Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Joy of Socks

Made a bit of progress on the naalbinding socks. Unfortunately, I can see where I went wrong, failed to pick up a stitch etc., but some parts look quite good, though not nearly as nice as the expert naalbinders in the group. Think I should be using thicker wool, but this is my first sock, so will be putting it all down to experience.

Starting to feel a bit brighter now, and putting fingers to keys regarding the short story is getting a bit closer. Yesterday some more marble for my mosaicing activities was delivered from Xinamarie in Italy. Got lots of white, plus some green and a gold; I must check out provenances for this stuff, in case I get asked! They also sent a small pack of lovely coloured glass tessera (they look like sweeties) as a free gift, and I may use it for making another coaster.

Curently reading Bernard Cornwell's 'The Last Kingdom' which is set in the 9th century, around King Alfred. Cornwell's written in first person, which is right up my street! Perfect stuff for a gal with the blues.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Roman socks

I've gone back to having a go at naalbinding. It's sort of one-needle knitting, or perhaps knotting. The Romans had socks, as shown at Vindolanda, and also on this artefact found in Carlisle. The late Romans knew about naalbinding, and there are knitted 'Coptic' socks found in Egypt dated between 3th-5th century. (I'm not doing the sandal socks with toes, though!) Naalbinding is more commonly known from the Viking period, and there are instructions by Regia Anglorum on how to do it here. I had a go a couple of years back, but got nowhere, despite being shown by one of the very craft orientated members in the re-enactment group. Then, whilst away in Bridlington the other weekend, someone said 'it's like a blanket stitch' which I think has done the trick for me.

I started last night, and it doesn't look too bad so far! It helps that I'm using a more slender metal bodkin, rather than the thick bone needle I bought for doing it. I'm just getting used to how the whole thing works, so if it comes to naught, I won't mind, as I've already learnt a lot :-) It's a very slow method, and a couple of our Roman ladies just spend most of their time a shows knitting/sewing away at their current sock!

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Tank

We asked for a medium-sized car but were given an upgrade (i.e. it's all they had left when the dp finally got to the car hire place) We got a Kia Sedona MPV. It was huge (hence 'The Tank') and they took out one set of seats, which still left four and plenty of 'boot' space. So it was a big car, but I still had my moments with cars coming at us from the left! Probably my favourite hired car, and the most useful for re-enactors was, the Citroen Xsara - plenty of room for the kit, and the tent poles! Unfortunately, you get what you're given with hired cars, only having a choice of size - small, medium or large.

We fried at Arbeia. Most unexpected, as on the previous three occasions we've been up there, it's rained. So they do have sun up in South Shields :-) As well as a good infantry turn-out, we had three riders/horses with us; there'll be some photos later. My highlight was being up on the reconstructed fort walls and attempting to defend from 'attacking' troops. Cue loosing arrows (I got to use a recurve bow, and have the bow-slap bruises to prove it), throwing javelins, tossing plumbata (weighted darts), and when the soldiers had crawled through the two ditches, chucking cabbages and a bucket of ... water. Great fun!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

POVs & motivations

There's an interesting conversation on the HNS discussion list at the moment at first person & third person. I naturally started off SoD in first person, and there were particular reasons why - namely that the narrator was not what he seemed! However, somewhere I have read that first person is what beginners tend to write (and SoD was my first effort), although other comments say it's harder to write, due to the narrow field of vision. In fact, I gave up SoD partly because the crits I got were generally on the negative side and partly because I became certain that I coudn't handle the subject matter. It was beyond my skills (such as they are)

LOTR is happily in third person (the lead wants it that way, and I concur without a qualm), though it's what Mary Gentle calls a 'tight' third, in that the main focus is one character. But I am starting to come up against the restricted view, particularly with one of the characters - interestingly the one I have chosen to do the short story about. I get to explore his motivations further, whereas the main character won't actually know what they are. Currently (in LOTR) I've got the other character doing some exposition, but it's too much, at least in one go, that's for sure. I think I can leak stuff out piecemeal, but the temptation is to go into someone else's head.

Gabriele talks about antagonists and villains in her blog. This got me thinking about nature vs nuture. The lead in LOTR has a brother, who will have had similar influences to the lead as a child, but behaves very differently. He's jealous of his brother. He has a fiery temper, much like his father whom he never knew (dead shortly after the brother was born) I reckon nature has some input here as to how people handle situations. There is an internal influence as well as an external influence.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Fretting at Bridlington

Hurrah! The sun decided to shine, or was at least fair, for the re-enactment weekend. We had a great time, and I learnt a new word - sea fret. It seems to be mist coming from the sea, or at least a penetrating damp. It wasn't too bad, and only came out at night!

But going home was another story entirely. We drove back into this: Flash Floods in North Yorkshire. Visibility was extremely poor at points, and water sheeted across the roads. Fortunately, we didn't encounter a problem that another group member experienced - his car drove into three foot of water, and needed towing out by a local farmer! However, things were much worse in Helmsley and elsewhere, where whole houses were swept away. No lives lost, as far as we know so far. Poor North Yorkshire :-( The pictures are not as spectacular as Boscastle in Cornwall last year, but actually the incident is on a similar scale.

When we finally got home, we were unable to unload the van as the rain was so heavy. Just running from the van and up the steps to the house saw us soaked through. Then half an hour later, all was calm and the sun was out, in York, at any rate. The Ouse (the river running through York) will undoubtedly be rising today, as all the rain water runs down from the high ground.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Do the right thing

I've got a working title for the short story (see above) It sums up what's going on for the main character in the story. I think I've got an actual title as well, but will see if the story reflects that fully. Much mulling of thoughts last night. May be this idea will work out. It's just that there's no way I can get to work on it till after this weekend, as we're off on a re-enactment event. Rats! And unfortunately, the next weekend's the same. I'm not sure I can stop/go with the story to that extent. July, however, is relatively clear, except for the history article I've got to write. But I could write the history article during the day, and do the story at night - though it might not work out that way :-)

My main quandary last night was: how long can this sucker be? So I'm taking as my guide, the Historical Novel Society's criteria for fiction for its magazine, which is between 3-7000 words. If I really get my skates on, I could even enter it for the HNS Short Histories Prize, (anthology, as well as prize money). In which case, it should be no longer than 6000 words. Closing date is the end of August, but it's a bit expensive to enter.

Thank you to the wonderful Olga for words of encouragement. Hope you're feeling much better soon, Olga, and take care.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

... won't go away

I have been considering a short story subject for a while, but let it drop due to not knowing how to approach it. The subject appears in LoTR (after the first 5000 words) and is loosely based on something from Nennius. I was actually thinking about it before I started writing LoTR for the competition.

Now I've got a creative 'itch,' again (can't call it the muse; the scruffy likes of me don't have muses, but we do have itches), and after some mulling this morning, I think I want to write the scene from another point of view. Obviously, in LoTR it's from the Hero's POV, but this short story idea wants to come from the baddie's POV. It'll be a chance for me to further explore the baddie's motivations - he's dissolute, and has done some awful things, but when he meets the Hero, all sorts of things from the past are stirred up; a past that was innocent and hopeful. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

However, as with my earlier short story, it's stemming from the current WIP. Is that a good thing? But, once again, with LoTR, I know far more about the story - why things are happening, motivations, goals, etc. Hmmm ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

That feeling ...

I'm supposed to do loads of other things, and yet the call is running in my veins. If I let myself start, I will write. What I'd like to do is have another go at writing a short story (so that I don't get consumed by LoTR and therefore never get onto doing some of my non-fiction tasks). Theoretically, a short story would take the edge of my urge to write, whilst being manageable and fitting into present commitments.

But I need a subject. I'm rubbish at finding suitable subjects for the short haul. That's why my first short story didn't go too well. I couldn't work out what it was about, so it didn't have a focus. The fatal flaw. But finding a short story subject is another thing entirely. Yes, of course, it's got to be historical :-)

Done and dusting

Windows replaced, and now I need to tidy up big-time. I moved stuff out of the fitter's way, which meant I uncovered loadsa dust :-) Whilst keeping out of the fitter's way, I made a bag for the verruta (small javelins) that we use at re-enactment shows. It seems to have come out more or less how I wanted, despite not using a pattern. I used the sewing machine, as it's not something that'll be properly on display.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Nose to the grindstone, sorta

Think I've finished tweaking my archaeology paper, for good or ill. It's going into my rucksack for when I scuttle off to London tomorrow to do the darn talk. I'll be glad when it's over.

Well, I didn't bleed to death after yesterday's fun and games with broken windows, but that's not the point. Still not sure if I can cope with anything else smashing, breaking, going wrong (figuratively or actually) etc. I want constant laughter from now on, till the day I die. Fat chance :-)

Writing would be nice, but there's not enough time for that at present (got more workmen trolling about the place next week). But at least I can still read.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bloodbath in the morning!

We've got the painter in at the moment, and windows have to be opened to let the paint dry. There I was, calmly opening the windows this morning. Had slight problems with the window-locks, but it seemed to be going OK. Then, one of the windows was reluctant to open, and between one hand turning the lock, and the other trying to push the frame, I managed to push the window glass out. Smash! Tinkle-tinkle! It really didn't take much pressure at all, as I wasn't pushing the the glass, but rather trying to push at the frame.

I was lucky; all I got was a few cuts on my arm. But after the car prang a few weeks back, I've gone into a major twitch about ... well, everything really! My nerve is definitely going. I will now go and lie down in a darkened room for, oh, about the next 30 years.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Flowers in June

The dear partner gave these to celebate LoTR winning

Friday, June 03, 2005

A little bit of order

This blog is useful for ordering my thoughts; it's the main reason I keep it. I've decided to list the writing I've done (see sidebar) and found it revealing. I started writing again (after a very long break) in December 1999. The aptly-named SoD was the subject and I've evidently learned a lot. SoD was the sacrificial lamb, designed to shield LoTR from the attentions of a beginner. SoD's been through a correspondence course, on the RNA's New Writers' Scheme (though I'm not sure if it's a romance), entered into various competitions, and critiqued to death. It actually remains incomplete. It has also been wildly unsuccessful on all fronts. Same goes for the short story (which was an scene from SoD, though changed quite a bit) But, judging from LoTR's recent win, I have learnt something about how to write.

LoTR, before being in competition, had not been critiqued at all. Besides me, only the judges have seen it (though I guess the writing group have heard some of it too!). Obviously, at some point in writing (end of first draft?), it's worth showing it to people. But at the early chapter stage, I do wonder. I got all sorts of comments with SoD, some of which completely confused me. No criticism of the critiquers intended here; I put my work in front of them to look at. Some of the feedback was extremely acute, the bulk of it well-meaning, some of it ignorant, and one was malign. Perhaps I need to protect my writing till a much later stage in the process.

LoTR was lucky to win first time out, but maybe I should not let it out till I've done. Then again, I got much needed encouragement from LoTR winning; I now have some reason to believe that what I'm doing is worth pursuing. A quandary to be sure.

Unfortunately, I sent LoTR as an entry in the Winchester Writing Conference Novel writing competition, and can guarantee it will be 'lost' in the competition there! Friends have asked to see LoTR, but perhaps I should finish the first draft before letting it out at all.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Enthusiasm level: nil

I've more or less sorted out my archaeology talk. I can raise no enthusiasm for it whatsoever, mainly because it's a talk about a professional point, not any sort of real research. Just hope by next week, I can get some sort of interest going, otherwise the actual talk will send people off to sleep (that might happen anyway, knowing my peers and their attitude to the subject matter!) It was one of those times when I volunteered to do a talk when I thought I should, rather than because I really wanted to. Wish I'd stop doing that, and only offer to do talks due to self-interest (i.e. to make my name), which would be more in line with my fellow archaeologists these days. My 'vocational' rather than 'professional' interest in archaeology is really not appropriate in these wonderful days of commercial archaeology.

See, I said there'd be doom and gloom on the horizon. But after Thursday next week, I can get back down to some proper research.

Meanwhile, my dear partner has been making a fuss of me for winning the writing competition - card, flowers, etc. I should win competitions more often if he's going to be like this :-)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Getting history 'right'

Can you get it right? Since I write about such a remote period (and love to read about earlier stuff) I'm uncertain if you can. It's more to do with a baseline of research, I think. Well certainly when it comes to 5th-6th century Britain, anyway.

I can always tell whether novelists have done their research. If they have, they're entitled to their interpretation - if not, then the novel is in the fantasy realm, not historical fiction.

For my research, I tend to concentrate on archaeology, which provides the material culture on which the author can build a convincing past. Material culture can be anything from clothing to religious artefacts, and taking it into a broader sense, buildings, methods of agriculture, etc. Historical documents are written with specific bias (often by high status personages, or for high status personages). The fruits of archaeology can also interpreted with a particular modern bias too, but they can offer insight into the mundane aspects daily lives of our forebears - there's nothing quite like the contents of a nice cess pit :-)