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Welcome. Whether you read, write, or both, you'll find something here. Free reads, book reviews, writing contest details and links, and much about the writing process. By all means comment; I'm always interested in the views of readers and writers. Follow the blog and connect with me on social networks; the more, the merrier.
And, if you'd like to send me a personal message, contact me here

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 22

Okay, so what happened to day 21? Well, the truth is that I was rather otherwise occupied. A neighbour, who was kind and influential during my teenage years, died last week and I attended her funeral, some distance away, yesterday.

But you managed the 'Word tips' post! Yes, that was scheduled, you see?

Anyway, today's theme is 'Makes me want to travel'. Once again, I am persuaded to delve into the past. There is no doubt that reading The Kon-Tiki expedition as a young man fired up my desire to travel. That I was hampered by my first wife, who would neither fly nor travel by sea, somewhat restricted me to this island home. However, my lovely second wife, with whom I've shared 26 years of happiness, is a traveller and treated me to my first trip overseas on my 40th birthday. A fortnight in Rhodes was a real eye-opener and we've visited many more of the Greek islands subsequently.

But it was undoubtedly Thor Heyerdahl's account of his adventures on the oceans that inspired me to travel. It's decades since I read his first book, and I've read most of his others since. Great stuff. If you haven't sampled this author, I suggest you do. You'll learn a little history and geography along the way.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ruled by Intellect or Emotion? Tips on Word Choice #7

English: The words "Motivation and Emotio...
English: The words "Motivation and Emotion" are spelt out in scrabble letters on a scrabble board. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Certain words/phrases can induce fairly specific responses in readers. As writers, we all know this, but do we use the power of emotion in our work?

For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at something subjective: how to choose between emotional and intellectual words for effect.

In this series I’m looking at the difference between words that seem intellectual as opposed to those that invoke a more emotional response. How you use them is obviously up to you. The point is that the alternatives have the same, or very similar, meanings, but their effect upon the reader can be markedly different. I’ve made some suggestions here, but I’m sure you can think of others.

Intellectual: Astute
Emotional: Smart

The leader of the opposition made the astute point that the party in power was run by fraudsters, millionaires, tax-dodgers and fools.

Georgina was not only beautiful, generous and smart as a whip, she was also green. 

Intellectual: Desire
Emotional: Hope

Members of the Tory party desire that all employees be made to labour for inadequate wages so that they can continue to call them lazy and undeserving.’

Let’s all hope the majority of the electorate will wake up to the reality of the right wing, in spite of the evidence that the contrary is usually the case.

Intellectual: Obstinate
Emotional: Stubborn

The obstinate belief amongst the bulk of voters that politicians actually care about them is difficult to comprehend.


My grandfather was a stubborn man who would argue that black was white if that was what he chose to believe, regardless of fact.

Monday, 20 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 20

Reader of novels
The Reader of Novels by Antoine Wiertz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today's theme is: 'Favourite bookworm in literature'. As with so many of these ideas, I find myself spoilt for choice.

I was initially tempted to choose Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, which gives a delightful picture of our own Queen as a reader. But it's a while since I read that one.

So, for this theme, I'll again select the most recent example I can recall. In this case I'll go for the eponymous The Reader in The Reader of Acheron, by Walter Rhein. This character is a mystery figure loathed by those in authority and more or less worshipped by others. The Reader lives in a world where books are banned and reading is a crime punishable by death.

So far our own culture has largely avoided such excess. But there are various sects in existence that would evoke such a rule if they had the power. The recently evolved Islamic State is such a threat - the only reading allowed by these extremists is the Qur'an, and, one suspects, a modified and censored version at that. As those of us who've witnessed and learned from history know, such censorship never results in lasting authoritarianism, since human beings are thirsty for knowledge by nature. The imposition of such restrictions is generally guided by a combination of fear and ignorance coupled with a desire to reduce the intellectual standards of everyone to the lowest possible in order to impose control. The leaders of such cultures invariably fall foul of their natural greed and hunger for power and fall as a result. Unfortunately many ordinary people suffer horribly along the way. Such is the nature of politics and the cult of leadership, however.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Writing and Running for ME/CFS #4

