Tag Archives: Leslie Hyla Winton Noble

Ill Literate

Guess which two authors the statements below refer to? 

(1)   Books sexist, racist and elitist and devoid of literary merit. (BBC)

(2)   Books with no literary merit; unsuitable for school libraries; promoting harmful or dangerous concepts; stealing from other cultures. (Numerous sources)

 The first set is to Enid Blyton. 

The second set is to JK Rowling. 

What does one need to do to gain the approval of such critics? How does one define literary merit?  Perhaps the answers to those two questions is to write books of utter tedium to do with dull, everyday lives, and to frame them in elegant but not pretentious phrases. Instant best-seller NOT! 

Of course, regurgitation of belief or value systems within the framework of a story will find instant approval from those who subscribe to those systems, and instant vilification from those who do not. Even then, the question is how they are presented. Narnia, the Rings and Potter all reflect religious themes and values, and yet come in for rabid renunciation by radical religionists.

Rufus the Eagle Owl

Purr, Tabika’s girlfriend












My Tabika books were doomed from the start. In particular, they presented, during Apartheid times, a picture of blacks and whites on equal terms, attending the same schools, and working on complex problems together. They also had magic, and ‘witchcraft’.  Instant disfavour from officialdom in South Africa. However, my agent of that time (who had launched Cry the Beloved Country) found considerable interest from major publishers in UK and Australia. They were on the verge of making offers. At this point sanctions against South Africa happened, and that was that.

 More recently came the ultimate irony. Schools who assessed the books when they finally came out in South Africa found them insufficiently slanted towards the African culture, and inclined to present a patronising attitude. I cant see it, myself. The stories are about a cat, for Petes sake! 

Or they regard them as too difficult for their little darlings, ignoring that I have proved they can actually lead to improved vocabularies.

Still, I am pressing ahead with the new editions and hoping that, ultimately, the readers themselves will make the critics look like ninnies as has been the case with Blyton and Rowlings. 

Second proofs are awaited, after which, hopefully, the editions will be heated to gallop (I was going to say hot to trot but apparently that can be misunderstood). 

© August 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble

Finally Darx Emerges into Lightz!

Darx Circle has been the most difficult birth of a novel I have yet encountered. It was all-but ready for publication (or so I thought) when I made up the first proof in May, 2015. Then came all manner of circumstances to delay it yet further. I must say, though, that in the process it was given time to undergo some extra improvements and have a few subtle touches included. I truly believe that the novel is better now than it would have been if issued at that time.

At last have come the first professional proofs. I simply have to attend to a few more elements, and the South African printed version will be ready to go. While adjustment takes place regarding the tragic events affecting my publishers, I will be handling initial orders personally. A comment on this blog can start the ball rolling.

Overseas and e-book versions will be issued shortly — Amazon, Kindle, etc.

In due course, hopefully, it will again be under the P’kaboo Publishers umbrella.

© July 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble


Overshare from an Edit

In a novel I recently edited set in 1930s, the main character asks another to stay in his home with a young girl while he is out, and is asked what they should do:

‘… “I don’t know,” he said sardonically. “She’s a girl. Overshare your feelings.” …’

Me, as editor: It is a good line, indeed. However, the word apparently dates from internet and social media times, so doesn’t quite fit the period.

Author: I did check the origin of the word (I was curious, myself), and it seems to have popular roots in the early 1800’s, as well as a strong reassurance in the online age.

I did more research without running to earth the earlier roots, but I did find:

1. Webster’s Dictionary Chooses “Overshare” as the 2008 Word of the Year.

     2. Described as “beautifully British”, the “subtle yet devastating” put-down “overshare” was today named word of the year 2014 by the Chambers Dictionary.

Note the irony of the ‘beautifully British’, when it was chosen six years previously by an American dictionary!

In view of the likely popular perception that the word is modern, I reluctantly suggested either that it be dropped, or that there be a footnote (not recommended, Terry Pratchett notwithstanding), or that something appear in the front or back matter to the effect that some words have been in currency for much longer than one realises. The writer decided to remove it.

Had you written that passage, would you have stuck to your guns? Or, had it remained, how do you think you would have received it as a reader?

© June 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble

Fast Food Writing

Editors and style advocates these days are promoting the conversion of gourmet meals of words into packets of popcorn. Is this really what has become necessary to keep the public reading? The above picture shows some of my works requiring total rewrites in order to convert them into the package in the foreground.

The guidelines for the rewrites would be as follows:

Adverbs are taboo. Adjectives are allowed only rarely. Other ways of putting he or she said are frowned upon. Thou shalt not have anyone answer, reply, respond, remark, growl, snap, shout, yell, bellow, rage, whisper, murmur, laugh, gurgle, giggle, chortle, trill, pipe up, interrupt, venture or squeak.

Sentences should be short. Concise. Not need commas if possible. Semi-colons are unnecessary, they should be eliminated completely even if linking two complete phrases. Let me revise that. Dont use semicolons.

Paragraphs should be kept short and not be allowed to ramble on, even if there is no change in topic or voice. The reader is only to be fed small bites.

