Fictional Blondes

fictional Blonde La Dolce Vita Mastroianni and EkbergA recent lecture on La Dolce Vita started me thinking about the variety of fictional blondes I have come across in my life. For there is something special about The Blonde. She grabs our attention the moment she appears. Indeed, in twentieth century western culture she became almost an icon.

Yet at the same time she has as many aspects as a Greek goddess, positive, negative and sometimes just plain loopy. And we all know them.

Fictional Blonde“Having a blonde moment,” my friend, author Sarah Mallory, will say, as she discovers the sunglasses she has been searching for are lodged securely on the top of her head.

She’s channelling the Airhead Blonde — charming, disorganised, sometimes a little naïve, sociable, and so good-hearted that you forgive her any amount of stuff that would irritate the hell out of you in a grey-haired matron or a sultry brunette.

Forgive her and maybe even love her. We pay to go and see movies about her. That shows you! Continue reading

Mnemonics: spelling and those dreaded lists

exclamation mark in fire; just right for mnemonicsMnemonics for spelling

Mnemonics, as a word, is no advert for English spelling. And English spelling most certainly needs help. What’s the point of that silent M at the start? (Blame the Greeks. Their spelling isn’t easy either.)

English spelling (and pronunciation) may well be the world’s worst. How many students, trying to learn English as a foreign language, have been flummoxed by:
through, thorough, cough, enough, hiccough, sough, dough?

I often have problems with words where changing the spelling changes the meaning: practise/practice and the like. The spellchecker is no help to me with that, of course.

My regular bugbear is affect/effect. I have to stop to work out which is correct when I’m writing.
The Oxford Dictionary tells me that affect and effect are quite different in meaning, though frequently confused. (A statement of the bleedin’ obvious?) Continue reading

The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities

Revisiting the Romantic Hero Formula —
except that there isn’t a formula, as I tried to show in the first blog on this topic. So, instead, I’m going to explore some aspects of creating the romantic hero.

With examples from a master of the art of hero-creation — Georgette Heyer.

Which Qualities Make a Romantic Hero Attractive — to Readers?

Most of us would say that our aim in writing romance is to create a heroine that our readers will identify with and a hero that they will lust after. Warning: it is not easy to do and not all readers will respond in the same way. Some may adore our hero and some may hate him. As romance authors, we’re winning if we have a lot more of the former. 😉

Tall Dark and Handsome?

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in "Game of Thrones."

Alan Rickman as Nottingham, Richard Armitage as GisbourneTall dark and handsome? Not necessarily. As readers we probably all have favourite heroes who are none of those. As writers, we may have created some of them, too.

Most telling recent example? Who became the abiding hero in the Game of Thrones series? Yes, Tyrion, the dwarf. Continue reading

La Dolce Vita and Blonde

La Dolce Vita Movie poster, blondeThis Monday I was lucky enough to go to a lecture on La Dolce Vita by Professor Richard Dyer. I say lucky advisedly. It was pure chance that I went.

I never enjoyed this 1960 movie very much and, apart from its iconic status, remember little about it. But one of my best friends invited me. I wanted to see my friend. And so I went – and got so much more than I expected.

La Dolce Vita by Richard DyerProfessor Dyer is the sort of enthusiast I could listen to for ever. Moreover, he loves La Dolce Vita. Not uncritically, you understand. He wrote the British Film Institute’s guide to the movie – which I immediately ordered – and he clearly continues to research its creation and ponder its message(s). Above all he is just wonderful on the gossip that surrounds the movie.

Indeed, a major part of his thesis is that the movie is precisely about that gossip: how it arises, how it is delivered, how it is received. Continue reading

Pedantique-Ryter : changing meanings, right and wrong

hand slicing through a stone question markEnglish usage is full of constantly changing meanings. How often do you yell at the radio or TV because some idiot presenter doesn’t know his (or her) English usage? How is it that educated people so often get fairly common words wrong?

English is a vibrant, living language and evolving all the time.

Not always changing for the better, in my pedantic view. But I know I am probably fighting a losing battle against sloppy English.

Changing meanings as words enter more common usage

Some words used to have very specific and precise meanings but have been misused so much that the original meaning has no traction any more.
So, if I say, “We underestimate the enormity of the decimation,” what do I mean? Continue reading

Medium Fiction

No, this blog is not about a new modestly priced genre for the  middle-aged, middle-gendered, middle-brow reader. This blog is about stories built around the figure of the professional medium. Because I’ve just read a cracking good one, and realised that it’s a subject I bump my nose on every few years. I don’t always like them, as you will see, but they often give me that little kick of electricity which means I never quite forget them.

Medium in All That Was LostThe Book that started this is All that Was Lost, by Alison May, published last Thursday.

The main character is, indeed, a professional medium. Very professional. One doesn’t entirely trust her but there is something oddly reassuring about her, though she clearly has some well-buried issues. She grows in stature throughout the book. Indeed, as in so many relationships, the reader alternately engages and retreats. I was 100% on her side by the end, though.

I found this a page-turner, intriguing and consistently engaging – and quite unlike anything else I have read this year. A refreshment to the jaded palate indeed. Continue reading

Odd titles wanted: for books written and unwritten

old books waiting for odd titlesAuthors often agonise over titles for their books. Not just odd titles — any title. And finding the right title may be the very last thing an author does. Sometimes, authors never find their title at all; their publisher supplies one instead. (And the angst that process can create could be a subject for several blogs, on its own.)

Odd Titles Competition

Rackham_town_mouse_and_country_mouse

Mice — but not nude at all, in this Rackham illustration

There is actually a competition for odd book titles. It’s called the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year. It was started by The Bookseller to provide entertainment at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978 but has since grown quite a lot. The very first winner was:

  • Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice

The most recent winner was by Michaela Giles and rejoiced in the title of:

  • The Commuter Pig Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity 

Continue reading

My First Library And What it Taught Me

writer's cat with booksThe fantastic experience of visiting the 250-year-old Leeds Library started me thinking about how my life has been marked out in libraries and, specifically, my first library. It was a small, very definitely a suburban sub-branch. But its great virtue was that it was at the end of the road. Ten minutes walk from home, tops!

And it had a visiting cat.

(No, not this one. This is my own TK. My own books too, come to think of it.)

Joining My First Library

Continue reading

Stuck on your manuscript? Bring on the villain

Bring on a villain, like this one, when manuscript is stuckDelightful chap, isn’t he, our villain? I particularly admire those enormous teeth. And that improbable moustache.

I’ve blogged about villains before — including charismatic villains played by Alan Rickman (yes!) and Richard Armitage — but today’s blog isn’t about individual villains. It’s about what villains can bring to our manuscripts, especially when we’re stuck.

I was stuck on my current wip. It was moving at the rate of a glacier before we had climate change.
In other words, it was going nowhere very slowly.

Crit partners : support when stuck

Continue reading

Magic of a Georgian Library

The last couple of weeks I have been contemplating the magic of a Georgian Library. As a result I have been researching libraries in general and, in particular, libraries I have known intimately. There are a surprising number of them scattered through my career. My spiritual home, maybe?

Georgian Library

Grand Library at Osterley Park, not like my poor house at all!

Partly this must be due to the novel I am currently editing. It stars a distinctly down-at-heel stately home. Its library was put together in the eighteenth century on the basis of some sketches by the Adam brothers and a certain amount of DIY on the part of the servants and the cash-strapped owner. A classical frieze in the library, indeed, was constructed out of clever paint effects and paper mâché. I’m rather in love with that frieze. Continue reading