Saturday, December 27, 2014

Six Line Sunday... WIPping "Big Girl"


So... amongst all the *many* other writing projects I have going on at the moment I have still been finding some time to write my latest Paranormal Romance work.

Here you go.... six lines (well actually it's a little more than six lines) of my WIP tentatively titled "Big Girl".

This scene is where our half giant heroine, Correctional Officer Eudora Splat, takes matters into her own hands to rescue her charge, the accused felon Evander "Bear" Gordon, from an attack by Human Purists.


The quiet made the temptation to look unbearable. Cautiously, he craned his neck once more around the trunk of his tree, and the scene that met his eyes belied belief. Officer Splat had torn a young tree from its roots and effectively clobbered Claver it.
The man was sprawled on the leafy wet ground, the trunk of the tree flat across his chest.
Officer Splat, stared down at the man. Her shoulder’s heaving. As if she sensed his presence, she turned. Her electric blue eyes met his, and held them a long dazzling second. Then, unexpectedly, her wide generous mouth tilted at the corners, and a delighted, cheeky smile appeared.
Bear felt his heart stutter to a halt.
I like this girl.
 ©Nicola E. Sheridan 2014


I really love this story, it's the genre I love, with heaps of action and adventure. My enthusiasm for this project has been buoyed by my wonderful critique partner Loretta Hill's comments on the manuscript at our meeting last week... "That was really fun! I really love their chemistry. It's so sweet.... I'm disappointed there's none left to read!"

Which was a relief. It's always a worry when I'm loving writing something, that my readers may not... critique partners are just the best for raw honesty!

I am really trying to get this manuscript finished in a few months, and sent to my publisher as soon as I possibly can.

Have a wonderful New Year!
Smiley

Friday, December 26, 2014

Searching for the Queen of Sheba


 Who is this woman - whose name crops up when we think of wealth and beauty? Where is the country of Sheba? Was she real?

Let's take a look.

According to the Bible, the Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon "with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones" (I Kings 10:2). "Never again came such an abundance of spices" (10:10; II Chron. 9:1–9).
 
Yet the Queen of Sheba is mentioned not only in Christian traditions, but also Jewish and Islamic traditions as well. Which one, if any is true?

Where was the country of Sheba?

Most researchers agree that Sheba is possibly the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, now known as Yemen.
 Saba had a virtual monopoly had a monopoly on frankincense. 
The city of Marib in Saba would have wealth accumulated to such an extent that the city became a byword for riches beyond belief throughout the Arab world.
Its people, the Sabeans - a group whose name bears the same etymological root as Saba - lived in South Arabia between the tenth and sixth centuries BC. Their main temple - Mahram Bilqis, or temple of the moon god (situated about three miles from the capital city of Marib) - was so famous that it remained sacred even after the collapse of the Sabean civilisation in the sixth century BC - caused by the rerouting of the spice trail. 
Saba was known by the Hebrews as Sheba, and it survives today (Saba = Sa'abia = Saudi Arabia). Reference History Files

It has also been suggested though archaeological evidence that during the10th Century BC, Ethiopia and Yemen were ruled by a single dynasty probably based in Yemen. Since the political and cultural ties between ancient Yemen and Ethiopia seem to have been strong in that era, the Queen of Sheba may have reigned over both Ethiopia and Yemen. It makes sense then that she could have been either Yemeni or Ethiopian in race.

Who was she then?
Possibility 1.

The Ethiopian Queen - Makeba 
 
Every country has an epic tale - and Ethiopia's appears to be the Kebra Nagast or "Glory of Kings." This tells the story of a queen named Makeda from the city of Axum who traveled to meet the King Solomon of Jerusalem.
The Queen stayed in Jerusalem for some months... and unsurprisingly King Solomon fell in love / lust with her.
As Makeda's visit neared its end, Solomon asked her to stay in his own, private wing of the castle.
Not wanting to offend him, she agreed, but made Solomon promise not to get frisky or fresh with her.
Solomon reluctantly agreed to her stipulation but only if Makeda agreed to one of his own. Makeda must not take anything belonging to the King, if she did, well, then then he could be as frisky and fresh as he wanted with her.

Being a wily fellow, Solomon ordered a spicy and salty dinner for her. Which she ate. That night, he placed a glass of water beside Makeda's bed. Naturally from the salty meal - she woke up thirsty, and drank it.

Upon drinking the water, Solomon entered her room and said that she'd drunk his water... and now he could do with her what he wished.

No surprise then that Makeda and Solomon had sex - and when she returned to Ethiopia, she was pregnant with his child.

In Ethiopian tradition, Solomon and Sheba's child, Emperor Menelik I, founded the Solomonid dynasty, which continued until Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974. Menelik also went to Jerusalem to meet his father, and either received as a gift (or possibly stole) the Ark of the Covenant, depending upon the version of the story. Although most Ethiopians today believe that Makeda was the biblical Queen of Sheba, many scholars give preference to a Yemeni origin, instead. Reference

Possibility 2.

The Yemeni Queen Bilqis

An important component of Yemen's claim on the Queen of Sheba is the name. We know that a great kingdom called Saba existed in Yemen during this period, and many historians believe that Saba is Sheba. There is also the Temple of Mahram Bilqis that adds weight to the argument.

 Islamic folklore holds that the Sabean queen's name was Bilqis.
According to Surah 27 of the Qu'ran, Queen Bilqis and her people worshipped a Moon god rather than adhering to Abrahamaic monotheist beliefs.

In the Qu'ranic verses, it it said that King Solomon sent her a letter inviting her to worship his God. Bilqis  was offended and feared that the Jewish king would invade her country. To this end Bilqis decided to visit Jerusalem and question him more about his faith.
In the Qu'ran's version of the story, Solomon enlisted the help of a djinn or genie to help impress her. He ordered the djinn to transport Bilqis's throne from her castle in Sheba to Solomon's in Jerusalem - all in the blinking of an eye.
Understandably, Bilqis was so impressed by this that she converted to Solomon's religion.

Unlike in the Ethiopian epic, the Islamic version does not in anyway suggest a romantic involvement between Solomon and Bilqis.

Is there any archaeological evidence of Bilqis, Makeda or the Queen of Sheba?

2000 - Canadian researchers recommenced studies of the Mahram Bilqis (Temple of the Moon God) in Yemen, which is believed to have been frequented by the Queen of Sheba.  "The sanctuary is packed with artifacts, pottery, artwork and inscriptions, opening a new door to the ancient civilizations of southern
Arabia," says Glanzman. "We've probably excavated less than one per cent of the site, with many of its treasures still buried far beneath the sands. This is the largest and one of the most important pre-Islamic sanctuary sites in Arabia." Reference
The excavation was started in 1951 but halted due to political unrest.
The site contains evidence of animal sacrifices and pottery.

 In 2008 - German archaeologists in the town of Axum in Ethiopia claimed to have discovered the Queen of Sheba's Palace. The remains of the palace were discovered under a more recent palace of a Christian King. Allegedly during this dig, they also found an altar - which allegedly once held The Ark of the Covenant. Ethiopian tradition has long since claimed that the Ark, which contained the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, were smuggled into Ethiopia by Menelik - the Queen's son. It is said that The Queen of Sheba's son returned to Sirius (star constellation) worship after her death, and there is evidence of bull sacrifice around the altar.

In 2012 - British archaeologists claim to have found the Queen of Sheba's mines - or rather ancient gold mines that provided wealth to the country of Sheba. The mines are marked by a 20ft stone slab that bare the mark of the Sabeans - a crescent moon and sun.

2014 - Visitors to Nigeria are able to make a pilgrimage to the Queen of Sheba's Tomb.
In the south western jungle of Nigeria in an area known as Oke -Eiri is allegedly the Queen of Sheba's final resting place. Local tradition in the area states that tomb belonged to a very wealthy, wise widow called Bilikisu Sungo.
It was at her request that her slaves to built an eredo monument for her remembrance. The monument was rediscovered in 1994 by Patrick Darling, a British Geographer. According to local legend the Queen of Sheba left her own lands and ruled over the smaller 1,400 km territory in Nigeria until her death.

Whether the palace, mines or tomb, are really linked to the true Queen of Sheba, is questionable. Yet, she remains a fascinating historical figure, and one I'm certain many would love to uncover the truth about.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A wee rant about e-book piracy....

A sad fact is, I bet if I tag this post 'free download e-book', it will get more traffic.

 Did you know, within one day of being released A Warlord's Lady had already been posted on a pirate website?

There is no such thing as a free-download ebook for an author. 
Unless done by a publisher for promotional reasons, not many authors simply give away their hard earned books.

It's wrong to download pirated e-books.

Why? 
 Aren't e-books are cheap anyway? Surely the author isn't going to miss $3.99?

Ah, yeah... Trust me, most will.
 
Despite what most people think, your average authors do not earn huge amounts for their efforts (and writing a book does take a bit of effort!).  If you do hit it big that's great, but chances are you'll just get a a nice spike in your sales... for a while, (it could be hours, it could be days, weeks or years) but eventually you'll see your book ranking drop and begin to languish... and as it does your royalty statements dwindle to embarrassing I-can't-even-buy-a-coffee-with-this levels.

Over the years, particularly as a debut author back in 2011, I had utterly dismal royalty statements. I'm talking about less than $10 for a three months of sales. That's right. LESS THAN TEN BUCKS.

When you're earning only 25% or less of your retail amount... and you're trying to sell in a glutted market filled with selfpubbed, cheap and cheerful 99c reads... it can take a while to earn any decent amount... So believe me, any author worth his or her salt will miss their ebook sales when book pirates get their mits on their hard earned pdfs.

 It's not just one person illegally downloading a book, because once that book is on a pirate site it can be downloaded hundreds....thousands... of times without the author or their publisher ever seeing a cent.
Over the years, I have sent countless 'Take Down' notices to pirate book websites who offer my books (and those of my colleagues) for free illegal download. It is demoralising and disappointing, because rest assured as one gets taken down, another will take its place.

Pirates like Captain Jack are sexy.


Book pirates are not...
Courtesy here

Nobody wants to work for free... and despite writing being my personal passion, it is also my job.
  As a direct result of low sales due to a glutted market and illegal downloading problems, I have markedly reduced time spent writing for Paranormal Romance. Frankly the time and effort that goes into creating these types novels isn't worth the (very) limited rewards.

So in a sense though this is a rant about illegal downloading of books, it's also an apology to those fans still waiting on my next release. It is coming, but coming slowly. Frustratingly, other more lucrative writing projects have had to take precedence over my Paranormal Romance.

So if you know of someone who does sneakily download those e-books, innocently thinking they're not doing any harm... please set them straight. The fiction market is glutted at the moment, more and more authors are releasing work, so it's increasingly hard to get noticed and bought.... combine this atmosphere with the increase in illegal e-book websites and you're sentencing budding authors, and established authors alike to career of mediocrity and disappointment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Apocalyptic Beasts

Definition: An Apocolyptic Beast is a mythological creature that rises to consume the whole of creation and bring an end to time - and be warned, there are quite a lot of them throughout the world. However, today I will only look at the Judeo-Christian Apocalyptic Beasts.


According to the word of St John, there are Four Beasts of the Apocalypse, but only three of these are described in any detail. Beast Number 1: An ocean dwelling nightmare, who rises from the sea with seven hydra-like heads, complete with a lion's jaw, the body of a leopard, and the feet of a bear.


Beast Number 2: An subterreanean earth beast, similar in appearance to Beast Number 1, but with a single horned head. Beast Number 3: Is called the Scarlet Beast, shares its appearance with the other two beasts but is red in colouration.

There are in fact numerous other Apocalyptic beasts referred to in the Christian Bible, some of the most well known would be The Leviathan and Behemoth.

Leviathan
Behemoth


In addition to these beauties we have the four horses of the Apocalypse. Which are four enormous horses, a white, black, red and pale horse, each representing conquest, famine, war and death respectively.


Then there is the Tetramorphs, a combination of a man, lion and eagle and ox. The tetramorph is the amalgamation of the symbols of the Four Evangelists from the Book of Ezekiel, into a single figure or, more commonly, a group of four figures. Each of the four Evangelists has a creature, usually shown with wings: St Matthew the man, St Mark the lion, St Luke the ox, and John the eagle.

You'll have to imagine the ox on the other side.
So there you have it some Apocalyptic Beasts, for you to muse over.

Monday, August 25, 2014

5 Most Terrifying Mythological Beasts

Today I am counting down the five most hideously terrifying mythological beasts you could possibly imagine. I'm not going go with your standard werewolves and zombies either, these horrifying creatures hail from all corners of the globe so grab a coffee but keep on the light and discover some monsters.




THE ASWANG

The Aswang hails from the Phillipines and is a demonic flying woman who consumes the flesh, particularly the liver, of both the living and the dead. It also has a particularly gruesome preference for babies. In modern literature the Aswang appears to be a name that covers a large number of Phillippine mythological monsters, including lycanthropes, witches and the self eviscerating Manananggal.

Strictly speaking the Aswang is a shapeshifting monster, who after consuming the individual replaces the corpse with a carved banana tree. During daylight hours the Aswang may take the form of a beautiful woman or old man, often working as a butcher or abbotoire worker, but by night she may turn into something else entirely. When hunting a human, the Aswang may take the form of a pig, or dog. Local legend has it that you can spot an Aswang by looking at them upside down... additionally when an Aswang is in the vicinity, oil in a pot will begin to bubble. It is also said that if you look at your reflection in an Aswang's eye, your reflection will appear crooked.
The Aswang is said to have an abnormally long tongue, useful for sucking out unborn children apparently... sorry. I did warn you these were horrible creatures....



The Phi Am
Hailing from Thailand, the Phi Am is literally the 'widow ghost' whose mission is to destroy the souls of men. She does not attack women. In this sense, she is similar to the medieval mythological succubus and her visits are marked by a weighty sensation on the chest or sleep paralysis. Some myths say that the Phi Am does nothing but cause discomfort, whilst others believe they can kill a man in his sleep by suffocation. Unlike the stereotypical succubus, the Phi Am is not interested in sex. It is alleged that in areas of Northern Thailand, some superstitious men sleep with lipstick on, just to confuse the roaming nocturnal Phi Am into thinking they are a woman and therefore not prey.

It is alleged that the man wakes up and himself paralysed, terrified and unable to defend himself as the Phi Am sets about slowly killing him either by suffocation or soul-extraction.


The Drekavac
 The Drekavac hails from slavic mythology, the word literally meaning "the screamer" or "yeller" (Serbo-Croatian).

Described as being a terrible beast with muscular kangaroo-like back legs, and the head and body of a dog - the drekavac is said to arise from the soul of a dead unbaptised child -  a very common theme throughout slavic/eastern European mythology. The notion that if an individual dies unbaptised, the soul will return and wreak havoc on Earth - holds particularly true for this mythological monster.

The drekavac allegedly appears most often near a cemetary, sometimes in the form of a creepy looking and malnourished child, begging to be baptised. It gets its name from the awful screams and cries it emits.
The drekavac can and will harm and eat people. Some legends claim the scream alone is an omen of death (like the Banshee) and if the beast's shadow falls upon an individual then that person will die.

 

The Tsuchigumo

This one is for all the arachnophobes out there...
 
This is a Japanese shape-shifting demon, who mostly appears in the form of a gigantic hairy spider. It is named after the ōtsuchigumo - dirt or Earth spider, (a type of tarantula). The word tsuchigumo has also been used as a derogatory term to describe bandits or other 'undesirable' people.
 
The mythological Tsuchigumos however, are beasts adept at spinning illusions to draw victims into their webs, where they then feast like a vampire on the humans blood. As it is an 'Earth' demon, they are unable or unwilling to travel over water.
 
Tsuchigumos can be male or female and if wounded will bleed white blood. The Tsuchigumo may take the form of a pretty young boy or woman, to lure its victim to its mountain home, where they are wrapped in webs and eventually consumed.
 


 The Tiyanak

Did you find Chucky from the Child's Play movie disturbing? You haven't met the Tiyanak yet...

The Tiyanak is a monster from Philippines mythology

As legend has it, the Tiyanaks were originally created  when a mother died giving birth. The mother's  soul went into the baby's body, but became corrupted, angry and murderous. As time has passed, Tiyanaks are alleged to have been created by the unbaptized soul of a child seeking vengence against those who didn't baptise it (similar to the Slavic Drekavac). Alternatively they can also be created when a fetus is aborted and its soul wishes to seek vengence on those who caused its death.

The Tiyanak appears in the form of a new born baby, often heard crying inconsolably. It preys on good willed people coming to the baby's aid. When the well meaning rescuer picks up the abandoned child the Tiyanak grows vampiric teeth and claws, then mauls and eventually kills its victim.

So there you have it, 5 Terrible Mythological beasties.
Next time, 5 Funniest Mythological Beasts.
Enjoy your week.





 
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lord of Wild Things... Cernunnos

Cave Art from Trois Freres, France
Images of a stag headed figure can be found all around Europe, the oldest dating to around 13 000 BCE in France.
Image courtesy Elfwood



Who is this Stag headed fellow? 

 Some scholars claim it's the Celtic God Cernunnos.









Cernunnos is the common name given to the Pagan and Wiccan wild God of the Forest. He also  is known as The Horned God. His name was only written down once in recorded history and that was in the 1st century on an artifact known as the Pillar of the Boatman. He is traditionally depicted as a man with stag antlers, holding a torque in his hand and surrounded by wild animals. He is also known as Lord of Animals.

Very little is known about the origins of Cernunnos, although many scholars have linked him with the Greek god Pan (a Satyr), Minoan Minotaur and the Celtic Green Man. Rather contentiously, Cernunnos has also been linked with the Hindu Lord of the Animals, Pashupati.

Some link Cernunnos to fertility, however, it has been suggested that because he isn't depicted with an erect member, this is unlikely. He holds a neck torque which may represent wealth, and some studies have suggested that he was the god of hunting, as he sits cross legged, ready to jump and hunt. Either way, there are great variety of interpretations have been taken from his image on the Pillar of the Boatman and the Gundestrap cauldron. Which interpretation is correct, one can only guess as Celtic religion was spoken, rather than written, so little has survived to the present time. Thus there are no myths that surround him. He therefore remains something of a enigma to scholars, modern Pagans and Wiccans alike.
Cernunnos on the Gundestrap Cauldren.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Manspiration VI - Black sails



Me and Manu Bennett @ SupaNova Perth 2014
It's been a while since I've enlightened readers to my current manspirations.

There are of course, my usual manspirations, my husband, Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Star Gate Atlantis, Road to Paloma), Manu Bennett (Spartacus, Arrow, Hobbit) etc, but recently I've been utterly enthralled by Starz latest show Black Sails. If you haven't watched it yet, go buy the dvds and settle down for a rollercoaster ride of action and excitement.
 
A year or two ago, I listened to an audio book detailing the history of pirates in the America's most notably, Edward Teach (Black Beard), Charles Vane, Calico Jack etc... which sent me into a pirate researching spasm. So when I saw that there was a show about them, I was VERY excited.

Perth Actor Toby Schmitz as Calico Jack


The show follows the tale of the fictitious 'Captain Flint', but intermixed in the fictional narrative are plenty of non-fiction real life historical figures, such as Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, Jack Rackham etc. I was also blown away to realise that the actor Toby Schmitz, who acts as Jack 'Calico Jack' Rackham, is from my home town, and I met him on several occasions in high school and university. Perth is a really small place... He does a great job portraying Calico Jack and I really hope his career takes off from this.

Zach McGowan as Charles Vane
Then there is Zach McGowan who acts as Charles Vane. Charles Vane was a very brutal pirate in the day, and McGowan's portrayal is fantastic... not to mention the rather spectactular abs... Though for realism, I think I'd like a little more chest hair... not that I'm complaining... no...

Then there is Toby Stephens - a tasty older morsel - who portrays the character of Captain James Flint. I'm always partial to a good older-gentleman hero (he's not really old, only 45 in fact).  Stephens portrays Flint as a cold, shrewd and brutal pirate, and as I've not finished the series, I'm yet to discover what he's completely about. I'm intrigued.

