Camp NaNoWriMo & Other Bits and Pieces

I think someone went and pressed the “fast forward” button on 2018. Days are flitting past faster than I can keep track of, it seems, not to mention not being able to keep up with all the projects I have in mind for the year!

Alright, the only project that I 100% have to finish is the paper for the conference in August, but still. (BTW, good grief research as an independent scholar is expensive. I am so thankful for the little library I was able to build up during my MA years! And thank goodness I don’t need to work in a laboratory!)

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2018

I am planning to take part in Camp NaNo next month, though, as I think that that will be a good way for me to keep a track of my writing as well as forcing myself to finish at least the first quarter of Porselein and finish The Box of Secrets.

The feedback I’ve received on Porselein thus far has been positive and is also helping me to make my writing a lot stronger, I think. Hopefully this will even (start to) show in my first drafts.

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TGD of 2018

That said, I seem to also like adding more and more projects as I go along. The Great Declutter (TGD) of 2018 was not planned or part of my New Year’s resolutions, for instance, but I’m almost halfway there (I only work on it on Saturdays so I don’t exacerbate all my chronic symptoms too much) and plan to have it all done by the end of April. Huzzah! And then I will be able to spend my Saturdays working on fiction again. It might have been the decluttering articles I’ve been writing for work that initially inspired me, though! Then there were also two books on hoarding which I read and which was extremely insightful. Oh, the rabbit hole one goes down in Kindle when looking for something like a book on “natural cleaning recipes”. Mind you, the same also happens when I’m on JSTOR* – I get pulled into researching one topic and before I know it my list called “interesting articles” (very creative, I know) is growing faster than my research one.

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*A repository for a great many scholarly journals and their articles. Fascinating reading!

Book reviews

I also want to start doing book reviews again. I have not been reading as much as I want to, but have read and listened to some fascinating and thoroughly entertaining books since last I did a book review.  I seem to be on a non-fiction stint again at the moment…

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Book Impressions – Nature’s Temples by Joan Maloof

“How astonishing that when I visit an old-growth redwood forest in California, I am visiting a place that may have been forested continually for fifty million years!”  – Joan Maloof

I came across Maloof’s Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests quite by chance while I was browsing the Kindle Store. The title sounded intriguing, especially after reading The Secret Life of Trees: How They live and Why They Matter (by Colin Tudge), so I could not resist reading it. Joan Maloof doesn’t disappoint and her book is packed with information (like the fact that the tallest tree in the world is some 380 feet tall!) while remaining accessible to the lay reader.

These are just some of the diverse chapters contained in the book:

  • What is an old-growth forest?screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-10-27-22-am
  • History of the forest
  • Forests and carbon
  • Birds and their habitat preferences
  • The role of insects in the forest
  • Fungi in the ecosystem
  • What lichens tell us about forests
  • Do humans need the forest?

Maloof looks at and explains the extremely intricate and intricately balanced life of the old-growth forests and rightly bewails their loss to logging, deforestation, and other means of human interference. The harm of our interference is, after all, becoming more and more apparent and there is also now studies to show that, even if forests are replanted, the same abundance of flora and fauna will not be present again – even after many decades.

“We know we need clean air and clean water, but do humans need beauty?” — Joan Maloof

Maloof also notes in Nature’s Temples that researchers from Japan and elsewhere have shown that a walk in the forest can improve one’s mood, reduce stress hormones, strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce blood sugar levels. This kind of walk in the woods even have a name in Japanese – shirin-yoku; “wood-air bathing”.

“… we should always allow and encourage the left-alone woods, for it is there that our true riches reside. Today, and in the future, these are the places of refuge – for both the species we share the planet with and for our human spirit.” — Joan Maloof

I can highly recommend this book to those who love nature, woods, and trees or even just those who wish that there really are shepherds of the forests residing deep in the forests. After reading this book you will want to go and walk in a forest and – yes – even hug some trees.

Maloof, Joan. (2016) Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests. Portland: Timber Press Inc. (Illustrated by Andrew Joslin.)

 

The Last Day of NaNoWriMo 2016 and a Book Recommendation

And so NaNoWriMo 2016 draws to a close. Congratulations to everyone who have done their best to win this year (when this posts you will still have some 12 hours to finish)!

I am very thankful that I managed to finish – and to finish before a week of chronic illness flares that had me incapable of doing much writing at all. I’m still not finished with the first draft of the book, though, and will use December to work on that.

Creating Character Arcs: Another book I can highly recommend

About a week ago K.M. Weiland’s book Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Austor’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development. I haven’t even finished it, but all I can say is wow. Even in the first few chapters I had to confront my characters and realise where they needed work (if you saw my Twitter feed – this is what I meant by ‘making notes’ the whole time).

It is quite an inexpensive book and definitely worth every cent even with our delightful Rand/Dollar exchange rate.

Trust me, go out and buy it right now – why not make it a Christmas gift to yourself?

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A New Short Story Collection by Sharon Ruth Parkinson

And a Cover Reveal!

After the End is a new short story collection by Sharon Ruth Parkinson that will be released in January 2017!

I am proud to say that Sharon is one of the Jozi Wrimos (who also contributed to Jozi Flash, which you can download and read here if you’d like to get a feel for her writing) and an amazing person as well.

About After the End

There are few things that are considered in science-fiction as much as events which lead to the end of the world. After the End features ten short stories from author Sharon Ruth Parkinson which explore life in post-apocalyptic worlds.

In Mutation, mutated slaves are willing to do anything to save their race. As technology replaces humanity, the Technophobes are born. When the universe gets Sucked In, a young couple discover the meaning of love.

From Earth, through space, time and even reality, humanity and the loss of it will answer the question, “What happens after the end?”

And now… behold…

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About Sharon Ruth Parkinson

I once read a book… It was called “Triplanetary” by EE “Doc” Smith and from that day on I was completely hooked on Sci-Fi. I was about ten, and my imagination had been fired and I began putting those imaginings into words. My grandparents fostered my love of words by collecting all their envelopes (way before e-mail was a reality), and giving them to me to open up and use as scrap paper when I stayed with them during summer holidays. A passion was born.

It wasn’t until I was in my forties and self-publishing became a reality that I decided to publish, starting with my anthology Possibilities on Lulu.com in 2006, and then my NaNoWriMo entrant, CODDS was later published (I have since pulled CODDS since it needs some serious editing).

My main love is still Sci-Fi Fantasy, but I have discovered a delicious addiction to flash fiction, thanks to the Jozi writers and our WhatsApp group. My other passion is NaNoWriMo, which I attempt every year, not always succeeding, but enjoying the challenge it offers. And I have done all this while raising four children! I am busy with several novels, short stories and series at the moment, so watch this space.

About Nico Venter

To learn more about Nico Venter and see his beautiful art, visit his website or find him on Instagram.

 

 

Book Impressions: To the Ends of the Earth: 100 Maps That Changed the World

“How can maps – mere pictures on paper or impressions in clay – change the world? … Through history, mapmakers have played on our instinctive belief in the truth of maps. Maps have been used as powerful propaganda, from Agrippa’s map of the Roman Empire to Hitler’s map of the Austrian Anschluss. Border can be moved, names can be changed, features can be omitted. Maps have changed out world – and they will shape our future.”

Jeremy Harwood’s 2006 book on maps and their history around the world is a pleasure to read or simply just page through. The maps are divided into the following parts:

  • The Ancient World
  • The Classical World
  • The Medieval World
  • The Age of Discovery
  • The Age of Empire
  • The Modern World

The oldest map in the book is the Idaho Map Rock (10 000 B.C.), while the newest is the “Blue Marble Map” (2005) by NASA.

Harwood makes sure to use maps from around the world, though I think if costs were not a consideration, he would have liked to include even more maps (but I am glad the publisher kept it affordable!). He also includes maps ranging from the encompassing mappae mundi to local street maps to illustrate the vastly different ways in which the world we live in can be plotted.

There is also a definite move to explain the different world views through the ages and how the “driving force behind [maps’] creation [could be] religious and philosophical” (Harwood, 2006:31), rather than simply showing what a part of the world looked like.

The book also includes some of my favourite maps like the Ebstorf Mappa Mundi (c. 1300 AD) which was “designed to instruct the faithful about significant events in Christian history” (Harwood, 2006: 38-39) and in which the world is depicted as the body of Christ, his arms embracing it and its peoples” (Harwood, 2006:39). The Fra Mauro Mappa Mundi (1459 AD), which was made in Italy, is also included. Fra Mauro (a Venetian Monk) said of his goal: “In my time I have striven to verify the writings through many years’ investigation and intercourse with persons worthy of credence who have seen with their own eyes what is faithfully set above” (Harwood, 2006:57).

The Cantino Planisphere (Portugal, 1502 AD) also shows Africa in quite splendid detail on this master map (Harwood, 2006:63), not to mention Gerardus Mercato’s 1538 world map (Harwood, 2006:84-85).

In “Exploring the Pacific” (Harwood, 2006:116-123), Harwood shows an example of a Marshallese stick chart, which I find fascinating. Another prime example of beautiful mapmaking is the 1853 Japanese world map shown on p126-127. The 2005 Blue Marble Map by NASA – the final one in the book – is one of those images that puts the immense size of the world in comparison with us and yet also remind us of the tiny size of our planet in comparison with the galaxy (not to mention the known universe) into perspective.

I can really recommend this volume to those who love maps and history or who would just like to find out more about the world they live in.

Harwood, J. (2006). To the Ends of the Earth: 100 Maps that Changed the World. Cape Town: Struik.

 

Book Impressions: The Atlas of Legendary Lands

If you’re searching for a book about lost worlds, mythical worlds, and the like, look no further than J.A. McLeod’s The Atlas of Legendary Lands: Fabled Kingdoms, Phantom Islands, Lost Continents and Other Mythical Worlds. This stunning volume is divided into seven parts:

  • Inventing the Earth
  • Paradise on Earth
  • Fabled Lands and Kingdoms
  • Elusive Islands in the Sea of Darkness
  • Real But Very Wrong
  • Lands of Golden Dreams
  • Lost Continents

It also contains a list of material for further reading and study. 6488478

Produced in hardback, this volume is made of high quality materials and beautifully think paper (in a book like this it is definitely a selling point) and is furthermore fully illustrated with maps and images produced from manuscripts. The text itself is very reader-friendly. The breadth of information and topics also makes it a definite must-have for every bibliophile’s bookshelf.

McLeod, J.A. (2009). The Atlas of Legendary Lands: Fabled Kingdoms, Phantom Islands, Lost Continents and Other Mythical Worlds. London: Pier 9, Murdoch Books UK Limited.

Book Impressions: The Atlas of Atlantis and other lost civilizations

Levy, J. (2007). The Atlas of Atlantis and other lost civilizations. London: Godsfield Press.

Visiting almost every region of the planet, [Levy] explores lost lands that have been associated with Atlantis and considers the importance of Lemuria, Mu and other lost and legendary places from Shambhala and Shangri-la to El Dorado and Hy-Brasil.

 “According to ancient myth an extensive island in the Atlantic Ocean… [i]t was said to have been a powerful kingdom before it was overwhelmed by the sea. … In the 16th century it was suggested that America was Atlantis, and there have been a number of other implausable identifications. More recently, and more likely the work of archaeologists and scientists has placed it in the Mediterranean.” (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 18th edition)

 The Atlas of Atlantis is one of those books which I just had to have once I saw it. It’s a hardback book that’s lavishly illustrated with artworks and photos and is divided into the following parts:

  • Plato’s Atlantis
  • The Mediterranean World
  • The Americas – Atlantis and the new world
  • The Atlantic Ocean
  • The Pacific – Atlantis, Mu and Lemuria
  • The West Indies
  • Antarctica
  • The Indian Ocean
  • Legendary Lands of the Celts
  • Other Lost Worlds
  • Atlantis and the New Age

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 2.08.26 PMLevy’s book is truly an interesting read and a very good stepping stone to get an overview of theories about Atlantis and other lost worlds. That said, it’s not at all short on information – rather the material has been compiled with the reader in mind to lead them on a great adventure in the cracks between history and fiction. Levy also touches on the different societal environments in which the differing ideas and theories about Atlantis and places like Mu and Lemuria took place before focusing on the way in which Atlantis still holds a place in some types of spirituality and pop culture today.

If you’re setting out to learn about Atlantis and lost worlds, The Atlas of Atlantis is a great place to start.

Other sources:

Rockwood, C. (ed.) (2005). Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 18th edition. Edinburgh, Brewer’s.

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Book Impression: An Introduction to the Old Testament

Longman III, T. & R.B. Dillard. (2006). And Introduction to the Old Testament. Second Edition. Michigan: Zondervan.

This book has been on my TBR list for quite a while and, at last, I got around to read it. An Introduction to the Old Testament, by Longman and Dillard, is actually a theology textbook, so expect to be challenged when you read it. What I enjoyed about the book is that it discusses each book of the Old Testament in a different chapter and that each chapter follows the same basic format. Each chapter (book) starts with a bibliography that includes commentaries, articles, etc. before moving on to the historical background, critical views and approaches, a literary analysis, and ends with an “approaching the New Testament” summary.

The blurb on the book also states that the book includes “callouts, charts, and graphs… written with an eye on understanding the nature of Old Testament historiography. This upper-level introduction to the Old Testament offers students a solid understanding of three key issues: historical background, literary analysis, and theological message”. The Longman and Dillard also cautions: “While ignorance of the historical context of the Bible threatens a correct understanding of the Bible, a second major danger confronts the reader. This danger is the imposition of contemporary Western values on the historical writings of the Old Testament. It is thus of great importance that we not only describe the value of a historical approach to the Old Testament but also explore the nature of Old Testament historiography” (2006:18).

However, if you are looking for more cultural insights while reading the Old Testament, I would rather advise you to read the Archaeological Study Bible. This volume, however, does give a very thorough introduction for those who are either just beginning their studies or who are just curious and would like to read a more in-depth introduction.

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Book Impressions: Sumerian Liturgies and Psalms

Sumerian Liturgies and Psalms is a book by Stephen Langdon, who was a professor of Assyriology at the Oxford University, Philadelphia. It was published by The University Press in 1909 and is available for free on Amazon Kindle.

Book Cover Sumeria Liturgies and PsalmsThe tablets that have been translated in this book is from the library of ancient Nippur, and includes examples of liturgical compilation texts and various prayers, like the “Prayer of prostration, a great song unto Enlil” (No. 16).

Langdon notes that the “[p]rayers of the private cults are almost entirely nonexistent. Later Babylonian religion is rich in penitential psalms written in Sumerian for the use in private devotions… know[n] by the rubric eršaggúnga or prayers to appease the heart”. This collection also shows the “rich collection of tablets… pertaining to the cults of deified kings”.

As can be expected, there are many instances where part of the text is missing or cannot be deciphered, but even then their beauty still shows through. Just look at this part of the “Lamentation of Isme-Dagan over Nippur”:

en-šú bar be-íb… ùl

How long shall the soul be terrified? Book cover Sumerian Liturgies and Psalms

šag nu-ub-ši-túg-e

And the heart repose not?

… gar-ra-bi er-šú ba-ab-bi-ne

…in tears they speak

sìr-ri-eš ba-ab-bi-ne

…in misery they speak

 

The volume also contains descriptions of the tablets translated in the volume and a very handy index supplied. Babylonian cult symbols are also covered and translations given, for instance:

  • The amphorae is Igi-BALAG, gardener of Enlil
  • Gypsum is the storm god (Ninurta)

It is important to note at this stage – as you might have already guessed – that this is a scholarly volume and not a collection of stories like the Prose Edda or poetry like the Elder Edda. (The Eddas are texts I am very well acquainted with, which is why I use them here as examples).

If you are only looking for Sumerian/Babylonian mythology, I would suggest another volume, like perhaps Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer (please note that I have not read this volume, so I am only speculating). However, the book does contain some mythology and explanations as to the mythology as it pertains to these texts in particular. So, if you want to get a good feel for them, this free Kindle volume is a good way to go about it.

And, just to prove to which world my mind wanders half the time, I couldn’t read “gardener of Enlil” without picturing Samwise Gamgee for a moment. I regret nothing.

Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings

Book Impression: Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas

All the sagas in this volume has been translated by Gwyn Jones.

The sagas in this volume consists of:

  • Hen-Thorir
  • The Vapnfjord Men
  • Thorstein Staff-struck
  • Hrafnkel the Priest of Frey
  • Eirik the Red
  • Thidrandi Whom the Goddesses Slew
  • Authun and the Bear
  • Gunnlaug Wormtongue
  • King Hrolf and His Champions

The sagas in this volume are very entertaining and the translation is also very well executed and readable. Like the translation of the Kalevala it is also part of the Oxford World Classics series and contains, apart from the sagas, a map of Iceland and an introduction.

I first read this volume of sagas a few years ago and have found myself returning to it as I am using one of them – Gunnlaug Wormtonguein an article. I have started to reread the whole volume just because I love the Icelandic sagas so much.Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas

My favourite saga in the book is Gunnlaug Wormtongue (Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu), with the great love story of Helga and Gunnlaug (and poor Thorkel). However, each saga has its own charm and I just love the dry manner in which some of the happenings are described.

I also found the use of footnotes handy, and they are also not used excessively so that it distracts you from the text of the saga. They also, where appropriate, point you to other sagas in which the same characters/people appear. Because there is such a great number of sagas (not to mention names to remember), I found this especially handy.

I can recommend this volume of shorter sagas for anyone interested in reading some of the Icelandic sagas, but are unsure where to start.

I can also highly recommend the blog The Saga-steads of Iceland if you would like to see some of the places where the sagas took place.

Jones, G. (1999).Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas, Oxford World Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.