Little old doggie

Auguste is now 13! For his birthday, he got his teeth cleaned. (It was a good idea – he had lots of plaque and now his breath is Much nicer!) He’s considered an old dog – although he doesn’t consider himself old, he considers himself ‘entitled’! This is what happened: One day we woke up and found him curled up asleep on the couch. Our dogs are not allowed on the furniture. They have cozy pillow beds in almost every room- they have their “own” beds. But one day, Auguste decided he was old enough to deserve a place on our couch – and he hasn’t given up his spot since. No amount of scolding, of picking him up and setting him on the floor, of pushing him off – works. He turns around and jumps back up, and giving us a “Make my day” look, lies down. If I try to sit down, he pushes me away withi his head or feet (depending on which side I’ve chosen) to make room for him. He’s got short legs, but he’s a dachshund – he’d over a meter long (including his tail), and takes up a lot of space! I usually end up watching TV from a chair. 

Auguste has the usual complaints of the elderly. He’s getting deaf, and his eyesight is failing, so he sometimes bumps into walls. When this happens, if we laugh, he turns away from us and sulks. His pride is injured. (But as he’s getting very deaf, he doesn’t hear us laughing if we do it quietly). His deafness can be selective though – when I rattle the box with his milkbones in it, he comes running. 

His prostate is enlarged! His hips have arthritis! Poor old chap. His prostate is giving him trouble. He is mortified when he tries to lift his leg and he falls over. He used to be so limber – now he has to brace himself (he likes to lean against trees, a wall, a car…) to lift his leg. He refuses to squat. No, he’s a Male dog, and he will lift that leg to prove it. Even if he wobbles. His arthritis means he hates the rain and cold now – it makes him achy – so when it’s raining, I practically have to drag him outside. Then he dashes to a bush, leans against it, carefully lifts his leg…. and then he runs back inside as fast as he can (this is usually when he runs into the wall.) 

The other day I took him to the vet to get an ultrasound, and as he lay on his back, the vet moving the sond over and over his newly shaved belly, the vet remarked, “Auguste is such a good dog – he’s the nicest dachshund I know.”  We love him too – and hope that we can celebrate many more birthdays for the nicest dachshund ever.

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More about the “yellow jackets” and trickle-down violence.

Yesterday, my boss came in to work with a story – she had been driving through a tunnel and just at the exit, a group of youngsters were throwing bricks and stones at the cars. They aimed a huge chunk of pavement at her window – luckily missing it – but denting her door. She drove on, and stopped at an intersection where others had stopped to examine the damages caused to the cars. The youths had lit a fire as well, and smoke rose into the air along with the angry voices of those whose cars had been damaged. Just two days ago, I’d been heading through that tunnel on the way to visit a friend, and the youths had managed to block it, so a police force had been deployed to clear up the mess and reroute the traffic. 

Also, yesterday, a huge group of youths had caused trouble in front of the highschools where my daughter had graduated from. The police managed to control them – and there were no injuries or reports of excess violence – but there were over a hundred arrests. 

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Interpellation de dizaines de lycéens à proximité du lycée Saint-Exupéry de Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines), le 6 décembre. SAISIE DECRAN / LE MONDE

I read the comments in the comment section below the article and noted that most people congratulated the police on staying calm and gaining control of the situation without hurting any of the children. But some people called the police fascist pigs (I’m guessing they were brothers and sisters of the ones arrested?) and some were saying that the kids were just doing what ghetto children always did – destroy things (I’m guessing those were white asshole supremists).

Anyhow – it occured to me that the violence has been trickling down in ways the economy never did. It started, if you’ll remember – with protests against the diesel tax. The protesters were all in their 40 – 50’s – working men, truck drivers, setting up road blocks and lighting tires on fire (a woman of 50, a protester, was run over and killed when a driver panicked and drove into the crowd) . Then there were the prostest marches that degenerated into destruction of storefronts; and that was done by people aged 30 – 40 mostly, according to police records. The march was followed by college students running around and breaking things (you gotta love those college students, they learn so fast when a subject interests them). And now, it’s hit the highschools. 

Yes, trickle down violence. It works so much better than trickle down economics. The adults show the way. Lighting tires on fire, parading around in their yellow vests, bellowing insults at the police and president, showing how they despise rules and regulations – and getting filmed and shown on TV all day long. How romantic to the younger set – they want to be on TV too. So off they go, after listening to their parents reminisce about May ’68 – and they dig up the paving stones from the roads and hurl them at cars, and make road blocks, and have no real idea why they are doing this – except thats what their elders did! 

Trickle down violence. It works well everywhere. Something that should have been nipped in the bud managed to get out of hand because the adults couldn’t manage the “good example”. And here we have it too. The protesters are getting younger, and more enthusiastic (it’s a lot more fun to throw rocks than go to school – look! Ten million years of civilization up in smoke!) Image result for cavemen fighting

So while the young are criticized, it would behoove the adults to stop and examine their own behavior, and admit that it was “them who started it“, as Eliza Doolittle would have said. And “Them” who started it better start showing a better example before we all end up back in the stone age. It seems a small step from protesting fuel prices to blowing up a city – but a handful of those enterprising teen protesters had broken into houses and stolen butane gas cylinders, and had tossed them on the fires some of their buddies had started. Thank goodness the gas cylinders didn’t explode, and the fire department quickly put the fires out –  otherwise there would have been injured people. 

This weekend, there is another march programed for Paris. I hope the adults will show the youth how to behave – believe me – they are watching and learning. Monkey see – monkey do. If only trickle-down economics worked as well as trickle-down violence – we’d all be better off. 

 

Happy Hanukkah!

This is the season for lights, for songs, for Christmas and Hanukkah, for family and presents and good food shared with all.

I celebrated Hanukkah with my very dear friend, Roberta and her family, but my first Hanukkah was with J.L Galvin and her mother. For some reason (I was about 12 or 13 at the time so I don’t really remember why) I was staying with them for that week. I learned the prayer, and every night a new candle was lit on the menorah. We went to the synagogue, in St Thomas, and the rabbi recited “the Night Before Hanukkah”, complete with Santa and kosher food all in rhyme! Here is more info about the synogogue: St. Thomas Synagogue is a historic synagogue in Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The formal name of the synagogue is Congregation Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasadim (Blessing and Peace and Acts of Piety‬). Built in 1833 for a congregation founded in 1792, it is the synagogue with the longest history of continuous use on what is now United States soil. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997! What did I find unique about it? The sand floor – very beautiful! 

T’was the night before Chanukah, boychicks and maidels
Not a sound could be heard, not even the draidels.
The Menorah was set on the chimney, alight
In the kitchen the Bubba hut gechapt a bite.
Salami, pastrami, a glassala tay
And zayerah pickles with bagels, oh vay!
Gezunt and geschmack, the kinderlach felt
While dreaming of tagelach and Chanukah gelt.

The clock on the mantelpiece away was tickin’
And Bubba was serving a schtikala chicken.
A tumult arose like a thousand brauches,
Santa had fallen and broken his tuches.
I put on my slippers, eins, tsvay, drei,
While Bubba was now on the herring and rye.
I grabbed for my bathrobe and buttoned my gotkes
While Bubba was busy devouring the latkes.

To the window I ran and to my surprise
A little red yarmulke greeted my eyes.
Then he got to the door and saw the Menorah,
“Yiddishe kinder,” he said, “Kenahora.
I thought I was in a goyisha hoise,
But as long as I’m here, I’ll leave a few toys.”

With much geshray, I asked, “Du bist a Yid?”
“Avada, mien numen is Schloimay Claus, kid.”
“Come into the kitchen, I’ll get you a dish,
A guppell, a schtickala fish.”
With smacks of delight, he started his fressen,
Chopped liver, knaidlach and kreplah gagessen.
Along with his meal, he had a few schnapps,
When it came to eating, this boy was the tops.

He asked for some knishes with pepper and salt,
But they were so hot, he yelled “Oy Gevalt.”
Unbuttoning his haizen, he rose from the tish,
And said, “Your Kosher essen is simply delish.”
As he went to the door, he said “I’ll see you later,
I’ll be back next Pesach, in time for the Sedar.”

More rapid than eagles his prancers they came,
As he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
Now Izzy, now Morris, now Yitzak, now Sammy,
Now Irving and Maxie, and Moishe and Mannie.”
He gave a geshray as he drove out of sight:
“Gooten Yomtov to all, and to all a good night.”

I can’t believe I found this on the internet – it made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now. So tonight, I will remember my Hanukkahs, with J.L & her mom, with Roberta, Ross, Shira & Eric – and wish a very Happy Hanukkah all my Jewish friends and family.

Fashion victim

I had blue cowboy boots. I loved them; they were so cool. I had a pink leather teeshirt, and I had a pair of red jeans. I had red plastic cowboy boots too – and a yellow skirt with a matching top. When I first moved to France, I had practically no clothes, most of my stuff was lost – in suitcases and boxes scattered all over NY and Connecticut. When I went to Paris I left things behind, I travelled light, and when I got my pay, I usually hit the shops to buy clothes – my first favorite store was Kenzo, and I bought nearly everything there – dresses, skirts, teeshirts – and I got my shoes and boots at Miu Miu; (when I was buying those things, those designers were just starting out, and cheap – nowadays I couldn’t affort socks at Miu Miu or a teeshirt at Kenzo!) 

The blue lizard skin cowboy boots were fun – I can’t remember where I got them, but I remember wearing them until I wore the soles out. I loved (still do!) chunky, funky, fake jewelry. I loved to go to thrift shops – (still do) and find fun things that don’t mix and match. I am a fashion victim – I can’t seem to do ‘classic’ – I start off with the good intentions of wearing beige and black, and end up with a scarlet dress, a turquoise scarf, and shoes with rhinestones on the heels. I never thoguht I’d really like being a model – I thought I’d do it for a while to earn some money – but the truth is, I loved dressing up and trying new clothes and shoes  – the flashier, the better! Here I am in Italy, doing a shoot with Oliviero Toscani. He was a fun photographer to work with – I adored his style, and his assistant, Fafi, was a doll. We had a blast – I wish I could find all the pictures we did – but here is one of me as a fashion victim; chunky jewelry and all! 

Strengths in Writing

5 strengths I have as Writer.

It’s not easy being objective about your own writing. If you really know me, you’ll know I’m horribly critical of my own writing, I love to tear it apart, I will agonize over it, and I have many more weaknesses than strengths. (Especially spelling, I’m dyslexic, my best friend is my spell-checker!) But I’ll try to list what I consider 5 strengths in my writing:

  1. My vocabulary. I hardly ever need to search for the right word to describe something. I think this comes from having, as a toddler, an old encyclopedia that I carried around with me. I literally cut my teeth on words. I love vocabulary games, and I was one of those geeks in school who loved vocabulary tests.
  2. Dialogue. I have a terrible ear for music but a good ear for dialogue, and for what sounds authentic. I’ve never had an editor tell me to redo or rework part of my dialogue. The characters speak in their own voices – I hear them – and write down what they say. Proof of insanity, but a certain strength when it comes to writing.
  3. Imagination. I think, “What if…” and a whole new hole opens up to me. A myriad of paths fan out from a single idea, and I can make horses travel through space, a meteorite wipe out only the adults on earth, or a woman can time travel back to interview Alexander the Great and get kidnapped by him.
  4. I’m a nitpicker. I will write and rewrite and re-rewrite in order to get it perfect. I’m not afraid to take a book apart and put it back together. I’m not afraid of trimming text, pruning prose, or getting rid of useless information or killing off useless characters. I’m ruthless when it comes to editing – subscribing to the ‘slash and burn’ method. I’m a careful writer, and I try to turn in as clean a copy as possible.
  5. I love to do research and I love to read. Science, history, space, crime, sports, religion…anything is fair game to be included in my books, and I love to research. Recently I researched the FBI. I spent over a year researching Alexander the Great before I started writing. When I wrote Angels on Crusade, I researched the Middle Ages. I contact people over the internet, I go to public libraries, and I read, read, read….I think reading is a strength when it comes to writing.

 Jennifer Macaire is the author of the Time For Alexander Series.

Time flies / Paris burns

That’s such a cliché, and so very true. Look what happened – I got busy playing Heroes of Might and Magic, and making toasted walnuts – and what happens? I forget to blog  – and I burned a whole tray of nuts. 

It takes me about an hour to hull/shell/crack (I’m never sure what the right term is) enough walnuts to fill a large cooking sheet. Then I put them in a very hot oven for 4 – 5 minutes. At the same time, I’m usually watching a film or even reading on my kindle as I try not to stab myself in the hand with the knife I use. Yes, I use a huge knife to crack my walnuts. My husband showed me how to do it, then forbade me to try (I’m really deadly with knives – I have scars all over my hands and fingers to show it). But it’s so Easy! You put the point of a heavy knife into the butt end of the nut, and twist the knife. The nut cracks right open. Then you use a nut cracker on the halves and it’s simple and fast. And so far – after hours and hours of wielding the huge knife, I haven’t stabbed myself (well, only once – and I didn’t bleed so it doesn’t count). 

Once the nuts are toasted, I add raisins, (that word does not look right no matter how I write it – raisens? Rasines? Raisans?) some sea-salt, some sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon. Then I put that in jars for snacks. But once or twice, I’ve become distracted while toasting the nuts, and there is barely any time at all between “nice and toasted” and “charred and ruined”. 

There is nothing more frustrating than having to dump a tray of burnt nuts into the trash because you were in the middle of a battle in Heroes of Might and Magic, and you forgot to check the oven. That will teach me.  

So – time flies. I’ve been busy toasting walnuts. My nephew and his GF came to visit and we had a lovely time – and they left before the French completely lost their heads and started to bash up Paris. We are – well, I am at least – very upset with this ‘gilet jaune’ movement. Mostly because I think taxing gas is a good idea, we are suffocating the planet. But making the poor and struggling lower classes pay is not a good idea. There has to be a way to make a fairer tax system. The top bracket in France is 40%. It used to be 65% in the 80’s – a time people look back at and think that “everything was better” – so I suggest putting that tip bracket back up – but the rich people are all in the government now, so it’s much easier for them to make the poor people pay – because God forbid they have to give up their ski chalet in the Alps, their country house, or their fifth car. If they (the protesters) would just stop breaking things, I might go join them. Oh well 

So, Paris was in an uproar today, but we were fine and things were very quiet in Mantes (I said to my husband they were probably all in Paris and he nodded), and it rained, so after work I just sat and cracked walnuts for a couple hours, an kept a close look at my watch and didn’t burn anything. France was burning enough as it was. 

Newly Discovered Text: Caesar on Forestry in Finland

From Sententiaeantique.com –

The following text, surmised to be a lost appendix to the well known De Bello Gallico, presents some general facts about the practice of forestry in Northern Europe for an audience of the Republic far removed from such mundane concerns (until, of course, their country burns down around them…).

C. Julius Caesar (?), De Silvis.  Edited by Dani Bostick.

1.3 The best part of Gaul is Finland which is inhabited by the most intelligent citizens of all because they most often rake leaves and keep four rakes under every tree. For this reason the Finnish people also surpass everybody in safety, because almost every day they clean their forest with these rakes either when leaves fall from trees or when there is dirt of another kind.

1.3 Optima pars Galliae est Finlandia quam cives intellegentissimi omnium colunt propterea quod saepissimeque folias conradunt atque quattuor pectines sub omni arbore ponunt. Qua de causa Finlandi quoque omnes sapientia praecedunt, quod fere cotidie pectinibus silvas purgant, cum aut foliae ex arboribus cadunt aut illuvies alterius generis est.

