Please click on your favourite category in the column on the right, scroll down for the latest posts or have a rummage through the archives.

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December           –     Hobby horses

January ( 2018 ) –     Favourite writing

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Icle… article, icicle, listicle

Eorðdraca and I have drifted into a challenge to write 73 different types of blog from an article we read about blogging… Article… a word ending in ‘icle‘… I tried to find the origin of this suffix, ‘-icle‘, and it comes from Latin, and usually means a small part of something as in particle, of course.

The reason I have deviated to find out about ‘-icle‘ is that one of the 73 suggestions for blogs is ‘Listicles’ – which I had never come across at all. I guessed maybe it meant lists, and yes it does, so why listicles?  Listicle is a portmanteau word from ‘list article‘; I investigated and found that a listicle is something which appears in a blog or in an article which itself revolves round the list. Usually the list is numbered, and often the article is headlined with such titles as ‘25 things you never knew about...’ or ‘17 foods you should never eat if… ‘ or ‘The world’s 25 most…‘. I confess that I’ve looked at some of these (without realising they were listicles) usually because I have thought they might be interesting or relevant; however it seems to me, and I don’t want to be rude about anyone who has written these things or who reads them, most of them seem ‘off the top of your head’ style of journalism; a few Wikipedia researched facts, fluffed up with a few generalisations and a lot more totally random things which seem to be totally imagined by the writer. For a list of the world’s most famous/beautiful/ /interesting/ healthy/happy whatevers I get the feeling that they are whatever or whoever the writer likes best or least! There are other listicles which are photos, probably just trawled off Google images, of the wackiest/weirdest/ugliest people or places or homes or occupations or fashions or dogs…

There is an excellent listicle here by Steven Poole:

People like lists, that’s for sure, and having read about them now, I find I am guilty of including listicles – or lists as I prefer to call them in some of my blogs here.  A list can be a way of writing a blog or article from nothing very much – I guess students doing homework love them because you can fill a whole page, and they look neat and important! A list can be a lazy way of writing too – not much to say? Include a list!

The original article about 73 blogs says this about listicles: ‘Who doesn’t love lists right? List articles are always among the most shared on the internet. You can create a list of just about anything.’

I guess I had better include a list… so here is a list of the books on the ‘language’ shelf of one of my bookshelves:

  • The Rough Guide to Iceland
  • Complete Icelandic and –
  • – Complete Icelandic  CDs
  • Teach Yourself Icelandic
  • The Little Book of Icelanders – Alda Sigmundsdóttir
  • New Junior Latin Course
  • Teach Yourself Ukrainian
  • The Good Jewish Home – Emily Haft Bloom
  • Chineasy – flashcards – Shaolan
  • Pocket Guide to Iceland
  • Westfjords of Iceland
  • North Iceland – the Official Tourist Guide
  • Langenscheidt Universal Dutch Dicitonry
  • The Dhammapada – The Sayings of the Buddha
  • Spell It Out – David Crystal
  • A User-Friendly Dictionary of Old English
  • A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse – Richard Hamer
  • Wordcraft – New English to Old English Dictionary and Thesaurus – S. Pollington
  • Living French – T.W. Knight
  • Harrap’s French Grammar revision Mille et un Points – Neil Creighton
  • Forgotten Places of the North Coast –  J.D.C. Marshall
  • Dalraida – A Guide Around the Celtic Kingdom –  J.D.C. Marshall
  • Heath’s Modern French Grammar
  • English-Irish Dictionary – Tomás de Bhaldraithe
  • So You Want To Write – Lois Elsden
  • The Geology and Fossils of Bracklesham and Selsey – David Bone
  • Bognor’s Rocks – David Bone
  • Man-o’-War Rhymes – Burt Franklin Jenness
  • The Chrysalids – John Wyndham

I mentioned the Wikipedia article – it is very interesting:

A fussy reader, a careful writer

Lois Elsden shares a post from her blog on observing and imagining:

I read a lot of books; not many of them are classics old or modern, mostly are what people might rudely call ‘pot-boilers’ but in fact are often well-written, beautifully written even. However, I agree, some are not; some have a good plot, interesting characters, vivid settings, writing which keeps you on the edge of your metaphorical seat (I read in bed) and the sort of writing which makes you re-read bits just because they are so well-written – but some are less accomplished.

I read a lot of crime novels, police procedurals; with some writers, these who write a series, you can see how they improve as the series progress… With others you just give up getting any more of their books because you know that despite an interesting plot, the characters are unbelievable or stereotypical of that type of character. Every time there is an eccentric pathologist or forensic scientist with quirky habits I mentally groan; every time there is a superior officer who is unsupportive or described as ‘a dinosaur’ or antediluvian’, or the subordinate who is ‘a maverick’,  I sigh. I feel that these characters have been imagined from other novels and have not been based on observation or knowledge… it’s as if the writer wants to make memorable characters, but bases them on other writers memorable characters.

Little things which must have been observed in real life are often the key to describing someone – P.D.James once had a scene where a character had received some unexpected news. He received it calmly and seemed unperturbed, but then he took a cigarette, put it in his mouth,and lit the wrong end – this tiny event in a small episode, was, in a way, key to the rest of the novel.

Research and doing the background work to a story line is really important, but it’s trying to be true to the characters you have which seem to me to be the key to a book which other people enjoy. I look back at some of the things I wrote when I was much younger; I have always had a very vivid imagination, and had imagined all sorts of characters in all sorts of situations – but they were completely unrealistic because I had based the detail of who they were on other things I had read or seen in films, not on what I had observed about real people in real relationships (not just personal relationships, but work colleagues, employers/employees, etc.) I know I have a thing about names, but using stereotypical names, ‘Sharon and Tracy’ spring to mind , is just another aspect of the same complaint I have…

Well, that’s that off my chest… back to writing, and I must bear in mind all I have said here… no stereotypes, observe as well as imagine… don’t upset the fussy reader…

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to Lois’s paperbacks and e-books:

73 – a double-take on checklists – how to self-publish on Amazon

Eorðraca and I have picked up the challenge to try and write blogs on seventy-three different subjects. I am just working my way down the list, he is picking his topics at random. A couple of days ago I wrote about checklists; I produced a checklist for self-editing a book, forgetting completely that I had written about self-editing in another of the 73! Doh!!

So, to be fair, I am going to write about another checklist, this time I am writing about how to self-publish on Amazon

  • set up an Amazon account – this is easy, at the bottom of the Amazon page, under ‘Make money with us’, is a link ‘independently publish with us’
  • you should arrive at a page titled ‘bookshelf’ and there is a box which says ‘create a new book’ with a choice of paperback or kindle – choose which you want (you can always do the other one later!)
  • I am going to follow the set-up for a paperback, but it is equally easy to set-up for Kindle
  • You will be taken to a page where you enter the details
  • Language – the language you are publishing in…  I publish in English but there are plenty of languages to choose from
  • Title and subtitle – you write in your title, if you have a sub-title put that in its own box, if you don’t have a subtitle leave it blank
  • Series – if you think you might write a series, put in the title of the whole series – for example for my Radwinter series I put ‘Radwinter’ and then the volume number and the volume title
  • if you are doing this for the first time where the next box asks for edition number, it will be 1. If you edit or revise your text, then it will be a subsequent number
  • The next box is for author – and that is you; if you are writing with a different name, put your writing name in here
  • under that is another box for contributors – and there is a drop down menu which includes such things as ‘editor’, illustrator’, etc. I am shortly going to publish an anthology with two friends, so their names go in there and they are both credited as ‘author’. You can add as many people as you like
  • the next text box is for a description – this is what the prospective reader will see when s/he comes across your masterpiece on Amazon. You want to make it as intriguing and interesting as possible!
  • the next check is for copyright and publishing rights – tick as appropriate (there are helpful explanations if you’re not sure!)
  • Next you have to think of seven words or phrases to describe your potential best-seller. For our anthology to be we used: poem, short story, creative non-fiction, polemic, geology, science fiction, euphoric writing
  • The next choice is of category, and there is an impressive selection to choose from – you can choose two – these are things like fiction/non-fiction/poetry etc
  • The last question on this first page ass if you have ever used CreateSpace… I haven’t so I didn’t have to answer any further questions
  • The next page continues first of all by checking if you need an ISBN number; Amazon will assign you one if you don’t have your own already
  • Then you can if you wish, set your own publication date
  • for a paperback you have a choice of type of paper, cover and size
  • You then upload your manuscript – it is as easy as attaching a document to an email; it may take some time if it is a very long book! When I say some time, I mean time in minutes not hours! Enough time to make a cup of tea.
  • Once you have manuscript uploaded then you can design your cover – if you already have one, upload that (I’ve not done this, I have just used Amazon’s own formats) This is quite tricky – not in the doing of it, but in the choosing of the right style, colours, pictures, the etc – trying to make sure you have got it right!!
  • The next step is to preview it, where you have a virtual book on the screen in front of you and you are able to edit and adjust… If you change your manuscript, you have to upload it again, but that is no problem
  • The last page you have to do is to decide on price, publication details, various admin details… it is very straightforward, and there are drop-down boxes explaining and guiding you all the way.
  • Good luck!!

Maybe this is not so much a check-list as a guide… well, whatever it is, I hope it is helpful!

Here are my books self-published on Amazon:

and a direct link to my Radwinter series, including the first paperback (more to follow!)

73 – a checklist blog

Eorðraca and I have been considering the different sorts of blogs you can write, the different subjects you might want to write about, and the different challenges with each…  We found an article which gave a list of seventy-three – 73! – different ideas. We have decided to tackle them all; Eorðraca is doing them at random, I am working my way through and today have come to checklists.

What is the difference between a list and a checklist… well, I guess they do overlap but apparently a list is just… well a list, usually of things (although it can also be a ‘to-do-list’) whereas a checklist is a list of things to do, possibly in a certain order, which can be ticked off as they are done (which can also be a to-do-list)

The idea is that you apply each of the blog suggestions to your own ‘industry or blog‘; so how would I apply the checklist principle to my writing…

I guess I would have to think of one particular aspect of my writing, so I am going to think about editing a completed piece, and in my case this would be a novel.

You have finished your novel – editing checklist:

  1. put your novel in a drawer (real or metaphorical) for at least a week
  2. if possible don’t do any other writing, if this is not possible make sure it is something which has absolutely no connection with THE NOVEL i.e. a sequel
  3. read it through, preferably in a different form from the way you saw it when you were writing it, e.g. on a Kindle, or as a hard copy; try not to interrupt your reading of it by making corrections – read it as a reader would
  4. when you have finished spend some time thinking about it, maybe make a few jottings of thoughts which occurred to you as you were reading, maybe under headings such as descriptions? locations? relationships? timings?
  5. run a spell-check
  6. spell-check again for consistency in names Sara/Sarah, Gabrielle/Gabriela
  7. weed out repeated words, ‘just’, ‘almost’, ‘even’ – and unusual words which you used once, loved, used again, then repeated – pellucid, lambent, adscititious, for example
  8. cut out all unnecessary words – less is so much, much more! Reducing your novel by a third can do wonders!
  9. start to read it through, correcting as you go – this maybe just small things or it maybe inconsistencies which need to be put right
  10. you may want to do a major re-write – it is sometimes advisable to continue reading through the whole thing to make sure you know exactly what you want to rewrite and what implications it would have on other parts of the novel
  11. work on your novel – it maybe the things you noted when you were reading it on your Kindle, it maybe the inconsistencies you want to tidy up, or it may be the rewrite
  12. If you have rewritten most or a lot of the novel, go back to number 1 on this checklist and start again
  13. think of aspects of your novel in chunks together – think about everything you have written about each character and their profile, each setting, each description
  14. optional – copy and paste into another document the story line for each character so you can read their part of the story sequentially
  15. read your novel again, changing and adjusting as you go
  16. read it again out loud to yourself
  17. read it backwards – not literally word for word, but chapter by chapter – this can throw up a lot of errors in sequencing and chronology
  18. if you have anyone who can read it for you this is a big help – if they are critical in a kindly but firm way. If you agree with their comments great, if you don’t you will have to defend your point of view and that argument will enable you to see whether their criticism might actually have been justified!
  19. run through the story-lines in your head from the different characters’ different points of view
  20. read it one last time…

Here is a link to my book, each of which has been through all of the above!!! The checklist on each has been well and truly checked!!:

Hey, Gus!!

