Tag: books (page 1 of 3)

THE 27TH LETTER OF THE ALPHABET

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Can you name the 27th letter of the alphabet?

Well, of course not, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.

But not always; once there were 27. (Well, 29, but we’ll get to that later.)

The letter we’re talking about here is the ampersand: today it’s mainly used in company names, like Barnes & Noble, or in abbreviations like R&R.

It’s an unusual little critter. Where did it come from?

In the first century, Roman scribes wrote in cursive text, so when they wrote ‘et’ – the Latin word for ‘and’ – they linked the two letters. Over time, this was adopted in the English language as well. ‘And’ became both a word and a letter.

The name for this symbol – “ampersand” – came centuries later. In the early nineteenth century, schoolchildren reciting the alphabet still finished with ‘&’.

But you can’t finish ‘X,Y, Z, and.’ How could they sing that on Sesame Street? It doesn’t rhyme.

So instead, they said – because this is oh so much easier – ‘X, Y, Z and, per se, and.’

Per se, in Latin, means ‘by itself.’ So the students, or the Muppets, or whoever, were actually singing: ‘X, Y, Z and, by itself, “and.” ’ (Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in kindie back then?)

Over the course of a few decades, ‘and per se and’ became – “ampersand.”

Okay, so that’s sorted. But what about letters 28 and 29?

Well old English was first written in the futhorc runic alphabet of the Anglo-Saxons.

Christian missionaries later introduced the Latin alphabet which replaced it, and, for a time, the alphabet included letters of both languages.

But two of them fell into disuse.

One was a letter called ‘thorn’ which represented the ‘the’ sound.

Because the symbol for ‘thorn’ and the symbol for ‘y’ look nearly identical in medieval English blackletter, the two were mistakenly substituted for each other.

This is why you see signs pointing the way to “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” in mock Tudor villages in England; we didn’t change the actual sound for ‘the’ over the years, just the symbol we used to spell it.

The other letter that was dropped was “wynn,” which represented the “uu” sound which became, as you probably guessed, a “w”. Yes, a double U.

So there you have it. Now you know your ampersand, thorn, wynn – won’t you sing along with me?

Pre-orders now available for my brand new novel, THE UNKILLABLE KITTY ‘KANE, published December 1 by Lake Union. You can get yours here: https://www.amazon.com/Unkillable-Kitty-OKane-…/…/1542048974

colin falconer

COLIN FALCONER

TELL ME A STORY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

“Tell me a story.”

Like kids all over the world, my daughters loved me reading them a story every night before they went to sleep.

At that time, in movie theatres right across the world, couples settled down with buckets of popcorn as the lights went down, thinking the very same thing.

“Tell me a story.”

Only they asked Steven Spielberg or Jonathan Demme to tell it to them.

My daughters are grown now. Jonathan Demme is gone.

But there are other daughters, other movie-goers …

When did humans first start saying: “Tell me a story” ?

The first graphic novel started with someone scrawling some figures on a cave wall thousands of years ago.

photograph: Clemens Schmillen

The actual genesis of the first audio book was the campfire; the first listeners were dressed in animal skins.

Long before human beings could even read, they were telling stories.

In the millennia since, stories have been variously carved, scratched, printed or inked onto wood or parchment, silk or bark or palm leaf, stone and clay.

These days stories – in some cases, the very same stories – are now recorded digitally, to be read or watched as moving pictures.

The medium has changed – no, it has multiplied – but whether it’s an audio-book or a play or a movie or an eBook or a hardback you can hold up to your nose and sniff for the complete sensory experience – it’s all just a way to provide the very thing that all human beings crave: narrative.

But why? Why do we all consume stories, every day, and in such prodigious quantities?

Psychologists tell us our brains are wired for story.

Even those of us who have never learned 3 Act Structure – and that’s most of the world – understand it, expect it and respond to it.

Without 3 Act Structure, Mister Darcy and Batman and Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella would not have become such a vital part of western culture. (Or in the case of Cinderella, almost EVERY culture.)

Originally, it is believed stories evolved as a way to teach younger members of a tribe notions of morality, about good and bad.

For example, a Native American tribe called the Chippewa told their ankle biters a story about an owl who snatched away naughty children if they did not behave. Most other cultures have similar Santa Claus or Bogeyman myths, with a similar theme and purpose.

But story is more, much more, than this.

Narrative became a way to look for and explore the meaning behind human existence. It is a mirror that shows us who we are, where we come from and where we belong.

We are not talking Booker Prize; we are not just talking JM Coetzee and Margaret Atwood. Narrative is story, any story.

Because telling stories is absolutely central to what it is to be human.

Some people say that Facebook, Hollywood, mobile phones and the Internet have put narrative under threat. Not a bit of it. The medium is not important. (To say otherwise will have us mourning the end of cave painting.)

It is content, not delivery, that shapes us and the culture we are a part of.

A thousand words can paint a picture.

Depending on the message, stories can be used to instil tolerance or breed hate.

For instance, do the stories we learn, the ones we carry with us, teach us to turn the other cheek or take an eye for an eye?

One theme is found in Leviticus and Exodus; the other is from Matthew’s Gospel, (the Sermon on the Mount). Both are from the Christian Bible, ‘the greatest story ever told’.

Both stories are re-told over and over today, with modern plots and themes, in a thousand ways, in plays and movies and novels.

The stories we tell ourselves reflect what we believe, but they can also persuade us to change our minds.

In the fifties and sixties John Wayne told us one story about the plains Indians of North America; more recently, Kevin Costner told us quite another story.

Stories are never just entertainment. From Cinderella to Pretty Woman, Jack and the Beanstalk to The Hunger Games, even the simplest of stories has a message. They explain the world to us; they shape our view of it.

It’s why that little voice inside us whispers to us every day.

“Tell me a story.”

That’s why, in the beginning, there was the story.

The End.

 

 

romeo and juliet, romance, love story

colin falconer, bestselling author, international, historical romance, historical fiction, romance, adventure

COLIN FALCONER

THE SHAMELESS ART OF SELF PROMOTION

Writing. Really, it’s no big deal.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

Ernie writing to beer companies looking for a sponsorship deal

It’s the shameless acts of self-promotion that are hard for most of us.

We live in a world where the advances in digital technology have made writing a book not so much an achievement but an obligation to anyone with access to a Microsoft Word program. It has also made the opportunities for self-promotion almost limitless.

Write the equivalent of a long email and you are required to bombard friends, relatives and people you meet in the lift with Facebook alerts, followed by a shit-storm of tweets and YouTube trailers. It is now considered the industry standard.

These days even a print publisher will expect you to do pretty much everything but put ink in the presses and choose the font for the typeface.

Okay. I’ll do it.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertisingYet still I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all a touch shameless. I have these bad dreams where I’m a snake oil salesman at a county fair in 19th century Idaho, standing on a box and haranguing passers-by, giving free candy to their kids to lure them to buy.

In others, I am standing on a street corner in a short leather skirt, chewing gum. Won’t do anything for less than seven bucks fifty.

It’s not Tolstoy, is it? It’s not Hemingway.

Or is it?

“For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.” Who said that? No, it wasn’t Neil Gaiman.

It was Balzac.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

Captain, my captain; the king of the review farm

The problem was highlighted recently when an author by the name of Ray Dolin, writing a book about the kindness of Americans, was shot in the arm by a passing motorist while hitchhiking across the country. Terrible, right?

Except it later transpired that he’d actually shot himself, in a desperate attempt at self-promotion.

(You see? It works! He’s getting free publicity right here.)

Or, as Stendhal said in his autobiography : “Great success is not possible without a certain degree of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism.”

Ray is just following in the footsteps of celebrity authors from before the time of Christ. For example, in 440 B.C. a novice Greek scribbler named Herodotus paid for his own book tour around the Aegean.

He got his big break during the Olympic Games in Athens, when he got a gig at the temple of Zeus and read excerpts from his “Histories” to the city’s smart set. It was like being on Oprah, except with chitons.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertisingMore recently, Balzac observed that in 19th century Paris it was common practice to bribe editors and critics with cash and lavish dinners to secure review space. In 1887, Guy de Maupassant even sent up a hot-air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, “Le Horla,” painted on its side.

Le Horla is about a man going insane. Shortly after its publication Maupassant actually was taken off to an institution by the men in white. Or was it just another piece of blatant self-promotion?

Even sham reviews on Amazon are nothing new. Back in the day, Walt Whitman was bigging himself up this way – anonymously, of course: “An American bard at last! ” he raved in 1855. “Large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded.”

O captain, my captain. Even John Locke was subtler than that.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

sold the grapes of wrath and the hops of Ballantine beer

It was Georges Simenon, author of the Inspector Maigret novels, who raised the bar. In 1927 he agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub. Members of the public were to be invited to choose the novel’s characters, subject matter and title, while Simenon hammered out the pulp on a typewriter.

Tragically, the newspaper financing this little stunt went bankrupt. But the publicity was priceless and for years afterwards journalists still described the event as if they had actually been there.

And then there’s Hemingway; surely America’s grand old man of letters, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, would not stoop so low?

Better believe it. Papa could have showed Nike or Coca-Cola a thing or two about branding.

Not only did he set up photo ops on safaris, fishing trips and war zones with the shamelessness of a whore on the hustings, he even posed for beer advertisements and endorsed Pan Am and Parker pens. He pursued the limelight like it was a thousand-pound marlin.

Papa was a tart.

He wasn’t alone. John Steinbeck recommended Ballantine beer after a hard day on Cannery Row; even Virginia Woolf was lured away from discussing philosophy and ethics with her Bloomsbury pals to go on a shopping expedition at the French couture houses in London with the Vogue fashion editor in 1925.

So look, I’m up for it. Want me to flog toothpaste? My contact details are at the top of the page. Write a book outside a nightclub? I’ll write one inside if you like. Shoot myself in the arm? Just on the way to the shop now to buy ammunition.

But as Hemingway and Steinbeck both liked to say; just for God’s sake, buy my book!

And to prove to you just how shameless I am, here it is:

East India, Batavia, shipwreck, historical romance, historical fiction, adventure, romance

 

colin falconer, bestselling author, romance, adventure, love stories

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

 

ARE THESE THE WORST 12 OPENING LINES EVER?

1. “She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her 
like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew
 jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the 
tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what
 little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the 
thief of imagination.”
- Chris Wieloch

 No? Perhaps you’re not into detective fiction. Try a love story:

 2. “As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, 
wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny
 deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum 
therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, 
causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the
 soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.”
 — Cathy Bryant

 Not bad. But perhaps a metaphor is better: Continue reading

THE BEST 43 OPENING LINES IN NOVEL WRITING HISTORY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get Advanced Review copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO ON THE RIGHT!

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover.

best opening lines, Hemingway, Dickens, Austen, novelA good cover may make us pick the book up and think about buying it.

But it’s the first lines are crucial in helping us decide whether we are going to keep reading or not.

For my own part, I’ve read plenty of good books whose first lines I don’t remember.

I even tore out the first three pages of one of my favorite novels – The Poisonwood Bible – when I came to re-read it. (Thank God I persisted that first time. )

But all in all, you can never underestimate the power of a good opening line.

Here are 43 of the best in Literature: Continue reading

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