The Storm Series – The end

With the publication of “Tales of Salvation and Damnation” I have finally finished the Storm Series, a project I started just over six years ago.

 It’s actually a very bitter sweet moment. On one hand I have had done what I set out to do, which was to write dark fantasy tales aimed at adults, whose plotlines and story arc’s reflected the audience they were aimed at.

However, now it’s finished, I will miss writing Twever the Magnificent and Ardo and the chaos they create, I will miss writing the deep pain that hide behind the arrogance of Solomon Pace, or the struggle of Nathanial West trying to be the best father he could whilst battling the beast and devil within him.

I can honestly say that I am now a far better writer than I was when I started the series, and that I have learned a lot about myself, writing and the need to keep notes, lots of notes, as you write; especially as your character list grows!!!

The question I have been asked the most is – “What is the Storm Series about?” the simple answer is “Relationships” but that is only the simple answer, you will have to read the books for the full and complicated answer.

So what next? Well I need to finish the “Y front” series (that’s my sci-fi books) and I have a couple more ideas for various books.

I suppose I will just have to put Pen to Paper and see what happens : )

Alan

 

The Storm Series consist of:

Echoes of a Storm – Novel

Scions of the Storm – Novel

A Dark and Hungry Storm – Novel

Tales for a Storm Filled Night – Book of short stories

Tales of Solomon Pace – Book of short stories

Tales of Salvation and Damnation – Book of short stories

 The Moonlight Dance – Book of 3 stories

 

All available from Amazon – Search for “The storm series Alan Scott”

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See Hear: Could deaf dramas be TV hits?

I love foreign films and don’t mind reading subtitles, hence why this article by William Mager caught my attention

 Alan

 By William Mager

 Foreign language TV dramas such as The Killing and Wallander have been surprise hits. As Britain warms to subtitles at the bottom of the screen, is it time for drama in sign language to shine?

 For deaf people, the recent influx of foreign drama has been good news. They are screened in their original language with very good quality “open” subtitles for everybody, rather than via a button on the remote control. Contrast this with the regular subtitle service, which is often criticised as poor (and sometimes missing altogether) by deaf people.

 Refreshingly it seems the thousands who watch Scandinavian dramas don’t have a problem following a story by reading the screen. With that potential hurdle now cleared, perhaps drama in sign language could also go mainstream in the UK – if subtitled.

 You may not have caught it on the fringes of the schedules over the years, but the UK has had signed drama on TV before. What’s more, there is something of a “scene” emerging around the world.

 There are two distinct types of drama made for deaf people. The traditional sort has mostly deaf actors, is mostly signed and has little spoken dialogue. In fact sound is almost entirely absent.

 The Young and the Speechless, a wittily-named South African drama from the 90s was an example of this genre, as was the BBC Two soap Switch and Channel 4’s Rush. The balance of deaf and hearing actors in these shows was roughly 80-90% in favour of deaf signers. They appealed to a core deaf audience who wanted to see themselves represented on screen in exactly the same way as hearing people. It wasn’t an attempt at inclusion or integration, it was simply felt that hearing people were already served by dozens of weekly soap operas – so the spoken word was excluded. But not many hearing people watched.

 The near total lack of sound may have been off-putting. In foreign language dramas, hearing people can still listen to the characters and the rich intonations and inflections of each voice even if they can’t understand them.

 BBC Drama commissioner Ben Stephenson tells See Hear that there is no barrier to a drama being made in British Sign Language (BSL), as long as the script is good enough. He says: “If someone came with a script like that and it was really good, I think we would probably leap up and down with excitement, because it’s really hard to find great scripts.”

 A more recent breed of drama for deaf people has a 50:50 balance of speaking and signing, a rich soundtrack and a mix of deaf and hearing actors. It appeals to a much wider audience as a result and, perhaps could join shows like The Bridge and Borgen in that Saturday night foreign drama slot.

 There are three of these hybrid sign/speech dramas that See Hear knows about at the moment. Most successful is teen drama Switched at Birth which airs in a primetime slot on ABC Family in the US. Now in its third season, it’s not yet shown in the UK. Starring Oscar-winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God, The West Wing), the show has undoubtedly brought deaf culture and American Sign Language to a mainstream audience.

 Making sign language and deafness part of the story, but not the whole story, feels like the key to deaf drama’s future success. One criticism of Switched at Birth, however, is the lack of deaf people working off screen, either on the writing team, as directors, or in the crew. As a result, some deaf people question its authenticity.

 Scandinavia, where the UK’s favourite foreign language dramas come from, is the home of two more dramas with signing at the core, also airing in primetime in their home countries.

 Sweden’s Inte Varre an Andra (No Worse Than Others) follows a crew making a documentary about a deaf family who are rather unusual. And in Norway’s MokkaKaffe (“Rubbish Coffee”), two men – one deaf, one hearing – are in a serious car accident which leaves them unconscious in intensive care. Their deaf and hearing families must figure out why they were travelling together in the first place.

 The hearing actors on both dramas offer the underplayed Nordic performances which audiences have come to love. They contrast nicely with the more expressive, physical acting of their deaf counterparts who, by necessity, communicate very visually via sign.

 And in a nod towards inclusivity, both the signing and the speaking are fully subtitled so the viewer can follow everything whether they are deaf or hearing in Sweden or Norway.

 But if these foreign dramas were aired here in the UK, deaf audiences would have to read the subtitles for the signing – because Swedish and Norwegian sign languages are very different to BSL. The themes and concerns, however, would be universal to deaf people around the world, and appreciated as such. And hearing audiences might learn about deaf culture, picking up a sign here and there, and learning about such features of deaf life as lights flashing every time the doorbell rings.

 Instead of watercooler chats about Sarah Lund’s jumper and people saying “tak”, perhaps we’ll see a new craze for people learning BSL or creating sign names for each other while awaiting the latest episode of the new signed drama on BBC Four. But which country will it come from?

 See Hear’s Deaf Drama special airs at 10:30 BST on Wednesday 21 May on BBC TWO, and will be on iPlayer soon after that.

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-27483176

 

World War One: The original code talkers

This is a rather long, but incredibly interesting and at times sad article on Native American ‘Code Talkers’ in WW1.

Alan

By Denise Winterman BBC

When US military codes kept being broken by the Germans in WW1 a Native American tribe came to the rescue. They just spoke their own language – which baffled the enemy – and paved the way for other Native American “code talkers” in WW2.

It’s an irony that probably didn’t go unnoticed by Choctaw soldiers fighting in World War One. While the tribe’s children were being whipped for speaking in their native tongue at schools back home in Oklahoma, on the battlefields of France the Native American language was the much-needed answer to a very big problem.

In the autumn of 1918, US troops were involved in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the Western Front. It was one of the largest frontline commitments of American soldiers in WW1, but communications in the field were compromised. The Germans had successfully tapped telephone lines, were deciphering codes and repeatedly capturing runners sent out to deliver messages directly.

“It was a huge problem and they couldn’t figure out a way around it,” says Matt Reed, curator of American Indian Collections at the Oklahoma History Centre, the headquarters of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The solution was stumbled upon by chance, an overheard conversation between two Choctaw soldiers in the 142nd Infantry Regiment. The pair were chatting in camp when a captain walked by and asked what language they were speaking. Realising the potential for communication, he then asked if there were other speakers among the troops. The men knew of Choctaw soldiers at company headquarters. Using a field telephone the captain got the men to deliver a message in their native tongue which their colleagues quickly translated back into English. The Choctaw Telephone Squad was born and so was code talking.

Using the Choctaw language had huge advantages,” says Dr William Meadows of Missouri State University, the only academic to have studied and written extensively on the Choctaw code talkers. “It was a largely unknown language. Only a few American Indian tribes had more than 20,000 people so their languages weren’t widely spoken and most weren’t written down. Even if they were, it was usually only the Bible and hymns, which were consumed locally.”

The squad was put into action almost immediately. Within hours, eight Choctaw speakers had been dispatched to strategic positions. They were instrumental in helping US troops win several key battles, says Meadows.

Even if the Germans were listening, they couldn’t understand. It was also the quickest way of coding and decoding information, faster than any machine, giving US troops a crucial edge over the enemy.

“The language flabbergasted the Germans,” says Reed, who adds that strange theories began to circulate about how these sounds were produced. “There are stories that they thought the US had invented a contraption to speak underwater.”

It was recognized that of all the various methods of liaison the telephone presented the greatest possibilities… It was well understood, however, that the German was a past master of “listening in”… We felt sure the enemy knew too much. It was therefore necessary to code every message of importance and coding and decoding took valuable time.

The regiment possessed a company of Indians… there was hardly one chance in a million that Fritz would be able to translate these dialects and the plan to have these Indians transmit telephone messages was adopted.

The Indians were used repeatedly in preparation for the assault on Forest Farm… The enemy’s complete surprise is evidence that he could not decipher the messages.

Choctaw didn’t cover many military terms so coded words were devised. Machine gun was “little gun shoot fast” and battalions were indicated by a number of grains of corn. It created a “code within a code” and made the language even more impenetrable, says Meadows.

In total, 19 Choctaw soldiers were recruited to the telephone squad. They came from the 141st, 142nd and 143rd Infantry Regiments, says Meadows. Many knew each other from Oklahoma. Later, other American Indian tribes were used in the same way, the Comanche among them.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive turned out to be part of the final Allied campaign on the Western Front, but the work of the Choctaw shaped military communications in future conflicts. The Navajo and Comanche code talkers of WW2 are the most famous.

Two types of code talking were used in both wars, says Meadows, author of The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II. The first used special military terms devised in the native language, the second didn’t and just used the native vocabulary already spoken. It is believed none of the languages or codes used have ever been broken by an enemy, he adds.

“Code talking was an idea that was copied over and over but it may never of happened had it not been for the Choctaw,” says Nuchi Nashoba, president of the Choctaw Code Talkers Association. Her great-grandfather Ben Carterby was one of the men used in the original test to send a message on the Western Front.

“They were the original code talkers and that will always be a source of immense pride to our tribe.”

But at the same time, the Choctaw language was under pressure back in the US. It was a time of cultural assimilation. Government attempts to “civilise” American Indians involved putting their children in state-run boarding schools, where they were often severely punished for speaking in their native tongue.

Relatives fought to get recognition for their ancestors

“You had this crazy situation where the Choctaw language was being used as a formidable weapon of war, yet back home children were being beaten at school for using it,” says Judy Allen, senior executive officer of tribal relations with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “The two soldiers who were overheard by the officer probably thought they were in trouble rather than about to provide the answer to the army’s communication problems.”

Like other tribes, the Choctaw’s whole way of life was under threat. Little more than a generation before, they had been forcibly removed from their ancestral land. Under the 1830 Indian Removal Act they were marched from areas around Mississippi to what is now Oklahoma. It is known as the Trail of Tears – of the estimated 12,000 Choctaw moved, some 2,500 died of hunger, disease and exhaustion.

But when the US government needed them, they responded, says Meadows. “The Choctaw soldiers were incredibly gracious and willing to share their language. They didn’t have to but they did. They had something unique and were incredibly proud of that.”

Nationwide, American Indians didn’t get US citizenship until 1924, years after WW1 had finished, yet more than 12,000 fought, according to the National Museum of the American Indian. They volunteered to fight because defending their land and people was part of their culture and tradition.

“It was an extension of the traditional warrior role,” says Reed. “Men protected and provided for those who couldn’t do it themselves or weren’t expected to. It’s about what it means to be a man and a leader. Warriors were regarded with the utmost respect in their communities. It was the same with veterans and still is today.”

The code talkers spoke very little about their role

All of the telephone squad returned home to their families, says Meadows. For decades, their role in code talking was barely known outside the tribe and their efforts went unrecognised. In some cases, their own wives and families knew very little.

“It is not Choctaw belief to talk about your own achievements, it’s up to others to praise you,” says Nashoba. “The code talkers would not have told many stories about themselves, they regarded what they had done as just doing their duty. When my great grandfather was interviewed for a local publication after he returned from the war, he simply said, ‘I went to France, I saw the country and I came back alive.’ Just that.”

It was also a sensitive issue for the government. It would have been difficult to explain that the very languages they were trying eradicate in America had been instrumental in communicating on the battlefield. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and government did not emphasise their use, says Meadows. Military leaders also realised the potential of using native languages and didn’t want the strategy widely known.

“Although the Navajo code talkers of WW2 received public attention when their code was declassified in 1968 and received congressional recognition and gold and silver medals in 2001, all other code talkers remained federally unrecognised,” says Meadows.

But the attention the Navajo code talkers received soon sparked interest in the Choctaw code talkers. The men’s relatives and tribe gathered what information they could but only a handful of documents existed and few veterans were still alive. They worked and campaigned hard, along with other tribes, to get recognition for the men.

In 1989 the French Government bestowed the Chevalier de L’Ordre National du Merite (Knight of the Order of National Merit) posthumously to the Choctaw code talkers of WW1 and WW2 and the Comanche code talkers of WW2.

But it was only in 2008 that the Code Talkers Recognition Act was passed in the US recognising the hundreds of overlooked code talkers from different tribes, including the Choctaw. Finally, in November last year, each tribal government received Congressional Gold Medals, America’s highest civilian honour. They were inscribed with a unique design to represent their tribe. The families of each code talker received a silver version of the gold medal.

At the ceremony Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: “In this nation’s hour of greatest need, Native American languages proved to have great value indeed. The United States Government turned to a people and a language they had tried to eradicate.”

It was a bittersweet moment, says Nashoba. “The original code talkers never got to see that day and many of their relatives who had campaigned so hard to get recognition for them had also died. But it was also an incredible moment, I can’t put into words the joy and pride we felt. Those men deserved to be honoured.”

No-one could have known that a conversation overheard by chance would end up being so significant, says Meadows. “Sometimes great things come about by accident rather than design.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26963624

Update on “Tales of Salvation and Damnation”

The last book in the Storm Series – Tales of Salvation and Damnation – Will be released in early Jun 14. Currently Saskia Schnell is creating the book cover and as soon as she has completed it, the book will be ready for publication.

All the stories can be read as stand-alone stories or as part of the Storm Series Trilogy. All the stories are set in chronological order. The stories are:

The Tale of Oakton

This story sets the scene and tone for the rest of the book. It also is my first proper vampyre story – well, having the vampyre as the main character, anyway.

The Guardian

This story continues the story of the ‘The Village’ from Tales of Solomon Pace. Don’t worry; you don’t need to have read the story to enjoy ‘The Guardian’. This tale introduces a powerful new force into the continent of Talocants – a breakaway section of the Church.

The Story of Safe Harbour

This story continues on from the previous story, and adds background and character to the new faction.

The Boy and the Broach

In the novel, ‘A Dark and Hungry Storm’, there was a scene at Castle Black involving Kimberley Pace killing a party of men. This will explain all.

Brethren of the Night III

The one constant in the Storm series is change; nothing and no one stays the same. This is the pivotal story in the development of the Brethren of the Night plotline.

He Cometh…

This has to be my favourite story in the entire book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

Love

I had the basic idea of what I wanted to write, but was having great difficulty putting it down in words. Then, all of a sudden, this story just started to flow. It was as if all the plotlines and subplots had decided to come together. Love is not always pure!

The Church & the Crown

If you take the Storm Series as a whole, then you will understand why this story needed to be written. As I have stated before – for me, one of the strengths of the series is that it constantly evolves and changes. For that to happen, sometimes you need to take stock of the current situation, pause, think, and then move on. That is what this story does.

Tea II

What can I say about Tea II? It’s the last story in this book. It finishes the mini-series of Tea and Tea II, and it ends the Storm Series.

 

However, there is a problem with endings. When something ends, something else begins.

What if the Midnight Man did return? What if there were no more heroes? What if the only good left in the land was a small almost-forgotten cult? What if the only man that could save the world was a scruffy, foul-mouthed man? – a man who never ran from a fight – a man who stood when no one else would. What would happen if there was a prophecy?

 That might just make a beginning of a second trilogy!!!

My Favourite Feminist Joke

After posting the picture about men to the left women to the right. I thought I would post my favourite feminist joke.

I heard the joke a couple of years ago and it made me smile – it still does.

Question – Why are men and paving slabs similar?

Answer- Lay them right the first time, and you can walk all over them for years.

 Alan