Updates and returning to the classroom


It’s been 6 months since I’ve blogged and it bears testimony to the year I’ve had so far. I’m now on a break for a few weeks so I’ve decided to poke my head back into the blogosphere and say helloooooo…

Education-100166800

 As some of you already know, I’m studyimg for my Teaching qualification this year and last month I started my practicals.  It’s been 13 years since I last set foot in a classroom and the feeling has been surreal. Schools have just closed for the mid-year holidays hence my break. I’m now given the chance to reflect on what I’ve seen so far and I can safely say, it is definitely one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

I’m still not sure at this stage if I’m cut out to be a teacher. The idealist in me is perhaps disillusioned (long story about traditional teaching vs OBE, I won’t get into it now) but I still got two more months of practicals to do. I haven’t started developing my own lesson plans or properly conducting lessons as yet so maybe I’m being premature in my judgment. Time, perhaps, will be the better judge.

Hopefully I’ll have some stories to tell when this year is over and maybe it will inspire some fiction as well 😀

I know I haven’t been keeping up-to-date with all of your blogs but I will try to catch up. In the meantime I hope you all are making progress on your WIP’s and reading some amazing books. I will try to squeeze in some blogposts in the next coming weeks if my brain can handle it. Until then, adios!

NM  🙂

Above image courtesy of ammer / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All the blogposts I’ve known before


Just wondering if I’m the only blogger who has this problem.

Picture it: I’ll have this brilliant idea for a blogpost- usually it will come when I’m in bed ready to fall asleep. Inspiration will hit and in 15 minutes the whole post would have been written out… in my head. Then I fall asleep.
The next morning I will recall vaguely what I had been thinking the night before but since I’m a notoriously lazy person I’d be too indifferent to further recall the blogpost from my head and transfer it onto paper. And there goes another potential blog hit generator, lost forever in the recesses of my mind.

The sad fate of some posts... [Luigi Diamanti/Freedigitalphotos.net]

The sad fate of some posts… [Luigi Diamanti/Freedigitalphotos.net]

Sometimes blog post drafts ‘get lost’ or discarded for other reasons. Usually the post would have been written out (I like writing things out by hand before transcribing it onto Word processor) halfway but then life happens, I get distracted and I leave it aside waiting to finish it later. More often than not this does not happen; it never makes the finish line.

This happens for either of two reasons:

  • 1) the post itself might lose its relevancy due to the time lapse/procrastination on my part and I therefore lose my motivation to finish, so I just scrap it.
  • 2)And other times I realise that when I initially started writing the post, the idea for it was governed by my emotions not my head(this is mainly the case with rants). When I then look at the unfinished post later, I’m much calmer and I have a change of heart. Perhaps taking my anger out on that stupid writer/blogger/friend/tweeter on my blog is not such a good idea. So there’s another draft scrapped.
And you guys thought I made up shit on Twitter. See, I speak real-time truths.

And you guys thought I made up shit on Twitter. See, I speak real-time truths.

The perfect example of (2) above happened just last week. I might as well tell you beforehand that the English Department at the University of South Africa (UNISA) has been giving me the shittiest time this year. Immediately after my exams a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an extremely, LOOOONG letter addressed to the Department expressing my dissatisfaction (I haven’t emailed it yet, I’m waiting for them to mark my exam paper first). The length of the letter(nearly 5 pages) is an indication of the number of separate incidents I had with them. Given that in all my years studying through UNISA I had never experienced anything like this, I felt compelled to lay a formal complaint.
To further express my ire, I thought I’d blog about it too. I started drafting out the post with much vehemence when suddenly I get the news that our beloved Madiba passed away. Thinking about him made me re-evaluate my feelings and check my temper. I put the post away and proceeded to write the forgiveness post. Just for the record, I will still be sending that email to the English Department (possibly leaving out some angry bits) because incompetence and injustice needs to be dealt with. But I’ve since eliminated the idea of ranting about it (this doesn’t count does it? Oops).

So here’s a special tribute to all my blogposts that have never seen the light of day. Really sorry you did not get to experience the fame, but hey, better luck next time!

So will someone please tell me that all this resonates with them so I don’t feel like the strange Muppet that I am?

NM 🙂

( Because I get such a kick out of irony I even considered not publishing this blogpost, HA! Twisted, I know. )

The Beast Of Gevaudan – an HML post


BESTIE~130 June 1764, Gevaudan, southern France. A 14-year-old girl named Jeanne Boulet is found dead in the hills near the village of Les Hubacs where she often tended to her sheep and cattle. Her body was found savagely maimed. Authorities attributed the attack to some wild animal. Given the girl’s youth and vulnerability they thought nothing more of the incident.

Within two months of Boulet’s death however, there were 6 more attacks in the Gevaudan (now modern-day Lozere) area. Those that did not survive the attacks were found to have sustained serious injuries to the face and neck and parts of their body appeared to have been eaten. Those that did survive gave an alarming description of their assailant: possessing the features of a wolf it was bigger than a cow, had giant teeth, an enormous tail and dark-reddish fur. It also had a terrible odour and some eyewitnesses claimed that they saw it walk on its hind legs…

What creature was this that was roaming the French countryside, devouring humans at will? To this day the true identity of the Beast of Gevaudan still remains a mystery…

The hunt begins…

By September 1764, the number of attacks not only escalated but became ever more violent. Some corpses were found decapitated as a result of their necks being torn out completely. These incidents caused such a stir that the reigning King Louis XV felt obligated to get involved.

In June 1765, he dispatched Francois Antoine, his personal Lieutenant of the hunt to hunt and kill the beast after previous searches by professional wolf-hunters proved unsuccessful. On 21 September, Antoine killed a large grey wolf which he believed to be the one guilty of the attacks. Everybody believed so too, and Antoine was hailed as a national hero. The animal was stuffed, preserved as a token of his achievement, and sent to the King’s Court.

Two months later however, the attacks started again and more deaths were reported. The Beast of Gevaudan was still at large…

Antoine shows off the stuffed wolf at the King's Court in Versaille.

Antoine shows off the stuffed wolf at the King’s Court in Versaille.

The reign of terror comes to an end

In June 1767, nearly three years after the first attacks, farmer Jean Castel shot and killed a large animal resembling a wolf. When its body was cut open, human flesh was found in its stomach. The attacks ceased completely after that day and Castel has become a legend –now known as the man who killed the Beast of Gevaudan. This heroic feat of Castel’s is shrouded in controversy however. Legend claims that Castel used a gun loaded with silver bullets and waited for the animal which approached him cautiously. The farmer was then able to fire at close range. This is apparently were the idea that silver bullets kill werewolves originated from.

Theories abound

Not surprisingly, thanks to historians, cryptozoologists and animal behaviourists, a range of theories exist as to the nature of the Beast of Gevaudan:

Not just one?

A popular theory was that a pack of wolves were responsible not just one single animal. It could explain how the attacks stretched across a vast distance of 90sq kilometres across the countryside. Although survivor accounts always seem to state the presence of one attacker.

Asian Hyena?

Some experts are adamant that the Beast of Gevaudan was not a wolf but in fact the Asian(now extinct) or Striped Hyena. They argue that no breed of wolf, even a large one would be able to able to bite through human bone but the hyena can (however it should be noted that hyenas tend to have distinct markings (stripes/spots) on their bodies, which the Beast did not).

Mutation?

Some claim that the Beast was a mutation of some sort, a hybrid of a wolf and another animal. Animal behaviourists state that its behaviour was very unusual for a wolf. Wolves generally fear humans and are known for attacking domestic animals and livestock. Why attack people but leave their cattle (which were clearly in plain sight) alone? Its appearance might have been that of a wolf but its behaviour suggests some other DNA in its makeup.

Human Involvement?

Plaque dedicated to Jean Castel in the village of la Besseyre Saint Mary in Lozere where he killed the 'Beast'.

Plaque dedicated to Jean Castel in the village of la Besseyre Saint Mary in Lozere where he shot the ‘Beast’.

A theory that is quite popular is that Jean Castel was somehow responsible for the attacks, the human agent that was controlling the Beast. If Castel’s story of how he killed the Beast holds true, then the animal’s behaviour towards Castel comes into question. Castel managed to get awfully close to it without it attacking which was unusual for the Beast. Theory goes that Castel kept the Beast as a pet or possibly reared a wolf pup to become a killing machine. Although as to what Castel’s motive could have been in setting this monster upon the citizens of Gevaudan has not properly established by theorists.

