Tag Archives: #SundayBlogShare

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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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.’

Are all book reviews equal?

I’ve been reading quite a lot about book reviews in various Facebook groups recently. One theme has been that even bad reviews can help sell your book. (I believe that JK Rowling has more one star reviews than any other writer, and they certainly don’t seem to have held her sales back).

To date I’ve only had a single one star review – for an anthology in which I had a short story (Mary’s Christmas in Festive Treats): festive-treats

Mary’s Christmas by Margaret Egrot relates the highly boring Christmas of an OAP in a nameless British town. Nothing of note happens. It is related in excruciating detail.

This review came straight after a much more upbeat one for the whole anthology, in which my story was again singled out:

Some of the stories are moving and heart-warming. The story of Mary’s lone Christmas, standing above the rest in the bunch, I feared another outcome, which is testament to the cleverness of how the author made the story unfurl, the resolution made me joyously happy! Margaret Egrot has written a truly beautiful story.

Just goes to show you can’t please everybody.

Despite (because?) attracting the full range of star ratings, Festive Treats has almost never been out of the Amazon best seller list – though the fact that it is free as an e-book might help!

One of my favourite ‘critical’ reviews was for my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has And Alex -coverAcne. The young reviewer hadn’t much liked the book, because she didn’t like books about topics covered by the celebrated author, Jacqueline Wilson. As many readers do though (including me) I was quite chuffed:

The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.

Whether one star reviews boost sales or not, it is still re-assuring for an author to get a good first review after a book is published. So you can imagine I was delighted to get the following five star review last week for Cast Off, my recently released collection of short stories based on female characters in Shakespeare’s plays:

One word for this short story anthology? Original. Certainly an odd descriptor for a Cast Offcollection 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 favorite 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.

On balance, whatever they say about the merits of one star reviews, vis-a-vis five star ones, I know which I prefer for a first review!

All the stories mentioned are available from my Amazon author pages:

All but Festive Treats are also available from Solstice Publishing.

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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Meet author Jeffery Martin Botzenhart

Jeff B 1Jeffery Martin Botzenhart is a writer whose genres have included romance, steampunk, historical, science fiction – and more…

What is the title of your latest book? 

The title of my latest book is Daybreak (Book One of the 4 part Nightfall Series).  The story is set in 2035 San Francisco and revolves around Sebastian, a sixteen year old runaway who innocently accesses a sophisticated virtual reality program, which unknowingly leads to revelations of a world-wide robotic conspiracy.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

For me, the writing itself comes pretty easy.  It’s like sitting back in the seat at a movie theatre and watching this incredible film come to life.  The most challenging part of being a writer is finding readers interested in my stories.  I started out as a romance writer, but I don’t write the current popular trends which seem to be focused on billionaires, cowboys, shape-shifters, and aliens. Jeff B 2

My stories are a mixture of contemporary, steampunk, and historical (with settings such as the Vietnam War and the days leading up to the Second World War).  As for my young adult stories being published by Solstice Publishing, they focus on elements of science-fiction.

For me the most rewarding part of being a writer has been the kind comments and reviews left by those who have read and appreciated what I’ve written.  They inspire me to continue on this journey as a writer.

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Write the story you want to tell.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  Though I am inspired by other writers, I don’t set out to retell their stories.  Make your story unique.

 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a family drama set at a lake-side cabin in the Adirondack Mountains.

 What do you like to read?

I’m pretty open to everything.  When I first started reading novels I gravitated toward Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen King.  But later I moved on to stories by C.S. Lewis, S.E. Hinton, and J.D. Salinger.  Although I have been told that I’m a gifted romance writer, this is the genre I least read.

 Jeff B 3

Where can readers find your books?

All my books are available on Amazon Kindle Reads.  I also post weekly on my author page: https://www.facebook.com/jefferymartinbotzenhartwritingjourney/

 

 

 

 

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

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A peep behind the door of a Publishing House.

I have interviewed several authors on this blog in the past year. Most have been published by one or other of the ‘Indie’ publishers. But what is it like to be a publisher? And what is a publisher looking for in authors they choose to take on? Here Kate Collins, who is herself a noted author, describes her work with  the American publisher, Solstice Publishing.

KateMarie CollinsHello Kate, what is your job title?  Chief Operating Officer.

 And what does the job entail? A little bit of everything, to be honest. I upload the books, take care of contract renewals, pull books and send releases when a renewal doesn’t happen/author requests it, do the math for the monthly statements, send out those statements, set up promo days, mediate problems between authors and editors/staff. I’m also the cheerleader and do my best to motivate the authors to get out there and promote!

What is the skill set you need for a job like this? What attracted you to the job?

A high degree of professionalism, excellent writing/communication skills, and the ability to tell someone they’re not going to get what they want without making them mad. Most of the time.

I fell into this job, actually. I started with Solstice as the executive assistant to our CEO, Melissa Miller, and the Editor in Chief for the Shadows line. Approximately a year later, Ms. Miller decided to hire someone else for the EIC job and told me that she’d already changed my title on the website. That’s how I found out I was the Chief Operating Officer.

Does being a publishing executive help or hinder your work as an author? 

It helps, really. I’ve got an understanding of both sides of the coin. I understand as an author what it takes to write a good book. By being COO, I also understand what publishers do and don’t do. It gives me a truly unique perspective on every aspect of what it takes to be a successful author.

What advice can you give to any aspiring writer looking to submit a manuscript for publication?

We want authors who will promote their book, not drag our name into a flame war by association. Posting 3 or 4 memes about politics or faith and then following it up with 1 about your book? Not going to work for us. If you can, keep your personal views out from your public image as an author.

Any advice for someone looking for a job like yours?

Don’t expect it to drop into your lap like mine did. I love my job. I have the best possible job for me. I get excited on Sunday about coming to work on Monday! It’s hard work. There’s days I want to scream at authors. And there’s days I celebrate with them. This is one of the few businesses where the nice guy finishes first. This is true for both author and executive. You want to do high school drama and back-stab people? This isn’t the career for you. It’ll take time, but you’ll get noticed because of your work ethic and how well you interact with people more than not.

I am delighted to report that Kate, who writes under the name KateMarie Collins, has agreed to do an author interview for this blog later in the year. Meanwhile, you can find copies of her work (and mine!) on Amazon books, and on the website for Solstice Publishing.

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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