Friday, July 31, 2015

Mankind on Earth by Eleanor Stem

How often have you watched television where a man stands in front of the camera, and motions to a big clock? 12AM is the creation of earth. Going around the clock, you are shown various ‘beginnings’, and around 11:56PM, man is born. 

Giza Pyramids
 Apparently, new evidence indicates man has been around for a little longer than we thought. According to the January 2015 issue of National Geographic, we’ve been producing complex cave art for more than 100,000 years, short by way of the existence of our planet, but longer than scientists had earlier stated. And you never know if those men saw evidence of sentient life before them.

In recent years, ruins have uncovered man’s ingenuity long before we ever expected. They say Turkey’s Gobekli Tepe predates Stonehenge 6,000 years, which is believed to have been constructed around 3,000 BCE. That makes Gobekli Tepe alive and bustling at least 10,000 BCE with peoples who were not loping around like beasts. In order to build, live in, then purposefully bury a city means even more years, possibly 12-14,000 years ago. Who could have done this, when many believe the pyramids around the world are the earliest constructions known to man?
Gobekli Tepe

I have a theory: Homo sapiens of one sort or another have existed on this earth for a very long time. They may not have been our species of man, but different bipedal forms have come and gone over the eons. Some of them may have bred with other forms of our species, stayed around for a time, left their mark, while others may have come and gone with only a small blip on the radar.

Then, there are so many legends that mark our folklore/mythologies that must have come from some sort of reality. These origins have either been lost in time or added to fairytales.

Megaliths in Brittany
What about the dolmens in Brittany that march toward the sea? Stories say the stones come alive every once and awhile and romp with we earthlings. Then, when it’s time for them to return to stone, any humans still dancing in their midst will also get caught and turned to stone. There are quite a few out of alignment which can only mean men and/or women have been caught at the wrong time. My grandmother told me this, brought down from her grandmother so it must be true.

There’s an obscure, ancient lore of a door that stands on a hillside where gods enter our world from their heavenly domain. Where did this come from? Where were they before they entered our world? Did they walk out of the mists onto our earthly soil from another dimension? Did they come to our turf and seed their humanity with ours, then leave and seed other planetary peoples?

Look at those pictures etched into the dirt of the Andes that have marked the earth for eons. Who did those? (Since this is more than like copyrighted, click Here)

As small as I am, I could not draw a picture of such magnitude that would have any decent straight lines, curves, and circles that, to this day, can be seen from 10,000 feet. Could you? Oh, I know what you’re thinking. This is an idea promoted by the Ancient Alien theorists, but maybe they aren’t completely off base. After all, even Carl Sagan said there were ‘billions and billions of planets’ out there. Could they all be empty of sentient life-forms? Even if someone with technology did not draw those pictures, then the people of the time were really very tall.

What will be revealed once the ice sheets melt? They are, you know. Melting. Not sure why. What if the ice thaws to reveal ancients life-forms? We don’t really know what happened before man came to this planet, how we came to be. We only know we are not alone. Our movies and television stories are filled with possible answers to all these questions.

We are curious. If we thought we were truly alone, we would not be looking at the stars, wondering of our origins.

Would we?

Many thanks to:  

Gobekli Tepe: Wikicommons Public Domain
Stonehenge: "Typ 805 38.8530, Houghton Library, Harvard University" as its source
Pyramid: All of TIMEA's content is licensed under a CC-BY-2.5 license
Standing Stones: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WHAT ARE HEROES MADE OF? ~ by Juliet Waldron


Peter Sagan

Every romance needs a hero, but how do you define him? Is it just passion, looks and money, or is there more? Given that romances are classically defined by a Happily Ever After, why couldn't a fun and sexy fantasy be enough? Lots of hot romps are available in the book universe and there's nothing wrong with it either.
I'm sort of a nerd, though and I've always wanted complication,  even from imaginary flames. Long ago I read, "While you're wishing for water, you might as well wish for champagne." So why not imagine King Arthur or Sir Lancelot or whoever? He can still be cut from the traditional pattern for the Alpha Male, but my (sigh) hero has got to have something between his ears--and a heart, too.

Now to go off-course in search of an illustration. There is a point (I hope) so try to hang in.

I just spent 3 weeks watching the EPIC bicycle race, The Tour de France. I've been a fan years. Sports heroes are sometimes seen as romantic models. Ideally, they should be not only strong and brave, but honest and honorable, too.  Fans expect it.

Cycling is sometimes called “The Beautiful Sport.” To see a rider descend a narrow, twisting road at 55+ mph, with an astonishing backdrop of a mountain, a fabled river or crumbling 1000 year old castle makes the attribution real. 

Lacets de Montvernier, 17 hairpin turns

In the Tour de France this year, there were champions aplenty, powerful riders and daily feats of endurance, as well as

Alejandro Valverde 
cute, totally fit guys with charisma by the bale.

Alex Dowsett

 but my special hero this year was the race winner, a quiet guy who looks rather like a mantis on a bike. (Wonder what Pixar would make of him?) 

Chris Froome, who won the overall, displayed leadership, fair play, humanity, and poise. After three weeks, although he and his team were subjected to the ugliest behavior I've ever seen from spectators--these riders had morphed in my overheated imagination from your garden variety (supreme!) endurance athletes into King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table, shining with purpose. Team Sky was calm, professional and utterly dedicated to their crazy 2,200 mile mission. 

I'd like my fictional hero to possess those fine qualities too, so I hope to design a complicated guy with more than a touch of Beta.  

Chris Froome and his cat

He can be as beautiful as he likes, but handsome is as handsome does, or so granny taught me; so he should be in a relationship for the long haul. He's madly in love but smart and thoughtful about it. He may have doubts and he sometimes takes a wrong turn, but he never stops thinking and he never stops trying. Like a test pilot, he goes at it until he either flies or augurs in. 
So much man in one glorious package is a big ask. Fortunate that a story requires plotting for growth and change, particularly so because these actors are playing in the upbeat genre called 'romance."  Mr. Right triumphs and Mr. Wrong is overcome—or at least left behind to fester in some fictional Lodi. The heroine, after all, deserves this sexy, brainy paragon and that terrific Happily Ever After.

~~ Juliet Waldron

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Romancing the Landscape: Setting as a Character in your Novel ~ By Connie Vines

I have titled my topic “Romancing the Landscape”.  However, the landscape can also be a menacing character in a horror novel; comic relief, or as in the movie, The Never Ending Story, be the embodiment of living creatures.

So, how do I approach this project?  Why would this be of interest to me?
While every writer knows, it is useful to infuse landscape/setting as a tool to set the mood/foreshadow, and do so as a matter of course.

  • The beach at sunset, a tranquil waterfall.  If you hero has fought a major battle, don’t send him to a night club.  Turn his setting into a place to recuperate.
  • A setting can introduce conflict, or cause trouble.  A violent storm, gridlock, a jungle where he becomes lost. 
  • The library, bookstore, writing on ancient walls, can provide a ‘mentorship’ of sorts.  The hero will discover, overcome his fears.
  • A setting can show the ‘flaw’ of the hero.  A man fighting addiction is at a bar watching others, a selfish man is at a soup kitchen.  Place him in a setting to examine his own flaws.
  •  A model of who he wants to be. A church, a free medical clinic, a loving home, are all settings that can provide an atmosphere that fosters qualities to which he aspires.

 Setting as a character is a deeper commitment.  Setting as a character will appear throughout the course of your novel.  Therefore (groan) it requires research, plotting attention, and action and reaction on the part of the hero and heroine.

Often I will set up a flow chart, spread sheet, or make notes on my software writing programs when developing my novel.  In this case I use a notebook to take notes/or snap pictures to Evernote that correspond to the numbers on my “Setting Worksheet”.  Why a work sheet—“that’s so old school”.  Yes, this is old school but studies have proved that there is something about the process of pen to paper that activates creativity in the brain.

So what’s on my worksheet? 

·         Title of project
·         Year
·         Month and day that the story begins
·         Season
·         Location
·         Why am I setting my story here?
·         Why are the hero and/or heroine here?
·         Climate
·         Average rainfall/temp etc.
·         Approximately what months do the season change?
·         Topography
·         Plants and animals that live here
·         Local land forms and points of interest
·         Natural obstacles that will help/hinder your hero/heroine
·         How did your hero/heroine get here?  How will he/she leave?
Social Setting
·         Population
·         Types of dwellings
·         Types of stores or businesses
·         Ethnic make up of the community
·         Local industries/jobs
·         What holidays and special occasions are celebrated
·         What kinds of entertainment are available?
·         What current events might be important to your story?

Weaving into to the story
·         One line characterization of this setting
·         How is it the same as/different from similar settings?
·         What trait will make this setting come alive, and why?
·         How does the hero/heroine fell about being there?
·         Will the readers like/dislike this setting and why?

Examples taken from novels to illustrate my point:

Perhaps the glide of long railway travel was still with me, for more than anything else I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hid, and the underneath it herds of wild buffalo. ~ My Antonia, by Willa Cather. (Chapter 2).

I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has traveled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of these icy climes. ~ Letter 1, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.

Every novel is different.  Not every story calls for a setting to have a 'life of its own".  However, when the landscape demands a major role in your story line, listen.  The results are often soul-stirring and magical.

And from my own works:

It was only the cologne, Rachel reminded herself when Lynx leaned closer and pointed out the skill of the fiddle player--she always loved the scent of a good cologne. Warm, and Musky. Or, maybe it was his reputation that held such appeal--he was a rodeo cowboy. Bull riders flirted with death and danger every day, and that alone could be a real turn on for some women.