Werewolf?

And what sort of mystery would this be without a possible supernatural explanation? Even if cynics do call out the overactive imaginations of superstitious 18th century peasants, they would still find it hard to explain the exclusive tastes of the Beast. Why did it only attack humans? What also added to this theory were the accounts of bipedalism in the animal from some eyewitnesses.

In three years, there were over 100 deaths attributed to the murderous beast and a hundred more people who were attacked but who escaped with their lives. The events from 1764 to 1767 were well documented yet almost 250 years later it’s still a topic of debate.

So, my perceptive readers, who or what exactly was the Beast of Gevaudan? Was it an ordinary animal with extraordinary strength? Was it a crossbreed, a mutation? Maybe a human agent was involved, controlling the beast. Were a pack of wolves responsible? Or was it in fact a werewolf???

NM 🙂

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

REFERENCES

Breverton, T. Breverton’s Phantasmagoria: A Compendium of Monsters, Myths and Legends, Lyons Press, USA. 2011.

Smith, J. Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast.Havard College, USA. 2011.

Wikipedia-Beast of Gevaudan

Other interesting sites:

http://www.unknownexplorers.com/beastofgevaudan.php

http://cryptozoology.wikia.com/wiki/Beast_of_Gevaudan

http://cryptidchronicles.tumblr.com/post/26205872354/beast-of-gevaudan

So what, exactly, is in that name?!


Recently I’ve come across some movies and books, the names of which have left me scratching my head.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m one of those types of readers who, in the course of reading a book, will always think of the title and what made the author choose that title (given of course that it’s not something obvious like the name of the main character). And there are times when I even anticipate the point in the story where the meaning of the title is revealed. I guess I do the same for movies.

Last week I watched a movie called ‘Abduction’. Wasn’t a bad movie but afterwards I was slightly annoyed. Nobody was abducted or kidnapped in this movie. I tried to look for a symbolic meaning in the title. Nope. Nothing there either. I was left with a similar feeling after finishing The Old Curiosity Shop. I kept wondering why it was called that when not even a hundred pages into the book Nell and her grandfather leave the shop and the rest of the story chronicles their journey away from London. Was the great Charles Dickens just being lazy? No. I had just had an epiphany while writing this blogpost. Since The Old Curiosity Shop was initially printed as a serial in a magazine, on starting it, Dickens had to give it a name. And since the first parts were set in the shop he probably thought it was the best name for the story. (This is my theory, I’m trying to give the genius the benefit of the doubt here…) Of course looking forward this title doesn’t make any sense.

Now perhaps the name of a story shouldn’t influence your enjoyment of it but I have to admit that sometimes for me, it does.

A good example is Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye. This title is an intriguing (if not mysterious) one to someone who hasn’t read it. As I progressed through the novella, I anticipated what this title could mean and how it tied in with Holden Caulfield, the main character. When that point in the book came however, I marvelled at the symbolism Salinger employed and despite the melancholy tone of the story, the revelation of the meaning behind the title put a smile on my face. It’s one of the things that I’ll never forget about that book.

I understand that in some cases, coming up with the title for your story can be more time-consuming and brain-racking then writing the story itself. I know this firsthand too. Some will definitely argue that this shouldn’t be the case and that the story is more important, not the title, but I guess I just find it irksome when no intelligent thought is given to names of things or worse, when the title makes no sense.

So does a terrible, silly or ingenious title affect your enjoyment of a book? And what’s the most confusing name of a book or movie you’ve ever come across?

NM 🙂

5-minute grammar lesson, anyone?


I take solace in the fact that it is impossible to know absolutely everything about our trade, whatever that trade may be. And no matter how much we learn, there is always room for improvement and more information to be acquired.

As writers, language is our main tool but I’ll be the first to admit that my English grammar is not perfect. I do break grammar rules and I like to think it’s on purpose but most of the time, it’s due to ignorance.
Often when I learn something new, either one of two things happen: 1) I’m absolutely fascinated or marvel at this new piece of intelligence or 2) I berate myself for not having known that piece of information.
Cue Microsoft Word, who you can always rely on to point out the mistakes you make and to make you beat yourself up afterwards.
While working on a project recently I was beginning to get annoyed as my Word document kept underlying the word womens’. Surely Word has lost its marbles, I thought. So I did a check.
Nope, I was the one who was wrong.
See, the word ‘women’ is already in the plural form so there’s no need for the apostrophe after the ‘s’. The possessive will therefore take a singular form eg. Women’s rights, children’s toys.

See, even professional signwriters get it wrong. Image: My own.

See, even professional signwriters get it wrong.
Image: My own.

Well, boy howdy. What d’yer know? All this time I was writing the apostrophe after the ‘s’. Embarrassing but I learnt something huge there. And I probably have a lot more to learn.

So, how good is your grammar? And be honest. Was there any grammar rule that eluded you but made you want to crawl into a hole in the ground when you finally learnt it?

NM 🙂

Random thoughts after a writing break.


Yesterday I picked up my WIP for the first time in four months.

There is a certain irony I’ve discovered about myself which I’m not really sure happens often to other writers. During my busiest moments when it was essential for me to focus my energy on my priorities, I found myself thinking about my novel or my short stories and feeling the need to have a look at them or write something down at least (this is not a good thing to happen the day before an exam, I assure you).

Yet when I think of all the times I was free and had nothing to do but procrastinated my time away I want to kick myself. Stupid irony.
Now that examinations are over however, I can now continue working on my MS without getting any weird writing itches.

Just for the record, I can now understand the advice some of you guys gave me last year about waiting awhile before editing. Looking at my current WIP after so long was a strange feeling. It was like reading somebody else’s story and I was experiencing a weird detachment to what I had written. As a result, mistakes and holes were glaring but I also found myself being pretty pleased about the particular parts that I enjoyed. Distancing yourself from your MS for a short while can be beneficial so I fully endorse it. 😀

NM :)

Changes and makeovers


Don’t be alarmed. For some of you reading this from your emails or Reader, you’re probably wondering who the hell this person is and when did you start following them but like I said, don’t be alarmed, my blog was in serious need of a makeover, so here it is.

The timing is not accidental. Last month was my two year blog anniversary which WordPress was kind enough to inform me about. And also this, boys and girls, happens to be my 100th post! WooHoo!

So, it is a double milestone but the need for change also got me thinking about the choices that we make. And I’m not talking about big, life-changing decisions here. I’m talking about the little things, things that might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things but actually reveal a lot about who we are, our tastes and attitudes and how we present ourselves in cyberspace. Our Facebook pictures, the wallpaper on our Twitter profiles, even the passwords we create and of course, the themes we choose for our blogs. 😉

blog screenshot (2)

Now I’m not the type that settles for the first thing that I see. I love to customize and change things to suit me so it’s strange that everything (apart from the green background which I chose later on) was exactly what was ‘given’ to me when I first joined WordPress. It was the default theme and default head picture. I guess it was expected of me to change it but I didn’t. I kept it as is. But I did have a reason.

When I first saw the picture, a certain book sprang to mind and I saw it as a sign.

My aim in starting this blog was to journal my thoughts on my writing, my short stories, to monitor my progress and to learn from others. I thought it fitting therefore that the figure of the lone man walking down the country path surrounded by trees looked a lot like the cover of M.R James’ Collected Ghost Stories, one of my favourite books ever. I don’t think I talk about Montague Rhodes James too often but I consider him one of my favourite authors on the strength of this book alone. Obviously the book cover is not as warm and pastoral as my former blog theme picture but the similarities were still there. Hence the reason for keeping it.

M.R James

That was two years ago and this is now. Change is good and I thought the name should go as well. In Verbum Scriptum means the ‘the written word’. There’s power in the written word, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, and there can only be progress once you write things down.

It was also strange that I chose green before, as it’s not one of my favourite colours. Perhaps it went with the picture. Purples and blues are my favourite colours however, so there you have it.
Hope you like it. I’m still experiencing some teething problems with this new theme so I will still be making some changes like a new picture header and so forth, but tell me what you think in the mean time…

So tell me, bloggers, what was the motivation for the blog theme you currently have? Is it as sentimental as mine was?

NM :)