Monday, May 30, 2005

Tidying up

Having a bit of a clear out of stuff today. There were piles of books and papers in various nooks and crannies of the house, but now they've at least been cut down as I've either chucked stuff out, or actually filed it! Steady on, old chap :-)

This week, I've got to write an archaeology lecture. It's for my peers, and I need to do a bit of careful thinking about what I want to say. Doom and gloom is therefore forecast for this week, but I'll try and keep my spirits up. The talk's on the 9th June, then I'm free for a couple of months from that sort of thing. However, the main focus for June & July will be on writing a historical essay for a competition, but that will involve research, so I'm looking forward to it! No time creative writing :-(

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Taking a break after finishing review-writing for the Historical Novel Society. Still got one more more to read, but the deadline's July for that one, so I have some time yet. Done a bit of blog-hopping. Found John Baker's weblog, who is based in York and whose name was vaguely familiar. Then I realised that York Writers are having a seminar in June, and crime-writing Mr Baker is one of the speakers! Unfortunately, I can't go, as there's a re-enactment event on at Arbeia that weekend, and we're commited to going :-(

Another blog is called The Lost Fort and is run by Gabriele Campbell. Gabriele is another aspiring historical novelist, who writes novels set during differing centuries of the Roman Empire.

I'll keep an eye on both these blogs.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Blog Party

Kate Allan says there's a blog party to celebrate the launch of Jennifer Lindsay's book The Lady Soldier. I might go to see what Blog Party entails.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Nice things really do happen, sonny Jim

Nice things do happen. I'd virtually forgotten this in the past three years or so. Since being hospitalised for a pulmonary embolism in June 2002 I've really not been particularly well at all, which seemed to have seeped heavily into everything else (don't want to go into detail). The prang in the car on holiday a couple of weeks back was very much in keeping with the previous three years. It's been a marathon of endurance and takes a horrible toll mentally, is all I can say. Hopefully, this bit of encouragement might help with a general upturn in my attitude. So nice things really do happen, sonny Jim.

I only went along to the writing meeting as I'd had a good day up till then. My re-enactment shoes actually fit (!) - exciting (?) photo to follow. Then I saw Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. It doesn't have the same buzz about it as Gladiator, for various reasons, but was still an enjoyable two and a half hours. There was much to admire about it. Suspect some of the armour was wrong (as with Gladiator), but since I'm not a medievalist, I can't say for certain. The main thing was a nice, gritty, sort of setting. Believable. Unlike the fantasy of the recent King Arthur, despite its claim to be the true story. Yes, I think I'll let Sir Ridley direct the film version of LoTR ;-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I went after all ...

Yes, I went to the writing group meeting, but only because I'd had a good day, and reckoned I could handle a bit of aggravation. Imagine my surprise when LoTR won! Apparently, "the narrative had great potential for war, violence, love and lust. There was good use of dialogue which helped the plot move forward with great pace"

[snort] And I thought pace would be picked out as a problem! It's nice being proved wrong in cases like this :-)

A few things about the competition: There were six entries in all. Five of the six were historical/period pieces. Mine was set the furthest back (5th century), the others were period pieces (1920s/1930s). The judges were people from another writing group. I won the princely sum of £15, and will also get guardianship of a winner's cup for a year.

It's nice to win something for a change and for a while, I'll be able to draw on some confidence in my writing. Happy, happy, happy


I've been Book Tagged by the perfidious Kate Allan ;-)

Last book I bought:
AD 500: a journey through the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland by Simon Young

Last book I read:
The fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather

Five books which mean a lot to me:
Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
Flight of the Sparrow by Fay Sampson
Ash: a secret history by Mary Gentle
The Eagles have Flown by Henry Treece
Conscience of the King by Alfred Duggan

I would like to tag:
Diane Parkin
Hope Raven (please start a blog!)

I'm off to see Kingdom of Heaven this afternoon. Also supposed to be picking up those re-enactment shoes. I have little hope that the shoes will fit properly (ie. with enough space to get some woolly socks in - yes, Romans did wear socks), and frankly will be grateful if they fit at all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Words wot do not exist, sonny Jim

Grrr! Another post today, because I found one of my classic mistakes in my competition entry: words wot do not exist, sonny Jim.

In SoD it was fiercesome. I was convinced I was right, even though the spellchecker picked up on it and it didn't appear in the dictionary. Doh! Mind you, several people critted that part of SoD, but only one person picked out fiercesome as being wrong. The rest were too busy querying whether certain words were used then! Umm, since I would have had to write in Latin for it to be entirely correct, I think they were missing the point. But I digress.

Anyway, with LoTR it's been haled. However, the spellchecker did not pick it up. Somehow, on my careful line edit, I picked it out as being dodgy and checked the dictionary. It should have been hailed so has been changed for the Winchester Competition entry, but went to York Writers as haled. I shan't be going to the meeting tomorrow; it's not worth it, and besides I'll be embarassed when they pick up on that rather fundamental mistake.

Methinks there's a long way to go with this writing lark!

When in doubt, choose non-standard English ...

Now doing a very close edit of LOTR, questioning every word. Dodgy stuff picked out includes:

Alright - according to my dictionary, this is non-standard, but acceptable. Taking into account the average age of the members of my writing group, and wondering if the judging writing group might have a similar average age, I reckon alright won't be acceptable. That older generation was taught proper English grammar, whereas my generation was set on the path to grammar-hell-in-a-hand basket. We're also terminally confused by using Imperial meausrements one year (c1968), then changing to Metric the next (c1969). It also didn't help that I was off school ill a lot as well. But it's too late for that competition. Don't know what the judges would think of it for the Winchester comp, so it's going standard: all right

Bow - I used this without thinking, as being the front of the ship. Not being a mariner, I thought I'd better check this out. I got it right (phew). Also used rowlocks - jeez, I hope they had them in the 5th century (I'd check before publication, that's for sure ...)

Councillor - Or should that be Counsellor? Either seems OK in this case.

etc., etc.

I'm also reading it out loud, and have chucked out several extraneous words so far.

Oh happy days :-)

Monday, May 23, 2005


Just revising LOTR text for the Winchester Compeition and have found one or two bloopers. Ha! Typical! This is the version that got sent to the York Writers competition, so it's definitely not worth me going on Wednesday. The main error is where the English is not specific enough and there's a little confusion about who I'm referring to. The synopsis - well - isn't looking as bad as I thought and I've hardly tweaked it at all. No actual spelling mistakes detected, as yet ...

Got to pick a pseudonym. Did think of 'No Chance,' (obvious why I thought of that one) then 'Chancer' (a little more hopeful) then 'Mrs Miggins' (as in Blackadder and Pie Shop; getting daft) but have settled on the name of one of my favourite old toys instead! I'm not saying what it is, but it's very silly, so will lighten my mood whenever I think of it. The oldest toy I've got is Golden Ted, who is 43. I know his age exactly because I got him for my first birthday. I'll doubtless get round to using his name as a pseudonym eventually ... He didn't survive 'the cut' this time because his name isn't funny enough (my Mum named him, what can I say?) Though his first name would actually be quite appropriate, as part of the lead's name in LOTR means 'golden' in Latin. Spooky or wot?!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tunisian mosaics

Hey - cool mosaic link alert! I found it while loitering on Classics Central

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Goals, motivation, and conflict

Thank you to Tess for telling me what GMCs are; goals, motivation and conflict. I'm happy to say that the lead in LOTR (5th century story) has all those, without me really trying. Hurrah! Now just got to make time to actually write the story.

Just come back from my archaeology talk. It went well, people were really interested, and I had to extract myself to let the next speaker on! But I'm still recovering from a cold which started on Thursday. All I want to do now is have a long snooze, in between all the coughing and sniffing I'm doing.

Next writing thing on the writing horizon is revision of the 3 pages & synopsis for the Winchester Writing Conference. Hope I feel well enough to have a good go at it; think the synopsis in particular needs some tweaking. Will need to post that off mid-week, as the deadline's next Friday.

Then it's York Writers on Wednesday to find out the results of the 5000 words and synopsis competition. If I get any feedback, I know what it'll probably be about: too rushed (well, I like pace- ahem!), possibly some of other characters haven't been drawn too well, ... and I might be damned with faint praise 'you write well' Eh? What on earth does that mean? - probably that the judge was being kind (bless 'em). Shouldn't be second guessing, but I will chance the opinion that I won't win, and nor will I be placed at all. Come back on Thursday and see if I'm right or not :-)

The competition is general, so that my historical will be up against (as far as I can tell) a very literary piece, and possibly some chick-lit or aga-saga. There may also be some 'period' pieces or memoir type writing as well. All very different. Intriguing to see the outcome and the judges' reasoning for choosing the winner.

