Tag Archives: Shakespeare

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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Cast Off – more excerpts

Regular readers of this blog may know that I’m working my way through the opening or Cast Offclosing paragraphs of my latest collection of stories – Cast Off (six down, seven to go). Each story concerns one of Shakespeare’s female characters whilst they are off stage. What are they thinking or doing? Do they have any opinions about the play they are in? Will they actually go back on stage? The stories are not to be taken seriously, but you may be able to identify the odd quote and, to quote the character in Red Dwarf, ‘engage smug mode!’ Here are my next three excerpts:

Closing paragraph of Our Mad Sister (Troilus and Cressida)

Of course, it all worked out exactly as I had foretold. Hector was killed and his body was dragged round behind a Greek chariot for all to see his ultimate degradation. And, as Troy fell and the Greeks swarmed in, the usual murder, rape and pillage ensued. Then my own fate as a captured concubine was sealed. Not pretty. Not pleasant. Definitely a humiliating way for a princess and a scholar to end her days. But, as I think I might have said before, utterly predictable.

Opening paragraph for Chains of Magic (Othello)

Senator Brabantio felt he should send his daughter to her private chambers when he Chains of magicrealized that Othello, a man of colour, would be among his important guests that night. He wasn’t sure what worried him most. Was it only Africans he needed to worry about, or Asians too, or maybe Muslims of any colour, or all of them? All his instincts and upbringing told him he must protect his daughter. Aside from any germs they might carry, or outbreaks of unprovoked violence, there was their attitude to young girls and women. And, oh yes, their gross clasps, their foul charms, their drugs….

Opening paragraph of A Virtuous Maid (Measure for Measure).

What in Heaven’s name was I thinking of? I must have been mad! Yes he said he was a friar, but a most unlikely one, wandering in and out of prisons and places at will. He’s new to Vienna too – at least I’ve never met him before, or heard mention of him, even. Come to think of it, I still don’t know his name, or what religious establishment he’s linked to. And, yet, I’ve just agreed to go along with his plan which, he says, will preserve my virtue and save my brother’s life without causing death or dishonour for anyone. Dear God, these are unchartered waters for me.

You can find the full collection of stories in Cast Off on one of my Amazon Author pages, where you can also find other novels and short stories I have written. One story, Mary’s Christmas in Festive Treats, is permanently available as a free download so you can ‘try before your buy.’

Most stories are also available from the publisher – http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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CAST OFF – the collection (continued)

A few blogs ago I started a mini series of posts giving opening or closing excerpts fromCast Off the collection of short stories in Cast Off. Each story is a glimpse into the character of one of Shakespeare’s female characters whilst they are off stage – and quite possibly not behaving at all as Shakespeare had envisioned them. But, after the hundreds – or maybe thousands – of adaptations of his plays, and books using his characters or plots as the starting point for going off in many weird and wonderful directions, I don’t think he will be too bothered by my efforts.

Anyway, here are three more opening paragraphs, which I hope will pique your interest enough to read further:

The Quality of Mirth (The Merchant of Venice)

(Portia’s maid, Nerissa, is keeping a diary of her life with her mistress)

Dear Diary, Well, I haven’t had a chance to write much in you recently. It’s just been sooo busy, what with the old master dying, the funeral, and stuff. Then the lawyers read out the will. All to go to his only daughter Portia, my mistress, as was expected. But the crafty old goat has tied it up in such a way that it depends on who she marries whether she gets anything. Or nothing. Did I say crafty? Cruel more like. What if my poor mistress ends up having to marry someone she doesn’t like, or hasn’t met before? When I just know she already fancies someone else rotten.

Journey to the Fair Mountain (Hamlet)

Journey to the Fair Mountain(Gertrude is to be married off to a distant cousin in Denmark to save the family home for her mother and sisters)

We were so cold when we arrived. My hands and feet were numb, my nose felt raw and my cheeks were stinging. I could feel my hair, damp and icy, clinging round my face and neck. Alise, with blue lips and streaming eyes, stumbled as she helped me down from my horse. She arranged my gown whilst the old retainer, who had accompanied us on the last part of the journey, dismounted stiffly and knocked on the great door. The rest of the retinue melted away into other parts of the castle, taking the horses with them. The clip-clop of their hooves on the cobbles created a ghostly echo that lingered in the chill air. Alise pushed my hair back from my face and patted my shoulder gently.  “You look lovely, milady,” she said, encouragingly. The door was opened by a young man, who took my hand and drew me quickly into the great hall. Alise followed, as did the old man who bowed deeply to the younger man then settled into the background, his cloak merging with the tapestries on the walls.

The Tangled Knot (Twelfth Night)

(The clown has his own theories as to why Olivia doesn’t want to get married for seven years).

They call me the clown, and clowning is what I do. If I can’t make people laugh, I go hungry. But opportunities for laughing, and getting paid for it, are in short supply in my current household, that’s why I need to look around. Not that I don’t care about my mistress, mind. Or that I don’t understand why her current predicament is no joke. Just because I’m a clown, doesn’t mean I can’t be serious and think. Or that I don’t see things that some of my supposed betters are blind to even when it’s staring them in the face. That’s the life of a clown I suppose. Some of us are better suited to a thinking cap than a hat full of bells. But that’s not the life we’ve been called for. So it’s “Hey Ho,” and on with the motley, as they say.