Bites that can be mashed up and fed in forkfuls. With the arm in perpetual motion.

Perpetual motion that only ceases when the plate is empty. Then the reader is ready for the next meal.

Clichés are to be avoided like poison. Let me rephrase that. Dont use clichés.

Obfuscation is anathema. Rephrased: dont use any words that will confuse your dim readers.

The plot should always involve the main character/s in great suffering. They not only get themselves into horrible situations, but are too stupid to do so without suffering constant damage.

There: you now have a blueprint for your best cellar to get drunk with success on. Oh, and never indulge in wordplay, or end a sentence with a preposition.

© May 2017 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble

A Dash of Controversy

"Controversy" — Karl Henning

“Controversy” — Karl Henning

Following on my previous dashing post, which I have updated for greater clarity, I was reminded while doing my latest editing commission today that there is an aspect I did not cover. First, though, my heading has made me want to touch again on the controversy controversy.

In earlier days I recall that the word was invariably pronounced con-TROV-er-see, which is what I was taught. Then, radio and TV announcers suddenly switched to CON-troh-verse-ee. There seemed to have been a brief return to the original, but lately the latter has predominated again.

I believe the former was the more logical pronunciation, mainly for the reason that it is not ‘contrAversy’ where the new pronunciation would make sense. ‘Contra’, as meaning ‘against’, would take the emphasis. However, with the word spelt correctly, for ‘contro’ to be singled out is illogical. Admittedly a case could be made for the ‘CON’ form when one considers the development to ‘controversial’. There, ‘con-TROV-er-shall’ would sound silly. It becomes ‘contro-VER-shall’ indeed. Still, I am not persuaded that this necessarily means that the shorter ‘con’ form should CON-form!

Thoughts from the groundnut gallery?


Now, em dashes with other punctuation. The question is whether commas or semi-colons should be kept when using dashes to insert another thought in a sentence, and if so where they should be placed.

A sample sentence:

Many of those present, using strong language, disagreed completely.

Now, insert the other thought:

Many of those present, using strong language — and in that part of the country it can be very strong — disagreed completely.

Here it has lost one comma, replaced by the dash, as the Chicago Manual of Style, among others, agrees should happen.

Numbers of other authorities argue, however, that the original punctuation should remain, so that if the section between dashes is taken out the sentence is still correctly punctuated. They have a valid point. It can arise that a difference in meaning will occur without the second comma, even though this doesn’t arise in my example.  (It would, on the first comma, if the sentence were something like:  Every weekend now he runs, away from home, to experience more professional tracks elsewhere.)

If it is decided to keep the full original punctuation, the question arises as to where to place it:

Many of those present, using strong language, — and in that part of the country it can be very strong — disagreed completely.


Many of those present, using strong language — and in that part of the country it can be very strong ––, disagreed completely.

Now the brain can get boggled. The first version looks neater, as it avoids jamming a comma against a dash. However, the section between dashes relates to the ‘language’ clause, not the ‘disagreed’ one, so the break is happening in the wrong place, there.

My conclusion:

Keeping the comma is preferable, and that comma should appear in the clause it relates to, as in the second version ‘—,’ .

Or, avoid the problem altogether with:

Many of those present disagreed completely, using strong language — and in that part of the country it can be very strong.

With question or exclamation marks, much the same applies, but it is often better to use …? ellipses …!

© September 2016 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble (WordPress)

A Dash of Punctuation

 Dashing from Dashes

– – —  Dash

I am fond of using dashes in my writing — dash it all, why not?. However, I have tended to become lazy, and to use a hyphen for all purr-pussies. (As in kit-cat?)  🙂
As a professional editor, I should be more meticulous. There is a distinct difference between appearance and usage of a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash. Here are the rules for each, and I have resolved to stick to them in future.

The hyphen (-) is found on the top row of the keyboard below the underline. It is used without spaces to join two or more words into one concept such as up-to-date or flower-child.


An en dash (–) has the width of ‘n’; it is obtained by using Ctrl and the minus sign on number keys*; and is primarily used to replace the word ‘to’. Examples: Opening hours 8:00 a.m.–5:00p.m., or ‘The final score was 3–1’ or ‘Trading results were up–down’ (arguable) or ‘From A–Z’. *(Update: or press down Alt while keying 0150 on number keys.)


The em dash (—) has m width; for this you press Ctrl, Alt and minus sign on number keys*; denotes a pause or a different line of thought. Examples: ‘If you keep interrupting, I can’t finish a —’ or ‘How do you do — reminds me, wonder how he did?’ or ‘He spoke confidently — though there was little for him to be confident about — for some time.’ No spaces are necessary before or after, but some writers—including myself—think this non-spaced result is too crowded. Whichever option is chosen should be used consistently.        *(Update: or press down Alt while keying 0151 on number keys.)

Final Update: Just to show clearly the actual differences between the em dash, the n dash, and the hyphen, I have superimposed them under letters of the same font. Note the slightly lower level of the hyphen.


© August 2016 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble (WordPress)

Reviewing Responses to Reviews


(I wrote this some while back, and then vacillated about posting it for fear of giving offence.  However, on re-reading, I don’t see why it should.)

A question for any writer, obscure or world-famous, relates to responses to reviews.  What would you assume the consensus on policy is?  Respond?  Argue? Remain aloof?

I had always believed that it was ‘bad form’ to reply in any way.

Recently expressed opinions, however, reflect that this is not so, but nevertheless the most frequently offered ‘definite no-no’ is responding in any way to awful reviews. There, the argument goes, one cannot convince anyone who is heavily bigoted, and will merely come out of the exchange looking petulant. One-star on Amazon?  Ignore. ‘The most putrid lump of garbage I have ever read’ ? Ignore. Of course, with such reviews, it is a good idea to pretend something like a handy pillow or punch-bag is that reviewer, and treat it accordingly …

Amazon actually encourages writers to respond to all reviews, though, and some comments there indicate that it is even possible to turn around the unreasonable one-starrer. ‘My book took two months to get to me’ given as a reason – as if that is the writer’s fault, or has anything to do with the book content? If you don’t choose to ignore it, rather not give that response, though. ‘Can I send you the next one free by courier?’ is an expensive way of building goodwill, but one that seems to work!

As another general rule, I can now see no good reason for writers being ‘above’ responding with thanks to a mainly approving, good, or glowing review. One is happy the book has been read and enjoyed. One is happy that the reviewer has announced the fact. So why not say so?

A trickier decision comes where there are aspects of a review which reflect a certain point of view, and where one is tempted to add one’s own to balance it – and to test a more general opinion.  A case in point was a review I had from BestChickLit (Young Adult Reviews) on Forest Circle Quest in June 2014, which was gratifyingly complimentary on the whole.  I had no problem with the fact that it was assumed that I was a female writer (maybe I wouldn’t have been reviewed, otherwise!) but I was slightly disappointed at less complimentary comments relating to complexity of plot, length, and the novel’s constant reference to the girth of the protagonists. I looked carefully at all three aspects with a view to changing them in need, but found myself not in agreement. Still, I held my peace.

Perhaps I can now use this as a cavy inserted into a pond – er, I mean, as a guinea-pig to test the water – toward giving a more proactive reaction?

Firstly, I would have responded by mentioning that the plot needed some complexity, development and red herrings if the mystery was to be maintained. Those on the quest know they’re on a quest, but it takes them ages to work out what they are actually questing for. That, I thought, was a large part of the fun of it. If one provides a number of real surprises during the course of a story, one needs some convolutions in the plot to bring it off.

The book also goes into some deeper levels of philosophical analogy, if one chooses to follow them. Even if taken only at face value, I think they do add to the substance.

The second point, on length. This is a hot potato, which I should perhaps drop lest I get burnt. Instead, I propose sticking a fork into it and hanging on:
Sorry, but the idea of getting a decent read at forty to eighty thousand words just doesn’t gel with me.  It does need more than that if a tale is to be fleshed out decently. (The exception is where it is expanded or dealt with further in sequels.) Otherwise, it leads to these ghastly habits of pruning anything that isn’t absolutely necessary for the plot.

‘The food at the banquet was all perfectly presented and delicious,’? Doesn’t matter one way or the other to the story, so leave it out.

Why?  It adds flavour!

‘”I think I’m falling in love with you,” he murmured hesitantly,’? Oh, horrors!  Adverb!  Chop it! ‘Murmured’? No, no, no! Just keep an unending string of ‘he (or she) said’. You can do without the ‘I think’, too. Throw it away. Now we have: ”‘I’m falling in love with you,’ he said.” Perfect.

Why? All of the rest adds another dimension to the declaration. And if ‘murmur’ perfectly describes the tone, who cares if it has become clichéd?

My latest fantasy is even longer and contains all the above sins. Perhaps I am committing writers’ hara-kiri that way.

The third point:  (I am surprised the reason wasn’t obvious.)
Part of the momentum of this novel comes from concern at a generation of unnecessarily overweight children in the more privileged parts of the world, and the idea was to plant ideas in young minds about going on strenuous and hideously dangerous fantasy adventures – or, at least, moderating food intake and getting some exercise – to combat that!

What are your thoughts on the subject of review responses, and on these three specific points?

© February 2016 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble (WordPress)

A Well-Travelled Book About a Journey

The Long SlumberA pleasant surprise awaited me at the Brighton Beach Post Office today.  It was a copy of the published version of The Long Slumber by James Walker Hastie which I edited last year, sent to me by the author.  Until I received it, I didn’t know that it was now in print, and as always it was a thrill to see the finished product of something one has helped to create.

MissentThe book was written in Scotland with a mythical setting perhaps in the East.  The cover was done in Essex.  It was edited in South Africa, and made in USA,  My copy was directed to Brighton Beach in Vancouver, Canada, before finally coming to the Durban one.  At least they didn’t try the sandy bit of Brighton, UK, or the Melbourne version!

There is, as may be seen, a description of being ‘a journey of enlightenment’.  My copy certainly had quite a journey before I was enlightened!

© January 2016 lesliehylawintonnoble (WordPress)