Monday, January 30, 2006

More things to put in the novel(s)

Fragments of Samian. The number of late Roman books (even including Rosemary Sutcliff) that include references to this pottery! I think they're a supposed to be heirlooms, or some such, but the numbers that survive intact in novels about the 5th century are amazing. It's bordering on the Dormouse test. So some fragments found in a mole hill near a derelict Roman villa will do nicely.

Beavers. I want 'em in. They're lovely beasts and are odds on to go into SoD. Beaver teeth pendants are sometimes founds in Anglo-Saxon burials, and that's a good enough excuse for me. A scene at the beaver-created fishpond perhaps?

Trouble is, these things have to have some sort of purpose within the story, so weaving them in is a delicate job.

But ...

On observing a heated thread on a discussion list: whenever anyone starts to agree with you or apologises, if but comes into the sentence forget what came before the but! They think they're being terribly reasonable. They are not. They are dismissing what you've said, or in the case of apologising, not actually apologising at all.

I'm sorry I hurt you, but you were in the way

That's a classic! Not those words, but the meaning. The speaker is at best not in the frame, and at worst downright insincere, and too wrapped up in themselves to give a monkeys about whomever they've had an adverse effect on. They are merely trying to justify themselves. Why not be (brutally) honest and just say I don't agree with you? The unfettered use of but merely ups the stakes.

But can be used for good natured exchanges, and in general terms (as now). But (aha!) if there's anything personal hanging on it, forget using it, and you might even come to an understanding.

I'm going to remember this for usage in my writing at some point ...

Saturday, January 28, 2006


No, not me :-) One of my blogosphere pals has got himself an agent. I've actually met Stephen (that doyen of University Challenge) at English Heritage's Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall, last year. I must say I was subsequently disappointed that he hadn't turn up in his Regency kit (unlike his tv apperance.) Stephen's agent also wants to tout his book, Lord Alexander's Cipher; or, the Bridekirk Behemoth at the London Bookfair. Hearty congratulations, Stephen!

Hopefully, Stephen has set the pace for the new year, and my other blogosphere friends will also soon have more writing good news to report!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Objecting to Romans in my hall

The dp has been digging a Roman cemetery and has brought some of the bodies home. I can't blame him - he was well loaded and is working closer to home than the office. So home is a staging post. He'll take them into work when he finishes the site on Monday. Meanwhile, there's a big bag load of Roman bones in the hall. And they might be unhappy bones, as some come from decapitated burials. The dp said:

'Not to worry. If you meet a roaming Roman in the early hours, just say 'Salve'!'

Thanks, dear :-)

The things I have to put up with. Wish I was married to Indiana Jones - at least he finds the glittery, stuff ;-) If I'm really lucky, tomorrow I'll be taking a bag of bones with me on the bus tomorrow, as we're going into town anyway and could drop them off.


Another Tuesday, another lecture. Went well this time as the (very) dear partner had to attend. He was being Mr Shifter again - carrying lots of artefacts for me. He was also able to check what I did with the projector. Needless to say it all went well. Let's hope it does the same next week ...

I'm onto sorting out the next week's lecture now. It really is time consuming; the actual lecture's the relatively easy part. It's getting it altogether beforehand that's the problem. And, insult to injury, I've just got an email asking for titles for next year's lectures :-) The deadline for doing this is February 24th, which is just as well as it gives me time to get a little distance from this course, which finishes on the 14th. Then I might be able to decide if I really want to go through it all again. I wouldn't mind if I could repeat the same course, but I think it'll need to be a new one ... I'm thinking of doing a course covering the 5th-6th century; we have a lot of slides covering this era, so it might be worth using them. Not to mention the re-enactment gear I could take along. Hmm ...

Still, the blurb-writing is good practise. I had to write one for last year's brochure. It concentrates the mind somewhat. And yes, for the 5th-6th century course 'King Arthur' will be mentioned, which should draw the eye. Though I'll be careful to emphasise that there'll be a lot of archaeology and not too much in the way of the KA myth & legend.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Work Hard and Starve

It can't be true! They've changed the WHS trowel, beloved of archaeologists, and what's worse, the new model keeps breaking. Check out the full horror here, but there's light at the bottom of the cess pit ...

