Category Archives: Anthologies

CAST OFF has cast off …

Cast Off, my collection of Shakespeare themed short stories, has just been released by Solstice Publishing. Cast Off

Blurb: Have you ever thought what a Shakespeare character might be thinking or doing when she’s not on stage? Does she like the role that’s been created for her? Would she prefer a different plot? Or love interest? How does she really feel about all that cross dressing? In this light-hearted collection of short stories, the author suggests a few answers to these and other questions.

Links: myBook.to/CastOff

http://www.solsticpublishing.com

Now the hard work begins! As I learnt after the publication of my first novel, writing the book, is only one of the tasks expected of a published author. Each author has a big part to play in the promoting and marketing of their work once it has been released. So, apart from several tweets, posts on Facebook, and the occasional blog, I have just done a stint on the local BBC radio channel  Here’s the link if you are interested:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056ffyr#play  (I appear approximately one and a quarter hours into the Vic Minett show, at the start of the weekly Book Club).

Other promotistonefest 17onal activity to date has included taking part in a creative arts festival – Stone Fest – where I joined other members of the Coventry Writers’ Group to sell our books in the market square. Later I read an extract from Our Mad Sister, one of the Shakespeare stories, in a wine bar.  Our Mad Sister is based on the character of Cassandra – the one in Greek legends who is always prophesying (correctly) that things are going to turn out badly. She actually only takes a fleeting role in the play, Troilus and Cressida, but most people know more about her than the characters in the title, and she was fun to write about.

 

Here is the excerpt I read – if you like it, why not consider buying the whole collection!

Our Mad Sister.

 It’s crazy, I know, but it can’t be denied that a single woman of a certain age is invisible. Once I was the talk of Troy for my fine bone structure, my flawless skin, and my tall, graceful figure. Oh, I was clever too, but it was my beauty everyone talked about. I was so beautiful, in fact, that the god Apollo singled me out to be his lover. I was tempted of course – who wouldn’t be?

       But I had been cursed from a young age with common sense and wisdom. I may have been King Priam’s daughter, and sister to the mighty Hector and the flighty Paris, but I could sense that for Apollo I would just be a dalliance. I was flattered by his attention, my dreams were full of him. My knees went weak and my heart trembled whenever he was near.

       But, always, something held me back. I could foresee that for him I was just a human plaything he could seduce, before moving on to other paramours. So I held back, resisting his most pressing advances, and eventually he grew bored with me and left Troy. My common sense, that he had once found so seductive, had started to irk him. That didn’t stop him feeling angry and resentful. As he left, he settled a final curse on me.

       “I leave you Cassandra, a frustrated and disappointed god. Your virtue has defeated me. Long may you continue to be sensible,” he said. “And long may you be able to foretell the consequences of your and your compatriot’s actions. But you have defied me, a god, and, as a mere mortal, you must bear the consequences. I have decreed that no matter what sensible words you have to say, no-one will ever believe you. Mark my words: to them you will just be a crazed and embittered old maid.”

       With that he was gone, leaving me bereft, and questioning the wisdom of clinging so tenaciously to my virgin state. Maybe the passing love of a god would not have been so shameful after all? The palace was large, and I had my own quarters. True, my parents were old, set in their ways. But they weren’t unkind, and times change. Certainly, years later, when Paris snatched the beautiful wife of Menelaus, the Greek, my father was very angry with him, but not so angry that he ordered him to send her back. Instead he was willing to let Troy go to war to keep her here. A war I knew was bound to end in our defeat, but no one was listening to me by then.

       Oh the irony! Helen, little more than a pretty tart, arrived in our country, and we were prepared to lose some of our bravest soldiers on her behalf. But then, fathers down the ages have had different standards for their daughters. Paris carrying on with another man’s wife, was easier for him to tolerate than his daughter having a baby with a god. Never mind that it would have been the child of the God of Love, a genuine love–child. Later, when he might have been more understanding, my chance of motherhood had gone.

       So I witnessed my brothers’ lives moving on whilst mine atrophied. Hector married the boring but virtuous Andromache, Paris hooked up with his vacuous mistress, and even little Troilus grew up enough to want a woman of his own. Like Paris, Troilus had an eye for a pretty girl, and his choice – Cressida – was nothing if not pretty. But she was more a Helen than an Andromache. I knew the kind, beautiful, sexy, generous with her favours, pragmatic in how she bestowed them.

       Yes, I foresaw that Cressida would abandon Troilus, and Troy, within days of their conjoining and would join the Greek armies camped outside. To give her some credit, maybe she too had sensed that Troy would soon be overrun. After all, her father had already abandoned the city and joined the Greeks camped all around, the traitor. I could have told my brother all this as I watched him from my balcony making his way stealthily to Cressida’s bed under the cover of a starless night sky. I chose to remain silent. What was the point in running out to stop him – he wouldn’t have believed me. Besides, none of his family was supposed to know about his secret tryst. He would simply have denied what he was up to. And then what was I to do? I was just his mad sister, after all.

        That’s what my brothers called me, “Our mad sister,” they used to say to visitors to the palace. I had become old, too old anyway to be a suitable bargaining chip in a marriage arrangement with neighbouring countries, and too ‘odd,’ with my true, but ultimately gloomy prophesies, to be welcome in their quarters as a visitor in my own right. As I grew older I became less and less important. Even my parents sometimes forgot who I was.

       I was the crazy one, always foretelling doom, pouring cold water on people’s plans, and muttering that it would all turn out badly. Who wants someone like that sitting opposite you over breakfast? Of course I wasn’t completely left out, but I was like the poor relation you had to invite but you hoped would not cause embarrassment and upset the visitors. And if I did make one of my, to them, tactless and doom filled predictions, they would cover the ensuing embarrassed silence with a laugh, a roll of the eyes and, maybe, a finger briefly touching the temple. Later, when things turned out like I said they would, which they did, they denied I’d said anything, or blamed me for it, as if it was my fault. Sometimes they did both!

          It wasn’t long after Apollo abandoned me that my beauty started to fade, and people no longer turned admiring glances on me as I walked round the city. Soon they hardly noticed me at all, and I sometimes had to step off the pavement to let a group of young men through. They never acknowledged this. Why should they? They hadn’t noticed me in the first place.

       I started to neglect myself – let my hair grow long and leave it loose and uncombed around my neck. Sometimes I even left it weeks before I washed it. The same went with my clothes. Why worry if no one was going to notice? Instead I wore my old working smocks for months on end. Soon I found that people noticed me all right then. Not in a good way – they would look in horror at my eccentric appearance and, fearful perhaps that I was none too sweet smelling, they would step into the road to avoid me. At least I got the pavement to myself then. Sometimes I would emit a few cackles, as I drew near to them, and cackle louder whilst they stepped further out into the road to avoid me. Often as not I would shout out too.       

“Cry, Trojans, Cry!” was one of my favourites. Or, “Lend me your ears, and I will fill them with prophetic tears!”  This would get them looking anywhere but at me, and scurrying away as fast as they could go. I was not mad, I told myself, because I knew exactly what I was doing and the effect my behaviour had on others. But maybe only a crazy woman would want to behave like that. Now there’s a thought!

 I have plenty more promotional work planned throughout the summer, whilst still trying to find time to crack on with my next book – 10,000 words already, only another 70,000 to go! solstice logo (1)

CAST OFF – Collection out on Friday.

On Friday 14th July, my new collection of short stories, Cast Off, is published by Solstice Publishing. Below I answer a few questions about the stories that you probably hadn’t thought to ask.

Cast OffWhat are the stories in Cast Off about? Each story is based on a female character in a Shakespeare play. The story takes place whilst the cast is off stage, and speculates what the character might be thinking or doing, sometimes in relation to the playwright himself (Taming of the Shrew), or in relation to other characters (Lear), or even if they are going to go back on stage for the last act (The Winter’s Tale). Some are in the first person, some in the third. A couple are also related by one of the other characters (Twelfth Night), or by a more contemporary figure. None are intended to be taken too seriously!

