Sunday, April 30, 2006

On being a published author

Via Miss Snark, there was a link to and a blog about self publishing. This got me thinking about the whole publishing lark. I've come across some rather resentful POD authors. They've hawked their book round all and sundry, and simply can't understand why those idiot agents and publishers won't take their book on. Finally, they alight on POD and become published authors. But they still bitch from the side-lines about mainstream publishers, patently not understanding why their own book did not appeal.

I've got one chap in mind at present. I haven't read his book, but I am pretty sure it might have appealed to the publishing world - about 30 years ago. However, since the author makes no concessions by actually looking at today's market, he's at a loss to work out why his book hasn't been taken on. It's up to the author to be realistic about their chances. Fortunately, not every POD author is like this.

btw, I am a published author, but not in fiction :-) So what, though? In the academic world, one needs to have published papers to be taken seriously in one's field. But in fiction? Na. If/when I finally get something complete, and doubtless rejected by the mainstream, I may well turn to POD if I consider that there may be some public interest in what I've written.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Too sunny a day

It's a lovely day today. A great combination of bright sun and a slight nip in the air. I wasn't going to go into town, but since the dp walked into work, I accompanied him. It does mean that progress on the report is even slower, but what the heck - I needed the walk.

I manged to catch the last part of Harry Thompson's Penguins Stopped Play serial on Radio 4. A member of Captain Scott's XI, he played cricket on every Continent with the team. It was very sad, as Thompson ended by saying he was in hospital with lung cancer. He had never smoked. Unfortunately the cancer was inoperable and it was being treated by chemotherapy. But he died - Sarah blogged about his book recently, and also about the historical fiction he wrote.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Storm of Swords (not a review)

Tolkien has a lot to answer for. Last night, I was having difficulty sleeping, so I decided to have a read. I finally picked up George RR Martin's Storm of Swords:1 Steel and Snow. It had been recommended on one of the sff lists I lurk on. I opened the book and there was a map. Fine. Gave it the once over. Turned the page, another map, and that went on for two more pages. OK. Started reading and got lots of unknown names and places thrown densely my way. Very little action, just lots of names and places. This went on for 12 pages or so, and I stopped. Then I flicked to the back, to see if there were any author's notes. Nope. Instead I came across nearly 50 pages of character names, grouped by houses. And was reminded why I generally don't like sff.

I feel bad about not liking this book, as it was so enthusiastically recommended. But it really isn't my cup of tea. I had gained the impression it was a sort of medieval alternative history, and that I might it enjoy it. Unfortunately, no. Just on the huge cast of characters alone, I know I won't like it - I prefer to follow a couple of characters and find out about their story. I do wish I'd checked out the back pages before I bought it :-)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Writing Magazine (May 2006, page 25) has a competition to win a copy of Marina Oliver's Writing Historical Fiction:

What is your favourite historical period and why?

Answer the question in no more than 250 words on one side of A4, in double spacing. On the reverse give your name, address, telephone number and if possible an email address. There are two free copies of the book on offer. Post your entry to:

Competition Department (Historicals)
Writing Magazine
First Floor
Victoria House
143-145 The Headrow

Closing date: 17th July. Manuscripts can't be returned. The winning entry will be published in Writing Magazine.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Short Histories II

The Historical Novel Society and Fish Publishing are running their short story competition again this year. It's called, not surprisingly, Short Histories II. As well as the 'long' short story, they are including a one page story prize this time. Just wish I could write short stories at all! I'll have another think after I've finished my report. btw, it costs Euros to enter, and is all done online. Here's an article about the prize-giving for the first Short Histories prize.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dr Who and the skellies?

Eh? Part way through the skellie programme there was a break in transmission. Then there was a brief shot of Billie Piper (Doctor Who's companion) and then it was back to the decapitations. Weird or what? Did any other Brit see this, or was it only on the Yorkshire aerial? Or was I dreaming?

Anyway, the programme was what we expected. The Caracalla idea was the only theory seriously explored. This is despite the fact that the decapitated burials are multi-phased (i.e. happened over a period of time, from the 3rd century into the 4th century, at least) Hey-ho. I only know about the archaeological side of things, but Carla has pointed me to Tony Keen who knows about the historical sources. Not a happy bunny there either. TV producers get stuck on an attractive (to them) idea and make everything else fit.

On the up-side, I liked the inclusion of black Roman soldiers, though wondered if they were more likely to be lighter-skinned North Africans. Also the use of Arbeia Roman Fort for some of the York scenes was well done. Some of the Roman soldiers were from LEG II AVG re-enactment group; I could tell as they wear dirt-defying white tunics. The XIIIIth (Roman Military Research Society) wear blue, and the Ermine Street Guard wear red.

Here's another newspaper report about the York Skellies - this time from the Yorkshire Post. Note what the archaeologist says:

"... It looks like a cemetery for some specific purpose. But whether they were gladiators, or early Christians, or troops I doubt we will ever know [my emphasis] ... They were not buried with any particular grave goods ... One had iron shackles around his ankles, indicating they were prisoners. It was not a mass grave ..."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Poster boys

Well, there you go. Not sure how and to whom this poster is supposed to be circulated to, so I thought I'd plonk it here. It did occur to me that the full-on skele picture below might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Who ever these guys were, they were brutally killed, but now we'll get to find out what may have happened to them, and they will be remembered.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Skellies on the telly

They really will be on tv this Friday! The York Roman decapitations will be explored on UK BBC2's Timewatch strand on 21st April at 9pm. Take the conclusions with a pinch of salt, as the full results are still being considered and written up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The end is nigh

I can actually see an end to the darn report. Can't quite believe it. If I manage another day like to today, I could have a complete draft very soon. Gulp. Na, there must be something I've forgotten. I'll hand it over to the dp and he'll find the loopholes, I'm sure :-)

There's still a fair amount to do, but at least progress is now steady. I can see clearly what I need to do, and my brain can handle it. It helps that the Easter Hols have finished (and immediately before that there was dp's two weeks off) so I'm now left completely to my own devices.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Code of the Woosters

The Code of the Woosters by P G Wodehouse is currently on Radio 4, as I type. It's the second part. Wooster complained about the Black Shorts (sic):

"The trouble with you, Spode," Bertie Wooster tells the would-be dictator, "is that because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of halfwits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting 'Heil, Spode!' and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: 'Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?"

