Category Archives: Writers, readers, teenage readers.

How are your apostrophes today?

How are your apostrophes? Does that question look odd to you? Do you feel you need an apostrophe before the ‘s’? The answer is no, but there does appear to be a growing amount of confusion about when and where an apostrophe should be used

For example, over the last few days I have been helping with the shortlisting of applicants for a senior post in a local company. We have had a large number of applications, and many have impressive work records. It has been hard work making the selection for interview.

What has been noticeable though, even within this group of highly intelligent, articulate, experienced and educated candidates (a degree is an essential requirement, a management qualification, desirable), is that quite a few do not know how to use an apostrophe correctly. Examples of misuse include apostrophes being inserted before the ‘s’ in plurals –  ‘I have been a senior manager for many year’s.’ Or dates – ‘during the 1980’s I…’  

As you know (of course), there are only two kinds of apostrophe:

The apostrophe that denotes possessionMargaret’s blog, the dog’s bone (or, if there are several of them, the dogs’ bones) …

And the apostrophe used to indicate that one or more letters have been omitted – It’s a bit chilly today, so I won’t be swimming. Instead of It is a bit chilly today, so I will not be swimming.

In Bristol, UK, one man has felt so impassioned about the misuse of the apostrophe by shop keepers and other local businesses that he has taken to creeping out in the dead of night to correct their mistakes. At risk to life and limb (Bristol is not the safest city in the world after dark) he climbs a step-ladder to paint over offending apostrophes (or insert them where needed). He’s even made his own gadget for reaching the hard to get to signs.

Earlier this year this self-styled grammar vigilante featured in the local and national news. His interview with BBC Radio Bristol is on Facebook, so you can see more about the ‘apostrophiser’ on this link:

https://www.facebook.com/bbcradiobristol/videos/1359545534102549/

Some of the abuses of the apostrophe simply add to the gaiety of life, and allow clever folk to have fun at the expense of our less literate compatriots.  The fruit stall selling  ‘Potatoe’s and tomatoe’s, for example, or the business advertising itself as a Gentlemans Outfitter.

It is true, too, that we can be overly pedantic. Grammar, after all, is there to assist with clarity, and language is an evolving entity with spelling and grammar changing over time. If it didn’t, we’d all be writing like Chaucer, or still communicating via ‘uggs’ and shrugs, like cavemen.

But for now, the apostrophe is still in the game. So, like the tennis backhand or the football cycle kick (I think  that’s the right term), it should be played selectively and appropriately.

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read one of my stories or novels, you can find more about them on my blog page for published work, or go to:

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

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

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA.

Hello, and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has Acne. But first I’m sharing an excerpt from a review written by a YA reader.

‘The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.’

I love the reference to Jacqueline Wilson regarding my book, as I am a huge admirer of her work. And Alex …, like my other YA novel, Girl Friends, does indeed tackle some of the issues she writes about so brilliantly. I have learnt a lot from her, though I write for a slightly older age-group.

Excerpt:

And Alex -coverSam was dog tired. He looked at his watch. Still only 9.30pm, but it felt like the middle of the night. He got up and went into the front room to look again at his mother. She was sleeping just as he’d left her. Clearly she was not going to wake up this side of midnight, so there was no point staying up to talk to her. They would have to have a chat tomorrow. But what about exactly? He tried a few opening gambits: “Hi Mum, are you turning into an alcoholic?” “Mum, I’ve been doing a bit of shoplifting recently; on account of you never getting me any food.” “Mum, are you ill?” “Why have you and Dad split up?” “Don’t either of you care about me anymore?” None of these questions seemed right, though they were all ones he wanted answers to, especially the last, although he was a bit ashamed to admit this – even to himself. He was fourteen going on fifteen after all.

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?

Links:

And Alex Still Has Acne

P1000309

Reading from And Alex Still Has Acne at a book launch.

http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

Girl Friends

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

 Amazon Author Pages

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

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

 

 

A YA story for our time.

Happy ‘Everbody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my contemporary YA novel Girl Friends. 

Blurb:

Two teenagers, each looking for a ‘proper’ boyfriend: Courtney follows the old fashioned route via school and getting to know you chats over coffee. Grace finds a young man with a fast car who gives her expensive presents and promises to get her a career in modelling. But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one involving drugs and sex trafficking. Can the girls remain friends? More importantly, can Courtney and her new boyfriend (and his older sister) rescue Grace before she is in too deep? Does Grace want to be rescued?

Excerpt:

Girl Friends - cover” … Mostly young girls who don’t have any family to speak of. They get lured in by promises of enduring love or some such, and then also end up as prostitutes—with threats to slash their faces or break their legs, or hurt their family or friends, if they try to escape.” “That’s interesting. But I can’t see Grace falling for anything like that. She may not work hard at school or get great grades, but she’s not stupid.” “Well, maybe she believed that Kal had something more to offer her, something she really, really wanted. Something that made the loss of your friendship, the rows at the home, and missing school etcetera, all worthwhile.” “Oh, God, yes,” I am about to sit down again, but Hannah’s words deliver another shock. “He’s told her he can put her in touch with a man who can arrange a modelling contract for her. She’s mad to be a model— would do anything for it.” “There you are then.” Hannah sounds almost pleased, and this makes me so angry I nearly hit her. “But that solves nothing. We think we may know now why she’s behaving like she is, and can guess it won’t work out for her. And aren’t we the clever ones. But meanwhile, she believes she has a modelling contract almost in the bag. In fact she’s going today to meet this mythical man to get it sorted.” “Oh, Christ!” Both Hannah and Laurence turn to me with a look of dismay.

Links:

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

Girl Friends is published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

I’m taking a couple of weeks off. My blog will be back, with a number of author interviews lined up, after Easter. 

Learning from the movies.

cinema-310x165This is a lesson I have yet to apply to novel writing myself, but I thought I’d pass on a few tips I was given when I attended a screen writing workshop recently. Successful Hollywood films, apparently, all conform to a fairly strict formula. And it is a formula that has been used by some of the most commercially successful writers, like Sophie Kinsella or Dick Francis. Once you know the formula, you will probably be able to other best-selling authors whose work follows a similar pattern. And, if you are so inclined, you will be able to irritate friends and family, as you settle down on the sofa with your pop-corn and cola, by pointing out the key components of the formula in the DVD of the latest blockbuster.

Essentials ingredients of a Hollywood movie: 

  1. A film must have a hero (or heroine, of course)
  2. The hero must be ‘on a mission,’ be it to kill a dragon, or get married.
  3. The hero has to have an antagonist
  4. Each film will have a three act structure
  5. Act One: Introduces the premise of the film (novel): the hero, their world, a trigger (often negative) incident, and a big event about 12 pages in. Act one also introduces the antagonist and shows us the hero’s fears and flaws. Also in Act one (the next 20 or so pages) you get an exposition as the viewer / reader needs to know what the film /story is about. You also need an incident to set up the plot,  you need to set up the love interest, and a big moment to end the first act of the film / first third of the novel. I.e. by this point we have met the hero, the antagonist, the love interest, and have a petty good idea about the story-line.
  6. Act two is the longest.  The hero faces problems and obstacles. Things get desperate, hero cinema catsfaces – and faces down – his fears. Hero will ‘grow’ during the act. Act two will include the film’s / story’s ‘big moment.’ This is a critical scene that will be literally at the half way point, to keep the viewer’s / reader’s attention. Act two will end on a high point or a low point. If the film / story is to end happily it will be a low point, and vice-versa.
  7. Act Three will be short and sharp – sometimes referred to as ‘the race to the end.’ Hero and antagonist are still pitted against each other as equals till the final showdown. Hero’s ‘arc’ is continuing to develop  The end of Act three must be emotionally satisfying for the viewer/ reader.
  8. A blockbuster ‘ bestseller will usually end with an element of mystery that offers a potential story-line for another film / book.

Now I think about it, it’s not just modern ‘airport’ books that fit this formula – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice pretty much follows this pattern, even including ‘sequels’ written by modern writers! But then, no doubt if she were alive today, she would be writing for Hollywood or TV.

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read some of my novels or short stories, please go to one of my Amazon author pages:

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

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

Capturing a child’s view of the world

Happy ‘Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare

Today, to be a little bit different, I’m sharing an excerpt from Penelope Lively’s memoir of her childhood growing up in Egypt, Oleander Jacaranda. In chapter three she recounts a number of her very first memories, noting how surreal and disconnected, what she calls this ‘assemblage of slides in the head,’ is. At the time of writing the memoir she could not work out the chronology for when each event occurred, and noted how important it is, to an adult mind, to understand things in a linear and sequential way. Not so for a small child.

Excerpt:

It is only very small children who retain this wonderfully surreal vision. It is an anarchic vision, too. They are seeing the world without preconceptions or expectations, and therefore anything is possible. [Unlike adult perceptions] The child’s view arises because of an absence of expectation, not a manipulation of what is known.

Her insight into how children see the world is, I feel, a useful guide for any writer trying to get into the head of a small child, or someone who, for whatever reason, can not think like a ‘normal’ teenager or adult – think of Mark Haddon’s novel written from the perspective of an autistic boy. The nearest I have got to capturing the child’s ‘anarchic’ view is in my short story for young teenagers, Sleeping Beauty. Here the young heroine is in a coma and sees things in a more surreal and fantastical way than the adults around her do, or she would if she were fully conscious. Children don’t understand the world as adults do. But how they make sense of what they see and experience, is sometimes more real.

Links:

sleeping beauty

 

Sleeping Beauty : myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CKKNG7Q

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing a review of my 2016 YA novel, Girl Friends, that appeared on Goodreads and Amazon Books last week. Writers appreciate reviews, and when they are as good as this, we positively glow with pleasure, and feel inspired to write more, and write better!

Review;

Girl Friends - coverThis book is truly a wonderful read. It starts early with a bleak portrayal of a typical evening in the life of Courtney Jacks; there is domestic abuse, alcoholism, and saturated fear throughout that first introductory chapter. But then you also immediately see what a good hearted person the main character, Courtney, is.

I think that this book touches on a lot of adult themes, but it is 100% something that Young Adults can and should read. There is the struggle to improve yourself, the delicate balance needed to maintain friends, how to overcome self doubt, and most importantly of all is how to save a friend who needs saving.

By the end of the story, I cared deeply about all the characters, and in post-analysis of their development, found no critique but only praise for how well Margaret made every character into a brand new creation by the end of the book.

The book was very enjoyable from start to finish, and I heartily give it a 5 star review.

Links: