Thursday, 21 August 2014

I've been nominated for the ONE LOVELY BLOG award...

.... by Diane Mannion, children's party venue expert and soon to be debut novelist ~ thank you Diane!  You can read her post HERE

As per the rules of the blog hop tour award thingy, please see below 7 facts about me (because you're really gagging to know all about me, right?) (oh, okay, then....) and links to 15 blogs that I enjoy, and wish to recommend to you.

If I've nominated your blog, please don't feel under any obligation to join in with this; I was just pleased to pick up the baton from Diane, as it were, so that I could spread the word about fifteen blogs that I like.  But if you would like to join in, here's what to do:

The rules:  Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you, share 7 facts about yourself, and nominate 15 blogs that you particularly like.  I suppose you can do less if you can't think of 15!

7 things about me...

1.  I love South Park.  At the moment, I watch at least two episodes each night.  I also have a model of Eric Cartman on the mantelpiece.

2.  The older I get, the more interested I become in history, perhaps because I will soon be it.  After my current work in progress is published (it's the sequel to KINGS AND QUEENS), I shall be starting on a work of historical fiction that's been lurking in the 'to write' part of my brain for years ~ more anon....

3.  I tried to write a Christmas novella earlier this year, but couldn't make it schmaltzy and 'heartwarming' enough.   The characters kept swearing and doing really crap things to each other.  

4.  Autumn is my favourite season, and I long for it each year.  I love it when you can smell it in the air for the first time, which is usually early in the morning around my birthday in the first week of August.  

5.  I love Aerosmith, have seen them many times and met them twice.  The titles of all my books except one are Aerosmith song titles; even the individual stories in my shorts collection Nine Lives are.  There's no particular reason for me doing this, apart from to amuse myself.

6.  I like being at home with my husband and having time to write more than I like anything, so as I have both of these wishes granted most of the time, I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people I know.

7.  My ideal summer afternoon would be spent walking along a beach somewhere, preferably ending up with a visit to a place of historic interest where I could have a good potter about and imagine myself as a 16th century maiden, or something.  I lived by the sea for 9 years and miss it very, very much; never a day went past when I didn't marvel at how fortunate I was to live somewhere where I could be wandering by the sea within five minutes, any time I liked.   

Photo by Jackie Rivett 

Right!  That's the me-me-me bit over - now here are 15 blogs that are well worth subscribing to.  I've put them in sections ~ please click on the name, and it'll take you to the blog.

Mostly to do with writing/self-publishing:
Proofreader Julia
Alicia Kline
Julie Stock
Joanne Phillips

Life on the ocean waves (and rivers & canals!):
Val Poore
Charles Dougherty

General interesting history stuff, and much more
Liz Lloyd
Tui Snider
Zoe Saadia

Guaranteed to make you laugh
Jen Ammoscato
Greg Mischio

Mostly books, but other stuff too
Emma Gray (not book reviews)
Rosie Amber
A Woman's Wisdom
Between The Lines

Okay, that's me done ~ enjoy!

Photo by Jackie Rivett

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The grammatical error that even the most intelligent people make

It's when people use the word 'I' when it should be 'me'.

All these sentences are of a type I read often, and they're all incorrect:

Joe came to visit Bob and I last week.

The impression given to Bob and I was that Joe had stolen it.

Joe didn't tell Bob and I that he'd left

Joe took Bob and I to the pub

Things started to go wrong for Bob and I after the war

I think people make this mistake because, if their mothers were like mine, they were always getting told off for saying "Me and Bob are playing in the garden." Mother would say, "No, Bob and I are playing in the garden" - which is as it should be, of course.  The impression is given that "and I" is always correct.

Not so!

It's easy ~ If you're not sure if you should write 'Bob and I' or 'Bob and me', simply take out the 'Bob and'. See what I mean? As soon as you read 'Joe took I to the pub' you realise that it's wrong.  Thus, it should be Bob and me in all five examples listed above. 

I see this mistake even in professionally edited books; I even saw one in a Phillipa Gregory!  Yes, yes, I daresay her editor might find the odd error in stuff I've written, too, but it won't be this one.  


Joe came to visit Bob and me last week.

The impression given to Bob and me was that Joe had stolen it.

Joe didn't tell Bob and me that he'd left

Joe took Bob and me to the pub

Things started to go wrong for Bob and me after the war


Sunday, 10 August 2014

What they say ~ and what it means....

Oh, don't worry about it, I never do any housework either
My house is immaculate and the state of yours makes me feel SO smug

Your trouble is that you're too nice
You're a pushover and I don't fancy you

I might be down later on
I will not be leaving the comfort of the sofa unless the ceiling falls in

With all due respect
You're an IDIOT and I think you're talking CRAP

.... and then it just grew exponentially
Well, it got bigger, and I don't actually know what 'exponentially' means, but lots of people are using it at the moment and it sounds good

You'll be fine
I want you to go away and stop bothering me with whatever it is you're nervous about

You look fine
You look the same as you always do, and we need to get going NOW

I must say, you can really carry this hairstyle/look off!
It's WEIRD.  I mean, WEIRD.  But happily you're pretty enough/have a big enough personality to get away with it.... just....

Do I look fat in this?
I've put on weight.  Please, please tell me it doesn't show.  Lie if necessary.

I've only had one
I've had at least three 
(the fact that this statement is made at all indicates that it's a lie)

I promise you, I'm over him/her, it's you that I love
That this is still an issue between us means that we both know it's not true

(from literary agents)
...your novel is not the sort we are looking for at the moment, but please don't get downhearted, it's only ever one person's point of view...
If the synopsis was as hopeless as the covering letter, I'm glad I didn't bother to read it.  Another one for the 'let them down gently' pile.  

Self descriptions...

Overweight, but has realised that black doesn't make you look thinner so now wears bright colours

Sassy Diva
Overweight and mouthy

Social Media Expert
Has profiles on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Has had photo taken by inexpensive professional photographer.  Has read blog posts about online marketing

Stay at home mum who flogs stuff on ebay

Good sense of humour
Laughs at virtually anything, most of it banal rubbish

'Self-confessed' anything
Frustrated that no-one has noticed his/her endearing idiosyncrasies yet, so is bringing them to people's attention.

Any more suggestions welcome!!!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Stop press! Fake 5* reviews wanted!

A writer friend of mine received this message on Facebook today, from another writer.  I'll call my friend Buttercup, and the sender of the message Hyacinth.

Buttercup has never had any contact with Hyacinth, not even so much as a 'hello'.  Yet Hyacinth saw fit to send her this message:

I have a HUGE but important favor to ask PLEASE!!! If you haven't already: Could you PLEASE do a 5 Star review of ***name of book**** and maybe corral a few others? During this year I'm going to seek an agent to help me land the elusive book deal. I'm really trying to bump up the current 4.6 Amazon stars to 4.8! Thus I'm shamelessly networking for 5* reviews with a minium of 20 words from you and anyone else who has an Amazon account.

I suspect it's one she's sending to everyone on her Facebook friends list, because of the 'if you haven't already' stipulation.  I have the following to say about it:

1.  She doesn't offer Buttercup a copy of the book to read; it appears that reading the book before assessing it is not deemed necessary by Hyacinth.  She just wants a five star review - not only from a total stranger, but from Buttercup's friends, too.  What sort of nutcase is this???  At least offer a copy of your poxy book, luv!  At least pretend you want them to read it!

2.  Asking people to give you 5* reviews without having read your book (asking them to give you 5* even if you want them to read it first is bad enough!) is not 'networking', it's asking people to abuse the reviewing system and mislead the reading public. If you've had a request like this, please express this to Hyacinth!

3.  Most bona fide agents care little for Amazon reviews, as they know how open to abuse the system can be - and people like Hyacinth are responsible for giving them this impression. Agents care about whether your manuscript is up to scratch, not how many pals you've got.

4.  Hyacinth, I've looked at your book and you have several one star reviews.  If you have to ask people to write fake ones in order to get the rating you want, perhaps it's time to revise your book.....

Friday, 1 August 2014


I've been tagged in the Work In Progress (WIP) Blog Tour by mystery/crime novelist Noelle Granger (thanks again, Noelle!), who is currently writing the second in her series about crime solver Rhe Brewster, Death in a Dacron Sail.  You can read her post HERE ~ and follow Noelle on Twitter @rhebrewster. 

The rules: Provide the link back to the post by the person who nominated you.  Write a little about and give the first sentences of the first three chapters of your current WIP, then nominate four other writers to do the same.

My current WIP is called Last Child, and is the sequel to Kings and Queens (click title if you would like to see book) which is a modern day version of the story of Henry VIII and his six wives.  My 20th (and 21st) century Henry is called Harry Lanchester, a charismatic and wealthy property developer.  Last Child is the continuing story, about his children: Jasper, Isabella and Erin, whose Tudor counterparts were Edward VI, Queen Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I!  I hope to have it ready by around January/February 2015.

Here are the first sentences of the first chapters ~ it's still in first draft so they'll probably be completely different by the time you read it!

Chapter 1 ~ Hannah
They’re my family: Isabella, Erin, and Jasper Junior – or ‘Jaz’, to give him the name he adopted around the time his father died.

Chapter 2 ~ Jaz
I didn't want to type this ’cause I get fed up with typing even on Facebook (never mind homework) so my old nanny, Hannah, gave me this dictaphone thing instead. 

Chapter 3 ~ Hannah
How does anyone ever, ever get over something like this?

There you go, then!  A long way to go, yet.
Here are the four people I'm tagging - click on their name to go to their blog/site:

author of cancer cure thriller Never Say Sorry

author of the Jack Lockwood crime mysteries

author of romance novel A Single Step (part of a trilogy) ~ link goes to her post

author of many novels and short stories ~ her WIP post is ready, link goes straight to it

Now - better get on with chapter three!

Sunday, 27 July 2014


It's easy!

Just follow these few simple rules!

1.  Get the feel right first.  Read the early Jilly Cooper books (Harriet, Prudence, Octavia, etc), Bridget Jones' Diary, a bit of Sophie Kinsella and others of your choice, preferably whilst wearing kitten heeled shoes and eating cake, to get yourself in the zone.

2.  Choose your heroine's name.  This should be a name you might have given your dolls when you were a child, and will probably end in 'ie' or 'y' (or possibly 'ii'): Tilly, Poppy, Polly, Katie, Lucy, Tansy, Suzy - you get the picture.

3.  Decide on names for heroine's chums.  These should be a little quirky. Sky, Jo-Jo, Tallulah, Pippa, Jools.  To go with the slightly offbeat name, at least one chum should have an amusing quirk that can be referred to sporadically throughout the book - having a 'thing' about firemen, swearing a lot, being gay, etc.  

4.  Now, you need a plot.  First, establish general 'ditziness' of heroine, who should be pretty but not too perfect.  In the first or second chapter she should meet her handsome prince to be.  This meeting could take either of these forms:
  • She makes a total fool of herself in front of him, eg, says wrong the things/dress inexplicably falls off during important meeting at work, or she could ogle handsome man in restaurant but when she walks past him her false eyelashes fall off into his soup, etc etc.
  • Alternatively, they can hate each other on sight, and/or have a battle of wills. After this, quirky best friend could point out that although hero is an arrogant git, he is kinda hot. 
  • Or, the first meeting seems promising, but then heroine is given the (incorrect) information that he is in some way unavailable to her, eg, married, about to be married, gay, or about to join a monastery/MI6. Although this is untrue, heroine must never be in a position to communicate with hero or anyone else about this, lest the misunderstanding be discovered (and thus ruin the plot).
5.  If set in the UK, be aware of class differences.  Use as many ridiculous stereotypes as you like: ie joke 'posh' names like Fortescue and Carruthers, double barrelled surnames with double Fs and Smythe as the second one. Ffossington-Smythe, that sort of thing. Mention barbours and grouse shooting.  Men can be called Sebastian, Piers, Giles, Ffreddie, and the women Arabella, Ffenella, Ffiona, Caroline. Working class men should be called Wayne or Dave. Women can be Kylie or Chantelle. Mention Eastenders and football.  Both sexes will have tattoos and fake tans, and drop their aitches all the time, which they will pronounce 'haitch'.
6.  During story, heroine should have several more instances during which she says absolutely the wrong things to people and loses other items of clothing, or parts thereof, in inappropriate settings.  Further wrong-place-wrong-time interludes can be manufactured to perpetuate comedic suspense....  

7.  Reinforcement of hilarious misunderstandings can be inserted into dialogue, in which main characters find themselves unable to express what they are feeling/thinking, rarely stick around to discuss anything, and flounce out of the room/into taxis/onto trains at the merest slight, like they do in soap operas. When female characters are upset, other females should attempt to commiserate by offering pinot, chardonnay, cupcakes and ice cream.  

8.  At some point, all misunderstandings, etc, must be resolved just in time, possibly just when heroine/hero (or both) is just about to leave area forever/marry hopelessly unsuitable secondary character (who should have boring name like Hugh, Neville or Roger, if male).  Is extra effective if heroine happens to be mucking out pigs/covered in paint, or any other situation in which she might not look at her polished best, and can't believe this handsome, suave, perfect man adores her.  Don't forget to gather all the ends up quickly, just in time for the HEA - happy ever after!

9.  Once you've published it and sold thousands of copies you can then think about the sequel - the Christmas version!  Write it the same as you've written the original, but substitute all the summery bits for snow, mistletoe, mulled wine, etc. 


Thursday, 24 July 2014

It wasn't like that in my day...

I felt compelled to write this post after reading a very good and amusing short story by writer E.L. Lindley -  READ IT HERE, ON HER BLOG - about a divorcee going 'out on the town' for the first time in years.  We had a bit of a conversation about how pubs have changed since we frequented them every Friday and Saturday night, and E.L. said this:  "City centre pubs are just awful, every time I go into one I feel as though I've inadvertantly stumbled into a hen party from hell" - which I thought kinda summed it up!

I live in the north east, (happily) a fair few miles away from the notorious Bigg Market in Newcastle, host to stag and hen parties, and in which one would feel out of place if fully dressed and not completely rat-arsed.

Ladettes out on the razz in the Bigg Market, appropriately dressed for the weather

I have never visited this area, and never intend to.  Okay, that's a bit of an extreme example, but, generally, isn't it a shame that you can't just go out in a town centre for a normal drink with your pals, without the boom boom boom of horrible music, bouncers on the doors, advertisements for ghastly cocktails, etc?  

When I was in my teens in the 1970s, my friends and I used to go from pub to pub with ne'er a care, dressed in proper clothes, rather than hooker gear.  We would buy normal drinks and put money in juke boxes that played music you could hear, but also talk over.  I also used to walk home late at night without my parents worrying; that's slightly off topic, though related.  Yes, yes, I know times change, but isn't it a shame that the ordinary town centre pub scarcely exists these days?  They're all turned into horrible, garish bars now, music blaring.  Ah, how I remember going to the Saddlers Arms in Bridge Street, Northampton, wearing jeans etc, drinking half pints of Directors and putting The Doors on the juke box - and I never saw a fight in there.  I had a shop down that road in the 1980s. When we opened in 1983 it was still an ordinary, quiet street.  By 1985 several of the establishments, including the Saddlers, had been turned into horrible extreme drinking hell holes, and that was when our window started getting smashed on a regular basis. The street used to have antique shops, a second hand record shop, a lovely independent book store, but they're all long gone; my old shop is now one of many takeaway food pit stops for the roaring drunk and ravenous.  These places ruin town centres.  

I'm happy to say that my most frequented pub in Northampton, The King Billy, has remained a rock music type pub throughout - the brewery did make an attempt to change it into a lager lout pub in the 1990s, calling it The Fitchet and Firkin, or something equally daft, but resistance was strong, and it soon changed back.

I know there are a few pubs that haven't been changed too much (The Wig & Pen, The Mailcoach, though I preferred the Wig when it was the Black Lion!), but mostly the rest of the town centre is pretty much a no-go area if you just want to go out for a quiet drink.  I wonder if the only places 'real' pubs still exist within town centres are at the seaside; when I lived in Cromer, in Norfolk, during the last decade, the five or six pubs in the town all retained that 'local' feel, as did others in Norfolk towns such as Sheringham and Holt.

The Kings Head, Cromer - my favourite pub in the town.  The second living room of many.  Wonderful food, beer garden - oh, sorry, Gail, I went into advertisement writing mode for a moment, there!

The argument might be given that the old pubs are changed into these grisly bars because that's what people want, but I wonder if this is so. After I left Cromer, Buffers Bar near the station was changed into one of those boom-boom-boom music, open until late, puke-up-your-thirteen-cocktails-outside type of establishments.  It caused havoc in that area of the town, and only lasted a couple of years.

As I noted in a comment below, (I imagine most) big cities remain okay, because they are large enough to confine it to one area, like the Bigg Market in The Toon, and Prince of Wales Road in Norwich.  

I suppose I just wish there was less of this

and more of this!

Isn't this excellent?  Don't know when this pic of the Saddlers in Bridge Street, Northampton was taken.

Very old shot of The Malt Shovel - out of the town centre, spruced up in a nice way, and still excellent.  I went there last year, and it was great. Average age of about 50, too!

Or were these chaps just the lager louts of the 1950s?  

I don't think so, somehow; maybe it's more to do with the drinking culture than anything else.  But that, of course, is a whole other blog post.