Category Archives: Collections

Free download of CAST OFF this weekend.

In a bid to beat the mid winter blues – mine and yours – I am offering some of my books for free on Amazon over the next few weeks.

Cast OffThis weekend it is CAST OFF –  a collection of 13 short stories based on female characters in plays by Shakespeare.

Have you ever thought what a Shakespeare character might be doing or thinking when she is not on stage? Does she like the role that has been created for her? Would she prefer a different plot? Or love interest? How does she really feel about all that cross dressing? Will she actually go back on stage when it’s her cue?

If you download my book on Saturday 13th or Sunday 14th January you can find some answers to all these questions, and more, for FREE. Money back if you don’t find at least one story to your liking!

Amazon link:

myBook.to/CastOff

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Was Shakespeare a team player?

There is general agreement that Shakespeare collaborated with another dramatist william_shakespeares_first_folio_1623occasionally – The Two Noble Kinsmen, for example, was written with John Fletcher. He was influenced by other playwrights too – Marlowe’s Jew of Malta / Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He also wrote parts to suit particular actors, and audiences (especially Royal ones), and most of his heroines find a reason to dress up as boys early in the play because female parts were taken by young boys. All this goes to show that he was a jobbing writer (as well as actor), and needed to make sure his work was finished on time and was performed in front of a paying audience. But few people have regarded the bulk of his oeuvre as a collaborative effort.

Now there is something of a battle between scholars going on because one, Gary Taylor, has suggested he has proof that up to 38% of Shakespeare’s works are collaborations with Marlowe or others. His method of proving this is controversial – he has employed mathematicians to use algorithms to detect patterns in the use of words or phrases that were also used by contemporary dramatists. Other scholars have pointed out that computer programmes that pick out similar patterns in the use of common words such as ‘of,’ ‘from’ and ‘to’ don’t really prove anything more than the research has been done by someone with a greater knowledge of maths than of Shakespeare and theatre.

However, as algorithms are used more and more in our daily lives – think Google, Facebook – this story could run for quite some time. A bit like the one about whether Shakespeare actually wrote any of his plays – some say they were written by the Earl of Oxford, or Francis Bacon. The author James Barrie, when asked if he thought Bacon was the real playwright, replied: “I know nor sir, whether Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, but if he did not it seems to me that he missed the opportunity of his life.”

If you have enjoyed this post, you may like to read my own take on Shakespeare. CAST Cast OffOFF is a collection of short stories imagining what some of his female characters were up to off stage. The collection is published by Solstice (www.solsticepublishing.com) and is available in selected bookshops or on Amazon via the link below.

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

REVIEW: One word for this short story anthology? Original. Certainly an odd descriptor for a collection of tales based on the characters in another’s works, but Mrs. Egrot weaves intriguing story lines utilizing some of Shakespeare lesser known supporting characters, and spin-offs from his heroines. My favourite two? “Time Out of Mind” affected me on an emotional level, and “Ban! Ban! Cacaliban” left me wanting more. Each story stands alone on its own merit. If you’ve never even heard of the bard, and you were born in a cave and raised by wolves, you will find a tale here to fall in love with. Thoroughly enjoyed.

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Ever fancied a spot of polysemy?

Despite it sounding a bit like polygamy, there is nothing naughty or illegal about it. Polysemy is derived from the Greek polusemos – having many meanings. Its opposite is monosemy – having one meaning / unambiguous. Writers practice polysemy pen to paperevery time they put pen to paper, without thinking about it. (See? How many meanings are there to the word pen? Or practice?)

The English language is awash with words that mean more than one thing. It’s one of its glories and, when trying to select words that will avoid all ambiguity, or expressly pinning them down to one meaning, the language can end up turgid and dull. Few people read a law report for fun.

If so inclined, you can have fun with polysemy at your reader’s expense: For example, if I offer you a ‘fulsome apology for any offence given.’ Am I truly sorry and offering a sincere apology? Am I being a little bit over the top because I can’t really see what you’ve got to be offended about? Or am I being offensively insincere? The word fulsome embraces all those meanings.

Ambiguity is usually easily avoided by the context in which a word is used.

Putting pen to paper. / Putting sheep in a pen.

