Saturday, 24 January 2015

Computer Problems

It was all my own fault - I downloaded a whole bundle of nasty programs, thinking I was getting something quite innocuous. I thought I'd got rid of them all, and went to bed thinking I was very clever - and the next morning I turned on the computer and found a blank screen. No icons, no Start button, nothing.
Fortunately, we have a very good chap locally who fixes computers, and he's sorted it out, but it made me think about how reliant I am on being able to get online. So many companies, and organisations like the county council, want their customers to pay bills online. Without internet access, life could quickly become very difficult.
But there was only one thing I was really worried about - I'm half way through writing my next novel, and I've got the first part exactly as I want it. I've been messing around with this story for about ten years now, and if I lost this draft, I'd never have the heart to start again.
So the first thing I did when I got the computer back was to print the whole thing out. Hard copy on paper, no electronics, physically in my hand.
Call me old-fashioned, but I feel a lot more confident that I'll actually finish the thing. And I can't lose it now.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Friday, 16 January 2015

Filling in the Gaps of the Lymond Chronicles

The Ringed Castle (The Lymond Chronicles, #5)The Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Damn - no more Lymond for a while, now I've finished this.
I read this book out of sequence, because I've been picking them up second hand here and there, so now I think I'll have to go back to the beginning and get the story properly in order.
I never do this. Almost never. There are so many good books out there that I very rarely go back and re-read, especially a series of books as thick as this. But Lymond, and Dorothy Dunnett's other hero Claus, are something special, and the writing is something to be savoured, with all that well-researched history and exciting action sequences (here, the reindeer sleigh race with added hunting eagle) - and the characters, complex, fascinating characters.



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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Actually, Thranduil's Not So Bad After All

I went to see Battle of the Five Armies yesterday afternoon, which was fun, and rounded the trilogy off nicely.
One thing I wasn't expecting was how much I would warm to the character of Thranduil over the course of the film. After all, previously he had locked up the dwarves as they crossed Mirkwood, and had selfishly refused to look any further than his own borders. And he told Tauriel she had no chance of getting together with Legolas because she was lower-class.
Here, though, he brings aid to the people of Laketown - for a selfish reason, but he does help them. He allows Bard to negotiate with Thorin, even though he thinks it's useless.
Then Legolas tells Tauriel that his mother died at Gundobad (hopefully taking a bunch of orcs with her as she fell), and it all becomes clear - when Tauriel asks him to take away the pain of love that she is feeling, and asks why it hurts so much, he almost looks kind, and says "Because it was real." And later, he gives good advice to Legolas, who doesn't want to go back to Mirkwood with him - and tells him something about his mother that he seems never to have shared before.
He's still selfish and arrogant, and I wouldn't say I liked him, but I could see the private man behind the mask, which made him much more interesting as a character.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Music of Josef Suk

It's interesting how an appreciation of one thing can open up a whole new avenue of exploration.
Take The Minister of Chance. It's an audio drama, available free, which I came across first because my Young Man picked up one of their business cards at an SF convention, and which I listened to because it's a sort of spin off from Doctor Who. With a great cast, including Jenny Agutter and Paul Darrow.
The music is beautiful, and because the series was being made on a small budget, they were using music that is no longer in copyright.
Which led me to the new avenue of exploration, and to the work of Josef Suk, who wrote the beautiful theme music used in Minister of Chance. I've just got hold of a CD of his work, performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The music I had heard as part of Minister of Chance was actually part of a longer suite called Fairy Tale, and has the title 'Runa's curse and how it was overcome by true love'. I've just been listening to it in its original context, and it's a beautiful piece of music. It was originally based on an Eastern European fairy tale - so it wasn't too much of a departure from the original intentions for it to be used for a science fantasy story.
I'd never heard of Josef Suk before, but he was Czech - in fact one of the major composers of the Romantic Czech school. According to the sleeve notes of the CD, he studied at the Prague Conservatory under Dvorak (at least I'd heard of him! And I like his music) and he spent 41 years as the second violinist of the Czech Quartet, while also composing. He retired in 1933. He also taught composition, like his mentor Dvorak, at the Prague Conservatory.
So I've learned something about what sort of classical music I like - after all, it's such a vast field! And now I can go looking for more Czech and Romantic works with the expectation that I will probably like them. And it's all thanks to an SF series.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Pricing on Smashwords

For the New Year, I've decided to make my first novel, Raven's Heirs, free, and reduce the prices of Like Father, Like Daughter and Quarter Day to $1.99 each.
I'm hoping to finish the sequel to Quarter Day soon - but I've been saying that for a long time....

Women Warriors in Western Armenia

It's a while since I've posted about women warriors, so here are two women from Western Armenia, in 1895.


They were fighting against the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid, who ruled their country as part of the Ottoman Empire. He blamed the Christian minority in Armenia for the woes of his declining empire - a typical example of scapegoating people who were not responsible for his problems.
The Sultan armed Kurdish bandits and gave them free rein to attack the Armenians, as well as using his regular army against the civilian population. Massacres took place in many places, including Constantinople, from 1894 to 1897, and the total number of dead has been estimated at between 80,000 to 300,000.
At the time, the massacres were widely reported around the world, and caused outrage in Europe and the United States. The Red Cross arrived to give humanitarian aid - this must be one of the first times this happened, as the Red Cross was founded in 1863, only 30 years earlier. They were mobilised during the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870s, but I don't think they did much with civilians until the Armenian massacres.
So, when I first found this photo, I was expecting a fairly romantic tale of bandits - certainly not the mass slaughter that these women were actually fighting against.