Tag Archive for: Shakespeare

Hokey Pokey Shakespeare

  by Gay Yellen

I was a shy child who spent a lot of time reading. At twelve, I fell in love with Shakespeare. I dove deep into the leather-bound tomes that lived on a bookshelf in our den. Comedies, tragedies, history plays. They fascinated me.

My favorite was Romeo and Juliet. I read Juliet’s balcony speech so many times, I had it memorized. Alone in my room, I would act it out over and over again.

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

Fast forward to college, when I needed one more requirement to graduate: a semester of Shakespeare. Rather than take it during the school year at my alma mater, I opted for a summer course offered by a university in my home town.

That decision almost ruined Shakespeare for me forever.

Instead of teaching us about Shakespeare’s gift with language, or the political tenor of the times, or the nature of tragedy, etc., the professor went on for hours interpreting his characters through an extreme Freudian lens. In every play, he’d point out that a dagger or sword represented the male sexual apparatus, poison stood for the biological exchange of body fluids, and so on. (Please don’t ask me about Desdemona’s handkerchief.)

Of course, Shakespeare plays can be bawdy, sensual, and full of innuendo. But that professor made everything icky. A summer (and tuition) was wasted. At least I got the credit, and I’ve learned a lot more since then, like this:

Shakespeare never meant for Juliet’s “balcony” speech to be delivered from a balcony.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, that particular architectural construct did not exist in England when the play was written. Nor did the word “balcony” exist in the English language at the time.

Well over a decade after the play was first performed, a British diarist in Italy marveled at something he’d never seen in England: “a very pleasant little tarrasse, that jutteth or butteth out from the maine building, the edge whereof is decked with many prety litle turned pillers, either of marble or free stone to leane over… that people may from that place… view the parts of the City.”

If my old professor had known his history, I’m almost sure he wouldn’t have missed the chance to mention the thing that “jutteth” and “butteth.”

It’s okay to reinvent Shakespeare’s works with spoofs and spinoffs. Many writers have done it, and still do. Shakespeare borrowed from other writers, too.

The other day, I accidentally came across Shakespearean Hokey Pokey, in which punsters attempt to set their own Elizabethan-style lyrics to the tune of the popular children’s dance.

Hokey Pokey Shakespeare could also describe my bizarre Midsummer Night’s Dream experience in that weird professor’s classroom. But if you love The Bard, that’s not what it’s all about.

How do you feel about Shakespeare?


Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery SeriesThe Body Business, The Body Next Door. Coming soon, The Body in the News.


Superstitions: The Nutty Ties that Bind Writers and Actors

by Barbara Kyle


Shakespeare was an actor. So was Dickens.


In a way every writer is, because when
we create stories we play all the roles inside our heads. It’s part of the joy
of writing.


Before becoming an author I enjoyed a twenty-year
acting career (here I’m with Bruce Gray when we starred in the TV series High Hopes) and I’ve found many commonalities between the two arts. 



One of the most interesting commonalities is superstitions. 


Actors are obsessively superstitious
about many things, and one in particular: the name of a certain play by
Shakespeare, the one in which a certain Highland lady can’t get blood off her


Actors won’t say the name of this play
inside a theater. Instead, they call it “The Scottish Play.” Why? Because
it carries a curse.


– At
its first performance in 1606 the actor who was going to portray Lady Macbeth
(a boy in those days) died suddenly and Shakespeare was forced to replace him.


– In
1957 actor Harold Norman, playing the lead role, died after his stage battle with
swords became a little too realistic.


– During
a performance starring the famous Sir Laurence Olivier a stage weight crashed
down from above, missing him by inches.


And what if an unsuspecting soul makes
the error of uttering the name of this play inside a theater? Is there a spell
to remove the curse?


Yes, there is. You leave the theater,
spin around three times, spit over your left shoulder, and either recite a line
from Shakespeare or spout a profanity. Got it?


Writers have superstitions too and they’re
just as weird. Here are three that many writers hold:


– No
chapter can be 13 pages long because that number brings bad luck. Any chapter
that ends on page 13 must be revised to make it 12 or 14. (By the way, there’s
a name for the fear of the number 13: triskaidekaphobia. Try saying that three
times fast!)


– Many
writers can’t write unless they’re wearing a particular “lucky” piece of
clothing, like a certain sweater or a pair of slippers or a hat.


– Some
writers won’t give characters the same initials as friends — otherwise, the
person might suddenly have bad luck.



