For Less than the Price of a Cup of Coffee

For Less than the Price of a Cup of Coffee.

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For Less than the Price of a Cup of Coffee

Cup of coffee and stories

For less than the price of a cup of coffee we take you to the furthest shores. We knock on your door and take you on an amazing journey. Are you the burglar we’re looking for to help with a troublesome dragon that has stolen our treasure? We will take you on epic journeys in enchanted forests. You will meet elves, fairies, the wild hunt. We will take you to mountains and run from mountain trolls and storm giants. We will fight against tyrants and evil kings. We will be the companions of peasant boys and girls with big dreams and even greater destinies. We will fight for justice and seek blades magical and named.

We will take you with us while we walk the night with velvet paws. We shall meet pale strangers who dance with beautiful ladies until sunrise, and handsome dark men who dislike the full moon. They roam New Orleans and their pasts are mysterious and dark, studded with tragedies and lost loves. Their cousins are much more unsavoury. They hide under our bed and steal our breaths as we sleep. They creep at night and consort with ghouls and witches. Some are good and some are bad. Some dance to the beat of exotic drums, worshiping dark gods which show themselves only when the stars are right.

We take you to the furthest corners of the galaxy. To dystopian futures here on earth where humans fight for the last scrap food or fight in huge arenas for the gratification of a placid population, or the edges of the universe where colonists have forgotten about earth. Where wars are waged in places so far away the troops take decades to get there, to wars with evil arachnoids and to desert planets where water is rare and precious and exotic spices are mined.

We take you to the deepest darkest jungles to rediscover lost cities filled with secrets that would shake mankind, ocean floors with shipwrecks carrying mysterious cargoes, and locked vaults that shady organizations want to keep hidden.

 We take you to peaceful villages where grisly crimes of vengeance have taken place, and unlikely detectives uncover the suspect’s motives like the layers of a cake. Where serial killers place their unfortunate victims and clever agents never rest until they catch them.

We take you with us in our worlds and we leave you there to be lost for days or even weeks. To meet the heroes and heroines and perhaps fall a little bit in love with them. To meet the dastardly villains and cheer at their demise. To be sad at the hero’s losses and nervously await to find out their fate. Will our heroes triumph? Will they perish? Turn the pages and find out. And if we do it right you will be thinking about the characters and places you have been for days after you have finished the book. Sometimes the heroes become your friend and never quite leave you.

And all this we do for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Next time you are wondering if you want to download a book for 2.99 ask yourself: Isn’t worth it?

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Durovernum Cantiacorum part III

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Cathedral Gate

Durovernum Cantiacorum as the Romans called it is a very ancient place. If you visit, which I strongly suggest ( for people in and out of the UK) this place has an amazing energy. A vibrant lovely aura which gives you a warm feel good sensation. (This is where I get an award from the city tourist board 😉 )

Canterbury is a very old place with many different people living here through the ages.  It has been inhabited since the Neolithic times. The first century AD the Romans arrived in Britain and completely redesigned the place. The built new streets in a grid, a theatre, a temple, a forum and public baths. The Romans conquered England but when they reached Scotland they took one look and thought their Empire is big enough (might also have something to do with the fierce Pict warriors covered in blue paint). The Romans built a wall to keep the Scots out also known as Hadrian’s wall, parts of which are still there today. During the summer people walk along it to exercise, sight see or walk their dogs.

On the 4th century the Romans left England and Durovernum Cantiacorum almost faded away. Anglo-Saxons settled there and renamed it Cantwaraburh meaning Kent’s People’s stronghold.

Canterbury was the first place where Christianity arrived in Britain.

In 595 Ad Pope Gregory chooses Augustine, the prior of a monastery in Rome, to lead an expedition to Britain, to Christianize the Anglo-Saxon pagan natives. Kent was chosen because King Æthelberht had married the Christian princess Bertha. In 597 AD the kingdom of Kent converted to Christianity. St. Augustine founded an Abby in Canterbury, the ruins of which can be still seen today, and became the first Archbishop of Britain.

More about Canterbury in our next post.

Again all photos in this post belong to me. If you like them and want to use them, please mention the blog. 🙂

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Canterbury Tales – Part II

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It has occurred to me that since I have been spending time in beautiful Canterbury that I should write a little about the town and its long history. So I thought I should do a few Canterbury feature posts with little pieces of history and photos, some of interesting places and details. If the photos are a bit shabby sorry, they’re all taken by me. If you would like to use them please mention the blog you took them from.

Canterbury is best known for its Cathedral, which is the seat of the Archbishop, and Canterbury Tales written by Chaucer which refers to the pilgrimage to Canterbury (but more on that later). The cobbles have been worn by the footsteps of pilgrims heading to the shrine of Thomas Becket.

But who was Thomas Becket?

The relationship between King Henry II and the Archbishop Thomas Becket was tempestuous at best. Thomas Becket had been Henry’s friend until he was appointed by the King as Archbishop of Canterbury. King Henry thought that if he appointed his friend as Archbishop, he would break the hold of the Pope in England. The was a big clash between the King and the Church (represented in England by the Archbishop of Canterbury) who would be in charge and who would be subordinate. Would the Church be subordinate to the King or the King to the Church?

They clashed numerous times, one significant issue was who would judge clerics who broke the law. The king thought that they should be subject to his law while the archbishop was adamant that they were men of the cloth and could only be judged by ecclesiastic law. During one particularly bad conflict the king exclaimed:

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”

Four knights heard and took it as a command to kill Becket. They rode to Canterbury, broke down the doors and cut down Thomas Becket. The archbishop was proclaimed a martyr. The king was sorry for the death of his friend and eventually did penance at the church of St. Dunstan at Canterbury. The Pope made Becket a saint. The cult of Saint Thomas grew and soon people from all over Britain came as a pilgrimage to Canterbury, to the shrine of Becket. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote Canterbury Tales, where pilgrims on the way to Canterbury exchange tales to pass the time.

More about Canterbury in my next post.

Also have a look:

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Canterbury Tales

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Sorry I haven’t blogged more recently but I have been down in Canterbury for my graduation and spending some great family time.

Last week was my graduation ceremony for my PhD. Ceremonies are important in realizing things. So are uniforms. Apart from making you look the part and merge into the part you are playing, they also define your identity. It’s why doctors wear their white coats and nurses their uniforms. Why soldiers outside the battlefield wear uniforms and not suits. When an actor puts his or her costume on, they become the part. Mr Smith suddenly becomes Othello, Mrs Doe becomes Juliet. It’s why brides wear their wedding dress. By putting that special dress on, a dress that is only reserved for this specific occasion, she becomes the bride.

It was similar for the graduation as well. The graduate puts on the black gown, the hood with the colors of their discipline. And the hat. For those receiving a PhD this is a different one from the one the other graduates have. It’s not square, its round. As I was walking down the street a lot of people asked me why my hat was different. I felt a tingling of pride. It’s because it’s a hat for PhD people.

This graduation was made extra special by the fact that I shared this graduation with my sister who has also just finished her PhD. It was the day of the Doctors! (Incidentally, it was on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr.Who, to the day!) We were at the first graduation which started at 10:30 am so we had to have an early start. We woke up early to get ready and were greeted with driving rain. We drove into town and had to collect the admission tickets for our guests and collect our graduation gowns.

The tickets were an hour late. And to get into the venue the guests had to queue so they would enter on a first come first served basis. The only flaw in the plan was that people had to wait outdoors in the pouring rain! For three quarters of an hour!

Canterbury is a small city (it’s only really called a city because it has the cathedral), and Kent University holds its graduation ceremonies at the cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous cathedrals in Britain, (re)built in the 9th century. It is a breathtaking structure, both to look at from the outside and to experience from the inside. It is absolutely amazing to be able to graduate in it. Other universities hold their graduations in their sports halls or find large rooms on campus.

It was amazing to enter the Cathedral and know that all this, the celebrations, the music, the people, are all there for you (and your sister, and, I guess, a few hundred fellow graduates!). It is the recognition of all the effort and hard work that you have done. And having your family there is priceless. Somehow it makes all the hours of life you have exchanged for this degree, all the effort you have put in, real and worthwhile.

Of course, the only time out of the whole week that I’ve been here that it was absolutely pouring with rain was the four hours of the graduation. Just enough so that in all the photos we took for posterity we would look like we swam there. Dr Shipwrecked if you don’t mind 😉

 

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5 Point Guide On How To Critique Without Being An Ass

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It has occurred to me that people have trouble critiquing other people’s work. In the past month I have witnessed a few different incidents with different outcomes. In my writing group one lady was worried because she had to critique other people’s writing as part of a course assignment. I gave a few pointers I thought may be helpful and was amazed to see people getting notebooks out and taking notes. I was quite surprised at what I thought was common sense, but it seems that nothing should be taken for granted.

Another fellow writer/blogger was (undeserving) harshly critiqued. These people gave their opinion like the judgement of God, forgetting that it’s just their opinion. Other people might like the story.

So, without further ado, here’s a 5 point guide on how to critique without being an ass…

 1. The critique should be aimed at the story, not the person.

 When reviewing a piece of work, remember that you should be reviewing the work not the person. Don’t pass judgement on the person or his/her writing abilities. Nobody is a born writer. We all have to learn and practice. Even there greatest literary geniuses were once novices.

Don’t: “John you are stupid.”

Don’t: “You must be a very young person”

Don’t: “This must be your first story”

Don’t: “Your story was stupid” either (see point no 3)

Try: “John, I felt that certain aspects of your story maybe improved. I think the following points …”

 Fellow writer, if you are subjected to people being negative or downright mean when talking about your work, just DON’T LISTEN to them.

 2. But why didn’t you like it?

People are allowed their opinion. Someone may not like a story or a piece of the story, or a character or whatever. It’s their prerogative. But, you shouldn’t just say that “this is crap”. Explain why you didn’t like it. Why did you think it was crap? What didn’t work for you?

Instead of: “This was a stupid vampire book”

Try: “I didn’t think Vlad was scary enough.”

Try: “I felt that the relationship between the two protagonists wasn’t convincing or strong enough to make Harker go all the way to Romania to save Mina.”

 3. All writing is subjective, don’t offer your opinion like the judgement of the Gods.

 In the words of my favorite American philosopher, “opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one” (Clint Eastwood). What you are saying is your opinion. Make sure that the other person understands that.

The quickest way to get someone’s back up is to speak like on authority on the subject. Especially if you’re not one. Unless you’re the editor buying the piece or a multi million dollar selling author, don’t make statements like:

Don’t: “The section with Frodo exploring the dark forest slowed the piece down, take it out!!”

Or

Don’t: “Darcy is a boring character. Lose him!”

Or

Don’t: “There is no way anyone will believe that one rebel fighter jet will blow up the Death Star.”

 4. Give your opinion and make it clear it is only your opinion.

OK, we should avoid statements of fact. How do I give my opinion?

Try: I think, I believe, I feel, or I felt, in my opinion, it didn’t work for me, maybe you would like to try…

Instead of: “Seriously???!!! He stole the idol by putting a sandbag on the altar?”

Try: “I found it hard to believe that …”

Instead of: “Darcy’s motives are unconvincing” or “Darcy’s motives are not explained.”

Try: “I felt that I didn’t understand Darcy’s motives, maybe you would like to make them clearer, perhaps by having him write a letter to Liz?”

5. Bad news sandwich

If you think there are some things that the author might want to re-think (see what I did there?) then write a “good – comments – good ” critique.

 Write the general impression (if it’s good), then a critique of the things you believe might benefit from revision, and finish with a positive conclusion.

 E.g. “I though that your story “Little Red Riding Hood” was overall a good story. I enjoyed the characters and the way they interacted. I also like how Red spends time with her grandmother..

 However I have some things that I wasn’t sure about. The scene in the forest didn’t work well for me. I thought that it took a long time for the action to unfold and it may have slowed the pace of the story down. I also felt that a little girl wouldn’t speak to a wolf she didn’t know.

I did like the way that the woodcutter saved the day. I enjoyed this dashing character and laughed at his humorous comments. I also believe that the last paragraph worked well in the context of the story. Well done on writing this story, and keep up the good work.”

A very detailed and excellent guide to critiquing by Andrew Burt can be found at

 http://www.critters.org/c/diplomacy.ht

http://www.critters.org/c/whathow.ht

 That’s all. Simple, really. Remember. This person has worked hard to write this story. While being honest, you should respect the time and effort the person put into the story.

As other people should respect the time and effort you put into your stories. There is no reason for meanness. No reason to dissuade anyone from being a writer. There’s enough space for all of us. Keep writing!! Keep up the good work!! :):)

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Remembrance Day or why can’t we all just get along?

Remembrance day

 

Today is a very special day in Britain. It’s Remembrance Sunday.

Remembrance Day is a memorial observed in the commonwealth countries since the end of world war one to remember the members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty. I, along with others, honour their sacrifice. And reflect upon the tragic loss of life.

 

The armistice which signalled the end of WW1 started on 11 November (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month).

Why not at 12:01 am I hear you ask? Possibly to give the chance to a few more unfortunate souls to be shot before this great adventure was over.

 

Being a stranger you observe things that the natives are accustomed to. While visiting various picturesque villages all over Britain I have seen the memorials dedicated to the fallen of WW1. Every village has such a stele. With long lists of names. The exceptions are a handful of “Thankful Villages”. These are the villages that didn’t have any men killed in the war and were thankful for it.

 

How come it so often happened that many men died from the same village? In the beginning of the war in 1914 joining the army was voluntary. Young men rushed to volunteer to what they thought was a great adventure that would be over by Christmas. Or they were given incentives to join by the lords they rented their land and cottages from. These men were all put in battalions manned by people coming from the same villages or areas. When ordered to go over the top of the trenches to face machine gun fire or when shelled by artillery, it was more than likely that the battalion was wiped out, and with it a whole generation of young men from the same village were lost. Whole villages lost their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers.

 

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million. 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded made it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The horrors of WW1 did not stop at getting a letter telling you that your loved one was dead. Many men who managed to return from the war were never again the same. The physical damage was evident, men with missing limbs or blind from gas attacks. The psychological damage was hidden. Help was not available, indeed it was unheard of. Men had to keep a stiff upper lip.

Troops suffering from what we now know as battle burn out or post traumatic stress disorder were court-marshaled and shot as cowards or deserters. Women belonging to “The order of the white feather” roamed the streets giving out white feathers symbolizing cowardice to any man they encountered who they thought should be fighting at the front (They themselves, of course, didn’t go anywhere near the fighting). This last phenomenon became such a problem that special badges were given to men who were performing home front duties.

 

How did this war begin? In the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was a complex web of alliances that hung in precarious balance. The shooting of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ignited a powder keg.

 

When the dust settled, four empires had been swept away. The Austro-Hungarian empire, the Russian empire, the Ottoman and the German empire. The peace terms were so harsh on defeated Germany that it sowed the seeds for WW2.

 

It is most interesting that people sort themselves into belonging to groups. They defend and support these groups. In sports when national teams are playing, people support their national team over the “opposite” team. Apart from betting, there is no personal gain in this victory. What is it that makes us choose one group over another? Why is it that, because we were born in one country, we have to support the policies of this country? Fight the wars that the politicians who run the country decided to inflict on us?

 

Does it go back to when we were apes? When we clung together in little clans that helped us stay safe with the strength of numbers? This instinct of survival stayed strong as it seemed to work. The little clans grew larger, turned into tribes and eventually into nations.

 

People still support their nation over others without actually thinking if the things they are supporting are actually morally right and, in certain cases in the 20th centaury, even remotely sane.

 

During the first Christmas of WW1, there was the Christmas Truce. A football match was played between the two sides. Instead of killing each other, the opponents were playing a game. At the end they shook hands and returned to the trenches. One can only wonder what would have happened if after that they refused to go back to war. The soldiers decided to pack it in and go back home to their families. The generals would be furious. They would order court martials and firing squads. But what if no one arrested anybody. If they all refused to follow the insane orders of going over trenches to be immediately blown to pieces? Power only comes if people are prepared to obey. What if no one obeyed any more? The only ones who gained from this war were the “Empire makers”, the generals and the industrialists who sold the weapons. What the soldiers were fighting for was who would run colonies, and exploit the natives in far away lands. How about letting the natives run their own countries and buying their products at fair prices? Oh the shock and horror at that!

 

In the Illiad, the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, each side chose a champion to fight. Whoever won would win the war. There’s a thought the next time two nations want to go to war. Instead of sending their armies to kill each other, the two head of states fight it out in a duel. I wonder how many wars would start then.

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