The two of them were rowing [across the lake] [about the cost of hiring a boat]

And, despite the number of words with more than one meaning, we rarely are confused. What is ambiguous, for example, about wanting to get all your ducks in a row? (Oh, my fulsome apologies if that leaves you a bit puzzled).

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read more of my work, please go to Cast Offone of my Amazon author pages. Where you can find stories, anthologies, or novels from £/$0.00 to £/$15.00

Stories from my collection, Cast Off, are being read at the Criterion Theatre, Coventry on Thursday 23rd November at 7.30pm. The event is FREE.

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

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

 

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

 

 

That dreaded radio interview!

The other day, out of the blue, I received an email asking if I wanted to take part in a radio programme to talk about my recent book and, maybe, read an excerpt from it.

radio_studio_3.fwGulp! I have tended to avoid such invitations. I may have the face for radio, but not necessarily the voice.

However I realise that it is a valuable addition to the opportunities writers have to promote their work, and maybe I should take the plunge. So, after a mild panic attack, I emailed back to say ‘yes.’ Then settled down for a more serious panic session.

More constructively, I started to think about what to do in preparation.

Here’s what I’ve thought about so far. I would welcome other suggestions – bearing in mind I’m slotted in for an interview this Sunday.

  1. Clarify what is expected. E.g. Who else will be there? How long will the interview last? What will the format be – question and answer? readings?
  2. Which book / books will the interview cover?
  3. Does the interviewer want to know more about my work in advance? And more about me?
  4. Where is the studio? Is there parking? How soon before I am on air will I need to arrive?

So far I know what time I will be on air, what book we will talk about mostly, and which Cast Offexcerpt the interviewer would like me to read. The interviewer is particularly interested in Cast Off, my collection of Shakespeare themed stories. This isn’t surprising as he has a new programme on Stratford’s community radio. He will also give me a chance to promote my book event (with readings done by professionally trained readers) which will take place at a community theatre in Coventry later in the month.

And now I must go and practice reading my excerpt aloud. (But why is it my tongue suddenly feels too big for my mouth, making the words hard to come out?)

Links:

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

Anthology or collection?

Tom Hanks, the movie star sometimes dubbed the ‘all round nicest guy in Hollywood,’ has just published a collection of short stories, called Uncommon Type – some stories. And – really quite annoyingly for those who like popular figures to have feet of clay – it’s been well received by the critics. Not content with being a household name as an actor, the man is now going to be hailed as a writer of considerable talent too.

Short stories have increased in popularity recently and his new publication won’t have set back this resurgence. But why is Mr Hanks book of short stories called a collection and not an anthology?

My Collins dictionary describes an anthology as ‘any printed collection of literary pieces, songs, works of art etc.’ This sounds pretty much like calling an anthology an, er, collection by another name. However the crucial difference, as the dictionary also states, is that in an anthology the stories and poems are written by various authors and a collection only solstice logo (1)includes the work of one author. This is the distinction used by my publisher. Hence, a number of my Shakespeare character stories have appeared in anthologies, alongside the work of other authors, that Solstice Publishing have produced in the last couple of years. But this year, when they published these stories in the same volume as several more that I alone had written, the ensuing publication was called a collection – CAST OFF.

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A new review of the Cast Off collection

Paperback copies of my latest collection of short stories, Cast Off, took several weeks stonefest 17more than expected to arrive in the UK. It seems that once one thing goes wrong, other problems pile in. Unblocking the problem with the printers took a lot of ineffective emails from me, and some targeted (but effective) work from my publisher, Solstice Publishing. However, I now have a pile of shiny copies in my possession and must start some serious promotion. To start I am giving, verbatim, a review of Cast Off that was posted last week, as it tells you from a reader’s perspective what you can expect if you purchase a copy.

Cast OffCast Off by novelist and playwright Margaret Egrot is an ingenious concept for a short story collection. The thirteen stories are all inspired by female characters from Shakespeare’s plays, offering new perspectives and twists on characters often overshadowed by their male counterparts.

Some of the stories are set with the world of the play themselves. These develop female characters who barely feature in the original work. One such example is the witch Sycorax, an offscreen presence in The Tempest, who Egrot brings to life in Ban! Ban! Caliban! by narrating her backstory.

Other stories depict a more prominent Shakespearian character, such as Othello’s Desdemona or Measure for Measure’s Isabella, yet offer their version of the events in the play. a midsummer day's dream

Further range is found in A Midsummer’s Day’s Dream which is a contemporary story with four students in place of the traditional leads; The Tangled Knot presents Twelfth Night’s Olivia from the comical voice of the Clown; whilst Is Not This Well? features an actress criticising the Bard himself for his misogynistic treatment of Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.

As you can see, no two stories are the same, despite the intrinsic Shakespeare theme. The diversity of the collection is testament to Egrot’s vast talent and a guarantee that you will never get bored as you turn the pages.

Be assured, as Egrot writes in her foreword, there is no pressure to be familiar with Shakespeare’s work to enjoy these stories. However, any fans of the Bard will gain an extra kick of enjoyment from spotting direct quotes from Shakespeare’s work, hidden within the stories like a DVD Easter Egg.

Cast Off is proof that Shakespeare’s legacy is alive and well. Egrot reinvents the source material with a fresh feminist perspective and injects plenty of original ideas into her homage to Shakespeare’s overlooked heroines.

Links: myBook.to/CastOff

http://www.simonfairbanks.com/blog/review-cast-off-by-margaret-egrot
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CAST OFF – more excerpts

Cast Off, my collection of Shakespeare themed stories was released by Solstice Publishing (an American publishing house) in July, but through a series of mishaps – aCast Off hurricane or two might have had a part to play – print copies have only just arrived in the UK. However, both print and e-books have been, and still are, available on Amazon Books, and via the publisher.

Each story concerns one of Shakespeare’s female characters whilst they are off stage. What are they thinking or doing? What do they think about the part they have been given?  What do they think about all that cross dressing? Will they be bothered to go back on stage when their next cue comes?

So far, E-book copies of Cast Off have been selling pretty well in the UK, and have hovered round the best seller rankings on occasion without me doing any particular promotion. But for those still thinking about checking it out, I have been putting the opening or closing paragraphs of each story on this blog over the last few weeks.

Here are the last four.

Closing lines – Conjuring the Moon (King Lear)

Lear smiled as he turned to one of his entourage. “The stage is set?” he asked. The gentleman in waiting bowed low again. “It is indeed my liege. The Earls, Gloucester and Kent, are already there.” The old king nodded, pleased with what he heard. “Then let us proceed.” Without further word he drew himself up to his full majestic height, swirling his cloak around him. His attendants pulled back the curtain as, followed by his three daughters, the Dukes of Albany, Cornwall and Burgundy, the King of France, and the rest of his retainers, he swept into the great hall.

Opening lines – Look to the Lady (Macbeth)

My Darling,
Oh, how I have missed you from my bed these last few nights. Now I have risen and the day is half gone, yet I still burn with desire to have you by my side. And have you satisfy my thirst for news. I don’t know whether it is worth writing to you, as the battle may well be over by now, and you will be here before I finish, but I must do something to pass the time, or I will go mad.

the-ghost-queen-001Closing lines – The Ghost Queen (The Winter’s Tale)

My mind raced. Even now, I was not sure I had enough self-knowledge and strength to make the right decision, the best decision for me and my daughter. I felt my hands trembling again and willed them to be still. Paulina noticed and touched my hands briefly. Then she looked at me through the gauze, straight into my eyes. I took a deep breath and the trembling eased. “Be strong,” she urged. “I will,” I assured her. “It’s your choice.” “I know.” There was a knock. I froze, just like a statue, and Paulina went to the door to let the world in.

Opening lines – Ban, Ban, Cacaliban! (The Tempest)

I see my boy, in my mind’s eye. Standing on the headland, watching as the ship disappears over the horizon. Gazing after his old master, Prospero, who is heading back to where he belongs, after twelve long years dominating the island rightfully belonging to me, Sycorax the witch, and her descendants. Good riddance to him. The magic he used to outshine mine is spent now, his power over spirits and other humans has been laid to rest, and my freckled whelp is again master of the island in my place. Justice, if you can call it that, at last!

Purchase link: myBook.to/CastOff

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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