Why did I choose this as the theme for my collection? I was inspired to write one of the stories by a poem I heard on the radio a few years ago (Hamlet). Another was written following an invitation to write a short story for an anthology based round a recipe (Othello), and a third to tie in with an anthology to be published on midsummer’s day (no prizes for guessing which play that was based on!) Before I knew it, a collection was building up and, with 2016 being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I decided to read several more of his plays, write some more stories, and put together a collection. This has taken me a bit longer than originally planned, but I finally felt I had enough by March this year, when I completed my thirteenth story.

How did I choose which plays to base each story on? I ruled out the historical plays as some readers might have wanted historical accuracy, and my stories are more whimsical. I wanted strong female characters to base the story around, though they didn’t necessarily have to be the lead character – Portia’s maid, for example, rather than Portia herself from The Merchant of Venice; the nurse not Juliet from Romeo and Juliet. Most stories almost wrote themselves after I’d read the play, but some plays that are known for their strong female leads (Much Ado About Nothing springs to mind) didn’t immediately throw up an angle for me to work on. Another time perhaps!

What was my writing process? First I read the play straight through. Then I decided on a character to ‘play’ with, and a possible story line. I would re-read the play, making a few notes, and perhaps noting down a couple of quotations. Then I would write the story without further reference to the play. Finally I would read the play again to check that the story line I’d followed could be justified, or that any deviations in characterisation etc. were intentional and consistent. I would also check the accuracy of any quotations used. Then it was time for the usual spell checking and editing, as with any story.

Do I have any taster stories available, preferably for free?  There are no Shakespeare themed stories available until this collection is published on Friday. However I have a short story, Mary’s Christmas, in an anthology called Festive Treats, which is permanently free on Amazon Books. Solstice Publishing has also issued two of my other short stories as stand-alone e-books for about £/$1.00 each. These are called Sleeping Beauty, and Love in Waiting.  All three stories can be found following the links below to my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

solstice logo (1)

 

Summer Solstice Reading

Welcome to another #SundayBlogShare.

It’s not the summer solstice yet – that’s still a couple of days off. But maybe it’s time to think about what to read if the day proves hot and sunny, and no one has any energy for anything more than to take a gentle snooze and read a story in a shady corner of the garden. Or, more likely in the UK, it’s pouring with rain, the barbecue has been cancelled, and you have to stay indoors, possibly with the heating on – so why not read something, and forget about the weather?

During the past few years I have written two short stories specifically for Solstice Publishing summer solstice anthologies. A Midsummer Day’s Dream, based on Shakespeare’s play with not quite the same title, appears in the anthology Let’s Have Fun Volume three. It will also be reproduced in my collection of short, Shakespeare themed stories, Cast Off, which will be published later in the summer. That story takes place on a hot sultry day, in contrast to the torrential rain that is the back drop to my other short story, Love in Waiting.

Love in Waiting appears in the anthology, Summer Thrills Summer Chills. It is also available from Amazon books as a stand-alone e-book for around £/$1.00. Here’s a taster.

Excerpt:

Love in WaitingCaro smiled when she heard the nurse’s voice fade away as she reached the doctors’ office. She turned back to the bed. Soon there would be a large cluster of medics and nurses in the little room but, for a few precious moments, it was just her and Ian.

“I don’t believe in miracles,” she told her husband. “I can’t stand Joyce. I’m sorry the solstice has been a complete wash out for the druids. I’m worried about the blocked drain back home. My hair’s a mess and I look like an anorexic scarecrow. But speaking personally, my love, today has been worth all the worry and waiting. Today is the best day of my life.”

Blurb:

Caro’s husband has been in a coma for months after a road accident. He had always intended to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but never found the time. In desperation Caro starts reading it aloud at his bedside. But will it be enough to bring him round?