Friday, May 20, 2005

What are GMCs?

Thanks to Olga for her comments. But what are GMCs?!

I don't write down what the characters' appearances are as part of planning, though I do collect photos of actors with useful faces - on my clipboard for the 6th century story were Orlando Bloom as Legolas (major baddie in SoD!), Tobey Maguire in Ride with the Devil, Jurgen Prochnow in Das Boot & Dune, Anthony Higgins in Draughtsman's Contract (and anything!), Ralph Fiennes as Lawrence of Arabia (very early performance by him), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Ride with the Devil

Sometimes it was more to remind me of their performances, rather than their looks. Fiennes in particular had a very other-worldly, self-regarding manner which I found fascinating. Higgins always has an isolated/self-contained air about him, which has 'made the cut' into the 5th century story; perfect for the lead character. Prochnow is the very vision of a Germanic warrior (those cheekbones, that beard!) and since there were Germanics all over the show in SoD, his face and performance were perfect to recall for writing that story.

Occupations are often rather straight forward in the 5th century - the lead's 'occupation' is: War Duke! Many of the other chracters are kings, warriors or petty princes; the same goes for the 6th century story.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'm a pantser, honest

Just learnt a new word from Lady Tess. A pantser does not outline or plot their story, so it's 'seat of the pants' writing. I'm more or less one of these because I don't sit down and write any plan before I start writing. Structured outline? Wassat? However, there are ideas in my head before I start writing. And certainly LOTR, my 5th century story, has a lot of planning going on (the 6th century one was much more chaotic) but it's all in my head. To plot it out carefully beforehand would kill it for me. But there will be substantial cleaning up going on after the first draft of LOTR is complete; I can see there's already stuff I need to tweak. As usual, I'm taking the long way round doing things, but it's the only way to get myself to write in the first place.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Catching up

Just catching up on various pieces of correspondence at the moment and generally tidying up after the holiday, so things are rather humdrum. Tomorrow, I've got to start preparing for a workshop talk I'm giving at the weekend. Slides to the fore!

Got loads of books to review for the Historical Novel Society. It's now numbering four to do by the end of June, so it's all getting a bit silly. Have got to fit in going to see Kingdom of Heaven at some point soon, before it goes from the local cinema. Since it's Ridley Scott, it's simply got to be seen on the big screen. Managed to miss Stone's Alexander, though people seem to think I haven't missed much. There's always DVD (though that's not out yet, either) but these historical epics need a big canvas to fit on all those expansive battle scenes!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Quick tag

Since I've been tagged twice, I suppose I've got to do this :-) However, since all the other bloggers I read have already been tagged, I am at a loss as to who else to tag. If my sister is reading this, she can consider herself tagged!!!

I have to choose five from this list: If I could be a scientist, a farmer, a musician, doctor, painter, gardener, missionary, chef, architect, linguist, psychologist, librarian, athelete, lawyer, innkeeper, professor, writer, backup dancer, llama-rider, bonnie pirate, midget stripper, proctologist, TV-Chat show host, actor, judge, jedi, mob boss, backup singer, CEO, or movie reviewer

So, if I could be a:

Librarian: (cheating) I already am one. I am committed to making information available to people, and will go to great lengths to find what they need.

Farmer: I would find some lovely Roman mosaics on my land, conserve them, and show them to the Public

Writer: I would write a classic novel about the 5th century, which would not centre around 'King' Arthur

Jedi: I would be master of the light sabre and have a lot of fun fighting (and defeating?) the Dark Side

Architect: I would build a lovely house of brick and tile, which would not only look good, but be great to live in

Corinium Museum, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

We voted the Corinium Museum our favourite museum of the holiday. The galleries have recently been refurbished, and the wonderful collection was beautifully well displayed.

Fishbourne Roman Palace, Sussex

There are lots of super mosaics at Fishbourne. This is the debris from the making of the mosaics. The palace was built in the first century and shows the local king's acceptance of Roman culture.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Weald & Downland Museum

The Dear Partner, found this friendly Shire horse at Weald & Downland Museum, Sussex

Bignor Roman villa, Sussex

The blue colour of the peacock is created by using glass. Note also the way the white background tesserae are initially laid around the the peacock and the leaves. The Roman Villa at Bignor, is privately owned.


On our way back from our holiday down south yesterday we were involved in a road accident. The gas people were digging up the road at a junction in Nottingham, and we were trying to turn right down a road. Unfortuntately, we couldn't see that there was on-coming traffic from our left and pulled out. The passenger's side of the hired car took a heavy hit. Neither car involved was going anywhere of its own accord after that. I was rather shaken (it's the first RTA I've been involved in, plus my side of the car was most damaged as I was the passenger) but the others were fine fortunately.

Europcar were great and were able to supply us with another car, though I suspect the full cost of the event is yet to reveal itself. When we were picked up by the AA and being taken to East Midlands Airport to get another hired car, I was checking my mobile phone, and saw the date - Friday 13th ...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

If lizards wore sunglasses ...

If lizards wore sunglasses, they'd look like me in my new wrap-around pair of shades, apparently - according to my dear partner! I've got wrap-around ones to shelter from pollen, as hayfever is now well and truly on the calendar. Since we're going away, and are likely to be in the country, looking at Roman villas, etc., I need some extra protection from the tree pollen, besides the anti-histamine and eye drops.

Meanwhile, we've just had hailstones again here (had some yesterday pm too). My re-enactment group are off camping in Cumbria this weekend, and I sincerely hope they're not getting this up there.

I'll have to do the tag stuff when I get back, but I don't have three acquaintances to tag. A special British sarcastic 'oh thank you, girls' to those who tagged me; you just wait till the next time ;-)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

On hold

I'm now preparing for this year's holiday. We're off on Monday to explore the south again, Sussex and Hampshire. So there's lots of museums on the itinerary, plus I'm meeting up with several people. Should be fun! Showing a Brit's obession with the weather, I note that we're in for some good weather next week too :-)

Hope to get back to some writing related tasks when I'm back, in particular revising my synopsis and first three pages of LOTR (5th century story) for the Winchester Annual Writers' Conference competition. It will have to get sent off without the benefit of any feedback I might get from the York Writers First 5000 word competition, as the closing date's too close to the York Writers meeting (two days). Perhaps, since I've put it aside for several weeks, glaring omissions and stuff to change will leap off the page!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Dungeons, death and taxes

Well, I turned down the opportunity to vote for Guy Fawkes representing the local 'Dungeons, Death and Taxes' party in the UK's General Election. Since he (I'm presuming it's a he, though perhaps I shouldn't, all things considered) hadn't called at my door, or even put a leaflet through the letterbox, I didn't know exactly what his policies were. But I was tempted. I was also tempted not to vote at all, but since women suffered and died to get the vote in the first place, I felt obliged to turn out ... Thank gawd it's all over, and the Conservatives didn't get in anyway.

Writing? Waz-zat?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Emerging from the wreckage

Spent the last couple of days catching up on sleep, trying to tidy the house, and sorting out various technical bits. The re-enactment kit, has for the most part, gone back into its allotted storage space, except for the pieces that need airing (tent, shoes) and stuff that needs washing (undertunics, wooden bowls).

The show was great, and an excellent way to start the season, as we weren't the only group there (see the 33rd Foot picture) so the crowd was spread around. We did two arena shows a day, plus the living history was open for people to wander around. My mosaic display went down well, and I found that children wanted to play with putting the tessera onto the bird pattern I'd drawn. After the kids had a go, I let them take a souvenir tessera with them.

Camping proved unexpectedly exciting on the Saturday evening, when the weather decided to thunder, lightning and rain! Apart from the noise of the thunder and rain which hindered sleeping soundly, I was not a little worried about the tent leaking or falling down, but it did neither. By the next morning, it was fine again, and the Sunday evening was exceptionally calm so that we all got a good night's sleep. Monday was warm, but we had a little light rain during our afternoon arena session.

My foot stood up very well to all the running around. I think it was to do with the soft grass surfaces. I get more trouble when walking on hard pavements and tarmac.

So it all went rather well, and it was great seeing the group in kit again, and finding out what new things they're trying this season. Me and the dear partner will now be missing the next three shows (for various reason), and won't be re-enacting again mid-June :-(

Hope you like the photos!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Lovely Late Roman Ladies

Late Roman Women & child

Late Roman Soldiers

Late Romans on parade

Something for Kate ...

33rd Foot at Bolsover, May 2005