Saturday, July 27, 2013

SKELLIG MICHAEL


                                                                 

The title of this post refers to a remote, difficult to reach location, 11.6 km off the west coast of Ireland.  It was uninhabited prior to the foundation of its monastery here in the 8th or 9th century when Duagh, King of West Munster, fled there after a feud with another local king.   So says the legend.   The seas can  be rough so it is amazing how the journey was managed at that time by either sail or oars.

A Christian monastery was founded there and it is said that the monks helped keep literacy alive during the Dark ages.  I think that can be said of many monasteries and nunneries as well.   It was abandoned in the 12th century and is now a UNESCO world heritage site.    Skellig Michael is difficult to get to but my plan is to visit it at the beginning of August.

A song by Canadian Loreena Mckennitt describes the dying words of a monk from Skellig Michael:

"Skellig"


O light the candle, John
The daylight has almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

Sit here by my side
For the night is very long
There's something I must tell
Before I pass along

I joined the brotherhood
My books were all to me
I scribed the words of God
And much of history

Many a year was I
Perched out upon the sea
The waves would wash my tears,
The wind, my memory

I'd hear the ocean breathe
Exhale upon the shore
I knew the tempest's blood
Its wrath I would endure

And so the years went by
Within my rocky cell
With only a mouse or bird
My friend; I loved them well

And so it came to pass
I'd come here to Romani
And many a year it took
Till I arrived here with thee

On dusty roads I walked
And over mountains high
Through rivers running deep
Beneath the endless sky

Beneath these jasmine flowers
Amidst these cypress trees
I give you now my books
And all their mysteries

Now take the hourglass
And turn it on its head
For when the sands are still
'Tis then you'll find me dead

O light the candle, John
The daylight is almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass.


(I'll be away on vacation for the next two weeks and not posting during that time.  Catch you later!)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Take every opportunity to enjoy yourself!

I've  been watching the A & E 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice lately.   In small doses, because I want to spread out the pleasure.   I've only allowed myself to watch it once a year since purchasing the DVD shortly after it was released.   Under no circumstances do I want my enjoyment, dare I say my rapture, to be diminished by over-use.



                                                             




I read recently that Jane Austen could become the face on the new 10 pound note in Britain, surely one of the most common in use.    It is considered a great honour although the lady herself might consider being crumpled and folded and stuffed down people's pant pockets something to give her pause.   However, It demonstrates her enduring popularity.

Back to the DVD.   Like a lot of writers, I sometimes study work I admire to try to tease out the reason.   In P & P (this is how true afficionados describe it)  it is the characters, the plot, the tension, the reverses, the costumes, the scenery . . .   I must not forget the memorable lines:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” 

“We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.”

“My good opinion once lost is lost forever.” 

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me, and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

If you enjoy these, there are fifteen pages on Goodreads here.

I like to quote the post title to anyone going on vacation--even myself!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME . . .



                                                                   
                                                                             


The rest of the post title is . . . would smell as sweet.  (Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare).  But does that apply to book titles?  I've been thinking off and on--when I take a break from writing--about the title of the  book I am working on at present which will be the sequel to When Bees Die.  So far I haven't had much luck.

In my experience, some titles come easily.   They seem to leap into my consciousness and immediately become irrevocably associated with the almost finished or just finished manuscript.   But sometimes coming up with a title is a struggle.   How to decide?  I've read articles and posts on this topic like this excellent one by Rachelle Gardner.    She suggests different brainstorming techniques and looking through a site like Amazon's for titles in the same genre.   One thing I always do is check out my proposed title on that site to ensure no one else has used it.   Not that this hasn't been done by others.   Some phrases or word combinations are popular with more than one person, for example Her Heart's Desire.   Lucky for me, I wasn't thinking of using that one!

I've noticed that some authors use the same or similar covers for a series, only changing the title.  Helps with identification, I imagine.   Some place the number in the title so the second book in the series might state on the cover:  Mr. Wonderful Comes Home  -- #2 in Her Heart's Desire series.   That tends to clutter up the cover with a lot of print though.

 A website that supplies a book title generator  might offer assistance.   It just keeps coming up combinations of nouns and verbs  and adjectives once you indicate the genre of either  Romance or Science Fiction/Fantasy.   Did you know something like this existed?   I didn't until recently.

The important thing is to enjoy this process and not become frustrated.   Save that for writing difficult passages.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FAIR GAME?



                                                                       




There's a certain amount of 'gringo' treatment of tourists and travellers present in the world today.   Some in poorer countries consider it fair game to liberate Europeans, Americans or Canadians of some of their cash.  I'm not talking about crime, I'm talking about taking advantage of the lack of local knowledge and the situation.  It is a fact that by some unfortunate and unfair arrangement,  people in the world are compensated differently and unequally.   This is well known and  the reasons are complex.   The result is that some people consider it their duty or even obligation to ensure redress.   I have come across  situations and have heard of more where tourists, unfamiliar with the country and the language, are taken advantage of.   Conversely though, it seems interesting that these are the same countries where haggling and trying to beat down the price is the norm and for some tourists, outright sport.


I must confess I rarely take taxis.   Really, it's only on vacation and even then I go to lengths to avoid it.  They're expensive!     As I am not an experienced taxi user  the intricacies of the meter versus the flat rate is a mystery to me and I could easily be overcharged.   For some reasons taxi drivers know this.

When I was in Cuernavaca, Mexico, we took taxis everywhere.   These are called radio taxis in that you call ahead for them and this, we were told, was to ensure that we received a vetted taxi driver with some official government stamp of approval as opposed to what was called the gypsy cabs.   These are owned by anyone with a car and a taxi sign they put in the window.   They are cheaper but, we were told, not reliable and driven by potentially dodgy people.   It's easy to be nervous in a foreign country!   My modest amount of Spanish helped.

Taxis are a good topic of conversation.   Everyone has a story.  My recent one though took place in Seattle where a taxi driver informed me that our fare--which probably would have been under ten dollars--was not worth his while, even if it was almost midnight and we needed to get to our motel from the airport.    A colleague told of the time in Greece where a company ran bus tours to a well known site for a reasonable charge but that tourists found out after arrival that it was a one way journey.   A taxi ride of over $100 was required to return to the starting point.   We speculated that the bus company and the taxi company and drivers must have a friendly agreement as to splitting the profits.    

In Egypt, camel rides are provided around the pyramids for a modest charge but after your photograph is taken with your camera, as is so helpfully suggested by the camel herder, there is a $10 charge to get it back--for services rendered--and a similar charge to be helped down from the camel, who somehow is threatening to let loose an enormous expectoration, judging by the sounds in its throat.   Well trained, probably, but there's no way of knowing for sure.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

COMING HOME


                                                                       



I never mind coming home from vacation.   It isn't that I've had a bad time; it's more that I like my home and where I live.  Coming home from vacation reminds me of that.  Maui is hot, reliably hot, unlike the west coast of British Columbia where a heatwave is news.   But the afternoons on Maui were too hot to be outside, at least for me, and we went from one air-conditioned venue to another in the afternoons.  We applied sunscreen relentlessly, but I have always had doubts about the efficacy of that product.   This time we tried the spray on version.   Less rubbing in but there seemed to be a lot of drift-off of the product and none of the coconut smell.   I still burned on my face and shoulders and relied more on hats and cover-ups and . . . shade!

Maui has different micro-climates as you move around the island.   The hotter, drier regions are around Kihei while the north is cooler.   Any time you go up in elevation, things cool down.   There are many beautiful flowers and birds, but everyone knows that, right?  Lots of gorgeous beaches.

I was interested to discover a little of the history and that Hawaii was taken away from the Hawaiians illegally.   It seems that first some powerful sugar plantation owners and later the need for a military base was the justification for annexing Hawaii.  An apology was given by the government twenty years ago for this action, but Hawaii wasn't given back.    I was surprised that this had been allowed  but I won't comment any further as political controversy isn't my goal on this blog.   

Back to the title of this post.   One important factor about your home--it has your things.   I was using an iPad on vacation.   That will never replace my beloved laptop.   I missed my piano--didn't fit in my bag.   Luckily my pets can't read;  I should have mentioned them first.   Of course, there is something about the moment that occurs when you go to the kennel to pick up your dogs after vacation and they see you for the first time in over a week.   You'd think you were royalty judging by the reception they give you.    And it wasn't just the bacon treats they had missed.   I hope!

                                                   

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The value of small things



                               




I packed a dollar store sewing kit on my own vacation to Maui last week.   Since I'm a light packer it was probably an unnecessary item but I did have the opportunity to use it on one occasion to sew ribbon ties to my straw hat or else lose it to the tropical breezes.

When I went to use the sewing kit this I discovered that in addition to some very small spools of thread, a tiny pair of scissors that didn't really cut anything, and a thimble,  was a flat container with what looked like 100 needles.  Why so many?  

It made me recall a story I read once, maybe as a child, about early American pioneers and how scarce some things were for them. Manufactured or metallic items had to be brought out from England or Europe, a three to six month sea voyage.  This particular story focussed on sewing needles.  The small New England settlement of perhaps a dozen or two families had only one needle.   An arrangement was made  among the settlers  that each would would have the use of the needle for three weeks.

All of a family's mending, indeed all the the sewing of their clothing for the next year--remember there were no stores to purchase  from in the early pioneer days--had to be undertaken and completed during that time.  The main character, a girl of about ten to twelve years of age, was given the task of transporting the precious item from her family to the next.  

I don't remember the plot; perhaps she lost and then found the needle.   That would seem a likely story.   But the idea of one needle being so precious made an impression on me.   Today, it seems a hundred needles do not even equal a dollar in value but two hundred years ago, one was a treasure.