Thursday 30 June 2016

♔ Arthurian Legend ~ was Arthur a king, a hero or a legend?

Was King Arthur a King? 
Of course, he was! Why would I even ask such a stupid question?

Let’s backtrack a little. Where does it say Arthur was a king? Do we take the works of Monmouth and Malory as factual, when they are clearly a work of fiction? That’s the problem with folklore and legends; things are not always what they seem.

The first ‘documented’ work about Arthur was by a 9th Century monk called Nennuis. His name has come up once or twice on this blog because it would be pretty hard to ignore Nennuis when searching for Arthur. In his work The History of the Britons, we get the first glimpse of what could be the actual Arthur.

However, not once does Nennuis refer to Arthur as a king. He praised his warrior abilities, but he says nothing about kingdoms and Round Tables.

Was King Arthur a Hero? 

Of course he was!

Nennuis praise for Arthur cannot be dismissed even if it is bordering on the realms of impossibility for a mere mortal man. He lists the 12 battles that Arthur fought in, and throughout Arthur is brave and courageous and almost supernatural in his abilities to bring the enemy army down to their knees. It reminds me a little of that scene in Braveheart. Where Wallace rides up to the army at Falkirk and the warriors, do not believe him when he says who he is, because they have believed the, I guess you could call it, propaganda. Perhaps Arthur could inspire men to follow him the same way Wallace did.

Here’s a clip of that said moment in Braveheart, in case you might have missed it.

Braveheart (1995) - Best scene - William Wallace's speech (HD)

I do believe this is what has happened to Arthur. After all, the more elaborate  the story, the more enchanted the listener. 

Is King Arthur just a story? 


I do not believe that Arthur is just a legend, or a made up story to entertain the masses. I think there is some truth in it. Maybe it isn't the truth that we know, but I would like to think that he was real and that he did inspire his men.

 What do you think? Was Arthur real or simply a myth?

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Guest Post ~ Fish-god and Man, Oannes: Between two lives @flycisco

Guest Post ~ Fish-god and Man, Oannes: Between two lives

By Francisco Rebollo

When it comes to gods, Oannes has to be one of the most obscure ones out there. The tale about a mysterious figure who emerged from the sea onto the Babylonian shore to enlighten mankind, seems clouded by the darkness of aeons lost, almost erased by time.

         According to Jonathan Black in his excellent book ‘The Secret History of the World’ Babylonian Marduk priest Berossos wrote around 281BC about a being who had the head and body of a fish and the face and torso of a man. The being was called ‘Oannes’ and it spent the day among people teaching them geometry, architecture and other sciences as well as agriculture, the letters and the arts. After spending the day on land among the people, at sundown Oannes would return to the sea.
         “He brought them the knowledge of letters, sciences and all kinds of techniques…”
-Berossos, Babyloniaca
         Ancient Amphibious or aquatic deities are not exclusive to Mesopotamia.
         Another account of a half-fish, half-man deity is that of Matsya first avatar of Vishnu, who is depicted as having a human top half of his body with the lower bottom half being that of a fish. Matsya is credited with saving the first human from the deluge and with saving the Vedas from a demon.
         In Mali, Western Africa, the Dogon people hold the Nummo twins in a special place in their belief system. The Nummo Gods were central to the creation of man.
         In: Marcel Griaule’s ‘Çonversations with Ogotemmeli,’ he describes the Nummo Spirits as spirits of the water, present in the sea, lakes, rivers or any body of water. They were described as having shiny green and scaly skin, having a human top half of the body and a snake’s bottom half. The twins were involved in giving humans two souls; one male, and one female.
         The idea of more advanced creatures coming from the sea to make contact with mankind should seem just as plausible – if not more so – than beings making contact from outer space. The oceans of the earth are vast and their depths are still a mystery to us. More and more new species are being discovered in the world’s oceans every year.
         One only has to look at species of sea animals such as dolphins and whales to realise how intelligence is not at all an exclusive quality to the human species.
         But perhaps it is our own definition of intelligence that is too narrow.
         Contact in the opposite direction is still a possibility: Humans could develop the minds’ potential in a way that makes it possible for us to communicate with cetaceans.
         “It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English – up to 50 words used in correct context – no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.”  - Carl Sagan
         What would the dolphins and whales of the planet’s oceans have to say to us if we could communicate? Would they praise us for our technological abilities, would they ask us about electromagnetism, the internal combustion engine or computers?
Or would they try to teach us? Would they try to point us in the right direction with regard to developing more advanced qualities such as empathy, compassion and the ability to find joy?
Cetaceans naturally share everything and do all their activities together, they display caring behaviour towards each other, they are playful and freely show their emotional state to each other. For all of mankind’s prowess, we can’t really say that we’ve managed that much yet.
I chose the name of ‘Oannes’ for the main character in my debut novel ‘ORB’ because I conceived this protagonist to be someone who is always caught between two things, two choices, two worlds. The word ‘amphibious’ has its root in a Greek word roughly meaning: ‘both lives.’
The Oannes of antiquity moved back and forth between the world of men and the world of the Gods, between land and the sea. He sought to enlighten mankind. In ‘ORB’ Oannes is not the enlightener but the enlightened, it’s almost as if he’s chosen by the orb and given a special mission.
Whether modern or ancient, the world of mythology is inhabited by imperfect Gods seeking contact with people in need of a helping hand. Is our world, a world of imperfect people seeking the help of flawed gods?
Maybe – like Oannes himself – we are all between two lives.

“…stories like the Oannes legend, and representations especially of the earliest civilizations on Earth, deserve much more critical studies than have been performed heretofore, with the possibility of direct contact with an extraterrestrial civilization as one of many possible alternative explanations…”
          Shklovski and Sagan, p. 461

'An aeronautical love story from an altered world’

All is about to be unveiled…
Oannes Jones is an airline pilot living in a much altered world where a pervasive technology seeps into every part of people’s lives in order to create a compliant, unthinking society.
He believes he has found his purpose in playing father to Riply, a young girl not his own. But he also feels hopelessly torn between two women, one of whom is Riply’s mother.
And then it happens: a dangerous mid-air encounter with a mysterious ball of light – the Orb.
The encounter awakens him to a new reality. Life, the world and even dreams begin to look and feel different. His friends begin to change as well. Clues are laid out for him to follow, most of them provided by Riply.
As dark forces begin to encircle, something happens that will change everything for many people, not least for the child whom Oannes loves.
The Orb nears…
Everyone changes…
Here goes the autopilot…
Where can I purchase a copy of ORB?
About the author 
Hi, my name is Francisco Rebollo. I'm a writer and pilot.  I've been an airline pilot since 1998. I'm from Mexico. I've flown and lived across Europe and North America. In 2013, I suffered injuries and got grounded. During those 16 months on the ground, I turned to my writing as a way to get over what was a very difficult time. After a long journey, I am back flying again.
I have just finished my first novel: 'ORB' An Aeronautical Love Story from an Altered World. The novel deals with flying, love, migration, the paranormal, war, spirituality and the nature of the superstate. The book is fiction but is also based partly on my own experiences in the air. 'Fractals' (a poetry and prose collection) is also in production. I began my writing career as a songwriter. I attended music colleges in Mexico and USA. I began writing poetry while backpacking across Europe during the trip which eventually brought me to Ireland - where I now live permanently. My poem: 'MIND GAP (London Fireworks)' made the 'Word on the Waves' 2015 long list. My articles ‘Why Mexicans Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in September’ and'The flower of Twenty and the Day of the Dead' have been featured in the ‘West Cork People’ (Mar 2014/Oct 2014.) My poetry has featured in e-publications like: 'Poetry24,' 'The Poetry Daily,' 'Democracia Real Ya!', and 'El Fugaz Ciberdiario;' as well as 'Zaytoun CIC's' website and newsletter. I perform regularly at 'pSoken Wrod' (a renowned 'spoken word' event in west Cork, Ireland.)

Monday 27 June 2016

Book Review ~ The Girl from Berlin: Standartenführer's Wife @EllieMidwood

“Do you have any more confessions to make before I take you home? Any communists in the family? Any Marxists? Sectarians?” He was making fun of me again, and that was a good sign.

This is a diary of Annalise Meissner, a young German Jew with long time ago falsified papers, living a carefree life in pre-war Berlin. A talented ballerina, she comes from a wealthy family and at first doesn’t want to concern herself with the changes her country starts undergoing under the new Nazi regime. However, when the oppressions against the Jewish population begin, she realizes that she can’t be a silent bystander and swears to help her people in any way possible.

She falls in love and gets married to her father's longtime friend, Standartenführer Heinrich Friedmann, who even though he works for SD – the Reich Secret Service – seems to share her views, and soon Annalise learns why. Her new husband turns out to be a counterintelligence agent working for the US government, and together they start a dangerous game against the sinister Gestapo, trying to save as many lives as they can and not to compromise themselves.

But it's not only the persecuted people Annalise wants to save; she meets the leader of the Austrian SS Gruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner who everyone seems to fear, but for some reason Annalise isn't intimidated by the Chief of the Austrian Gestapo and doesn't believe the rumors about his brutality. 

Gruppenführer Kaltenbrunner isn't hiding the fact that he would love to get this beautiful girl as his mistress, but Annalise, despite the mutual attraction, stays faithful to her beloved husband. However, the risky game she’s playing will soon change everything…

What did I think of the book?

Annalise Meissner's life centers around ballet. She is a dedicated and wonderful dancer. She has a beautiful, loving family, a fine house and fine clothes. Life was as good as it was going to get in post-war Germany. But then in 1929 the Stock Market crashed in far away America, and the world that Annalise inhabited was about to change for the worse.

Set during the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, and continuing into the war, The Girl from Berlin is a compelling page-turner. Annalise is a Jewish girl with falsified papers. She has to witness as her friends are brutally discriminated against. Through the horrors of Kristallnacht to the brutality of Auschwitz, this book leaves nothing out.

You meet the antagonists of the story in this book, whose name will forever be remembered in history for their brutality and their lack of humanity, but it also tells another story, about those who worked undercover. And those who had no choice but to do as the Nazi Regime ordered.

But it is not all terror; there is a beautiful romance and friends that, no matter what the government demands, will always be friends.

Historical very accurate, and beautiful told. I Highly Recommend.

What did I think of the book? 
About the author

Ellie Midwood is a best-selling historical fiction writer. She's a health obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama. 

Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Who do you think you are? #familyhistory #genealogy

"The past is a foreign country,
 they do things different there.”

That iconic line from The Go-Between is one of my favourite openings to any book I have ever read, and I used to think it summed up the past. The world of our ancestors would be so foreign to us. What would we possibly have in common with family members who lived so long ago?

Many years ago, my mum decided to make my siblings and me a photo album each for Christmas. We had recently lost a very precious great aunt and great uncle, and my mum was concerned that one day there would be no one who could tell us the names of those in these timeworn photographs that she had. We had no idea that she was putting together these albums, and it did bring tears to my eyes when she presented me with mine.

I had always been interested in where I had come from, and I was fascinated with programs such as Who do you think you are? One day, I promised myself that I would research my roots, but that was about as far as I got.

Until the day my mum gave me that photo album.

Now all families have their stories and mine is no different. The story was...we came from Scotland. We had something going on with The Tudor Dynasty, although no one seemed to know what that meant. There was a Roman connection, which is hardly surprising, considering that Britain was once under Roman rule. And finally, there was something to do with the Vikings, but no one knew what that was. It was, I thought, a concoction of nonsense. Just a story that sounded good when children asked.

Still, this photo album gave me the motivation I needed. Like any amateur genealogist, I started with what I did know and slowly I began to make a picture out of the jigsaw of the past. I signed up to ancestry, and suddenly the world became a great deal bigger.
It wasn’t just about stalking dead people; it was about connecting with relations I did not even know existed in the first place. And suddenly, what started out as a solo project became a team effort.

William, my Great Grandfather, was a blacksmith ~ he is the one on the right, with the very cool mustache! 

Not so long ago, I was contacted by a cousin who said she had some photos and information that she wanted to share with me about my GG Grandmother, and my namesake, Mary Yarde. What she had, literally left me speechless. It was a treasure trove of photos, going back six generations. A family Bible that is around 170 years old. A pressed buttonhole from a wedding that occurred in 1845 - The blue of the forget-me-nots could still be made out. I had to blink back the tears when I saw it.

A photograph of the first page of the said Bible. (Sorry about the quality of the photo).

Mary Yarde and her husband George.

One of my GG aunts, it turns out, was a midwife and my cousin had her, I guess we would call it a work diary. In amid her jobs listed for the day, was the words, "Don't forget the flour and the eggs for the cake." - Maybe someone was having a birthday.

There were ledgers, shopping list with the price of everything next to it. Some of the items had been crossed out - they were too expensive to buy.

And there was a book of sums, where my GG Grandmothers was trying to stretch the money out for the week. What could she do without?

 My Gran is the little girl at the front, with her two brothers, her mother (my G-Grandmother) and her father, (my GG-Grandfather).

And as I looked at all these amazing things, I smiled, because their concerns are the same concerns that we have now. Paying the rent. Shopping. Recording births and deaths. Maybe the customs would be foreign, but the rhythm of life was the same.

Another family member presented me with letters from The Great War. These letters were from my Great Grandparents to my Grandfather while he was stationed out in Egypt. Some of them made me laugh, and others made me cry. Reading those words, which were written over a hundred years ago, I could, as a mother, read the fear beneath the encouragement as my Great Grandmother wrote about the weather and the price of flour.  She wrote about mundane things that circled the fact that her son was in a foreign country fighting a war. The letters would always end with, "It will not be long, and you will be home. Have patience and may God bless you and keep you safe." Thankfully he came home.

My Great Grandparents on my Grandfather's side.

I was told the story of my Great Uncle, who was a fighter pilot in WW2. He had completed his first tour of duty, but he volunteered to go back for a second. Then one day the dreaded letter came. He was missing over the channel, presumed dead. My Great Grandmother was so distraught that she foolishly went to a fortune-teller who told her that one day her son would come home – she believed her, but he never did.

My Great Uncle in his RAF Uniform

These names on a family tree suddenly came to mean more than a date of when they were born and where they died. Suddenly, I could fill in those missing years of their lives. I could see their handwriting. I could smile along with them as they communicated news in their letters. I could flick through the pages of a book and know that this was a treasured possession. I could take a dried brittle buttonhole and lay in the palm of my hand and know that this had been so important to that couple, my many great grandparents, that they wanted to keep a memento of their special day, forever. The forget-me-nots suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

And I knew that Hartley was wrong when he said the past is a foreign country. The customs may be very different to what we know now, but some things are the same in every generation, and they always will be. Love, hope, joy and grief. We have a lot in common, and there is a great deal that our ancestors can still teach us.

Now, I guess you want to know about those Vikings, Scotland and the Tudors. Did I find them? Or was it just a family myth?

It seems there was some truth in it.

I'll start with the Tudors - for those who know their history, then you will be familiar with the Battle of Bosworth Fields. My cousin was there. He, umm, left it to the last minute to decided which side he would fight for and when he finally committed, it wasn’t on the side of his King, Richard III, but on the side of Henry Tudor - sounds about right! I am, of course, talking about the Stanley’s. My side of the family had the good sense to stay out of it, I guess being the younger son sometimes has an advantage.

Scotland, well, it didn’t take long to find my ancestors there, and of course they were always in the thick of it. Fighting the English and trying to win back their country. I believe a cousin of mine did the impossible and "sent him homeward, Good Edwards army, to think again..." at Bannockburn, he then went on to become King of Scotland ~ a family tradition it seemed. For not only can I claim the Bruce Clan as ancestors but also the MacAlpin’s ~ the first Kings of Scotland.

As for the Vikings. I found them too - although when you go that far back, you have to take everything with a pinch of salt. These Vikings were as great and as ruthless as I expected them to be. Some of them had very detailed and interesting deaths, although, for the men, it was usually in combat, apart from the one who got into a fight with his brother - the cause of death was a horse bridle? I dread to think.

I could waste hours away looking at records, and I have been asked, how can you possibly enjoy that?

I’m a historian. I love it. I wanted to know where we came from, and I have done that. I love the fact that I can trace my ancestry back to William the Conqueror, Harold Godwin and Harald Hardrada. Now that gives a new meaning to the word irony!

Searching for your ancestors is like going on an epic treasure hunt - you never know what you are going to find. I even found a highwayman - now I wasn’t expecting that - unfortunately, he didn’t live to tell the tale, poor man. English justice back then wasn’t very forgiving.

And I like reconnecting with family members and listening to their stories. 

Now it’s your turn. Who do you think you are?

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Sign Ups ~ The Du Lac Chronicles ~ August 22 - September 4 @SecretRealmBook

Secret Realm Book Reviews & Services

The Du Lac Chronicles by Mary Anne Yarde
August 22nd ~ September 4th

If all you had left was your heart, would you give it to the enemy?

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Secret Realm Book Reviews & Services

Monday 20 June 2016

Book Review ~ Lady Beauchamp's Proposal @AmyRoseBennett

The ton’s opinion be damned.

A runaway countess finds love when she least expects it… but she can’t hide from her past forever.

Elizabeth, Lady Beauchamp, fears for her life. When she discovers her dissolute and long-estranged husband has syphilis—and he wants to beget an heir no matter the cost—she flees to a remote part of Scotland to begin a new life as the widowed governess, Mrs. Beth Eliott at Eilean Tor Castle.

When Mrs. Eliott unexpectedly arrives on his doorstep, the reclusive and recently widowed Marquess of Rothsburgh is both irritated and intrigued. No longer in need of a governess—his young daughter now resides with his sister’s family in Edinburgh—he proposes the beautiful widow fill a position of a different kind… Torn between staying true to her marriage vows and her wanton attraction to the devilishly handsome marquess, Elizabeth struggles against the temptation to become his mistress. But living a lie is not easy when you have fallen in love. And secrets always have a way of coming out…

Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal won the Georgian/Regency/Victorian category of the 2015 'Romancing the Novel Published Authors Contest’ run by the Hearts Through History Chapter of Romance Writers of America. It was a finalist in the 2014 Australian Romance Readers Association Awards (favorite historical), and the Carolyn Readers Choice Awards, and was runner-up in Romance Writers of New Zealand’s 2015 Koru Contest (Award for Excellence) for ‘Best First Book.’ It has also received an honourable mention in the 2015 RONE Awards (post-medieval section).

Every step Elizabeth took away from James felt like a stab in her heart 

What did I think of the book?

Lady Elizabeth Beauchamp has it all. A fabulous title, respect, wealth, and a husband who is handsome. Her life should be perfect.

Elizabeth was swept away by Hugh Beauchamp, and she married for love, but very soon she realised that her husband wasn’t who she thought he was. He is an adulterer and has many mistresses. He belittles her at every opportunity and their marriage is far from happy.

But one day Elizabeth receives a letter from one of Hugh's mistresses. This anonymous woman informs Elizabeth that Hugh has contracted the pox.

Determined to escape a loveless marriage and fearing for her health, Elizabeth flees her home, takes a new name, invents a new story about her life and heads to the wilds of Scotland in the hope that she will find work as a governess in the home of the recently widowed, Lord Rothsburgh. If only she had known what would happen next!

What a rollercoaster of an adventure this book takes you on! I took to Elizabeth straight away. She had the most wonderful heart and an enormous capacity to love.  Her frantic flee to Scotland was very believable, and I came to care about what happened to her.

Lord James Rothsburg had been deeply affected by his wife’s death, but not in the way that you would think. Like, Elizabeth, he had married for love, but his wife was not the true type.  James is a very passionate and caring man, who was just the kind of person suitable for our brave heroine.

This book isn’t your typical romance – there is a great deal of adultery between the pages and if this is something that you object to then maybe this isn’t the book for you. However, saying that, I thought the plot was fantastic. It wasn’t predictable in any way. I didn’t know where the story was going and for a historical romance that is unusual. It certainly made a very welcomed change.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this book. I read it in one sitting. It held my interest throughout and it is on my repeat-to-read list.

I Highly Recommend.

  Where can I purchase this fabulous book?

About the author

Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, and a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback. She has been a speech pathologist for many years but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.
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