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Author Blogs

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A Kace for Inglish Spelin Refawm?


The argumentative and somewhat loquacious dramatist, Bernard Shaw, was an ardent advocate of spelling reform. “It may interest you to know,” he once wrote to The Times, “that your leading article contains 1,761 letters. As these letters represent only 2.311 sounds, 450 of them are superfluous and could have been saved had we a British alphabet.”  He was an early supporter of the English Spelling Society (EPS), a pressure group for spelling reform. One only needs look at the variations in pronunciation for the words spelt with an ‘ough’ ending to see the idiosyncrasies: Bough, cough, dough, enough, thorough, though … And to see that he might have a point. The EPS argues that it takes longer f...
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The Monstrous Regiment of Women (2)


In my last blog I referred to the Protestant reformer John Knox’s objections to Queen Mary’s rule over Tudor England. In his opinion she was unfit to rule, simply because she was a woman. Sovereignty by a female monarch was  ‘monstrous regiment’ – unnatural rule – because women, in his opinion, lacked the god – given masculine capacity to rule. Misogyny apart, Knox was no doubt also in a froth about her Catholicism and her marriage to the Catholic king of Spain, Philip, who was entitled to share her rule over England for as long as the marriage lasted (i.e. until her death four years later in 1558). Queen Elizabeth 1 was careful not to make the same mistake and remained resolutely unmarried....
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The Monstrous Regiment of Women


The Latinate phrase ‘monstruous regiment’ means ‘unnatural rule’, and in a highly misogynistic pamphlet in 1558 the Scottish Protestant reformer, John Knox, argued that the idea of women ruling (he was thinking specifically of the Catholic queen, Mary Tudor, at the time) goes against the laws of God and nature. He argued that female rule challenged the God-given authority of men over women, and that women are incompetent to rule, being weak, foolish and cruel by nature, and lacking the masculine capacities necessary to govern. He clearly had very decided opinions about women – albeit not very high ones. Did you, like I once did, think that the word woman came from Old English wo(from)man? Li...
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What’s a Palaver?


If I talk about something being a palaver, I mean it is an unnecessarily troublesome, tiresome, or tedious activity. Filling in most application forms these days is usually a bit of a palaver, or queuing at the Post Office counter, Airport check-in etc. (This was before Covid-19 hit, since when patient queuing has become a civic and patriotic duty). Palaver also means noise and hubbub. Granville Sharp I hadn’t heard anyone else use the word in any different ways, until reading David Olusoga’s Black and British – a Forgotten History. In the chapter about the efforts, mostly well intentioned if somewhat misguided, of Granville Sharp and some fellow abolitionists, to set up a free state on the ...
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The Power of the Story teller


Michael Morpurgo is a celebrated children’s writer. He is also, not surprisingly, a champion for the art of storytelling. As a small boy he remembers listening to stories and poems that his mother read to him daily. She was an actress, and told stories rather well, but it is a skill almost any parent, teacher and older child can acquire. Or so you would have thought. In fact the writer was dismayed when he actually started school, aged five, to find that his class teacher viewed a story as a means of teaching grammar and punctuation (tested via a dictation test) and nothing more. I think maybe he had an exceptionally bad teacher. I remember being read to at home and at school and, as an olde...
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Have you been threatened by a full stop recently?


That language is a live entity and constantly evolving has been a recurring topic on this blog. In some contexts it moves at a giddying speed that only the groups in the know can keep up with. Text speech, for example. I think I may be outing myself as a ‘boomer’ here, but there was a time when I believed ‘lol’ meant ‘lots of love,’ then I was told it meant ‘laughing out loud’   Later I started seeing comments on Facebook or Twitter (OK, I know, only those of us over a certain age still use these platforms) where ‘lol’ was interspersed, not quite at random, but as if to soften the message just conveyed. Apparently it is indeed used now as a means of indicating irony, or softening an otherwis...
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Was Hippocrates the Father of Greek Literature?


Hippocrates is known as the ‘father of medicine’ and many new doctors still sign the Hippocratic Oath. Basically a code of ethics, the oath has been modified in various ways to suit more modern mores and different cultures. Contrary to popular belief it does not contain the phrase first do no harm, but this can be seen as implicit in the text. Hippocrates’s famous book, Epidemics, which is full of medical case studies that give insight into the lives and health of contemporary ancient Greeks, has traditionally been dated to around 410BC. However, an Oxford scholar, Robin Lane Fox, is now suggesting that it was written about sixty years earlier. His evidence being that the impact of several w...
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Coventry City of Culture – revised dates.


Every four years, against stiff competition from other cities around the UK, a city is nominated to be the City of Culture. In 2017 Coventry won this accolade for the year 2021. The judges were impressed, not just by its history and wealth of cultural activity, but by its diversity, its youthfulness, and its convenient location slap bang in the middle of England with good transport routes in all directions. Our year in the spotlight was due to start in January next year. Covid-19, and the strong likelihood that its impact will still be having a negative effect on everyone’s movements during the winter, has meant that the start of the cultural year has now been postponed to May. The good news...
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Strange but True?


Albert Camus, the Algerian born French writer, has been back in fashion recently, mostly because his 1947 book La Peste (The Plague) has resonated for many during these Covid-19 days. If you’ve read and enjoyed that book, you may like to read one of his earlier ones – L’Etranger (translated as The Outsider for UK readers and The Stranger for the US market). Why the difference? After all the word – stranger – is not unfamiliar to British ears, and appears to be the more literal translation for the title of the novel, as well as being in keeping with the subject matter. Also, both etranger and stranger are derived from the old French estrange, and the Latin extraneous, meaning foreign / alien....
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Dunce means stupid – but should it?


John Duns – note the headwear. John Duns (also known as Duns Scotus on account of his birthplace) was a thirteenth century Franciscan friar, theologian and philosopher. In his time he was one of the three most eminent theologian-philosophers in the Western world; the others being Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. As a philosopher, his main sphere of study was the ‘univocity of being’ – the notion that existence is the most abstract concept we have. He also explored ways of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing, and what properties appertain to an individual thing to make it individual. As a theologian he developed a complex argument for the existence of God, and for ...
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The art of Rhetoric for the Aspiring Author


What am I like, writing a blog on rhetoric? Don’t worry, that is a rhetorical question. As is your possible answer to the question (if you could be bothered to provide one) – ‘who cares?’ Rhetoric has its origins in Mesopotamia, but is largely associated with the ancient Greeks. Aristotle described it as the art of persuasion and, alongside grammar and logic, one of the three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetor is the ancient Greek for a public speaker. Rhetoric was part of a scholar’s education from the time of the ancient Greeks, through to ancient Rome (Cicero being perhaps the most famous of the Roman practitioners) and into the twentieth century. One could argue that modern university cou...
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Meet Author Emily VanderBent


Emily VanderBent is a writer and historian. A natural born storyteller, she desires to relay and celebrate the stories of powerful women in history. Her premier novel, Crimson Time, is the first in a series that uses elements of history to creatively engage readers with the past. She hopes her writing will encourage young women to fearlessly pursue their passions and own the narrative of their own stories.With a degree in history, Emily uses her talent for writing, graphic design, and brand building to create blog posts, online content and design for Girl Museum and Makeover Your Brand. While living in the real world, Emily wishes to exist in the pages of a book. What is the title of your la...
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Dr Don’t Know wants the world to be as stupid as he is.

9781999633271 (1)
‘This beautifully written dynamic book is perfect for kids and adults alike. It’s quirky and offbeat with a big heart. It has all the wonder and magic of classic children’s books with the innovation of contemporary literature. Falcon Boy is not to be missed!’ Don’t let stupid win! Dr Don’t Know hates knowledge. He wants to steal the answer to every question ever asked. Dr Don’t Know wants the world to be as stupid as he is. We can’t let this happen! Only Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird can save the world from Dr Don’t Know. The bad news is that they have been kidnapped. The good news is that they can’t stay kidnapped for long otherwise this story will never get started. Will Dr Don’t Know succe...
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How To Rate Your Cousins.


As a child I read a book. I read lots of books in fact, but this one has stuck in my mind even though I can’t remember the title, the author, or the plot. Or any of the characters apart from a rather grand small girl who came to stay, for some reason, with the narrator – a far less posh little girl. The grand young lady was said to be related to royalty; she claimed that she was the Tsar’s (or was it the King’s) cousin five times removed. Her less grand acquaintance assumed from this that she had tried to visit five times and been forcibly removed from the palace before gaining access to the royal presence. I was sure this was wrong, but couldn’t think of a better suggestion. I had no idea h...
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Drink Life to the Lees.


Drink life to the lees – the phrase comes from Ulysses, the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It means to enjoy life to the full. It little profits than an idle king By this still hearth, among the barren crags, Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. I cannot rest from travel, I will drink life to the lees.  … The elderly Ulysses is back in his kingdom after years of travel but is still restless. The poem is about adventure and experience; perseverance and endurance; disappointment and frustration; nostalgia and anticipation. He might be old (and a bit fed up), but he is still going to get as much out of life...
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What’s a Staycation?


What does the word staycation mean to you? When I first heard it, about ten years ago when the financial crisis caused many of us to tighten our belts (my annual income went down about 90% – so I was on the last hole), I thought it meant you stayed at home and went on day trips – possibly having one of the picnics I described in my last post.   On checking, I find the word was indeed used in The Times in 2008 to describe a couple’s decision to forgo a week’s family holiday and take the children out every day, returning to their own beds each night, instead. Staycation seemed like a newly minted welding of two concepts (staying put and going away on vacation). The newspaper clearly didn’t app...
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We’re Going on a Picnic.


Covid-19 has turned us into a nation – a world, even – of picnickers.  I remember picnics from childhood. I genuinely thought that my parents liked them; that sand in the soggy sandwiches and tepid, tinny tasting, tea from a thermos, preferably taken under a sun umbrella, doubling briefly and unsuccessfully as protection against persistent drizzle, was a thing of joy for them as well as us kids. I admit to enjoying the crisps and chocolate biscuits, if not the rest. Turned out though, they only did it because they didn’t have enough money to take the whole family into a café, and as soon as enough of us left home, and money wasn’t so scarce, they ate out with the best of them. But the corona...
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VIRO – Proposal for TV Series – Introduction


Introduction And so the task begins, as I start to turn the highly successful VIRO book series into a proposal for a TV series. Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing insights and updates as to how this process is going.  So let’s begin at the beginning. VIRO – The TV Series Proposal GENRE: Horror/Science Fiction – Post-Apocalypse TAG LINE: Four Kids, One Apocalypse LOG LINE: As a viral pandemic turns the world into bloodthirsty creatures, a boy with special needs looks for his missing mum. VIRO tells the story of Jake, a boy born with special needs who wakes one morning to find that the world has been catastrophically overrun by a deadly virus and his mum has not come home after work. Det...
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VIRO – ‘a new take on the zombie genre’


‘I absolutely loved this book. Powerful and poignant, VIRO packs a punch. Sad and haunting, VIRO is a new take on the zombie genre.The characters are dynamic and interesting, finding strength despite their horrifying circumstances. Jake is a character that will stick with you long after the final page. The action sequences are thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat!’ Get Your FREE copy of Book One HERE Original link
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VIRO – the Book Series – NEWS FLASH


As a viral outbreak turns the world into bloodthirsty creatures, a boy with special needs looks for his missing mum. ‘The writing style is beautifully compelling, and after the first couple of pages I couldn’t put it down. The author very skilfully creates a world and characters through deceptively simple prose that draws the reader right in. It is a fascinating blend of one-after-the-other edge-of-the seat scares, alongside a haunting narrative about what it is to be human.’ ‘Capturing the voice of a young character with special needs (I spent 25 years as a special education teacher/administrator), Taylor’s story of a group of young people coping with a world disintegrating in front of them...
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