Links:

Love in Waiting: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00ZPJZNJO 

myBook.to/LoveInWaiting

Let’s Have fun 3 anthology

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01HBU1RQM

myBook.to/LetsHaveFun3

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

Want to win a book?

Announcement posterToday I am passing my blog to Solstice Publishing who are running a give-away competition to promote one of their latest anthologies  I don’t have a story in it myself as I have been busy on my own collection of Shakespeare themed stories, Cast Off, which Solstice will be publishing later in the summer. But I know many of the authors through the Solstice ‘family.’

ENTER TO WIN! That’s all you have to do. We at Solstice Publishing are celebrating Plots & Schemes Vol. 1 becoming a best seller in Germany during its release by giving away three autographed copies of the print edition of this fabulous anthology.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/237966-plots-schemes-vol-1

All you have to do is click on the Goodreads link between May 26 and June 9 and enter. It’s that simple. Once the contest ends, Goodreads will notify us of the winners names and you will receive your copy.

Her child vanishes in a puff of smoke …

When Murder is on the Itinerary …

An eavesdropped comment leads to an impossible scheme …

Mysterious events pull Dana into danger …

A rock star’s murder leaves Emlyn Goode questioning everything she knows about herself …

Murder most foul puts this cop to the test …

One murder, one plan, two possible outcomes …

Losing your mind is scary …

If you’re not at the beach, the Tough Luck stories will take you there …

Trail Town Texas leans heavily on their sheriff …

Murder, kidnapping, mysterious events, and more are our treat to you in this wonderfulFacebook and Twitter post 11 (1) anthology from Solstice Publishing. Discover the talents of K.C. Sprayberry, Debbie De Louise, Donna Alice Patton, E.B. Sullivan, Susan Lynn Solomon, Johnny Gunn, K.A. Meng, Leah Hamrick, Lois Crockett, and Stephy Smith.

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B072L7KZ6K

Here’s a little taste of what you’ll find inside this intriguing book!

A smile was on his face. Despite the fact that he was supposed to connect with the egg donor of this lovely child, he had no thoughts of doing that or returning the kid at the appointed time. His timing was perfect. The child—Lanie is such an idiotic name; I’ll have to come up with another one—would be five in a few days. In time, she would forget there had been his loser ex in her life. She—Sheila will regret divorcing me—had battered through his training, all he’d gone through to make her a compliant and complacent wife. She’d run away after he ordered her to get an abortion.

Good thing the bitch ignored me. I wouldn’t have this gorgeous child to raise to be like me.

Granted the child was weak now, but he would fix that, as soon as he made sure they vanished forever. No one would stop him from raising his daughter as he saw fit, and that meant keeping her away from her weakling of a mother.

Quietly, Mark Jannson, scion of the globally famous Jannson family, whose assets numbered in the billions, removed anything he considered important from his lavishly furnished thirty room mansion located in the mountains above Denver. His mother’s jewels were carefully packed into a leather satchel, to be given to his daughter, if she remained true to the Jannson name. The woman who called herself his mother had been consigned to a hovel in the southeast somewhere, once she showed her true colors by attempting to take him from his father.

“Let the bitch live in poverty the rest of her life,” he whispered.

https://youtu.be/3xUn1SZZrF8

Starting May 26, 2017, simply click on the link provided and enter. If you aren’t a member of Goodreads, you can join easily. This is a great place to discover books by new and exciting authors and be in on the fun of all sorts of entertainment!

solstice logo (1)

Thirteen Tales From Shakespeare.

Today, for my #SundayBlogShare, I am delighted to reveal the news that Solstice Publishing has accepted my collection of short stories based on plays by Shakespeare. Iwilliam_shakespeares_first_folio_1623 had intended to get the collection ready for publication in 2016, the 400th anniversary of his death. But ‘stuff happens’ and I hadn’t written enough till earlier this year. So I’m celebrating the 401st anniversary instead!

