Monday, 18 March 2019

Jacqui Murray’s new pre-history fiction release: Survival of the Fittest …

Here’s an author who is prepared to research and explore life as it is … as well as what life could well have been nearly a million years ago – as ‘we’ were starting our journey towards the 21st century …

Jacqui has written lots of other books on technical education, thrillers, her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy  (Building a Midshipman)… and now we have the first of her Crossroads trilogy: Survival of the Fittest.

What I like about this … is that Jacqui has let her imagination wander into the prehistory possibilities of life on earth and how we are now where we are … this path has obviously opened her eyes to so much … communication, spiritual aspects, male and female accomplishments, art, music, the land with its seasons – what a wealth of information to draw on.

Did Xhosa have any type of culture – art, music, that sort?  Is the question I asked Jacqui.

Her answer:  This time in man’s prehistory predated art, music, and most culture. There is very little if anything known about earliest man’s (850,000 years ago) interest in art and music.

In Xhosa’s case, I extrapolated from what we do know about these early iterations of man. They appreciated colors but didn’t think of applying it to themselves. Their brains could imagine things unseen but that didn’t extend to painting themselves, wearing jewelry, or tattoos.

Since clothing was only for warmth (or in Seeker’s case, to protect his sensitive parts), no thought was given to designing or decorating these.

Music—They did appreciate bird songs but considered it an animal voice, not something that they could replicate for their own pleasure. They could replicate it but it was to imitate the bird, not express creativity. They also appreciated rhythm but that was to set a running pace or sooth people.

Further details about Jacqui Murray's book launch:

Short Blurb:

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.
Short Summary:
Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes--from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn't want her People's land. He wants to destroy her.
Book information:

Title and author: Survival of the Fittest
Series: Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Cover by: Damonza 

Author bio:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Social Media contacts:

I congratulate Jacqui on her obvious desire to broaden the scope of her writing … this first book in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs Nature saga – sounds intriguing and should set our senses searching for new prompts for our own writings – enjoy …

Please check her out and keep an eye open for further publications by this stimulating author … who is Jacqui Murray.

If you would like to read the first chapter ... it can be found at Balroop Singh's post on her 'Emotional Shadows' blog ... where she has also been promoting Jacqui's book.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 8 March 2019

International Women's Day ...

For half the population it is ‘our day’ … and I give you a few quotes from thought provoking women:

Red: official holiday; Orange: holiday for women;
yellow: non-official holiday.
(see Wikipedia for more details on map.

“Courage calls to courage everywhere.” 
Millicent Fawcett, British writer and suffragette (1847 – 1929)

“Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?”
Frida Kahlo, Mexican artist  (1907 – 1954)

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
Dr Mae Jemison, American astronaut and physician  (born 1956)

“We are too precious to let disappointments enter our minds.” 
NL Beno Zephine, Indian Diplomat  (Sightless, but full of vision).    (born 1990)

“I am stronger than myself.”
Clarice Lispector, Brazilian novelist  (1920 – 1977)

“I really believe in the idea of the future.”
Zaha Hadid, British-Iraqi architect  (1950 – 2016)

“I matter.  I matter equally.  Not ‘If only’, not ‘as long as’.  
I matter.  Full Stop.” 
Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian Writer  (born 1977)

The women whose quotes I’ve copied are taken from those expressed in today’s Google Doodle and are the ones that drew me in … while Clarice Lispector, Beno Zephine and Mae Jemison I had not heard of …

… so I looked them up … to find Clarice and her family had experienced enormous hardship before fleeing from Russian Ukraine to Romania and ultimately Brazil, where her mother had relatives. 

The story I found about her harrowing early life makeshorrendous readingand we should all (always) remember how lucky we are – regardless of where we are in life …

Taken from a book
She overcame so much … while in the mid 1960s … the American translator Gregory Rabassa, who first encountered Lispector in the mid 1960s, at a conference on Brazilian literature, in Texas, recalled being:

 "flabbergasted to meet that rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf"

The quotes are so apposite in so many ways … I leave you to ponder them on this 2019’s International Women’s Day …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Magic Exhibition … ideas here for the curious mind …

Just had to tell you all about this exhibition as I’m sure some of you in London could be majicked out to see it …

c/o from Staging
Magic Guide

Right let’s ask White Rabbit what this is all about … if we can get him out from under his hat to tell us about the resources, references available to entice us to pay a visit to be entranced …

University of London

… it came about from the donation of Harry Price’s Library of Magical Literature, correspondence, posters, prints etc to University of London’s Senate House Library …

A photo taken in 1922 by
William Hope showing
Price with a "spirit"

Harry Price (1881 – 1948), the psychic researcher, who might best be remembered for describing Borley Rectory as “the most haunted house in England” … as well as his infamous investigations of mediums, hauntings and other supernatural phenomena …

  it is free – now what could be better … Magic Rabbit is quite clever … he tells me he heads the colony or nest (as a collective of rabbits is known) … so Mr Rabbit has lots of very clever magic tricks … some of which he mentions below … Mr White Rabbit notes this blogger’s post today is rather rambly and odd …

Downloadable (see below)

… there’s a free downloadable exhibition guide (well worth looking at - see the site) … 48 pages on the history of the magicians, legerdemaine, charlatans, cabinets of inventions, wonders of wonders, conjurers … European ones, Chinese too … secrets, secrets, secrets – in case you want to have a look!

Lots of ideas for writers and wordsmiths … oh and so much more … books, magazines … amusing automatons ... lots of fun … for example:

Bartolomeo Bosco (1793 - 1863)
Tricks for the Trenches and Ward (1915) … for WW1 Nurses and Soldiers … providing light relief at that time of darkness …

Brilliant – Bartolomeo Bosco, an Italian magician, was wounded during the Battle of Borodino (1812) … he pretended to be dead … the looter searched his clothing, while Bosco picked the looter’s pocket!

Apparition - Milwaukee Sentinel (1933)
There’s an entry about an attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player in 1821 …

So wordsmiths … grab your notebooks, writing implements of desire … and get those curious minds grappling round these ideas …

As set out in the copy of ‘Discovery of Witchcraft, Conjurors, Soothsayers …’ here’s the 1584 description … from ‘Find in a Library: …’:

"The discouerie of witchcraft :

-        vvherein the lewde dealing of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected,
-        the knauerie of coniurors,
-        the impietie of inchantors,
-        the follie of soothsaiers,
-        the impudent falshood of cousenors,
-        the infidelitie of atheists,
-        the pestilent practises of pythonists, et al …"

Simple scientific mysteries … a booklet on experiments illustrating chemical, physical and optical wonders (1891) …

Robert-Houdin Theatrical Museum, Blois
(it has a public display of dragons)

Also … Stage illusions … Parlour Magic … Mysteries … just plain majicke  Films such as ‘The Illusionist’ (2006) was clearly inspired by Robert-Houdin (1805 – 1871);

while “Hugo” (2011) features an automaton, re-enactments of Robert-Houdin’s illusions … Georges Méliès bought Theatre Robert-Houdin …  Méliès, who in time created the classic film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (1924) …

Harry Houdini – took his stage name from his illustrious predecessor, Robert-Houdin, whose memoir inspired him … but ultimately he unmasked his hero to expose his ‘dishonesty’ …

I hope I’ve enticed you, or perhaps lured you with a tricke or twaine to take a look at the Exhibition’s website … and if you’re ‘local’ … perhaps visit … it looks a really fascinating exhibition … apart from a visit to the library high up in Senate House … you’ve got til 15 June … NB opening hours vary during term time …

Caravaggio's 'The Cardsharps' (1594)
The blog-curtain comes down on White Rabbit here … but wander across to visit a much better blog post about the Exhibition, as well as London University’s absolutely excellent ‘Staging Magic’ exhibition guide … so I shall wave my magic wand over 450 years of magical history and disappear …

Ian Visits Blog - details re the exhibition ...

The Staging Magic Exhibition full guide and details  including the fascinating downloadable guide ... perfect for wordsmiths and curious minds ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 25 February 2019

We are the World Blogfest # 22: Shop Local … benefit your neighbourhood ...

Let’s help our own community … the place where we live, where our kids go to school and where our friends and family are to be found …

by spending just £5, $5, 5 Rand, or five of your own currency per week at our local businesses – it’s reckoned billions would go directly back into the local economy …

leading to more local jobs, more opportunity, better facilities and nicer places to livesaving councils money as there’d be fewer people needing help … and there’d be more services for those in need …

So please spend local – and a fiver a week isn’t much is it?

We can still use supermarkets, large brand stores, online shops … but each ‘money box’ amount of cash would make so much difference to our enterprising small business owners – fruit and vegetables, delicatessens, restaurants (not brands!), newsagents, farmers markets … just buy local.

You’d save money too – not using the car and wasting petrol; using your feet – getting that extra bit of exercise in; preserving the local identity … keeping our towns unique and not all the same homogenous range of products …

Let’s go local … please mentally pledge to regularly buy locally – and preferably spend in an entrepreneur’s shop, rather than the ubiquitous stores that abound in town centres …

and then put a few left over pennies into the charity boxes around to help hospices, the homeless, food banks, animals and birds …

For us here - spend locally in
Eastbourne, East Sussex

… as well as services that help local charitable organisations … Citizen’s Advice; Royal National Institute for the Blind, Hospices et al ... 

Let’s change the way we all think …

S H O P   L O C A L

We are the World … In Darkness, Be Light

Let’s all give it a go and encourage our families, friends and fellow locals to get out there and spend those few Pounds/ Dollars/ Rand each week in our local shops … benefiting our villages and towns - thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

28 Days ... and the 28 that got away ...

I’ve given up – twenty-eight x four or five months of being floored by this prompt … nothing came to mind … I was working a story – but lethargy struck … so nothing to say but a loss of lots of thoughts and no doubt numerous hours and days – but I won’t count …

So a poem I came across recently – which is so clever … that it would have got printed here at some stage …

An array of subjects printed on a mug from Blackwell’s – the academic bookshop, to be found in Oxford city centre and in other main cities around Britain …  so here goes …

Argue in Archaeology
Buzz in Biology
Chat over Coffee
Dream in Divinity
Explore Economics
Frolic in Forensics
Gambol in Geology
Hasten to Health
Investigate Iberia
Jog in Jurisprudence
Kip in Kinetics
Linger in Linguistics
Mountaineer in Mathematics
Navigate Neurology
Orbit in Ophthalmology
Ponder in Philosophy
Quest in Quandary
Rave in Revolutions
Shelter in Seismology
Tango in Technology
Uncover Universes
Veg out under Volcanoes
Walk on the Wild Side
Yodel in Yoga
Zip through Zoology …

Blackwell's in the Broad, Oxford

… whatever the subject they have it at Blackwells – but even the Knowledge Retailer was not able to help me with Twenty Eight Days – a subject that will forever haunt me!

Apologies to the organisers … this just did not gel … so that’s my hopeless entry per the subject … but fun entry per thought processes … I shall now no longer Harry Hapless Hilary!

An array of errors - c/o The Economist

Twenty-Eight Days of failure … pure failure – but who cares … not me – these things happen!!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Robert Service … “Bard of the North” …

Just sometimes in life we come across quite extraordinary people … whose lives we learn about … Robert Service (1874 – 1958) is one of those … he spent a few years in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island in his early twenties … after leaving Scotland for new horizons …

c 1905 - aged 31

We learn that this imaginative, day-dreaming child was already composing rhythmical verses at the age of 6 … appropriately a delightful child-like grace:

God bless the cakes and bless the jam;
Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:
Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,
And saves us all from bellyaches. Amen

Plain boiled ham - this though
looks rather good
Wonderful lives people lead … this six year old had been sent to live with his grandfather, a general store postmaster, and three maiden aunts in Kilwinning, Scotland – there were ten children, so perhaps understandably some got ‘farmed out’ …

Highland Dancer swirling kilt
in the 21st C

… his mother, on her husband’s return from England, came to visit to find her son happily dressed in a kilt with nothing underneath … she took him back to Glasgow!

He was forever reading books, particularly poetry … Burns, Shakespeare, Browning … on leaving school early he apprenticed with the Bank of Scotland … where due to inactivity he developed his craft of writing and “selling verses” …

Driving down towards Cowichan Bay
… as you can imagine he got bored, wanted to travel and at 21 in 1895, journeyed to Vancouver Island, where the family had relatives;  he dreamt of becoming a Buffalo Bill type cowboy having read or seen the Wild West performances in England and Europe.

Corfield Farm - c/o Cowichan Bay Museum Archives
He explored up and down the west coast … just subsisting … returning to the Island he took a job as a cowhand/store-keeper/ also tutor to the farmer’s sons … once again experiencing life to the full … garnering stories …

… it was an idyllic time … later he thought it was time wasted … but to earn a bit more in 1903 he returned to bank work in the capital Victoria … while continuing to write verses …

Railway crossing the North Thomson
River, Kamloops
… very soon the bank sent him to Kamloops (a new railway transportation hub on the mainland) … from there he was sent to Whitehorse, Yukon – a prospectors stop-over on the way to Dawson City to test their luck in the Gold Rush ...  

Still working for the bank, but in a frontier town where entertainment was always needed … Robert continued to write his verses or doggerel … entertaining the wide range of characters chasing their fortune in the frozen ranges.

Sailing north to the Yukon
He was able to amass a collection of ballads, which he sent, to his father, now living in Toronto, asking him to have them printed up into a booklet, which he was going to give to friends in Whitehorse.  He had covered the costs with a cheque …

The booklet true to its title was a self-starter … the foreman and printer recited the ballads while they worked; a salesman read the proofs and sold 1700 copies in advance orders … the publisher sent Robert’s cheque back and offered him a ten percent royalty contract for the book.

 Songs of a Sourdough’ (sourdough – as is the bread starter stored in distinctive pouches by the old miners; and/or as a term for an experienced miner) …

Paying with gold dust, Dawson City

Robert’s life was set – he found he fairly easily was able to draft his works … doggerel, ballads, novels, newspaper articles … making sure they would appeal to the ear and reflect to the eye … he had found his voice …

His cabin in Dawson City - it is still there,
but tourists can only walk round

Coarse rolls of lining paper were hung up … where he copied out his verses using charcoal … refining them, pacing and repeating … until the words flowed.

I could write lots more about this fascinating man – who started life as a boy with no knickers under his kilt, who could write verses without having visited Dawson City … he listened to the miners, parodied their tales …

Films were made,
verses quoted etc

He continued to live in the Yukon writing … but being able to travel went to see other parts of the world … WW1 commenced and he wanted to sign up – but due to varicose veins was rejected … he still wrote for newspapers … after the War he settled in Paris, married but moved to the USA west coast during WW2 …

They holidayed and lived in Brittany
 - which is where he is buried

They returned to France, with Robert living out his days as a wealthy gentleman, who at night transformed himself into a tramp, and together with his doorman, wandered the Parisian streets seeking inspiration …

A collection
That is Robert Service who loved the Yukon, honed his ‘voice’, wrote to entertain, whose words are forever embedded as wonderful ballads, doggerel stanzas, whimsical tales of the frozen north … the small child who could praise ‘cold boiled ham’ …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories