18 May, 2015

Grammar Wars

On our way back from holiday last weekend, we stopped off for a walk at Stourhead - one of the most famous gardens in the UK. Next to the new hand-driers in the toilets was a sign explaining their use, and on that sign was a grammar war. Here it is...

If you can't see that image, let me explain. The phrase 'dries your hands quicker', has been changed to 'dries your hands more quickly' by somebody. Somebody else, however, has added a note to say that 'quicker is OK'.

This is a grammar rule I get confused about a lot. Which words you can modify by adding an -er, and which you have to modify with a 'more' I get wrong a lot in conversation. Is there a definite rule, or is it a matter of just knowing which -er words exist? 

The day after we got back, we were in church and I spent an un-Christian amount of time pondering the grammatical correctness of the words to one of the hymns we were singing. Perhaps you can help me with this one too. The words we sing are:

Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

My instinct was that the last sentence should be, Is it me, Lord? But am I right? My logic is that I wouldn't answer the question, 'Whom shall I send?" with the words, "Send I." I would answer "Send me." (Or "Don't send me", of course!) So the correct word in the full lyrics should be me and not I. What do you think?

And for reading to the end of a short but pedantic post, you shall be rewarded with another photo of Stourhead - one that is perhaps more indicative of the overall atmosphere!

15 May, 2015

Quotable Friday (45)

Last week I brought to you some quotations from Baroness Ruth Rendell who died earlier this month. I mentioned that her death was not marked as much as it might have been as it occurred on the same day Princess Charlotte was born. I also mentioned that CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley had a similar unremarked passing, as they both died on the same day that JF Kennedy was assassinated.

I've quoted from CS Lewis many times on this blog before, so I thought maybe it was Aldous Huxley's turn. I read Brave New World in my teens and was really taken with it. I heard it on the radio again recently and was still absorbed by his dystopian vision of the future.

Here is a quotation appropriate for a writer, taken from that novel:

"Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly - they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced."

I hope the words I write one day will have the same piercing effect that his did. I can dream, right?!

11 May, 2015

Australia, I'm Coming For You!

Another snippet of good news about my novel, The Art of Letting Go. Following promotion in the UK in February, the e-book version is now being promoted in Australia. For this month only, you can buy it from Amazon Australia for AUS$0.99. I have virtually no contacts in Australia myself, so I'd be grateful if those who do have friends or family out there, could spread the word! Sales and, more importantly, reviews are gratefully received. Here's where you can find it.

Talking of reviews, I now have 97 reviews on amazon.co.uk, or which 59 are 5*. I'd love to get to triple figures, so if you've read and enjoyed my book, please consider reviewing it for me! Thank-you.

08 May, 2015

Quotable Friday (44)

Following the death of Sir Terry Pratchett recently, it's already time to say goodbye to another of the UK's most-loved writers. I have to say I don't know a lot of Ruth Rendell's books, but the ones I have read or heard on the radio are brilliant. She was a fantastic crime writer, author of more than 60 books, who was still writing into her 80s.

With the General Election less than a week away and Princess Charlotte born on the same day, Ruth Rendell's death passed with less attention in the media than it might have done. In a similar way, the deaths of writers CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley went almost unremarked at the time occurring as they did on the day President Kennedy was shot. I shall leave those two for another week. For now, here is a rather simple and lovely view of marriage from Ruth Rendell:

"Maybe being married is talking to oneself, with one's other self listening."

And I also loved this take on having an ally in the world - I think it applies to spouses and best friends alike:

"There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one."

Perhaps neither of those quotations are typical of a crime writer, but they were the ones I liked best!

30 April, 2015

What's in a (Narnian) Name?

Would you name your child after a literary character?

When writing fiction, naming the main characters is an important part of the job. A name can tell you a lot about the background of a character - age, class, ethnicity, maybe even the temperament of their parents - but for the writer, it's also an important way to bond with a character. Although I don't tend to sweat long and hard over the names of my characters, I have found, on several occasions, that I've had to change a name because the one I've chosen hasn't clicked with me, or another name keeps insinuating itself into my thoughts. How much more terrifying then, to have choose the name of a real life character - to pick a name for your child!

Our first child is called Digory. As it happened, we just really liked the name. We had a shortlist of three or four and when we first popped out we picked the one we thought he suited. It does however, have a literary connection which several people have commented on. Digory Kirke is a character from The Chronicles of Narnia. He is the Magician's Nephew and goes on to become the professor who owns the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We didn't name Digory for this reason, but it's pleasing to have an accidental literary connection that I love!

It's got me wondering whether Paul and I should be more intentionally literary next time. But it's tricky. For example, we both love A Tale of Two Cities and the characterisation of Sydney Carton in it. However, neither of us like the names Sydney or Carton! With a pet, it might be easier - I can think of loads of literary names I like enough to lumber a pet with, but a person who has to go to school, get a job and impress the ladies (or gentlemen) is a bit different. What do you think? Would you choose a literary name?

One name I have liked for ages is Atticus. Unfortunately it has become something of a hipster name in the last year or so with the resurgence of interest in To Kill a Mockingbird. We could go for something romantic instead, such as Heathcliffe, or fantastical - Bilbo, anyone? Gandalf? Something that has been suggested on Twitter is that we go for another Narnian name to match Digory. When I asked for suggestions they were certainly interesting! With that in mind, we thought we'd get Diggy to help us pick one out.

The face of a one year-old who's been let loose with a permanent marker...

He definitely seemed to favour Hogglestock. Hogglestock Banks? I think that could work, right? I favour Rumblebuffin and actually genuinely like Caspian, but as my husband had already vetoed Caspar ("everyone will think he's a friendly ghost") and I've therefore used Caspar as a main character in my current novel, I suppose it's out.

In the end, I doubt we'll choose a literary name. All the best ones - Wackford Squeers, Uriah Heep, Lemony Snicket - are a little too much to lumber a child with. But perhaps we'll be inspired. Inspire us! What are your favourite names in literature?