Some famous writers had their own pet


– Alexander
Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, had to write all of his fiction
on blue paper, his poetry on yellow paper, and his articles on pink paper. No


– Charles
Dickens had to place the ornaments on his desk in a specific order before
beginning to write.


– Truman
Capote refused to begin or end a piece of writing on a Friday.


– J.K.
Rowling’s superstition is to hold off titling a piece until it is complete. She
said on Twitter: “I only type the title page of a novel once the book is


If you’re thinking actors and writers are
a bit nuts, you’re not far wrong. After all, we spend our days with imaginary people.
As John Gardner said, “One must be a little crazy to write a good novel.” 


But it’s a happy madness. One meets such
interesting (imaginary) people!


So now I’ll cross my fingers, touch
wood, toss grains of salt over my left shoulder, and get back to work on my
new book.


Wish me luck.


Barbara Kyle


Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh
series of historical novels (“Riveting Tudor drama” – USA
Today) and of acclaimed thrillers. Over half a million copies of her books have
been sold. Her latest is The Man from Spirit Creek, a novel of suspense.
Barbara has taught hundreds of writers in her online classes and many have
become award-winning authors. Page-Turner, her popular how-to book for
writers, is available in print, e-book, and audiobook. Visit Barbara at www.BarbaraKyle.com 



The Man from Spirit Creek

When Liv Gardner arrives in the rural town of Spirit Creek, Alberta, she
has nothing but her old car and a temporary job as paralegal with the
local attorney. But Liv’s down-market persona is a ruse. She is actually
in-house counsel of Falcon Oil, a small oil and gas company she co-owns
with her fiancé, CEO Mickey Havelock – and they are facing financial

Farmer Tom Wainwright, convinced that lethal “sour” gas
killed his wife, is sabotaging Falcon’s rigs. But Wainwright is clever
at hiding his tracks and the police have no evidence to charge him. With
the sabotage forcing Falcon toward bankruptcy, Liv has come undercover
to befriend Wainwright – and entrap him.

But Liv never dreamed
she’d become torn between saving the company she and Mickey built and
her feelings for the very man whose sabotage is ruining them.

On a
rain-swept night, Spirit Creek is stunned when one of their own is
murdered. The evidence does more than point to Tom Wainwright . . . it
shatters Liv’s world.


The Man from Spirit Creek is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 



Clicking Our Heels: Shadowing Any Writer – Dead or Alive!

Clicking Our Heels: Shadowing Any Writer –
Dead or Alive!
The Stiletto Gang members admire each other,
but for the fun of it, we all explained what writer (dead or alive) we’d want
to shadow and why.

Judy Penz Sheluk: Truman Capote when he
was researching In Cold Blood. It was
a different time, before 24/7 news cycles, and he paved the way for true crime.
I’ve seen the movie Capote a dozen

T.K. Thorne: Shakespeare, to plum the
mysteries of his genius.

Bethany Maines: James Patterson maybe.
Just to see his marketing machine work. But in general, writing is pretty dang
boring. I think possibly “shadowing a writer” would turn out to be code for
staring at them while they type.

Shari Randall: Agatha Christie, of
course! I’d love to ask her for plotting tips and I imagine she’d always stop
writing at tea time, just like I do.

: Jane Austen strikes me as a woman who wrote despite the obstacles society
put in her way. Her acerbic view of her society spurs me to write about family
and place and love.

Dru Ann Love: Linda Castillo. She
writes about a group of people that I would never think would be as evil and
dangerous and she makes it believable.

Linda Rodriguez: Virginia Woolf would
be my choice because she wrote groundbreaking novels, crystalline nonfiction,
and wickedly funny letters and diaries and she knew all of the most fascinating
people of the time (though she and her husband were the most fascinating of all
of them).

J.M. Phillippe: Oooh. Probably
Shakespeare so I can finally put the debate about if he was real (and really
wrote everything he is attributed to writing) to rest.

Juliana Aragon Fatula: When I was a
teenager, Pearl S. Buck made me fall in love with Asian Culture, people, land,
language. I would love to tell her how much her writing inspired me and led me
to believe a woman could write and be published.

Sparkle Abbey:

Mary Lee Woods: This question is so
difficult! First, dead writers. I’d love to shadow Agatha Christie and I’d love
to have a conversation with Mark Twain. Such unique views of the world and
their views clearly influenced the stories they told. Secondly, living writers.
I’d love to spend a day shadowing Nora Roberts. She seems to have so many
stories in her head and works on multiple projects at one time. How does she do
it? I have many stoires in my head, but the ability to work on them at the same
time escapes me. I suspect it comes down to a brilliant brain, a love for
storytelling, and a solid work ethic. But… if there’s a secret…I’d love to know
what it is!

Anita Carter: That’s hard. Can I pick
two? Lisa Gardner because I struggle with plotting. She’s a master at it, and I’d
love to know her process. And Agatha Christie. From my understanding she’d
start with the murder, then move to the suspects. It’s very similar to how I
work, but I know there are ways I could improve my process.

Kay Kendall: Shakespeare. What a
fertile mind he had.

Debra H. Goldstein: Anne George. Not
only was she a wonderful humorous Agatha award winning mystery writer and the
Alabama poet laureate, she wrote one of my favorite literary works, This One and Magic Life. She also was
generous with her time bringing the beauty of words and writing to children.


By AB Plum

With the advent of a new year, who better to paraphrase than the Bard himself?

Promoting is much on my mind in these early days of 2018. I haven’t yet finished my 2018 Marketing Plan. Part of me hates, loathes, and cannot stand having to spend writing time on finding reviews, placing ads, and figuring out new ways to get discovered by readers inundated by newsletters for the latest book promotion.

As a matter of full disclosure, I hop on cross-author/genre promotion bandwagons every chance I get. Local newspapers and national magazines have whittled away their book sections so I’m grateful for those authors who manage to host new offerings. Still …

How much of every day did the Bard spend much time “promoting”? How about Charles Dickens—he, who penned (by hand) 5,000 words a day? According to this same source, Barbara Cartland wrote 6,000 words daily. Stephen King’s a slacker with his per diem output of 2,000 words.

How could they possibly have spent any time promoting their books? Did they write in their sleep?

These questions bring up the issue of time management—a subject I find too personal to share publicly. Once, long ago, I was a veritable Little Red Hen. Somewhere, I took a wrong turn and no longer plant, harvest, bake the bread, and read a book a day. 

Before anyone reminds me that promoting goes with the territory of writing, I admit I know this. If I made New Year’s resolutions, I’d resolve to stop whining, adjust my ‘tude and get with the program.

I don’t make resolutions, but I understand I’m wasting my energy, spinning my wheels, ranting over the foregone: YES! To write for an audience carries the need to promote. NO! To write for myself, no need to do anything but write.

’nuf said.

Living off the fast lane in Silicon Valley, AB Plum loves her writing life–even the promo activities which challenge her brain and imagination most days. Check out her latest novel, The Dispensable Wife here. Coming later this month: the box set for The MisFit Series. Notice that not very subtle way she plugged two offerings at once.

There’s a Double Meaning in That

by Bethany Maines

In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick, the worst of rivals,
are set up by their friends to fall in love. 
So that by Act 2, Scene 3, when Beatrice says, “Against my will I am
sent to bid you come into dinner,”  Benedick
believes that Beatrice is madly in love with him, while Beatrice believes him to be an ass.  After she exits, he says in all smugness, “Ha!
Against my will I am sent to bid you come
in to dinner
. There’s a double meaning in that.”
Someone I know once asked an
English teacher how he knew the author intended the symbolism the teacher was
accusing him of.  The teacher replied, “It
doesn’t matter.”  As an author this makes
me want to poke him in the eye just a little bit.  But in the end he’s right; stories mean something
to a reader independent of the writer’s intentions.  Each reader brings their own experiences to a
book and a writer can’t predict them.  So
how can an author prevent his readers from pulling a Benedick and seeing double
meanings where none are intended? 
It’s a very secret and advanced
technique called (wait for it): educated guessing.  And good beta readers.  As an author I try to learn about other
points of view, so that I can write stronger more realistic characters and then
I rely on my writers group to read through a piece and throw up flags around
text that might unintentionally carry a subtext that’s either offensive or
poorly thought out.  It’s hard to think
that something I’ve written could be construed as offensive, because after all,
I am I and I’m awesome and I have only the best of intentions.  But we all have prejudices or periodically spout
unexamined notions that have been fed to us by society. 

An easy example is “pink is only
for girls”.  This statement is both
observationally false (been to the mall lately?), and historically inaccurate (pink
used to be a boys color
). Color is a product of light bouncing off a
surface or being absorbed (we see the portion of the spectrum bounced back);
any deeper meaning has been assigned to a color by humanity. So unless my
character is a sexist and I need him or her to say total nonsense about gender
roles, I probably shouldn’t write that and a good beta reader should flag it as
a problem.  With any luck I can keep the
unintentional double meanings to a minimum.  I don’t want to be a Benedick.
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Eyes Have It

There’s an old English proverb, sometimes attributed to
Shakespeare or Milton, that the eyes are the windows to the
soul. Rhonda, the Southern half of Evelyn David, has struggled for the last two
weeks with a corneal ulcer. It doesn’t sound so terrible, except it is. It’s
meant that her vision has been compromised, her eyes are so light-sensitive that
she can barely walk out into daylight, she has been afflicted with, as she
describes it, “knife in the eyeball” sensation, constant eye dryness, doctor
visits three times a week, a medication schedule that has required awaking every
four hours – and the attendant stomach problems from taking all the various
medications – not to mention, as anyone with an ongoing illness quickly
discovers, doctor and pharmacy bills rising faster than the

For someone who loves to read, that’s a pleasure that’s
been eliminated. Watching television makes her nauseous. And writing – she can
barely look at a computer screen for more than 10 minutes without feeling like
her eye is cramping, so work on our latest mystery has been seriously

Thankfully, she will be fine. Though disappointed with
the pace of recovery, the doctor has assured Rhonda that he sees progress and is
convinced that she will make a full recovery in the next week or so. But of
course, it’s led to much thought and discussion about the blessing of sight and
the joys of the written word.

And in the midst of this ordeal, we were both reminded of
a quotation from Helen Keller: “The only
thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” She’s right, of
course. We so often take for granted the beauty of the world around us, the
people in our lives. Both halves of Evelyn David have certainly learned a

Back soon with more adventures in murder and


Marian and Rhonda



A Reason to Give Thanks includes: Giving Thanks
in Lottawatah
, Bah, Humbug in Lottawatah, Moonlighting at the Mall, The Fortune
Teller’s Face
, A Reason to Give Thanks, Sneak Peek – Murder Off the Books,
Sneak Peek – I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries

A Reason to Give Thanks


Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books KindleNookSmashwordsTrade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake KindleNookSmashwords Trade Paperback 
Riley Come Home (short story)- KindleNookSmashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – KindleNookSmashwords



Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past CemeteriesKindleNookSmashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah KindleNookSmashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of LottawatahKindleNookSmashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – Kindle – NookSmashwords
Lottawatah Twister – KindleNookSmashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Summer Lightning in Lottawatah – Kindle NookSmashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah – trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 – A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Love Lessons – KindleNookSmashwords

Writing Emotionally

by Bethany Maines

Just so you know, I’m writing this blog under duress. I have
this great idea for a story where I give one of my characters a heart attack
(literally) and instead I’m having to do other, actual work. The horror! How
dare real life interfere with the creation of fiction? This is exactly the kind
of feeling that leads to me receiving emails from my boss saying things like
“For an illustrator, you sure type a lot.” Of course I type a lot! I’m writing
a whole novel over here. 
Sheesh.  Oh wait, you’re not
paying me to write a novel? Rigghhhhht. Got it. I will attempt to remember that
and to actually care. Fortunately, these days I’m more or less self-employed (I
have a business partner who eyes me suspiciously if I start to wander off too
much), but it’s still surprising how much the pursuit of a second career
interferes with the first one.
Meanwhile, as excited as I am about my new idea, it occurs
to me that many of my ideas lately have involved a strong element of hospitals,
death and dying. I attribute this to the fact that my friends and I, in the
last year or so, have been experiencing the loss of parents and grandparents at
a rate that I think is rather alarming. However, my hair cutter described the
issue with humorous sangfroid as just a light bulb problem. “Well, it’s like
light bulbs, if you put them in all at once they all tend to, you know, go out
all at once.” True enough, and I even laughed, but it’s always different when
they’re your light bulbs.
They say that art imitates life, or vice versa, but I think
fiction imitates therapy. I can’t afford to go see a therapist about my
unresolved feelings about people dying and all life eventually ending, but I
can make my characters suffer and come to some sort of emotional resolution for
me. It works great, and it’s so much cheaper. Not to mention, that it let’s me
indulge my God complex without a therapist calling me on it. It does make me
wonder about other authors though. Shakespeare for instance – that’s a lot of
killing and cross-dressing for one dude. 
And what’s up with Beattrix Potter?  Can we say bunny fixation? But we love both those authors,
so maybe mental issues are cathartic to read as well as write?  I guess I can only hope.