ann: We knew where we wanted to end the story – and how we wanted it to end. So reaching that point, we got to write…after four years….The End.

How / who published it?

Rob: Bloodhound Books published it, I’m happy to say!

Ann: Bloodhound Books published my first thriller last year, Kill or Die. Later, I met the publisher at the Theakston Crime Writing festival, and she asked me what I was working on next. I told her about our collaboration and the story idea, and she asked to see it when it was finished. Happily, she liked it!

Any plans for another collaboration?

Ann Evans and Rob TysallRob:  Yes, we have plans for further collaborations. The Bitter End was four years in the making, so when another completed book appears is hard to say. The sooner the better.

Ann: We’re currently writing a sequel to The Bitter End, which will also be a stand-alone book. And we’re determined this won’t take four years.

Thank you, Ann and Rob. You make it sound (almost) easy. I’m (almost) tempted to have a go myself – except you can’t collaborate on your own, so  I’ll have to find a writing buddy.  Any one out there?

About Robert D. Tysall. Rob was born in Rugby and has always been very much part of the music scene, and still is. He’s a singer, songwriter and percussionist. Plus, he’s a professional photographer (www.tysallsphotography.org.uk). It was through photography that he and Ann first got together to work on magazine articles – Ann writes, Rob takes the photos.  Together they are Words & Images UK ( https://www.facebook.com/wordsandimagesuk/)  He added: “Ideas, ideas, ideas – that’s what I do, plus poems, lyrics – and now books!”

About Ann Evans. Ann has been writing since her children were toddlers – and they’re now all grown up with children of their own. She writes for a variety of genres: children’s, YA, reluctant readers, romance and crime; plus non-fiction magazine articles. She’s also a former feature writer for The Coventry Telegraph.

THE BITTER END – BLURB

Paul finally has his life back on track. After losing his wife, Helena in a horrific car crash, he has found love with Sally and moves into her country cottage.

As a former high-ranking Naval Officer, Paul now works as Head of Security at MI5.

Paul has no memories from before he was ten years old. An accident left him in a coma for 9 months.  But was it really an accident?

Soon Paul starts to have flashes of childhood memories, all involving his childhood friend, Owen.

Sally introduces him to her friend, Juliet, the owner of a craft shop. Paul is shocked when he meets Juliet’s partner, his old friend Owen.

Flashes of memories continue to haunt Paul, particularly the memory of his first wife Helena burning in the car crash.

As dark things start to happen, and local people begin dying in horrific accidents, Paul must face his past and will end up fighting for his life.

EXTRACT FROM ‘THE BITTER END’

He sipped the brandy, it warmed his throat and made him drowsy. He drifted, eyes half closed, listening to the crackling of burning logs. Tomorrow he would get a bucket of soapy water and wash down the windows in the barn, inside and out. Maybe get a broom and give the place a good old spring clean. His mind wandered to that penknife, recalling now that he’d got it for his ninth birthday. It had been a gift from Owen.

The charred logs shifted in the grate and Paul half opened his eyes. He stared into the fire. Vivid red and blue tongues of flame licked upwards, the heart of the fire glowed now like some magical palace. He could see gateways and portcullises. He could see images in the flames.

He awoke suddenly and tried not to look. He wanted to tear his gaze away, but it was too late. His brain conjured up a face amongst the burning embers. A shrieking face, wide-eyed with terror. A face lying sideways at a painfully twisted angle as Helena burned to death. And the screaming was back.

Links to The Bitter End and to the authors’ websites. Ann Evans and Robert D Tysall - The Bitter End_cover smaller

Buy from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bitter-End-dark-mystery-twists-ebook/dp/B07F2GVQ6J

Checkout our website for The Bitter End: http://www.thebitterend.org.uk

Also: http://www.annevansbooks.co.uk

Also: http://www.tysallsphotography.org.uk

 

 

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

Are you in a Reading Slump?

I’m not sure if it’s the hot weather, moral turpitude, or advancing years, but I’ve been struggling to read much recently. Reassuringly though, I have just read an on-line article from the Times and Sunday Times, and find I am not alone. Help is at hand so, if you are struggling too, here are some of the tips sent in by readers:
Sleeping_Reader1 Read something short. The speedy sense of achievement will fill you with motivation to read more.
2 Reread a favourite childhood book to reconnect with the excitement of reading as a kid.
3 Try an audiobook.
4 Read a short-story collection. Easy to pick up and put down again.
5 Don’t feel guilty about abandoning books. Keep picking up new things until you find something that engages you.
6 Reread a “comfort” book. Something you’ve read before and know you love.

I am going to try out a few of these tips next week when I take a short break. (Maybe it will rain and I will have to stay in and make my own entertainment as there is no Internet on site).

I am also struggling to write much at the moment. The story-line is coming along nicely in my head, but is refusing to find its way onto paper or screen. So I’m taking an empty note-pad and plenty of pens with me and hope that, along with finding the mojo to read a bit more, I will actually put one of the said pens to paper.

Links to my books (in case you are looking for something pretty short to read!)

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

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

fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

https://twitter.com/meegrot

 

Fame – a poisoned chalice for a writer?

Sathnam Sanghera, is a journalist who writes regularly for the London Times. He has also written a book – The Boy With The Topknot. A Memoir of Love. This is about his Sathnamexperience of growing up in working class Wolverhampton with his immigrant parents, and siblings. The book was recently made into an acclaimed film for television. So you could say he is a writer who is definitely on the foothills of fame, if not yet a household name, or a familiar face on screen.

In one of his recent short pieces for The Times he wrote about walking through London with the Bollywood star, Anupam Kher, who played his father in the film. Such is the actor’s fame that a fifteen minute walk to a shoe shop took over an hour because of constant requests from fans for selfies with him.

No one was interested in the author himself who mused that, with all eyes on the actor, now would be the perfect time for him to commit a crime. Clearly the best cover for a heist would be to do it in the vicinity of a celeb. He didn’t in fact commit any crime, to my knowledge. But fame like this, he feels, would be creative death for an author.

‘So much of what writers produce depends on being able to watch, and when you are famous you never get to do that because everyone is watching you.’

Maybe he’s got something there. There are plenty of best-selling writers – Stephen King, Ian Rankin, Martina Cole – whose faces we can call to mind from the back covers of their books, but not the way they walk etc. Therefore I’m pretty sure I would pass by them on pen and paper 2the street, and they could carry on observing the world untroubled by my wanting a selfie with them.

I did once get asked if I was famous. But I think the questioner was muddling me up with somebody else. However if you’d like to give my prospects a modest boost by downloading one of my books from Amazon, here are the links:

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

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

 

 

 

 

Playing with words.

Just a few lines today on words that describe games people can play with words. (More popular perhaps in the time before TV and social media, but could come in useful in a power cut if all you have is pen, paper – and a torch.)

An acronym is made up of the first letter of each word in a phrase. It is a comparatively new phenomenon (the first recorded use is in the early 1940s). Radar (radio detecting and ranging), and scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) are acronyms) are acronyms. An acronym needs to be pronounceable – hence RSVP at the bottom of a letter requesting a reply is an initialism, not an acronym.

Acrostics is where, in a poem for example, a number of letters form a word or phrase. This could be at the beginning of each line in a poem as in Lewis Carroll’s (of Alice in Wonderland fame) poem which starts:

A boat beneath a sunny sky

Lingering onward dreamily

In an evening of July –

Children three that nestle near

Eager eye and willing ear

And goes on to spell out the real Alice’s full name through the first letter of every line.

An anagram is a rearrangement of letters of a word or phrase to form a different phrase or word: Evil / vile. Clint Eastwood / old west action. An antigram is similar, but the alteration means the dead opposite to the original word: funeral / real fun. (Sorry)

Lipograms are works where the author chooses to avoid using a particular letter. No problem if you decide, say, to omit the ‘z’ or ‘q.’ But Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a 50,000 word novel (Gatsby) without the letter ‘e’ in 1939. Univocalics, by contrast, are where just one vowel is used, as in ‘he went where she heeded her texts.’

Palindromes are words or phrases that read the same backwards as forwards: ‘Was it a car or a cat I saw?’ Or the more famous ‘Able was I ere I saw Elba.’

A pangram is a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet), as in ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.’ The same letter can be used more than once – I’m not sure anyone has managed to come up with a phrase that makes sense using each letter just once.

So there you go – Boxing Day post-prandial games sorted!

If you have enjoyed this post, and would like to read more of my work, please go to my Amazon author page. I would particularly like to get young adults reading more and have written two novels specifically for this age group.

And Alex -cover

 

And Alex Still Has Acne: myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

 

 

 

Girl Friends - cover

 

Girl Friends: myBook.to/GirlFriends

 

 

Both are published by Solstice. http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

 

 

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!

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon author pages: