SPaG Balls: a slight rant

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing recently and specifically about how we go from being readers, to storytellers, to fully-fledged writers.  Part of the reason is that now I have four books published, another one lined up for release in September (the sequel to The Blacksmith’s Wife telling Roger’s story) and am in the throes of writing book 6, I finally feel qualified to call myself an author.

The other reason is that the way writing is taught – and more crucially, tested – in schools has been going through a lot of changes over the past couple of years.  My son is in Year 6 and next week will be sitting his SATs, including the recently introduced SPaG tests.  That’s Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar.  The Powers That Be have decided it is important that children leave Primary school being able to confidently use the aforementioned (all good) and should be tested on it (not so good).

Im’ all for grammar and punctuation! its important to know if its the right use of its in a sentence and their is nothing worse than a writer who peppers they’re work with mistakes*.

No one would deny that children should be equipped to communicate in writing. The issue that many teachers and parents take with the tests is not that it should be taught, but how, and at what level.  I’m not sure requiring eleven year olds to be able to tick the sentences that show the correct use of the past progressive or whether after is being used as a preposition or subordinating conjunction is the best way to teach them to write, or to want to.  Some of the terminology they’re expected to know I barely touched upon doing A-level English language, never mind aged ten and eleven.  I don’t remember being asked to say whether ‘the insect eating Venus flytrap’ is a fronted adverbial or main clause or identify the correct demonstratives at that age.

Certainly watching my son who brims over with ideas trying to write a sentence that MUST include a number of the statutory spellings (samples include privilege, government, controversy, criticise and hindrance – knock yourself out) and producing convoluted, dull sentences isn’t showing his creative side.

I fell in love with stories at a young age when they were read to me and decided that making things up was fun. Being able to write them down was a bonus but learning and mimicking stories, changing characters or settings, playing with rules and preconceived ideas for what should happen is how we develop our understanding of how stories work.  When I write I start with a characters or a situation I can’t get out of my head, a beginning and (hopefully) and end. The middle is often hazy but I usually know a few key events that will happen. This goes for chapters as well as the whole book. The fun of writing is starting with an idea and running with it to see what happens. Starting with a ‘what if?’ is how children (and adults if they’re anything like me) begin to feel the creative buzz and want to grab a pencil and get scribbling something down. I knew what would bring Joanna and Hal together in The Blacksmith’s Wife but I didn’t know they were going to end up with a dog or what would happen in Malton that ended up shaping their first night together. In A Wager for the Widow one key fact that ended up shaping a lot of Will’s character and motives was a complete surprise to me until he told Eleanor in the garden.  When I gave Aelric a hobby in The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge  I didn’t expect it to play such a crucial part in uncovering the plot.

I’m now five books in to my writing career and can honestly say I have never consciously thought ‘I haven’t used a fronted adverbial for a while. Better stick one in’.  I suspect that if I tried to write that way I would find myself very quickly going off writing and that is the danger I worry is facing our children today.

I play around with word order, change the adjectives and adverbs, delete and rewrite based on what sounds catchy when I read it back. Somehow at the end I have enough words on the page to do something constructive with. As a writer there is nothing better than looking up from the keyboard and realising an hour has gone by, or I’ve beaten my word count target.

As I tell myself (and my son and the children I teach) you can’t edit an empty page. If we get so hung up on the correct use of grammar or punctuation at the start and worse still, try to write with the express purpose of fitting the idea into the grammar, we will never pick up the pencil.  There are few things more depressing than seeing children are wanting to write sentences that I have to tell them to do again because although ‘swam’ is a great word, it doesn’t have an -ed suffix so can they change it to something that does because that is the key skill we’re doing today.  How soul destroying to be a young writer and told that!

I don’t know what the answer is to creating an entire population who accurately use all the correct grammatical forms. Perhaps the people who advocate filling in the blanks to change the root verb to an appropriate adjective will turn out to be right all along and in twenty years time we’ll have literature that surpasses anything available now.

I don’t think becoming a creative writer happens by learning to name or correctly spot parts of sentences any more than becoming a good driver involves sitting in a room labelling diagrams of the parts that link the brake and accelerator to the other bits of rod, gears and scary looking bits under the bonnet (I don’t know what they’re called). You learn to drive by being shown the basics (this one makes you go fast, this one makes you stop) then getting out onto the roads and having a go. Writing is the same.

 

*did you spot them all?

May Day Merriment

Today is May Day, a time to celebrate the end of winter.  It has its origins among other sources in the Roman festival of Floralia and the Celtic Beltane, and in Medieval Europe was a time of holiday for the workers.

According to custom girls are supposed to go out washing their faces in the dawn dew because the magical properties will ensure they have a fresh complexion all year.  I spent this morning wrestling away a soaking wet tent in the Welsh rain which isn’t half as much fun (I’m beyond help anyway I think).  Other traditions dating back into the middle ages included dancing round a maypole (and you don’t need to be Freud to see the symbolism there) and games, feasting and decorating the houses with garlands and greenery collected early in the morning.

In The Blacksmith’s Wife I gave Joanna and Hal a chance to celebrate the day together, though true to form things don’t go quite as planned for my awkward couple…

Thundering beats on the door roused them from their bed as men from the villagers came to claim ale from Hal as Lord Danby’s representative. He allowed himself to be taken away, leaving Joanna in the hands of Meg and the other women to gather flowers and greenery from the moors and bind them into wreaths.

The women arrived on the village green at midday. Raucous, uncontrolled games were taking place amid cheers and catcalls of the onlookers already well into the ale, but stopped as they appeared.

‘Crown the queen!’

The call was taken up and repeated by everyone present. Girls giggled and blushed, young men freely ogled them and Joanna felt hands in her back pushing her to the front of the crowd.

Hal appeared from among the men. He took her by the hand and turned her to face everyone. A crown of twisted greenery was placed on her head to cheers and good-natured whistles from everyone watching. Pipers began to play and dancers found their partners.

‘I thought the May Queen was supposed to be a maiden,’ Joanna whispered to Hal.

He held her waist tightly as he led her to the circle. ‘This year I thought I’d exercise my rights to choose.’

‘You can do that?’

‘I can do what I like, I’m their lord’s son,’ he joked. He put one hand on her back, the other to her cheek and looked into her eyes. ‘I cannot give you tournaments and pageants to delight you, but I wanted to give you something to remember.’

She covered her hand with his. ‘You have,’ she said. ‘This is enough.’

She realised as she said it that she spoke the truth.

The dancing and games carried on long into the night. As the sun set Hal and the men carried brands from the forge and lit the bonfire. More barrels of ale were tapped and the ox that had been roasting all afternoon was speedily eaten.

As groups and couples began to disperse to find their own diversions Joanna sat alone by the fire, warming her hands and yawning. She’d danced until her calves burned and drunk far too much wine. Her bed called her. Hal had vanished a while before, called away by the miller, and she was becoming tired of waiting. She walked home and was halfway to the door when she noticed light coming from the forge.

Curious, she walked across the dewy grass. The door was partly open, but no sound came from within. Cautiously Joanna pushed the door wider and peeped around it.

Hal was standing by his workbench. In the dull glow of the furnace Joanna could only see his back.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked.

Hal jumped at her voice. He strode towards her, blocking her entry into the forge.

‘What’s wrong? Why won’t you let me in?’ she asked.

‘Nothing’s wrong. I’m coming now,’ Hal said. His voice was guarded. He took hold of her arm and tried to turn her away.

He was so obviously hiding something. Determined to find out what Joanna twisted from his grip and pushed past him. Her blood drained slowly away, leaving her cold to the bone as she recognised her own drawing pinned to the beam above the furnace.

‘That’s mine!’ she hissed. ‘How did you get it?’

‘You dropped it on the moors,’ Hal said.

She remembered the day, but that had been over a week ago and he had kept it all this time! Furious, she lunged and ripped the drawing from the wall. She rounded on Hal.

‘How dare you keep it,’ she stormed. ‘You had no right to do that.’

She pushed roughly past him and wrenched the door open, stumbling out into the darkness.

Blacksmith's wife cover

If you want to find out what happens next you can get hold of a copy here: myBook.to/BlacksmithWife

Medieval Monday- Aelric’s Fate

It’s the final Medieval Monday in the Villains theme and I’m finishing where I started with an excerpt from The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.  The final excerpt picks up Constance’s story after Robert has taken his revenge on Aelric.

51ne1shx3rl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his…

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

****

‘You shamed me in public! For that alone I should beat you until you scream!’

Robert’s rage was incandescent. Constance looked to her sister but Jeanne sat, head bowed over her embroidery, and said nothing. She would get no support there.

‘The boy did not deserve death.’

‘Never mind that. What were you doing befriending Saxon filth?’ Robert turned to his wife. ‘Madam, is your sister a wanton?’

‘No, my lord,’ Jeanne answered meekly. ‘Her behaviour is as shocking to me as it is to you.’

Constance’s scalp prickled. If Robert knew the truth about what had passed between her and Aelric his wrath would be too great to withstand. Robert seized hold of Constance by the arm and dragged her roughly to her bed, flinging her on to the straw mattress.

‘You are almost seventeen. It’s time you were married. In the morning I’m sending you to a convent until I can find a husband who can tame you.’

He stormed out, leaving Constance holding her face and trembling with anger.

What will the future hold for Aelric and Constance? Discover their story in The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.

getBook.at/SaxonOutlaw

Look out for another Medieval Mondays theme coming soon.

 

Medieval Monday with Jenna Jaxon

This is the penultimate excerpt I’ll be sharing in the Villains theme.  I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them.  I’m leaving you with Jenna Jaxon’s Beleaguered.

beleaguered3

Aye,” Geoffrey said as he backed out of the room, pushing Alyse behind him, “although I little thought you so eager for your grave.”

“I am eager for Alyse’s warm bed, Seigneur, as you apparently are for a cold one.” Guy entered the Great Hall, his gaze darting over Geoffrey’s sword, stance, and stride as they sparred with words instead of swords.

Swords would come soon enough. Geoffrey relished the thought for he had itched to engage this cocky knave in single combat in June. The man might put up a good fight, but he would not prevail. “I fear your only bedmates this evening will be the worms that come to dine on you, Sir Guy. Enjoy their caresses if you will.”

Blurb: When death holds sway in the world, can even the greatest love survive?

Finally in France, Alyse and Thomas’s passion for one another continues to smolder hot and deep—until one fateful encounter changes everything.

During a formal banquet, Alyse must share an intimate dance her first love. His searing touch proves Alyse’s desire for him is as strong as when they first met. Tormented by this revelation, Alyse is bitterly torn between the love of her life and her love for her husband.

Into this agonizing situation, the disaster of the Black Death rears its head. Alyse, Thomas and Geoffrey must try to save the princess from the ravening disease but at a dire cost to themselves. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both of the men she loves. But which love will survive?

Amazon Buy Link for Beleaguered: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LR5WDKC

Next week Jenna is back at her own blog for the exciting end of the excerpt! https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com

 

I’ll be sharing the final excerpt from The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.  Hope to see you then!

Medieval Monday Sherry Ewing’s villain

It’s Bank Holiday so why not relax with a spot of Medieval romance.  Here with me today is Sherry Ewing and an excerpt from A Knight to Call My Own.

When your heart is broken, is love still worth the risk?

Lynet of clan MacLaren knows how it feels to love someone and not have that love returned. After waiting for six long years, she has given up hope of Ian’s return. Her brother-in-law, the Devil’s Dragon of Berwyck, is tired of waiting for her to choose a husband and has decided a competition for the right to wed Lynet is just the thing his willful charge needs to force her hand.

Ian MacGillivray has returned to Berwyck Castle in search of a bride and who better than the young girl who cared for him all those years ago. But Lynet is anything but an easy conquest and he will need more than charm to win her hand in marriage.

From the English borders to the Highlands of Scotland, the chase is on for who will claim the fair Lynet. The price paid will indeed be high to ensure her safety and even higher to win her love.

A_Knight_To_Call_My__Cover_for_Kindle

She looked at him with enough skepticism to doubt his honor that he would not harm her. She could not for the life of her figure out why he had not already taken advantage of her and lay claim to her maidenhood. “Then why tie my hands? Surely, you can see the meaning of this foolishness if you continue to keep me hostage.”

“Precisely why I will leave you unharmed, lest you test me further. Think you Dristan of Berwyck will be lenient if he knows I do not return you in the same exact condition as when you left his keep?”

“Take me home,” Lynet demanded.

He paid her no mind as he reached for the reins. With a tap of his heel into the side of his horse, the animal bolted into motion. His men followed close behind.

 

If that has whetted your appetite you can get hold of a copy here:

Buy Links:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |   iBooks  |  Kobo

 

Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog with excerpt #12 at https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/

Medieval Monday Rue Allyn

We’re nearing the end of our Villains theme.  I do hope you’re enjoying them.

Today I’m hosting Rue Allyn with an excerpt from Knight Errant.

Blurb: If Sir Robert Clarwyn can’t find a way to compel Lady Juliana Verault to return to England, he’ll lose any chance of regaining his family lands and redeeming his heritage. Yet Juliana must complete her mission to improve her gender’s future in the church. With danger and intrigue mounting, Robert and Juliana must rely on each other and risk everything … including their hearts.

RUEALLYNKEcover

“How quaint. Lies, disobedience, envy”—he cast a glance at the rumpled beds—“lust, and worst of all, heresy. Woman, you cannot fail to commit sin.” The smile left his face abruptly. “Come.”

He turned to pull her from the room.

Juliana struck. Her blade sank into his flesh and glanced off the shoulder bone.

Basti howled.

She ran for the window, scrambled onto the ledge, and looked down. There was nothing but a straight drop. Death from the fall or death from Basti? She took a deep breath and leaned forward.

Next week we pick up the story in, our hero, Robert’s point of view.

Add a comment and let me know what you think.. Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog for excerpt # 11 https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com

BUY LINKS: Amazon   B & N   iTunes   Crimson Romance

 

Medieval Monday

Bob Geldof sang that he didn’t like Mondays but I do because it means another Medieval Monday excerpt.  Today I’m hosting Lane McFarland.

The Daughters of Alastair MacDougall Series

Set in late thirteenth century Scotland, this series tells the stories of Laird Alastair MacDougall’s four independent and oftentimes, headstrong daughters coming of age in a country fraught with war and feuds amongst rival clans. Follow his daughters as their lives become intertwined with four fierce, rebel highland warriors bent on eradicating the English soldiers from their homeland.

Lindsey

Who said life was fair? Certainly not Lindsey MacDougall. She rebels at a world dominated by men. Dressed in lad’s clothing, she manages her father’s stables, caring for, breeding and selling horses. Unwavering on performing her duty to the rebellion, Lindsey throws caution to the wind and secretly delivers missives behind enemy lines to the Scottish warriors.

Logan Ross uses his happy-go-lucky smile to warm the hearts of many willing lasses, but it also masks his pain—the pain of his birth. As a bastard son, he is unacceptable for any Laird’s daughter, including the spirited Lindsey MacDougall. However, she haunts his dreams. Determined to prove his worth, he throws himself into the middle of the rebellion, leading men into mortal danger.

After helping Logan escape from a brutal English dungeon, Lindsey fights her traitorous attraction to the virile highland warrior, vowing never to lose her heart to any man.

LaneMcFarland_Lindsey

Her pulse pounded in her ears, and she trembled with rage. She wanted to pounce on him, grab his blade, and sink it into his gut. Straining to gain composure, she turned her back on the men and set her basket on the floor. Her hand trembled as she inhaled the putrid air and struggled to calm her nerves. She must maintain her heartless pretense, appear untouched by the savagery. Biting the side of her lip, she rummaged through the jars and extracted the healing salves.

Chains rattled behind her. Thumps of dead weight and groans indicated the guard had freed the men. As he marched from the cell, he cast a look at Lindsey and slammed the door. The lock clunked, and his booted footsteps grew quieter as he strode away.

Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog with excerpt #10 https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/

 

BUY LINKS: AMAZON

Medieval Monday. Meet Bambi Lynn’s villain!

Here’s today’s wonderful excerpt from Bambi Lynn.  It comes from Lucan in her Gods of the Highlands series.

Lucan - Bambi Lynn

He was bone tired and deafened by the constant ringing in his ears. His arms ached. His lungs threatened to burst with the struggle to breathe. But Lucan fought like a man possessed. He was covered in blood, none of it his own. He parried and spun, blocking and hacking. Behind him, Camulus was a killing machine. He took down one man after another, a claymore in one hand, a billhook in the other.

Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog with excerpt #9

Blurb:

Neala Comyn, wife of a powerful laird, wants to end the pain and suffering of an abusive marriage. She is a woman without hope, believing God has forsaken her. When she is kidnapped by a rival laird who claims to be a god himself, her faith is further shaken. Could Lucan Munro be the salvation she has prayed for? Or will her sins condemn her to eternal damnation?

Lucan Munro, has the power of a Celtic god. He can conjure his heart’s desire from thin air. But can he save the woman he loves from a demon hell-bent on claiming her soul?

Get hold of your own copy here

Click Here

 

 

The Elisabeth Hobbes Singalong Playlist

4-covers

All my stories have theme songs that go with them.  I’ve never had a song in mind at the time I start writing but at some point I’ll hear something on the radio or my phone that will resonate with the plot or characters and that’ll be the song for that book.

Once I’ve got the song in my head it’s a useful way of getting into the mood for writing after a break (the curse of the part time writer) or getting out of the occasional block.  I can put it on, sing along and remind myself what grabbed me about it.  I can also amuse myself by imagining the film trailer using them when Hollywood comes calling.

I’ve mentioned what the song is in the author’s note for each book and way back when I started writing I posted the song for my first book but I thought it would be fun to put them all in one place.

Falling for Her Captor 

Something rocky to start with.  A hero who has buried himself inside the job he has to do for the man he hates to serve.  I love the opening chords on the organ, it sounds very Medieval.

Falling for Her Captor

 

‘You take what they give you
And you keep it inside
Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan we’ll got it at alone

I can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
Don’t want to fight, don’t want to die
Just want to hear you cry’

A Wager for the Widow

A bit of The Boss.  If I had to choose an all time favourite song this would probably be it.

‘Don’t turn me home again, I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside, darling, you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright
Oh, and that’s alright with me A Wager for the Widow

You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets.’

 

Second chances, taking risks, a slow build to that intensely growly moment when the harmony kicks in, and Bruce.  What’s not to love?

 

 

The Blacksmith’s Wife

A marriage of convenience deserves a song of repressed and unrequited love.  This one is sung by the highly distinctive voice of Stevie Nicks.

Don’t keep me hangin’ on a string
Tell me what I feel is no big thing
Don’t turn away I’m listening
Over and over againFeatured Image -- 698

Don’t give me visions to explain
There are no doubts I feel the strain
Of all my senses yearning
Over and over again

Every day I see you
Every day I need you
Every way I breathe you
On and on and on and on again… again.

The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge

Two lovers who thought they’d never meet again.  Reunited on opposite sides of a conflict.  A mission of vengeance.  Time for a power ballad!

I finished crying in the instant that you left
But I can’t remember where or when or howSOR front
And I banished every memory you and I had ever made!
But when you touch me like this
And you hold me like that
I just have to admit
That it’s all coming back to me.

When I touch you like this
And I hold you like that
It’s so hard to believe but
It’s all coming back to me now.

Redeeming the Rogue Knight

I do have a song but I’m saving it for now.  When I get a cover I’ll share it.  Here’s the blurb.  If you think you know what it is, let me know in the comments.
RTRK blurb
And there you have it.  The songs from the stories (or perhaps more accurately, the stories from the songs).  Hope you’ve enjoyed listening to them.  If you have other songs you think would suit the stories or characters I’d love to hear them.

Medieval Monday

We’re halfway through the Villains theme.  Are you enjoying it?  I know I’m loving getting to read and share some great excerpts.  Today’s comes from The Highlander’s English Woman by Ruth A. Casie

TheHighlandersEnglishWoman300 (1)

 

Laura Reynolds is in love with her long-time friend, Jamie Maxwell Collins. She adores his playful sense of humor, caring nature as well as his strong sense of family and honor.

Jamie lives across the border in Scotland. Outwardly carefree, he hides a dark secret. He can’t involve Laura in this deception. He can’t give her hope for a future together.

Laura stumbles upon Jamie’s secret. In her heart of hearts she knows Jamie is innocent. Their relationship in tatters and with no hope of reconciliation, she plays a deadly game to exonerate Jamie, she agrees to a political marriage. She has no idea the entire game has been orchestrated by her future husband, Jamie’s greatest enemy.

 

Excerpt:

“Then we best return to the others. They’ll want to spend time with you, too.” They moved on toward the hall.

“I have no words, nothing to say to comfort you.” He could barely get the words out.

“Your presence is enough.”

He held back a nervous smile. He visited to give the family comfort. Instead, she comforted him.

“How are my Maxwell cousins?” Laura asked. Jamie guided her toward the great hall.

“They are well when I last saw them.”

Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog for excerpt #7

https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/

 

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