Monday, 24 September 2012

Did you know this? The Kamasutra - part 1

Wow there, this is not about sex or anything kinky at all. Let me explain. At school I hated history as a subject. I didn't do badly at all, but it was the first subject I let go in favour of maths and science for my final years in high school. What does this have to do with this notorious sex manual? More than what you might imagine!

Unless you count the books about plotting, characterization, style, grammar, writing, etc., this book is the first truly non-fiction book I have read in years.
I am referring to James McConnachie's, The Book of Love. It describes the history of the Kama Sutra - its history and how it was originally intended to be used. I am by no means in a position to critique the contents - I am no expert in the field of history - but I have to confess that the book intrigued me. Enough. that I now own a first edition of James' book.

Stick with me as I take you along on my journey of exploring the history of the Kama Sutra.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Swords and Knives - Cover Art

I have the privilege to have a friend that owns, designs and manufactures swords and knives that grace the covers of some of my books and short stories (and hopefully more to come). This is an interview that he kindly consented to - after some persuasion on my part ;-)

Hi Dennis, thank you for letting me tap your brains on knife and sword making.

Linzé: What kinds of knives and swords do you design and manufacture? Any particular reason why?

Dennis: Knives: I like to design and manufacture folding knives and fixed blades leaning towards classical designs. I use antique knife designs of European and Mediterranean origin as inspiration for my designs. I am fascinated by history; especially ancient civilizations. Nevertheless, I also do designs conforming to more hunting knife requirements; but without compromising that old-world look. I prefer to work in Damascus steel; not only because of the ancient origins of this steel, but also because of its pure beauty.

Swords: I prefer to design and manufacture swords that can be considered historically accurate. I am especially fascinated by European, Ancient Grecian and Roman swords designs. Some of my swords are interpretations or amalgamations of various design aspects in ancient swords that fascinate me. I am for instance quite drawn to short leave-shaped blade designs. So whether it be a hoplite, gladius, broadsword or something suited to ‘Lord of the Rings’, I am sure I must have held and handled all of them in previous lives.

Linzé: I have noticed that they are particularly sharp, so they are real blades, not only for decoration?

Dennis: All my blades are made to use, whether it be for hunting, food preparation or war. There is no sense in making a blade only for decorative purposes.

Linzé: Please tell me about the skills you need to make knives and swords. Did you need special training to learn these skills?

Dennis: I didn’t and there are certainly knife makers more experienced than I am. I have been making knives and tools since an early age. I am essentially self taught.

Linzé: Would you consider it to be an art? Why?

Dennis: Any skill able to transform materials in raw form into something of beauty can be considered art. Knife and sword making therefore can be nothing else but art.

Linzé: Do you need complex or special tools for the manufacturing of the blades?

Dennis: It depends on the methods that you use. There are essentially two methods of knife making: stock removal or forging. I prefer the last mentioned. A small amount of stock removal is still required. The basic tools required are a forge to heat the steel, steel tongs to handle the hot steel billets, a large anvil, some hammers and basic forging tools, belt sander, sandpaper, files and polishing buff.

Linzé: You use Damascus steel for your blades. Why this kind of steel?

Dennis: Damascus steel is ancient. Damascus steel has character and unique beauty. Each Damascus steel knife and sword is unique; fingerprinted through a forging process that cannot ultimately control the material flow. Damascus steel exemplifies the pinnacle of ancient metallurgy. Damascus steel was rare in ancient times and remains rare today. I am enthralled by it, and so are my customers.
 
Linzé: I have noticed that the handles of the blades are also made of different materials. How do you decide which material is best for the type of blade?

Dennis: Blades: Swords able to withstand the rigours of battle must be made in carbon or Damascus steel. I use both. Stainless steel is not ideal for this application.

Handles: I prefer to use natural materials with character: bone, hardwoods, horn…..I like brass, red copper and again, Damascus steel.

Linzé: You have also made rings from this steel. Is it a difficult material to make jewellery with? How do you deal with the problem that this is not a precious metal and could corrode when in constant contact with skin and the environment? (Note from Linzé: the rings can be seen on the cover of HUNGER)

Dennis: The steel (in annealed form) can only be worked on lathe. The pattern is brought forth via etching with diluted Ferric Chloride.

Some people have oilier skins that preclude rusting from taking place. My own Damascus ring has been worn constantly for two years without rust damage. Generally a smear of Vaseline also helps. It is a lifestyle decision and I prefer the beauty of the basic beauty of Damascus over that of gold or platinum. It is not made to last forever; but neither are we.

Linzé: If someone would like to order a knife or sword, how can they can do that?

Dennis: They can contact me via my website. I don’t make any custom knives. I make what I want and sell these. My business has grown so much, that I subcontract work to other knife makers on many of my more popular designs.

Thank you, Dennis, for the information and allowing Francois Venter to take the photographs of the blades. PS: I love my Damascus ring, too!

 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Those Pesky Interview Questions

I am sure you have seen the interviews that I, and many other authors, have posted on our blogs and websites. The questions we ask each other are much the same: what inspired your writing? Do you like to read? Why that specific genre, story, age group, etc. Although we all try to be more creative and add at least one or two questions that will make the interviewee think for a moment or tickle their funny bone. And to be honest these questions are relatively easy to ask and answer. The difficulty, that I at least, now have to face is the questions that I want to ask a non-writer. For research.

With the almost unlimited amount of information available on the internet, we all use that to do most of our research. What is the currency of Burundi? Which cars are manufactured in South Africa? You know, facts and figures. But where do you find out about the inspirations and creativity that people employ in their daily lives, hobbies and experiences? You ask a human being, of course.

The need to talk to someone as a means of gaining information, needs a more sensitive and well-thought through approach. The more sensitive the subject, the more preparation work you need to do. Even if you are acquainted with the person, determine the boundaries of your questions to respect their feelings and privacy. Offer to show the final product to them before you publish it, in whatever form it might be – article, blog post, book chapter. Aside from any possible legal difficulties, you could stand to loose a friend, and in my book that will the absolute worst thing that could happen.

NOTE: This article is based on preparation work that I am currently busy doing for two interviews that I hope will eventually be posted here. In both cases the information is intended for use in short stories that will be published on Smashwords. Both interviewees have indicated the need for privacy and even anonymity, for various reasons.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

BOOK LAUNCH - 7 September 2012

Carlyle Labuschagne's

The Broken Destiny



Prologue
All my life, I had searched for something, something I thought I ought to be. I felt like I was living someone else’s life, waiting for the awakening of my own. I felt like an empty shell burning for life. That was, until the day I lay dying in the prince’s chambers. I could no longer feel the pain from the tear in my gut. The only sensation left was a hollowed-out feeling that I had made a huge mistake in assuming that taking my own life, would have stopped the ancestors’ spirit from raging out. I had given up. I didn’t want to see myself killing the ones I loved. I was the Chosen one, but I threw it all away for what I thought would save a life. Could you end a life to save a life? I did, and I have regretted it ever since. I realized then that things like me are not meant to exist. What had been missing my whole life? It was I. To find myself, I had to lose myself in the worst possible way. The consequences of my actions became the legend of The Broken.
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An amazing new sci-fi series begins with The Broken Destiny: Book One of The Broken Series.

Ava's People have been exiled to Planet Poseidon, where through a series of horrific events, Ava discovers that their existence has been fabricated by The Council, And She has a Destiny that could save them. Her Soul is a secret weapon that has been lost to an ancient race. To fulfill her destiny Ava needs to go through a series of "chances" that will reveal her true purpose. Throughout her journey she will become what she hates in order to save the ones she loves. And through it all she will find herself - for that is her Destiny, to rise above the fall.

The story continues in the next riveting book Evanescent  - due to release late 2013.
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More about the book and the author:

Book Trailer (YouTube)             Facebook                Twitter


Monday, 3 September 2012

Today's lesson: Reading with a Dictionary

 Yesterday, I had to smile at a newsletter that I subscribe to. It listed 10 things David Ogilvy wrote as writing advice in 1942. 

My favourite was number 4 - Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
While it might be true, it also highlighted something when I am reading a non-fiction book - my lack of English vocabulary. That might sound odd for a writer, but I didn’t grow up speaking English at home. And until I left high school, my oratory skills in my second language were laughable at best.

Now I am fluent, so it is no longer a problem, except when I read non-fiction books, and upon occasion a novel. I read it with a dictionary next to me. I have always had the philosophy that I have to learn at least one new thing each day, and oftentimes that would be a new word. I look it up and write it down, along with its meaning, not necessarily with the intention of using it in my next story, but it helps to remember it.

Using big words, is not part of my style of writing, but when a story calls for more formal language, or is set in a different time period, it helps to have a broader vocabulary. Or perhaps it is just knowing where to go and find the right word for the context - whether it is my trusty little Oxford, or the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The last word I added to my list? Turpitude. Now that could lead to some wickedness down the line - and I am not letting that rabbit out of the hat right now!