Call For Action On#GirlsInICT Day

The Human Lens

On 25 April, UN Women is joining girls around the world to mark the International Girls in ICT Day, drawing attention to the critical need for more girls and women in the ICT sector.

This special day aims to celebrate and highlight the crucial need to promote technology career opportunities for girls and women on a global scale in the world’s fastest growing sector.

It is also a day that honors and celebrates the active participation, activism and tech related genius of women as tech leaders, start-up brain child and innovators that work in their communities amidst many challenges and obstacles.

With technology playing a role in all kinds of careers, from art and history to law, primary teaching and graphic design, learning tech skills at a young age will set girls up for economic independence.

And, the ICT sector needs more girls and women.

The United Nations encourages the…

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Motivations, Inspirations, Imaginations…And Characters. A Journey Care Less and Content

Strolling

Foreword

You know how it goes. You have this idea for a topic, and you start off. Then some allied aspect else occurs to you, which begs to be added on, which in turn leads you off down an interesting lane and somehow the original topic is behind you, round a bend somewhere and you are there, scratching you’re head wondering ‘So?… How did I get here?’

The intention was to write about World Building and how the one which formed out of my work was a place I liked to revisit, just to be there. Then the theme became something else. Here was another writer wandering through This, That and The Other. For no other reason than ‘Just Because’….

The books which are part of the post are not mentioned because there is no intention to publicise them. You’ll find enough information in earlier posts. The subjects of this post are creativity, inspiration and motivations. Anyway back to that start…

The Beginning

Sometime ago I promised myself ‘Tone down on the politics. Concentrate on the writing. Be at one with your creativity,’………………..

The next day……

Back on the soapbox or picking fights on Facebook. Will I ever learn?

Learn what? To desensitise myself against thing which get under my skin? Remove some part of me?

Well, maybe not picking on an easy FB target and ridiculing them. Maybe ‘They had it coming. Taste of their own medicine. See how they like it,’ Are not worthy and mature reasons, perhaps those sentiments border on excuses. Weighing down someone’s ‘one liner’ with three paragraphs of International Relations Theory and History? Maybe that’s showing off a bit. Overkill much?

I tell myself my political and social comments should be addressed to Word Press where generally the standard of debate is higher.

The fact, though, the political part of me, is one reason why I write fiction as I do; the challenge being to try and tone down the preachiness. A character sounding off on some political issue in the middle of an action episode sounds ‘odd’. A lesser character taking up half a chapter on observations on an injustice just spoils the narrative and detracts from the plot.

Yet there is nothing wrong with placing your opinions or views in a narrative, the characters will let you know if they think you’ve been too wordy. Those lesser characters’ two or three lines of conversation will suit just as well.

On reflection my views were one of the driving forces and at the same time a bit of a challenge to fit in neatly. I loathe the latent misogyny trying to slither back into our cultures. Thus was more than happy with Three Strong Women characters appearing. Prejudices on the grounds of race, religion, adult consensual choices tend to be a red flag, so those who embrace any or all of these prejudices would truly hate my trilogy. Sometimes a mischievous part of me nurtured on Facebook would snigger while whispering ‘If anyone hates this part. Good…they got it coming,’.

Another motivation and this is not criticism just personal taste, I did not wish to read anymore grimdark or ‘gritty’. The real world had enough of that for me. Happy endings and good folk running rings around bad folk was my intention.

In addition is a little fantasy of the whole trilogy being on a public forum where I would wait for the inevitable feeble whinge that is it is all ‘woke’, whose users are such easy targets…. (Ah but there I go again. Looking for confrontation)

Yet as I go treading into more dangerous and delicate yet related ground; it has been an observation that there is more than one way to receive criticism or even ire for portrayals of characters outside of your own social, ethnic, political, belief system grouping. This observation, and the word is stressed comes from reading commentary from those whose group is portrayed, in a sympathetic or positive light and yet is perceived by the commentator as not being the correct portrayal. My own conclusion is in this fraught world where colonialism, in the European sense has died out and the old Cold War alignments disintegrated and social norms are altering it is for many people or peoples essential their group are portrayed accurately and in a balanced, mature context. Of course my get out clause being; ‘These books take place in a Fantasy World. Not this one,’, though human natures being what they are it is unlikely this response would be seen as satisfactory. Never mind… ‘You can’t win them all,’ . And anyway folks this is a world of my characters and they led me through allowing me to explore (or was that witness?) all manner of the possibilities.

Characters eh?

One advantage, or salutary warning is once you let your characters in on the act and they start to influence you, the pace of writing picks up until the creative or speculative processes reach a velocity which leaves all caution behind. In a very paradoxical, maybe cussed mood, the lack of sales encouraged me and them onwards. We reached the ‘What The Heck’ Stage, followed by ‘C’mon Rog’. We just have to go this way, you know parts of the back story have been building to this. Remember the sub-text kiddo,’. This of course led to other directions for taking the main narratives too.

Maybe the final result would seem to some a vainglorious mash-up of genres, sub-genres and styles. And there would be no argument from me. In my defence this is what happens when the driving forces within you set the imagination in movement and in turn you feel confident enough to let the narrative take control.

Should the whole work come to public attention and there is consequential criticism of the plot line, characters and result, let it be so.

For I had far too much fun putting the whole together to regret. (apart from those stupid persistent typos and a few instances of getting the names wrong- sometimes you can be too indie).

And now I am learning restraint and economy on a monthly Blog Battle*, which is as much fun being very instructive, while keeping my interaction of Face Book to a minimum.

*

BlogBattle

https://bbprompt.com/

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Jill has encapsulated the thoughts on many of us of ‘a certain age’ and speaks for us in this erudite, defiant, moving post

Filosofa's Word

I’ve heard it said that as one nears the end of this life, one becomes more introspective.  I believe that is true … it has been the cause of many a sleepless night of late.  While I’m not as brave as I once was, I am in many ways more courageous.  Yes, there is a difference between the two.  I used to be brave in the most foolhardy of ways … tempting fate, afraid of neither man nor beast.  Today, I am afraid of such things as driving the car more than a mile to the grocery store.  I was thinking the other night about some of the jobs I’ve had … why, I wouldn’t have the chutzpah to even apply for most of them today!  I’ve faced angry men pointing a gun at me, car wrecks, hurricanes … and never really felt afraid.  But today, though I may not…

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Places of Resolve

Awaiting

‘My poor darling,’ her hand touched his forehead ‘What a dreadful cut. I do wish you would wear your helmet,’

‘My sweet,’ he replied with warmth taking her hand and kissing it ‘There was only a brush of steel against skin. You know how I feel about helmets, they do impede the vision,’

There came the endearing little pout as she set to scolding him.

‘Your vision will be lot more impeded if your silly head was cut off,’ she tugged his nose for emphasis ‘Now let me clean that gash up properly The Good Lord God knows where that rag pretending to be a bandage has been,’

Thus he did sit patiently by the log fire of their apartment as she tended to the wound with her own astringent, following with application of the clean linen bandage. He thought himself the most fortunate man in the Empire to have found this beautiful, caring, able woman who had consented to be his wife, doubly so her being willing to share his lodgings at the outpost while the campaign against the stubborn clan continued.  

Once she was satisfied with her ministrations, a simple evening meal was partaken of and as was their custom, they sat before the fire, she curled up on his lap, head and one hand resting on his chest, each savouring the closeness of the other.

‘I worry for you so,’ she whispered ‘Out there upon those bleak fields and slopes. The risks are so great, and for what? A piece of ground an emperor does not even know about much less care for,’ her breath caught and she looked up at him, deep brown eyes pleading ‘You have rank and some say in the matter. They might listen to you,’

His frustration was shaped as a sigh with a groan.

‘Lord Frygem still wishes to raise his profile with Duke Mereth who remains the favoured advisor of Prince Nahdel who……’

‘…..wishes to prove to the Emperor that he too has his princedom completely under his sway,’ her completion of the litany ended with her own sigh ‘While the troublesome Clan K’ith Sondours refuse to trust the word of known Oath Breakers,’

‘It seems the only Oaths which count are those to The Emperor, know ones dares cross a strong emperor who also has the confidence of The LifeGuard. Everyone else thus scrabbles for their joint or separate favours,’

The frequently visited topic discussed, they sat in silence holding each other, until he said, kissing russet hair ‘Away with our gloom for this night. Let’s read the play: ‘The Adventure of Stefan and Alosia,’

‘This time I’ll be Stefan and you be Alosia,’ she announced, the previous plaintive sadness replaced by a rather appealing nuance in tone and glance. By the time he had returned with the bottle of wine to aid their intended comical narration she was curled up peeking over the script of the popular comedy. They had, a while back agreed the tale of a couple facing an arranged marriage turning the tables on the arrangers to suit the couple was a theme in which they found certain strands of empathy. Their efforts at acting this slightly bawdy theatre always raised their spirits.

She awoke tender with memories of the night. He had, of course risen before her, for duties and profile elsewhere called. As was his practice he had left breakfast dishes laid out, oatmeal and water for coffee bubbling in pots hung over the fire, while there as always a dainty vase of dew damp small star petalled flowers, she held them up and breathed in the freshness. As she drank her coffee she would read her copy of ‘Varow and Betherelle’s Encounter’, based on another factual couple, and the first of a series of verses recording their rather controversial deeds, popular amongst folk at the lower end of society. Good for resolve, she thought in the dawn still a measure away.

Lord Frygem, a stocky man of nearing middle years believed himself to know something of warfare, yet was possessed of enough basic sense to appreciate advice and experience, so was glad to see the outline, albeit hunched, almost furtive. Mercenaries were a variable crew, he would thank Duke Mereth for this one. Checking the large clan raiding force, holding them and pushing them back. Frygem ruefully had to admit his border troops liked the man and his skill. Also he had kept to his ducal contract, some might have given up on the task, particularly with a pretty and shy little wife in tow. That was a puzzle. Risking her safety in The Wilds. Still a man needed his comforts.

What did rankle Frygrem and touched on a raw spot was having the damn LifeGuard here. Observing. Five of them, long dark green coats, wide brimmed black hats. Their officer a hard faced major intoning ‘Imperial Stability’ at him. The Clan was a local problem. Did LifeGuard not have better things to do? He scowled in the direction of the far off group. Beneath their dignity to take part.   

‘Captain Leiding,’ he hailed ‘Surveying the ground I trust?’

‘From dawn Lord Frygrem,’ the mercenary said ‘The Clan has quit the hill and removed themselves. They have given up on the incursion. We can take back the hill and await re-enforcements. The crisis has passed,’

Emboldened by the encouraging news Frygrem’s irritation at Imperial Supervision took hold.

‘A retreat?’ his eagerness unsettling the mercenary captain  ‘We might pursue them,’

‘If we had a larger reserve,’ Leiding said, intending to bring neutrality into the conversation. ‘Our current force needs rest and recuperation,’

‘Whereas I can appreciate your caution captain, as your profession values conservation of resources, in my world, political demonstration is equally as weighty,’ this was accompanied by a brief twitch of his head towards the LifeGuard. ‘I would like to consider the ground myself. Accompany me,’

Since there was no evidence of Clan numbers Leiding saw little point in arguing here and hoped he could dissuade Frygrem during the ride. He gestured to four men selected for skill with crossbow to accompany the lord’s small entourage.

‘This is Lord Frygrem’s idea. Keen eyes,’ he said to his own ‘Bows loaded, but aloft to avoid accidents,’

The approach was not the issue, the slope and the sparse cover would be a risky place for an ambush. Leiding insisted his group reached the crest first, sharp eyed they scanned, dismounting, to avoid being an easy target.

‘Captain,’ the lord called out impatient after the slow climb ‘I would advance,’ Leiding surveyed the grasses, heathers, gorse  and small outcrops; the only true cover a copse in the far distance. The land  appeared safe, though ‘Appeared’ was never a word he trusted.

His pause obviously did not suit Frygrem, the man advanced his horse at a swift trot, until he was amongst Leiding’s group, disrupting their watch.

‘My Lord,’ Leiding said, command in his voice ‘Dismount,’ Frygrem having briefly looked ahead turned his attention back to the LifeGuard.

The brief warning was the gorse bush twitching against the direction of the breeze, too fast though for the message to go from eye to head to hand. The figure rose already losing off their own bolt, before starting to duck. By the time even the swiftest of the party at the crest was physically reacting Frygrem was tipping back from his mount, either it was the bolt in his chest or the fall from his horse, killing him.

Whether he was dead by the time three crossbow bolts flew towards the gorse, one hitting the ambusher it was of no consequence.

Against the backdrop of clamour from the entourage Leiding and his men viewed the body, caution staying them.

‘High Holy,’ breathed one ‘He was swift,’

‘Little,’ added another ‘That’s how he hid,’

‘Patient,’  said the third

‘Steady,’ concluded the fourth, adding, alarmed ‘Captain?’

He was uncaring of the warnings from his men and the indignation from the entourage, drawn to brief view of russet hair loosened as the ambusher fell backwards. There should be anger, anguish, at least confusion. Why was there admiration, laced with hope, melding with confusion?

Voices were but sounds as he reached the body, eyes flickering, the grimace of triumph softening to a smile.

‘It was a lovely breakfast,’ she said, raising her cap ‘Look I wore your posey,’

Her accent was no longer regional encompassing three princedoms, there was the distinctive rolling lilt of these clan folk, an urgency caused a cough, blood running from her mouth.

‘I taught you too well,’ he said.

‘I did not play thee, dear husband. There was no long plan. It was only when your contract drew you here. I had prayed there would just be scraping like wee dogs, then going away,’

He stroked her hair. A lord’s death. Who cared?

‘You do not hold Clan deaths against me?’

‘They should have stayed in our own lands,’ she slurred ‘My father, always counselled  The Chief to stop raiding. Yet, Frygrem had to go, a warning,’

‘It was deftly done,’

‘While you boys were out brawling I learnt the exits,’

 ‘There’ll be reprisals,’

A pained little laugh.

‘With The LifeGuard hovering around. Them and their adherence to Stability? Look not surprised, a Clan Chief’s niece learns a much of politics,’

A tearful chuckle was his response.

‘That was the marriage you were running from,’

‘I think I saw him die yesterday,’

‘What in the Second Hell is he doing?’ someone on the crest demanded.

One of the crossbowmen shrugged. The arrival of the LifeGuard Colonel stilled all conversation.

Their shared laughter stopped, his face grave as he placed the knife in her hand.

‘Also as I taught you,’ he said ‘It makes sense, for I let a lord die on my watch, grave mistake. More to the point, I can’t spend time on this realm without you,’

Her eyes were losing focus, breath ragged.

‘I could not leave you alone,’ she said and plunged in the blade.

Only the Colonel of LifeGuard did not seemed surprised.

The Colonel of LifeGuard bore the tirades of the Duke and Prince with an impassive disinterest. They owed more to the Oakhostian Empire than it did to them. They knew full well. When they ran out of ire, he spoke.

‘You were fortunate The LifeGuard was there to return the young woman’s body to the Clan, the whole business could have spread from Clan to Clan like a gorse fire. Never mind this Clan was an inveterate nuisance, Clans rally when Princes push their luck. The LifeGuard will have to attend to this,’ he let the words hang, the warning, LifeGuard were arbiters of this Emperor. ‘Captain Leiding was obviously being generous in tending her last religious rites. Being confused she stabbed him. Unfortunate. I will tender my report on the matter, both to The Grand Oaken Throne and my Commanders. You should await the Emperor’s Word. Do not venture beyond that crest. It is his wife I feel sorry for, secretly fleeing in distress,’

He left.

The winds blew across the freshly raised twin mounds. Four men crossbowmen, and four Clansmen had stood watch all the day. The sun settled, the quartets nodded to each other, and returned  to their own ranks.

Newly planted flowers quivered in the wind.

The tenth draft might be the foundation for the official report. Only LifeGuard’ s grim fortress Drygnest would know the captain was their own, despatched to act as mercenary, mining fertile battlefields for nobility’s indiscretions. Dangerous road, sometimes a LifeGuard went in so deep they lost perception. Usually going hard rogue taking lives like tankards of ale, conspiring for thrills. Instead here a fellow had stepped off the road, onto softer pastures, tripped when he came back onto the road. Tendered his way out with dignity, and it seemed love.

The Colonel looked to the copies of play and verse. Romance. Just as likely to kill.  

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We Did Not Want To Be Here. And Yet We Are

War

A continuation of…

As Legions Before Us. We Will Be Tested

This not grandstanding; nor doomsaying; nor least of all a rallying call. We are moving past all of that. We are in the place where Reality is demanding our choices. This is how it is. You are being drawn to those choices, you will be asked to judge which paths.  For there are two human emotive tectonic plates grinding together and at some stage one will flip over the other, and there will be the quake. Those are National Domestic Pressures and The War  In Ukraine. Both remorseless, unavoidable, most of the elemental forces out of your control. Your reaction though will still be yours, along with tens of millions of others, each drop, each flake with its own weight and influence. Prepare yourself. And do not look for advice or guidance here I would not presume such arrogance.

The world is still dealing with a pandemic, the, medical, social and financial costs. Nations are facing domestic political upheavals in one form or another. The two closest to my heart being The Fracturing of Consensus in the USA and Brexit in my own UK. While now we have on the European Continent a full scale conventional conflict between two nations; The War that has been on hold since the Nuclear Sword of Damocles arrived. Both nations are locked in. One for survival, the other for a complex mix of motivations, some traditional, others recent. Both have invested great amounts of blood and treasure. One has massive resources, the other is in receipt of a steady stream of support. With each passing day, each shock of more death and misery. While in our own nations the domestic world goes on; at times you could be forgiven for briefly not thinking about Ukraine. But it will not go away.

War on the doorstep, be that literal, continental or geo-political in scope. War in one of its uglier industrial scales. No fast sweep of motorised columns; a hard version of commuter traffic, while folk stand gawping, some shaking fists, and then in a few days, it’s all over. ‘How shocking. I hope our government protests,’ you would have thought. Not this time, this was one militaries prepare for; well to begin with not so much The Russians. This was the grand demonstration to a horrified public what happens when the invaded supplied with latest weapons, trained for this happening, take a stand. The attacker very rarely gives out with a collective ‘Whoops’ and pulls back. Instead they revert using whatever they have in their locker, irrespective of the structural damage. While their troops on the ground, weary, low of morale, confused and angry take out their fear on the civilians. And there are the brutal mercenaries, bringing resonances of the WWII German SS police battalions .

Even so, after a while a certain adjustment can take place, what was in your mind, grabbing all of your attention, slips into the background. Back to the Domestic. Home news pushes to the fore, again. Ukraine: you’ve done all you can, you think; price rises, job security, polemical domestic politicians, they cannot be avoided.

However this war will not go away. The scenarios in which NATO is involved begin to take credible shape. Are you prepared for those? Are you ready to support such a step? Or would you judge it is best for all if the war is let to run down and Ukraine accept it has Fought the Good Fight, but must accept some compromise with Russia? Would you then hope the cost in men, material and economic damage would cause the downfall of the present Kremlin Court, then fences can be repaired, slowly and to salve our consciences money is poured into the surviving parts of the Ukraine. Money? Where from? Our own economies are suffering. National Debt is high. Some economists must be having sleepless nights, more so those in the various Financial Branches of governments. There again as we steer around the circle, NATO being involved would bring its own heavy costs. Unavoidable, pick one.

Whatever path is taken there will be prices to be paid. Militarily, Economically, Politically, Ethically even (Remember, every Ukrainian victory or defiant stance comes with a price in Russian blood, we also are now locked into that one way or another. Remember those days when you thought killing of anyone was reprehensible, but you still do. Except the World doesn’t allow you that detachment)

To re-visit. With the coming of Covid the world changed, though we got off lucky; a different strain could have brought an unmanageable death rate. But we are learning to live with it; just have to stop playing politics and silly conspiracy role-play games . A war in Europe involving Russia vs The West. Now that is no so easy to walk through; if it stopped tomorrow, all arms laid down the resonances would continue for at least the rest of the decade. How long before Russia and Russian stops being associated with brutality?

So far I have used the ‘?’ symbol six times. Could have been more. Strategies still developing in The West and Blindness to Consequences in the Kremlin. We are on a road in a fog, approaching something more than a crossroads.

You and I. We in our places. And we wonder or we resolve. If we take the latter  will we stay the course? (Seven ‘?’s and counting). When we look back all the other stances we took, seemed to have elements of simplicity. ‘We shouldn’t have gone there’; ‘We shouldn’t have got involved’ ‘We shouldn’t be doing this/that’. ‘We should be’; ‘We should be’…. Now, in these early months of 2022, ‘We should be doing…What?’ Your choice of Statement. (Eight ‘?’s and counting).

I did not bring in other issues, such as the catastrophic drought in the Horn of Africa, or the likely famine in Northern Africa due to the disruption of grain supplies from Ukraine & Russia, or…..

On reflection I was likely wrong to use the road, crossroads analogy.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say ‘Make your accommodations, or sketch out your own forecast so you may navigate through the storms ahead,’. Perhaps? (Nine ‘?’s and counting).

A Mature and Reasoned Commentary

For two days I was working on a carefully crafted post…. Then Word Press deleted the whole thing, without any recourse to getting it back.

Portrait Angry older man screaming on white background

I said. 

Then feeling a more eloquent and balanced statement was needed added:

sturm_drang3

This morning I am a measure calmer and able to sum up my outlook in a mature and philosophical frame of mind.

big-raspberry

Moral: When drafting a long post always use Word (or similar) then Copy & Paste onto WP