Showing posts from 2018

5 Blunders to Avoid for a More Successful, Happier Year (No Resolutions Needed)

As Jan Edwards has already mentioned in her December 19 post , year-end is, for many of us, a time for taking stock of the previous year and setting goals for the new year. A great many people will make resolutions, the majority of whom will fail at those by February ( 27% within the first week of the year! ). Resolutions typically take the form of 'I want to get healthy this year', or 'I want to be more successful this year', or I want to lose weight this year'. Or perhaps they're a bit more specific, such as 'I will stop eating chocolate', or 'I will exercise every day'. These are objectives that many of us can appreciate, many have as our own resolutions, and many of us fail at -- regularly and consistently. But why? Are they just too hard? Do they not really mean anything to us? Does life get in the way? And what does one learn after failing at the same resolution so many times? Sadly, the answer to the last question is either 'very l

In Memory: N M Browne

Today would have been my father’s birthday - a once forgettable date, lost between Christmas and New Year which led to rather a meagre birthday present haul. I never forget it now.  He died twenty eight years ago, a few months before his 58th birthday, the very same age that I am now and I still miss him desperately.     He was a painter who gave up painting for twenty years - from my early childhood until his early (and too brief) retirement. He gave up because it was impossible to combine painting with earning enough to support us. He was good at what he did and exhibited widely before I was born. Would he have ‘made it’ if he’d carried on? Maybe. Did he regret the sacrifice ? I don't think so.     Anyway, the struggle to find time to teach, paint, and be a family man was too much. I still have a portrait of me he began when I was about four. I outgrew the dress I was wearing before he was able to finish it, which says it all. Consequently, I grew up with the knowledge t

Bad Times For The World Can Be Good Times For Writers - Andrew Crofts

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama is just as good as everyone says, and made this reader nostalgic for a time of hope and optimism which seems to have been eclipsed for the last couple of years. One of the most endearing features of the story for anyone who has ever harboured ambitions to write for a living, (besides the $65-million dollars the author and her husband are reputed to have been paid by the publishers), is that in the early years of his political career Barack carried the same fantasies of writing a book and making enough money from it to deal with their growing expenses as every other would-be author. Like most of us, the initial sales figures of his first book were nothing like the bonanza he had been hoping for, but of course in the long term they more than fulfilled his dreams. 3 years ago The really great news is that the recent disturbances in American politics have created a number of best sellers. The whole Trump phenomenon was kick-start

Family Lessons from Olive Kittridge by Dipika Mukherjee

It is the season for families and feasting; and for some of us, the season to catch up on books we've wanted to read through the year but never did. Which is how I -- FINALLY -- read Olive Kitteridge by the fabulous Elizabeth Strout .  This is a book that won the Pulitzer Prize and is now an HBO miniseries. It interlinks short stories around the central character of Olive Kitteridge, a female curmudgeon whom the reader meets at various stages of her life, as seen through different eyes. Olive is wonderfully nuanced as a character, as are the rest of the cast.  This is also a season of forced jollity and family tensions and this book, by making us empathise with a misanthrope, is a master class on how to love the people in our lives, warts and all.  My favourite story was "Security", and as Olive grapples with parenting mistakes and a grown-up son, the story is excruciatingly painful and heartwarming at the same time.  The message driven home by this book i

Christmas Day: It's A Mad Mad World -- by Susan Price

Exactly a year ago I wrote a post comparing our politicians and their shenanigans to a pantomime. A Bigly Christmas 2017 To You Sorry to spoil your Christmas again, but -- A whole twelve months have passed; more than twenty-four since the referendum. And are we any clearer about anything? Grimaldi: public domain Oh no we aren't! Will we Brexit? Won't we? Is it behind us? Our government is certainly beneath us. The past year has left me -- and you too, I've little doubt -- with an uneasy feeling that we've slipped through some uncanny border into a world of strange perspectives and surreality which makes the Pantomine Land seem almost normal. For hours, you think you're in the old, sane world and then you hear of Trump's latest tweets. Or you hear that Karen Bradley, the MP appointed secretary for Northern Ireland has cheerfully told some reporter that, fancy, the Northern Irish community is somewhat divided! Gosh, who knew?! Follow l

Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self-Publishing VI

Well, it’s been a bit since I last posted about my ongoing countdown of the best self - published books I’ve found. So lets get right to it. Rooted - Idabell Allen Pick your own cover! Personally, I like them both, though the punk rock cow really speaks to me.. I have to admit that when I first read this book, I had no idea that it was self-published. I met Idabell Allen at a conference in New Orleans in September of last year. She was presenting a paper on the podcast S-Town (and if you haven’t heard that podcast, do yourself a favor and start downloading it now) and mentioned in passing her own novel about a misfit in a small Southern town, which she described as “Sid Vicious stuck in rural Tennessee.” Being a huge Sex Pistols fan from all the way back in high school, and being a Southern lit scholar since grad school, obviously this was an idea I found all too intriguing. Total punk and rule-breaker right there. During the luncheon, she and I found ours

Christmas Greetings from a previous century. Ali Bacon reflects on how words change

Fraught can be a good thing! Once again a friend whose interest in early photography merges into all kinds of printed ephemera has sent me a very charming Christmas card, which I guess is Victorian or possibly Edwardian and reads May your Christmas be fraught with every pleasure. But popping it on the mantle piece I had to read it twice because of course it sounds a little odd to our ears.  Feeling fraught around Christmas is hardly unusual but that's not usually the source of pleasure.  So off I went to do some googling of definitions.  Oxford Living Dictionaries: "fraught with (of a situation or course of action) filled with or likely to result in (something undesirable)" Yes, as I thought, but I guess there must at one time have been a usage without the negative connotations and  Merriam-Webster  provides the information that 'filled with' is the key concept.  Originally 'fraught' meant simply laden, as in a ship laden with cargo. (In fact

Wishing you a peaceful Winter Solstice - Katherine Roberts

At the time of writing I do not know if my 87-year-old mother will still be with us at Christmas. She was rushed into hospital with a severe stroke at the end of November, and has not yet regained her swallowing or speech. She's still being fed via a tube in her nose and is obviously not going to be tucking into turkey and all the trimmings any time soon. So this year, in my family, the usual run up to Christmas is turning into a subdued jog around various hospitals to visit her (she's been moved a couple of times), interspersed with quiet moments at home when I just can't seem to get into the mood for any festive decorating, xmas shopping, writing sparkly cards, or any of the other frantic preparations that usually accompany this time of year. This has, strangely, been blessing. I have some fresh candles and I've placed a few simple items around the house to mark the season. A silver reindeer tea-light holder. A Scandinavian-style reindeer wreath (because they don

Ramblings about rhyme by Sandra Horn

What with it being That time of year and the Big C word looming, I’ve been singing the odd carol now and then. I love them – but I think some of them have problematic bits. For example:  1.        If I never have to hear ‘Gaudete’ again I won’t mind, thanks. 2.        ‘Very God, begotten not created’ – who writes this stuff? 3.        ‘When like stars, his children crowned, all in white shall wait around.’ Tutting and checking their watches, no doubt – ‘Where’s He got to now?’ 4.        In dulci jubilo: stuck for a rhyme? Bung in some Latin, that’ll do. I wasn’t keen on singing ‘While Shepherds Watched’ to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At’ either, but the Vicar said it was the original tune – and by the way, little known fact (by me, anyway): there are more tunes for ‘While Shepherds’ than any other carol. I pass this on in case it ever comes up in a pub quiz/Christmas Trivia, etc.  This was by way of a somewhat-sideways and twisted introduction to the