Tag Archives: #amreading

Live Literary Event in Warwick this Thursday.

Warwickshire writer Jenefer Heap, winner of the Good Housekeeping short story competition and author of The Woman Who Never Did and other short stories, regularly hosts a popular literary event in the centre of Warwick. The next one is on Thursday October 10th at the Warwick Arms Hotel, starting at 7.30  and a mere £3.00 a ticket. Local writers, some with established publishers, some self-published, some still scribbling on the backs of envelopes to amuse their family and friends only, will be reading from their work on a selected theme. I was invited to participate a few years ago and now try to attend each one.

This time a nod has been given to the approach of Halloween and the theme for all the poems, sketches, and short stories being read on Thursday is Words That Go BUMP in the Night. So you can expect, as Jenefer says, ‘spectres and the supernatural; witches and warlocks; dark deeds and demons.’  And, if previous events are anything to go by, at least one person standing up and doing something completely different – but very entertaining, nonetheless.

My own contribution will be sticking to the theme chosen for the evening. But, spoiler alert, because I don’t believe in the supernatural (not really, fingers crossed as I touch wood) it will be a pretend ghost – though still frighteningly real to the young couple being ‘haunted’.

Such events are great fun to take part in and good entertainment for those who just come to listen. There is a chance to sell copies of your own books, chat to other readers and writers and, being hosted in a pub, plenty of scope for a drink or two to keep the whistle suitably damp for reading aloud.

More details are in the poster below.

Links to my books and social media

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Reading Yourself to Good Health

It is now generally agreed that doctors prescribe too many drugs. They genuinely want to help their patients, but don’t have much time to listen. So a quickly written prescription, and another, and another … leaves both patient and doctor feeling ‘job done’ – if only briefly. But other interventions are felt to be as good as, or better than, pills: cognitive behaviour, trips to the gym, walking (or just stroking) a dog, deep breathing, massages, and many others. The only problem is they take more time to sort, and require more motivation from the patient.

There are also people who advocate reading as a cure for many ills, including depression. Take Laura Freeman, for example, the author of The Reading Cure. Among the books she recommends are A Cat, A Man and Two Women, by Junchiro Tanizaki, about a marriage break-up; Milkman, by Anna Burns, about living with a constant sense of dread; Heartburn, by Nora Ephron, about trying to be perfect whilst your life, and hormones, are going haywire; and Grief is a Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter, about dealing with the death of a loved one.

Some people come at their reading cures more tangentially. An uncle of mine, with a stressful job in academia, found Westerns helped him relax, and many swear by P.G. Wodehouse as a good pick-me-up. I have found a well written, but not too gory, ‘who-dunnit’ helps me wind down at the end of the day if I have had to deal with something rather demanding earlier. My prescription? Anything by Ian Rankin, Val MacDiarmid, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, and the author* whose name briefly escapes me, who has worked her way through the alphabet in the titles of her crime novels. (The actual plot, author, and title aren’t part of the cure, it’s the author’s ability to take my mind of the real world, if only for half an hour, that’s important). And, so far, has helped to keep me out of the doctor’s surgery.

[* Just remembered, it’s Sue Grafton]

I’m not sure I should recommend you buy one of my books as a therapeutic alternative to medicine, but I for one would feel a lot better if you did!

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A YA book for the end of the holidays?

And Alex Still Has Acne is my novel for Young Adults that has been an Amazon best-seller, and was re-published by Solstice Publishing in 2018. It’s a short, chirpy, read with a feel good ending, but a few dark episodes along the way: acne, adoption, alcohol, and anorexia, to mention just the things beginning with ‘a’. Plenty going on as well as the usual problems of growing up, and dealing with with schools and parents who just don’t understand. Ideal, you may think, as a quick read before going back to school!

What is the novel about? Here’s what it says on the back cover.

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?

And Alex Still Has Acne is available as an e-book, or in print form, from Amazon Books (and via this blog). myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

Links to my books and social media

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

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ALL BOOKS FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED – At least one story always free.

A poem for the morning after the night before.

Writers in English love playing about with words, often with humour and to take a dig at the more po-faced or traditionalist among us. I am sure it is not just an English speaking and writing phenomenon, but my language skills are so limited that I can’t put it to the test.

I’ve been sorting through the last of my late mother’s papers recently, and came across some documents she had kept that had been saved by my father who had died nearly twenty years earlier. He was a great one for press cuttings – mostly about his swimming club and my brothers’ prowess in pool or on the running track, but also articles and letters to the editor, or poems, which had amused him. One I felt particularly apt for a Sunday morning blog.

A reader had written in to The Times, maybe fifty years ago, to see if anyone knew the last two lines of an inebriate’s take on the well know nursery rhyme Twinkle, twinkle little star, that started with the words Starkle Starkle little twink.

Sure enough, the following week another reader had come up with the verse. So, if you’re feeling a little worse for wear this morning, here is the poem for you:

Starkle, Starkle little twink

Who the Hell you are I think

I’m not under what you call

The alcho-fluence of inco-hol.

I’m just a little slort of sheep

I’m not drunk like thinkle peep

I don’t know who me yet

But the drunker I stand here

The longer I get

Just give me one more drink to fill my cup

‘Cause I got all day sober to Sunday up.

That’s it for this week. If you are sober (or drunk) enough, you may want to follow these links to my books and social media. There is always at least one story or anthology that is free to download.

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

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Putting Your Word(s) in Order.

Legal documents are dry, precise, pedantic – and consequently make for rather a dull read for those of us who are not solicitors. They are written that way because their meaning has to be crystal clear – ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ – as they often state. Fiction writers are not so hide-bound. They may want to convey a mood, an atmosphere, a feeling, an impression … Metaphors, hyperbole, humor, irony and, not least, word order, will help with this more than the unvarnished truth.

That said, a novelist needs to take care with the order their words are written in, so that they get the meaning they intend across to the reader. There are subtle (and not so subtle) differences between ‘I only bought the vase’ (no big deal), I bought the vase only (no big deal?) ‘I bought the only vase’ (big deal), and ‘Only I bought the vase,’ (Very big deal?)

The rules of grammar are not so strictly adhered to these days, with the guidance now being that grammar should help the reader understand the text (and appreciate to mood), rather than enforce a defined word order. So infinitives can be split if it makes sense to do so – and who would prefer the grammatically correct ‘to go boldly’ over ‘to boldly go?’ A pedant might say that this is a phrase ‘up with which they will not put’ – another phrase that is grammatically correct, but a bit of a mouthful. The rest of us are likely to prefer ‘to put up with it.’

Links to my books and social media, including my collection of short stories based on plays by the most famous wordsmith in the world – who knew a thing or two about getting his words in the right order.

myBook.to/CastOff

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Writing – a solitary occupation that brings people together?

Whilst on holiday last week I read I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill. This is her grimly compelling novel about the relationship between two small boys; one a bully, the other his victim.

In a postscript she summarised the origins of the story. She had rented a remote cottage where she could work uninterrupted on finishing another novel. Her tranquil surroundings inspired her – the beautiful surrounding countryside including a nearby wood, the unusually hot weather, and two small boys who she often spotted when out on her daily walks. These boys seemed like great friends, unlike the two in her novel. But they provided the germ of an idea for a new story. By the end of her sojourn, she had written the opening chapters of I’m the King of the Castle, and outlined the rest of the plot in her notebook.

Although the book is about children, she wrote it with adult readers in mind and, what she thought, were adult themes exploring evil, isolation, and a lack of love. However it has often been a set book for school exams and seems to resonate, to an alarming extent in her view, with the fears and pro-occupations of teenagers. It was written before the era of social media, but the account of bullying by one child leading to another taking their own life, is thoroughly modern.

She admits that it is a ‘dark’ book, even though it emerged as an idea in a beautiful place, and many people have written to her to tell them how much they dislike it. My copy, picked up in a charity sale, looked unread, a friend warned me that I would not like it, and I did find it an uncomfortable read. But other people have been gripped and have told her: ‘That’s what it was like for me. [Your story] made me realise I haven’t been alone.’

This, she feels, is one of the reasons why she and others write novels: to make some people realise that they are not, after all, on their own. Or, as the seventeenth century poet, John Donne, put it – albeit in a different context, ‘No man is an island.’

Links to my books and social media

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

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Super writing tips.

These aren’t my super tips. They are from Joe Norman, whose book – The Super Tutor: The Best Education Money Can Buy in Seven Short Chapters, is published this week.Luckily for us, two chapters are devoted to writing and here are some of the tips he comes up with.

In the chapter on how to hone your writing style he recommends splitting your allotted time into three parts. First try staring out of the window a lot without really thinking about exactly what you want to say, followed by examining your thoughts – perhaps making a few rough notes, but not actual sentences.

Next, when you get round to the actual writing, try writing as you speak – find you voice, in other words. Though, if you don’t like your own voice, you can always aim at being a cleverer, wittier, version of yourself. As Cary Grant once said, ‘I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until I finally became that person. Or he became me.’ Writing by hand can force you to think harder and to cut out waffle and padding words like ‘very’ and ‘really.’ Use ‘said’ in preference to any other word relating to speech, and avoid exclamation marks.

Having spent the second third of your time writing, you should spend the last third checking it, at least to start with. As Hemingway said, ‘The first draft is always shit.’

In his chapter on how to write fiction, Norman says there are only three kinds of sentence: action, dialogue, description. ‘You don’t have to use them in equal amounts, but if you don’t know what to write you could simply put the letters A,D,D down the left hand side of a blank page of paper, then write a sentence (or paragraph) of action, followed by dialogue, followed by description.’

And repeat.

And repeat.

He quotes Aristotle who says there are only three acts to a story: beginning, middle, and end.

Or,

as David Mamet puts it:

Act one – stick your hero up a tree.

Act two – Throw rocks at her.

Act three – Get her down again.

Norman recommends eavesdropping on people in public places to get a grasp of authentic dialogue.

His tips are aimed at exam taking school students and their parents, and may strike the aspiring adult writer as a bit simplistic. But he is a highly paid ‘super tutor,’ so his methods must work for a lot of people. If you are stuck with writer’s block, or struggling to move your story along quite as you want to, one or other of his ideas may work for you. Personally, I’m going to try the staring out of the window suggestion.

Links to my books and social media

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

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

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