The History of the Kabbalah revealed

17 Apr

Kabbalah

Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul

By Harry Freedman

Hardback, ISBN 9781472950987, £18.99

Available from Amazon in hardback and on the Kindle

In Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul, Harry Freedman sets out to chart the history and development of Kabbalism from its roots in earlier Jewish mysticism who sought to attain access to Heaven and God, with a look at other influences on it and parallel movements in Judaism, through its various branches, developments and offshoots into other philosophies, including following the development of the Christian Cabala, to its present-day manifestation in the New Age and the contentious Kabbalah Centre that attracted the interest of celebrities such as Madonna.

Read the full review in the April issue of The Supplement – available for download now.

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Returning to Life

2 Apr

March is usually a quiet month as it’s the time of year I have to deal with things like deferring my student loan, but this year it was especially unproductive. I did respond to submissions (although not as many as planned) and dispatched orders, as well as making some headway on Nomads of the Timestreams (expect to see that soon!), but the press didn’t actually release anything last month. Unfortunately, not only did I have the usual drains on my time, with every one seeming to involve some issue that required far more time than really necessary, but I have also been distracted by family illness.

However, the good news is, the press should be returning to life this month! A new issue of View From Atlantis should be online by the end of this week and a new issue of The Supplement will be available to download soon. In print (in addition to that issue of The Supplement) there will be a new issue of Bard and, hopefully, of Monomyth before the month is out. In addition, Nomads of the Timestreams and The Roseate Mythos booklets should be out soon. Hopefully, the momentum will continue with the new poetry booklets (the humorous and nonsense verse, and the decadent, symbolist and aesthetic verse booklets both close at the end of this month).

I think you’ll find the wait was worth it!

The Most Common Errors

30 Mar

Wordprocessing is a wonderful boon for writers, but also the source of the four most common errors in manuscripts. As you’ll see…

The first, as you may guess, is the curse of auto-correction and auto-completion, where the computer decides that it knows what you intended to type and makes a ridiculous error. If you don’t pay attendance, it is very easy to allow silly mistakes through for this reason.

The second is an over-reliance on the spellchecker, whether it fails to notice that a word is wrong (mistaking their for there, say) or tells you that a correct ward is an error. Never blindly go with what the spellchecker is telling you if you have the slightest doubt – double check!

These two joined forces in one of my stories to provide a melodious, rather than malodorous, sewer that managed to go unspotted through about three read throughs I made, one by a friend who usually spots such errors with an eagle eye, and at least two editors who provided feedback with their rejections.

The third most common error is to hit ‘replace all’ without thought. Yes, it’s an incredibly convenient way to change a character’s name, but, depending upon how it’s set up (whether it’s case sensitive or you’ve included spaces) changing, say, Ben to Steve, could see a bend in the road become a Steved and  a benevolent monarch might transform into a Steveevolent one.

The fourth is the easy way in which you can rewite a sentence. But, too often you can find yourself messing up to delete everything, leaving echoes of the your previous sentence to cause confusion.

This is why it’s always vital to read your work aloud, and print off a copy if you find it easier to spot mistakes that way than on screen. And, all errors in this post are deliberate, even the ones I didn’t mean to make.

Another Worst Witch

21 Mar

Yes, there’s been another (third) series of The Worst Witch on BBC iPlayer, and it introduces a new contender for the title of ‘worst witch’ in the form of Indigo Moon.

This series is just as good as the previous two, full of fun adventures and amusing moments. Mildred begins the series at the peak of her popularity, but manages to throw it all away in the very first episode, starting a series of events that threaten her place at Cackles, as well as the existence of the academy and even the entire magical world itself!

Sybil and her friends have more of a role to play this reason, taking on substantial secondary plots that interweave with Mildred’s adventures, and we have a new character who has never appeared in the books. While there is a risk in introducing such an original character, I have to say that not only did Indie fit perfectly into the storyline, but she is a great character played by an excellent actress, and I hope she’ll return if there is a series four.

This series has a lot of other upheavals, including a wedding, the revelation of Miss Hardbroom’s dark secret, and major changes at the academy, and the excitement never flags. If you enjoyed the first two series, I can wholeheartedly recommend this one, too. Indeed, it may be the best of all!

New from Christine Despardes

25 Feb

Three digital downloads of Christine Despardes’ poetry are available to download now (including The Tristan Cycle, originally published by Atlantean Publishing).

No end to corrections…

30 Jan

Checking the layout of a submission, I spotted a missing letter in its title (embarrassing!). In another, I happened to spot ‘men’ was missing its ‘n’. Both stories had been proofed, but somehow these errors had slipped through. No matter how many typos or other errors you manage to spot, it seems there is always one more you’ve missed. And, that’s before we consider those sentences that could still be tweaked to improve them.

This is why no manuscript is ever truly finished with – you can always afford to give it one more look, edging it a little closer towards the perfection you’ll never truly achieve. So, just because you thought you were done with it, don’t just forget about it. Even if it’s been published, consider looking it over again so that it’s better should you ever be republished.

Ghosts Busted?

17 Dec

Having reviewed the first series of Doctor Who to feature a female Doctor, ITV obliged me by showing the female-led remake of Ghostbusters, allowing for comparisons.

Now, the remake wasn’t high on my ‘to watch’ list as the trailers didn’t make it look very good, but the concept of casting female leads wasn’t problematic for me in the way that it was with Doctor Who: The characters were new ones, rather than male characters changed to female, and the characters in the original films didn’t fulfill the same male rolemodel that the Doctor did.

Thus, despite a degree of negativity from the trailers, I sat down to watch the film with interest and a willingness to enjoy it.

And, I did, to an extent. There was definitely a good movie in there, trying to put on  show. The biggest problem it faced was being a reimagining of the franchise, meaning that, inevitably, it is compared to the brilliant original even more than a sequel would be. Had it been a third film in the original continuity or an unconnected film on same theme, unconstrained by comparison, it might have found it easier to achieve success as, inevitably, the comparisons proved negative, undercutting its strengths.

Given that it was promoted as a female-led film and was dogged by disputes as a result, I can’t say that the two main characters, Erin and Abby, were good ones as they struck me more as negative female stereotypes than proper characters for much of the film. On the other hand, Patty and Holtzmann were wonderful characters and were a major reason I enjoyed the film as much as I did. (I suppose there is some truth to claims that Patty is a stereotypical ‘sassy black woman’, but there were more aspects to her than just that stereotype.) Had the other two characters been as good, I may well have been raving about the film, instead of mildly positive.

Not that the male characters were any better. I’m not sure if they were just the result of cheap comedy or bad writing, but they weren’t amusing.

Which brings me onto the writing. The original film was brilliantly written with witty and entertaining characters, whilst the remake was lacking in wit and failed to make most of the characters engaging. Poor writing is the same problem facing the new series of Doctor Who – it’s not that female leading characters are, somehow, innately less good than male ones, nor that women are less skilful at acting than men, but they do seem to be let down in these prestigious roles by their writers.

I don’t know if there is an intersection between making female-led remakes rather than original creations and poor writing ability in creators, or if the writers are too fixated upon diversity at the expense of story, or if the controversies surrounding these remakes draw attention to these flaws, which might be less noted if they had retained male characters. (After all, Doctor Who suffered poor writing during Peter Capaldi’s tenure, but that merely fed into debate about the general quality and direction of the series, while flaws in the recent series feed into discussion about Jodi Whitaker’s role as a female Doctor.)

But, whatever the reasons, it’s a shame that such prestigious roles haven’t attracted the quality writing they deserve. There are lots of great films and TV series with female leads, but it is inevitably these ones, in which women are directly compared with their male predecessors, that produce the most noise about the quality of female acting.

I also wasn’t very impressed with the special effects. (Indeed, it was these that put me off the film when I first saw the trailers.) Obviously, as a special effects heavy film, this is a problem, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined from the trailers and it’s definitely a case of subjective taste and others may like them.

Overall, if you haven’t seen the movie, I think you will enjoy it. Not as much as the original, but it’s still quite good and worth a look. It’s just a shame it didn’t match its potential.