For a while I have had a character in search of a story… at last the beginning of an idea has prompted a move – on my part as a writer, and on his part as a character. Gus has arrived in a small seaside village, on his own and lonely. He drifts around, going for walks but is beginning to come into contact with people, especially after getting stuck in the mud along the estuary and being hauled out by other walkers. here he meets some new friends:

“Hey!” and someone tapped Gus on the shoulder.
It almost made him jump, and he afterwards thought it was the first time anyone had touched him at all for months.
He turned to see a woman who looked familiar beaming at him.
“Hey, Gus! You were so deep in thought, I’ve been shouting at you from across the road!”
He apologised and she laughed in a friendly way but he still couldn’t quite place her… she was, he guessed, maybe thirties, maybe forties, very smiley, dark brows maybe dark  hair but she was wearing a multi-coloured striped knitted hat pulled down round her face. She said she was going to the paper shop, and he obviously was as he had his foot on the bottom step so they went in together, he holding the door for her.
She had run out of milk, she said, he told her he was getting his newspaper… he got it every morning, a little routine he had developed to get out of the house, to try to meet people… and now he had met someone and he had no clue who she was, although she did look familiar…
She had mentioned milk, and when she opened the chill cabinet and took out a two pint bottle he said he needed milk too, and he picked up a pint… no point in getting more, it usually went off before he could dink it all… maybe he should start having cereal…
“Good morning, sir, how are you today?” it was a friendly little gnome of a man who always asked him how he was and then in return told Gus how he was. On this occasion, as Gus and the woman with the stripy hat stood in the short queue the gnome didn’t list his own ailments but began to… well, to interrogate Gus. “I take it you’re not a holiday maker, sir, I’ve been seeing you every day for a month or more!”
“Um, no, I’ve moved here, moved in three months ago actually…”
The gnome told him he had been here twenty years – had moved here when he retired, it had been a dream to come here as he had visited every summer for a week’s holiday as a child.
“I didn’t realise you were a newcomer,” said the woman with the stripy hat. “I used to live in town but it’s only since I’ve moved into the village that I’ve been a regular at the quiz.”
The quiz! The pub quiz! She was not only one of the people whose team he had joined a couple of weeks ago, but she was one of the people who had rescued him from the mud!
He felt a little foolish, but as the gnome was now quizzing him further about where he had come from and where he was living, he hoped he concealed it. Fortunately an elderly lady had greeted the little man from the other side of the freezer and he was telling her about his appointment at Specsavers.
Gus tried to think of something to say to the woman in the hat… did he know her name? Had he forgotten that too? Since he had begun his solitary life his memory was shocking. He cast round for something to say, anything…
“Have you tried this apple cake?” he asked her desperately, pointing to ‘Granny Gibbon’s apple cake, locally made from local apples… and eggs!’ The label said.
The lady looked a little startled at the random question and gave him what seemed to be a saucy look, as if she guessed he was trying to make conversation. No, she hadn’t… she loved baking and made her own… there seemed to be a pause at the end of her comment, and for a silly moment Gus wondered if she was going to suggest something… drop round for a coffee, try my cake… But of course she wasn’t, and he felt an embarrassed blush of misery creeping across his face.
Then he was at the counter and paid for his milk and nearly forgot the newspaper until the man behind the counter, Bill, apparently told him to pick one up on the way out. He was trapped beside the elderly lady who talking to the gnome; she hadn’t seemed particularly big when she was on the other side of the freezer, but how he was trying to get down this side he realised she was… well, she was enormous from the waist down, and also had a pile of shopping bags around her ankles.
“Oh heck,” said the quiz team member behind him. “Ready about.”
This proved more difficult as the gnome was still at the counter talking to Bill.
“Bill’s been here since he retired,” the gnome announced.
“Yerp… left the old woman, told the boss to stick his boss, moved here, new beginning…”
“Excuse me, can we just squeeze past you…” and the hat woman actually put her arms round the gnome and moved him to one side, which amused him and amused Bill more.
The shop door was in sight but a woman negotiated her double buggy in blocking their way. Gus would have huddled against the magazine racks and waited in quiet irritation until his exit was clear, but the woman in the hat wasn’t having any of it.
“Excuse me, if you could just reverse so we can get out, and then you can come through this way!” she commanded in a firm but friendly voice.
The double buggy pusher wasn’t best pleased as Gus’s gran might have said, but she grumbled her way back out and Gus and the woman in the hat made it onto the steps to the shop… His gran… he hadn’t thought about gran for a long time…
He tried to think of something to say, some jovial remark, a see you next quiz sort of thing, but he’d lost it, lost conversation…
“Hiya Helja! Just going in or just coming out?” A very tall big-boned woman with a mass of very yellow hair looked up at them.
And then… and afterwards Gus couldn’t quite remember how it had happened, the blond woman had invited him and the hat woman for coffee… she’d just made a Somerset cider cake – and the hat woman had laughed about Granny Gibbon’s cake and introduced Gus by name… and he didn’t quite manage to protest of make an excuse, and the blond woman lived just opposite the shop… and suddenly he was walking into her house with the hat woman… Helja… was it Helja? Maybe it was Helen… And he was invited for coffee…

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to my e-books and my recently published paperbacks:

‘73.6 Listicle

Our dragons Brimdraca and Eorðdraca  have been challenging themselves to tackle a list of seventy-three different subjects on which a blog could be written…  The suggestions are very wide-ranging and aimed at people from every area of life who might want to write a blog, not just writers.

This is one in the series – A listicle of some of my favourite music.

All the mentioned pieces are available on U tube

Desert Island Discs

1 – Stabat Mater – Pergolesi – Talens Lyricques

2 –Soave sia il vento – Mozart – Renee Fleming

3 – Sull’ Aria – Mozart – Renee Fleming, Cecilia Bartolli

4 – Requiem – Mozart – John Elliott Gardiner

5 – Symphony No 9 – Beethoven – John Elliott Gardiner

6 – St Mathew Passion-Bach-Julia Hamari

7 – Partita No 2 – Bach – Itzhack Perlman

8 – Ballade No 1 – Chopin – Horowitz

I thought I would add a little in the way of explanation why I chose these pieces – the list has been growing and been pruned etc. over the last 20 years! I just cannot believe the wonderful music I have had to leave out – Goldberg variations, Harry Christophers and his group, etc. I have been greedy by putting in complete works so below I have pared them down to what I regard as the essence of the piece. I do like the singing in a language I cannot understand as then the, sometime silly, operatic plots do not detract from the wonderful noise. I do find that it is best to listen to this music without vision as the video appears to take away the magic a little? So here goes with the list and my explanations and feelings about the pieces – you may well disagree! Looking forward to seeing your list.

1 – Stabat Mater – Pergolesi – Talens Lyricques

I chose the Dolorosa from this piece as it seems to sum up the complete work. The dissonances in the music add to the sorrowfulness of the singing. The two singers seem to be trying to sing their best, not being ego driven but singing driven – if that makes sense.

2 –Soave sia il vento – Mozart – Renee Fleming

I think this is wonderful and the essence of Mozart. The background music is lilting, lyrical but does not swamp the singing. Yes, I get a tear with this piece now and again and the more I hear it…

3 – Sull’ Aria – Mozart – Renee Fleming, Cecilia Bartolli

Just like number 2 really and the same reasons. I recently heard this as part of the soundtrack of The Shawshank Redemption – it was wonderful against the background of the degradation of a prison.

4 – Requiem – Mozart – John Elliott Gardiner

Nothing much to be said really! What a wonderful sweep of the emotions, I could listen to it all day, every day. How can you pick one part of it?

I heard this once in Wells Cathedral – amazing.

5 – Symphony No 9 – Beethoven – John Elliott Gardiner

This I think is real muscular music. Where would Beethoven have got to if he had lived for another twenty years? I think he rewrote the book of rules of composition. The slow 3rd  movement here is wonderful and gives the hint of the promise of the last movement which is masterful and emotionally overwhelming. I think here Beethoven shows that he has built on European culture until he reached the peak.

6 – St Mathew Passion – Erbarme dich – Bach – Julia Hamari

In my view, the best piece of choral music – ever! This section encapsulates sung work and Julia Hamari is wonderful – it is all about the music, nothing about her. If you like second movements in minor keys, then this is for you! The leader of the orchestra is pretty good as well. Absolutely beautiful. Real tear jerking stuff. I defy anyone not to be moved by this. There are many other singers there, including Kathleen Ferrier but I think it is a very close run thing between Anne Sophie von Otter and Julia Hamari. What do you think? I think it is the best of the best!!

I once heard this in concert at St George’s Hall in Bristol – ‘Nuff said.

7 – Partita No 2 – Bach – Itzhack Perlman

There is a real story about this piece for me. I was just idly flicking through the TV channels about 15 years ago when I saw an empty stage, just with a high stool. This guy slowly shuffled on with two crutches, sat on the stool and then swapped his crutches for a violin from his assistant. After a moment he started to play. He played for some 15 minutes and what music! It was the Chaconne from Bach’s 2nd Violin Partita. To me it was the best piece of music I have ever heard. It still is.  It is also arranged for and  played on piano, cello, viola, guitar mandolin etc but to my mind, nothing beats the violin as it was intended. The best two interpretations I have heard are by Itzhak and Yehudi Menuin although the latter is a little stiff and not quite so expressive IMHO. Sometimes it is hard to believe that it is just one violin. For me, this is the epitome of music. Yes, I like it!

8 – Ballade No 1 – Chopin – Horowitz

I found this relatively recently and it knocked out the Goldbergs and Beethoven’s 5th Piano concerto from the list! I think it covers just about all styles of piano playing. Have you tried it? The beginning is startling, it feels like a bum note in the second bar and then it wanders wherever Chopin wants. Lovely. Zimmerman plays very slowly but expresses marvellously – better than Horowitz? What do you think of this composition?

After all this, the one piece that really stands out for me is Bach’s St Matthew Passion – nothing comes close in music for me.


I couldn’t leave so much wonderful music out of the list so I cheated by adding a second eight. I think There is more than one desert island…

9 – Misereri – Gregorio Allegri – Harry Christophers 16

I love this unaccompanied singing with the silences in between the phrases. Also the story behind it, Mozart hearing it once and then transcribing it.

10 – Vespers of 1610 – Claudio Monteverdi – Don’t know!

Just a wonderful early music noise – heard this once in Clifton Cathedral, sackbutts and all. Wonderful

11 – Missa Solemnis – Beethoven – John Elliott Gardiner

Sucks you in and keeps you there. The second movement is so lyrical.

12 – Mass in β minor – Bach – John Elliott Gardiner

This is  just behind St Matthew and Mozart Requiem for me.

13 – Piano concerti 21 & 23 – Mozart – Pick one !

Don’t think I need to say anything – just a summary of Mozart’s genius.

14 – Goldberg variations – Bach – Glenn Gould

Had to include this with Glenn Gould

15 – Piano Concerto No 5 – Beethoven – Don’t know

I just like it, so majestic

16 – Symphony No 41 – Jupiter – Mozart – Don’t know

The epitomy of Mozart for me.

I hope you liked at least some of these pieces as much as I do. Please let me know if you do.

© Richard Kefford    2017                                                                             Eorðdraca

My Kindle books are on Amazon –

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