Where should Richard III be buried?


Just a quick blog to keep my hand in but this is a question that has sparked another debate. It seems that despite being dead for more than 500 years Richard III is still causing controversy.

The plan is for him to be reinterred in Leicester cathedral but many people are shouting out for him to Buried in York; he was Richard of York after all! He is still strongly associated with the city of York which is home to the Richard III museum situated in Monks bar in the city walls. It would certainly be a nice touch for him to be laid to rest in the minster there and I for one would be interested in going to see the tomb. That probably sounds like a bit of a morbid curiosity but it isn’t. I have just found the story of this mysterious Plantagenet king fascinating. Plus York is one of the few place away from home that I’m fairly comfortable in (still can’t go alone though!)

As for Leicester, well, of course he has lain there relatively undisturbed since his death in 1485 and it can be argued that he should remain in the city. Leicester university have been the academic body in charge of the excavation and discoveries that came with it so it may seem to be the logical choice. If he’s been there all this time why move him now? After all it’s still a massive step up from a car park right? Continue reading

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Short Stories – An Undervalued Art Form?


I have been thinking a lot lately about short stories. I have various half formed ideas floating around in my mind for short stories but as yet the ‘big idea’, the novel length mammoth of an idea eludes me. I have wracked my brains and all that fell out was a couple of short story ideas and some loose change I thought I’d lost down the sofa.

In my efforts to think up a novel, I have completely neglected to write anything of a fictional nature, so I asked myself, why? It’s not that I don’t enjoy short stories, I do, I believe I’ve mentioned my love for M.R James and Conan Doyle etc?

So what is it that holds me back? What gives me that sense of, a kind of shame almost, of being nothing more than a short story writer?  It’s the writing market. Now I know we all tell ourselves that we write primarily because we love it and not with a view to selling our work etc etc but at the back of our minds there’s that little voice that says why am I doing this if no-one will ever see it, or at least at the back of my mind. So what’s the problem with the short story market?

There isn’t one!  Or not much of one at least. If you were to google (other search engines are available 😉 ) You’d see the problem immediatley. There are some out there with rather haughty attitudes to short fiction and it seems to be seen as a bit of a poor cousin to the novel, something that people who aren’t good enough to write novels write. The general opinion seems to be that approaching agents and publishers with short story collections is a waste of time, unless you are already a big name in the publishing world.

The standard advice is to sell to magazines, but with a decreasing number of these publishing short fiction that’s easier said than done. The usual types of magazine that seem to crop up in these discussions are womens magazines. Now I, rightly or wrongly, tend to associate women’s magazines with stories of romance and love. No offence to writers in this genre, but it’s just not my preferred genre; I’ve been accused of being many things in my time but romantic is not one of them!

Of course there are exceptions; I’m not anti-romance, and I’m not saying I never explore the genre; in the end if the story interests me the genre is secondary. But if I read romance I like it to have more going on than just the straight up love story.

Admittedly the association between women’s magazines and romance is a mostly unfounded assumption on my part as I don’t read women’s magazines, again not really my thing.  Therein lies the problem; do I want to write for an audience that I’m not a part of? Is my work likely to be suitable for a product I wouldn’t buy? Should I write something I wouldn’t normally read in order to raise my profile?

In recent years Kindle has bounded on to the market ready to lend it’s assistance to anyone who wants an easy way to self-publish. Even with this new avenue is it really possible for an unknown author to make a success of selling short stories?  Is the gap in the market there simply because it’s neglected? or because it’s no longer what people want to read?

Some of the most celebrated writers from the past made their names and legacies from the short stories we remember them by. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, despite his best efforts to the contrary, is still best remembered for his Sherlock Holmes short stories. In my opinion, with the exception of  ‘The Hound Of The Baskervilles’ ‘ the Sherlock Holmes shorts  actually worked far better than the novels featuring the character.

M.R James as I mentioned earlier is one of my favourite authors and it’s for his short ghost stories that he is remembered; arguably the ghost story is a genre that works at it’s very best in the shorter format, though I’m sure there are exceptions. One of Charles Dickens’s most famous stories was ‘The Signalman’, which was a short ghost story.

The short story is undoubtedly something that requires skill if it is to be done well; it is an art form in itself and requires brevity and imagination. A different set of skills perhaps to the novel writer? Or perhaps being a short story writer first can make you a better novel writer by honing your skills?

My questions are: Is the short story an undervalued art form? Should first time short fiction authors be given greater opportunities to get their work seen? Is the market too restricted? If short fiction was more widely available would you spend your money on it, or do you prefer a weighty novel to sink your teeth into?

Answers on a postcard…. kidding comments box below please 🙂

Dancing on the Edge


Last night saw the first episode of the new BBC drama by Steven Poliakoff ‘Dancing on the edge.’ The series follows the story of a black, jazz band in 1930’s Britain.

I admit I watched in mostly out of curiosity to see and hear Angel Coulby (formerly Gwen in Merlin) sing.  I thought the music was fabulous and very worthy of a good toe tapping. Angel, who becomes the band’s lead singer was excellent, she has an amazing voice. Most of her scenes so far have been her singing scenes, this episode seems to have focussed mostly on the men of the established band. There are a couple of scenes that make her character very engaging. There’s a little scene where she prays before she goes on stage which made me smile, a lovely, sweet  little character moment. and the scene when the two girls walked into the lounge strutting their stuff was fabulous!

Another point about the above scene of course is the reaction of the woman at the table they pass, wanting her coffee taken away because they’ve been near it, really makes a knot in your stomach. It hits home in moments like that just how disgusting human nature can be. The idea that behaviour like that actually went on in our society and was considered the norm makes me feel quite ill. The same goes for the earlier scene on the train when Louis Lester talks of his going through a similar experience.
The racism isn’t perhaps gone into as deeply as you might expect as there are many tolerant white characters but it is by no means ignored. This was only episode one however and it may be that they wanted to give the group a position in society order to watch it crumble beneath them in the later episodes. There does seem to be a lot of talk online from people who hated it in part for this unlikely degree of tolerance. We can only hope that they will build on the points that the critics have picked up on and gain momentum as the series goes on.

Personally I didn’t hate it. Was it flawed? Yes I think it probably was in places, there were moments that didn’t flow in the midst of all the hidden agendas. Was it a bad programme? No I don’t think so. I saw some complaints online that the jazz wasn’t historically accurate, I can’t comment on that as I’m no jazz expert or historian. I don’t think it would be fair either to judge the entire drama based solely on the first episode. I shall be content to wait and see. I just hope the fact that I didn’t hate it wont bring me too much hate in return!

 

Richard III found


They’ve found Richard III and I’m very excited by it but I have to say I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really change anything after all. Except now we know where his body is after it’s been missing for over 500 years so that’s a bit exciting isn’t it?

Anyway I shall be going around singing the horrible histories Richard III song all night in honour of the occasion! Although the verse about his deformity doesn’t work quite so well now but it’s still a work of genius if you ask me.  I love that show, even if I don’t have kids.  There’s something for everyone…….well everyone who has a functioning sense of humour

Looking forward to watching ‘The king in the carpark’ on channel 4 tonight with Simon Farnaby from Horrible histories. History geek out.

Richard III press conference


Well today is the day of the Leicester university press conference concerning the possible/probable remains of  RIchard III. I’m still unaccountably very excited! I’d love to watch a live feed online like last time but alas I have to go to work and even if I could find the link I doubt my boss would let me watch it 😦 

I watched the old Tony Robinson documentary that they put on the other night. I love a Tony Robinson time team special but it was a bit unfair.  So much for Richard III fact or fiction it was clearly saying he did it that’s obvious but hey everyone was at it! Alright they did mention elements in support of Richard’s character but it wasn’t weighted all that fairly from my point of view. Not that I’m saying he didn’t do it, I don’t know I wasn’t there! Continue reading