Sunday, 19 November 2017

Love in la la land by Lynn Forth

Sunday Update! 

In between reading Books 1- 3 of the Outlander Series,  each of which are long historical time slip novels, I've sandwiched in a quick read. I'll probably do this between the next two novels in the series, as well, since my kindle queue is pretty large and some novels have been waiting to be read for a while already.

Here's my latest quick weekend read. 

Love in La La Land by Lynn Forth. 

This quick read would be good for taking on holiday, for someone who wants a ‘one-sitting’ read or if you want a sheer flight of improbable fantasy.  

The dialogue flows nicely and the main characters are likeable within an exceptionally ideal and slightly naïve situation. Others who are very fleetingly experienced by Jane display less pleasant characteristics but they don't impinge since their appearance is very brief.

Some of the plot seems so questionable as to be impossible to me but it was an entertaining jaunt from reality as, I think, the author intends it to be. 

Jane’s meteoric rise to fame and fortune as a novelist with her debut novel being turned into a film is definitely the food of fiction! 

Having been to Los Angeles, the setting is redolent of the hot balmy air and the luxurious plantings around the mansions of the rich. I haven't toured the film 'lots' but I have met a couple of Hollywood's 'thousands' of scriptwriters who live in LA. Some of them might eventually earn a reasonable living but it seems that very few of them ever find themselves in the seriously rich categories. LA is definitely a place for making connections though:  knowing who to speak to, and who else to speak to up a very long chain is their lifeblood. The scriptwriters I met were lovely people but they really do live in a kind of warm, sunshiney, Hollywood bubble of a La La Land. 

Jack? Jack Clancy has some great connections to start with. The author keeps him enigmatic and pleasant but I wanted to know a bit more about his current status, financial and domestic. More of what made him tick. There were a few situations where he was interacting with Jane that seemed undeveloped in the novel and left me wondering about what his normal working day would be like.  The author touches briefly on the hierarchy within Hollywood which definitely seems to exist making it very difficult to be in contact with 'the top People'. However, across Hollywood there have to be many genuinely nice people who can maintain friendships across the earnings levels- Jack being one of them. Does his final decisions in the novel mean a change in character development? I think so but I'm not convinced. I didn't really get inside his head to understand what Jane has essentially has changed in him, not enough clues being dropped for me, apart from the obvious one of losing her if she goes and he stays.  

Jane? At times, I wanted to shake Jane out of her gullibility. She's portrayed sometimes as being self-sufficient yet she's incredible naive- though if that was the author's intention then it really worked for me! She gets herself to LA with her agent but where is he when various things happen to her? LA hotels are hugely expensive, so I can see her not wanting to pay for one if its not necessary and accepting Scott's hospitality however, Scott's insistence that she be looked after by him rang lots of bells that Jane is too innocently deaf to hear. But that aspect of the plot confused me just a little. Her naivety over her previous lover taking her to the cleaners doesn't seem to have made her more savvy about how to handle the Scott situation. She's a nice person but when nice intelligent, as she is also meant to be, get their fingers burned they generally learn from their mistakes. Jane insists on being financially independent enough to help solve her sister's medical bills but she's not independent enough to get herself back to her hotel when she needs a change of underwear. As an author, and a successful one, she doesn't seem to have done her LA homework before embarking on her journey. 

I read on hoping to bond better with Jane but I'm afraid  it didn't really happen. 

Why did she have to go through the 'almost tourist' route to get into the film 'lot'. As the original author I'd have expected her to have much better communication with the script writer. Of course, maybe that depends on what sort of contract is signed! Note to self and other authors- beware of the 'tiny writing' clauses in your film contract! (*wink) and (* sigh) The sigh being that few authors find themselves in Jane's position!

Other minor situations jolted me out of what was a fairly predictable narrative. 

Could a flight for such a sick child be arranged so quickly- even if the grandfather has medical connections? If I had the time I might do some research.

Writing romantic comedy- being transported from the normal into the unrealistically abnormal - is the fun of the sub genre, and getting to know the characters an essential part of the ride. 

Slainthe! 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Vespasian

Happy Saturday to you! 

and happy slightly belated birthday to Vespasian.  

Vespasian -Wikimedia Commons
I should have got this information posted yesterday on the 17th of November but new writing had me sidetracked and the day disappeared. Though perhaps not the most famous of the Flavian emperors, the one below started the family tradition of claiming emperor status. In a sense, though, he is the most important Ancient Roman Emperor for me as I write my Celtic Fervour Series. He was the emperor of the Roman Empire during Books 1 and 2, and for a part of Book 3. 

General Gnaeus Julius Agricola is mentioned in Book 3 but does not become a proper character till Book 4 of the series. However, what Agricola orders is very relevant to what my character Gaius Livanus Valerius undertakes. And, in turn, Agricola as general of the Brittanic armies and as Governor of Britannia is under orders of the Emperor Vespasian. 

Vespasian

Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus
Vespasian - Jewish Revolt 
Generally known as Vespasian, he was born on the 17th November A.D. 9 in Falacrinae, a village north east of Rome. His paternal grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, elevated the otherwise undistinguished family when he became a centurion and fought for Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus. Vespasian’s father, Titus Flavius Sabinus, became a customs official and gained himself further status when he married Vespasia Polla whose father was a camp prefect and her uncle a senator.
As the second son, Vespasian was not expected to achieve much his elder brother, Titus Flavius Sabinus, having pursued the cursus honorum. His brother progressed through the ranks of being a military tribune serving in Thrace, then as quaestor in Crete and Cyrene. By A.D. 40 Vespasian’s brother was a praetor, favoured by Caligula.
Vespasian, like his brother spent time in Thrace and Crete but his route to high office was different from his brother. When Claudius became emperor in A.D.41, Vespasian was appointed as the legate of the Legio II Augusta which was then stationed in Germania but by A.D. 43 the Legio II Augusta was on campaign under the command of Aulus Plautius during the Invasion of Britannia.

Nero sends Vespasian to Jerusalem 
His military career was interrupted by periods as Governor of Africa Province but by A.D. 66 he was back in command of a couple of legions, supported by considerable mounted forces and auxiliary units. His success in suppressing the ‘Jewish Revolt’ earned him a reputation for being fair, perhaps ruthless at times, but mostly just.
When control of the empire collapsed with the death of Nero in A.D. 68, Vespasian was in a strong position to overthrow the third of the temporary leaders during the civil war Year of the Four Emperors in A.D. 69. Galba had taken control after Nero but was soon murdered by supporters of Otho. In turn, Otho was defeated by Vitellius. The natural next leader for the supporters of Otho to turn to was Vespasian.
The Senate in Rome declared Vespasian emperor in his absence since he was in Egypt securing the all too needed grain supplies.
Vespasian does not feature as a character in my Celtic Fervour novels but during his reign as emperor he was instrumental in what happened during the campaigns in  Britannia from A.D. 69 through to A.D. 79.
Vespasian - Ostia



The construction of many major building programmes were authorised under Vespasian, the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum) being one of them. Before the foundations could be laid for the Colosseum the decadent Domus Aurea (Golden Palace of Nero) had to be demolished. The huge lake at the heart of the Domus Aurea was drained and the foundations for the Colosseum laid in its place. 

The Templum Pacis (Temple of Peace) was also constructed during the reign of Vespasian – a building that is briefly mentioned by General Agricola in my current manuscript.

Vespasian sestertius A.D. 71 reverse 'Judea Captured'



https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vespasian,_from_Ostia,_69-79_CE,_Palazzo_Massimo_alle_Terme,_Rome_(13643233603).jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NAF-21013_f191_Vespasien_marchant_contre_les_Juifs.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sestertius_-_Vespasiano_-_Iudaea_Capta-RIC_0424.jpg

Slainthe! 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Civilised Society? Polite, or what?

Wednesday already?

The weekend vanished in a flurry of preparing for and attending one of the largest Christmas Craft Fairs in Aberdeen, Scotland. The AWA (American Women's Association) has been organising very popular Fairs for more than 2 decades and generally have very high turnout of shoppers. Sunday past was one of the good days. I had a great time, sold 25 novels and maybe a few ebooks.

But to the matter in hand...

For too long I’ve been struggling to write Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. There was the not being disciplined enough thing. Not allocating enough of my ‘free’ time to the task.  But my slow rate of progress hasn’t really been an inability to type lots of words. My not feeling satisfied with what I was writing, and the path that the story arc was taking, was the crux of the matter. Till recently, it just wasn’t working for me—my ‘dump’ bin being larger than the current manuscript of around 80 thousand words is a bit telling.

Is that civilised, I ask you?  Not being refined enough is exactly the problem!
A Roman Art Lover - L. Alma Tadema Wikimedia Commons

One of the main issues I’ve had to ponder (A LOT) about is what the Ancient Roman General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola found worthwhile during the invasion of Northern Britannia (Northern Scotland) in the autumn of AD 84, and what wasn’t worth bothering about. As a patriotic Scot, that phrase ‘worth bothering about’ is a hard one for me to swallow but the truth, in my opinion, is that Northern Britannia  i.e. the lands of the Caledonian allies, would not provide Rome with the revenues it needed for the territory to be part of the Roman Empire.
ww.123rf.com 

So what did Agricola actually do in Northern Britannia? He marched his armies to the current Moray Firth (reasonable ground evidence for this).
He maybe had a big battle at the elusively referred to battlegrounds of Mons Graupius (biased written evidence for this)… and then he left quite soon after to go back to Rome.
From written records we know Agricola was back in Rome by late A.D. 84 (or perhaps early A.D. 85). That, of course, does not necessarily mean his whole army retreated southwards with him because there’s ground evidence, as  at the supply fortress of Inchtuthil, to suggest the Roman legions remained in parts of the north for about a couple of years after Agricola was recalled to Rome.

Lovely questions loom. Was Agricola recalled because his efforts in subduing the Caledon allies were unsuccessful? Was it because he could find nothing worthwhile to send regularly back to Rome? Was it purely political in that the current Emperor Domitian didn’t like the success Agricola was having in Britannia? Those answers remain enigmatic but give me plenty of leeway for writing my fictionalised version!

Essentially what it boils down to is that northern Britannia was going to be far too expensive for the Roman Empire to deal with. To ensure that sufficient future revenues were going to pour into the Roman Empire coffers from northern Britannia, the Roman Empire was going to have to spend a huge amount of effort, and loads of money, in maintaining thousands of troops in the north. It is notable, though, that Agricola (or whoever organised the building of Inchtuthil) seemed to be making long term plans for using it as a campaign and supply base- probably for the invasion of the rest of the north and for maintaining order after such events.

Wikimedia Commons
For years, one of the touted reasons for the retreat of the Ancient Roman armies from northern ‘Scotland’ was that the Caledonian tribes and their allies were so fierce, and so good at guerrilla warfare, that Rome couldn’t handle them. That has to have been partly true, there’s enough written references and some archaeological excavations on the ‘Gask Ridge’ to likely back this up. But I believe that ‘Society’ or more specifically a lack of ‘Civilised Society’ was the reason for 'Rome' choosing to retreat.

Amalgamated Dictionary Definitions
Society: - the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community. Synonyms: the community, the public, the general public, the people, the population….band, federation, union, alliance,
Civilised society: - marked by well-organized laws and rules about how people behave with each other. A civilized society must respond to crime with fairness and justice; has a well developed system of government, culture, and way of life and that treats the people who live there fairly: A fair justice system is a fundamental part of a civilized society.

What the Caledons,  Taexali, Venicones and all of the other northern Late Iron Age tribes lacked was a ‘Civilised Society’. An already established society that Rome could plunder with relative ease, without huge expenditure of money, without entailing major  ‘military man hours’ of effort, and a society that could be forced to do Rome's bidding afterwards.

The Late Iron Age tribes (I use the broad term Celtic to describe them) of the north were not structured in a way that Rome would call Civilised Society. However, in no way were they barbaric.

In northern Britannia, the population of the tribes would have been relatively small compared to some of the tribes in southern Britannia (the south of England).  Approximately 2000 years ago, living off the land was a harsh life. If the farmers didn’t have sufficiently good harvests they starved,  especially if they had no other means of survival like stored commodities. An average lifespan was much shorter than now and early death from disease, or some other nasty reason, was common. Surplus stock, of anything, was probably a rarity.
Giovanni Panninni Wikimedia Commons
Attribution

And surplus stock was what Rome needed from the lands across its Empire because the City of Rome some 2000 years ago had a population of around 1 million inhabitants. The countryside around Rome could not provide enough for feeding the City of Rome so they needed stock from the wider empire.  A massive grain supply, and other foodstuffs were also needed to feed the thirty plus Roman legions stationed across the whole Roman Empire.

According to the most recent archaeological excavations in northern Scotland the iron age tribes lived in small communities, perhaps a half dozen roundhouses, farming a small workable area that had been cleared of forests and the boggy land having already been drained. (It seems that the north east was generally pretty swampy, mossy or unproductive scrub land.) There would have been rules of behaviour and a code of conduct but within what would have been mostly an extended family situation, any infringements being locally dealt with.

Did northern Scotland not have any larger settlements, larger than a small village or a hamlet? According to finds by recent archaeologists it seems that no large Roman era towns have been identified. There’s no dated evidence of ‘kingship’ or larger tribal centres in the north /north-east of Scotland till after the Roman period in Britannia.(post A.D. 400) Since northern Britannia seems to have had no 'Ard Righ' (high king) to establish Roman society, the only way to ensure that future production was plentiful and civilisation of the tribes took place would have been to leave a huge amount of soldiers in situ i.e. 'Rome' doing all the work of civilising the natives.

The Baths at Caracalla
The lack of a local ‘king’ or tribal leader of a considerable amount of people would have been a huge disappointment: a severe frustration for Agricola. In previous invasion campaigns, after a Celtic tribe was subdued and treaties signed, the Roman general would have appointed the tribal chief as the person responsible for conducting Roman Law in a proper and just manner. That same chief (along with Roman officials) would have been responsible for ensuring that Roman ways were adopted in a relatively peaceable manner, and they would have been responsible for collecting the taxes due to Rome (harvest products, goods, and slave labour rather than money).

I'm glad as an amateur history enthusiast that the Romans came to my part of Scotland...but in a way I'm also very glad they didn't stay!
  • Civilised: -behaving in a polite way instead of getting angry
What price civilisation? I'm not sure what they would have done to the local natives during their 'take over' bid would have been polite and I'm very sure some tempers would  have been raised -A LOT!

Of course, there might have been sumptuous baths like those portrayed here by L. Alma Tadema. Wikimedia Commons. Have I ever mentioned I love his paintings- even if they are not quite what would have happened at the baths.

Slainthe!