Sunday, 25 November 2007


Unusual facts about Hamlet, best of plays

(I could not resist this illustration of an alien Hamlet).

1. Do you know that you can buy Hamlet, translated into Klingon here? Now there's a novel idea for a Christmas present... I quote, 'You may think you've read Hamlet before, but you can't really appreciate it until you've read it in the original Klingon. Now's your chance. Enjoy!'

(Original Klingon? Shakespeare was a Klingon??? Didn't know that).

2. TaH pagh taHb? is To be or not to be? in Klingon. (No, I don't know how you pronounce it. This is a blog, not an evening class for nerds! Go away.)

3. One line synopsis by Adrien Arnold: Whine whine whine...To be or not to be...I'm dead. (Not too good in my opinion; repetition of 'whine'. I prefer the simpler: Mother, how could you?)

4. Women have often played Hamlet. Sarah Bernhardt played the prince in a popular London production. In 1900, she made a five minute film of the fencing scene, with music and words on records that were played at the same time. It was the first talkie.

5. The highest-grossing Hamlet adaptation to-date is Disney's Academy Award winning animated feature The Lion King, which enacts a loose version of the plot among a pride of African lions.

6. Thomas Betterton went on playing Hamlet up to the age of seventy-four.

7. Garrick 'improved' the play; he said, 'I had sworn I would not leave the stage till I had rescued that noble play from all the rubbish of the fifth act. I have brought it forth without the grave-digger's trick, Osrick, & the fencing match".


And go here to see my all-time favourite YouTube short; Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hamlet.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Words, words, words...

‘The hallmark of every truly educated person is a wide and flexible vocabulary’

The above is a quotation from Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, a book I loved as a child. Our orphaned eleven-year-old hero goes to live with his aunt, and she gets him to follow her about with notepad and pencil to improve his vocabulary.

Auntie Mame: Well, now, read me all the words you don't understand.

Patrick: Libido, inferiority complex, stinko, blotto, free love, bathtub gin, monkey glands, Karl Marx... is he one of the Marx Brothers? Neurotic, heterosexual...

Auntie Mame: Oh, my my my my, what an eager little mind. [takes the list] You won't need some of these words for months and months.

Mame was right about her nephew's vocabulary. I've been thinking about this, partly because of FreeRice, but also because of one or two comments on Youwriteon and elsewhere suggesting that a writer should limit the words he uses in case his readers are unfamiliar with them. One of Rising Fire's reviewers doubted teenagers would know 'monastic', 'elaborately coiled', 'dragon lore', or 'inscrutable'.

Can this be true? If teenagers really cannot cope with these words, then the sooner they learn to the better. Without going all Lord Reith over this, I write to entertain, but have no objection to doing a bit of informing at the same time.

There is no point at which anyone, of whatever age, has learned all the words he needs. Get out your notepads!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Rising Fire in at Number One on YWO

Top of the charts on Youwriteon!

I was thrilled this morning to find Rising Fire (revised) had gone straight in at number one on YWO with its first five reviews.

I know I am lucky. Plenty of excellent books on the site never make the top ten, for no very obvious reason. There is always an element of chance in whether you happen to be assigned reviewers who enjoy your work; next week my book may plummet, but meantime it's a nice achievement.

Rising Fire was the first writing I put on YWO, on 22nd November 2006. That version was pretty rough. Full of word echoes, lumps of backstory, tell not show, and POV switches mid-paragraph. I made a lot of changes.

I tried a second version on the site this summer, with a prologue in an attempt to get rid of some of the backstory. Its reception was cool. Finally, my writer friend Norm said he didn't like the prologue, and I removed it. He was right.

Grateful thanks to Youwriteon, and everyone there who has given me useful feedback.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Free grains of rice...

Test your vocabulary, send rice to the hungry, and it's fun!

Um...I seem to have said it all in the title and subtitle. Go to:


and all will become clear.

(Okay, the highest I've got so far is 49. No, it's 50. Yay!)

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

ABNA: over the first hurdle

My entry's been accepted by ABNA. Woot!

This morning I received the email from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, telling me my entry (Trav Zander) was eligible.

This has nothing to do with its quality, it just means I followed the rules and my files got to them uncorrupted. So you may well ask, what's the big deal?

The problem was that it was not possible to check or change what you'd uploaded; the rules were not as clear as they might have been, and there was little help or advice from ABNA admin. So the anxiety on the ABNA forum last night reached fever pitch. We'd been told we'd hear on the 12th, but emails weren't sent out till the evening American time.

In the event, they don't seem to have been as nitpicky as people feared. Wrong spacing and margins haven't meant exclusion; just corrupted files, or the extract not being from the start of the novel.

If you go to the link above, you will see a countdown clock to the date voting begins.

And if I make the Chosen One Thousand, you all know what I want you to do when the clock hits zero...

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Golden Compass

2nd December 2007

I've been having huge problems with this - and while trying to fix them, somehow wiped the post. Then I realized the fault was almost certainly with one of my computers that a neighbour has been repairing, which is still in a transitory state.

So my thoughts on Philip Pullman and the film are lost in the ether...

And they seem to think my name is Undefined. Which it isn't.


Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Five of the Most Annoying Characters in Fiction

Which fictional characters could you really, really do without?

Here is my list:

  • Sarah Woodruff in John Fowles' French Lieutenant's Woman. In real life, no man would be attracted to a glum girl who moped about the place. Men prefer cheerful women.

  • James Bond. This is a guy who has a PhD in Smugness, and is also an incredibly inept spy. Discovering a beautiful, naked blonde in his bed in a Russian hotel, and getting in with her without it crossing his mind it might be a trap of some kind?

  • Little Em'ly. One of Dickins' few failings was an inability to depict good, innocent young women. Also Little Nell, Little Dorrit, little Beth from Little Women - indeed, any fictional female described as 'little'. (I must declare an interest here, being tall myself).

  • Jonathan Harker in Dracula. Boy, is this man tedious. It's a wonder anyone got beyond the first page of the novel, where Harker describes the dish he had for supper, asks the waiter what it is called, and decides he must get the recipe. Far from riveting.

  • Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park. Jane Austen never wrote a bad book, but does anyone like Fanny? So shrinking and mouse-like, while all the time privately judging and disapproving of everyone.

I'll stop there for now. This list may be continued in a later post...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Trav Zander gets gold star on YWO

My novel has made it to the Best Sellers Chart on Youwriteon...

How often does one get a really nice surprise? Nasty ones are much more frequent. But I had one today when I logged in to Youwriteon to discover Trav Zander had made it to the peaceful waters of the Best Seller Chart, where the strife and uncertainty of peer review is over and past.

You can read the first 9,000-odd words of it here, should you want to.