Links:

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

Or you can go straight to my Amazon author page for this and other books. There is always at least one story available free on this site, so you can ‘try before you buy.’

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

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

Cast Off, and several of my other stories, are published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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CAST OFF – the collection

I have earmarked the next few weeks in my diary as the time to really promote my new book, Cast Off, which was released by Solstice publishing last month. It has been selling steadily, particularly in the UK, without much input from me, but I will soon have print copies delivered to take to local events. Enough of a hint, surely, to get out there and do a bit of marketing!

Cast OffCast Off is a collection of short stories based around female characters in plays by Shakespeare – what are they doing or thinking whilst they are off stage? Do they like the lines the bard has given them? What do they really think about all that cross dressing? There is no need to be an expert in Shakespeare to enjoy the stories, but for the knowledgeable, there are plenty of opportunities to ‘spot the quote.’

Today and throughout September, in between the usual author interviews and posts on words and meanings etc, I will share the opening or closing sentences for several of the stories. And if these tempt you to buy the book, the purchase link is helpfully listed below!

Here are the first three excerpts:

  1. Last paragraph of Is Not This Well? (The Taming of the Shrew).

And, gosh, the audience didn’t half laugh on opening night, so he succeeded in writing a great comedy all right. I’m still not sure about the title though. And don’t get me started on that closing speech. “I ran out of time for more changes,” he told me, quite unabashed, when I challenged him. I’m sure there’s a word for men like that.

  1. Opening paragraph for A Midsummer Day’s Dreama midsummer day's dream

“You’re welcome.” Mia smiled her thanks to the barman then, with purse tucked under her arm and a glass of wine in each hand, she hobbled back out into the glare of the midday sun. Her feet were hot and sweaty, and she could feel the skin on both little toes chafing, adding to the pain she was already experiencing from an old blister on her right heel that had burst back into angry life earlier in the morning. It was stupid to wear heels on such a hot day but, with Helen being so tall, Mia liked to give herself a bit of a lift when she was out with her.

  1. Closing paragraph for Time Out Of Mind (Romeo and Juliet)

Dear Nursey, had she been to see this play one time in Verona before she came to the Bella Vista Care Home? She was such an old romantic, I can see why she would have loved the story. And I’m sure that is far more likely than that some English chap had written a play about how she and an elderly friar had tried to help two star crossed lovers get together. Maybe, as old age had worn away her wits, his tragic love story had become more real to her than her own life? After all, if I remember right, someone says at the end of the play – “they don’t come much fuller of tragedy and of woe, than this one of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Purchase links for the Cast Off collection and other stories: 

(Remember – you can always download at least one of my stories for free if you want to ‘try before you buy’!)

Cast Off, and most of the stories on Amazon Books, can also be purchased from http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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A cracking time in Dublin

I’ve just been away for a few days – a quick trip to Ireland involving two nights in a hotelP1010404 in Dublin and three beautiful sunny days in which to enjoy lots of sightseeing and plenty of ‘craic.’ Almost everybody knows what ‘craic’ means without needing a translation, but in case you are one of the few that don’t, it can be roughly translated as ‘a fun time with friends’. The word seems quintessentially Irish, but in fact it started out in Middle English as ‘crack’ (meaning a loud conversation), and was borrowed by the Irish in the mid twentieth century. Then, with the change to the more Gaelic spelling, it took on a joyous life of its own over there. It has however subsequently been borrowed back – as in informal  conversations: ‘What’s the crack?’ (What’s the news? How are you?). ‘We’ve had a cracking day out.’

 

P1010435Dublin is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city. It was founded by Vikings who sailed from Iceland across the North Sea, down the Irish Sea, and up the large estuary to a spot where the river Poddle (which is now underground) flowed into the river Liffey. Where the two rivers met, they formed a dark pool, surrounded by fertile soil. The Vikings decided it would be a good idea to settle around this black pool – better known now as Dublin. (Classical Irish / Gaelic for black was ‘dubh,’ and the word for pool was ‘linn’).

The city has a literary feel, with plenty of bookshops, museums connected with writing or specific writers and, if our hotel was typical, shelves of books in all the lounges, and earnest looking young men scribbling away in odd corners. A great environment in which to think about my current writing projects, and catch up on some reading.

 

Postscript: When I was in Dublin, I did no tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook. So I was pleased to note when I got home that my new collection of short stories – Cast OffCast Offhad been selling steadily on Amazon, especially as an e-book, whilst I was away. Cast Off includes thirteen short stories based around female characters in plays by Shakespeare. Only one review so far, but it was very positive about the stories. I could do with more reviews and if anyone is looking for something to read on their holidays and is willing to review my collection (and post the review on Amazon, Goodreads etc.) I would love to send you a copy. Just email me with ‘Cast Off review’ in the subject line and I’ll email you back a copy: margaret.egrot@gmail.com

Cast Off, and other stories are always available from Amazon books. And there is always at least one free offer if you want to ‘try before you buy.’