Still she knew none of those things was the real reason she was reacting this way. ~ Lynx, Rodeo Romance, by Connie Vines

She pulled the red gingham curtain aside from the kitchen window and stared out into the rain for the tenth tine in less than an hour.  In the distance, she could see Brede going about his chores. . .There was something about him, which spoke of power, especially in the way he moved.  But there was also wildness in him and profound loneliness. Perhaps the loneliness dept her from being afraid. . .~ Brede, Rodeo Romance Book 2, by Connie Vines

Twelve-thousand gleeful ghouls stormed Long Beach's Promenade. the crowd became so large that it spilled out over Pine Avenue for an all-out downtown invasion.  Meredith didn't recall much about the accident, nor who or what, reanimated her. She remembered over-hearing a security officer informing a pungent-smelling zombie. . . ~ Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow Book 1 Sassy & Fun Fantasy Series by Connie Vines

Photographs give me a reference point for ensuring I "know" the depth of my setting.
What do you think?  Can you name a novel where the setting took on a life of its own?

Thank you for stopping by this month to read my blog post. I hope to see you again next month.

1800's England

Nebraska Farmland

Happy Reading,

Connie Vines

Monday, July 27, 2015

HISTORY OF THE ROSE - by Vijaya Schartz

Find it on Amazon HERE
These gorgeous long stem roses we know today do not exist in nature. They are hybrids manipulated by man for millennia, to enhance their beauty or their fragrance.

Most species of roses came from Asia along the silk road and were cultivated in northeast Africa and the near east as far as five thousand years ago. Ancient Zoroastrian texts mention roses with hundreds of petals, and the legends say that originally the rose didn’t have thorns. The thorns only appeared when evil descended to earth.

Alexander the Great discovered the rose in Persia, and the Roman emperors soon followed in his steps and fell in love with it. The Romans brought the white rose with them all the way to England where it flourished. In Rome, they used it lavishly and even to excess. Nero was known to bury his banquet guests under mounds of rose petals, to the point of suffocation. After the fall of the Roman Empire, during the dark ages and the barbarian invasions, the rose that had symbolized the oppressor was shunned in most of Europe and mostly forgotten. The early middle ages only knew the primrose, the hawthorn, climbing rose vines, and other wild varieties of the rose family, native to Europe.

As Islam spread over the middle east, the oriental rose supplanted the lotus as the queen of all flowers. The Turks and the Persians of the time believed that roses were born from drops of sweat from their holy prophet. Soon, the passion for roses spread to Arabia. As early as the tenth century, the Arabs, who perfected the process of distilling perfumes, traded rose water and rose-perfumed oils as valuable commodities to their occupied territories in Spain, and even to China.

In the twelfth century, the Crusaders returning from Jerusalem and Constantinople brought the beautiful rose back to Europe, along with its legends, its fragrance, and its healing powers. Robert de Brie brought to France the Damask rose. With new influx from the middle east, rose water became the rich women’s favorite luxury. So much so that the most ascetic leaders of the Church felt the need to forbid such decadence, considering it sinful.

It didn’t prevent medieval women from growing their own rose gardens inside the walls of their fortresses, where they enjoyed spinning, sewing, and embroidering among the fragrant flowers. Soon they learned to distill their own rose water and later made their own perfumes, especially in Provence, where the climate allows the flowers to grow in abundance.

Queen Eleanor of Provence, who married Henry III of England, was the first to adopt a white rose as her family emblem. Her son Edward also chose a rose. The houses of York and Lancaster made their family symbols famous in the War of the Roses. Later, the Tudors combined the two roses into a double rose.

Rosa in Latin is the verb “to love,” and Rose in French is the color pink, the color of most wild roses. In late medieval times, the rose became a cherished symbol in many courtly love stories and legends. My Curse of the Lost Isle series is inspired by such authentic legends.

Curse of the Lost Isle Book Six (standalone)
1096 AD ‑ To redeem a Pagan curse, Palatina the Fae braves the Christian world to embark on an expedition to free the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem from the Turks. Pierre de Belfort, Christian Knight of Lorraine, swore never to let a woman rule his life, and doesn't believe in love. Thrown together into the turmoil of the First Crusade, on a sacred journey to a land of fables, they must learn to trust each other. For in this war, the true enemy is not human... and discovery could mean burning at the stake.

Vijaya Schartz
 Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Words, don't you love them? Tricia McGill.

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Words have always fascinated me. Probably a good thing as I am a writer. But it’s the peculiarities that are the best part. I have a friend who often calls me and says, “I found a good word today.” He will then expect me to look up that word and find out its meaning. This likely stems from him having young grandkids. But it gets me searching anyway. One was ‘obsequies’ I had no idea this was a word for funeral rites. Some might know this one, but I didn’t, ‘strobilus’ (cone of a conifer).

I don’t know if anybody else does this; but I often watch the lips of a newsreader or an actor and am amazed at the way we can understand what someone is saying by sounds emerging from their mouths. It’s especially amusing to me when they have a certain funny way of pronouncing some words or their mouth twists in an odd way. Probably a stupid habit, but one that gives me a moment’s enjoyment. This is the odd thing about us humans—the way we can understand a fellow human by the words they say. That’s providing they are speaking in a language we understand. I was lucky, as I had a lot of older siblings as well as my parents to teach me the fundamentals.

Another thing I often ponder over is the difference between English speaking countries in our spelling of words. So, who was the first American who decided it was okay to leave the u out of colour, endeavour, and humour, etc. or decided it was a good idea to add a z in words like realise to replace the s, or spell metre as meter? I’m not knocking it, but just wondering how it began. Who first called the boot of a car the trunk, and who decided that pants were not undergarments but trousers? And here’s a funny one, we called an eraser a rubber at school, but guess what the Americans call a rubber? Americans go on vacation but I go on holiday.

When I arrived in Australia and went to my first job here as a pattern cutter in a clothing factory someone asked me to pass the Durex. Well, that floored me as she meant the Sellotape, and we knew Durex as something totally different back in London where we came from.

My friend was telling me how she met an obvious newcomer to our country while at the Post Office. This lady was having trouble filling out a form. She wanted to put an n on the end of Australia and my friend had to explain to her that, no, only when you become an Australian citizen do you put that n there. I always have the greatest sympathy for migrants, and am glad I was taught English from the moment I could speak. Imagine how strange our language must be to newcomers. We often hear people criticise them and say, “They should learn our language before they are allowed in.” But just take a wander through the dictionary and you are aware what a treacherous path it is. Just think of a word like rain or reign or rein for a start. Then take a simple word like kind. It has more than one meaning; I just bought a new kind of chair or that man was so kind to me when I needed help. I will never ridicule someone who endeavours to find their way around the English language.

Because I was born and bred in North London I have a totally different vocabulary to someone we consider as posh; you know them, they speak like a member of the royal family. My mother was a great one for sayings. Half the time I doubt she knew what they meant and it wasn’t until I was old enough to visit the library and start my passion for books that I learned what some of them meant. One of her favourites was, “Look at you, you’re as black as Newgate’s knocker,” when I came in a bit grubby from playing. I found out that Newgate Jail was a vile place in London where no self-respecting soul wanted to go through that black door with the iron knocker on it. There are other meanings for this saying but that is the one she meant. Another of her best was, “They are as different as chalk from cheese.” That one is self-explanatory. My brothers, who were a lot older than me, used Cockney slang. Their favourites; Apples and Pears (Stairs) Butcher’s Hook (Look) Trouble and Strife (Wife) and Use your loaf (Bread, meaning Head) Even my husband, also the youngest in his family, used most of those.

Then, when we arrived in Australia, we had to learn new words, such as ‘cobber’ meaning mate or friend, crook meaning sick or poorly, etc. A lot of these ‘Strine’ words have faded from fashion and are rarely used these days, which is a shame. We also found that Aussies had a nickname for everyone, more so than us English, and had a unique way of shortening every word. I guess you’ve heard of ‘budgie smugglers’ a term used for those skimpy figure hugging swimmers, or bathers as some call them. We were heading off to Queensland and so were going ‘troppo’ because it’s classed as the tropics. If you are going way out into the bush you are going ‘back of Bourke’. Have you seen the movie 'They're a Weird Mob'? It's a story about a young Italian, Nino, who arrived here and was asked at the pub to 'Shout' his workmates a beer. He had no idea that they meant it was his turn to buy a round of drinks and wondered just why he was asked to shout when he thought that impolite.

Another good friend of mine loved creating his own limericks and would recite one at the drop of a hat, so to finish up I’d like to quote a couple of my favourite limericks for no other reason than I like them. I’ve picked out the cleaner ones, as there is no doubt some limericks can be crude. These are taken from a quaint little book called The Lure of The Limerick-an uninhibited history (W. S. Baring-Gould).

“A lisping young lady named Beth

Was saved from a fate worse than death

Seven times in a row,

Which unsettled her so,

That she quit saying ‘No’ and said ‘Yeath.” (Cosmo Monkhouse)

“There was a young lady of Twickenham

Whose shoes were too tight to walk quick in ‘em,

She came back from a walk

Looking whiter than chalk

And took ‘em both off and was sick in ‘em.” (Oliver Herford)

Note: There are a number of red lines beneath words in this post. As you can guess, the dictionary wasn't happy with how I spelt some of the words. (Apologies, I am an Aussie after all) 
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