Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Shakespeare and sharks

When I saw the ads for Sharknado 2, I found myself wondering if Shakespeare ever used the word "shark." (After all, he knew about tigers, and there are no tigers in England while there are most definitely sharks in the waters around the island.) Turns out he used it twice, once as a noun and once as a verb. In Macbeth, shark parts are listed as ingredients of the witches' potion: Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf, Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark. In Hamlet, Horatio uses the verb in reference to Fortinbras: Now, sir, young Fortinbras, Of unimproved mettle hot and full, Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there Shark’d up a list of lawless resolutes and of course, in the Broadway musical West Side Story, inspired by Romeo & Juliet
, one of the street gangs is called "the Sharks."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Plague on Both Your Houses

In Romeo & Juliet, the doomed Mercutio curses the Montagues and the Capulets as he dies, victim of the long-running feud that will soon claim two more victims. The idea of "plague" was not a theoretical concept in Shakespeare's time. Most scholars believe R&J was written between 1591 and 1495. By the 14th century, Black Plague had reduced the population of western Europe by as much as 100 million. Less than a decade after the debut of Romeo & Juliet, in 1603, London was hit with a plague that killed 38,000. The Great Longon Plague of 1665-1666 was the last major outbreak of Plague in England, which is a good thing because it killed 100,000 people, or bout 15% of London's population. Wishing a plague on a family is a terrible, terrible curse.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More casting Shakespeare and a Separated at Birth

Two of the actors I'd most like to see in a Shakespeare play are Frank Langella and Benedict Cumberbatch. I saw Langella in the stage version of Dracula years ago and I saw the film of the Danny Boyle Frankenstein he did alternating the title role with Jonny Lee Miller. (Who rocked, by the way.)and I realized that Langella and Cumberbatch share a certain flair. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Casting Shakespeare...Macbeth

There's a moment at the end of Mystic River, a nonverbal moment between Laura Linney and Sean Penn, two of my favorite actors, that made me realize just how amazing they'd be in a production of Macbeth. And just recently I saw a photograph of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and thought--wouldn't they be great as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? I admire Angelina. I remember the wild stuff before she settled down to become the world's most beautiful UN rep and healthcare advocate, and I'd love to see her sink her teeth into one of the juciest roles ever created. In the play, Macbeth describes her as having a tiger's heart, wrapped in woman's hide and that feels appropriate.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Shakespeare Snark

No Sweat Shakespeare has put together a list of 7 amusing shakespeare memes. Bonus points for kitten cuteness.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Otherllo at San Diego's Globe Theater

I've seen some powerful productions of Othello. It's a play that's as incendiary today as when it was written all those years ago. This production from this year's Globe Summer Festival stars Blair Underwood in the title role and Richard Thomas as Iago. The last thing I saw down there was Neil Patrick Harris and Emmy Rossum in Romeo & Juliet, and I'm way overdue for a return trip. This production tempts me to take the drive.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Saturday Shakespeare Shout-out! SF Shakes

This Twitter account caught my eye:  SF Shakes:
Founded in 1983, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival's mission is to provide arts access to everyone!

Bay Area, CA ·

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I feel the earth move--Shakespeare and earthquakes

My apartment is near a freeway and also a block from a supermarket supplied by big trucks that travel the street running perpendicular to mine. As a result, the apartment often vibrates, strongly enough that visitors--acutely aware they're visiting earthquake country--mistake for a tremor. "Is that an earthquake?"
"Are you sure?"
"Trust me, I'm sure."
Long-time residents and natives deal with earthquakes in one of two ways, sometimes simultaneously. We practice denial. ("What do we say to earthquakes? Not today.") And we prepare. (I have a friend who has an earthquake app on his phone that notifies him of an earthquake anywhere in the world. I'm not sure what this does except fuel his own anxiety, but his is the house I'm headed to in an earthquake apocalypse. He has a GENERATOR.

There's a guy named David Nabham who believes he can predict earthquakes. If he's right, L.A. is due for a major quake this Saturday, between 4 and 8 a.m. or during the same time frame in the evening. The last big quake in LA was 20 years ago, the Northridge quake and it happened in the early morning. I find myself a little unsettled by Nabhan's prediction.  I have bought extra water. i will wear shorts instead of jammie pants to bed on the 11th. 
But since I am thinking Shakespeare this summe, I wondered if there were any mentions of earthquakes in the plays. Turns out there is one, a famous one in Romeo & Juliet. It's Nurse talking about how old Juliet is:
On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen;

That shall she, marry; I remember it well.

'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years;

And she was wean'd,--I never shall forget it,--

Monday, July 7, 2014

La Bruja Roja is free on Kindle

Who doesn't like freebies? I mentioned Delia Fontana's Aixa & the Scorpion last week. Now it's free on Kindle for the next five days. If you fancy horror that's not the same old/same old, give it a try.

The Science of Shakespeare

Since mentioning Science and astrology yesterday, it seems only fitting to talk about Shakespeare and science today. After all, the times he lived in represented not just a Renaissance of the arts, but a time of great scientific exploration. I've just put this book, The Science of Shakespeare, on my wish list. I like the cover illustration depicting Shakespeare as a constellation. I could see that on a t-shirt.

Dan Falk, the book's author, gives talks on the subject and I hope he comes to Los Angeles sometime soon.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Shakespeare and Astrology

Susan Miller of Astrology Zone has been ill for the last few months, and this month her montly overview of what's in store in the stars is late. I know that Shakespeare used a lot of astrological imagery in his plays, but didn't know how much until I started Googling around. I found this intriguing artcle (with quotes) on Shakespeare's astrology, and this interview with Natalie Dellahaye, an astrologer living in Surrey., a histherto unknown (to me) Shakespeare blog has a somewhat crankypants post on Shakespeare and Astorolgy, plus lots of other interesting and informative posts. also has a post on the subject. My favorite post on the subject came from Shakespeare Online, though: Superstition, Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Time.

Sunday Stratford Shakespeare Festival Promo!

This looks like a good season; which I could be there.

Sunday Friend Promotion Delia Fontana's Aixa & the Scorpion

One of the things that annoys me about a lot of horror stories is that they all seem to be based on the same old, same old European/Catholic tropes. When I read a story that doesn't fall back on that, it makes me happy. (In fact, one of the best zombie movie scripts I have read lately integrated voodoo, biochemistry, and social issues and was set in the sugar cane fields of Florida.)

Delia Fontana has started up a new series she calls La Bruja Roja (the Red Witch) with an intial story of 11,000 words. She has four stories in the initial series, and will be publishing them serially, once a month. At that point (December), she'll combine them in one package, add some bonus material (like a Blu-Ray release) and then move into her next sequence of tales, The Poison Heart.

She published the first instalment Aixa & the Scorpion over the weekend. It'll be followed by Aixa & the Shark, Aixa & the Shadow, and Aixa & the Spider.  the stories are set in a town that straddles the Texas/Mexico border but also marks the dividing line between life and death. She describes Sangre de Cristo as a place much like the Bon Temps of True Blood, a place where the paranormal is the normal. If you'd like to read a horror story with a decidedly Hispanic twist, check it out!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Shakespeare Saturdays

Every once in a while I like to amuse myself by thinking of what my perfect neighborhood would look like. It usually involves trees that change color in the autumn,w which means it's not in Los Angeles. When I ran across the website for Shakespare Saturdays, the sheer "neighborhood feeling" of the place appealed to me. Here's their mission statement:

Our main goal with this reading performance series is to foster learning, understanding and craftsmanship in the performance of Shakespeare. We work with many different performing artists, from the new-to-New-York to veterans, from those who performed at the Globe in London to those for whom this is their very first Shakespeare play. We also seek to promote minority actors. We are proud of our record for casting non-traditionally, and we strive to continue it. The experience from having a well-mixed cast heightens everything for everyone, and gives opportunities where many are denied. 

If you live anywhere near these people, please stop by one of their readings and tell them hello for me.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Judging a book by its cover--Bigstock and me

You know you've been spending too much time on the various photo stock sites when you're sent a book to review and your first thought is not, "This looks like an intriguing book" but, "I have that exact photo myself!" This happened to me recently and it got me to thinking about covers in general. I can't remember where I saw it but about a year ago a site was posting photos of traditionally published covers side by side to show that art directors at the Big Six were using the same images over and over. There were two in particular--one a shot of a snowy landscape leading to a manor house and one a portion of a woman's body in some vaguely medieval/Renaissance period dress. (The infamous partial torso images have come in for a lot of heckling.)

Everyone agrees that readers DO judge a book by its cover, but what makes for a great cover?  I like clean lines and great fonts. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, and many people have "book covers" boards, which are great sources of inspiration if you are creating your own covers for books. The two most striking covers I can think of are the covers for Twilight and Memoirs of a Geisha. Both were incredibly simple and both were memorable. the thing is, the stunning Memoirs of a Geisha cover wasn't the first cover used. the original cover was the one seen to the left. It's elegant and beautiful but it isn't sexy, not in the way the updated cover was.
The book sold a lot of copies and was adapted into a movie, but it would be really interesting to know how many copies of the book sold with the old cover versus the new. Look at the covers together. Which one would you rather read?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Where did Shakespeare learn about scorpions?

I'm researching scorpions for a client and I suddenly rememembered a quote from Macbeth:  

“O, full of scorpions is my mind!” 

And  I thought--how did Shakespeare know about scorptions? They don't HAVE scorpions in England. Do they? (Yes, I know, he would have known about scorpions from the constellation Scorpio, but work with me here.) Turns out they did have scorpions in England. This from Wikipedia:

Scorpions are found on all major land masses except Antarctica. Scorpions did not occur naturally in Great Britain, New Zealand and some of the islands in Oceania, but have now been accidentally introduced in some of these places by human trade and commerce.

Who knew?



Friends don't let friends use lame covers...

I showed the cover I created for "Death of a Fairy" to my friend Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services and instead of saying, "Wow, that is one fugly cover," she said, "You know, that palm tree isn't doing it for me. And promptly whipped up a new cover for me. And then she formatted the innards for me. And then she pointed out that since it was a story that fit into my Misbegotten world (collected in the L.A. Nocturne anthologies that I really needed to "stick to my brand" so she changed the byline from mmy 'sudo back to my real name.
I'm lucky in my friends.
So here it is--the new cover. The beautifully formatted insides and all.
Thank you Joy!

Find her at Indie Author Services.

And just to stay with the theme--Here's a Shakespeare quote about friendship courtesy of Shakespeare Online:

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.
(Hamlet 1.3.62-3), Polonius to Laertes

And p.s. thanks to John Donald Carlucci--artist, writer, and friend who  also offered to save me from my own misguided attempts at making a cover.  Thanks JDC.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Eight Shakespeare Phrases That Went Viral!

I found this silly infographic on My English Teacher, and I have to say, I applaud their playful approach to teaching Shakespeare. It's all about the words...and wordplay is playful and so many teachers teach Shakespeare as if their lives depend on them boring the hell outof their students.