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Why do we read?

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For most of us this question is one easily answered, starting with because we enjoy it and because we want to. Then the answer broadens to encompass because it keeps my mind active, I learn new things, new words, new ways of saying things, to be entertained, to escape (this is one of mine main reasons for reading – second only to because I love to read)…

Why do we read what we read? Fundamentally, the answer is because its want interests us or excites us. I have touched on the next point before, should we read the same things we always read?

As a librarian (as well as I writer) I am somewhat baffled by people reading the same things over and over, the same author or the same genre. Perhaps I am baffled because I find it difficult – or tedious may be another word – to read extremely similar things over and over again, whatever that may be.

For me, I can only read so much fiction before my mind wants something different and I have to pick up non-fiction again and vice versa. Even with fiction I try to change what I read to get a broader scope, but that’s the writer in me, as well as the librarian (so I can recommend different genres to different people) and also the historian in me – which is quite possibly why I love reading non-fiction almost as much as I love fiction. Should we confine ourselves to just one, two or even three types of literature? Or should we, again I harked on about this before in a separate blog, stretch ourselves to read not only more often but more widely. So much can be garnered from reading a wider variety, as can be from just reading generally. But reading is better than not reading at all.

On CVs (or resumes) people tend to include a small section entitled ‘additional interests’ or similar, and it is in this section most people put ‘I like to read’. If I was an employer I’d be like ‘so what?’ It may be that you do like to read, but simply stating ‘I like to read’ isn’t really interesting. So you may want to define what you like to read perhaps. So according to CVs most people like to read, again this goes back to my first point of why? I clearly know why but I just wonder if the primary reason – apart from the obvious enjoyment of reading – is different or the same for people.

This also links into the second point of what we read. There are so many genres out there which I have so far confined to fiction and non-fiction, but even these terms don’t do the areas justice, all you have to do is go to your local library or bookstore and browse around the numerous sections they have. A problem occurs for me, as it does with many readers I know, not all of them necessarily writers, there are too many books to read – what do I read next. I often hear – and I’ve said it many times before, ‘I’ve got a whole pile of books at home waiting to be read’. I usually utter this clutching another – perhaps smaller pile of books ready to be taken home to be added to the growing book pile waiting to be read. Books that generally cover many different genres.

Now one couldn’t read everything or indeed shouldn’t read just anything just to try your hand at reading every genre, we all have our own personal interests. I don’t really follow sport so I wouldn’t pick up a sport biography, nor am I really interested in auto-biographies especially of ‘celebrities’, but I am interested in reading some biographies about people who would interest me – and indeed I have of course – including historical figures, politicians, and writers to name but a few. But now I’m going off at a tangent…

I am perhaps more baffled by those who don’t read. When I was surfing the net (probably an old expression now in the ever changing development of the English language), looking for other examples for my 30 things before 30 blog, quite a few of them had as a point ‘to read a book’ citing that they hadn’t finished a book in years. I know not everyone has the time to read, but I just don’t really understand why people don’t read. It relaxes you, it widens your vocabulary and so on… You don’t even have to read often or anything complex – just something.

Is it just me, blinded by my career as a librarian, as writer, and as an ‘avid’ reader, that doesn’t understand?

Why do you read? What do you read? And why do you think some people don’t?

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This Day In History

Si monumentum requiris circumspice
Reader, if you seek his monument, look about you.
On Wren’s tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Christopher Wren, English architect and designer of St Paul’s Cathedral was born on this day in 1632.

“Architecture has its political Use; publick Buildings being the Ornament of a Country; it establishes a Nation, draws People and Commerce; makes the People love their native Country, which Passion is the Original of all great Actions in a Common-wealth…. Architecture aims at Eternity.”

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 “Architecture aims at Eternity”

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7 (Writing) Things to do Before I’m 30

Monday 13th October I posted 30 things to do before 30 and it covered general dreams and ambitions and new things to try or aim for.

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Today, I’m posting my before 30 list for my writing.

We all have our deadlines and our long term goals in our minds but I’ll challenge myself to not only write some writing challenges down but do them. The list will not include things like getting a short story published or a poem published in  magazine but more my hopes for my current – and near future – writing projects.

1. E-book publish my next novel The Crest

2. E-book publish 2 books from the non-fiction history series that I’m working on

3. Have a first draft of next novel idea, which is in the very early ideas and planning stages

4. Have a first draft of a third non-fiction history in the series

5. Organize my writing work-space and files

6. Try writing some short stories for myself

7. Try writing some poetry for myself

Apart from number 5 (which keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list due to time – and of course not dismissing procrastination) I think that all the other four combined is a definite challenge but one that I’m hoping that I will accomplish.

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30 things to do before 30

30 things before 30

Now loads of people have done these lists or similar; and I’m doing (or at least going to try) to do one too.

While initially thinking about my list I searched through the realms of the internet and found numerous websites and blogs dedicated to these kinds of lists. But a primary problem with them, at least from my point of view, is that while most of the things I’d love to do, they were simply not financially viable, especially within a limited time frame. So I’d like to think that my list has a bit of everything, but most of it realistic. Sure I could have done a ‘wish-list’ style list, but I wanted to think about the things that I wanted to do or accomplish before turning 30. So it may be a tad boring when it comes to other people’s lists but I want to be able to say that I managed every single one. You may also notice that I have a few fairly mundane but necessary ones in there, especially number 24.

I’m posting this list today as tomorrow is my birthday when I turn 27. I thought this was an appropriate time to start my ’30 Things’ list giving me 3 years to do 30 things before I turn 30. (Yes all the threes).

On 14 October, or there abouts, every year for the next three years, I will post a blog detailing my progress through the list.

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My List 

In no particular order…..

….to be completed in no particular order

  1. Be a step (have deposit ready) closer to owning my own home
  2. Go to the cinema on my own
  3. Go to a restaurant on my own
  4. Go to a midnight film showing
  5. Travel to any European city/capital
  6. Travel to Bath
  7. Travel to Cornwall
  8. Host a dinner party
  9. Do something for charity
  10. Be a step closer to getting married – no pressure Andrew (my boyfriend)
  11. Travel solo
  12. Take a ‘How to’ class
  13. Buy something expensive (and frivolous)
  14. Watch more classic movies
  15. Change my hair – either changing my hair style and/or colour
  16. Travel somewhere random
  17. Fly long haul
  18. Do a walking challenge
  19. Plant a tree (in memory)
  20. Go to the ballet
  21. Read 300 books
  22. Do 30 days of something – this could be 30 days of blogging, 30 days of drinking nothing else but water, 30 days of writing….etc…the options are endless
  23. Go camping
  24. Set up a private pension
  25. Stay awake for 24 hours
  26. Defy gravity – indoor skydiving
  27. Find the perfect LBD
  28. Learn a new skill
  29. Ultimate movie marathon
  30. Be naked for an entire day! 
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Hand of Fire – Judith Starkston – Review

I’m participating in the Fireship Press virtual tour of Judith Starkston’s fantastic novel Hand of Fire.

The 9th Oct is here and my review is out!

My Review of:

Hand of Fire

By

Judith Starkston

A beautiful mix of history and mythology, Hand of Fire is a masterful reworking of Homer’s Iliad with the centre stage going to feisty and courageous Briseis, who finds the balance between healer and warrior in her own unique way.

With an obvious passion for the Iliad, the novel was meticulously researched and plotted. The Hand of Fire reads effortlessly and is a perfect escape from the modern world. Starkston plunges us into the world where mythology and history are so entwined the difference doesn’t seem important.

The captivating characters bring the story to life and you find yourself so entranced by it, it is hard to put down. My heart ached for all that Briseis endured hoping against hope that she finds happiness with the half-God Achilles, despite knowing his eventual fate.

Hand of Fire is a truly wonderful, thought-provoking and absorbing read. A definite must.

Author Bio

Author Photo

Judith Starkston writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Ms. Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates. Hand of Fire is her debut novel.

The Blurb

The Trojan War threatens Troy’s allies and the Greek supply raids spread. A young healing priestess, designated as future queen, must defend her city against both divine anger and invading Greeks. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god. Will that be enough when the half-immortal Achilles attacks? Hand of Fire, a tale of resilience and hope, blends history and legend in the untold story of Achilles’s famous captive, Briseis.

The Cover

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Find an excerpt, Q&A, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community on Starkston’s website www.JudithStarkston.com

Follow Judith Starkston on FB and Twitter

Visit on Goodreads Hand of Fire

Buy Links (Amazon still isn’t showing the paperback but should be soon):


Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Hand-Fire-Judith-Starkston-ebook/dp/B00N86WY2K/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1409857330&sr=8-5&keywords=Hand+of+Fire

Amazon UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hand-Fire-Judith-Starkston-ebook/dp/B00N86WY2K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409858354&sr=8-2&keywords=Hand+of+Fire

Nook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hand-of-fire-judith-starkston/1120257214?ean=2940150310674

Itunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hand-of-fire/id914599315?mt=11

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The Crest

Watch out for the forthcoming release of my novel… The Crest. It’s a purely fictional historical fiction set against the time of early Elizabethan exploration, with a few background real historical events, like the Armada.

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The Crest – the blurb…

From the depths of unrecorded science, from the early times of philosophy emerges one whose destiny is his to decide. Fate has changed his world putting him on a path he did not expect. But one which now he could not imagine living without. John Masters is an ordinary boy from an ordinary home, but the early English plantation of Ireland pulls his father away from him and turns his world upside down. Not content with the life fate has given him, he grabs the opportunity to sail the seas looking for the answers he most craves. Along the way he finds adventure, friendship, conflict, and a life that he did not expect to find.

The horizon awaits; aboard the Golden Crest.

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Historical Note

Most of the characters in this book are fictitious with the exception of Sir Francis Walsingham who although does not feature directly in the novel, is mentioned, as is Sir Francis Drake. The exceptions also include Doctor John Dee and Queen Elizabeth I herself. The meeting with Doctor Dee and the lead character John is of course a work of fiction, but it is not improbable that Doctor Dee would have had acquaintances of the medical profession. That is not to say that he would have known someone with the dubious background that I had created for Doctor Francis. The speech given by Queen Elizabeth I is famous and can be found in a number of written historical sources, as well as appearing in the film ‘Elizabeth’ starring Cate Blanchett. The actions of Sir Francis Drake in the Spanish Main are based upon real historical accounts as are his exploits in Cadiz. Well known and countless histories have been written about it. The series of events portrayed in the novel did happen, including the feat of the Disdain and the Spanish Armada.

The scientist/philosophers mentioned throughout did exist, from Socrates to Tycho Brahe, as are all the works mentioned.

The name of the merchant vessel the Golden Crest, is an invention for this novel. If it does exist, then it is purely coincidental.

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Afterword

I have not come across any mention that there existed a doctor aboard a merchant ship who practiced what would now be called real science, as opposed to relying on what the ancients said, and it may be unreasonable for something of this nature to occur, which is why I made sure that the work involved was kept secret. It was common for men of wealth to take an interest in science and conduct reason on their own time at home.

My novel is dedicated to the unknown people out there, if any indeed existed, whose interest in science and capability to understand and progress science has been hindered by their circumstances. It was only when life circumstances beyond John’s control allowed him to realise his dream of making a difference academically that he does so. Even though, it would be more for himself, for he realises that no one would ever read anything he ever wrote. It is also dedicated to the unsung heroes of science whose names never get or got a mention.

The names of Galileo, Newton and Einstein are all well known, for their sheer brilliance, which cannot be underestimated, and also for the opportunities that were available to them Tycho Brahe, for instance, received his own island base to conduct his astronomical research from the King. But there were countless others who dedicated their lives to science (and philosophy) who have never received any of the praise or legacy these other men have.

This is of course a work of fiction. It did not happen – or at least history has not recorded anything like it, as far as I am aware. But in the very beginning of the enlightenment period there may have been others – not born and raised into privilege going and studying at the major universities in Europe – who may have made a contribution to science. The names of these men and women, we will never know.

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Historical research; The Crest: Life at Sea

As promised….

…..historical research behind The Crest [coming soon]….

…..I’ve kept it brief (and not always in complete sentences) just to give you a sense of what it was like as a sailor in the 16th century……

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Life aboard a vessel

In good weather and constant wind shipping required few or very little sail changes, therefore running repairs was a sailors main priority, for example when a sail blew out or tore.

Masts and yards cracked or were carried overboard. Blocks and tackle broke or jammed. Such incidents occurred in heavy weather and required immediate and often heroic action as men ran aloft to clear away the debris and restore the ship.

Leaks also were a massive and almost constant problem.

Disasters nearly always occurred on a voyage but often weeks between each other, filled with endless maintenance. In good weather damp, wet sails dried, bedding was brought aboard deck to air and the hatches were open to air the decks below. Every piece of timber received attention, repairing, replacing, scarping and caulking, greasing and painting. And when the ship docked at a port repairs were conducted that normally weren’t able to be done at sea.

But despite this view of shipping in good weather, life as a sailor was a dangerous one. When bad weather hit, the only hatch was closed leaving the men in airless and dark living spaces as naked flames were prohibited below deck; and it was cramped. Despite the average height for a man being 5 foot 5 inches, they still endured tight and cramped spaces. Hammocks were hung from beams inches apart. Here the men ate and had time off. The air was foulsome and suffocating. The conditions were not only damp they were wet. It was often made wetter by the pervading dampness permeating the sides of the ship and by water pouring through imperfectly fitted hatchways. Smells of unwashed men and bad food attracted rats.

Arguments and fights between the men were common, as were times of joviality, however boys were usually bullied and older men were belittled or abused.

Strange happenings at sea. Witchcraft was used to explain many things that happened at sea.

Shipwrecks were a constant problem and fear, with sailors developing a strong sense of self-preservation.

Mortality and medicine

While only less than one per cent died on a voyage, usually through accidents or shipwrecks, accidents and deaths did occur. Sailors were killed or drowned as a result from a fall or washed overboard, loose tackle posed dangers. Death by disease was not as dramatic as accidental death. Dysentery – the bloody flux, scurvy and typhus – ship fever, were the most likely culprits to attack crowded ships. Poor nutrition, and poor sanitary conditions did not help matters.

See http://www.rmg.co.uk/explore/sea-and-ships/facts/ships-and-seafarers/life-at-sea-in-the-age-of-sail for more information.

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