1.4 This technique is thought to have originated in Canada, where there are many forests, and brought to Finland, but now those who want to learn more about it do not go there for the sake of learning about it. You see, the entire nation of the Finnish people is extremely devoted to learning and on that account foreign teachers come to Finland so that they might learn to teach well, but they never ask how to keep forests clean on account of their stupidity.

1.4 Hac disciplina in Canada reperta atque in Finlandiam translata esse existimatur, sed nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causa non proficiscuntur. Nam natio est omnis Finlandorum admodum dedita eruditioni, atque ob eam causam barbari magistri veniunt ut bene docere discant, sed ob stultitiam quomodo silvae purgantur numquam rogant.

Dani Bostick teaches high school Latin and an occasional micro-section of ancient Greek in Virginia where she lives with her husband, children, and muppet-like dogs. She has published many collections of Latin mottoes online, has a strong presence as an activist for survivors of sexual violence on twitter, and is available to write, speak, or rabble-rouse.

Caveat lector: this might be a piece of satire.

Finding the Hart from  Livre de la Chasse by Gaston Phoebus, Count de Foix.

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

The following text, surmised to be a lost appendix to the well known De Bello Gallico, presents some general facts about the practice of forestry in Northern Europe for an audience of the Republic far removed from such mundane concerns (until, of course, their country burns down around them…).

C. Julius Caesar (?), De Silvis.  Edited by Dani Bostick.

1.3 The best part of Gaul is Finland which is inhabited by the most intelligent citizens of all because they most often rake leaves and keep four rakes under every tree. For this reason the Finnish people also surpass everybody in safety, because almost every day they clean their forest with these rakes either when leaves fall from trees or when there is dirt of another kind.

1.3 Optima pars Galliae est Finlandia quam cives intellegentissimi omnium colunt propterea quod saepissimeque folias conradunt atque quattuor pectines sub omni arbore ponunt. Qua…

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Auguste gets lost (and found)

On Friday, we went to a friend’s house for a hunt. The hunt was on a vast property in the Yvelines, it was in two parts that day, one on one side of the “route nationale”, the other on the farm side. We were hunting wild boar and red deer. The property is bordered on two sides by main highways, on the other sides are farmland, and the wild animals have been causing so much damage that the forest department has threatened to have “extermination*” hunts on the land – so the owner has had to increase the number of hunts on the land (which is no hardship for my husband, who loves to hunt) or for Auguste (who also loves to hunt). I rarely go to the hunts because I don’t love the hunt, but I do love being in the forest, and so I agreed to be a beater that day and stomp through the woods. I wore a orange florescent vest and carried a long staff, and I kept to the forest paths and let the “pro” beaters crash through the brambles and underbrush. 

I saw roe deer, a couple stags, and a family of wild boar – the mother and her twelve babies ran across the path I was on, about fifteen yards from me! Behind me, across the field, a huge stag had broken off the group and was running towards the next forest over. What I didn’t see what Auguste – he was on the stag’s scent, and off he went. Out of the woods. Across the field. And away, and away. No one saw him – he’s so small. I didn’t see him – I saw the deer, but not the little dog. And so we went on and on, until the end of the hunt and the end of the day. Night was falling, the beaters gathered at the edge of the forest; the dogs were called and came trotting back, tongues lolling, panting, tired. I waited for Auguste, but he never showed up. 

My husband and I were frantic. We borrowed a jeep and went back through the forest, driving down the paths, calling, calling – but still no Auguste. Three, four times around the forest. Night fell – we put on the headlights and drove. We stopped several times, got out of the jeep and called until we were hoarse. Where was Auguste? He would have barked had he been tangled in a briar somewhere (he’s such a wimp) or he would have barked if he heard us and needed our help. But not a sound. No jungle of his little bell, no bark. Just silence, and the sound of leaves falling like raindrops in the vast forest. 

Heartsick, we left Stephane’s sweater beneath a tree blind at the meeting point. We left, had dinner, and went back twice that night – still no Auguste. We hardly slept a wink. Saturday morning and we rushed to look at our phones. Any messages? Auguste wears a bright orange collar with our phone number on it. But no messages. Our hearts were broken. Stef left for work. I started to do laundry – and then the phone rang. Auguste had been found on the highway! Miraculously unhurt, a good samaritain saw him, stopped and put him in her car and called us. She had to go to the city to do a what the French call “stage des points” to get points back for her driver license, so she took Auguste with her. He sat at her feet during the meeting, and at lunchtime, Stef came to pick him up and gave the woman a bottle of champagne as thanks! 

Auguste came home as if nothing happened. I gave him a bath (he was filthy) and he slept for half a day. But today he’s up and trotting about and barking at me, telling me all about his wonderful adventure. I wish I could understand him – but I think he was telling me that he was never worried, he knew he’d be found, (this is about the fifth time he’s been lost and found again) – he is forever escaping and coming home either on his own, or with some kind person! A couple times it was the mailman who knocked on our door, holding Auguste under his arm, and saying, “I have a package for you!” 

*I thought I’d explain that in France there are strict quotas for hunting and each property gets a certain amount of “bracelets” that they must afix to the hunted animal. But when the animals do a lot of damage to nearby crops, the farmers complain to the forest ministry, which has the power to organize an “extermination” hunt with no quotas. Our quota that day was one yearling red deer (male or female), one 2 yr old red deer (male), and as many wild boar (male) as could be shot. We ended up with & yearling doe and five wild boars, so not a bad day. All the animals are butchered and the meat is given to the hunters, beaters, and sold. We didn’t get any meat that day because we were busy hunting for Auguste – hopefully next time I’ll be able to fill my freezer; I rarely buy meat from the supermarket! 

History, books, and gifts

I’m pleased to welcome historical author Tom Williams to talk about his books. And soon, “’tis the season to be jolly”, as they say, and if you’re looking for a gift do consider books – a series of historical novels for your history buff – inexpensive and impressive – what more can you ask for? 🙂

Christmas is coming and already the Sunday newspapers are full of supplements about the books that you could give as Christmas gifts.

As somebody published by a smaller press – Endeavour Media – I’m very aware that my books aren’t about to feature in The Sunday Times, but Jennifer Macaire has kindly offered me a showcase almost as good as that newspaper by letting me talk about my books on her blog.

There are six books altogether, three about the Napoleonic-era spy James Burke, and three rather more serious ones set in the mid-19th century at the high watermark of Empire. I’d love to talk about them all, but I’ve chosen just one – my favourite, Cawnpore.

Although Cawnpore is the second of my books to be narrated by the fictional John Williamson, everything I have written stands alone, so you can enjoy it even if you haven’t read any of the others.

cawnpore

Cawnpore is a story about the Indian Mutiny (or First Indian War of Independence). When I wrote it, I thought everybody would understand that it was going to be a tragedy because when I was a child we were still taught about Cawnpore (now called Kanpur) at school. It was one of the most famous massacres of the British Empire – by which I mean a massacre in which local people were killing the British, rather than the other way about. It turns out that nowadays people are blissfully unaware of the implications of the title, so some of them seem to have been taken aback when, essentially, everybody dies. That may be a spoiler, but the way things work out in the book was never intended to be a surprise. The story is closely based on an actual historical event and “everybody dies” is what this historical event was all about.

What intrigued me about Cawnpore was that the horror seems to have arisen from the structural problems of colonialism. The British at Cawnpore were not generally bad people and the leaders of the Mutiny were not, by and large, the monsters that they were later represented as. The events that led to slaughter on a horrific scale, carried out across India by both Indians and Europeans, seem to have been the inevitable result of a clash of cultures. Certainly the British did exploit India economically, but Indian rulers had exploited their populations for centuries without rousing the people to revolt. When the British had first arrived in India, they had shown a lot of respect for native customs and culture, but, over time, muscular Christianity and the growing self-confidence of the British in their natural “right to rule” led to increasing contempt for the Indian way of life. Even what the British saw as positive steps, such as the banning of suttee (widow burning), were resented when they showed contempt for ancient customs.

I invented John Williamson because I needed a narrator for my first book, The White Rajah. The real White Rajah, James Brooke, had an interpreter called John Williamson so I stole the name and job and then invented a character who was close to James Brooke and could tell us his story. When I wanted to set a novel in the Indian Mutiny, Williamsonseemed the ideal person to tell this story. Although he was part of the machinery of Empire, he was himself an outsider. He was a  homosexual with working class origins and he was never going to be truly comfortable with the men who ruled India. In fact, his only true friend was an Indian, a prince in the court of Nana Sahib, the man who would eventually lead the Indians at the massacre of Cawnpore. Williamson therefore sees both sides of the conflict, sympathising with each in turn, desperate to stop the killing but, in the end, doomed to see the tragedy unfold without being able to prevent the atrocities of Indians and Europeans.

toim

It’s not a cheerful book. Most of the characters are real people and the events follow very closely on the historical facts, but the story really centres on Williamson. We see India and the events of the Mutiny through his eyes and I felt I grew to know him. It’s also an amazing story, for which I can take very little credit, because the story is the one history wrote for me. The Indian Mutiny was a war where the personalities of individual leaders made a huge difference to the outcome. People decided their loyalties based as much on their evaluation of the personal worth of the protagonists as on race or creed. It was a time of deeds of great military valour and courage and, on both sides, a time of appalling cruelty and mass killings. It was, indeed, a clash of civilisations. It ended the rule of the East India Company, which had run India as a private fiefdom, and initiated the period of Imperial rule and the Raj. It also, though no one could have known it at the time, started India on the road to eventual independence and the end of the princely states. It is one of the great stories of the 19th century and, with Cawnpore I’ve tried to capture something of that story.

I hope you read it. Let me know what you think.

Important bit

Cawnpore is available in paperback or as an e-book. The paperback is a ridiculously cheap £5.99, putting it at stocking-filler prices when it comes to Christmas gifts.

The paperback has a different (and rather lovely) cover in the US, where it is distributed by Simon & Schuster. Cawnpore

Keep in touch

I blog, mainly about history but other things too – like tango . Have a look at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/blog/

There’s a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/

I tweet as @TomCW99.

If you want to contact me directly, you can email me at tom@tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk

Finally

A huge ‘thank you’ to Jennifer Macaire for giving me space to talk about one of my books

Musing about muses

cookinglight.comIt’s winter, the equinox has passed, and now the days are getting longer. I sacrificed a bar of chocolate upon the altar of Persephone to welcome the rebirth of a new year. Actually, I’ve been knee-deep in edits, on the phone with my incredible editor every day, debating on where to put commas (actually there is no debate, she says “put one there” and I put); finding typos (if she says “put” and I putt, I expect my readers will be confused); untangling complicated sentences (no one wants to spend five minutes figuring out who is saying what about what); and generally smoothing out the books in the series. Let us sacrifice another bar of chocolate to the nine muses, who help us in our artistic creations. In ancient days, the muses were invoked by the artist to help him. For example:

Homer in The Iliad begins many of his stanzas by invoking the muses to help him tell the tale: “Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus…”

The first lines of The Iliad invokes the muses: “Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, and hurled many valiant souls of heroes down to Hades…”

And in The Odyssey, “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.”

We say we’ve “lost our muse” when we can’t create, we muse, are amused, bemused, and we go to museums. Museum is from Greek mouseion “place of study, library”, originally “a seat or shrine of the Muses,” from Mousa “Muse”.

Here are the nine muses, and the art they represent:

Thalia (“The Cheerful One”) was the Muse of Comedy;

Urania (“The Heavenly One”) was the Muse of Astronomy, and you can often see her holding a globe;

Melpomene (“She Who Sings”) was the Muse of Tragedy;

Polyhymnia (“She of the Many Hymns”) was the Muse of Hymns and sacred poetry;

Erato (“The Lovely One”) was the Muse of Lyric Poetry;

Calliope (“The One with a Beautiful Voice”) was the Muse of Epic Poetry; Hesiod claims that she was the foremost among the nine, since “she attends on worshipful princes”;

Clio (“The Celebrator,”) was the Muse of History;

Euterpe (“She Who Pleases”), was the Muse of Flute-playing;

Terpsichore (“The One Delighting in the Dance”), was the Muse of Choral Lyric and Dancing.

A word to remember the names of the Muses uses the first letters from their names: TUM PECCET, which Latin students everywhere know means ‘He (who) sins (makes a mistake), will sin (make a mistake)’, but as a pun can mean, ‘If you get it wrong, you’ll make a mistake’, meaning that if you can remember TUM PECCET, you can’t forget the names of the muses!

The Muses may have had Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, as their mother-however, their mission was to make people forget their sorrows and cares. Even now, when we’re feeling blue, art and music can lift our spirits. Let’s sacrifice another bar of chocolate to the muses!

The Road to Alexander

What do you do when the past becomes your future?

The year is 2089, and time-travelling journalist Ashley Riveraine gets a once in a lifetime opportunity to interview her childhood hero, Alexander the Great. She expects to come out with an award-winning article, but doesn’t count on Fate intervening.

Alexander mistakes Ashley for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. Being stuck 3000 years in the past with the man of her dreams wouldn’t be so bad if the scientists of the Time Institute hadn’t threatened to erase Ashley from existence if she changes history.

Ashley must now walk a tightrope, caught up in the cataclysmic events of the time, knowing what the future holds for the people she comes to love but powerless to do anything to influence it.

Join Ashley on her hilarious, bumpy journey into the past as she discovers where her place in history truly is…

Universal to buy link: getbook.at/TheRoadToAlexander

Excerpt:

Alexander loved when I sang. He adored rock and roll songs, soft ballads, and opera arias. The music they played in Alexander’s time was heavy on percussion, strings, woodwinds, and brass. Choruses were popular, and the music would give me shivers. It could be amazing, especially when the trumpets sounded. I loved the sweet music of the harps and flutes, and there were reed instruments like oboes, included at every banquet. However, music was also commonplace with the soldiers singing as they marched or worked. People sang as they went about their everyday business. And children were taught with songs, as I found out when Callisthenes came for my first lesson.

We had stopped for the night on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The wind was making the tent lean in a way that frightened me, but Alexander assured me there was no danger. I expected to be blown away any second, but the tent held. Callisthenes came by after dinner. I was lying on the bed, and Alexander was at his table going over the day’s journal with Ptolemy Lagos and Nearchus. Plexis was being treated by Usse – his collarbone still hurt – and I was playing a game of checkers with Axiom.

I was winning, for once, so I was cross when Alexander ordered Axiom to fold up the game, and told me to go sit in the corner with Callisthenes for my first lesson. I made a face, but obeyed. Besides, I was curious. What would I learn?

Callisthenes took a small harp out of his robes and proceeded to sing a very cute song about nine women called ‘muses’, who lived on an island somewhere and did all sorts of artistic things. Their names were lovely in themselves, and the song had three verses, with a chorus that went like this:

We are the muses, standing in line,

Nine sisters, nine inspirations divine,

We sing, dance, tell stories and give you stimulation

For all your artistic inspiration.”

Well, it loses something in the translation. However, it was the first little song a child learned. It told him about the nine subjects he would study: epic poetry; history; lyric poetry and hymns; music; tragedy; mime; dance; comedy; and astronomy. Those would be my lessons, and since each subject belonged to a muse, that’s where we started.

I went around humming about Clio and Calliope, Urania and the other sisters until my next lesson.

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