Category Archives: Articles

Punctuation and Grammar


Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss Elements of Style by William Strunk Jnr.

Now that I write for a living, I am increasingly aware of the importance of not making too many mistakes with punctuation and grammar. If you spend months or even years crafting your novel, it would be awful if your prose are let down by clumsy punctuation and poor grammar. I wasn’t bad, not perfect, but not bad. Now that this is what I do full time, I needed to be as close to perfect as possible.

I tried Grammarly, an online punctuation and grammar checker. Initially, it seemed quite good. I would copy and paste my text into the program it would analyse the text and highlight my grammatical errors. Some aspects are better than others. The dictionary they use to compare your text to is awful. It doesn’t recognise many simple words offering ludicrous, or worse, no alternatives. Subscription cancelled.

Two books I have found to be incredibly helpful are: Elements of Style by William Strunk Jnr. and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Elements of Style is an excellent textbook of correct English grammar and punctuation. A little dry, but it offers a comprehensive explanation of the different areas of grammar and punctuation as well as providing a list of commonly misused words and phrases and commonly misspelled words.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a far lighter introduction to punctuation. It covers all of the common punctuation marks , providing a history of their usage and the correct way to use them.

I hope I have benefitted from having them on my bookshelf.  Any punctuation or grammatical errors in this blog are mine alone!

Writing


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We have recently changed the way we run our business which has given me some spare time to write.

I am a writer. I’ve never said that before. I’ve thought it, called myself a part time scribbler, but never acknowledge that is what I am. Back to the spare time. My wife has supported my scribbling for years. She encourages me and gives me as much time to indulge myself as our business allowed.

Now i’m a writer. It’s my job. I sit down in front of my computer and I tell stories. Everything has been going well. Word counts have risen, i have completed the first two drafts of my first full length novel and i’m a quarter of the way through the next one. Well done me. But…

Procrastination. Treating the writing as a job rather than a hobby means the application of the bottom to the seat for a certain number of hours a day and writing. This has taken a lot of getting used to. I honestly believed that as soon as I had the time to follow my dream I would write until my fingers bled. Not quite.

I still have certain responsibilities for our catering business. We still have a family with all that entails. I am the part time chauffeur for children’s activities, delivery driver for our catering business and anything else that needs doing.

A book that is a huge eye opener on procrastination is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I’ll be reviewing it in my new weekly book review section, beginning next week. As one of the most influential books I’ve read it’ll be the first review.

 

 

From fitbit to Fast Diet


Following my post Christmas Epiphany and my new excursion into the world of the fitbit I have been revolutionised. I am still struggling to understand how flashing lights on my wrist and a congratulatory buzz when I hit my chosen target, have managed to turn me from a slothful over-indulger to a manic wrist watcher, but it has. Now every afternoon I can be found frantically running on the spot as the latest sync to my iPhone has informed me I am still 2345 steps off my target and time is running out! By linking it with myfitnesspal you can use the myfitnesspal database to log what you eat and this in turn feeds the calories consumed to fitbit, easy.

My wife has for a long time been an advocate of the ‘eat less, move more’ school of thinking, which was diametrically opposite to my own; until now. Exercise evangelist as she is, my wife is also now getting a bizarre satisfaction out of beating the flasher on her wrist and smashing her targets. She regularly gets emails from fitbit, the company; i’m assuming; not the wristband, telling her she has exceeded her target by some absurd amount and she loves it.

Motivationally, this clever little bit of kit is a triumph.

So, fitbit was successfully providing the motivation for the ‘move more’ part of the equation and making it more palatable to this inveterate sloth, but I needed something to make the ‘eat less’ part a little more appealing. I had briefly flirted with the Fast Diet. By that I mean I had watched Michael Moseley’s Horizon documentary and downloaded the book and then promptly ignored it, but I was being sucked back in.

Since Christmas, everyone I have spoken to is on the Fast Diet and loving it. Weight was dropping off them and it was apparently very easy. Really? Easy weight loss?

In addition to the allure of losing weight and keeping it off there are a number of health benefits being attributed to Intermittent Fasting. These include reduction in blood glucose, reduction in a number of age-related risks such as cancer and switching on of countless repair genes.

I have chosen to eat my 600 calories the end of my fasting period, i.e. in the evening for dinner after having fasted from the previous evening meal. In the first two weeks I have lost 3 lbs per week. So far the fasting hasn’t been difficult, I haven’t become uncontrollably hungry and the sense of satisfaction as the weight gradually reduces is more than adequate compensation. Will I continue Intermittent Fasting? Definitely, and I will periodically report on my progress.

My stats are as follows:

Height:  5’9″

Weight: 13st 6lb

BMI: 27.7 (overweight, but not obese)

Target Weight Loss: 2st 6lb this would give me a healthy BMI of 22.7

Christmas Epiphany


During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays I have had what I can only describe as a very uncomfortable epiphany. Let me explain.

As many families do over the Christmas holidays we were visiting relations scattered around the southern half of the UK. Once we had survived the interminable drive to London, lunched with aforementioned relations, we headed down to the South coast. Arriving at our hotel, a Premier Inn we collapsed gratefully into our family room and began to relax. The rooms are compact and functional leaving little space for stretching out except on the beds opposite the TV which we all did and began watching a repeat of the Stephen Fry/Bear Grylls weekend in the Dolomites documentary.

Then it happened.

I looked away from the screen and caught a fleeting view of my reflection in the mirror. My head stopped traversing and slowly moved back to rest on the person in the mirror. What I saw was a shaven headed troll with cloth covered flesh bulging over it’s belt giving it the look of a  Buddha. The vision was at best disturbing, until I concentrated for a second and realised that the shaven headed troll was me. Oh shit…

My physique has generally been thought of as solid bordering on cuddly, just the right size of fat and a good long jump from obese. Now; I’m not sure. What I saw was more a character from a Beryl Cook painting looking distinctly curvaceous. Even now, a week later, I am struggling to articulate how I felt. Disbelief was I think the first emotion, followed quickly by disgust and then shame. How had I let myself go like this?

As with most things, it had been a gradual process of gaining the odd pound here and there. If I had been on a mad chocolate and cheese bender I could have understood it, but this insidious increase in body size and change of body shape was frightening and oddly far worse.

This required action. Real action. I have spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of pounds on not going to the gym, not running , not cycling, you get the picture. Now I was going to have to actually do the exercise, eat the salad and loose the pounds. Oh shit…

My wife is training to run a half marathon in the New Year, so as a way for her to measure he progress I had bought her a ‘fitbit‘. You wear it as a bracelet on your wrist and it measures the number of steps you take over the course of a day, the distance you walk or run, intense bouts of exercise and can even track how restful your sleep is. The aspect I found most fascinating was that it could tell you the calories you had burned and you could input what you had eaten and it could tell you your net calorific intake and with a food plan could set you targets to help you loose the weight…

Within two days my wife had ordered me a fitbit and battle had commenced. This collection of flashing lights on my wrist is strangely motivational. I find myself tracking the number of steps I’ve taken, distance covered and calories burned without realising I’m doing it. I’ll let you know if my excited motivation transforms me into a lean sculpted adonis or whether it is on the bedside cabinet around week two…