A Treatise on Lindt Chocolate Advent Calendars

lindt advent calendarFor the past few years, I’ve been trying to reconcile the prospect of a waking each morning to the indulgence of a Lindt chocolate Christmas treat with the expense of such an advent calendar. £6 seemed an awful lot considering it’s a piece of card with a moderately feeble gram value of chocolate content, especially as it’s really aimed at children and a grown man shouldn’t be partaking in such tomfoolery. But hey, this year I thought I’d go for it. And received a sharp, burning lesson in everything that is wrong with Christmas. Continue reading

Gun City Bohemian – my new urban fantasy novel

urban fantasy novelA long time coming – I’m finally releasing my new novel, Gun City Bohemian. This urban fantasy charts the early days of a student romance, as layabout Will Carter falls for hard-working medic Lucy Shelling. And their new found bond inevitably leads to hellish conspiracies rising up around them. With an eminently readable narrative and a delicately complex plot, it bridges a rampant mix of genres, from romance, to thriller to horror. Continue reading

What a lovely pile of books

printed booksIt’s a splendid the feeling, as an author, of seeing a pile of your books in print. Even more so when you know all those printed books are going to (hopefully…) good homes. Even when you plan on giving them all away.

This is a bundle of printed copies of my new book, The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide – a short reference that covers the aspects of English, for English learners. With colourful pictures and examples. It’s a specialised book, for foreign students reaching towards fluency (and for the eminently curious) – but I think its nice matt cover and fantastic artwork would make it desirable on any bookshelf. Maybe I’m biased, though.

I did a print run of these books specifically to be given away – each of these copies will be offered as part of upcoming promotions over the next few months. If you’re interested in being in with a chance of winning yourself a copy, be sure to follow me on Goodreads for updates, or (important if you’re really interested in the world of learning English language!) join my English Lessons Brighton mailing list. Fun times ahead!

A Time to Curse: When is it appropriate to use swearwords in creative writing?

swearwords in creative writingA while back, I took all of my most complete manuscripts and, for curiosities’ sake, tallied up the number of swearwords in each. I made an interesting discovery – that the new novels seemed to have increasingly higher number of swearwords, and, rather surprisingly, my most light-hearted and least violent novel had the second highest total. As I am now re-editing that novel, Gun City Bohemian, for publication, I thought it a prudent time to step back and ask why these patterns emerged – and to muse on appropriate levels of swearing in creative writing in general. Continue reading

How to use the past perfect to build effective narratives

past perfect narrative useGetting back to some gritty basic English grammar, it struck me that it would be useful to publish some of the tips from The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide to help with general creative English writing. Though aimed at foreign learners of English, these fundamental building blocks of the language offer some handy tips for anyone trying to master the craft. For example, a solid understanding of the past perfect can be essential to building an effective narrative. The past perfect helps to create atmosphere, feeding new information into a narrative at crucial moments. Continue reading

The language of cons – an etymology

con man etymologyCon artists and their elaborate cons are rife in fiction and film for obvious reasons. Tales of trickery and the sort of guile it takes to pull off a good con are clear fodder for suave characters, a bit of danger and a good old-fashioned twist in a story. And they’re rich in interesting vocabulary that is, of course, always exciting to pick apart. If you’re into that sort of thing. Part of what makes the language of cons so interesting is that a lot of it has filtered out of criminal, underground and travelling circus slang. Which are areas whose origins aren’t normally well documented. Continue reading

An English grammar guide of 100 pages just to tell time…

english grammarGrammar is a fun loving thing. Not everyone may think so, but starting out pondering over when to use each tense and discovering a year later you’ve just about decided on how best to explain constitutes a fascinating journey for me. It was around a year ago that I started writing a short English grammar guide for foreign students, which should have been around 14 pages long. Now I’m about to release it as a resolute eBook, at some 114 pages, and feel that, if only for having more time, it could’ve been so much longer…

Continue reading

House of Tragic She – madness in performance art

house of tragic sheThe Six Lips Theatre troupe returned to Brighton this Fringe with their latest offering, The House Of Tragic She. I was eager to catch up with their work after last year’s grandly gothic Poe, and this latest adaptation promised an even deeper visual representation of the madness that seeps out of literature and art. Described as an ongoing research project presenting the constant reinterpretations of loneliness and insanity over the last few centuries, in literature, film and art, the group set a high bar for this hour-long performance. And, to my satisfaction, they were more than up to the task. Continue reading

Entertaining Mr Sloane – at Brighton’s Emporium

entertaining mr sloaneIt’s been fifty years since Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane graced stages in London (May, 1964).  The black comedy was a controversial satire with a strong ability to shock back then – and still is now. And the Emporium, one of Brighton’s more eclectic theatres (and in a town like this, that’s saying something) is putting on a run of the show as a testament to the timeless success of its themes. It’s a simple but intense story of four individuals in one apartment; spiralling around a strangely alluring young man, his seductive landlady, and her controlling brother. Continue reading

20 of the worst things when making tea

worst tea thingsThere are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re making a couple of tea. These are some of the worst things that I’ve encountered in my years of tea drinking. This list should go some way to teaching others to avoid making some of the same mistakes I have.  Some of these merely waste your time, others waste valuable resources, such as teabags or milk. All of them, however, have the potential to inspire that most soul crushing feeling: dashing your hopes of having a cup of tea.

Please note these points mostly assume a traditional mug of tea making process, involving a teabag and water in a mug and a splash of milk. There would be additional points typical to those who use a teapot or sugar.

The worst things when making tea

  1. Leaving the tea brewing, going away to do other tasks and returning only when the water is at its stagnant cold worst.
  2. Waiting for the tea to brew, performing other tasks, only to come back and find that you never put the water in the cup.
  3. Attempting to tear two joined teabags apart, only to rip one or both bags and spill the leaves.
  4. Preparing your cup, kettle and milk and discovering there are no teabags left.
  5. Brewing your tea and then discovering there is no milk left.
  6. Pouring water into the cup only to realise you forgot to boil the kettle.
  7. Pouring water into the cup only to discover the teabag has split.
  8. Pouring the kettle too soon, and having the steam rise back over your hand.
  9. Looking away for a moment and turning back to see you’ve added too much milk.
  10. Looking away for a moment and turning back to see you weren’t pouring the water, or milk, into the cup at all. But onto the work surface.
  11. Realising too late that the milk is off. Either as you see the freshly brewed tea populated by unnatural solid white lumps, or, worse, as you take your first sip with the one-two punch of the stench of rot and the taste of festering wounds.
  12. Leaving a spoon in the cup while the tea brews, and attempting to take it out only to discover it has become extremely hot.
  13. Stirring the tea too quickly and causing it to spill.
  14. Picking up your tea but catching your arm or finger on an unseen obstacle, spilling everything.
  15. Removing your hand from the cup handle, but not realising one finger is still partially hooked around the handle, pulling it sideways and creating a spill.
  16. Pouring milk into a herbal tea.
  17. Having the cup or mug split at any point in the process. Worst of all if it comes at the very end, as you pick up the complete tea and empty its contents in a rain of shattered porcelain. Bonus misery points if the tea lands on an electrical appliance.
  18. Stirring the tea and discovering too late that the spoon was dirty.
  19. Drinking the tea and discovering too late, on seeing the bottom of the cup, that the cup was dirty.

Perhaps the worst of all, though, for me, has to be this problem – in part because it happens so terribly often:

Making a complete cup of tea perfectly, then turning your attention to a task and forgetting to drink the tea until it is too late.

 

Disclaimer: this list was made in the interests of providing a realistic and representative sample of the worst things when making tea. There could, in theory be far worse things, like spilling the scolding tea on a newborn child, or somehow using the tea making process to cause a situation whereby all life in the universe becomes eternally damned to perpetual pain and suffering.