Bon Appetit!

A couple of years ago, in my freelance capacity I worked with an author called James Hopson on Captain Satsuma Has Landed, a zany children’s book that also provides a fun introduction to environmental and healthy eating issues.

I’m pleased to say that it was not only published, but has now won an award. Congratulations, James, and hopefully it will be the first of many!



James’ own announcement:

Fantastic News to Share. We’ve WON!! ‘Captain Satsuma has Landed’ storybook has WON a BEST in the UK Award. Self-Published last year the book introduces children to food in fun ways. We would like to say a Huge thank you to World Cookbook Fair – Gourmand International – Gourmand Awards for recognising our efforts in encourage children to make healthy choices in their everyday lives. Our efforts have also seen us become a Finalist for a World Award which takes place in Paris in the summer. As a first-time author I’m delighted by this news, and to also be representing the UK. I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone for their support, with a special mention going to the following: Russell Becker of Rocket Pixels for illustrations: Martyn Beardsley, Story Critic. Follow his blog ramblesofawriter; Caroline Petherick The-Wordsmith for Proofreading; St Austell Printing Company for Book Printing. Book available at


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A Dark Day in English Literature

Today while writing up a critique on a client’s picture book manuscript, I fished around on Amazon for a similar type of story that I could offer as an example of a successful published book of a similar kind.

I somehow landed on The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright. It looks like a good picture book with great illustrations – imagine my dismay, then, when I came across an offensive word! That word, readers, was gotten. (Apologies if I have offended anyone by my explicit use of the G-word, but it had to be said.)

The author is apparently English, the publishers (Orchard) are English, and the vast majority of readers will be British children. The problem is, ‘gotten’ isn’t a British English word. In the good old days we could have found that out by consulting a dictionary. But that was when dictionaries provided guidance on what was right and wrong, whereas now they ask us what is right and wrong, and correct their works accordingly on a regular basis.

Yes, I hear you cry, we used to say ‘gotten’ in 1375 so it means it’s all right now. But we also used to say ‘hornswoggle’, ‘gallimaufry’, and, of course, ‘nimgimmer’, as well as wearing flares and making fire by rubbing sticks together.

Let’s be clear, English people only use ‘gotten’ because they have heard people say it on Friends or The Simpsons, and obviously if it’s on Friends or The Simpsons it must not only be cool, but correct for all right-thinking Brits.

Well, the dictionaries might have given up the fight, but I haven’t. Be warned that this blog has power! Presidents change their opinions because of it. The stock market is influenced by it. Did you really think that toothpaste manufacturers really started using those more convenient flip-open tops because some marketing or design expert came up with the idea? Think again!

And writers, think again before using the G-word and any other such abomination!

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Breaking News

In these dangerous times, I feel it my duty to alert my followers to anything that might worsen the spread of infection:


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A Nice Stocking-Filler

My latest international best seller has arrived!

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I’ve always been fascinated by the way our language has evolved from Old English or Anglo-Saxon, and what it would have sounded like if we could travel back in time to listen to an English speaker at different periods in the past. We certainly wouldn’t understand an Anglo-Saxon, although if they spoke slowly enough we would be able to pick out some individual words, and even more so if we could see them written down, such as this from the Peterborough Chronicle about King Cnut (Canute): he waes cyng ofer aell Englaland (He was king over all England). But even in relatively recent centuries, when the English vocabulary was quite similar to our own, we might have to listen with care to perfectly understand someone because of the way pronunciation has changed. One of the ways in which we can work out how people spoke is to look at words appearing in verse which were clearly designed to rhyme with each other. I was reminded of this while flipping through the November chapter in my much-loved Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. This book records her nature rambles, and features her beautiful watercolours of the flora and fauna she observed, as well as poetry related to the seasons. Today I came across this, where she was quoting from Love’s Labours Lost:

When all aloud the wind doth blow

And coughing drowns the parson’s saw

And birds sit brooding in the snow

And Marion’s nose looks red and raw

To me, the rhymes only make sense if people in Shakespeare’s day pronounced words like ‘blow’ and ‘snow’ to rhyme with ‘raw’ and ‘saw’. Which is interesting.

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One of the many reasons I became a vegetarian

“People like you” is just too vague – if I’m going to eat someone I at least like a bit of background to enable an informed choice, such as were they kept in good conditions, and were they humanely dispatched – for example by being made to watch back-to-back episodes of the X-Factor. (Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be very humane, but you get my meaning.)

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Crime Does Pay!

Today I would like to put in a word for my writer friend Margaret Drinkall, who has a number of true crime books available as well others on different areas of social history. She is Yorkshire based and most of her books have a local flavour, but they would appeal to anyone with an interest in true crime and general history.

One added reason for checking her out is that the proceeds from her most recent books are going to the Sheffield Hospitals Charity. The latest is Sheffield’s Dark Heart:

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It’s Out!

Some avid followers of this blog (possibly even both of them) will remember an interview I did in the spring of this year with Ruth Taylor, who had just written a children’s non-fiction book called The Cat & the Captain.

It’s the life story of Lincolnshire explorer Matthew Flinders and his cat, Trim. The book was of particular interest to me, because not only was Flinders related by marriage to fellow Lincolnshire explorer Sir John Franklin, subject of my biography Deadly Winter, but I had also transcribed his surgeon-apothecary father’s diaries, which became Gratefull to Providence.

I was thrilled to get my signed copy through the post, and you can get yours (sadly unsigned – unless perhaps you ask the author nicely!) from all the usual places.

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Mrs Peel, you’re needed

With respect to Game of Thrones fans, you perhaps have to be of a certain age to feel the full weight of the passing of Diana Rigg. (And if you aren’t, the heading of this post may not mean much to you.) Not only was she one of Britain’s best actresses in one of our best ever TV shows – the Avengers – but her part was one of the first strong female lead roles in television, and no one could have filled it better.

Oh, and she was my first and most enduring childhood crush!

The affection between Diana and Patrick Macnee – John Steed – was genuine, and in this screenshot that I managed to capture from their final ever scene together, as she stops at the door to look back you can see genuine tears beginning to form in her eyes.

RIP Diana Rig.


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Helpful Reviews

A lot of us authors wait with trepidation to see whether the Amazon reviews are good or bad (or whether there even are any reviews). Here at Rambles of a Writer we compile some of the most useful reviews of all books and other products to save you the spade-work. Here is a selection

Hubby ubub hgt 5f5f 5g6yggy…. hh7h …. big putt yttr (An in-depth review of a biography – 4 stars. Perhaps they added the review while on Amazon looking for a new keyboard)

Chardonnay Scraggins, fashion guru and one of today’s celebrity guest reviewers

My fault – nothing wrong with the book but I thought it was a biography as I prefer non-fiction to fiction (1 star – Yes, your fault – as in, not the author’s fault to whom you have given a one-star rating.…)

Yet to read the book, but the item arrived damaged with a page torn. (1 star – a torn page – the worst fault an author can make when writing a novel)

Haven’t read it yet because the print was so small (1 star – so you are waiting till your vision improves? If only you had gone for a long-distance drive to test your eyesight out before buying the book you might have saved yourself the heartache.)

Enjoyed the previous novel so I’m looking forward to plunge into this offering. It arrived well packaged and fairly quickly. (5 stars – and one person found this in-depth review helpful…….)

I really love the new lamp. It looks really great. I am terrible putting things up but it was very easy and intuitive. A lovely addition to the living room – and at a darned good price! (5 – a seemingly innocuous review by our standards – but it was a book review. Perhaps the same person who has problems with their eyesight.)


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