In short, what I like; the actors and actresses do a really great job in this series and the costumes are wonderful. The story line is interesting, and the action engaging and not *too* gory.
What I don't like so much is the shiny teeth on everyone. I'd like a few more bad teeth, and some body hair on the guys (you do get a glimpse at some pubic hair on women though.) Additionally, the sexual violence towards the prostitute Max was a bit much, and perhaps could have been toned down.

Toby Stephens as Captain Flint
All up, Black Sails is a thoroughly enjoyable sojourn into later part of The Golden Age of Piracy 1715 - 1730 (also known as the Post Spanish Succession period) and if you're in the market for little piratey manspiration then you need look no further.

Enjoy the rest of your day :)



My Cat is an Arsehole - Case File 4

This week I'm introducing the lovely paranormal author Sonnet O'Dell with her cat, Salem.


CASE FILE 4

SALEM




Name: Salem
Age: 8
Breed: British Domestic Short Hair
Crimes:
1. Disturbs Sleep: 
He thinks nothing of beginning his day at 4am in the morning. At scratching the bedroom door to pieces until you let him in and then proceeding to lull you into a false sense of security by snuggling down on top of the blanket. Within five minutes of shutting your eyes again, he’s up, prodding you with his paws, standing on your bladder till he makes you have to pee or making a general nuisance of himself playing with leads or knocking things off shelves. Once you have both feet out of bed and on the floor, he’s won and knows it.
2. Gluttony
Despite having a full bowl of Cat kibble, when he decides he wants wet food, he wants it now. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, he will sit and stare at you until the next time you get up. Heaven forbid if you should enter the kitchen as he will look forlornly at his bowl as if to say but Chef this isn’t what I wanted. Or worse, he will eat it all then look at the empty bowl like “What the hell happened” and can trick numerous members of the household into thinking he’s not been fed.
3. Attacks the brush  
 He sheds like nobody’s business and will not take a brushing lightly for the brush is the enemy and therefore must die. Several swipes have caught me by accident.
4. Snores 
Very, very loudly, right when you’re trying to watch something.
5. Malicious Peeing 
 Most cats will pee in the dirt. Not this cat. He sits right in the middle of the grass despite the amount of times he’s yelled at. Now he sits and gives you full eye contact while he does it. He’s killed a patch of grass about the size of a Frisbee.
6. Pervert 
He is one cat that doesn’t understand the bathroom is off limits to him. You can think you’ve shut him out in the hall but turn around and there he is, waiting, watching.

 Evidence 
What kind of cat pees on grass?

Disclaimer: Despite all of that he is a very loving and affectionate cat. He loves nothing more than to curl up next to me, nestled against my side while I type away at the computer. He’s the best company when I’m alone and he never fails to make me smile because of stupid things he does. He’s my beautiful boy and I wouldn’t be without him.

Buddies


 END CASE FILE

If you'd like to know more about Sonnet and her awesome books, check out here website HERE

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Cat is an Arsehole - Case File 3



For this week's case file I'd like to welcome Catherine Winther and her bad kitty, Magiska Bear.
 
 Case File 3
Magiska Bear

Name: Magiska-Bear
Breed: Domestic shorthair
Crime:

Hunting and Killing...teabags.
Magiska-Bear may look sweet, but this kitty is a cold blooded killer, for tea-bags anyway. Not even used tea-bags are spared.
Below is photographically documented evidence of Magiska-Bear's crimes. Also provided is evidence of the carnage left behind when Magiska-Bear is left alone with a tea bag for only a few moments.

Evidence
The quarry is approached with caution.


Quarry is located and considered for quality.
Licking lips in preemptive pleasure.


 Magiska goes in for the kill.

It is utter carnage.

Cute and tiny
Disclaimer:
I have included what I deem to be disgustingly cute photos of Magiska-Bear (not kinky and totally safe for work). I rescued her from under my house (she was a feral kitty). I have hand reared her and she is a constant purr machine. She even purrs when being injected at the vet. So, I love her because she is tiny, cute, a purr machine, hilarious and my writing familar.

PS I also have a giant black cat called Batman. He is much more stealthy than Magiska so trying to get photographic evidence of his crimes is a lot harder.

END CASE FILE

If you'd like to find out more about Catherine Winther, check out her blog HERE.