The collection is called Cast Off. Each story is between 1,000 and 5,000 words long. Each has, as the central figure, one of the bard’s female characters. The story is built around what they might have been doing, or thinking about, during the times they were not on stage – writing their diary, arguing about what lines they’ve been given, wondering whether to go back on stage for the final act …

Mostly they are light-hearted. Although they make use of the plots in the plays, they are meant to engage the general reader who does not go to the theatre often,  let alone to Shakespeare; people who enjoy the occasional trip out to see a play by Shakespeare; and even people who know his work well (so may recognise the odd quotation or reference). But they shouldn’t upset the scholars either – there is nothing too iconoclastic!

Some people may have already read one or more of the stories, as four have appeared in different anthologies, published by Solstice, in recent years: lets have fun 3-001

Chains of Magic – The Food of Love

Journey to the Fair Mountain – A Winter Holiday Anthology

The Ghost Queen – Realms of Fantastic Stories, Volume 1.

A Midsummer Day’s Dream – Let’s Have Fun, Volume Three

All these anthologies are available from the Solstice website: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

Or via my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to another #Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Journey to the Fair Mountain. This is a short e-book available from Amazon and Solstice Publishing. It is based on Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Why did Gertrude marry Hamlet’s father? And why did she marry his brother so quickly after his death? No one really knows, but ….

Excerpt:

“Come brother; do not keep our cousin standing there in the cold.” I looked up and saw for the first time another man, a lighted candle in his hand, framed in the glow of a great fire at the end of the hall. A big man, regal in his bearing. Older than his brother, who was still stroking my hand, yet not old like my father or the old retainer. His short hair was sable silvered, but his beard was still black and neatly trimmed. His eyes were steel grey and piercing and his mouth firm, though he smiled kindly enough as I approached. His height was remarkable—he was taller than any man I knew—and his shoulders were broad. He seemed to me like a Hercules among men. I could tell at once that this was someone who was used giving orders, and to them being obeyed. This time, there was no mistaking who this man was: the king, my future husband.

Blurb:

A young girl’s life is changed forever when her only brother is killed in a hunting accident. Only an arranged marriage to a distant cousin will save the family home for her mother and sisters when her father dies. Love doesn’t come into it.

Links:Journey to the Fair Mountain

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B019CULSW2

 myBook.to/JourneyToTheFairMountain

 Journey to the Fair Mountain also features in the Winter Holiday Anthology, published by Solstice (www.solsticepublishing. com): http://bookgoodies.com/a/B017T6UJ8K

A short YA read for Sunday.

Happy ‘Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare. Today I am sharing an excerpt from Sleeping First LoveBeauty. This is a short story that combines fairy tales, fantasy, hospital drama, and a teenage girl’s first feelings of love. The story can be bought as a stand alone e-book, and is also one of the stories in the anthology First Love, published by Summer Solstice.

Excerpt:

It seemed a funny idea of a quest to me, and Mum never got round to telling me this story, or teaching me to read properly. She got sick and died, and all I had left to remember her by was a head full of fairy tales and the recollection of her scent: l’air du temps, according to the label I eventually learnt to read. The scent still clung faintly to her dresses and a coat that Dad had hidden in the back of my wardrobe when Sukie moved in. Sometimes I would sit in my wardrobe and pull the door close, just to breath in the memories of a happier, safer, time.

Blurb:
sleeping beauty

Dawn has been in a coma for a year and is visited in hospital every day by her devoted father, occasionally by the ghost of her dead mother, and once by her vicious stepmother. Unable to move a muscle she monitors their coming and going and relives the events that lead to her accident. She yearns to wake up and live like a teenager again, but nothing so far has been able to rouse her from her deep, deep sleep. Then, on her fourteenth birthday she is visited by a mysterious delivery boy with a strange package.

 

Links:

First Love Anthologyhttp://bookgoodies.com/a/B01BH43NXS

 Sleeping Beauty:   http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CKKNG7Q

myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty