Showing posts from April, 2013

Z is for Zounds!

Yes, it’s the end of the A to Z.
Zounds! one might say.

But what does it mean? As Shakespearean fans will know, it’s a shortened form of God’s wounds. Common in the 16th and 17th centuries, people would swear on God’s body parts rather than his name, thus avoiding breaking the Third Commandment, ‘Do not take the Lord's name in vain’.(There is some dispute about how it's pronounced, although most agree it probably rhymes with 'rounds' rather than 'wounds', having changed during the Great Vowel Shift. And that's not a euphemism.)
In the same vein, if you’ll forgive the expression, is 'Strewth', God’s truth. 'Gadzooks', originally a dialectal pronunciation of God's hooks, refers to the nails with which Jesus was affixed to the cross.
Late Elizabethan drama contains a profusion of minced oaths, arguably due to Puritan opposition to swearing.
The term for such evasive non-swearing is minced oaths, a delicately understated phrase. I happen to th…

Y is for Yanone Kaffeesatz

Say what?
Yanone Kaffeesatz is just a font. I’m addicted to fonts. Sans serif, sans, calligraphy, old school, Celtic (of course). I collect them.
I can’t help myself. I see a new one and I download it – the free ones, of course.
Being from a family that included a couple of stray journalists, I’d heard about fonts, but I never really got to grips with them until I got my first job in publishing. Our Czech designer was a Bela Lugosi figure called Pavel. He’d done PhD in the philosophy of typesetting in Prague, but had to flee the Russians. His favourite word was: ‘Unbelievable.’ I can still hear him saying it in a voice so deep the walls reverberated. He also had a wide-brimmed hat and a cloak. Although he lived in Cambridge, he refused to cycle. I think he pronounced it ‘sickle’. I suspect his cape got caught in the spokes.
I use Times New Roman for writing, mainly because it’s clean and clear for proof-reading. Try starting a sentence with the word ‘ill’ in Arial, and you’ll be forced to…

X marks the spot

I love old maps and always stop and browse when I see one, online or in a shop.
I was always delighted whenever my daughter had to make one for school. Luckily, this happened quite a few times, thanks to recurring projects on treasure, pirates, seafaring journeys and suchlike. Huzzah.

We’d go to town. First, we needed decent quality paper. Old wallpaper lining paper always worked well.
Then we’d tear out a rough shape, and move to round 2: staining it with teabags to get the old parchment look.
When Lauren was older, we distressed it more, singing the edges with matches. I always had a washing-up bowl filled with cold water to hand, just in case. Let me stress this: we never once set off the fire alarm. Not really.
Then it was old fountain pens, brown ink, squiggly writing, and of course, the outline of the mysterious island with a large X marking the spot. We were professionals. We didn’t stop there. Blood stains, creasing, thumb prints … all extra details to make it look as this particula…

W is for word-cross

What’s that?

I was busy writing a scene set in early 1919. A character whiled away the time by doing a crossword.
I paused, recalling an early Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movie, featuring a crossword. It was so heavy-handed, I’d always assumed crosswords were a novelty in the early 1930s.
Oops. Anachronisms can be a bane.
So, off to the web. There is an astonishing amount of material on crosswords, even blogs. I began with a little history.
The first example of a crossword puzzle appeared on September 14, 1890, in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica. It was designed by Giuseppe Airoldi and titled ‘Per passare il tempo’ (‘To pass the time’). Aha! Airoldi's puzzle was a four-by-four grid with no shaded squares; it included horizontal and vertical clues.
Then things went quiet, until on December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne, a journalist formerly from Liverpool published a ‘word-cross’ puzzle in the New York World that embodied most of the features of the genre as we kno…

Tomorrow’s Anecdote TODAY

Time for the launch party!
Hi, everyone. It’s now Friday 26 April – lift-off for Tomorrow’s Anecdote. Hope you can join me in celebrating the online launch.

Tomorrow's Anecdote is a newsroom mystery, with macabre undertones, set in the turbulent 1980s when Margaret Thatcher had just secured a third term on office. It's available in ebook and paperback at Crooked Cat Publishing and Amazon.

I’ll be around to say hi and chat about the book as well as recalling those crazy days. There’ll also a few fun competitions with a chance to win a signed copy of the book and a printed retro T-shirt among other prizes.
Test out an original cocktail designed for the occasion (I'll be putting the recipe up on the FB launch page), listen to some Tears for Fears and join us for a bit of retro nonsense.
To fnd out more about the book, the characters and the background, do please visit the Tomorrow’s Anecdote blog. There’s a scrapbook and video to check out, too.
Thanks to all who helped this book s…

V is for villains

I have a dark secret. I love villains. Any villains.
When I started to write books properly (and by that I mean finish them), I started to check the story from the point of view of the hero or heroine. I’d go right through the whole story in the mindset of the villain(s).
It changes everything – and it’s quite addictive. They have a way of taking over your mind, the plot, the whole book, and completely distorting the whole blinking series if you let them.
They are so much more fun. No rules apply. Actually, that’s not true. There has to be a motive, a psychological quirk, or whatever, but they break the social rules. And perhaps that’s the point.
I ponder literary villains from time to time for inspiration. Shakespearean villains are interesting. There are several PhDs in that alone. I say Iago, you say potato. Personally, I think Othello was a naughty boy, too.
Moriarty is cool in his demonic Victorian way and female villains can be terrific, too: Lady de Winter and Irene Adler to name a …

U is for unfinished

Manuscripts, that is: my hidden shame
You know the old joke about journalists. They have the answer to the great British/American novel, unfinished in a drawer.
Well, in my case, it’s patently untrue. I have dozens of unfinished manuscripts, and none of them are even close to being a novel of any kind.

Still, I had to start somewhere. 
The ‘Chained books’ murder took place in a Cambridge college where the victim is strangled in a locked library by a medieval chain securing a priceless volume to a lectern. I know who did it, and how, but I never quite made it to the dénouement. I never quite sussed the title. The Chained Books Murder isn't quite right.
‘Pantomania’ is a jolly little romp behind the scenes of an am-dram production in Yorkshire where sabotage is afoot. I’ve even written all the lyrics to the songs. The assistant stage manager Hugh Calyptus has to take over the role of the dame and does a stirring jazz number, Dame Doo-Lally’s Little Shambling Blues. It has designed to be …

T is for Tulipomania

Or is it?

Tulips. Sign of spring. Lovely. But dangerous.

Tulip mania was a phenomenon from the Dutch Golden Age when Netherlanders apparently spent and lost fortunes acquiring the exotic bloom.

It's one of those historical themes that raises its head from time to time and is something of a controversy. Ripe for investigation, but the paperwork is sparse.
It seems that contract prices for bulbs reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed.At its peak, in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It has been written about as the first recorded speculative bubble. Historians thrill to stories of workers abandoning their looms in pursuit of a new specimen, or ruined businessmen flinging themselves into a canal.
It’s heady stuff, partly because it was popularised in 1841 by book with quite a racy title itself: ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’. Written by British journalist Charl…

S is for sleep

Or sleeplessness, in my case
I’m not grumbling. It’s just a fact of life that I work around.
When I was a primary school, I found books helped. I’d read, often until midnight. Sometimes I used a torch, just as they do in the movies. When the batteries ran out, I opened my curtains and read by the light of the streetlamp until I felt drowsy.
Perhaps I didn’t need as much sleep as the other children, and the habit persisted. I'm a night owl. I may as well admit it.
When I went to university, it wasn’t such a problem, but then again, I did tend to stay up playing cards with boys in the flat next door until three in the morning, and had to be up by nine to get to the newspaper first. I caught up with my sleep during the vacations.
When I spent two years in Western Australia, my sleep patterns ran amok. This type of sleeplessness was caused by the daft daylight savings system they operate. It gets light in summer around 3.30am, I kid you not, and the damned parrots start wittering. It didn’…

R is for rant

The healthy option?

Anyone who knows me also knows I love to rant. Ranting is good. It’s catharsis for the soul and should not be denied.
I was brought up to be a good girl and be nice. Don’t shout. Don’t protest. Much good it did me. I now realise I was angry for years. But it’s all sorted now. I have the tablets. Read on.
Grammar school didn’t help my inner seethings. It certainly taught me when to fight the battle and when to hide in the cloakroom doing my Latin homework.
Doing a Spanish degree was something of a protest against the system, but it was so much I didn’t need to rant.
I think I started imploding after that when I got my first job. Job. Hah. A few quid in an envelope on a Thursday lunchtime from uncaring individual in accounts didn’t make it seem like a respectable job. I worked as a trainee reporter on the local paper and it was fun to play the embittered journalist for a while, but it was a poor excuse for a career. See? I can be polite when I try. The original of that se…

Q is for Quiñones de Benavente

A rare dramatist with a flair for brevity

This is such a memorable name, it’s astonishing he isn’t more famous. Señor Q was the original comedy sketch artist in my book and one funny guy.
Here’s how I found this out. After school, I trundled off to Manchester University and got hooked on 17th-century Spanish literature. I particularly loved the drama. The language was clever, the plots astonishing, ranging from myth to sneaky satire, and they would have been so much fun to watch.
With some help, I pursued this interest and landed a place at Oxford to do a Masters, some fancy schmancy M.Litt – three years of funding. Yo.
This is where Quiñones de Benavente popped up. Thanks to Captain Alatriste and his mentor, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, 17th-century Spanish literature isn’t as obscure now as it was then. Of course, people have heard of Cervantes. Calderón, perhaps? Lope de Vega? I sense your interest waning.
In Spain, these chaps vie with Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson.
There’s an interesting di…

I'm on Amazon

Now that Tomorrow's Anecdote has made its appearance on Amazon, I've been able to set up an author page.

Do visit me here - - and tell me what you think.

By Pamela Kelt

P is for Pteridomania

For the Victorians it was all just fern, fern, fern

The term Pteridomania, meaning fern madness, was coined in 1855 by author Charles Kingsley. He was rather patronising how it distracted gentlemen’s daughters even more than crochet.
The hard core fans were known as Pteridologists and could be said to be members of a fern cult as they pursued odd variants of the wild species – unkindly named ‘monstrosities’ by the botanists of the time.
In fact, the interest in ferns arguably began in the late 1830s when the British countryside attracted increasing numbers of amateur and professional botanists.
The periodicals were full of depictions of new discoveries were published, especially ‘The Phytologist’ which first appeared in 1841.
Ferns proved to be a particularly fruitful group of plants for new records because they had been studied less than flowering plants. They were joyfully diverse and abundant in the wilder, wetter, western and northern parts of Britain which were becoming more access…