Category Archives: Writers, readers, teenage readers.

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:

 

 

 

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Jane Austen and the new ten pound note.

jane-austen-ten-pound-noteLast week the Bank of England brought in a new £10.00 note. It is smaller, more durable, and harder to counterfeit than the old version. But for literary types its main significance is that it features two women: the Queen (as usual) on the front, and the novelist Jane Austen on the back. In fact the note was officially launched from her old home in Chawton, Hampshire, on July 18th, exactly 200 years after her death in nearby Winchester.

The note includes a quote from her most famous book, Pride and Prejudice, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading.” (Let’s not spoil it by pointing out that this was said by a vain and snobbish young lady purely interested in capturing the attention of a more erudite and wealthy young man).

Jane Austen AltonWhat a casual reader may not know is that Jane Austen was not just a provincial spinster, scribbling away between the social calls and household duties expected of a woman of her social class and limited finances. Her portrait on the new note is particularly appropriate as she also had close links to banking. One of her brothers (Henry) owned a number of small banks, run from his headquarters in London and Jane often stayed with him at his London house. A £10.00 note issued by one of his banks is on display in the Chawton cottage where she lived, which is open to the public.

But, although the announcement of this new note’s design was made in her old home, no mention was made of her banker brother. He was not a good businessman, suffered losses in the financial crash of 1816, and his banking empire was subsequently taken over by others and forgotten.Jane Austen

Jane Austen is celebrated for her novels about the eager pursuit of suitable husbands for her heroines. Less romantically, they also illustrate her keen interest in the pursuit of a suitable income. In her own life she was acutely conscious of her lack of means, and took an active interest in the sale of her manuscripts, often with Henry’s well meaning, but not always helpful advice. (You can read more about this aspect of Jane’s life in Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister, by EJ Clery)

Which brings me, rather clumsily, to my own books. I write because I feel the need to write. I do not expect to live off my royalties, but, like Jane I take an interest in my ‘bottom line’, and every sale is a welcome acknowledgement of my efforts. (Reviews are also welcome, even low starred ones). All my books are available on Amazon, as e-books and / or paperbacks, and you can purchase them via one of the links below:

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

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

 

 

Time to give ‘Miss’ a miss?

What is the appropriate honorific for a woman? Mrs? Miss? Ms? Mx? None at all?

The debate is not a late twentieth century phenomenon. It has been going on since the end of the nineteenth century at least. According to the academic, Amy Erickson, ‘Ms’ was suggested as a suitable equivalent to ‘Mr’ in 1901, but never caught on.

Samuel Johnson, when compiling his dictionary in the mid-eighteenth century, was untroubled by the relationship between the married status of a woman and her title, be it Mrs or Mistress/Miss (a bit like the French madame / mademoiselle, where the latter tends to denote youth rather than the married state). However, in the Victorian and Edwardian era, ‘Miss’ started to be a term of preference for unmarried, but upper class and socially ambitious, women. As the twentieth century progressed though, attitudes to the title became more ambivalent.

The feminist, Sheila Michaels, who died in June this year, started to champion the use of ‘Ms’ for all women, during the 1960s. But it wasn’t until she was heard on a New York radio programme on feminism and talked about the use of ‘Ms,’ that she attracted the

gloria-steinem

Gloria Steinem

attention of the better known feminist, Gloria Steinem. Ms Steinem went on to create the feminist magazine ‘Ms’ and the rest, as they say, is history (or, as she didn’t say, Mstory).

It wasn’t too long before Government departments and banks, were accepting ‘Ms’ on their forms instead of Miss or Mrs, though the New York Times style guide didn’t acknowledge the term until 1986. Now the debate has moved on to the acceptance, or otherwise, of the gender neutral term ‘Mx’ for all.

Writers beware! We should be careful not to transfer twenty-first century sensitivities to characters set in the past. Most Victorian or Edwardian schoolmistresses felt no stigma when given the title ‘Miss,’ and cooks of the same era, whether married or not, were usually referred to as ‘Mrs.’

(Incidentally, Sheila Michaels is also credited with promoting the terms ‘feminism’ to replace ‘women’s liberationist,’ and ‘sexist’ instead of ‘male chauvinist pig.’)

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please follow one of the links below to my Amazon author page. There are plenty of strong female characters in many of the stories. And at least one is always available as a free download.

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

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

Or go to Solstice Publishing:

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

Meet Author M. A. Cortez

Next up in my intermittent series of author interviews this summer, is YA author M. A. Cortez. Welcome Mary Ann!

mary Ann 3What is the title of your latest book? (In a nutshell what is it about?)

Sister Sleuths and The Wailing Darkness is book two of the YA Sister Sleuth series. Teen twins Sam and Sandy find themselves in the middle of a mystery when a banshee shows up in town just about the same time as new exchange student Darcy O’Sullivan. One of the twins, Sam, is on the spectrum and has a heightened sensitivity to beings in the spiritual realm. She becomes obsessed with the notion that the banshee’s prediction of death could include one of their own. But neither twin expect the twists and turns their lives take after the arrival of the banshee.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? The most challenging part of being a writer, for me, is working through the middle of my stories. I know in my head what I want to happen but getting from point A to B and still keeping the story strong can be a challenge. I go through several drafts before I find something that works. Also, just getting myself to write every day is a huge challenge. I get distracted easily and before I know it the day is over and I haven’t written a word. Most rewarding, finishing a story and creating characters that people fall in love with.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

NEVER give up. Keep writing, and reading. Reading is just as important to your writing as putting your own words down on paper. Also, take time every day to move forward toward your dream.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have several projects in the works including a few picture books but the third book in the Sister Sleuths series is at the top of my list at the moment.

What do you like to read?  

sister sleuths & shadowman-001 (1)

I read a lot of YA mysteries. I also love biographies.

Where can readers find you ?  

https://twitter.com/@maryanncortez16

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaryAnnCortez

https://itsthewriteplace.blogspot.com

Instagram@ Bookwormyxoxo

http://mybook.to/DoubleExposure

http://getbook.at/GraceatChristmas Sister Sleuths-001

http://getbook.at/Moondance

http://getbook.at/SisterSleuthsandTheShadowman

getBook.at/SisterSleuthsandTheWailingDarkness

 

 

Watch the trailer:

 

 

 

 

The Amazon myth.

An Amazon, as we all know, was a member of a tribe of women from classical Greek times. They were famed and feared because of their ferocious fighting techniques. To enhance which, they would cut off their right breast so that they could use their bows and arrows to greater effect.

AmazonVery little is known about their origins. Even the earliest histories had them reputedly living on the eastern shores of the Black Sea (so not in Greece at all). And paintings and sculptures depicting these Amazonian ladies show them with two breasts that, according to the historian Lyn Webster Wilde, “are usually firm and prominent.”

So that’s two myths busted.

But the myth of chief interest in a blog on the meaning of words, is that concerning their name. According to the fifth century BCE historian, Herodotus, the name came from two Greek words: ‘A’ meaning ‘without’; and ‘mastos’ meaning ‘breast.’ A later historian, Philostratus, demurred. He thought it probably meant ‘not breast fed.’ Others have variously suggested the name comes from ‘Ha-mazan’ (fighting together), or ‘Am-azon’ (mother lord).

Disappointingly though, the author of Women in Classical Athens, Susan Blundell, who has spent some time researching the origins and location of the Amazon race, has found no evidence that they ever existed at all. As a consequence, the meaning of their name also remains a mystery.

Yet so famous have they been through the ages that the largest river in South America is named after them (some explorers apparently transferred the search for them to this part of the world, but had to settle for re-naming a river). And Adrienne Mayor, in The Amazons, believes there really is archaeological evidence that there were female fighters, in the area of Europe known as Scythia to the Greeks.

The Amazon story captures the imagination, so no prizes for guessing one reason why this was the name chosen for the biggest online retail business and bookshop in the world. Another reason, of course, was that the CEO didn’t just want a catchy title, but one that came early in the alphabet, so would be quick to find on the Internet.

So the name lives on, and plays a big part in many people’s shopping habits. Quite a feat for a race of single breasted female warriors that probably never existed.

If you have enjoyed reading my blog, and would like the read more of my work, please go to my Amazon (that word again!) book page: 

N.B. Festive Treats, an anthology in which my story – Mary’s Christmas – appears, is currently free to download.

 

 

Getting teenagers to read.

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

Teenagers, or Young Adults as they are called when they are potential book readers, lead pretty full lives these days. School exams, sports and other after school activities, friends and parties and, perhaps dominating all of these, social media and computer games. Reading for pleasure doesn’t seem to get much of a look in.

There are exceptions of course – books by JK Rowling have a huge teenage following (not to mention avid adult readers). But I’m not sure whether it is the fact that Harry Potter was a boy wizard (and wizards etc. are very popular these days) or that, when she started writing about him, Harry was young enough to appeal to the pre-teen reader and they, once hooked, just carried on reading about him.

Of course there are still teenage book-worms around, but convincing Joe or Jo Ordinary that a few hours spent away from the phone or computer screen with a book is time well spent – fun even! – can be quite a challenge. Undaunted though, authors who write regularly for the YA category keep scribbling away. And we certainly cherish any reviews that young, or not so young, readers leave for us.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my contemporary YA novel Girl Friends. (Sorry, no wizards, but there are quite a few sinister and creepy human characters. And a burgeoning first romance).

Excerpt:

Talking with Laurence seems so natural; as if I had this kind of conversation with mates every day of the year. And yet so unreal. I keep pinching myself to check I really am in Café Nero, sipping coffee from a cup across a table from a fit looking boy and carrying on as if it is the most natural thing in the world for me to be here.  All the time though there a part of my brain saying ‘Look at the state of you, Cor. The day you are allowed to go to the college without wearing uniform you turn up in faded supermarket jeans, a shapeless T-shirt that could have probably done with a wash, and certainly benefited from being ironed, the black trainers you wear every day for school, and no make-up, because Mel and Josie have been messing with the few cosmetics you own, and they have ended up too disgusting to use again.’  Glamorous, I am not. Yet, here I am talking to a guy who seems really interested in what I have to say. Not that it’ll come to anything, of course. So I might as well enjoy it whilst it lasts—savour every minute and slot it in my memory bank to dream on when I get home. “…So what do you think, Courtney?” I jump. “Sorry?” “I just asked you if you wanted to meet up at the weekend—go to the park, have another coffee or something.” I gasp. “Not if you don’t want to, of course,” he adds hastily. “I’m going to be in town anyway on Saturday, so I just thought …” “Oh, I’ll be in town too. I always come in now to work in the library—things get a bit hectic at home …”

And here is a ***** review of the book left on Amazon Books in March 2017.

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.

If you would like to read the book, here are the links: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS or myBook.to/GirlFriends

Unsure? You may prefer to try a more fairy-tale short story as a taster – Sleeping Beauty. http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CKKNG7Q  or myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty

 

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