Category Archives: Writers, readers, teenage readers.

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

 

 

 

 

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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:

 

 

 

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.