Over all, the language used is all very droll. I rather like it. btw, the reason they're wearing shorts is that shirts were not available ...

Of course, poor Wodehouse rather got himself into a tangle during the War.

Anyhow, back to the torrid tale of the cow creamer!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Simple pleasures

We got The Independent on Friday, as it has a Book Review supplement on that day, and since the dp was off work, I thought the Sport section might keep him quiet for a while. But we spied a quiz called 'Get the picture' and proceeded to work out the clues together. It was a selection of pictures that gave clues to names, and if we could complete it, we could enter the answers for the prize of a digital radio.

Anyway, we sorted it out in about an hour, though some of the clues were pretty fiendish. For example, there was a group of two pictures - one was of the British flag probably on board a ship, and the other was a bird with its beak wide open. The answer was The Navy Lark. Judging by some of the other clues as well, I don't know who will win the prizes, but surely it'll be people at least over 40 ... It was a really enjoyable and satisfying past time - never mind that I should have been doing my report ;-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Writer's block

Do people writing non-fiction get writer's block? Well, I've got it anyway. It's all to do with being overwhelmed by the task, lack of confidence, and nastily, at the root of it, I don't actually want to do it anyway. Ouch! I have had to admit I am no longer interested in doing even these slightly less offensive, more academic small reports. Nothing less than a comprehensive synthesis of the material will do now, and that would require lottery-winning proportions of money to produce. Unfortunately, I was asked to quote for another small report recently too. Which I did, but on the bright side, I whacked in a huge (for me) figure and put stringent instructions on the quote should there be more material than they said I'll have to be paid for it. Hopefully, it won't come to pass - between lack of funding, and an off-putting quote, it may not come back to haunt me.

Meanwhile, I continue to do small chunks, finding it very hard because I have no interest in doing it. Any problems encountered cause me to walk away, and find something more interesting to do (like read a nice novel - current one being Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince). It can be a couple of days (and much support from the dp) before I find the courage to return to the report after any of those episodes. I'm lucky, so far, in that the client hasn't chased me for it :-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Movie Medievalism

Sometimes it is useful to read the archives of Arthurnet. Buried in between the rampant historical speculation of some members, there are occasionally some gems. Allen Shoaf notified the list of an online collection of essays from EXEMPLARIA on the subject of Movie Medievalism. Amongst the papers is Tom Shippey's Fuqua's King Arthur: more myth-making in America. It's well worth a read, and makes some thought provoking comments. There are also other interesting articles in the collection, which I think I'll read when I get the chance.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Woops! That'll be the YorkSHIRE wheel ...

This blog is up-to-date, if not a little inaccurate (if it aint typos, it's something else) Yesterday I posted a photo of the Yorkshire Wheel, and said it was supposed to open last weekend. But it didn't. Apparently, it was supposed to have a VIP opening on Friday (in time for the Easter Hols) - which is when I took the photo that proved it wasn't completely finished. Anyway, the full story is on Beeb Yorkshire. I just wonder how much it will cost to go on it, when it finally opens, that is.

As I live close to the area, I can report that the surrounds are being tarted up in anticipation. There's all sorts of clearing up going on in this previously rundown area, near the National Railway Museum. It's being developed anyway, but all this work suddenly got into gear in the last month. Or perhaps it was just cos it's spring. But a lot of foliage has been removed in the area, which is a shame as we know a lot of birds lived there. In fact it's where we saw the migrant Waxwings a few years back. They were drawn by the berries in some of the bushes.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The one wheel

London has its London Eye, but now York has its ... er .. wheel:

It's still being built in this picture, but I gather should have opened over this last weekend. It will afford stunning views over the city, and, if I push my luck and actually go in it, there'll be good views of our house too!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Plodding on ... verrrrrrry slooowly

Oh, it's like pulling teeth. I'm trying to finish an archaeological report at present. There has been illness, software problems and general interpretation problems to contend with. So I just want it done, but it's a long time comin' Any excuse, and I'm off doing summat else. The deadline's past as well, but (so far) the client hasn't rung me up demanding it. Fingers crossed they won't notice for a week or so yet. It doesn't help that the dp is off work this week either, so there's plenty of excuses to bunk off.

Strangely, my imagination has also kicked in, and as I drift off to sleep of a night, I think through some of the difficult scenes in SoD, trying to find an angle that fits properly. Ha-ha, there's a joke in there somewhere about angles/Angles, or should they be angels ;-)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

In the garden

The other day the dp found a frog in the garden. We've seen them before, but this, by his account was a biggun. He reckons it was a Common Frog (photo from the British Trust for Ornithology website):

Nothing 'common' about it as far as we're concerned - it's special to us. It was living in the bucket under the waterbutt. Since it was sharing the bucket with a dead mouse, the dp decided to do something about it. Carefully, the mouse was emptied onto the compost heap, and the frog was poured into a deep tray of water around a plant. Afterward, as dp stood at the kitchen window, he said he could see the frog's eyes poking accusingly out of the water. Unfortunately, the frog wasn't there when I got back home :-(

We don't have a pond, but it's pretty damp in our back garden. At present, the flattest bit is completely sodden. Despite searching, I still haven't seen our un-common frog.