Tag Archives: #amreading

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.






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.







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





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.


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




HerStory (2) – talking books, writers and readers.

Saturday 30th March. Picture for yourself nearly 20 women and two men, aged from about 15 to 70, in an airless, windowless, side-room in Coventry city’s main library. Outside is is a beautiful spring day. Inside we are talking about HerStory – why women write and do they get a fair deal?

The poet, Emilie Lauren Jones compered, and I was on the panel with two poets, Sarah Leavelsey, and Malka Al-Haddad who is originally from Iraq. It was all part of the Positive Images Festival 2019, in Coventry – the nominated City of Culture for 2021. There was plenty of audience participation.

First of all we discussed whether women get the recognition they deserve. Why it is that awards seem to go to books where the protagonist is male, even if the author is female. Is it because female readers will read about male or female characters, but male readers prefer a male protagonist? Why does the gender bias also seem to apply in regard to the author’s sex? For example, the Bronte sisters had to write under men’s names in the nineteenth century just to get published. But more recently, J.K. Rowling chose to conceal her sex when publishing the Harry Potter books (and her more recent books for adults). On the other hand, many men writing romances (for Mills and Boon, for example) will adopt a female pen name. We could all agree that, for many reasons, women writers have not always had the recognition they deserve – though the last Man Booker prize went to Anna Burns for Milkman, which, despite the title, had a female protagonist.

Later we discussed how we decided what to write about. For Malka this was very much her experiences as a refugee, asylum seeker, and campaigner for human rights. Sarah and I drew on more prosaic experiences, listening to those around us and mixing real experience with imagination. For us, getting the voices to sound authentic was important and could influence whether we wrote in the first, third, or even second person. For Malka, the message was the important inspiration for her poetry, which perhaps made her writing more personal. For all of us, making the people in our novels or poems believable, especially our female characters, was very important, and that means drawing on personal experiences – though in my case at least, the experiences get shared around various characters as I am not comfortable writing anything too easily identifiable with me or those around me.

Finally, we talked about our habits as readers, and I find I am not the only one who likes reading in the bath. (Warning – don’t try this with a Kindle). All of us on the panel, and the audience, agreed that reading, as well as being a joy in itself, was important preparation for a writer. A sentiment which led nicely into the time allotted to selling our books.

You may not have been there but, if you are interested to find out more about the panelists and their work, here are the links to our websites or other social media:

Sarah Leavesley http://sarah-james.co.uk

Malka Al-Haddad: amazon.co.uk/Birds-Without-Sky-Poems-Exile

And my links: Links to my books and social media




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




Meet Author Paige Etheridge

Paige Etheridge is a Black Belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate, Pisces Sun/ Leo Moon/ Aries Ascendant, Taoist, and of Athenian descent. She is also a compulsive writer

What is the title of your latest book? Kissing Stars Over the Rising Sun is my debut. It deals with the forgotten Japanese subculture of the Pan Pan women. They were nearly erased from history for being too sexual and wild. The Japanese were embarrassed they existed and did everything they could to make them disappear. My goal in writing this book was ensuring the Pan Pan would be remembered. It’s a heavily researched historical fiction and erotica set in 1940s Japan. It follows the story of Miyako as she lives as a Pan Pan, while exploring the meaning of sexuality and individuality.

Book Blurb: Emerging from the ashes of Post WWII Japan, the Pan Pan were born. Transforming themselves into the antitheses of what Japanese women were supposed to be; they were the loud, vulgar, and independent lovers of the American GIs occupying their land. For many of these Women of the Night, it became more about pleasure and riches than survival; burning brightly for a few years before being wiped out by the Japanese themselves. Nearly erased from history for being too wild. This is the story of one of these women. Her name is Miyako.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? The emotional roller coaster which comes when writing forces me to face personal baggage can be pretty hard to deal with at times. But knowing the book, and likely the baggage, is finished when all is said and done is wonderful.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?  Consider why you’re doing it. Are you looking for fame or to answer a higher calling? Consider if your reasoning is truly worthwhile.

What are you working on at the moment? I actually just finished a Cyber Punk novel which includes Cyborg Orcas.  I’m taking the month of February off novel writing.  Then I’m going to have my readers vote between my story idea about the trans-knight or the were-dolphins of Brazil and Peru.

What do you like to read? Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Inspiration, Self-help, Historical fiction, Horror, Graphic novel, Manga

Where can readers find you? If you follow me on social media, you’ll be able to vote on my future content. Possibly even win some stuff. I post lots of photos of my awesome dog Athena as well.


Book Links: