Category Archives: Shakespeare

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)

 

Whose language is it anyway?

Last week, BBC Radio 4 had a short feature on American words that have come into common usage on this side of the pond. Although it is not quite that simple! It would flagsseem that many of us Brits are using American words without being aware we are doing it. Or believing a term is American when in fact it has a long and noble record of usage in England.

Here are some of the points made in the programme (program?) along with a few of my own

  1. Words we know are American, but like anyway: Movie, cool, cookie. A lot of words came to England in the last century via films (movies), popular music and books: concrete overcoats, taken for a ride, bump off.  Somehow the American terms seemed more glamorous, especially to teenagers, who found them ‘cool.’

2. Words we know are American and tend to dislike, often because they are verbs that started out as nouns: to diarise, to reach out, to impact. Many of these terms were associated with business, so rather ‘uncool,’ as well as being less acceptable to an older, more conservative age-group.

3. Words that are in such common usage, we never think of as being American: hangover, commuter, double-decker. (So, if you commute into work on a double-decker bus suffering from a hangover – can you fool yourself that you are living the American dream?)

4. Words we are sure, wrongly, are American: gotten, trash, wow. In fact the first two appear in Shakespeare plays, and ‘wow’ is sixteenth century Scottish. The words probably travelled to America with the Pilgrim Fathers, got forgotten in the UK, and then travelled back to the old country in the twentieth century.

5. Words that appear both sides of the Atlantic, but mean something different: baby (UK – girlfriend/ darling), pants (UK – underpants), pavement (UK – where the pedestrians go, not the cars).

6. Words that mean the same, but are spelt differently: color, honor, program. It is commonly understood that Webster (of dictionary fame) pioneered this form of spelling as he wanted to standardise written American, and thought he’d simplify it whilst he was at it. True, but a lot of such words started out in English minus the ‘u’ etc. centuries ago, and just got embellished over time.

imagesThe Oxford English Dictionary lists 26.000 Americanisms in English. These, along with all the words we’ve adopted from the Greeks and Romans, India and beyond, just add to the richness of the language (and the confusion of foreigners and natives alike).

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read more of my work, go to one of my Amazon author pages. Watch out for my collection of short, Shakespeare themed, stories due out shortly.

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

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

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

Homophones and Homonyms

Do you know your homophones from your homonyms? Yesterday I was relocating a book on the history of English spelling that I had bought as a student. It had been written by my tutor, David Scragg, and I had hoped that buying it might improve my grades. It didn’t – though I suppose actually reading it would have helped!

Tucked in the book was an article from a newspaper. I’m not sure which one, or the date it was published. It was written by Charles Lewis, a barrister with an interest in language. His particular interest was the ambiguities in English and the problems this can cause ordinary folk, let alone lawyers.

His discussion of homophones and homonyms brought back memories of lecture halls in the ’70s that managed to be simultaneously  stuffy and drafty, and fellow students who managed to snooze peacefully through lectures on the more arcane areas of English grammar despite the uncomfortable wooden benches.

But the two ‘H’ words are quite fun. The examples given below may not work for all English speakers because we use different dialects, but you can probably think of your own word pairings that would.

Homophones are words that are pronounced in the same way, but are spelled differently, like Rome and roam, or horse and hoarse, or wade and weighed, see or sea. Teas / tease / tees. Rain /rein / reign. Homophones are words that sound the same, but come from different language roots (Anglo-Saxon / Latin / Greek etc.)

Homonyms, on the other hand, have the same spelling and pronunciation, but mean completely different things.  For example:  seal – the animal, and seal – the means of closing something; lock – hair or bolt; mine – colliery, or possessive; saw – tool, or past of the verb to see; see, the verb and see, a bishop’s area of responsibility. Again homonyms have come into common usage via different language roots.

There are also a whole pile of words that have the same spelling, but are pronounced differently: tear, wind, does. Lewis called these biphones.

A few words can fit all categories. One such is ‘row.’

  • Homophone – row (your boat) / roe (fish eggs)
  • Homonym – row (your boat) / row (of beans)
  • Biphone – row (your boat) / row (argument).

the-ghost-queen-001If you have enjoyed this article, and would like to find out more about my work, go to the Published
work page on this blog, or my Amazon Author pages.

My most recent work is a short story, The Ghost Queen. It is based  on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and is part of my Shakespeare’s women project. It is published by Solstice.

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

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

myBook.to/GhostQueen

 

 

Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to ‘Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from a short story loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A young girl is sent from her happy home and family to fulfill her father’s dying wish that she should marry a distant cousin and thereby save the family estate as a home for her mother and younger sisters. Unfortunately, when she arrives at her destination, it is her intended husband’s younger brother who first attracts her attention. The story is called Journey to the Fair Mountain.

Excerpt:

He had deep blue eyes and gave me a lingering smile as he held my hand. I felt a tremor Journey to the Fair Mountainpass through me that was more than just the cold. He held my hand tighter and put it to his lips, but the trembling did not stop, even as I curtseyed.
“Your hand is frozen,” he said, stroking it gently, and looking straight into my eyes. “It must have been a hard journey through the snow.” I nodded, and bit my lip to stop it quivering as I lowered my eyes, shy and awkward under his probing gaze, too awed to say we had had no snow that day. Was this the one? My future husband? And was it really less than a week since I left my own home? It felt such a long, long time ago.

william_shakespeares_first_folio_1623

 

Journey to the Fair Mountain is one of a number of short stories based on Shakespeare’s heroine’s activities off stage that I have been writing. A  number have already been published in anthologies and as stand alone e-books, and are available from Solstice Publishing, or from my author page on Amazon Books.

 

 

 

Links: 

Journey to the Fair Mountain:                                                                                                 http://bookgoodies.com/a/B019CULSW2                                myBook.to/JourneyToTheFairMountain

A Midsummer Day’s Dream: myBook.to/MidsummerDaysDream          http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01I0CB1WU

The Ghost Queen: myBook.to/GhostQueen

Chains of Magic: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00YYKOOLS                       myBook.to/ChainsOfMagic