English: Me Running
English: Man running (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A slight interruption to the programme today. I should have had a 20 minute brisk walk followed by 3 lots of running for 2 minutes and walking for 1. Tuesday was a 30 minute easy walk, which is never a problem, as my wife and I do this most days. On Friday, I did my first run for 10 minutes and covered a little over a mile. However, on Friday night, my daughter rang to say she'd cut herself on some broken glass at work (she works as a waitress in an Italian Restaurant at present) and was on her way to the A & E department with her boss. As is so often the case in NHS Accident and Emergency departments, the place was understaffed and quite crowded (Friday nights are notoriously busy with drunks and other assorted party-goers). We couldn't go to collect her (the hospital is 25 miles away and we'd both been drinking wine). So her boss took her back to the town she works in and she drove home with 5 stitches in the wound to her thigh, having been assured by the doctor she was safe to do so. But all this meant that we didn't get to bed until 04:30. (our daughter is fine, by the way and went off to work as usual this morning) My built-in alarm woke me well before 09:00, so I was rather tired during Saturday. Come this morning, I was feeling a little less than fit, so, having learned to listen to my body during the 10 years of ME/CFS, I decided to forgo the run for today.
However, Valerie and I have had a lengthy walk: 3.2 miles in 57 minutes, so I feel I've done pretty well. If I feel okay in the morning, I'll do my run then.
That's the running training.
The book?
Well, I've collected more information, read a couple of other books (they're both reviewed here if you look below this post), and started a rough plan of the book as I see it. So, progress on that front.

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 19

For today, in the Books Are My Bag.com promotion of independent bookshops, our idea is, 'Made me cry in public'. I've read hundreds of books that have brought me to tears: I don't mind admitting that I am moved by the written word, when it is well presented and reveals a depth of humanity that illustrates emotion rather than sentiment.

It's difficult to choose just one book to represent the experience of crying whilst reading in public, so I'll go for the most recent I can recall. Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things was full of joy, humour, different cultural references, and, of course, sorrow. It made me cry. So, there you have it.

As writers of fiction, we all hope to expose our readers to the full spectrum of emotion. I've been told by readers that my own work does that. It's always good to know when you've succeeded in your endeavours. So, if you do read, please spend a few moments to review the book afterwards. You'll help the author, by adding to the reviews held, and you'll help fellow readers to make a selection from the many thousands of books published each year.

Falling Through the World, by Rachel Clarke, Reviewed.

I read this novel as part of the research I’m undertaking before writing an account of my own experience of ME/CFS. The book is written from the point of view of a teenage girl brought down by this dreadful condition. It’s an honest, funny, moving and, at times, harrowing account of the life of a sufferer.

The reader is exposed to the prejudices of the ignorant, the helpless ignorance of the general medical profession, the casual cruelty that can come from friends and relatives, and the total lack of understanding that so frequently accompanies this much-misjudged condition.

Although this is a novel, it’s also a work that encapsulates the reality of ME/CFS. At the same time, it captures the fears, hopes, dreams and sorrows of a teenage girl and, to some extent, those of her family and friends.

A well-written story, full of hope, questioning, self-doubt, frustration and ambition, it carries the reader on waves of emotional ups and downs as the narrator describes what’s happening to her. Not a long novel, it nevertheless manages to incorporate most of what it’s like to live with ME/CFS, and provides readers with useful clues as to how sufferers, their families, and their medical helpers can best be approached.


There is the strong possibility that all readers will have some contact with either a sufferer or a member of the family of a victim. Because of this, I recommend the book to all. It’s punchy, accessible and short enough for all to read. Please do that, and educate yourself about this condition that attacks and ruins the lives of so many people of all ages.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 18

The theme for today is, 'Made me laugh in public'. And, although this is true of many of the books I've read (Tom Sharpe's novels come to mind), the one that stands out for me is Seers by Karen Wolfe. A comic tale of a community existing within a normal social stratum but with the advantage of telepathy and other magical skills, it uses humour to examine certain human traits. Entertaining and full of earthy humour, it's a book I thoroughly enjoyed at the time. If you haven't read it, give it a go. You can find a link here, by clicking these words.

Don't forget to use the #tag, #bookadayUK if you're going to share this post by Twitter, will you?

Friday, 17 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 17

Today, the #bookadayUK event suggestion is 'The nearest book to you right now'. I'm in my study and there are books lining the walls to my front and back, about equidistant. So, the obvious choice is the only book on my desk. That's a 1987 edition of Roget's Thesaurus. An excellent word-finder.

I know there are writers who suggest that you should have only difficult access to a thesaurus, making your mind do the work. But I write as a pantster and therefore use the first word that comes into my head as I create. I don't wait for the 'best' word at this stage. When I edit, I then select the best word or phrase: that, after all, is what editing is all about. So, I have my trusty thesaurus handy on the desk.

It isn't my only word-finder. There is, of course, the built in thesaurus provided by Word: a largely inadequate tool that rarely furnishes the bon mot. I also have a copy of Hartampf's Vocabulary Builder, The Oxford Compact Thesaurus, J.J.Rodale's The Synonym Finder, and The New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms. So, I'm pretty well provided for in terms of books for finding alternative words. Add to that the Wordweb app that sits in the tray and, together, they make a pretty formidable team.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 16

The theme for today is, 'Most memorable adventure/journey in literature.' Now, that's a pretty tall order, since so many books involve either a journey or adventure, often both. Obvious choices include The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, almost any epic fantasy book, including my own trilogy, A Seared Sky, most thrillers, some crime novels and a number of literary works. Faced with such diversity and numbers, I decided on a book that I've returned to more often than most. Richard Adam's Maia tracks the journey of the eponymous heroine from a social backwater, where she's a neglected daughter put upon by her mother and seduced by her step-father, through sexual slavery and abuse to a life as consort to powerful men and a friendship with the beautiful, brilliant, tough and savvy Occula. It's an engaging and fascinating read, with an undercurrent of moral message about sexual inequality, slavery, and the corruptive nature of power. A great read.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 15

Not my edition, but mine has lost its dust jacket and
a plain blue cover makes no sense.
What do we have for today, in the #BookadayUK promotion for independent book shops?
This event, run by the Books Are My Bag.com website, suggests for today the following: 'Best home in literature'

I could choose Bilbo's house in Lord of the Rings, I suppose, but I like to look out of the windows. There are many opulent homes in many of the novels I've read, but I'm not too keen on excess. Hundreds of different homes must've been described in the thousands of novels I've read over the last 50/60 years. But the one that sticks in my mind, possibly enhanced and romanticised by the passage of the years, is a house called 'Heronswood' (I think) in Howard Spring's novel, My Son, My Son. The house is set on the upper slope of a headland in Cornwall, with one side of the wooded land leading to the sea coast and the other leading down to a private quay on the River Fowey. So, this place has all the elements I would love in a house. It's surrounded, but not enclosed, by trees. It's in an elevated position. It's within walking distance of the sea, and it has a river frontage free from the danger of flooding. What else could a civilised human being require, except, perhaps, now I'm reaching that age when I feel the cold, a location in a warmer clime?
So, that's my choice. What's yours?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 14

Today's theme is, 'I adore the title of this novel'. I've read thousands, so not an easy task. But one that comes to mind is Patrick Rothfuss' 'The Name of the Wind', which presents the reader with a suggestion of mystery and possibly fantasy, suggesting something of what the book may be about, whilst giving nothing away.
Titles are strange devices; they can make a book instantly recognisable: 1984, The Lord of the Rings, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, to name but a few which will conjure images and memories for many. They can, of course, kill a book stone dead by being inappropriate in some intangible way. Sometimes, a book title will present difficulties that are built in to the book itself. I wonder how many people have passed by the title, 'They F**k You Up', simply because of the implied expletive. This is a book everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE should read. The insight into the behavious of all of us is astounding and the case studies will make you laugh. Read it. You won't regret it.

Ruled by Intellect or Emotion? Tips on Word Choice #6

La maja desnuda (circa 1797–1800), known in En...
La maja desnuda (circa 1797–1800), known in English as The Naked (or Nude) Maja by Francisco de Goya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Certain words/phrases can induce fairly specific responses in readers. As writers, we all know this, but do we use the power of emotion in our work?

For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at something subjective: how to choose between emotional and intellectual words for effect.

In this series I’m looking at the difference between words that seem intellectual as opposed to those that invoke a more emotional response. How you use them is obviously up to you. The point is that the alternatives have the same, or very similar, meanings, but their effect upon the reader can be markedly different. I’ve made some suggestions here, but I’m sure you can think of others.

Intellectual: Anecdote
Emotional: Joke/Story

At the company’s annual dinner, Gordon was full of anecdotes that were intended to keep the audience laughing but which, unfortunately, sent many of the to sleep in their soup. (formal)

Frank had a joke or a story for every situation and kept everyone in stitches with his delivery. (informal)

Intellectual: Difficult
Emotional: Tough

We are navigating difficult waters in these times of economic uncertainty and must remain alert for unseen hazards and barriers. (intellectual and formal)

It’s been a tough few weeks, but we’ve got through it and now we can start to improve again. (emotional, informal)

Intellectual: Nude
Emotional: Naked

There’s a theory that maintains that ‘nude’ is a voluntary state, whereas ‘naked’ is an imposed one. That may be true under certain circumstances, but I don’t believe it to be universally the case. These are terms that can frequently be interchanged, in fact. However, I’ll try to give examples of the way they can be used differently.

Daphne worked as a life model and spent much of her time nude in front of groups of art students and evening class attendees. (intellectual, formal)

Daphne slowly removed each item of clothing until she was entirely naked, at which point, she stepped out of the trees, ran across the beach and plunged into the sea. (emotional, informal)