…Authoress friend, Dorothy Anne Spruzen, illustrates how easy it is to misuse ‘period’ WURDS…

…today’s Guest Blog is by courtesy of my dear friend, Authoress, Dorothy A. Spruzen… an erudite piece on writing, from a spectacularly insightful scribbling lady… enjoy:

Welcome to you all, and thank you for having me. Seumas invited me to write something for his wonderful website, so I thought that I would share some of the tips I pass on to my creative writing students concerning historical research for writers of fiction. I know some of you are readers rather than writers, but I hope this will nevertheless prove interesting.

I’m not going to give a discourse on how to perform historical research in the broad sense, but rather to point out some of the ways in which one might avoid embarrassing little blunders. Some reader, somewhere will pick up your errors with a malicious sense of glee and self-congratulation.

For me, and I think for most people, if I spot an egregious error, my train of thought is broken, I’ve fallen out of the story, and I’m irritated. We need to get it right. I write historical novels, so here are some of the errors I have come across over many years of reading and writing them.

The Blitz Business is my novel set in World War II England. Jamie, a fifteen-year-old mildly intellectually disabled boy, loves red fire engines; close to the beginning of the novel, he is found by air raid wardens wandering the streets in the middle of one of the most devastating raids of the Blitz. He is taken to a large fire station that is being used as a headquarters for the rescue services. Imagine his excitement to find beautiful red fire engines ready for action.

Only I discovered, quite by chance, that they were all painted gray during the war so as to avoid easy detection from the air. The fact did not come to light during the course of research, per se, but through reading fiction set in that time period and written by a credible source—R.F. Delderfield (The Avenue, God is an Englishman), a well-regarded British military historian who also wrote fiction.

My fix? Jamie still had a red vehicle to admire because, as luck would have it, that station had run out of paint before finishing the last one!

         But, be careful.  It is unwise to depend entirely on secondary sources; further research was needed to confirm the fact.

In my first novel, Not One of Us, I had a young girl in New York City dial 911 in about 1950. The fact that the emergency number did not yet exist in New York City may be old news to many of you, but not to me, as British cities and towns had already had an emergency number (999) for years. An American reader in my critique circle picked it up. Critique circles are invaluable, as every member brings his or her own experience and knowledge to the table.

Language usage is another issue. I bought a historical mystery set in the Victorian age, written by a Texan man and wife team who visit England regularly. The language errors are numerous; here are some of them:

Someplace else

I guess

Fix you something to eat?

Doctor’s office (referred to as “surgery” in the U.K.)


The authors had not recognized these idioms as being either American or modern,

perhaps because many of them are often used by the British these days. They have failed to absorb the speech patterns of whatever historical works they might have (should have) read.

        I was born in England to a father who was born the year after Queen Victoria died and who had relatives and friends much older than he. I remember their speech patterns, the formality of their oral exchanges, not to mention the written ones, and so I developed the “ear” to recognize these missteps. Imagine my annoyance, when I read:

(Husband in the 1880’s) “What time is it my dear?”

(Wife) “It is three thirty-five, Stanley.” (Maybe she was looking at her Swatch!)

This is a modern Americanism. Even when I was a child, we would have said, “five-and-twenty to four” instead of “three thirty-five.”

What would have saved the authors from these errors? A critical reader who knows the speech patterns, and reading novels not only written about that period, but written during that period. And there are plenty of books written during the Victorian era.

Now, one must be careful reading English dialog in old fiction.

Written work, even for dialog, was typically much more elevated than everyday spoken language, even at a time when spoken English was, by our standards, very formal. You will need to modify so your readers won’t be tempted to skip!

What saves the day? Research all contexts of your story. Do not rely on the unreliable. Encircle the subject, even using movies and other fiction. Look at the author’s intent (bias, misinformed, shaping to their story).

For British writers, American usage can be a minefield, too. For example, whether you refer to Pepsi as a soda, pop, or cola, depends which state or city you are in. And I guess most people know now that Americans correct their work with erasers rather than rubbers, unlike the Brits!

         Remember, social history is part of our game. It is a context for people’s lives and actions and provides connections between different events. It sets your characters onstage against a particular backdrop: other cultures; social strata; the kind of things they use and how they use them (clothes, food, utensils, tools, housing); their speech patterns and slang; and, how they are affected by social and political upheavals.

Always ask the hard questions: Who said that and why? Has anything changed? (Just because the town hall is there today, doesn’t mean it was there fifty years ago.) When, where, why, who, and how did it change?

I hope some of this has been helpful, particularly to those who write historical fiction. Thank you for taking the time to read my piece!

… a wunnerful discourse, m’Lady, Dorothy… many thanks…

Dorothy Anne Spruzen (www.daspruzen.com) is a writer of fiction and poetry and has lived in Northern Virginia since 1971, except for a two-year hiatus in the Middle East. She grew up near London, U.K., earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and teaches writing for the McLean Community Center when she’s not seeking her own muse.  She also runs private critique workshops in her home and is a past president of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. In another life she was Manager of Publications for a defense contractor. Dorothy’s short stories and poems have appeared in many publications, most recently in two anthologies, Joys of the Table (poetry, Richer Resources Publications) and Crossing Lines (fiction, Main Street Rag). Her novel The Blitz Business, set in WWII England, was published by Koehler Books in August 2016 and a poetry collection, Long in the Tooth, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Dorothy has written the first two novels in her Flower Ladies Trilogy, Not One of Us and Lily Takes the Field, and the third book, Messenger of Love, is in progress. Crossroads, two novellas, is also available. When she’s not writing, Dorothy likes to read, paint, and garden.

See yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…friends, readers, and countrymen… lend me your ears…

…this wunnerful merry-go-round called authorship is the proverbial gift that just keeps on giving for this ol’ Jurassic Scots scribbler… I’m not afraid to try new stuff on the Web, but I must confess, much of my intrepidity is curtailed by my infinite lack of knowledge about how it all really WURKS on here… I’ve said before, when I switch on my Mac and it lights up, I do a lap of honour… that aside, the most recent novelty has been my venture into Audio Book publishing... not that I went to search it out… quite the reverse in fact… I received a message a coupla months back from a terrific guy called Chris C. Hogan, who is a professional voice artiste and narrator, inviting me to consider delving into the Audible maze… for any of my fellow-penspersons who are intimidated by the thought of having listeners as well readers, I can highly recommend Master Hogan to be alongside yeez as yeez dip yer quilly toes into these hitherto uncharted waters… he did all the grunt WURK, figuratively and vocally… it was painless for me… he did the actual recording, and the coordination with the Audible folks… and presto, hey… THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY is now downloadable in Audio Book… as some of yeez may know, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY was my first Jack Calder crime thriller, five novels ago, punched out nearly ten years back (and still getting gratifying downloads on the Auntie Amazon Kindle eBook medium), so we started with that to test the appetite… and bingo!… it’s doing okay, thank you, nurse… Chris has done it with a gravelly, Southern English accent, which fits perfectly with the darker theme of the action… the overtone of menace is there when needed… (after all, I do have more than a sprinkling of bad guys in there)… if yeez want a wee sample to hear what I’m talking about… correction – to hear what Chris is talking about… click on the link below and enjoy… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!


Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2kaoOp0

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2iFLNbu

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2y7BdiL

Amazon Australia




Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…what happens when there’s no bullet to bite on?…


…I’m seriously not one of those people who worries whether or not others miss me when I haven’t been present as much as usual on the SOSYAL NETWURKS for a longish spell… as has been the case until today… last blog post 15 days ago, which for me is an eon… I write the blog and other participatory Web-by stuff, coz it’s good for me… I LUV doing them… and it helps keep my doddering gray cells moving a wee bit… but my absence was perforce… let me explain… about a couple of weeks ago, Master Gallacher‘s not-so-famous (at least not until now) inside upper left leg became home to what appeared to be a newly-resident pimple… said pimple decided to grow up into sum’thing resembling more of the old-fashioned boils I remember from six decades ago as a child… irritating and uncomfortable it certainly was… so I repaired ‘toot sweet‘ to a local hospital here in Balmy Bahrain… a white-coated gentleman claiming credentials as a ‘dermatologist’ cast his eye upon the offending skin eruption and declared it easily curable through a kitchen-sourced mix of ingredients, viz: 1 spoonful of flour, 2 spoonfuls of plain yoghurt, 2 spoonfuls of cooking oil and a coupla pinches of tumeric to be mixed into a paste and liberally applied to the patch of my inner thighdom… ‘two days’ll do the trick,’ he declared… two days later, my leg had been taken over by a massive, four-inch diameter growth, livid red, no head in its centre, but what seemed like a hard crust bowl under the skin, the size of a Farley Rusk… and deliverer of more pain than Master Gallacher has ever been aware of in his entire lifetime…

Day 3

…one day more, and the heavy dosage of pain killers was having no positive impact… I felt as if my body was going into shock, and I hightailed it… well, at speed I could hardly muster, more like lowtailed it, to another hospital… immediate and scary diagnosis… ‘dangerously, seriously infected abscess’ requiring instant blood tests, an x-ray, MRI, and MRSA testing before being whipped into the operating theatre under general anesthetic to have my new lodger unceremoniously turfed out…

Day 5 

…one week on, and scrapings daily under local anesthetic and it seems the new Scottish Grand Canyon known as my upper inner left leg is apparently doing well, thank you, Mabel… I’m glad to be able to find my writing mojo today, and I’m not looking for any sympathy… I’m as much to blame for accepting the ‘Jamie Oliver recipe’ cure to start with…

Day 7 

…but just a WURD of warning to emb’dy else that gets hit with this kinda stuff… get a second opinion sooner… and it has cost me an arm, and maybe darn near a leg… when the pain is too much, there is no bullet strong enough to bite on, believe me… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…a remarkable tribute for a remarkable man… from my friend, Amy Hoff…

…I’ve been privileged to know Amy Hoff for a few years via the SOSYAL NETWURKS, and at a get-together authors’ meeting in Glasgow a coupla years ago… Amy has asked if she can publish here a tribute to her late (as-close-as-you-can-get-to-being) father-in-law… it’s my honour to do so, and yeez’ll read for yourselves why:


Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…what knavery therein lurks?

…one of the wee side issues which occurs frequently when people learn that this’ ol’ Jurassic is actually a scribbler is the request to have themselves feature in one of yer next crime thrillers… inevitably I ask the question, ‘Would that be as a good guy/lady or a bad guy/lady?’… the ratio normally lands sum’where around the 99.99999%/00.00001% in favour of the bad guy/lady… seems to me, there’s an insidious common desire in ordinarily law-abiding folks to act out really malevolent characters… Jack the Ripper and Dr. Crippen couldn’t hold a grisly candle against most of my poll-ees… the wannabe criminals-of-the-century include little old ladies more usually found with crochet needles by a fireside, or the gentlest of good individuals, with a killer lust hidden just beneath the surface… so p’raps I may be allowed to give yeez all a heads-up warning to be slightly more wary of that gentleman on the commuter bus or train who demonstrates the finest of manners by giving up his seat to an older person, shielding a secret lust to be the next Dr Hannibal Lecter... or show some caution around the charming smiler of a checkout person at the Tesco supermarket tills, hankering after notoriety as the grocery industry’s answer to Vlad The Impaler … the bank teller, who greets yeez with the grandest of welcomes at the bank counter, furtively nurturing the intent to be the successor to Genghis Khan at his marauding worst


…yeez think it couldn’t happen?… just ask any of my crime writing author pals… all things are possible in the land of the quill and keyboard… and lest yeez forget that wunnerful truism… fact is often stranger than fiction… for my part, I shall continue as ever as the peaceful bloke yeez see in the street everyday… or will I?… just be mindful and ask yourselves when thinking about what may be in the minds of others today… and tomorrow… and next week… what knavery therein lurks?… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…the scariest Author project I’ve ever undertaken…

…it’s not often this ol’ Jurassic Scots scribbler gets the ‘wobbles’ during a project… my life to date has thrown up some seriously frightening interludes… more than my fair share, I guess… some of which were not of my own making, but others, well, were entirely a result of decisions I made independently… I don’t think any of us knowingly makes bad decisions… often decisions are seen later to be wrong, and other, better decisions are made to correct the previous ones, and so…  that there have been tons of ‘highs and lows’, ‘colour’, and ‘drama’,  is not in question… indeed it would be a very dull life for any of us if there were no ‘roller-coaster moments’… emotionally, financially, career-impacting… the usual life experience suspects… however, of late I have pondered, prevaricated, procrastinated, and then plunged headlong into an effort to record my own life story… or memoirs, call them what yeez will…

…the initial difficulty was persuading myself to get really ‘gut-honest’, as many of the things that  happened to me and around me are distant mem’ries… and more than slightly tampered with by the very passage of time itself… I recognize that, and am trying assiduously to keep it real’… and that’s where the ‘wobbles’ come in… hard guy from the Docklands Govan slums in Glasgow, I may think I am, but I have my moments of emotional rawness, (‘if you scratch me, do I not bleed’, sort of thing)… passages of the memoirs lately have caused me to stop for a while and take a deep breath… they are painful, some of them… family relationships… romantic liaisons, some requited, some disastrous… achievements and failures, of which there have been plenty of both… the wonder at having survived on this planet thus far is cause for thanks… a belief system that has developed within me over the years, which is not religious, but my own, personal version of being spiritual, guides much of my present day behaviour… I have my moments of cynicism (who doesn’t?) about the madness of Mankind in general, much outweighed by the inner beauty of individuals I meet constantly… coming up for breathe from the ‘wobbles’ is necessary, and lets me recharge before diving back into the project again… the scariest Author project I’ve ever undertaken… wish me luck, good people… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ! 



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…Authors, do your Readers (or Listeners) ‘hunt in packs’?

…I must ‘fess up, that generally, I am not a follower of the crowd… and yet, I reckon I’m certainly not an anti-social creature… much the opposite in fact… I rejoice in good company, excellent conversation, and mingling with kindred spirits, both in face-to-face meetings and on the Web… I s’pose it comes down to knowing what I like at this stage in my life, and what I don’t… it took about a thousand years after the first Star Wars movie came out for me to go and watch one… and when everyone else extols any television series, that’s usually my signal to ignore it completely… in fact the last TV series I watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) was Boston Legal, with the incomparable James Spader and the ageless Betty White… (how long ago was that, Mabel?)… but I have noticed in the past few months a remarkable phenomenon, and, not surprisingly, it has to do with my Auntie Amazon-listed books , the Jack Calder crime thriller series…. like most Kindle-present writers, I glance at my sales pages now and then… (well, okay, about five times a day sometimes!)… and what I’ve discovered is that there will be spells of a few days when absolutely NUTHIN gets downloaded… then a burst of days, often for two or three weeks at a time, when every single day produces downloads… if I knew what caused the cycles, of course, I’d start messing about with them, so prob’ly just as well I leave them alone and let my much appreciated readership carry on as they are… but I wonder if others have the same experience with their books and Audio books?… Authors, do your Readers (or Listeners) ‘hunt in packs’?… anyway, here are my links, as usual:











…and the new Audio Book for THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2kaoOp0

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2iFLNbu

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2y7BdiL

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff