Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Inclusive Language

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I heard a programme on the radio yesterday. It was about domestic abuse. Specifically, coercive control. It got me thinking.

Why do men (it’s usually men, although not exclusively, I admit) think they have the right to control their partners or spouses?

Well, I think that it’s because these people consider themselves to be superior and ‘know what’s right’, as well, of course, wanting power over someone. But you can only get power over someone whom you think is inferior to you.

How has this come about? And how can we change attitudes?

This is not an easy thing, but there is one thing that, I think, adds to the problem, and that is exclusive language.

When I was growing up, the common term for our species that was in use was ‘Man’ (With a capital letter to distinguish it from ‘man’, the male of the species.) Nowadays, I often see ‘man’ as referring to the species as a whole. No capital letter to distinguish it from ‘Man’.

If we consider the animal kingdom, often we refer to a species by a name that is the name of one gender or the other. Cow, Goose, Hen, duck, dog etc. We say to our children ‘Let’s go and feed the ducks.’ Or ‘Look at those cows in that field.’

We call these creatures by the name of the gender that is most useful to us. Hens lay eggs. Cockerels don’t. Cows give us milk from which we make butter, and cheese. Bulls don’t. Ducks and geese lay eggs. Drakes and ganders don’t, and when I was growing up, a dog (male) was the preferred gender to have. And ‘bitch’ is a derogatory term, anyway, as are so many female names. (witch and cow, for example.) And if you want to insult a man, you can call him a bit of a ‘girl’ or ‘woman’.

In the north of England, a term of endearment is ‘duck’, but I think it has a certain condescention about it. Probably that’s just me, though.

Male names are often, or were in the past, used as praise. A very long time ago, the term ‘a gay dog’ meant that the man was a womanizer. But that was not considered too bad, really. In fact it was often said with some hint of approval. Yet if a woman did the same type of things, she was a ‘slag’.

The male names for animals applied to men do not have the same connotation. A stag party is a group of young men out to have a good time before a wedding. Stags are imposing beasts, strong and beautiful. Now think about the female version—hen party—. Hens are silly, fluttering and noisy clucking creatures. If you want to say someone is unpleasant, you can call them a bitch, or a cow. Even a mare is occasionally used. All names for the female animal.

Now what about the males. I've already talked about 'dog', but 'bull' isn't used derogatorily. It usually implies the man is strong, and stallion that he's good in bed, to be polite.

Now to language, which is what this post is all about. Here are some alternatives you can use in your writing (or even in your speech).

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 Man: Human, People, Humanity.
 Man-made: Artificial, Synthetic. (Not only men make goods, you know.)

What do you think about inclusive language? Do you think it's important or just 'Political Correctness Gone Mad'? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Carthinal's Story Part 2

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One day when Carthinal had been out all day, he returned to find the door locked against him. Gromblo Grimnor appeared when he knocked.

“Go away,” the lawyer said. “There’s nothing for you here. We don’t want beggars at the door.”

He crossed the road and stood looking at the house he had once called home. Some men came and erected a sign saying it was for sale. How could they sell his house without his permission? His grandfather left it to him in his will.

Carthinal sat on a wall to watch. As he watched, the staff who had served his grandparents left one by one. Some carried bags, others nothing. All turned to look back at the house as they trudged away. None saw the small auburn-haired lad sitting on the wall.

Eventually, when he had seen everyone leave except the lawyer, Carthinal turned away. Where should he go? He had no living relatives. Not here in Bluehaven, anyway. His father had been an elf and had relatives in the elven homeland of Rindisillaron, but he had no idea how to get there, nor how to find his paternal grandparents if he did manage it.

He ambled away, constantly turning to look toward the house. He had no idea where he was going, but staying there was pointless. His stomach rumbled. By now, the cook would have given him some honey cakes to assuage his hunger until it was time for the evening meal. His mouth felt dry, too.

He had a little money in his pocket and so he wended his way towards the market place where there would be stalls selling food. He did not know what his small amount of money would buy him. Although he was seventeen years old, being a half-elf, he developed slower than human children, and he looked and behaved more like an thirteen-year-old. People found it odd, and many thought he was mentally deficient, that a seventeen-year-old should look and behave as if he were only thirteen.

Sixteen was the legal age of majority in Grosmer, but Carthinal did not feel grown up. No one really knew when he would be able to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Elves were twenty five before they became officially adults, but a half-elf—well, no one knew.
Carthinal arrived at the market. Taking a few coins from his pocket, he wandered past the stalls looking for something he could afford.

He stopped by a stall. “How much are your small pies?”

“The very small ones are one royal,” the stall-holder replied, citing one of the copper coins.

“Please may I have one?”

The man smiled and passed a pie to the child. “Don’t spoil your evening meal with it, though, or your parents will be annoyed with me.

Carthinal’s indigo blue eyes filled with tears, and he turned away so the man would not see. He strolled to the park gates, munching on the pie. Where would he sleep tonight? Would it be safe to sleep outdoors? How cold would it be? All these questions passed through his mind as he finished the pie and brushed the crumbs off his tunic.

As the grandson of a prominent guild member in the town of Bluehaven, Carthinal had always been well-dressed. Today was no exception. He wore a dark green tunic over a lighter green shirt and brown trousers. The cut and the cloth marked him out as the child of a wealthy family. He had never known hardship in his entire life.

As he passed a fountain, he cupped his hands and picked up some of the water. When he had slaked his thirst, he entered the park gates. Fortunately it was summer, and so the night would be unlikely to be cold. Carthinal sat down on the grass to think.

The night began to fall and he fell asleep where he sat on a grassy bank, shaded by a large tree. He dreamed of his grandfather. They were in his grandfather’s office and the old man spoke to the child standing in front of him.

“Carthinal, remember this. Life isn’t always easy. You’ve been lucky in that you’ve never known hardship. The gods be praised you never will, but everything will not go smoothly, even so.” His grandfather sat on a chair in front of his desk and pulled Carthinal towards him, putting his arms around the child. “When you meet problems, always think them through. Take your time, and don’t try to rush things. If you do that, things will usually turn out right in the end.”

The sun woke Carthinal the next morning. He stretched , looking around and wondering where he was, and why he wasn’t in his bed. Then he remembered. He had no home now. His eyes began to fill with tears, but he brushed them away.

His stomach rumbled as he stood and made his way back to the marketplace. Here he bought some fruit for one royal and a small glass of goats’ milk for another.
The sun rose high in the sky and Carthinal returned to the park where he sat in the shade of a tall tree. This far south in the land of Grosmer, summers were hot, and soon the young lad began to feel thirsty. He stood and made his way back to the fountain where he drank some water. Then he wandered once more towards the market place.
At noon he bought some bread filled with chicken. He looked at the coins that were left in his hand. Only two royals. He could only get a couple more meals with them. What would he do then? He could get water to drink, but that wouldn’t help him beat off starvation.

He wandered the streets of Bluehaven all day until he found himself outside the offices belonging to the lawyer his grandfather had trusted with his will. He crossed the road and opened the door.

The young woman sitting at a desk looked up. “What do you want?” she snapped. “This is a lawyer’s office, not a child’s playground. Be off with you.”

Carthinal stood his ground. “I want to speak with Gromblo Grimnor, please.”

The girl laughed. “And what business have you with a lawyer?”

“I want my home back.” Carthinal sat on a bench situated against a wall.

“A child can’t own a house.”

“I’m seventeen.”

The woman laughed. “Seventeen? You look no more than thirteen. Be a good boy and go away. Find your friends and play.”
Can Carthinal get his home back? How has the lawyer managed to cheat the boy?
Find out on the first Tuesday of July.
Please leave a comment in the comments box and let me know what you think of this story. It's the backstory of Carthinal, who is one of the main characters in my Wolves of Vimar series. You can buy the first book, The Wolf Pack, on Amazon, is either an ebook or a 'real' book. Click here to go to Amazon where you are.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

In Defense of the Wasp


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I've decided to do a post about a much maligned insect. The Wasp.

We all know the nuisance black and yellow striped creature that buzzes round us when we want to eat outside, and I've heard it said, 'What is the purpose of wasps?'

Well, here it is. Something that I hope will help to mollify your thoughts on the creatures.

I was brought to thinking of them last September when I got stung. In all fairness, it wasn't the wasp's fault. Well, not entirely, anyway. I saw one in my daughter's bathroom and decided to let it out of the window. I failed to get it out, and it must have ended up on my clothes, just under my arm, so when I put my arm down, it stung in self defense. Still, it didn't half hurt, and continued to do so for days!
What we think of as wasps (and hornets), those black and yellow terrors of picnics, are not the only insects to be classified as wasps. Wasps belong to the order of insects called Hymenoptera and there are over a hundred thousand species.

The black and yellow terrors are communal insects. They build nests of a papery substance created from wood. It usually begins in the spring when a queen lays eggs that hatch into workers. The workers are all female, and their ovipositors are what have become their stings.

Each spring, a new queen that has hibernated over winter, begins to build a new nest, built of wood she has chewed up and mixed with saliva. Then she lays a few eggs. She has to forage herself for food for the hatched grubs until they become adult worker wasps.



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These wasps only become a real nuisance in the late summer when the queen has stopped laying and not more workers are being produced. They search for food—sweet, sugary substances usually—and that is when they come into contact with humans. And we don’t like it. Most of the rest of the year, they are happily capturing insects and feeding on nectar from flowers. They are important pollinators. Not something most people consider, but with the problems with the bee population recently, perhaps we should consider them more kindly.

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Most wasps are not social, though, and live a solitary life. Some live in communities, with nests close to each other, but do not interact, except to sometimes steal each others’ prey. Some species actually build communal nests, but each adult wasp has her own cell, and there is no division of labour or community work. The females each catch and feed their own grubs.

The prey of these wasps is spiders and insects. They feed them to the grubs, which are carnivorous, but the adults usually feed on nectar. As such, they are useful to help get rid of unwanted insect pests.
Then there are the parasitic wasps. They lay their eggs in the body of the prey animal. The grubs then eat their way through the insides of the poor creature. Others lay their eggs in the tissue of plants. The plant responds by creating a gall around the growing grub.

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I admit I’m not the most generous of people to wasps. It'’ mow spring, and the queens are coming out to find a place to build their nests. Just this morning, while I was working at my computer, I heard a buzzing by the open window. It disappeared, but returned soon after. This happened several times and so I got up to investigate. A wasp was clearly inspecting the brickwork around my window. It then had the temerity to enter and start to look around my husband’s computer.

I went downstairs and got the Wasp and Fly killer and zapped it as it went back to the window. (I didn’t want to spray the killer onto my husband’s computer, just in case! I’ve no idea what it might do to it.) I might know they are important predators and pollinators, but I don’t want hundreds of them just outside the room where I work.

So please spare a thought for the poor wasp. They aren't as useless as you thought.

Please add a comment to the comments box to tell me what you think of these insects.
 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Spring. A Poem




Dandelions, like gold, cover the meadows.
Newborn lambs frolic in fields.
New leaves on the trees are casting their shadows
And winter’s cold grip quickly yields.
At the edges of woodland the primroses glow
And cowslips their scent fills the air.
Anemones dance when the breezes do blow
And birds sing with never a care.
Then bluebells and campions come into bloom
Their colour the blue of the sea.
The cuckoo, that herald of spring, will come soon
His call echoing over the lea.
The song of the blackbird is like molten gold.
His notes are so pure and so clear.
Hearing him seems to banish the cold
And brings joy to all those who hear.
Robin is nesting, and other birds too,
The hedgehog is active once more.
The young of the deer and the badger and shrew
Play their games as in old days of yore.
The sun climbs higher and higher each day
Giving more of his heat and his light.
It sparkles like stars fallen into the bay.
All smile at the beautiful sight.
Hope and excitement come with each spring morn.
What blessings will come with this day?
New starts can begin once again with each dawn
And send us all hopeful away.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

10 Words to Avoid in Writing or Speech.

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1. Obviously. This word is one that is unnecessary. If something is obvious, it does not need stating.

2. So. Lots of people open sentences with ‘so’. It usually has no meaning and is just a filler word. Someone asks a question ‘Why did you go to see Jason yesterday?’ , and the response is ‘So. I haven’t seen him for ages and wondered if he’s all right.’

3. Very unique. Unique means there is only one of it. Adding ‘very’ is meaningless. As is adding other qualifiers.

4. Just. Unless you are talking about the judicial system, ‘just’ is another filler word. We often say ‘I was just going to do it.’ Don’t write it.

5. Very. You should try to find stronger word. Don’t say ‘very big’ use ‘enormous’. ‘Huge,’ etc. The English language, thanks to the way it’s developed, is rich in synonyms.

6. Awesome. This word is greatly overused. It actually means something that fills you with awe, not just something that’s pretty good.

7. Nice. This is something I was taught at school, many centuries ago. OK, maybe not quite that long, but a long time ago anyway. Don’t use ‘nice’. Choose a stronger, more interesting word.

8. Really. Similar to ‘Very’. ‘A really nice cake’ (Look, I used 2 of these words in 1 sentence!) Choose a stronger word.

9. Irregardless. This is NOT a word. The word is ‘regardless’.

10. Try and...  actually means you will try, and you will succeed. If you succeed, you don’t need to try. If you try, you will nor necessarily succeed. Use ‘Try to…’ instead.


What do you think about using these words? Do you use them?

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Carthinal's Story

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I've posted something about the people in by Wolves of Vimar series. I have now started writing about Carthinal. At the beginning of The Wolf Pack, Book 1 in The Wolves of Vimar series, he is an apprentice mage. During that book, he becomes a full mage, having taken his tests that ended his apprenticeship.

He is a good-looking half-elf, with auburn hair and incredibly deep blue eyes, almost indigo. He is ambitious in magic, and with his good looks, females of all ages tend to pursue him. He does not discourage them.

In this, part 1, of his story, he is sixteen, but, being a half-elf, his development, both physical and mental, are more that of a boy of twelve.

So let's begin his story.

Carthinal dragged his feet as he entered the house accompanied by his nanny, Blendin.
He had just returned from his grandfather’s funeral. The old man had passed away suddenly the previous week. Before that, he had seemed full of life. Carthinal could not understand what had happened. His grandfather was the only relative he had in Bluehaven, his parents and his grandmother having died.

His father had been an elf, and so, although sixteen and nominally now of age, Carthinal’s development was slower than true humans and he appeared in both physical and mental development to be a young boy of eleven years old.

The house felt empty, devoid of life. Carthinal went into the garden at the back of the house. He sat on his swing and swung idly back and forwards. What would happen to him now? Would they send him to his father’s people in Rindisillaron? It was a long way away, and he had no recollection of his paternal grandparents, although they had been in Bluehaven when he had been born.

He looked at the house. He heard the laughter of his grandmother, and his grandfather’s deep voice. He even thought he heard his mother calling to him, although both his parents had been dead for the past eight years. He jumped off the swing and picked up a stick.

Slashing at the plants in the garden gave him a little satisfaction. “Why did they all die and leave me?”

Blendin came out and found him still destroying the garden. “Come, master Carthinal. This won’t help. You need to come in and have something to eat.”

“Shan’t! I’m not hungry” He slashed at a tulip.

“What have those poor flowers done to you? You know you’ll be sorry once you’ve calmed down a bit.”

“I don’t want to go back into the house. There’s no one there. It ‘s dead. Just like Mother and Father, Grandmother and Grandfather.”

Blendin sat down on a bench and pulled the boy towards her, holding him tight. “This is now your house, Carthinal. Your grandfather left it to you in his will. You are a rich young man. If you no longer want to live here, you can sell it, I suppose, and buy somewhere else.”

Looking into the boy’s indigo eyes, Blendin saw the deep hurt he felt. She brushed his auburn hair from his face and gently led him back to the house.

The servants worked as usual. Carthinal’s grandfather had arranged that money should be sent to Promin, the butler, who then paid the other servants. Carthinal had his meals in the nursery with Blendin, although Premin had said that as the master of the house he should eat in the dining room. Carthinal could not bring himself to eat alone in that large room.

The days passed. Gromblo Grimnor, the lawyer who dealt with his grandfather’s affairs, appeared frequently at the house.

Carthinal found him snooping around in his grandfather’s study one day.

“What are you doing?” the boy asked him, frowning. “Why are you here? You’ve been coming a lot recently.”

Gromblo Grimnor smiled. With his mouth, anyway. He looked Carthinal up and down. “There are a lot of loose ends to tidy up, child. I need to come here to find things out.”

Although sixteen, Carthinal had always been treated as a child, and so he turned and left the lawyer to do what he needed to do. The law did not know what to do about a boy whose chronological age said he was an adult, but whose development said he was a child.

Eventually, he went out every day to walk around the town. Sometimes he stayed out all day. He hated being in the house. He felt so alone. He considered going back to the school his grandfather had sent him, but they, like everyone else, did not want a sixteen-year-old who looked and behaved like and eleven-year-old. His grandfather’s money had kept him there, but now, they didn’t want him.

Visits by Gromblo Grimnor increased. Carthinal asked Promin why the lawyer was there so often. The butler shrugged and shook his head.

Blendin had no idea either. “I don’t know the workings of the law,” she told him. “Perhaps it’s because your grandfather died so suddenly, or perhaps because he was so well off. Or it might even be because of you. You are an adult in Grosmer law, but still a child, really. That’s a bit confusing for the lawyers.”

What was Gromblo doing? Will Carthinal find out? Come back on the first Tuesday of June to find out.

Leave a comment to say whether you liked this story or not, and what you did or did not enjoy. It is helpful to me.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A Review of Dangerous Alliance by Randall Krzak

I have just finished reading this book. I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Read my review below.

Dangerous Alliance by Randall Krzak
Dangerous Alliance
by
Randall Krzak (Goodreads Author)



The story is set in present day North Korea, Somalia and London. It tells of how an alliance is made between North Korea and Somali pirates. Of course, everyone cheats everyone else, and to add to the intrigue, the Somali pirates kidnap an important personage who is working in a refugee camp.
An undercover group, working for MI6 (or is it 5, I forget) is sent to both rescue the prisoner and to capture the pirates.

Of course, there is the North Korean ambassador, being forced, under threat, to bring about the trade between his country and the pirates.

Randall Krzak is an accomplished writer, and tells the story with authority. He brings the places and characters to life. His prose is excellent.

There is a twist at the end, when some of the relationships of the people are brought to light.

The story is full of action, and keeps you turning the page.

An brilliant read. I have no problem with giving it 5 stars.
Please feel free to leave a comment.