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Highclere House - what is the story? Jo Carroll

A daughter took me to Highclere House recently - a belated birthday present. You might know it as the setting for Downton Abbey.The family no longer live there: it is mostly used for weddings and as a place to stay for the hunting, shooting and racing fraternity (it's not far from Newbury racecourse). Open days are rare, and crowded - although that is carefully controlled in these Covid days.The house, like most stately piles, is impressive. And visitors linger over well-known scenes - this is where Maggie Smith would sit, this is the main bedroom, these are the passages ... you get the idea. I confess I've watched it only once and so was in a minority of one when it came to admiring all the TV references. And then, the house duly drooled over, there is a second exhibition, in the cellars. An afterthought, if you like, only for those who might be interested. About Lord Cardigan - That Lord Cardigan - the Lord Cardigan who funded Howard Carter and enabled the expeditions that …

Whose Point Of View Is It, Anyway? by @EdenBaylee

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An author friend and I have been writing stories together for years, and our collaborations are usually seamless. We agree on so much, but there is one thing we don't agree on. 
I’m all for having a different point of view, but what if we have a different point of view about … point of view, also known as POV? 
Establishing point of view for a story isn’t easy since there are many to choose from: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. 
Point of view filters everything in a story. There are pros and cons for each choice. Where I differ from my friend is in the use of third person omniscient.  
He likes it, and I don’t. Simple as that. 
We’ve managed to write some fabulous stories together, so this difference may be a matter of personal preference and nothing more. Regardless, I thought it'd be interesting to explore the omniscient POV more closely. 
First of all, what is it? 
An omniscient narrator is one that is all-knowing. Its perspective…

Who or what are 'friends'? -- Mari Howard

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When I finished reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, I thought that is the saddest novel ever. When I re-read it some years later, I felt the same. Now Sally Rooney has updated my list: Conversations with Friends is up there with Tess, the saddest tale - though not ‘told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Rooney’s tale signifies her protagonist Frances is not an idiot – but she is a woman without a ‘map’, wandering in a fog of relationships and meanings. Frances and ex-partner-now-best-friend Bobbi are students and performance poets. Early on, we learn that Frances sits in bed, writing work to perform at gigs alongside Bobbi, and it’s at a gig that the tragedy begins to play out.
Here we are, back at Trinity College Dublin, and indeed Rooney even introduces us to a cameo of one of the two main characters of her second book Normal People, set partly at Trinity College, about two thirds through the story. Their ‘friend Marianne’. Though is this same Ma…

Making Hay in 2020 - Katherine Roberts

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The Hay Literary Festival is something of a pilgrimage for me, dating from the days I lived an hour's leisurely drive across the border and along the River Wye. One year I was even invited as an author to talk in a big tent about my first 'Seven Fabulous Wonders' adventure THE GREAT PYRAMID ROBBERY (and Hay must have worked its magic, since that is still the best selling title of the seven in the series). I don't think I've missed a Festival in 20 years, except of course this year when it, like pretty much every other event where literary folks mingle to exchange ideas, was cancelled "due to Covid". Well, dear Dictator Covid, this month I decided to risk the rising number of cases in Wales and the threat of a last-minute local lockdown, and drove across the border anyway to visit Hay and see if there were still any ideas knocking around.The experience was, as expected, a little sad. Half the smaller bookshops seemed to be closed (though hopefully just tem…

Keyhaven and poetry by Sandra Horn

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I can't count the many strange and beautiful things and places I’ve seen in my life – thundering Icelandic waterfalls fringed with towering icicles; hot water seething under the sand on a beach in New Zealand; aurora borealis from a midnight boat approaching Tromso; the eeerie loveliness of the Alhambra, islands, downlands, lakes, meteor showers, the moon…I’d love to be able to say that they have inspired me to write poetry, but no. I’ve gawped and gaped, felt awe, wonderment, deep joy, but I’ve not been able to put any of it into words. When I’ve tried I haven’t often managed to capture the essence in a way that satisfies, although I’ve tried- and several of the poems in my first collection, Passing Places, have been set off by particular landscapes - but there is something about Keyhaven, that keeps messing with my head and making poems.  There, a shingle bank stretches for over a mile out into the Solent. It started life as a geological oddity but since its ancient origins has…

Nissen V Nissan - Jan Edwards

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Because of my dyslexia I do keep the spellchecking function on as a matter of course but Microsoft and other software/social media sites can make this incredibly frustrating.I have watched as Word especially (though Facebook can be as guilty) will change a word, without red-underlining it, not just once but several times after I have gone back and altered it.These anomalies can often be put down to syntax – i.e. when writing dialogue where characters are not speaking in grammatically correct sentences.At other times it is down to the software’s limited dictionary. I always have Word in the UK, rather than US, spelling and language mode but still have occasions when it throws a wobbly over Z versus S.
Because The Bunch Courtney Investigations are a crime series set in WW2 the number of ‘unrecognised’ words rises by some margin.Today it was ‘Nissen’, as in Nissen hut. I was typing fairly quickly to get my ideas onto the screen before it vanished into the ether and simply did not notic…

Having a go at something new, by Elizabeth Kay

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It’s so much harder than I thought it would be. You make your own rules in fantasy, so the plot can head off wherever you want. I’ve always said that a book has to be an adventure for me too, and if I knew too much about the story before I started it would feel flat and unexciting. I always knew where I wanted to end up, but not how I was going to get there. Starting a thriller like that is not ideal, as I soon discovered. I am currently on the eighth re-write of the first few chapters, because every time I think of something that doesn’t quite ring true I have to go back and make sure that whatever I alter doesn’t impact on the storyline later on. So, in the end, I had to do the thing I really hate doing, which was to write a synopsis. I’m not used to it, though. My synopses normally get written once I’ve finished the book. Despite having written it, I am constantly changing things. Let’s have Character B’s wife killed, so that he’s free to become romantically involved with Character…