Tag Archives: #amreading

Grammar query – Is it I, or me, that’s wrong?

When to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ in a piece of writing can cause arguments, confusion, and – if you pen to paperthink you’re in the right – a severe dose of smugness about other people’s ignorance. But the correct usage is not always straightforward. Some years ago, in The State of the Language, Philip Howard wrote: “Already, even educated users of English, such as journalists, suffer from chronic uncertainty about the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and the other cases of pronouns.”

Old school grammarians, like Sir Ernest Gowers in Plain Words, have been quite clear about what they think is right: if the first pronoun is in the object case then the pronoun following ‘and’ must also be in the object case, as in ‘between him and me,’ or ‘he decided to let her go, but not me.’ Moreover in educated society, I was brought up to believe, the subject case should be used with the verb ‘to be.’

I tend to the old school usage, and sometimes have to stop myself jumping in with a correction when I hear people say things like ‘between you and I’ instead of my preferred ‘between you and me.’ But more modern grammarians, such as Oliver Kamm, have said there is no rule for or against using ‘I’ or ‘me’ in such a phrase. It’s just a question of what you are used to – although publishers and newspapers will have their house style rules, and writers will be expected to conform with these, whatever they personally prefer. pen and paper

You can’t blame modern teaching methods, or the vogue for more informal speech, as the quandary over which is correct goes back hundreds of years. After all, the greatest writer of them all, William Shakespeare, has written ‘All debts are cleared between you and I’ (Merchant of Venice) or ‘… Cassio and she together,’ (Othello), so if it is OK by him ….

No doubt I will continue to say and write ‘between you and me’ etc. because that is what I am comfortable with. But I should accept that it is a convention I am comfortable with pen and paper 2not a grammatical rule, and that to use ‘I’ instead of ‘me’ is not a blunder (even if my computer’s spell checker agrees with me!)

Anyway, I too am inconsistent. I have never answered the question ‘who is that?’ with the phrase ‘It is I.‘  To me ‘I’ sounds pretentious and ‘me’ sounds much more natural – even if it is not strictly grammatical for those who take their subject case pronouns very seriously!

More of my published work can be found at:

You can find me on Facebook: fb.me/margaretegrot.writer

Or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/meegrot

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Is a scapegoat what we think it is?

A few posts ago (on 4th February), I wrote about how the term whipping boy was used wrongly to mean a scapegoat. Which doesn’t mean to say that people should be called to account if they use the term – of course not; that would just be being pedantic. But why should those of us who now know its false derivation, not view the term with a supercilious smirk?

What about the word scapegoat though? Does that still mean, er, scapegoat – a person made to take the blame for one or more others? It seems so. The word was first used in 1530 by William Tyndale in his translation of The Bible from Hebrew. He took the wordGoats Go.. Inspecting. Azazel to mean ‘the goote on which the lotte fell to scape.’ (OT, Leviticus, Chapter 8). In the Mosaic ritual for the Day of Atonement two goats are selected: one to be sacrificed, the other to be laden with the sins of the community and sent off into the wild – literally, the goat that escapes.

Since Tyndale, other animals have been used in literature for the same purpose, usually with humorous intent. But scapegoose, scapehorse and scapecat, have never really caught on.

That deals with the goat bit of the word. Does scape also mean what we think it does? I believe so. My dictionary describes it as an archaic word for escape – as in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when Cassius says to Brutus:

“How scaped I killing, when I crossed you so?” (Act IV, scene 3).

By the way, if you find anything wrong with this post, don’t blame me. Blame the spell checker – my usual scapegoat for any spelling, grammatical or other mistakes.

This post is going out on 14th February, Valentine’s Day. Would you like a gentle love story to read? Then try my short story, Sleeping Beauty. You might think the young heroine is a scapegoat at first – until it all ends happily ever after.

myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty

NB: Most of my novels and short stories can be found on Amazon Books:

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

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

or http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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AND ALEX STILL HAS ACNE is free to download 10th and 11th February.

Still short of cash post Christmas and wanting something new to read?

I have just renewed my contract with Solstice for And Alex Still has Acne – a short novel for teenagers about family, friendship, and some of the trials of being a teenager. To celebrate the new contract I am offering the novel as a free download on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th February.

Blurb:And Alex -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?

Excerpt:

Alex sat silently for several minutes. He had never knowingly broken the law before, apart from cycling on the pavement – but then his mother preferred him to do that than run risks on the road. He didn’t like the idea at all. But Sam was his friend, and he didn’t like to abandon him either. Moreover, despite himself, he felt a tingling of excitement at what Sam was proposing. Anyway, he could never knowingly give up an opportunity for more food these days.

“Where?” Sam knew his friend was not enquiring where his house was, and felt a glow of pleasure that Alex was in on this with him. He too felt a tingle of excitement, plus a mixture of guilt and fear – but not enough of either to stop him. “The One-Stop. It’s big enough to have blind corners and small enough to not have any security.”

“You’ve done this before.” It was a statement rather than a question. Sam nodded. “A couple of times. Tried Waitrose first ‘cos that’s where I knew from Mum shopping there – but security follows you round like you are a criminal or something, so I got out of there quick and tried the OneStop. Easy-peasy there.”

And it was. At least for Sam it was. Alex was amazed at how smoothly Sam sauntered into the shop. Alex felt hot and sweaty as soon as they got inside and started to take his parka off, knocking into the column of trolleys as he did so. Sam and the shop assistant turned to see what the noise was. He felt his face go bright red, which he knew was not a pretty sight against his ginger hair, and shrunk his neck down into his shirt collar as he pushed the trolleys back into a straight line. “Idiot,” hissed Sam. “Where are you going to put the stuff if you’ve taken your coat off?”

“Sorry,” Alex whispered back, pulling his coat back over his shoulders, shrinking down further into his collar, and picking up a basket as nonchalantly as he could. He couldn’t help feeling furtive as he looked around him, and he took a sharp intake of breath as his eye caught the poster by the baskets: ‘NO SHOPLIFTING – WE ALWAYS PROSECUTE!’ He stopped in his tracks, the basket dangling loosely on his arm.

“Idiot,” Sam hissed again, and made to take the basket off him. Then he re-considered.  “No. Keep the basket; I’ve got a better idea for you. Take this money …” – Sam handed over the 60p left from the McDonald’s bill – “… and go round the shop to see if you can buy anything with it, then meet me outside.”

Alex nodded. He could see he was going to be a liability if he stuck with his friend. He was also relieved that he was no longer involved, so couldn’t be prosecuted. That he was now acting as a decoy to distract the sole sales assistant’s attention, so in effect aiding and abetting the commission of a crime, didn’t occur to him.

They met up again just round the corner from the shop. Alex held out a packet of chewing gum and 2p. Sam opened his parka and revealed a packet of bacon, a twin pack of sausage rolls, two jelly trifles and a bag of satsumas. Alex gaped.  “How the heck did you manage all that?”

“Not too bad today. I just grabbed stuff out of the chilled section whilst the assistant was watching you didn’t nick anything in the sweets section, and picked the fruit up by the door on the way out. She just assumed I was with you – even gave me a smile!” “Well …” Alex was speechless for a minute. “I still don’t think it’s right.”

“No? Well you try going hungry for a couple of days and see how it feels. I used to feel like you – still do most of the time – but things are a bit different now. Anyway I only nick what I need to eat; only this time I’ve nicked stuff for you too. So you’re going to have to come home with me now.”

Alex knew there was some faulty logic in this, but he was partly too impressed, partly too loyal, to say any more. He just followed his friend meekly down the road and back to his house.

Links:

 

 

Whipping Boys – fact or fiction?

