Pet Peeves of a Pedant

Okay, I confess. I hate it when something is factually incorrect in a story or song. It just throws me out of the alternative world and drags me kicking and questioning into the mundane, and reaching for Google (other search engines are available).

I’ve recently been working on a short story for the Lesfic Eclectic Second Volume.  Worth checking out when it’s released, as it is a wonderful mix of fresh writing of wlw.

I based my story on the Big Island in Hawaii. Well, why not? I’ve been there a few times in the past and it really is as beautiful as it looks. It’s a shame we can’t go there at the moment, as it would have been ideal to visit again, for research purposes only, of course. It might have been difficult to claim against taxes though!

Anyway, to get into the mood and vibe of the place when I was writing, I would listen to a collection of Hawaiian songs on Spotify or YouTube.

One of my favourites is Pixar’s short film, Lava. There is nothing like a male falsetto voice singing with a ukulele. I realise that isn’t everyone’s cup of iced tea, but it definitely conjures up the warm breezes and lapping ocean for me.

Unfortunately, near the beginning on the soundtrack is the cry of a seagull.

Every time I hear it, I get thrown out of the song because you don’t get gulls in Hawaii.  I’m sure a few may have hitchhiked on a passing ship, but they don’t breed there. Another reason to love Hawaii, I guess. 

The trouble with being a pedant is I have this urge to go and doublecheck the facts. Sometimes I get drawn the rabbit hole and don’t return to the original story, which is a disaster for the writer.

So as authors it is essential we have editors or beta readers to sense check what’s been written. My daughter is like a bull dog at sniffing out inaccuracies, so I think of her as my alpha reader. Although we have had a few “intense discussions” about certain issues, but that’s another story.

Even with editors and beta readers, some items slip through, and I’ve come across a few other irritations that have thrown me out of what I was reading.

One was referring to pinot noir as being a white wine. The book is by one of my favourite authors, but it completely threw me out of the story and I had to go and doublecheck.  In case you are interested, although pinot noir is typically a red wine and the pinot grigio (or pinot gris) is white, it seems as though a few vineyards have been trying to produce a white pinot noir. Yes, I know, Captain Pedant.

Another I came across, which really goes against the grain for me, was referring to “the bottom line of the balance sheet”. As an accountant (read ‘pedant with numbers’) that made me suck in my teeth. The ‘bottom line’ refers to the profit and loss account not the balance sheet, which should always balance.

Are there pet hates you have that throw you out of the story?

Hello, Reader World!

I think I got into reading as it was something in which I could beat my brother. He was severely dyslexic, and they didn’t get support in those days. He was three years older than me, brilliant at cricket and everything else, and I idolised him. But reading was my thing.

As a child, I lived in Zambia and school finished at 1:30 p.m. In the afternoons, we were free. The dust tickled our noses, and we were serenaded by cicadas. It was so hot we would intersperse splashes in a friend’s pool with bouts of reading to dry off. We read anything and everything we could get hold of, from the Times of Zambia to classic children’s books, and we swapped with each other. We even picked up a copy of The Thoughts of Chairman Mao.

Television schedules were indicative rather than actual, so I’d read and tell stories to my brother’s Action Man and Eeyore while we waited for the one children’s programme to appear. I started to write the stories down. If I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say, “a writer.”

At eleven I fell in love…with Shakespeare. On a trip back to London we went to a magical outdoor Shakespeare performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park, and I was hooked. From then on I started to write poetry and study performance. 

Established back in the UK, I was lucky enough to attend the same girls grammar school as Carol Ann Duffy (although some years later!), and was taught by the same English department and by the wonderful Mr Walker who inspired and encouraged her so much.

I continued to write poetry but moved into economics and accountancy for a full career’s worth of numbers and report writing, which slowly stifled my creativity. In my very limited spare time, I tried to write a novel but struggled with the plot and having enough headspace and energy to explore and play.

I was determined to retire from full time employment as soon as I’d paid off my mortgage, and I saw an advertisement for Global Wordsmith’s course in Spain—to begin the day after my retirement date. It was fate.

The course was much more than I hoped, Robyn and Brey being the perfect balance of ultimate professionals and welcoming hosts. I soon realised how much I didn’t know, and that writing a novel is not like a glorified work report or indeed an extended poem. Within a day, the plot I’d been billowing around with for months formed into a parabolic arch locked with a keystone of midpoint crisis. 

I shall always be grateful for their wisdom and encouragement. So when I was approached to see if I would submit a short story for the upcoming anthology, LesFic Eclectic, I leapt at the chance, and I feel very honoured that it was accepted.

In the meantime, I’m working on my first novel, Cider, which is a great excuse to go around and sample different ciders in the name of research. For details about the novel, please see my website tab, Scribbling. So I hope you enjoy my short story, and I look forward to years of creativity and connection with you all. I’ve got a lot to catch up on…