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When Writing, is Less More?


This is going to be a short piece. And quite right too as I write today in praise of short books. There seem to be more and more lengthy books being published these days, despite the increasing competition for a reader’s time from TV streaming, boxed sets etc. Think about Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, in which the first chapter alone is over 360 pages. It’s not surprising therefore that in a recent survey inBritain over 50% of respondents admitted they hadn’t actually finished a bookthey had started. Why, you may ask, has the author written 800+ pages, whenthey could have said it all in 200? Is this poor editing?  A problem with self-publishing?  A refusal to kill any sentence after all t...
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 9 ‘Cataclysm’


‘Every infection needs a host,’ said Mac, ‘and the NotBeSpeak need the biggest host of all; the world.’‘How do we stop them?’ asked Inteachán.‘How do you stop them,’ Mac corrected her. ‘I am old and my days of fighting inter-dimensional demons intent upon cataclysm are long gone.’‘How do I stop them?’‘They can only be stopped by preventing them from taking their final form.’Mac smiled sadly.‘If we know what final form they wish to take then that is how we can stop them.’He paused.‘But, I am only now beginning to understand what form their final form will take.’Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 8 ‘The What-be-Speak?’


It was growing dark outside. Inteachán pulled the curtains over the window. In the orange glow of the lamp Mac looked even more ancient than normal. Inteachán sat down on the small footstool in front of the fire.‘What are the What-Be-Speak?’ she asked.‘Not ‘What,” Mac replied, ‘but Why.’He looked into the distance.‘I have spent my whole adult life searching for an answer to that question. I am no closer to the answer now than I was when I started.’He blew his nose vigorously.‘In fact, I’m probably further away today than I have ever been.’Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 7 ‘A Sighing Sound’


Everyone said that it was a gas leak that caused the explosion that destroyed No. 23 Wolseley Close but Inteachán and Professor Mac an Bhaird know better.‘Do you remember hearing anything just before the explosion?’ asked Mac. ‘Think carefully.’‘I think I remember a sighing sound,’ replied Inteachán. ‘Like a sigh that got louder and started to scream.’‘‘Fomhóire,’ Mac said softly. ‘The NotBeSpeak.’‘The What-be-Speak?’ said Inteachán.‘They walk among us,’ replied Mac. ‘Since the start of Time and even before.’Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 6 ‘You may call me Mac’


It was Professor Mac an Bhaird who heard Inteachán sobbing late on that awful evening.Who left his door open in case she needed someone. Who woke to find Inteachán curled up asleep at the end of his narrow bed. Who smiled and didn’t speak. Who allowed Inteachán to just sit. Until she was ready to talk.‘You may call me Mac,’ he said kindly.Now they talk all the time.Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 5 ‘The Song of the NotBeSpeak’


The NotBeSpeak will not be spoken of. They are the space between the words. Not the words themselves. The pause before the sentence. The sigh that follows. The NotBeSpeak are ancient. Timeless. Dangerous. Alien. The NotBeSpeak are shapeless. Always shifting. Drifting outside of definition. Beyond boundaries. The NotBeSpeak are not evil. This is not a word for them. No words really are. The NotBeSpeak need shape now. They need form to form their dismal plan. The NotBeSpeak seek a host. Like a vacuum needs a vessel to empty. Blood needs a wound to drain. Darkness needs a light to extinguish.Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 4 ‘Mac an Bhaird’s Miscellanea’


Only one person knows about Inteachán and her flat and that is Professor Amhalgaidh Mac an Bhaird who lives in the flat next door.Professor Mac an Bhaird is elderly now, almost ancient. He is an Honorary Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Trinity College.Professor Mac an Bhaird has devoted his life to the study of what he likes to call the ‘small things that we forget to remember very quickly.’ He sits in his armchair all day working on his life’s work, Mac an Bhaird’s Miscellanea. Over thirty-three thousand dusty pages.His handwriting is terribly terribly tiny.Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 3 ‘Inteachán Lives Alone’


Inteachán lives alone in a small flat that overlooks Front Square in Trinity College, Dublin. The flat has belonged to Inteachán’s family for a long long time. Since 1794.When the rest of her family were lost to the NotBeSpeak it was the obvious place for Inteachán to hide. The only place. That was two years ago. Inteachán has been living there ever since.You tend to grow up quickly when you lose everyone you know. You become self-dependent straightaway. You rely upon yourself before you rely upon others.You will become quite quite fearless.Inteachán is quite quite fearless.Original link
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Bringing Books to the Few – the story of the Pack Horse Library Project.


These days many local libraries across the UK are closing, or being run on reduced hours by volunteers. Little by little, access to free books by the masses is being eroded – a far cry from the pioneering days when libraries, often financed by rich benefactors, were opening up across the suburbs as well as in town centres. There was too, a growing commitment to get books to even the remotest communities via mobile libraries.I don’t think any mobile library in the UK was quite as adventurous as the Pack Horse Library Project in the US. This was set up by President Franklin D Roosevelt as part of the New Deal and operated between 1935 and 1943, delivering books on horseback to the poor, isolat...
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 2 ‘Or else the world will end’


This is the story of a twelve year-old girl called Inteachán and the things she does.Inteachán does these things because she is very good at doing them. You might say that she was born to do them.Inteachán does these things because she has to. Or else the world will end. Simple as.Which is lucky because if she didn’t then we wouldn’t be here reading about the things she does.The things that Inteachán does are also secret. They have to be.Do you really think that the world would let a twelve year-old girl save it from destruction?Original link
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Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 1


A dark and filthy night. Black as black. A howling wind. A small mound in the distance. A lonely tree bent double on top. Nothing is abroad.No one walks on a night like this.But wait.A small figure stands next to the tree. Gently lifting a large flat stone. Carefully tying a rope. Lowering the other end into a small black hole. Leering like a baleful eye in the frightening night.Inteachán tests the knot.Inteachán is twelve years old. She climbs down holes. Retrieving relics. Important things.Tombs. Graves. Cairns.Original link
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Off the Radio and Other Scary Stories


Voices from beyond.Imaginary friends.Unsettling sights.New houses.Dead dogs.The scares go on and on. Off the Radio‘I haven’t seen this for years,’ Mum said. ‘I used to record music off the radio with it.’We were in the attic. I didn’t know what it was. Mum saw I was confused.‘It’s my old cassette player.’Mum picked up something else from the tin. It was a small box with two wheels on it. There was some writing on it. Mum read it out loud.‘Top of the Charts, May 1982.’She showed me the player.‘You push this button.’A door in the top popped up.‘You put the cassette inside.’Mum pushed the small box into the slot. She put the lid down. There was a clear plastic window. There was also a row of bu...
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Live Literary Event in Warwick this Thursday.


Warwickshire writer Jenefer Heap, winner of the Good Housekeeping short story competition and author of The Woman Who Never Did and other short stories, regularly hosts a popular literary event in the centre of Warwick. The next one is on Thursday October 10th at the Warwick Arms Hotel, starting at 7.30  and a mere £3.00 a ticket. Local writers, some with established publishers, some self-published, some still scribbling on the backs of envelopes to amuse their family and friends only, will be reading from their work on a selected theme. I was invited to participate a few years ago and now try to attend each one.This time a nod has been given to the approach of Halloween and the theme for al...
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The Taylor Detective Agency and Other Scary Stories


Voices from beyond.Imaginary friends.Unsettling sights.New houses.Dead dogs.The scares go on and on.The Taylor Detective AgencyMy name is Ellis. My friends and me are detectives. Olaf and Izzy and Windy. We are the Taylor Detective Agency. We all live on the same street and meet every day under the Waiting Tree in my garden. We do lots of detective things. These are the stories of our adventures.It is Tuesday morning and there is no sunshine. I am sitting under the Waiting Tree waiting. We meet every morning in the summer holidays. We are a team. We work together well. That makes us better detectives. It was my Dad’s idea to form the agency to give me and him something to do. I carried the n...
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Is Our Fate in Our Clouds, Not in Our Stars?


  We all know how clouds can have an impact on our day to day lives – from the farmer, anxiously scanning the sky to see if he has time to get the harvest in before it rains, to the commuter pausing at the door to see if she will need her umbrella for the walk to the station, to the family debate about whether getting the BBQ out at the weekend would be tempting fate. We also often use the words cloud / cloudy etc. without any seeming reference to the actual clouds in the sky; His face clouded over with anger, the water was too cloudy to see to the bottom, his reasoning was clouded by his passion. But clouds themselves are fascinating and have inspired many artists, musicians and writers.Dav...
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At The Top of The Tall Tree and Other Scary Stories


Voices from beyond.Imaginary friends.Unsettling sights.All this and more …At The Top of The Tall TreeThe policeman said they found Dad standing right at the top of the tall tree in the field behind the supermarket. Right at the top. He was standing on a thin branch with his hands behind his back. It was night time and windy and the person that saw him said they called the police because it looked like he was about to jump. It took two fire engines to get him down. He had no clothes on when they put him in the ambulance. Mum didn’t understand. Neither did the policeman.‘We have no idea how he got there, madam. The tree is far too tall to climb. It is as if he just appeared there.’The policema...
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Define me a Woman!


I have written before about language being a living, and constantly evolving, entity. New words come into common usage, old ones fall out of favour. If they didn’t we would still be talking like Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or the chap who wrote Beowulf, or simply sitting round the camp-fire going ‘ugg’ to each other and gesticulating.That said, however evolved the language we currently use is, it is still important to know what words meant in the past if we want to understand past writers, and the historical context of their work. Not all past use of words seems appropriate to the modern ear, and we may not choose to use them. But to deny they exist is to deny the simple truth of my opening sta...
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Storming Area 51 book trailer by ‎Raven Corinn Carluk‎


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The Boy Who Wasn’t Me And Other Scary Stories


Voices from beyond.Imaginary friends.Unsettling sights.All this and more …The Boy Who Wasn’t MeI met a boy in the park. He said he was me. He had my clothes on. His hair was like my hair. He knew all the things about dinosaurs that I knew. The boy said that it was my turn to sleep in the park tonight. It was only fair. He said he had been here too long. I turned around. My mum was reading her book.‘Don’t bother asking her,’ said the boy who wasn’t me. ‘She’ll only agree with me.’‘But that’s not fair,’ I said. ‘She’s my mum, not yours. Why would she let you go home with her and leave me here? Why would she do that?’The boy who wasn’t me smiled. He thought this was very funny.‘How would I know...
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Writing Tips from Mark Twain.


 The advice that Mark Twain gave in a letter to D. W. Bowser in 1880 is famous and often quoted even these days. Here it is in full:Writer Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) circa 1907“I notice that you useplain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way towrite English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t letfluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it.No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will bevaluable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength whenthey are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit,once fastened upon a person, is as hard to g...
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