My Collins dictionary defines a whipping boy as ‘a person of little importance who is blamed for the incompetence etc. of others, especially his superiors; scapegoat. [Seventeenth century. Originally referring to a boy who was educated with a prince and who received punishment for any faults committed by the prince]’

This is what I and many others have believed, including Mark Twain who popularised the term in his story, The Prince and the Pauper. Past historians have gone further and

Edward_VI_Scrots_c1550_cropped

Edward VI did NOT have a whipping boy to take his punishment for him!

named, for example, Barnaby Fitzpatrick as the whipping boy for Edward VI. William Murray was supposed to have played the same role for Charles 1.The idea was that, as a Royal could not be physically punished, he could be made to feel bad knowing someone else was being whipped on his behalf.

However key historical records have recently been digitalised and modern historians now have the evidence from these that Barnaby et al were no more painfully employed than as grooms / servants. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has always disputed the existence, ever, of whipping boys – and now the definition has been removed from the BBC education website – Bitesize. It’s more likely that the term was first coined by a seventeenth century playwright, Samuel Rowley.

I doubt if the mere fact that the term has no historical validity will stop me, occasionally, using the phrase as an alternative to ‘scapegoat’. But, if there was no such practice of using a whipping boy as a scapegoat, how can I be sure that there was an original scapegoat?

But that is a discussion for another blog!

Links to my published work:

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

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

Meet Best Selling Author Caz Frear

Caz 1Caz grew up in Coventry, UK, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel.  After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true when she won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition with her debut novel, Sweet Little Lies.  When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue and incisive prose, she can be found swearing at the TV when Arsenal are playing and holding court in the pub* on topics she knows nothing about.

(*Which is exactly where my spy from the Coventry Writers’ Group found her!)

 What is the title of your recent book? (In a nutshell what is it about?)

 Sweet Little Lies tells the story of DC Cat Kinsella, a young detective within the Met, whoCaz 2 starts to believe that her father may be involved in the murder she’s been assigned to and the disappearance of a teenager from the west coast of Ireland in 1998.  It’s very much a police procedural at heart however it has strong domestic/family noir overtones as Cat struggles to balance her professional responsibilities and personal allegiances.

Can you tell us a bit about your experiences with the Richard and Judy competition?

 The whole thing was utterly surreal in a magnificent way!  From Richard Madeley calling me to tell me I’d won (and giving me Warwickshire pub recommendations!) to the day I recorded a podcast with them both, it was like looking at myself from the outside.  HOW did this happen?  Usually the lead-time between getting a book deal and seeing your books on the shelves is about a year, sometimes more, however winning the competition meant everything went into overdrive  – I found out that I’d won at the end of January and then my book was in the shops by the end of June.  Those six months were a complete blur of titles, covers, foreign rights deals, interviews, blog posts and a whole host of other things.  I can’t see how 2017 can be beaten but I have my fingers crossed!

What impact has winning had on your sales and future work as an author?

It’s had a huge impact and I’m so grateful!  So far Sweet Little Lies has hit the Nielsen Bookscan Top 50, hit number 1 in the Amazon eBook charts for nearly a month, been bought by Harper Collins for US publication, hit Audible number 1 in the ‘Mystery’ category, been optioned by Carnival Films (who make Downton Abbey and Whitechapel among other things) and was named Kobo Crime Novel of the Year.  I’m so happy and proud of Sweet Little Lies sales and have my fingers crossed that I can replicate that with Book 2!  Not long after the publication of Sweet Little Lies, Bonnier Zaffre offered me a new 2 book deal and I’ll be writing another two in the Cat Kinsella series.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

 I’ll be honest, being a published author is all I’ve ever wanted so it’s hard to say that any of it is particularly challenging.  Obviously some days the words just won’t flow or a scene won’t land on the page in exactly the way I’ve imagined it but you just need to push through on those days and remember that you can always edit later.  I suppose the solitary aspect of being a full-time writer can be quite challenging but there’s always Facebook and Twitter where you can connect with other authors who are usually feeling the same.

The most rewarding aspect is definitely reader feedback – knowing that your story kept someone up all night or made them miss their stop on the bus is the best feeling!

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Finish your first draft.  It sounds like an obvious thing to say but so many people get hung up on perfection which means they end up with a fantastic half-novel that never gets finished.  The first draft is literally just about spilling the story onto the page so don’t worry if it’s not feeling like a literary masterpiece.  STOP editing as you go – the time to edit is in 2nd/3rd/4th/5th draft.

What are you working on at the moment?

Book 2 is in progress but as yet untitled.  DC Cat Kinsella and Murder Investigation Team 4 are back for more dramas and Cat’s family will feature again.  It’s a completely new case though and one that Cat isn’t personally attached to this time, however the events of Sweet Little Lies will still cast a shadow over her life (and potentially her career)

What do you like to read?

Anything and everything but I suppose about 80% falls within the crime and thriller genre.  My favourite crime authors are Tana French, Gillian Flynn, Lynda La Plante and Ann Cleeves, however some of my favourite novels are from far outside the crime genre – The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes to name just two.  Ultimately, I love anything that is truly character-led.

Where can readers find you (Which shops, Amazon links etc)?

 Sweet Little Lies is still available in most good bookshops and some supermarkets.  WHSmith, Waterstones and Amazon are probably your best bet.  If you prefer audiobooks then it’s now available on www.audible.co.uk too.

 

 

Download GIRL FRIENDS for free this weekend!

This weekend (Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th January) my YA novel for mid-teenagers isGirl Friends - cover on a special promotion on Amazon, and can be downloaded for free. As you can imagine from the title, it centres round two girls (Courtney and Grace) who are friends. There’s quite a lot of humour, a potential boyfriend, and a fast paced sub plot. The book also tackles some difficult and topical social issues – like child sexual exploitation. A number of people who have read it have described it as a ‘must read’ for all teenage girls. Admittedly this has mainly come from teachers and parents – but don’t let that put you off!

Excerpt from Girl Friends

If a look could kill, Grace gives me one then, so I shut up. I think briefly about her mother living now in a special hospital for the criminally insane and wonder if Grace misses her: whether it is better to have a mad mum like she has or a sad apology for a mum like mine. Who knows? Who cares anyway—it seems we’re more or less in the same boat.

The tense moment passes. I look across at Grace and she winks and gives a small smile. I smile back and feel my whole body relax. It’s great to have someone in your life who knows almost everything about you and understands. I hope in some way it is the same for her. We drink our coffee in reasonably companionable silence. It’s pretty dark outside by the time we’re down to the last dregs.

Grace looks at her watch—I notice for the first time that it is new. A new alertness comes over her. She digs into her bag and gets out her make-up—peering into the mirror to touch up an already flawless face. She looks across at me.

“Oh, Cor, you do look a mess. Here.”  She starts to lay about me with the powder.

“What the…? Heh, get off.”  I pull away but she has grabbed me firmly and continues to powder my nose. Then she releases me and sits back.

“Well that’s sorted the greasy shine. Now for the eyes.”

“No, Grace, lay off. I don’t really go for much make–up.”

“Time you did,” she retorts, advancing on me with eyeliner. “I’ve bought you your tea, remember, so you do as I say.” That’s true, so I sigh and let her get on with it, even allowing her to re-style my hair, pulling some bits across my face, and pushing other bits behind my ears. Across the restaurant, I see the lads behind the counter looking at us. Surely it must be against company rules to use the dining area as a beauty parlour and one of them will come across and throw us out. But it’s not busy and they are just laughing, enjoying the show. Eventually she is finished and stands up to look at me from all angles.

“Mm, not too bad.” She is obviously pleased with her work. “You should wear a tighter top.”  She pulls at mine from behind and then looks round at the front, before sighing and letting it hang loose again.  “But first, you will need to get yourself a proper bra—that one is doing nothing for you—it must be a least one size too big—and the cups are too small—so you’re just all saggy.”

“Yeh, well, it’s an old one of Mum’s that she’s got too fat for,” I reply.

“Why am I not surprised?” Grace rolls her eyes. “Time you thought about yourself a bit,” she adds reprovingly. “You’ve got to make the most of your assets— use them or lose them as they say.”

It is news to me I have any assets worth making anything off in that department and I pull away from her, embarrassed. “I’m off to the loo,” I say, heading that way as I speak.

When I wash my hands, I catch sight of myself in the mirror. At first I don’t realise it is me—just someone with the same baggy top. The face is quite different; harder, older, more sassy and, I peer more closely, definitely more sexy. Not the Courtney I have known and lived with for nearly sixteen years, but I’m not displeased. I’ll go along with this face this evening anyway, if only to please Grace. I can get back to the real me tomorrow. So, apart from a bit of poking around with my hair, and a small wipe at my eyes to get rid of some of the purple shadow Grace had selected for me, I leave it all intact and return to the dining area.

Grace is standing by the door when I return, reading a text on her phone—not her usual old Nokia, but a new one I haven’t seen before. She looks excited—agitated even.

“Come on,” she says as soon as I reach her. “We’re on a date.”

Links:

GIRL FRIENDS was released by Solstice publishing in 2016 and is available in print and as an e-book.

solstice logo (1)

 

Divided by a common language?

imagesAmong the many things the UK has in common with the USA, is the English language. Except that, with a huge ocean and many centuries between when the English spoken was pretty much the same and now, subtle, and not so subtle, divergences have given rise to the sentiment conveyed in the title of this post. No one is quite sure who said these famous words. They are often attributed to George Bernard Shaw. But they might be from Oscar Wilde,George_Bernard_Shaw_1934-12-06 or Mallory Browne, or Raymond Gram Swing, or the prolific Anon.

Some of the misunderstandings over words and phrases are humorous (to Brits, anyway – the American term ‘fanny’ is a more sexual part of the anatomy in Britain, so not a word to be used in polite society without a titter or a tut). Some are misleading (American pants are British trousers; the American woman’s purse is the British woman’s handbag). Some are annoying (‘have a nice day’ / ‘take care.’ – No, I’ll damn well have a sh***y day, and run out in front of cars, if I want to. But then, as the English novelist, Kingsley Amis, really did say: ‘If you can’t annoy someone with what you write, there’s little point in writing.’ And the same, I suppose, can go for speaking.

As much as the different meaning of words and phrases can cause confusion, is the difference in nuance. The English person’s use of understatement, often puzzles American and other nationalities.  Carol Midgley, recently wrote about this in The Times:

“When a man says he’s going ‘for a pint’ he means five, minimum. ‘I’ve felt better,’ means ‘I’m so ill I could die.’ ‘I’ve been a bit silly,’ means I’ve gambled the house away, and got my wife’s sister pregnant.’ …

… When someone is described as a ‘livewire’ it means they are ‘a drunk.’ ‘She’s a bit tricksy’ means ‘she’s a complete bitch.’ …

… ‘You look well,’ means ‘you look fat.’ ‘Help yourself,’ means ‘only take one you greedy pig.’ ‘I might see you later,’ means you definitely won’t, and ‘Right, I must let you get on,’ means ‘I’m bored with this conversation and want to end it now.’ (I’ve used that one a few times.)

Although I have had a number of books published in America (by Solstice Publishing), all my work sells better in the UK. Perhaps this is because, despite knowing about pants and purses, I use more typically British terms and stylistic idiosyncrasies than I realise.

There’s plenty more I could say on this topic. But right now, I’m sure you are busy, so I must let you get on.

If you have enjoyed this post, and would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon Author pages: