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News, or olds, from the web

Shakespeare is an interesting phenomena, played throughout the world in so many different languages, studied in so many different schools but do we ever get the real plays? Linguist David Crystal and his actor son, Ben, tell us we lose so much by hearing/reading Shakespearian plays in modern accents. Go here to watch how the words should be pronounced and therefore to find the plays on words we’ve missed. Don’t even ask me how Shakespeare can be translated.

I was saddened the other day to hear of the passing of the author of the Adrian Mole books. Sue Townsend was only 68 and at work on her tenth Adrian Mole book when she suffered a fatal stroke. I feel the cutting short of Adrian Mole’s life characterises both Mole’s life and also real life, we don’t necessarily finish everything we start and life finishes when it does…generally without notice. She was a wonderful author managing to convey Mole very nicely. She will be missed, vale.

J K Rowling is moving into a different phase of her career, she’s going to be a guest editor on the Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. She’s going to be the first guest editor for 60 years. I have this feeling she’s going to challenging people a little.

Talking about life changes, I found this article on a Mongolian girl who is challenging the status quo and hunting using golden eagles an occupation generally held by males. She looks so at home with the bird. Not only that but I love how they let the eagles go while they’re still able to procreate and have a normal life.

Isaac Asimov

Mr Asimov, sir, I apologise for missing the anniversary of your death four days ago, I know, it is totally unforgivable and I should be whipped across the ears with some of your words but not too many as you wrote far too many of them.

I know more of your science fiction writing than any other but you are also famous for having written many non-fiction books on science and also some on the Bible. I just happen to have one on my desk and here it is:

Would You Believe? by Isaac Asimov

Would You Believe? by Isaac Asimov

You were prolific as a writer and sometimes put yourself into your own works and I have to admit to not liking that at all. I have many fond memories of snuggling down into a warm bed to read yet another of your books, the science generally went way above my head as that is not my forté but I enjoyed a rollicking good tale sometimes of adventure and derring do and other times of some other nature. One thing I particularly enjoyed which comes through in my writing is your science fiction predictions and gadgets, sometimes you’re been right and other times not quite so right but you were always entertaining and challenging my thoughts of the world around me.

While I have read many of your works I suspect it will be very much a challenge to read them all and still fit in all my other reading, you’ve been most prolific and I use that word many times with you. You’ve written or edited more than 500 books and about 90,000 letters, if I were able to read one of those books a week it would take me a year and a half to complete the task.

Mr Asimov, you’ve been such a big influence in both the science fiction writing world and the music world with Paul McCartney approaching you asking for assistance in writing a science fiction movie musical. You’ve also been accused of knowing everything, when Kurt Vonnegut asked how you felt about it you had the courtesy to reply ‘uneasy’ and for that bit of humility I thank you.

You led a decent life, writing and educmating many, many people. You were a good influence on so many science people and some of your predictions have come true. Accused of having been the first to use the word ‘robot’ your thoughts of robots are coming true and one day I hope to have one in my home who I may call Isaac.

Author Birthdays

Today is an interesting mix of authors.

We start with Teru Miyamoto. A Japanese author Miyamoto was born in 1947. While I haven’t read any of his works in either the original (challenging as I can’t read Japanese) or the translation you can read a comprehensive review by The Bookslut about Kinshu: Autumn Brocade.

Then we continue with Gabriel Garcia Marquez a Colombian author born in 1927. He wrote El amor en los tiempos del cólera or Love in the Time of Cholera in 1985 and this was subsequently made into a movie in 2007 starring Javier Bardem who was also in the James Bond movie Skyfall.

Now for something completely different. Will Eisner born in 1917. Eisner could be called the father of the Graphic Novel as he popularised the term in 1978. He also wrote the Introduction to a book I picked up in America called Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel by Stephen Weiner.

Ring Lardner is interesting. Born in 1885 he was a sports journalist and well known for his satirical works on the sports world, marriage and the theatre. I love his name, named after a cousin who was named after a friend, Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold, Lardner never liked the name and shortened it to Ring.

Moving along. George du Maurier born in 1834 was the grandfather of the boys who inspired J. M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. It’s possible to say he’s the grandfather of Peter Pan.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning born in England in 1806 was a prominent poet whose husband, Robert Browning, published a final anthology of her works following her death in 1861.

Cyrano de Bergerac born in 1619 seems to be more popularly known for his life than his writing. He was apparently well known for his large nose…I’ll just wonder if I’m related in some way, totally unlikely as I have no ancestors from France but I do have a large nose!

The oldest person on my list today is Luigi Alamanni. Born in 1495 Alamanni was an Italian poet and statesman and credited with introducing the epigram to Italian poetry.

Last but not least, and certainly the youngest today is Bret Easton Ellis. Born in 1964 so he’s a spring chicken Ellis is the person credited with writing American Psycho which was successfully adapted into a movie of the same name. Although some sources give his date of birth as the 7th March.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

This time last year I mentioned  Laura Ingalls Wilder for her birthday, this year I’m going to endeavour to give you a little more detail.

Born on 7th February 1867,  Laura Ingalls Wilder had a hard and exciting life. Her parents moved a number of times, it appears to more and more remote areas and funnily enough Wilder moved with them. She was a descendent of the Delano family, relatives of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (when I was at high school we were divided up into houses with each house named after historic figures such as Churchill and Roosevelt, I was in Roosevelt, such an interesting coincidence) whose ancestor was on the Mayflower. She died at the age of 90, I’d call that a good age.

You can read more of her life in her series of books in the Little House series. They’re a wonderful series of books and I enjoyed them greatly as a child. She shows how things must really have been like in those days and the children appeared to have much greater autonomy than we give our children now.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

During my research I found this blog being the official blog of Laura’s Historic Homes in De Smet, South Dakota. After her death in 1957 the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society was created and her last home was made into a museum so you can walk around it and see where she lived and get some idea of what life must have been like for her in her last days. Her daughter Rose Wilder Lane donated many items the Wilder family used, just like in the Paul Revere house in Boston where some of the furniture was actually used by the Revere family.

Wilder started teaching when she was only 15 and if you look at this page of the blog you’ll see a photo of the building where she taught. It is tiny. I’ve read details about it in one of the books (but I can’t remember which one), it had a little stove to warm the room and Wilder let the students come and sit next to it on cold days. Being small would have been good on those cold days as it’s easier to heat a small room.

This building was 12 miles (about 19 kilometres) from her parents house, a distance too far for her to travel on a daily basis so she roomed with a family in town only being driven home on the weekends by Almanzo Wilder. According to her book the family was rather dour and she was not encouraged to talk at all, the winter was very cold and she wore as much as she could to bed but didn’t sleep much as it was still too cold.

Loved the books, loved her life but I’m really glad I didn’t live in those days.

Happy Birthday Stendahl!

Today Stendahl would be 230 years old! Pity he died at 59.

Marie-Henri Beyle better known as Stendahl was born this day in 1783. As he was known for as psychological analysis I wonder if he would have been a psychologist or psychiatrist if he was living today. Very few read or liked his works back in his day with one of his books being dedicated to ‘the Happy Few’ while there’s been a vast increase in his readership in the 20th century.

Actually, I think he would have been a psychiatrist as he also described his ecstasy from being in Florence, close to the tombs of great artists. He had heart palpitations and was worried about walking as he felt he might fall over. This was later named Stendahl Syndrome by Graziella Magherini, an Italian psychiatrist who observed and described more than 100 other cases.

I’d say Stendahl was totally underrated in his lifetime. It’d be fascinating to bring him to the present day and show him how appreciated he is today, I’d love to watch his reaction.

Happy 230th birthday!

Cassandra Webb

It’s just fascinating the people you meet online, for some reason I tend to meet a lot of authors…can’t think why. Cassandra Webb has a new book coming out and kindly consented to write a few words for me. Say hello to Cas!

New Years Reading Resolutions.

So the kids are in bed, it’s 10.15 and the early ‘family friendly’ version of the local fireworks has just stopped driving my dogs mad. Time to put my thoughts to something more exciting than the loud party brewing next door – books and the new year.

New Years Reading Resolution One:

Discover one Indie published book a month that I simply LOVE, buy it, read it, share it and then gift the book on.

One of my recent adventures has been into Independent Publishing or Indie for short. This covers from authors who have contracted a printer and amassed boxes of books in their garage to authors like me who have ventured onto Amazon. There are two sides to Indie publishing that have been particularly on my mind lately. One is that there are a lot of Indie published books out there and a whole lot less ways for them to wind up in mainstream locations like book shops and libraries. The other is that ANYONE can become Indie published. Finding a spelling slip or a typo is something you have to be able to read past in most Indie published books, but beyond that finding something you personally enjoy, a really ‘good’ story, can be hard. Let’s face it this can be hard even in a library or book shop of traditionally published books.


It’s the second part of this resolution that is truly amazing and can be added to any kind of book related activity.  There is an astonishing amount of power in sharing something, especially a book you really enjoyed and think that others will enjoy.

Top ten ways to share a book you love.

  1. Review it, for example on Amazon and Goodreads – too obvious isn’t it?
  2. Use the ‘recommend’ function on Goodreads.
  3. Add the Goodreads recently read widget to your website.
  4. Read publicly. Read at the coffee shop or on the bus, blatantly carry the book around. Let others see you reading and enjoying the book.
  5. Snap a photo of you and the book you’re loving onto Instagram (insert multiple other social media options).
  6. Once you’ve read it gift a copy to the local library or school.
  7. When you purchase the sequel tell the book shop what you thought of book one. If they know what’s good about the book then they will be better able to direct other customers to it.
  8. Add books you love to your list of possible Christmas presents.
  9. If you’re really into a book post updates on facebook (consider saying *spoiler alert*! I’m reading chapter 10 of … and if so and so doesn’t kiss such and such I will just scream!)
  10. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, be honest without being cruel (if you didn’t like the book) or ‘selling’ the book (if you loved it).

New Years Reading Resolution Two:

 Read with my daughter for ½ an hour every night.

I’ve always enjoyed reading with my daughter, but after the birth of my son the structure went out the window. I’d like to get back into this routine. But it’s more than just reading to her, this resolution is about finding great books that she connects to and loves and wants me to read!

New Years Reading Resolution Three:

Join a reading challenge. This one by BookedOut  is fantastic because it will challenge me to read works in genres that I don’t normally touch. And it’s only 12 books a year. I can do that! I hope.

I’ll be reading, and selling my own work, on the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March, and if you happen to come along to the Indie Authors Down Under event I’d love to see you and hear about your reading resolutions too.

Kemla by Cassandra Webb

Kemla by Cassandra Webb

This is the event: Indie Authors Downunder

And this is me: Cassandra Webb



Dr. Karel Čapek

Dr. Karel Čapek born 9th January 1890 has been credited as the person who first created the term robot, he actually gives this distinction to his brother, Josef. He used it in the play he wrote in 1920 called R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). This is a very important word, it is used extensively throughout science fiction since that time, even Isaac Asimov himself admits to getting the name from there.

Čapek was a radical, he was a journalist and author. He was so radical and his writing was good enough to earn him a Nobel Prize for Literature except the powers that be didn’t want to upset Hitler, they did ask Čapek to write something bland so they could give him the prize and his response was to say he’d already written his doctoral dissertation. He didn’t get the prize but Hitler’s Gestapo was still offended enough to name Čapek as Czechoslovakia’s ‘public enemy number two’. I do wonder if that offended Čapek as he would have preferred to be number one, he seems to have been radical enough to have preferred that. His brother, Josef, died in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp which is where Čapek would probably had been had he not died of double pneumonia on 25th December 1938.

He was a good friend of Tomas Masaryk, the first great president of Czechoslovakia and was the first President of the Czechoslovak Pen Club. Pen International is a world wide club of writers who get together to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers all over the world, it is now in over 100 countries.

Kudos to Dr. Karel Čapek for such a great life, for promoting writing and bringing us the word Robot.

Argosy 9th December

Pulp magazines have much to answer for, they’ve been the start of many a writing career. Argosy was first published on the 2nd December 1882 with a cover date of 9th December 1882, the earliest photo of Argosy I have is from 1946:

Argosy December 1946

Argosy December 1946

The cover is quite plain but makes it clear the magazine has some wonderfully exciting stories. The one I have on my shelf is a short story magazine published in the UK focussing on reprinting stories, it includes one by Ray Bradbury.

Argosy June 1960, British

Argosy June 1960, British

Bradbury’s first published story appeared in Imagination in January 1938. His first paid piece appeared in Super Science Stories in November 1941. He’s best known for Fahrenheit 451 published in 1953.

Bradbury is not the only author who got his/her start in the pulps but is the only author I’m mentioning today.


Doris Lessing, vale

Doris Lessing was born in 1919 in Persia (later became Iran) and died on the 17th November 2013, her writing will be missed but from my reading of her life I suspect some of her family won’t miss her. She was married twice, the second marriage was to Gottfried Lessing in 1945, a marriage that was always meant to end in divorce at a set point. She looked after her first child to her first husband, Frank Wisdom, but then left both children and husband to live elsewhere. She felt there was nothing more boring than being an intelligent woman in charge of children, instead she took up another boring job as a typist.

I studied The Grass is Singing at school and looking back at the content of the book I now feel it was totally wasted on me then. It is about racial inequality in South Africa and shows how it’s possible to change from being racist to being able to ignore the colour of another’s skin and look underneath to the person. There’s a lot more in this book than just the issue of racism and it was all wasted on the young, naive person I was. I’ll be reading it again and wondering about my underlinings a little as I still have the copy of this book from back then.

The other book I have by Lessing I will also read with great interest. From the description on the back of the book it appears to be about feminism and the stereotypes of femininity, an issue which I find fascinating. It’s The Summer Before the Dark and I’m curious to find out what she defines as ‘the Dark’.

Doris Lessing, outspoken winner of many awards will be greatly missed for her writing and her mind. Vale.

Birthdays of note

We’re celebrating two birthdays of note today.

Evelyn Waugh

Waugh had a relatively short life being born in 1903 and dying in 1966, most of his recent fame came from his novel Brideshead Revisited being made into a very successful TV series. He came from a family of literary people, his father was a literary critic and publisher while his brother was also a writer.

Valerie Worth

Worth also had a similarly short life, she was born in 1933 and died in 1994. She was a poet of note being awarded the the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children by the National Council of Teachers of English in USA.

Having missed two other celebrity birthdays yesterday I’ll make mention of them now.

Sylvia Plath

Plath had a much shorter life, she committed suicide in 1963 making her a young 30. She was a celebrated poet, The Bell Jar is still studied today.

John Cleese

Cleese is the only birthday of note for today still alive. He was born in 1939 and many people know him for his work with Monty Python but he’s done so much more. His father wasn’t entirely happy with him having a career on TV and sent him clippings about work in places such as Marks and Spencer during the 1960s.


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