Friday, May 30, 2014

An Eighth Freebit from Acceptance

Eldin faces more trouble in this eighth of ten 6 paragraph Freebits from Acceptance. I face trouble, too, as actually there are seven paragraphs here. Sorry, Ginger. In my defense two are lines of dialogue and it doesn't make sense without all seven. You know, finding six coherent paragraphs out of context can be difficult.

~ * ~

"You should not have come down," Eldin said. "He will kill you."

Eldin watched the gathered nobles push their wives behind them and back away from the king, and he looked for any of King Clement's defenders.

"I know he will kill me, but not how he killed my grandfather, choking the old man with his hands. Or how he killed my father that same night, stabbing him with King Theobald's knife, and then making it look like the son strangled the father, his king." Uilleam's eyes never left Clement. "Your supporters stood guard outside the door, allowing your evil."

"You cannot know that! It's a lie. A lie I say!" Clement scoffed-shouted, but wariness entered his eyes.

Uilleam smiled in acidic certainty. "No lie, King Usurper. I was there, I saw. You wore dark clothing, having had to sneak into the palace. Shall I describe my father's clothing? My grandfather's? Or how the old man fought you until you grabbed a candlestick and struck him? Then you twisted the Signet Regal from his finger, but it wouldn't loosen, so you cut off his finger. In trying to slip it on you dropped it and had to scrabble on the floor and under the bed to find it." Uilleam's voice lowered as he approached King Clement. "Don't back up, royal-boil! Everyone knows me harmless. Look, I'm unarmed, not even an eating knife. You want me dead? Now is a good time to perform the feat."

The king waved his armed guards forward with a hand movement. He stood supremely self-confidant, arrogant in his assurance. "Your loyal man is mine. He will kill you. I have no fear."

With a laugh Uilleam asked, "Will you kill me, Eldin? Will you stab me in the back?" Uilleam's gaze remained on Clement.

~ * ~
Purchase link for Acceptance is in right hand column.

Now go to Ginger's blog and follow the links to other Friday Freebits!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

We've Been Recording Information Longer Than We Thought

The other day I listening to some program on TV giving it no attention at all when the narrator started speaking about cavemen leaving messages for others, and that mankind may have been writing far longer than anyone predicted.

It seems that while archeologists, anthropologists, art historians and other scientists have study the images in caves -- the horses, bulls, antlered animals, rhinos, and hand prints of cavemen, none noticed or ignored the 26 symbols of dots, shapes, finger swirls, etc. around and between the large realistic paintings. That is until four years ago when Genevieve von Petzinger of the University of Victoria in British Columbia and her colleague April Nowell, began looking at those shapes and finding the same symbols repeated through many as many as 200 prehistoric sites. According to the new study it pushes the accepted age of the beginning of communication from about 6,000 years ago to an unbelievable 30,000 years ago. (Just saying -- it shows man as a critical and creative thinking creature far further into history than anyone imagined.)

According to an article in The Guardian (paragraph 10 -- site also has an image of the symbols):

Von Petzinger and her Nowell remain cautious, however. "We cannot use the 'L' or 'W' words yet," says Nowell. "This is not writing as we know it or language as we understand it. However, in these caves we are looking at the patterning of symbols, and if we can unravel that, we can get to their meaning."

Other scientists say there is evidence man was an functioning intellectual being before leaving Africa 70,000 to 90,000 years ago. They have even found some of the same symbols in African caves.

Another article, 'Oldest Writing Nearly Deciphered,' I came across at  Discover Communications has information on how our computer technology is helping decipher the code of the earliest samples of writing we have from about 5,000 years ago.

Which just goes to show what comes around goes around, the ancient's symbols whose meaning has been lost in time but started our imprinting of information may be brought back into understanding by our latest creations, now called technology, of symbols.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bagpipes in America


Coming from Scottish and Irish ancestry, I’ve always loved the sound of bagpipes, especially at parades; and nothing is more poignant for me than the notes of 'Amazing Grace' coming from a bagpipe. Both the ancestry (Home World ~ Aginfeld) and the pipes have played parts in my novels.

That aside, have you noticed how bagpipes have become part of military in not only Scottish, British, and former British territories like Canada, but also with U.S. military, police and fire departments? Matter of fact, many of these have registered tartans with the Scottish Registry, including the U.S. Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Army Civilian Affairs, Seebees, although no piper bands are now active military. In my home state, the Michigan State Police registered a plaid, although I don't think they have a band, but perhaps a piper, and the Detroit Metro Police have a plaid for their pipers.

Bagpipes are essentially windpipes with an inflatable bag to maintain the sound. Various carvings and illustrations show they have been used for centuries in various forms from around Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. Their origins remain in the murky past with much speculation: perhaps the Roman armies spread them around their empire, maybe they were invented in Assyria, but there is no definitive proof. Their history becomes better recorded from the seventeenth century on. While Scottish bagpipes are ubiquitous for the instrument, there are other forms such as the uilleann pipes of Ireland and the Spanish gaita. Wikipedia has a list.

Supposedly, the Scottish used the dire sound of the pipes to frighten opposing armies, and records show British pipers played during battles right up and into World War I. However, with the change in weaponry, the pipers became easy targets. Records show they were still used upon occasion in other modern conflicts. Besides creating unity among soldiers in past centuries, if soldiers were marching, pipes would certainly warn anyone on horseback or driving wagons in their path to get off the road and out of the way. They may have served to frighten equines in war, too, forcing anyone mounted to either dismount or concentrate on controlling their horse.

According to Richard Scott Blair, PhD in his “A Brief History Of Military Piping Abroad And In America,” (link site gone) kilted troopers following bagpipes have been in the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. He gives a excellent account of U.S. military bagpipe history. It seems all of the active duty bagpipe bands are defunct, but retired military pipers and bands keep the tradition alive.

Despite their military history, I would guess that popularity grew because people liked the sound and the entertainment, and nothing makes a more mournful sound for a memorial or funeral service. Immigrants bring their traditions with them, and that is true of the Irish and Scottish. Especially in the nineteenth century during the famines, they brought their pipes with them and used them for their celebrations and funerals. Because of discrimination, often the only jobs available for these immigrants in port cities like New York and Boston were as firefighters or policemen, both considered dangerous, often dirty work, so when the Scots or Irish lost a member to fighting fire or to a criminal, bagpipes played at the funeral, an association that become entwined with burying heroes.

Today, many of our soldiers leave the military and begin work with many fire and police departments around the country. Which is why yesterday, Memorial Day, so many pipers were present.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Adding Romance, Danger, Intrigue -- the Setting

This month's round-robin is about settings, and which ones stand out in memory. I often find setting understated in contemporary time frames, but perhaps unbeknownst to readers, contemporary settings can be just as difficult to imaginatively depict as any historical or future time. What I find interesting about contemporary settings is they eventually become historicals.

Most of the time the setting is a backdrop for the storyline, but one novelist's settings literal took over, and that was James Michener. I read his Tales of the South Pacific, Caravans, Centennial, and Hawaii. In Hawaii (even the title was about the setting) he began the story when the islands began to develop undersea. He introduceed the Pacific Ocean: "Scores of millions of years before man had risen from the shores of the ocean to perceive its grandeur and to venture forth upon its turbulent waves, this eternal seas existed, larger than any other of the earth's features, vaster than the sister oceans combined, wild, terrifying in its immensity and imperative in its universal role." This is before he begins his description of how the islands themselves formed and how life came to the islands.

Hawaii is still considered one of the must-visit exotic places on earth for many travelers, so it is romantic. Weather, although most often perfect, can be dangerous for these islands, and then their is the volcano at the heart of the islands adding even more danger to paradise. Michener tells of these dangers, too, and then perhaps the most danger comes from inhabitants. He tells the stories of the first Hawaiian's trip across the ocean in out rigger canoes to discover the islands, the discovery of the islands by Europeans, the arrival of missionaries; interesting storylines, but once established, the setting never leaves the reader's mind. Michener's settings are so strong, I can always remember them, but not so much the actual storyline.

Developing the setting for fantasy and science fiction is called world building, and it is a fun endeavor, and I have read many of these world settings that are inspired, intriguing, and dangerous, but the successful ones are most often based on some historical format and bits and pieces added to the storyline here and there, not like the huge chucks Michener so successful used.

For other views on the most inspiring, romantic, or dangerous settings, please visit other participating writers are listed below.

* Anne Stenhouse
* Diane Bator
* Geeta Kakade
* Connie Vines 
* Marci Baun 
* Beverley Bateman
* Ginger Simpson
* Margaret Fieland
* Fiona McGier

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Seventh Freebit from Acceptance

Status as a Talent or null is important. In this seventh of ten 6 paragraph Freebits, it is partially explained.

~ * ~

Corbin filled Kissre's wine glass as she sank into the deep chair set before the fire.

"Is it safe to talk here?" he asked.

"Probably not, but I'm a null, and you probably are, too. They would have a hard time reading your mind and from what I've been told, can't read mine at all. Do you intend treachery?"

"No, but is not a pleasant thought that someone could roam through your thoughts and you remain unaware."

"It is illegal. Only a few Talents have a gift that strong. Besides, they save it for special occasions, and for your acute anticipation, they let you know it is going to happen first. Mostly they can feel emotional responses. As long as you keep yourself composed, they don't get much. I understand the envoy arrives soon."

"I am here to plan the accommodations and determine with the Cygnese the protocols for the talks. It is very difficult. They are a wondrously suspicious lot. Every suggestion for the smooth, orderly running of the meeting is cross-examined." Corbin sighed in an elaborate flourish. "I imagine we will debate everything to a standstill."

~ * ~

Now go to Ginger's blog and follow the links to other Friday Freebits!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dragoons

My newest sci/fi romance about a future soldier, taming a planet, and an aggressive corporate The Nanite Warrior, is about the development of dragoon super soldiers. It takes place on Aginfeld, the world of the previous novel about  the bio-transformation of a potential planet into to a livable world.  A great deal of research went into creating the setting for Home World ~ Aginfeld, and more went into discovering the soldier needed for The Nanite Warrior. Here is some of what I learned about dragoons.
takeover saga,

Originally, dragoons were mounted infantry, literally soldiers who rode to the battle only to dismount and fight on foot, aiding the regular foot soldiers. Later they fought both on foot or while mounted. Dragoons have a history going back to the 15th century and incidental evidence of use before then, but at the start of the 16th century, Dragoons became an important military asset along with heavy cavalry (think armored knights and horses running full charge). Dragoons provided an advantage to battle commanders as a fast system to move troops from one battle location to another. As times changed, dragoons became cavalry, and later motorized and armored infantry, such as the U.S. Army's 1st Dragoons who served in Vietnam and Iraq.

Why are they called dragoons? They earned a reputation for swiftness, endurance, and flexibility, highly desired qualities during a war, not only as fighters, but also as couriers. Yet the name derives from early French Dragoons who carried a firearm called a 'dragon,' a short blunderbuss or 'thunder gun.' This weapon was shorter than a regular thunderbuss, so more manageable while riding, and it held a 'spread load,' which made it more likely to hit any nearby target. The 'dragon' also emitted a short flame upon firing.

Dragoons have been part of war engagements in Europe and North America. Here in the United States, during the Revolutionary War, four regiments of light dragoons fought and often acted as escorts and couriers. They also fought in the War of 1812, but were disbanded in 1815. Colonel Henry Dodge led the newly organized First Dragoons to Fort Gibson in 1834 to what is now Oklahoma where they helped explore and map the western frontier, and helped establish Fort Dodge and Fort Des Moines. The U.S. Army established mounted riflemen in1845 and cavalry in 1855. They differences were in weapons carried and how they fought, dragoons being the only ones carrying sabers, rifles, and pistols, and still fighting either on foot or mounted. In 1861, all mounted troops merged under the term cavalry, where they become important for reconnaissance of enemy troop strengths.

During their history dragoons have been known for their flamboyant, colorful attire, which sometimes extended to nonmilitary fashions like longer hair, facial hair, earrings, and elaborate headgear. The world has not finished with dragoons. Today, U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment, known as the 2nd Dragoons, is an active Stryker infantry and cavalry regiment following their heritage as the 2nd Regiment of Dragoons established in 1836. Currently garrisoned in Germany, they have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Canada has the Royal Canadian Dragoons, the British Columbia Dragoons, and the Saskatchewan Dragoons. There are dragoons guards, regiments, and divisions in Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Queen's Dragoon Guards serve in England's military. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are famous for their pipes and drums band. Talk about flamboyant flourish! The band was "deployed to the Gulf as tank crewman during Op Granby which was part of Desert Storm," proving dragoons while still flamboyant, also remain active in duty and service.

Monday, May 19, 2014

More on Illiteracy for a Literacy Based Industry

 A re-post of my topic on the Writer's Vineyard

According to research published last April, the National Institute of Literacy (part of U.S. Department of Education) reported that 19% of students graduating from U.S. schools cannot read. Wow!? Do you find that as disturbing as I do? What is happening to our basic education system? I know public high school teachers in some areas have especially hard and precarious teaching assignments. However, these illiterate students face a difficult future because 63% of prison inmates cannot read. In other words, you can guess where they are likely to land, and other studies show the link between illiteracy and violence. It is not only in the U.S., illiteracy is a global problem. Worldwide 66% of the world’s 774 million illiterate are women. (Emerging in many locations from a barefoot and pregnant philosophy in education, I’m sure.)

All statistics need closer review. For instance, out of the 14% of U.S. adults considered illiterate, does that mean in English only? Can they read in another language? And how many had an undiagnosed learning disability that prevented the individual from reaching reading proficiency? Experience shows this still happens. This statistic, while considerable, is low compared to a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, but it seems to have reached a plateau, changing very little over the last decade. This means these people cannot read tax forms, fill out employment forms, or be sure what their prescription label states. What these numbers do not show is that as of 2011, 50% of U.S. citizens read below the eighth grade level. Wondering about your book's low sales rates?

It is proven that parents influence a child’s literacy: literate parents have literate children, probably by setting good examples and standards. I don’t have the answer, and I know libraries and schools are trying to address the problem, but it is not enough. If we envision a better future, along with all today’s and tomorrow’s other problems, we need solutions to improve literacy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Sixth Freebit from Acceptance

Known traitor Eldin Innes has discovered the country of his new allegiance is a far fall from the heights he sought in this sixth of ten Freebits from Acceptance.

~ * ~

From his attic window in his Lord's apartment, Eldin looked down on Bhatar Court, Pertelon's King Clement's primary residence. It was raining again and the adjacent tower spires were obscured in a gray mist. It seemed like it always rained here. The dismal aspect was reflected in the room behind him. As the least of King Clement's wards, Aristo Uilleam Leavold's lodgings reflected his position at court.

"It's bad out," his new Master said, bounding into the room.

Without turning around to look at the young man, Eldin answered. "It certainly is."

From this height, on a clear day, he could make the thrusting mounds on the watery horizon that signified Kaereya. He refused to think about living there. For his circumstances he had only himself to blame. In trying to improve his life, he had destroyed it. His plans, his stratagems to show his ability, all failed. Now he was the spy-servant probable assassin for his chosen king—to this irrelevant boy.

"Cheer up, Eldin. You need not go out in it." Uilleam was cold and wet. He patted Eldin on the shoulder. His damp fingers left moist stains on the silk fabric that would stain.

Uilleam stood next to him, a silly grin covering his face. Eldin regarded his charge. Although older than King Warrick of Kaereya, Aristo Uilleam seemed boyish, a brown-haired young man with royal blood, tall and well made, but not much else; a cuckoo among the court's egrets. The grandson of the king before Clement, Uilleam provoked few concerns in Clement. The boy seldom drew anyone's interest except for the sports of baiting and ridicule.

~ * ~
Purchase link for Acceptance is on column to the right.

Now go to Ginger's blog and follow the links to other Friday Freebits!

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Fifth Freebit from Acceptance

Training never ends for a mercenary like Kissre in this fifth of ten 6 paragraph Freebits from Acceptance.

~ * ~

Kissre woke to the feel of a knife blade creasing her throat. Just below her ear. Her eyes flicked open, her body stiffened. It was dark, but a hint of light indicated pre-dawn. "Up, Kissre," a well-known voice demanded in whispered tones. "Up, now."

"Quillon? There are at least three candlemarks before we leave."

"Quiet. You'll wake everyone. Up, laze-about. It's time to earn your keep. You need practice." He pushed her with a rough hand and laid a practice shield and sword next to her sleep roll.

Fudge stood next to him, head cocking side to side, looking down at Kissre in soundless interest. Staggering as she rose, Kissre dressed and followed Quillon. In a field not far from the camp, he ordered her to put Fudge at stay. Then he started the session. After her time with the Cygnese army, she thought her body recovered. Quillon showed her the truth. Within a trice he had found her weak spots and hammered mercilessly on them till she could no longer keep her guard up against his attack. Agility and timing failed at each assault. Quillon's wood practice blade pounded bruises onto her flesh. His buckler caught her and she fell.

"You call yourself security? You sleep so soundly an assassin can get a knife to your throat. You're out of breath before starting practice. Your left side is so weak and stiff you can't hold a buckler properly. You limp like a crone, and seem to have forgotten every defense you ever knew. How good are you at attack?" Kissre didn't answer the gloating, taunting voice. She couldn't. Her burning lungs demanded air more than her pride needed to protest Quillon's denunciation.  "It's too late to get someone else, so I'll have to ensure you are capable of carrying out your duty."

Unable to move with his sword point held at her throat, Kissre groaned and collapsed. Quillon laughed. "Yes, you know what to expect. Put your weapons down. You need to build your strength. A short run would be a good beginning. If you can run."

~ * ~
A purchase link for Acceptance is on the column to the right.

Now go to Ginger's blog and follow the links to other Friday Freebits!

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Fourth Freebit from Acceptance

The dog, Fudge.

In this fourth of ten 6 paragraph excerpts from Acceptance, become acquainted with Kissre's huge hound, an important secondary character.

~ * ~

In the pre-dawn dark a hand shook him awake. Ulyss' voice told him to go to the infirmary immediately, reiterating the serious plea in his mind. Dovel's eyes snapped open with a sense of dread that ensnared his chest in a tight grip. His squad, long patient with his desire for privacy, lost their indulgence and followed him. Within the city gates his need became apparent.

The whole city buzzed in angry tumult. People screamed and shouted from opened windows. The sound of slamming window sashes and shutters reverberated in endless repetition. Along the street excited dogs barked and rattled the fence slats they jumped against, and from stables, agitated ponies neighed and stamped in counterpoint. Above all, in the damp night air, the prolonged, reverberating howl of a demented demon sang. Crescendo and decrescendo the solo continued. Dovel, stunned, began to run.

He arrived out of breath at the infirmary's side door. Where the healer had disappeared that afternoon carrying Kissre, a huge shaggy shadow sat with head thrown back in mournful disharmony. A crowd had formed around the dog, several with large sticks, but no one dared approach, not after rumors of his behavior on the day of 'The Attack.' Shushing and cajoling did no good. Stones lay around the animal showing more drastic failed measures.

Healer Bujyea also stood at the door, his uncombed gray hair standing on end. With arms akimbo and displeasure lining his tired, frowning face, he waved Dovel forward. Dovel walked up to the dog. Fudge rose to a squat and gave him a quick lick of greeting, his front feet tapping the ground and his tail swishing in rhythm. There was a communal and premature sigh of relief, both physical and mental, as the wail ended. Fudge, his greeting over, threw back his head in yet another long note of ear-piercing undulation.

"Out!" Dovel commanded as he unshackled the chain trailing from Fudge's collar. The discord stopped mid-note, and Fudge gave him a doleful look as applause started. Dovel wound the chain around the stake and extended it to Ulyss who was laughing, having just removing his hands from over his ears. Ulyss took the chain.

"Fudge, heel," he commanded and went to the door. The healer stepped aside with an abusive and indecent mutter to the dog, and opened the portal, "This is against regulation."

~ * ~
Links to Acceptance are on the right hand column.