I still have my first WHS trowel - it's very worn down from my couple of years or so as a digger, before I got myself into the Finds Hut :-)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's in the stars

My horrorscope (sic) for this coming week, from The Observer:


The frantic pace at which you are currently obliged to work (and if you aren't busy, you're missing an opportunity) is unlikely to slacken in the near future, so maximise the credit you receive and showboat a little. Also in the frame in the next three weeks are smart, interesting people whose talents complement and enhance your own. Meet and greet. Fiscal reminder: collect what you are owed.

In general, I actually agree - in part. The pace (lecturing, followed by returning to an archaeology report which needs to be finished by the end of March, with another lecture thrown in) is a bit fast for me at present. Doubt if I'll get much credit; why would things change? Blimey, archaeology's involved and no-one thanks you for doing that - quite the opposite in fact.

What is showboating?

Meeting smart, interesting people, eh? That's unlikely to be any fellow archaeologists, then ;-) Talking of which, Time Team is back on tv. It was a rather muted affair, but then it was a medieval site ...

As for collecting funds; no problem. I've already been paid for my first two lectures. I lurv the University!

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Just realised I didn't reply to Carla's question as to how far I can shot my lovely ash bow. Short answer: I don't know! I haven't had a chance to practise. Unfortunately, the local archery group is out on the ring road, and there's no bus to get me there (especially at the moment, when a long trot is not an option). Also, I'm not actually certain if I could get the thing on the bus in the first place - it's a long bow and I'm not sure if there's room to prop it up safely ...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Writing novels is easy!

I often think that my first novel (the mighty SoD) could be 'sold' as a fantasy novel without too much tweaking. So, I tend to keep a sneaky eye on what the sf guys are up to. To that end, a great link for writing fantasy novels recently cropped up on the rec.arts.sf.composition list:

How to write a best selling fantasy novel

Rather than anything else, it seems to be covering Lord of the Rings rather well! It's a good guide on what not to do, as it's now been done to death :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Putting up with winning

It's a hard life. Having won my local writers' group novel competiton in May last year, I still haven't got the promised cup! I got the cheque on the night, but I'd love to have the cup too. At last night's meeting, other awards (a pen and a box) appeared and were unceremoniously given out, but the novel cup wasn't there :-( However, its whereabouts is known (after some questioning), and with a bit of luck, it will appear at the next meeting.

I'll finally see this legendary beast - a silver cup, and what's more, a cup that I actually won. That doesn't happen every day, nor any year previously, either. It's now a sort of Holy Grail (oh, very appropriate, given my interests, and the subject matter of the novel) If I do finally get possession of it, I'll only hold it till June, then I'll have to give it back. But I will ensure that I go to this year's competition results meeting so the next person can have it straight away. Though I gather the Committee will need to have it at some point, so that they can get the winner's name inscribed.

If I ever get hold of the cup, I'm afraid a nice piccie of it will be inflicted on the blog :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Projector woes

Second lecture last night. Get there well before time. Evict some squatting students (they aren't booked in, I am). They go quietly. Proceed to set up. Check my slides are the right way up. Oops, two are misaligned. Take the slide carousel out, change slides round. Put carousel back. Check again. All round the right way now. Super (or even fab perhaps?) My brave students trot up to the third floor, all of them turning up, and more or less on time! The dp says this is now a record - his students have never all turned up and on time for two weeks in a row, never mind even one week!

Lecture goes OK. I'm a little more hesistant than last week perhaps though. We finish a bit late, as the students were handling artefacts, so it's to be expected. I start to clear up. Click the slides round to what I think is the start, and then try to remove the carousel. Oh no, it won't come out! Don't panic. Calm down. I leave it, and busy myself with packing my other teaching stuff. Try to remove the carousel again. Definitely stuck. Two slides are still inside the projector. How the heck do I get them out? Carousel seems loose, except for the slides. Jiggle a little harder. Still doesn't shift. I finish my packing and have another go.

Bus leaves in 10 minutes time, and I have to get across Campus to the stop. Help! I jiggle a little harder and suddenly the carousel is free, and two slides leap out - one on the floor, the other on top of the projector. Stuff the slides and carousel into my bag. Gingerly look at the projector mechanism. It seems OK. There's no bit of spare broken plastic anywhere. No time to put a slide in to check it out. Gotta go! Bus leaves in about five minutes. Shoot down the stairs. Approach the Porter's Desk and 'fess up to having problems with the projector. Porter says it's not their equipment to maintain (AV department - not on call at 9.30pm in the evening!), but they'll take a look.

Swiftly hike up Campus. Get to the point where I can see the road, and bus is nearly at stop. There seems to be only one person there. I increase my speed ... And then see that there's loads of students in the shadows, in the queue, ready for a night on the town. Join the end of the queue and am glad when the bus finally pulls away from the University.

Back home, I eventually burst into tears. I'm patently rubbish at this lecturing lark. What's new? Four more lectures to go ...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Job interview aka foot not in mouth

The interview at the Classical Music shop went well. Not to much prying about what I'd done before, and specifically why I left my last post (foot!) In fact she (the Manager Director) didn't ask at all. They don't seem to for shop jobs. Suits me fine. She seemed very interested in me - 'we could do with more people like you' - i.e. relatively old and presumably over qualified. But the point is that it suits me to do the job, since the freelance work still bubbles under. And I think I put that over. The only problem is she seemed to be looking for lunch cover. Middle of the day for four days is no good to me; it's really difficult to do freelance work like that. I'm looking for whole days, and only two of them. And yet, she was still interested. Oh, yeah, and I also realised after the interview that she'd said about me working on the first floor. Doh! That's where the music scores are, not the CDs. I don't mind either way. Will find out later this week if I've got a job there.

Meanwhile, the foot continues to improve. It's not coming on in leaps and bounds (as if! after over a year of being in stroppiness) but is considerably less 'moany' in outlook. There's still a month before the cortisol has gone as far as it can.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mind your language

Carla asked what my take on the language problem as not addressed by Francis Pryor. Unfortunately, like him, I am not qualified to comment on linguistics. But then I haven't written a book where some sort of analysis was required to support my argument :-) I do think it's unlikely that the British would take up another language unless there was some pressing need to do so. For example, if those in charge were a ruling military elite. It's never quite that simple, but it was an era of land-grabbing and the martial aspect, and its consequences, should not be underestimated.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield is a local (to Yorkshire) author who has sold her first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, for lots of money. Hurrah! I heard her speaking on Woman's Hour and she was forthcoming about her journey to publication. She's been on courses, been critiqued, the lot, so perhaps it's worth it after all.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Female warrior

Carla asked if I got the idea of using a female warrior in SoD due to the apparent female warrior burials. I certainly did wonder if the evidence was taken very literally what would the implications be? It was a big 'what if'

When I started writing SoD, mostly the female warriors I'd come across in fiction were fantasy figures. I was aware of documented incidences, from the 18th century onward, of women living as men in the army, for whatever reason. There are also women of high status who took on the role defending castles/land or were power-wielders earlier than that. Not to mention Joan of Arc. In the end, there were all sorts of shades of female military involvement. It was just a case of working out what path I wanted to take with it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Meme'd again

Diane has meme'd me, so:

What were you doing ten years ago?
Writing some archaeology reports, aka grey literature (oh the excitement of it all)

What were you doing one year ago?
Getting some physiotherapy on my foot (ditto)

Five snacks you enjoy:
1 Chocolate
2 Chocolate enrobed (nice word that) marzipan bar
3 Tunnock's tea cakes
4 Bavarian Gingerbread cookies (gluten free)
5 Copious cups of tea

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
Difficult one this, as I tend to favour music without words! I know some of the words to these:
1 Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
2 Nemo by Nightwish
3 Oh what a beautiful morning from Oklahoma
4 Something's coming West Side Story
5 Maria from West Side Story

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1 Properly publish all the material I have reported on over 25 years as an archaeologist; would also fund the same for my partner
2 Ensure my sister was well provided for
3 Make sure my nephews-in-law were funded through University (or funded to the equilvalent)
4 Buy a house in the middle of nowhere (aka East Yorkshire or North Lincolnshire)
5 Buy a small flock of sheep

Five bad habits:
1 Gritting teeth
2 Scratching (well, I get eczema y'know)
3 Worrying
4 Calling my partner rude (but affectionate) names
5 Deciding I'm rubbish at everything

Five things you like doing:
1 Reading
2 Watching films
3 Walking (after the foot problems, I really appreciate it)
4 Visiting old buildings
5 Having a good meal

Five things you would never wear or buy again:
1 Leg warmers
2 Woolly vests
3 Any sort of perm
4 Big heavy work boots
5 School tie

Five favourite toys:
1 Computer
2 Digital camera
3 Mobile phone
4 My partner (?!)
5 Naalbinding needle

Five people I’'m tagging:
1 Sarah Cuthbertson
2 Carla Nayland
3 Anne Whitfield
4 Stephen Bowden
5 Gabriele Campbell

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Coming home to roost

In the past couple of days much of my strange Tuesday last week has come home to roost.

The foot is feeling a little easier. It's still painful, but in a different way. It no longer feels quite so 'mushy' Perhaps it's shuffling off? I'm slightly hopeful

Yesterday it was my neighbour's funeral. Alf was 94 and had lived in the house next door to us since 1938. Yes, 1938, 67 years. He spent his whole married life there, with Ada, who sadly died a few years back. When we first moved in about 10 years ago, Alf was still taking his wheel barrow across the main road to his allotment. He had to give that up, but still worked in his garden, which, like ours, is rather sloping and difficult move around in. When he gave up his gardening, after pains in his chest, once or twice we saw him dozing in a chair. But not in the back garden. In the front door of the house, catching the late afternoon sun, with people passing by. As his grand-daughter said, he's been reunited with his sweetheart now.

Today, I got a phone call from the classical music shop. Apparently the wages are basic (that'll be minimum wage, then) but that's not put me off. It might be a decent place to work. But I shall find out on Saturday when I go in for an interview. I had actually given up on them, as I hadn't heard, but knew the advert sign had been taken down. Unlike the other shop job I went for a while back (also minimum wage), there will, at least be other staff around. So it'll be safer and not laden with so much responsibility. I don't mind taking on responsibility, but I do expect the wages to reflect it in some way.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Agincourt by Juliet Barker is the Book of the Week being read on Radio 4. In honour of this, whilst listening, I strung my ash bow. I can do it easily now - it was a bit of an effort at first, as I was worried I might break it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

In Deira wudu

Carla's blog on the Role of Women in Historical Fiction - Anglo-Saxon England nicely brought together the various options regarding women characters. In SoD I was playing around with the idea of a female warrior. It was always going to be a challenging subject - from the writing skills to present it, to the research required. I was extremely intrigued by the idea, but much more comfortable with LOTR, which is comparatively straightforward. There was too much going on in SoD, particularly as I wanted to explore 6th century Deira, and the founding of Anglian Bernicia.

In my book, Bernicia is founded by some disaffected Deirans. There's no reason why not. The Anglian element of Deira is around pretty early (as attested by cemeteries; then again, perhaps not, according to Pryor ...), whereas Anglian Bernicia seems to be confined to the 6th century onward. Not to say there weren't Anglians up there before then, but as a ruling elite, unlikely.

During Alex's Adventures in Critique Wonder Land, one of my critiquers enquired if Ida (legendary first king of Bernicia) was a rather effeminate character due to his name. But I had a strategy to get round that if it became a major problem; Ida sounds like a nick-name, or shortened name, to me. No sweat. One of the main things people pick up on is unfamiliar names - someone pointed out that one of my characters names sounded like a brand of tinned rice! All I can say its that there wasn't tinned rice then, and he came first, so tough (he-he)

In SoD, I also wanted to do a little bit mucking around with Arthurian legend - mainly for the hell of it, not to expound any amazing theories. But some slightly familiar, if random, elements were slated to appear. So much for petty jumped-up warlords; I shall have my revenge ;-)

I still the love the idea, which is why I'm certain I will return to it one day.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Britain AD

OK. I 'fess up here. I'm only reading Francis Pryor's Britain AD to annoy myself. I haven't finished reading it yet, but every chapter so far has me either snorting or laughing. Can't help it. From the avoidance of analysing the aforesaid language problem (he's not qualified to discuss it, he says) to the no-brainer about material culture and who might be using it, it's a laff a minute. I got the book to see if he expanded his ideas about the language problem that's really getting in the way of his 'no invasion/peaceful uptake'' theory. Unless he turns about in the last couple of chapters, it looks like this very important aspect will not be properly addressed.

I shan't be rude about theory-laden prehistorians who can't handle the large amounts of data that are characteristic of other periods, I shan't. Got to hand it to him though, he offends Celticists, Romanists and Anglo-Saxonists in equal measure, so at least he's being balanced on that front :-) He doesn't seem to acknowledge that scholars have to start somewhere; critcising archaeologists from years back is just not fair, and neither does he acknowledge those in the field now have generally moved on. His views are very much his own, and perhaps touched with Political Correctness. And I've just learnt he's got a book due out about the medieval era - Britain in the Middle Ages. That'll be stirring a hornet's nest, for sure, as there are way more medieval historians of all shade around than archaeologists as a whole.

Meanwhile my CD is playing the furious, operatic Finnish rock band Nightwish - Highest Hope: The best of Nightwish. Not my normal choice at all, but at a place I worked at recently they were playing it, and it rather grew on me.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cold fire

Is it me, or is it rather cold? I've been trying to keep the fire warm y'know. Think I might be developing a sniffle - wah! Typical, and with my first lecture on Tuesday. Still, I can blame lacklustre performance on the bug :-) Wonder if I can do that for six weeks ...

Foot less squimish. Some of the swelling (caused by the injection) seems to be abating. Pain now very localised around the needled area. Ouch. It's supposed to be getting better from Friday onward. Holding my breath (not!)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Another strange day

Tuesday. It started with a mild disappointment. We were to get the local free bus to the supermarket. But it didn't turn up. Me & the dp regrouped, and went into town earlier than we'd planned to get the essentials. I also needed to pick up a key text from the University library. I'd taken this text out in early December expressly to help with the writing of my lectures. But it was recalled just before Christmas. On checking the library catalogue earlier this week, I found it was already back. So I trotted along, only to find it wasn't on the shelves. The library assistant asked me to come back later whilst she launched an investigation as to its whereabouts. I was in despair, as I really needed this key text.

Me and the dp had an early lunch. I was convinced it hadn't really been worth me getting out of bed that day, but we worked out plans to get round the problem and I calmed down. His workplace has a copy (not easily available, one way or another) and we determined to photocopy it. It is not a short text. But photocopying is better than being held to ransom by variable personages and occurrences. On leaving the shop, I asked for details about the job advertised - working on the counter of the establishment's classical music sales department.

Some light shopping ensued, and the day was looking up by time we managed to get all the items we wanted, even including some clothing!

On to what I anticipated being the real downer for the day: this week's hospital appointment. After 1.5 years of going to appointments, I really didn't expect much. But.

I didn't realise I hadn't seen my named consultant before, but he was in this time. We know it was him, as he actually introduced himself. I now think of him as The Shifter.

'Right,' he said after examining my notes and my foot, 'I think it's a trapped nerve.'

There may have been a quiet smack as my jaw made contact with the floor. He sounded so certain. In the past many months of indecision and uncertainty from his colleagues, he was actually making a pronouncement.

Apparently trapped nerves in feet normally happens to specifically middle-aged females. That would be more or less me. It's nothing to do with inappropriate footwear either. Which is just as well, as I've only ever worn high heels once in a blue moon; I'll tall enough already, plus high heels aren't practical on archaeological sites :-)

'And I think you need an injection of cortisol,' the saintly consultant added.


The injection was a little uncomfortable since it was straight into the foot. I felt a rush of adrenalin as he stuck the needle in while I successfully fought my inclination to groan, wriggle and snatch my foot away.

The Shifter
was rather aloof and a little cool in answering our questions, but, as I whispered to the dp when we walked back to town:' 'I think I'm in lurve' Mostly because The Shifter was decisive, whereas the main impression from his colleagues has been confusion and lack of knowledge where my foot is concerned. Even if he's wrong, at least he's chanced his arm and offered some sort of solution. Bless him.

The wait continues. The injection won't take noticeable effect till probably Friday, but things - hopefully - will improve over the course of six weeks. In 75% of cases, the cortisol clears up the problem. Here's hoping I'm not in the unlucky quarter, and it might even be worth me applying for that classical music job.

Oh, and on returning to the library, they had triumphantly found my key text!

However, the day ended on a very sad note. We got back home and found a note had been pushed through the door. Alf, our elderly neighbour had died and his funeral is next Tuesday. After being taken very ill last year, he'd been in care.

Very much a day of sharp contrasts.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Comments - Mornington Crescent

Aargh! I can't use the comments box on me own blog at the moment :-( Anyway, Stephen's reply to the Mornington Crescent blog is excellent advice.

I already do all of them (though have given up crit groups for the sake of my sanity), and I just hope one day it pays dividends!

Mornington Crescent

Carla has commented on one of my breaking the rules blogs. Anyhow, about rules ... Do not be in any doubt - there are rules in this industry. Two that instantly jump to mind are regarding publishers and actual writing style.

Try writing exactly what you want for DC Thomson's My Weekly Stories and you'll find yourself rather disappointed, for example ... There's strict length and content rules for starters. Same goes for Mills & Boon. Simon Scarrow was asked to up the 'mystery 'content in his Eagle series, because mysteries sell. The best advice is to write what you want, then try to place the piece - and that is where your fun will really start. Fingers crossed what you've written appeals, but you should know how much you're prepared to compromise. It's down to genre on that front.

Writing style
I can put it no more simply than 'show - don't tell'
If-you-do-not, you'll find yourself criticised to within an inch of your life, never mind even trying to sell the piece ...

The Camulod Gambit
Mr Whyte's books obviously sell, so he can write what he wants, how he wants. Never mind how long his sentences are. Fair enough. But the next time some b****r says my sentences are too long they're likely to get a very British two finger salute.

Them's is some rules. I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones that are currently ticking me off. Once I get my head round these, I'll move on to some more, not doubt.

Oh, there are rules, and to say otherwise is probably rather unhelpful and risking the re-invention of the wheel for the poor s**s who are just starting out. Not that they're likely to listen, of course ...

(Blast, I've already broken my New Year's Resolution of being a bit less jaundiced about things)

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Pale Horseman

Gabriele said that The Pale Horseman is available in trade paperback. On checking out Amazon UK, it certainly isn't available there at present, so she's lucky to get a copy. However, it looks like the hardback is getting discounted, but then there's postage on top ... Or there's an audio version. The small pb (£6.99) is due out in June, and if I'm really patient, it might be available very cheaply from one of the big supermarkets. It may not be a case of heoric patience though, as I've got plenty of books waiting in the to-be-read pile ... Including Jack Whyte.

How about one of Mr Whyte's paragraphs from his introduction to The Eagle:

Be warned, then, that readers familiar with Clothar and his previous exploits will find much of what follows here to be familiar, but I have chosen to repeat it for the benefit of new readers , who are not familiar with the fifth-century world of which I write.

Cor blimey!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The reject pile

Perhaps confirming that agents and publishers have their own rules (not based on writing skills ...), this article was in the Sunday Times today:

Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile

What jolly japes :-)