Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Medieval Dragons and a Dragon with a Difference. Lindsay Townsend

Painting by C. J. Begas, 1828 (public
domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
Medieval people believed in dragons. In the east, dragons were seen as powerful, imperial, and signs of good fortune and plenty, but in the west they were often linked to Satan, the devil, "The Old Serpent", and regarded as trouble.

Sometimes such creatures are called dragons, at other times they are worms or wyrms, armed with poison like a snake. The hero Beowulf fights a dragon who lives in a mound and guards a treasure hoard. The Vikings believed in dragons that were more like serpents, so in the Poetic Edda we learn how Sigurðr killed the dragon Fafnir, who behaves very much like a snake.

Sigurðr and Reginn went up onto Gnita-heath and there found Fafnir’s track, where he slithered  to the water. Sigurðr dug a pit there in the path and went into it. And when Fafnir slithered away from the gold, he breathed forth venom, and it fell down onto Sigurðr’s head. And when Fafnir slithered over the pit, Sigurðr stabbed him in the heart with his sword. Fafnir shook himself and lashed about with his head and tail.


In Viking art dragons appear lithe and sinuous, coiling about. However ominous, they were popular in stories, suitable opponents for warriors in tales.

The appearance of dragons in the Middle Ages usually foretold disaster. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 793 tells of the first Viking raid on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, and the omens that preceded it: ‘Here were dreadful forewarnings come over the land of Northumbria, and woefully terrified the people: these were amazing sheets of lightning and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.’ 


In keeping with the heroic warrior theme but now in a Christian context, several saints battle with dragons in medieval tales. There is the famous Saint George and the Dragon (a dragon lays waste to the countryside and is offered sheep, youths and maidens as sacrifices. When the situation becomes so desperate that the king's daughter is offered, the knight George appears and vanquishes the beast.) In the ultimate show-down of good verses evil, the archangel Michael battles the great dragon Lucifer in the Book of Revelations. a text often illustrated by medieval artists.

For my own story of 'The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon,' I took these ideas of might, power, battle, knight heroes, sacrificial maidens and gold and gave them a twist. I hope my readers enjoy the results.

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon UK

The two book series on Bookstrand




More on my blog

Lindsay Townsend



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 19, 2017

Do you ever “cruise” YouTube? I’m going to confess that I do—a lot. Not only that, sometimes I do it when I’m supposed to be doing something else, usually writing. It really is a giant time suck, and I think the challenge of watching just one video should sit right up there along side that decades-old challenge of eating just one potato chip. I’m sure the more serious minded and the more sober of character among us likely have no trouble at all giving YouTube a pass. I’ve never claimed to be either of those things—serious minded or sober of character. I am, after all an author. We tend to be neurotic and full of whimsy by nature.

Lately, I’m an author who should put more time BICFOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard) than I do. So far, I haven’t been challenged on this YouTube cruising habit of mine—truly a time wasting habit—but if I am, I have my “explanation” ready, and in this, I’m blessed. You see, I’m a writer, therefore everything I do can be considered research.

There is some truth to that, in fact. If I could ask for something “more” for myself it really would be more self-discipline. I really do need more of that elusive quality. I try not to beat myself up about things. I’m in my sixties, after all, and I’ve spent most of my life “taking care of business” as it were. I’ve worked outside the home, kept the home, and raised my kids, all at the same time. I’ve seen 51 novels published since my first book came out in 2007. That’s an average of 5 novels a year, which isn’t too bad a record at all.

And still, I do beat myself up over this time-wasting part of my character. I’m not certain I know how to curb it, either. And just when I think I do, I see something on YouTube that is not only compelling, it underscores themes which for better or worse find expression in my novels. If you think my erotic romance novels are only about sex, I would suggest you read one. They have sex in them, yes, but that’s not what they’re about. They’re about people, and relationships and life.

But I digress. I wanted to tell you about a video I watched a couple of months ago on YouTube. (Another digression here for those who aren’t so familiar with this medium. If you see something you really like on YouTube, bookmark it. Otherwise, finding it again can be an exercise in frustration and futility.) This particular video I wanted to tell you about was part of a documentary on a senior citizen’s center, highlighting the effect the programs there had on the lives of those who participated, people who might otherwise just stay home alone all the time. This one woman couldn’t say enough about what a change the center had brought to her life. Her being able to attend that program gave her something to look forward to. The program ran weekdays, and she went every single day it was available.

One of the workers at the center asked her what she did with her time the other two days of the week, Saturday and Sunday, when there was no program running. She admitted to this worker that if she didn’t have something to keep her busy, she might possibly go mad.

So, she’d found an activity she could do, right there at home. The filmmaker’s cameras recorded her industry. Apparently, there was a huge amount of “junk mail” that came to her house through the week. On the weekends, then, she’d sit on her sofa, with that pile of junk mail on one side of her, and a garbage bag on the other. And what she did to keep busy was to open each piece of mail, and then proceed to tear each page of it into small pieces, which she then deposited into the garbage bag. This wasn’t by any means a speedy process for her. This lady didn’t move very quickly and it took her time to reduce full pages of paper to small bits.

I don’t think I can adequately explain to you why this affected me so deeply. On the one hand, I was beyond sad that there didn’t seem to be any family about to visit her, and that her “living” moments appeared to be relegated only to the days and hours the senior’s center was open. On the other hand, I was in awe of her positive attitude. It didn’t matter if what she’d chosen to do with her time was to a great purpose, or not; it only mattered that what she chose to do kept her busy.

A lot of my stories touch on the resiliency of the human spirit. I tend to look at the cup as being half full instead of half empty. And while many believe that hard times only bring out the worst in people, I tend to think that there are at least as many who shine in those circumstances, as those who don’t.

That wise old counselor, Anonymous, really had it right. He said, and it is true: Life really is five percent what happens to you, and ninety-five percent how you handle it.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 12, 2017

Anger and hate. These two emotions seem to be everywhere, filling the air around us with an invisible smog, a choking, cloying miasma with the power to destroy everything good, everything righteous, and everything beautiful. Can you see it? Can you feel it?

It seems that discourse today is all about “sides”, a kind of us-versus-them mentality that has developed into a scorched earth, take no prisoners kind of battle. It’s no longer just a matter that people are on two sides of an intellectual divide, with fervent belief in their own interpretation of the facts.

It’s that there are two opposing sets of facts, period. And for all I know, even more than two. All you appear to need to “create” reality is a loud voice, dogged persistence, and internet bots.

This is all my perception, I will gladly admit this, but I know I’m not alone in my interpretation of what is happening in the world around us. It’s extremely wearing, isn’t it? The word “compromise” has not only been struck from the lexicon of daily social interaction: I greatly fear it is being expunged from our very memories.

I’ve been totally upfront in these essays, letting my readers know where I stand, faith-wise. I don’t, as a rule, proselytize. And perhaps it’s because of my faith that I feel this darkness, this hate and anger spreading throughout the land so very deeply. You see, I’ve come to realize the worst perpetrators of this sickness are those who claim to cling to the very faith that is so dear to me, and at the core of my own beliefs.

What I can see, and what I believe, is their actions and their stated beliefs are at odds with Christianity, as I know it.

I’m not going to preach religion in this essay. I’m trying only to reveal my own intellectual and spiritual struggles with the world around me. And what I see are a whole lot of people whose actions do not reflect the meaning of the words they use to justify those actions. It all comes down to one thing, for me, and that’s having the fruit on the tree. You can’t say you belong to Christ if you are exhibiting behavior that is not Christ-like. This is not judgement; this is called spiritual discernment.

There are many in every faith who hold to good, positive practices and behaviors—behaviors like kindness, generosity, caring, and love. There are those who eschew religious faith completely who are kind, generous, caring and loving individuals. People who spread love, not hate. Christians do not have a monopoly on these qualities. No one religion does.

I suppose at the core it comes down to the fact that we are sometimes confusing two separate nouns representing two separate things: religion, and faith. The first is of man, the second is of God.

I know there is a purpose to the turmoil we’re all witnessing because I know who ultimately is in control. I also know I’m not the only one getting world-weary of the nastiness. I have no great idea or grand plan to combat the plague that is consuming so many in this world today.

All I can do is to say to you, this is what I think it is, and this is how it affects me, so that those who feel the same way know they are not alone. Sometimes, realizing you’re not alone can be a tremendous boon.

There is one more thing I can do. I can re-affirm my own faith, my own values, and repeat as my own mantra that hard times really don’t come to stay.

They truly come to pass.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday's Words for April 5, 2017

Now that we’ve gotten through winter, lost an hour’s cherished sleep, and been April fooled, it’s time to begin to consider the serious matter of gardening. While it’s true that I can no longer get down into the dirt myself, that doesn’t in anyway detract from the joy I receive planning what blooms we’ll have this year around the house.

For myself, I’ve given up on the veggies. The proper place for them is in a nice-sized dinner garden at the very least, and there’s only one place here for us to reasonably put one. There is room at the top of our backyard, but that climb is too steep for me. David continues to experiment with growing veggies in pots. We’ve also heard of a raised “table garden” but we haven’t found one yet. My beloved is considering building one himself. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s in charge of any veggie experiments as I begin to plan for the flowers.

One of my favorite flowers to get from a nursery and plant each spring are pansies. Around here, they’re only available in the very early spring, so I’ll likely be hunting them down within the next couple of weeks. I like to buy a veritable profusion of them, and then put them in the three rectangular planters I have, that will then hang from the front porch railing. They get morning sun there, and with watering, and care, they often fill out those planters beautifully.

My favorite perennial spring blooms are narcissi (the white ones with the yellow and red lines encircling the cup) and lily-of-the-valley. I’m also a big fan of lilacs, daffodils and tulips. It was a couple of years ago, now, that I finally got my hands on a pair of lilac trees. They’re planted, one at each of the two front corners of my house, where the one gets sun until about eleven-thirty each morning, and the other through most of the day. They haven’t grown a great deal in size yet, but they have survived the winters, so far. Near the base of the lilac tree planted on the north-east corner, the one that is shaded half the day, there are several lilies-of-the-valley that my son brought for me when he thinned out his own patch a couple of years ago. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when both the lilacs and the lilies scent the air at the same time. I remember that combined aroma from my childhood. It’s heavenly.

We have perennials lining the short walkway, from curb to stairs, and along the front of the house from the north-east corner to the walnut tree that anchors the south-east corner of the porch. Among those are two peony bushes—another favorite. Some flowers are pretty, and some smell divine—its those that have both of those qualities I tend to like the most.

Last year, we finally planted some gladioli in the back yard, at the back of the narrow garden along the fence. We had greenery last year, but no blooms. My fingers are crossed for this year. We have one “tub” garden, as well, next to the south backyard gate. This we’ve filled each summer with petunias, and whatever other annuals we have left over from planting in our various gardens and pots. The tub is a repurposed, oversized round garbage bin made of black plastic. It stands about four feet high. The flowers in this tend to be the most productive in the yard, likely because the bin started out as a composting bin.

A few years back, we purchased a gazebo and some outdoor carpeting, and transformed our back yard into a pleasant place to sit when weather permits. This year, we need to replace the carpet and the canvas of the gazebo. I’m not confident we’ll get that one done. Much depends these days on how much energy we have, and whether or not the weather cooperates. A new outdoor grill would be nice, too, as ours is nearly done. It’s good to have a list of what you’d like to do, isn’t it? At least having goals keeps your mind, and your spirit, active.

This is one of the things I cherish most about spring, and why it’s my favorite season. It tends to be the time of year when we think about new beginnings, and fresh starts.

Love,
Morgan
http://www.morganashbury.com
http://www.bookstrand.com/morgan-ashbury