Category Archives: Writers, readers, teenage readers.

HerStory – why women write.

On Saturday 30th March I am participating in HerStory, a free literary event aimed primarily at women writers and readers. It is part of the build up to Coventry being the City of Culture in 2021. It is hosted by the poet, Emilie Lauren Jones, and will be taking place in the Central library in Coventry from 1pm to 3.30pm. And did I mention that it’s FREE!

We will be talking among other things, about how can you tell if the writer is male or female? And does it matter? Is there a ‘recognition gap’ between the ranking of male and female writers? Is there one for male or female characters?

On a more personal level we will talk about why we write; how we choose what to write about; and how important are female characters in the story / poem / play?

And, because writers need readers (see my last post) what sort of stuff do we like reading? And where do we like to read?

Of course, there’s plenty more going on, including readings and a Q&A session. But you’ll have to be there to get the full flavour. That, and read my next blog where I will report on how it all went.

Links to my books and social media

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What’s your reading age?

Recent research by Renaissance UK into the length of sentences and words in books intended for children and young people has come up with some surprising results. The research is intended to guide teachers when deciding what books their students should read.

One result that has raised eyebrows is that the Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves which are intended for the youngest pupils and pre-schoolers is rated as harder than some of the Roald Dahl books, and almost as hard as John Steinbeck.

Some passages in, for instance, Mr Greedy are indeed quite complex: Over on the other side of the table stood the source of that delicious spell, A huge enormous gigantic colossal plate, and on the plate huge enormous gigantic colossal sausages the size of pillows, and huge enormous gigantic potatoes the size of beach balls, and huge enormous gigantic colossal peas the size of cabbages.

Yes, plenty of long words and sentences. However, as some people have pointed out, books by authors like Roald Dahl might be linguistically simpler, but the stories themselves are more complex and often morally ambivalent, so more challenging for the reader, and therefore more suitable for an older child.

Each Mr Men book, on the other hand, follows a simple structure, has a simple resolution and a happy ending, and so is more suitable for a young child. What they might also have said is that the Mr Men books are intended to be read aloud, so we’re really talking about young listeners rather than young readers. Parents and teachers can have fun reading a paragraph like the one above, building up the picture and the excitement with the repetition of the lists of words. They are books intended for an almost theatrical performance by the adult, rather than for a child to read quietly in a corner. And very good for this purpose they are too. But an older child, once able to read independently, is going to want a bit more of a story line and plotting, even if that means shorter words and sentences initially.

Which leaves me wondering, is this sort of research, done by computers scanning word and sentence length, actually any help to teachers? Or wouldn’t actually reading the books for themselves give them a better idea of what is suitable for the ages and abilities of the children in their class? (Which is probably what they do anyway).

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Another great read from K. C. Sprayberry

Blaze A Team Omega Thriller is an exciting psychological thriller from best-selling author, K.C. Sprayberry. This particular story has been in her ‘to be completed’ files for sixteen years. The concept was always a group of Elementals – individuals capable of manipulating earth, wind, water, and air to control wildfires, working together and sometimes against each other. It wasn’t until she noticed a trend of brush fires in California, blazes which seemed almost unnatural, that she came up with the thrilling adventure this tale is now.

Fires ravage California for eight long years. Into the fray of taming these beasts comes a group of people with the power to control the elements of fire, water, wind, and earth. Their only duty is to subdue the flames ravaging the state, to assist firefighters, hot shots, and smoke jumpers dedicated to protecting the Golden State.

One team stands out among the others, a group of four twenty-three year olds. They came into their abilities while these blazes were at their strongest. Dakota Henderson, Cary Toronto, Fante Cyndall, and Luisa Henderson appear to be ordinary people, doing normal jobs.

Yet, when the call out comes, they dive into the belly of the beast to protect those threatened with the flames of destruction. One of them receives the ability to lead all Elementals, the powers to battle against rogues from their organization. Can this individual put a stop to these wildfires and bring peace back to the embattled state?

You can get this exciting book here:

About K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California, K.C. Sprayberry is living a dream she’s had since she first discovered the magic of books. She traveled the U.S. and Europe before finally settling in the mountains of Northwest Georgia. She’s been married to her soulmate for a quarter of a century and they enjoy spoiling their grandchildren along with many other activities.

A multi-genre author, K.C. Sprayberry is always on the hunt for new stories. Inspiration strikes at the weirdest times and drives her to grab notebook and pen to jot down her ideas. Those close to her swear nothing or no one is safe if she’s smiling gently in a corner and watching those in the same room interact. Her observations have often given her ideas for her next story, set not only in the South but wherever the characters demand they settle.

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www.kcsprayberry.com

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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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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

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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

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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

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