Saturday, June 27, 2015

Penny Dreadfuls; the 99c Kindle eBook of the Victorian Era

Penny Dreadfuls; the 99c Kindle eBook of the Victorian Era

My own homage to the genre, Kindle version

It’s easy for a generation to think they’re innovators, let’s face it, most generations are. A new age ushers in new inventions, and the world advances. But there’s one phrase that keeps rearing its ugly head; ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’.


The Arrival of 99c eBooks

In the early 2000's the arrival of the eBook turned the world of publishing on its head. Suddenly anyone could publish, authors had control of their own works and destinies, free and 99c eBooks were the norm and flooded  through the ether into devices of all kinds and sizes. Self-publishing shed some of its past stigma, and the indie writer now considered by many to be mainstream.
Yup, such a publishing revolution has never happened before… or has it?
Answer? It did.
Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo, 1845




The Adventure Novel, but not for the Common Man

Almost 200 years previously in the early 1800’s, the modern adventure/romantic novel had broken through as a genre, but the books were expensive to buy, sometimes costing as much as 10 shillings (when the average workhouse worker earned 5 shillings per week). Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814), and Ivanhoe (1819), were paving the way for the likes of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans (1826), Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo (1840) and a host of others in every major language.
The novels sold well enough to make the author a fair profit from his work, but even second-hand copies were out of the reach of the working man.
But wait no more, things were about to change; a publishing revolution was about to break out; an innovation in publishing as big as eBooks.
Charles Dickens, 1867

Book Chapter Serialization

Instead of waiting a year to write a book, writers like Charles Dickens began to publish their novels a chapter at a time. Priced at a shilling (twelve pennies), this allowed Dickens to have a more regular income, but also he could change a novel’s direction, mood or character development depending on public feedback. Does this writing approach sound remotely familiar?
Alexandre Dumas released the Count of Monte Cristo in 18 parts before finally binding it into a full novel.
Times had changed, but they were about to get real ugly, and fast. In 1830’s Britain, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, a major element of the working class could now read and write, and had a thirst for fiction; a need to explore the world outside their own parochial existence. The demand for cheap material was in no doubt, and the authors who would fill that demand were about to get real dirty.
Black Bess, ran weekly for 2 years




The Ugly Side; Plagiarists, Thieves, and Copiers

Driven by this ready audience, and the fact that publishing rights were in their infancy and rarely enforced, a host of copycat writers took to pen and paper. These plagiarists took popular works, re-wrote them in shorter versions, and sold them for one penny… nicknamed Penny Dreadful’s; not because of the plagiarism or bad standard of content, but because of the predominantly macabre subject matter; murders, kidnappings, highwaymen, etc, etc. Titles such as The Penny Pickwick (a lampoon of the Pickwick Papers), Nickelas Nickelbery and David Copperful became commonplace. The stories were not technically copies, they were re-written, shorter, and usually made fun of the original. Writers made their fortunes selling a folded sheet, two columns on each of the four pages, usually containing about 2500 words and a couple of lined illustrations. The 99c Kindle for the age had arrived. Foreign writers fared no better. French tales were translated, and American dime novels were re-written for a British audience, with the original author receiving not one penny for his work.
George Reynolds, sold a million copies

The Penny Dreadful; the Victorian 99c eBook

Despite the initial surge of such shenanigans, the writers in the penny dreadful industry soon began to write their own stories, with serialization becoming the norm.
Series such as Varney the Vampyre (230 weekly episodes), The Mysteries of London, (240 weeks) Dick Turpin (254 episodes) had readers queuing outside publishers every week. The Mysteries of the Court of London ran every week for an incredible Eight Years!
Working class Brits who could or would not afford the penny, joined reading clubs to share episodes, almost like a subscription library system.
Over the next sixty years, these single page publications expanded into magazines of note, newspapers still around today, and newsletters. These new, bound publications still included many pages of serialized and single story fiction, but non-fiction articles and news items were added, and by the 1890’s the Penny Dreadful had gone from the publishers bookshelves.
But the revolution of the cheaper novel lived on; they were mass produced, cost far less, and paved the way for the next revolution in publishing; the paperback.

If you would like to read my own "Penny Dreadful", it is available on eBooks everywhere.
Penny Dreadful Adventures on Kindle.
Penny Dreadful Adventures on Nook
Penny Dreadful Adventures on Kobo



Thursday, June 4, 2015

What Are The Top 10 Sean Connery Movies Of All Time?

Can you name ten? is your favorite on the list? Do we even come close?

My Top Three... Sorry, personal opinion, creative licence, whatever!

Outland (1981)

With Capricorn One (1978) under his belt, and Alien a smash hit for Ridley Scott in 1979, when director Peter Hyams wanted to film a western, it was bound to turn to Science Fiction for a setting. Io, the moon of Jupiter is the backdrop and Connery gives a gritty, no-nonsense performance, winning him the Saturn Award for Best Actor, unbelievably, Connery’s first ever award. (Sorry, Untouchables fans, I’m a SF geek, Outland gets my nod.)

Medicine Man (1992)

Few can forget the images of pony-tailed Connery pulling himself with pulleys into the Amazon canopy with Lorraine Bracco. Sent into the rainforest to find Connery (researching ‘indigenous medicines’), Lorraine finds Connery has gone ‘native’ and forgotten his initial quest. Then, they think they’ve found the cure for cancer.

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

This was Tom Clancy’s debut novel, and led to one of the strangest wigs ever worn by Connery (he began wearing hairpieces from the first James Bond). Also starring Scott Glen, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill and Alec Baldwin as world-saving Jack Ryan. It’s the classic high-noon standoff once again, this time underwater. Good solid performances throughout. It netted $200 million worldwide.
A Movie Icon and a Movie Gem... one huge seller, one obscure western

The Untouchables (1987)

Winning Connery an Oscar for his performance opposite Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro. Directed by Brian De Palma (who had filmed Scarface 4 years before) Connery plays an Irish American cop (in a Scottish accent) bringing Al Capone to justice. (The Untouchables was nominated for another 3 Oscars)

Shalako (1968)

Based on a Louis L’Amour novel, it’s one of the best westerns I’ve seen, co-starring Brigit Bardot, Harry Andrews, and Honor Blackman. Filmed to compete with the spaghetti westerns of the day, it’s well acted with Sean walking through, tough and gritty as always. You may not even have heard of it, but Shalako was the 18th most popular movie of the year.
Great Movies, but how many of the list have you seen?

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

A Rudyard Kipling novel, directed by John Huston. How can a film starring Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer not make the list? Huston had wanted Humphrey Bogart and Clarke Gable, but they died before plans could be made. Connery and Caine as British NCO’s in India become kings of a small country. Wonderful stuff.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Playing Harrison Ford’s dad, Connery manages to be wise-cracking, witty, cute, and bad-ass, all wrapped up in one cuddly bundle. It’s a great romp with Stephen Spielberg directing, and who can forget the chase scenes. This grossed $447 million, making it Connery’s biggest box-office hit.

The Hill (1965)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry men, Network, The Verdict), The Hill is a gritty army/prison movie with the iconic ‘hill’ as a punishment. Set in the midst of his James Bond years, Connery acts this out of the park, showing skills never allowed in the Bond films. The result is dark, explosive and angry. It’s a great film on so many levels.
"Don't lose your head"... music by Queen, a mixed up mess of wonderful...

Highlander (1986)

This film is so all-over-the-place, it works! With music by Queen, a Scot played by a Frenchman (Christopher Lambert), a Spaniard played by a Scot (Connery), and a Russian baddie; Kurgan (Clancy Brown) played by an American… and historical scenes 1000 years apart, what can go wrong? Fantastic movie in many parts, superbly put together. And one of the best cameos ever; Spaniard Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, played by a very Sh-cottish Sh-ean (emphasis added). But despite its parts 2,3,4 etc and the TV spin off, the initial movie lost money.
Which of these movies did you see? Did I hit any memories?

Robin and Marion (1976)

Co-starring Audrey Hepburn, Robert Shaw, Richard Harris, and Ronnie Barker as Friar Tuck. An aging Robin Hood is finding life difficult, and Maid Marion (among others) tries to persuade him to retire. Great fighting scenes, great cameos, and comedic lines galore as Robin Hood fights the Sherriff of Nottingham one more time.

Rising Sun (1993)

Wonderful smart-ass oriental guru Connery and sidekick Wesley Snipes investigate a murder in Michael Crichton’s novel with the aid of Harvey Keitel. Fast-paced, original and witty; it’s everything a police procedural should be. Connery is at his best striding through this like a Sh-cottish Sh-amurai. (Okay, I'll stop the Connery Sh's now)

Honourable mention; James Bond (1962-1983)

Over 21 years Connery played James Bond in seven films, and it would be jolly indecent if I’d left the list without mentioning at least one, but they’re all so good in parts, in their own way. But in my heart I know they’re not all in the top ten list, so I mention them all here as a genre… Dr No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re iconic Sean Connery.

Close But No Cigar

A Bridge Too Far (1977) The Name of the Rose (1986) Entrapment (1999) Finding Forrester (2000) First Knight (1995) The Rock (1996) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dragonheart

Your List?

Did I hit the mark? Or fall disastrously short?
What are your favorite Connery films?
Write and tell me... sign up for the newsletter... tell me who to review next!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Top 16 Most Famous Ians; Who's Your Favorite?

16 Famous Ians: How Many Do You recognize? (Answers; bottom)

Many Americans have a problem recognizing the Christian name Ian.

I'm a Scot, living in Kansas, USA, and when I introduce myself, I’ve often met with quite mystified stares… Americans, it seems, have problems with the name, Ian. They either don't get it right away, and I've got to repeat it a few times, or they just can't get the pronunciation correct.
The Christian name, Ian or Iain, is Scottish in origin, and is Scotland’s version of John. Ian has variations in many languages such as Irish (Eoin), Welsh (Ioan), Breton (Yann) and Romanian (Ioan).
Most people pronounce the name EE-AN, although the numpty Ian Zeiring of Beverly Hills 90210 mistakenly pronounces his name EYE-AN… (what a wanker).

Anyway, it seems that even after having many famous ‘Ians’ a fair section of the American populace have problems with its recognition. So… I though I’d compile my own list of the top 16 famous Ians… (My criteria for the list; nothing but my own imagination… how many do you recognize?)

Famous Ians

1. Ian McShane - English actor; Lovejoy, Dallas and Deadwood
2. Ian McKellen - English actor; X-Men, Lord of the Rings
3. Ian Fleming - English commando, spy and novelist, creator of James Bond and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang
4. Ian Gillan - Lead singer of hard rock band, Deep Purple
5. Ioan Gruffud – Welsh actor; Hornblower, Fantastic Four and TV series Forever
6. Ian Holm - English actor; Alien, Time Bandits, Lord of the Rings
7. Ian Dury - Singer and songwriter with the band, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick, Reasons to be Cheerful
8. Ian (Lemmy) Kilminster - Vocalist/bass player in Hawkwind and Motorhead
9. Ian Paice - Drummer with Deep Purple, Whitesnake and the Gary Moore band
10. Ian Bannen - Scottish actor; Too Late the Hero, Gandhi, Braveheart, Waking Ned Devine
11. Ian Rankin - Scottish novelist. Author of the Inspector Rebus series
12. Ian Somerhalder - American Actor, in Lost, and the Vampire Diaries
13. Ian Matthews - A member of Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort
14. Ian Anderson - Lead singer and flautist of rock band Jethro Tull
15. Ian Lavender – English actor; played private pike in Dad’s Army, and Eastenders
16. Ian Ogilvy - English actor, novelist and playwright; The Return of the Saint
(And the next 4 just to round it up to a tidy 20)
17. Ian Woosnam - Welsh golfer, Masters winner in 1991
18. Ian Carmichael - English actor; The Colditz Story, Lucky Jim
19. Ian Hunter - Lead singer and guitarist of Mott the Hoople
20. Sir Ian Botham - English cricketer, commentator and sports personality
Other notable Ians, who didn’t make my 16/20 list are;
Ian McDonald - British musician, a member of both King Crimson and Foreigner
Ian Wright - English footballer, for Arsenal, Crystal Palace, and more
Ian Curtis - Singer with Joy Division
Ian Brady – Moors murderer
Ian Baker-Finch - Australian golfer, the winner of the 1991 British Open
Ian Hislop - Satirist, TV personality, and editor of Private Eye, panelist on Have I Got News For You
Ian Poulter - English golfer.

Oh, and the answers?: from top left;
Hunter, Henry (Ian) Cusack, Rankin, Rush, Wright, Kilminster, Anderson, Sommerhalder, McShane, Poulter, Brady, Holm, Botham, Mckellen, Zeiring (wanker), and Fleming.

Check out this other Ian... writer Ian Hall

www.ianhallauthor.com

LOL!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Top 10 Dumbest Things on Facebook This Month


There is some element among Facebook users that seems to want to dumb the rest of us down, and for the life of me I can’t identify the reason why. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook, I already spend too much time there, but I keep running into these obvious time-wasting traps that just piss me off. It’s not the cat pics… let's face it, they’re just people looking for someone else to affirm their cat is as cute as they think it is. And it’s not the endless Selfie Brigade with their bathroom poses, or their latest cosplay outfit or coiffed hairdo.

What gets my goat is the dumb memes and questions that waste our time, yet tease us to answer... trying to dumb us down to the lowest denominator. I’ve picked my top ten for the month, If you come across any better, let me know, I'll post them next time, and give you credit!… we'll have a great laugh.

Number One
Describe Your Last Fart Using a Movie Title

Yeah, just how second-grade is this? Gone With the Wind… Wind in the Willows… A Mighty Wind… Clash of the Titans… Please kill me now. If you have the time to scan your mind for your favorite movies for something ‘cute’ or ‘edgy’ to post here, then you need to find a hobby. Yeah, okay, I answered the first time… a few YEARS back! ("Clash of the Titans” was mine, you know, being clever, referring to my buttocks making the action rather than the actual fart/smell bit. Whatever!) I now ignore such posts yet resist the temptation to ‘unfriend’ the person, just in case he posts something equally stupid next month for inclusion in this category.

Number TwoFind Four Words to Say to You in the Back of a Police Car

Honestly? Okay, I’m to ‘imagine’ I’m in the back of a police car… with you, my Facebook buddy (most of whom I’ve never met personally) and I have to think of something to say… pithy, yes, but concise… funny, yet hopefully sounding intelligent too… basically a four word tweet. Yes, I did this one too… once. I even puzzled over it, because a REAL friend had posted it. So I took some time, posted, then considered the futility of the whole process. I almost went back and deleted it, but someone had already ‘liked’ it, so I was screwed… my answer in the ether forever. Blah.

Number Three
Find the 5 in Under a Minute

Come on! I don’t care how inane you are, but when someone posts a pic/meme of 5000 ‘2’s and one number ‘5’, hidden in the middle, don’t even give it the time of day. Yes, you found it in 5 seconds, because your vision is super acute at doing stuff like that, but don’t stoop so low as to reply to the post; “I found it in two seconds!” thinking you’ve just qualified for a Pulitzer or something. Do you really want your brain tested? Try Sudoku, or a good crossword! Or go write a blog!

Number Four
Find Out Which English Monarch I Would Be

Wait! Number one, I’m Scottish, so obviously superior to our southern compatriots already! Why would I pretend to want to be English? Okay, so for the sake of scientific research, I went through with the laborious stupid ten questions. I could even see by the questions where I was headed. Elizabeth I. Yeah. Now, I see the virtue of some of these quizzes, but at least make them have a point; “What country best suits your palate?” “Which car is best for you?”… Don’t make them inanely stupid. And please make the questions slightly less see-through.

Number Five
Describe You in One Word Using the First letter of MY Name

Okay, my name’s Ian, that makes it easy… because you posted this crap, you’re Inane, probably Insane, quite Inept, rather Insipid, totally Insecure,… I could go on forever. Why do people post such crap? Because it looks cute, and they ‘share’ it. It gets them hits, friends, whatever. Look, if you want friends to talk to you, try posting a decent question… “What is your opinion of Anthropomorphic Global Warming?” Or if you want to describe something, then describe the best part of your last vacation… wow us with your wit and word power!

Number Six
Continue The Story By Adding Just Two Words

Now, this first appealed to me, as a writer/novelist, and I posted on a couple. Then I noticed that few were taking it as seriously as I was, or even caring what came before. A TOTAL waste of my time, and worthless to the N’th degree. And yet every day, as I scroll the lists, hypnotizing myself with this crap, I see more people, wasting their time. If you can’t write? Don’t waste my time. If you can write? Go somewhere and write something worth reading.

Number Seven
My Boss Jared Doesn’t Think We Can get This Post To All 50 States

It’s the same scenario a million times over… it’s either the three “employees” (who insist on doing that weird finger sign thing) who want to prove to their boss, or the cute kid who wants to prove to his teacher, just how quickly they/he can get shared in all 50 states. What a lot of crap. I have 3000 Facebook friends, they live all over the world, I average 20 friends birthdays a day! Who CARES how quick you can get 50 people in 50 states to share your post, and give a nice reply! Stop wasting my time scrolling past your crap!

Number Eight
The Last Thing You Ate + The Color of Your Pants to get your “Band” Name…

Yeah… ONE THING is more infuriating than the post itself… it’s the fact that before you know it, your brain already gone through the thought process and come up with the answer. It’s a fait accompli, your own brain outwits you, and you curse it. Let’s try and get Facebook out of the gutter, shall we… delete any friend who posts stuff like this. I've been in LOTS of bands, and we all made up great names without resorting to this formula. Okay, I’m done. Oh, my band? “Cinnamon Crumpet Battleship Grey”. We’re playing a gig in a bar near you on Saturday.

Number Nine
Find What Percentage “Texan” You Are

Oh, dear me. Only 0.1625% of the world’s population are Texan by birth. Only 3.9% of American’s are Texan. So who is this question aimed at? Oh, it’s the rest of us! Duh. (I can't honestly understand why I had to go calculate those figures...?) Anyway! Why, as a Scot, born in Edinburgh, therefore a Midlothian(er) by birth, would I want to know how much Texan I am? See? Totally pointless… but I did it anyway (scientific research, remember) and the questions involved cornbread, grits, colt 45’s and John Wayne. I got 12 out of 14 questions correct… again, so pointless, questions FAR too easy, made to make you feel good... unless you see through the scam and get angry.

Number Ten
Replace One Word in a Movie title with “bacon

What is America’s fascination with bacon? They don’t even know what bacon is! They eat the fatty rind stuff that us Brits and Canadians throw away! Okay, bacon rant over, back to topic. “The Bacon of the Titans”. That’s as far as my head got on this one (see above). I know some of the answers would be interesting, few might be amusing, but I don’t have the patience or time to wait for Craig Ferguson to post on my timeline.

To recap, there must be some interesting people out there that can come up with a more uplifting Facebook than the one that currently exists. Something inspiring. Something out of the gutter. But then, at this point, I’m exhausted, maybe I’ll just go onto Facebook and veg for a while… Scroll it past my eyes until I get into a state of utter blah.
Or maybe I’ll go read a book or something… did I mention I wrote books?
LOL.

So... Your Job...

When you're going through Facebook, and you get crap like the above in your feed, send them to me. I'll update the list, we;ll have a laugh.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Vinegar Valentines ~The Card No One Wanted


A bit of Vinegar for a sousing spouse
in this Vinegar Valetine from 1907
Did you think Valentine’s Day was always a red-hearted, lovey-dovey mush of chocolates, overpriced flowers, and overbooked restaurants?

Think again.

In the 1840’s a new fad began to appear during the second week of February; Vinegar Valentines.
Basically these were just insult cards, decorated with a vile caricature, and an offensive poem. These cards insulted the person’s looks, job, intelligence, race, body shape or any combination.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the mean-spirited slant, the fad grew. By the mid-Victorian era, they were quite popular among senders. For recipients they were less so- as if the sentiment weren't punishment enough, if a letter was unstamped, the hapless soul had to pay a penny for the delivery and the privilege of being insulted.  Millions of these cards were sold and sent, as recently as the 1940’s but very few of these cynical cards exist today- most were probably torn to shreds by the poor victim.

Political topics for vinegar valentines through the years included Secession and Suffrage


The sousing spouse found his
revenge in this Vinegar Valentine
from the 1940s

Although it is certain none of these missives could be considered "politically correct", through the years vinegar valentines with a very specific political slant were also produced, As early as the pre civil war era where Secessionists were the target, through the suffrage movement and beyond politicos took advantage of the hearty holiday to add their own brand of vinegar.

These bitter pills even found their way into modern pop culture. In Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Calvin  often gives Susie Derkin vinegar valentines hiding his true affections for her under their cruel veil of immature distaste.

In these days of Facebook drama and Twitter trauma we may think that trolling is a foul by-product of the internet age...the long and storied history of vinegar valentines prove yet again that there is nothing new under the sun.


Many thanks to the quite excellent "QI" quiz show for the introduction to this topic! You can also visit Collector's Weekly for more in depth information on vinegar valentines. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Zombie Valentine’s Date Guide-Dressing to Impress


With Valentine's Day fast approaching I thought it would be nice to post a wee dating guide for our brain eating friends...The following is from 'The Enhanced Zombie Bible' now available in Paperbook and at your favorite online eBook emporium.   

The Zombie Valentine’s Date Guide
Making the Most of Your Appearance

Why are Zombies the world’s worst dressed bi-peds?

With the Zombie Apocalypse firmly under way, the world is your oyster as far as shopping’s concerned. And let’s face it; shopping at the right places to make an impact has to be high on your agenda, right? Since the downfall of civilization, large department stores and shopping malls are full of ready-to-wear goodies in all sizes. So get yourself off to the nearest outfitter, and get yourself some impressive duds, because, let’s face it, you Zombies need to impress. There’s plenty of competition for the choice cuts of meat. (Did I really say that?)

In movies and television-with all the department stores there would be available to shop in-when have you seen a well-dressed Zombie? Never, right? This is a travesty! You sir or madam can change this ridiculous trend...head out into the world with  purpose, shamble your way to the nearest store and get shopping. Don’t be afraid of those pesky humans barricading them inside such stores. There’s little food inside, and you can wait outside until they leave or look around for one of your shuffling friends who has read The Zombie Bible. He’ll be the one with the hammer on his belt… perfect for scaring the crap out of humans barricaded inside shops/malls with glass doors.

Anyway… back to Dressing to Impress. Guys, you’ve got to decide what image you’re trying to pull off. And if one doesn’t work for you, change your image! Perhaps you’re into a preppy look, nice slacks (yes, I said ‘slacks’) and a designer polo shirt will certainly get you noticed. You might even go for the full man-around-town look and grab a shirt, clip on tie (you’ll never manage to tie one, so stick to clip-ons) and single-breasted suit. Nice. Of course, if your taste runs to one of the guys in the Village People, you can do that too; there’s lots of choice out there, and plenty of ways to get noticed by the opposite sex.

Ladies, again, you’ve got an image to consider. You too can do the preppy look, nice shorts or capris’, blouse, and sun glasses is an eye-catching look. But there are also thousands of designer dresses out there, and as long as you don’t mind looking slightly out of place in the shuffling un-dead ranks, you’ll certainly get noticed. And let’s face it; if you’re not a pretentious type, Daisy Duke got plenty of cat-whistles in cut-off shorts and a checked blouse.

Once you’ve gone to the right stores, got yourself the best duds that you can get yourself into, and are ready to go on the prowl. Right? Wrong. You really need to think about a lot more than just the look if you are going to properly get your freak on.  For more tips, spend the price of a cheap coffee, and find out more...it's all in black and white right there in  'The Enhanced Zombie Bible'...



Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching the Wheel of the Year~ from Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation

 In pagan cultures, the first snowdrops sneaking a look at the sun on Imbolc (Feb 2nd) were more than just the first sign of  warmth to come. They whispered of the passing of the goddess from  winter's Crone to the Maiden of spring. In this scene from my Caledonii series, the wisewoman passes her candle of knowledge to the maiden Kat'lana.

Winnie knelt down on the grass and closed her eyes. Kat’lana knew that she always gave thanks to Brighid, the Shining One before beginning her teachings. Even though the sun was warm on their shoulders, Winnie still wore many layers of clothes on her considerable figure. White hairs shone like strands of glistening silver as she composed herself.

Kat'lana crossed her legs and found a comfortable place in front of the wisewoman-crone. The sandy soil cushioned her light form and the regular cadence of the waves on the nearby rock gave her breathing a rhythm from which to align. She awaited the teaching, already knowing the topic. It was the day before the midsummer day, the longest day of the year. Beginning at midnight the Solstice fire would be lit and a vigil kept until just before the dawn, when the entire clan would walk to the stone circle to witness the rising of the sun between the two dark signal stones. Understanding the ebb and flow of the wheel of the year was integral to the spiritual life of her people, Winnie would remind her charge that the passage of days was a sacred thing.

"Imbolc" by Jenny Dolfen
(www.jennydolfen.etsy.com)
The old woman’s eyes opened, and sparkled with promise.  “Are you ready?”

Kat’lana nodded, “Yes, wise one.”

“What is the most important day of our year?”

“The Dark Day, the Mid-winter solstice.”  Kat’lana remembered their last Dark Day with the tribe from the south, before her journey northwards into the Norland clans. Snow had covered the village, well-trodden and hard, a sharp frost already crisping the air. Yet, on the evening before the Dark Day, the tribe extinguished every fire, every lantern and fire-pot, closing out every source of heat. She knew that across the whole country, this same process was being repeated, throwing the entire land into darkness, until the time of the lighting of the bonfires the next day. “It is when we throw our very existence into the hands of the Goddess”  She remembered the dhruid’s staff as it touched the edge of the bonfire, watched in awe as the spark from the wooden tip had lit the dried grass, grinned as the divine favored their village once again.

“And what is the next most important day?” Winnie prodded.

“Tomorrow,” Kat’lana smiled, holding her head to the warming sun, luxuriating in the hot afternoon rays. Her face had already colored this summer, giving her skin a healthy brown hue. “The summer solstice, our longest day and a celebration of the Sun God, king of the summer lands.

Winnie held her staff in both hands, showing the pattern of notches on four sides. “Each year holds four quarters of ninety days.” She said, rotating the staff to show the four scored sides. “Plus one day of celebration.” “The other quarter days are planting time and harvest.”

Kat’lana anticipated the next question, touching the top notch on each side of the long rowan staff. “The equinoxes; the other edges of the square.” Kat’lana drew a square in the sand in front of her, and stabbed each corner. “After each quarter, we celebrate.”

Winnie smiled, as proud as any mother would have been. “Without the counting of the days, the sowers would plant wrongly, and the gods would be displeased.” The teacher watched the eager face of her pupil as she showed genuine thrill at the simple teaching of the Counting Days, one of Winnie’s favorite lessons. She remembered holding the Iceni child under her skirts after the fall of Boudicca, the long days trekking north, away from the Roman retaliation against the rebellious tribe, the long months of hiding. Kat'lana's heritage shimmered brightly in the eyes of this already wise warrior maiden.  “How do we give the four seasons their boundaries?”

Kat’lana’s answer was already on her lips. “The Cross-Quarter Days." She made indentations at the midpoints of her square in the sand, then drew a diamond inside it.

Wheel of the Year Stamp by CherryPieArtStamps
(www.cherrypieartstamps.etsy.com)
“The beginning of Spring?” Winnie asked, now content that her pupil had remembered her teachings from last year.

“Imbolc, the time when the lambs are born” Kat’lana said, her words precise. "winter's wise crone
is once again a maiden, her belly swollen with the babe that shall be the summer king.

Winnie could find her own phraseology in her pupil’s words. “The beginning of summer?”

“Beltane,” Kat’lana clapped her hands together, anticipating the feasts that would follow tomorrow’s ceremonies. “A time to dance, and for the joining of young couples…” She stopped, the next part of the lesson dry on her lips. No youth in the clan had approached her this year, and although she spurned male companionship for the most part, she had hoped a brave one would attempt to attract her.


“The beginning of autumn?” Winnie continued, aware of her charge’s disappointment. 

“Lughnasadh,” Kat’lana’s words were now somewhat distant, her concentration not on the lesson, but searching, wondering where her male companion would appear.

“Kat!” Winnie snapped, her sharp tone shaking Kat’lana from her thoughts. “The meaning of this day?”

“Sorry, wise one,” her head fell, her chin on her chest. “Lughnasadh is the wedding of the Sun god Lugh to the Earth goddess, causing the ripening of crops.”

“Well done, and the last Cross-Quarter day? The end of autumn, and the beginning of  our year?”

Kat’lana lifted her head, her composure returned, her words strong and confident. “Samhain is when time is not time- the veil between the worlds is lifted and our ancestors who watch us from beyond draw near again. It is also the time when we cull our herds and bring the meat in for the winter.

The old woman looked at her Iceni charge, a young woman blossoming into womanhood, yet holding onto the last vestiges of her childish self. “The lesson is over.”

Kat’lana stood, bowed her head. “Thank you, wise one.” And she was gone, sand spinning from her bare feet, bow in hand, legs pumping with the energy of youth.
                       


Authors Note: If you would like to journey further into the world of  ancient Scotland, my just released prequal to the Caledonii series, Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. Druid & Iceni  it is now available as a FREE eBook on Amazon and Smashwords.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...