Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Brief history of the written word - Part three of three - by Vijaya Schartz

In the two previous parts of this article, we talked about the origins of writing in Asia, India, cuneiform writing in the Middle East, and hieroglyphic writing in Egypt, and the gradual switch from graphic representation of objects to the use of sound symbols, then letters. The first alphabet, created by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, was borrowed by the Greek then adapted by the Romans, and imposed through their conquest all over Europe. We now had the power of writing almost anything, any language, with an infinity of possibilities.

 
During the dark ages and the early Middle Ages in Europe, only the clergy, nobles, and government officials could read and write. Educating the masses was considered dangerous and sometimes evil. Only the clergy was allowed to read the Bible, for fear of misinterpretation. Most religious and political documents were penned in Latin, which, after the downfall of Rome, was still understood, if not fluently spoken, by the nobility and the literate elite throughout the Christian world. Books were handwritten in calligraphy on parchment and heavily decorated, usually by monks. These books were labor intensive, very costly, and not available to the population at large. 


The layman’s knowledge, however, was still imparted through oral tradition from elders to younger members of society. The intricacies of seasonal planting, weaving, sewing, tanning, preserving food, and other everyday activities were often condensed into how-to songs, learned in childhood and later taught to children and grandchildren. The rhyming and the melody made the task description easy to remember.
 

Storytellers memorized and retold in songs epic battles and important moments in history, like the song of Roland. Many African and Polynesian tribes still use song and dance to impart knowledge of historic events and storytelling. 


But the Latin alphabet also allowed writing in one’s native tongue. With the advent of commerce, trading and shipping companies required written records in everyday language. So did transmission of orders to armies far from home, and communication with conquered territories in the East during the Crusades. Hand writing on parchment spread among the higher middle class. 


In 1440, thanks to Gutenberg in Germany, and his invention of the printing press with removable characters, books could be mass-produced, and the written word became affordable. 



Soon, the Italian Renaissance saw the creation of many new schools and rich patrons financed the arts. Then Europe saw an explosion of knowledge, culture, arts, and considerable advancement of science, engineering, mathematics, and philosophy. 

Writing and designs of Leonardo da Vinci
Nowadays, most everyone can read and write and has access to books on every topic, but we are left with a different problem. We have come a long way from writing only the most important truths of our time. Writing has gone from sacred, to important, to artistic, to sometimes frivolous and trivial. 


With basic education, anyone can express thoughts and opinions about everything in writing. We are dealing with an overload of information from an infinity of individual sources. Fortunately, our sophisticated computers can handle that immense load, and when someone cusses on social media in Canada, someone in Japan can let them know it’s not okay. 😊 


Since the advent of Social Media, we also have derived other forms of written communication in abbreviations for texting, and emojis to express feelings. Universal binary language uses zeros and ones. Computers invent their own languages to communicate with each other. Someone even wrote an entire story in emoji symbols. 



I also heard that some law-makers are thinking about getting rid of cursive and lowercase in schools to keep only block letters. Can’t wait to hear my characters screaming at me in ALL CAPS. What’s next? Getting rid of punctuation? Shakespeare must be turning in his grave. 😊 



As a writer of sci-fi and fantastic legends, I predict that one day, if we do not destroy ourselves first, Earth will have only one language made up of mixed words and abbreviations and writing styles from various old countries, with one unified alphabet of simple characters everyone will understand.

alien writing on an I-beam fragment found at the Roswell crash site.
I only hope that despite this unification, we manage to keep the wonderful variety of cultures, and the colorful traditions of all the people of Earth, along with their best recipes, dances, costumes, and favorite games.


In the meantime, you are welcome to check out my books. Here is my Celtic Legend series, CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE. Find it everywhere in eBook or paperback. 

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.

5 stars on Amazon "Edgy Medieval. Yay!"

CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE - MEDIEVAL CELTIC LEGENDS - SERIES by Vijaya Schartz

Happy reading.


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A brief history of the written word - Part two


Last month, I spoke about the origins of writing in China, Japan, India, cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia, and hieroglyphic writing in Egypt, as well as the gradual switch from graphic representation of objects to the use of sound symbols.
Phoenician tablet


In the early 8th century BC, the Phoenicians, who traded throughout the Mediterranean basin, developed the first known alphabet. Instead of using imagery, the letters, some consonants and some vowels, were linked together to form phonetic words.

Soon, the Greek borrowed and adapted the Phoenician alphabet, and their culture flourished. 

Aramaic writing

Many other alphabets developed after that, like the Arabic alphabet in the 6th century BC. The first Proto-Hebrew alphabet developed from the early Phoenician, then they adopted the Aramaic alphabet during the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods (500 BC – 50 AD). 

Ancient Hebrew alphabet

In the first century AD, the Viking and Celtic tribes of northern Europe also devised the Runes. 

Runic stellae


Then much later, in the 9th century AD, St. Cyril devised the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Greek, and used until recently in Slavic countries like Russia.

Add caption


In the 8th century AD, in China, where writing was done by hand with a brush (calligraphy) the emperor ordered some religious Buddhist texts to be carved on wood blocks, to be inked and pressed on parchment or paper, as an early form of printing. The blocks took a long time to carve, and could only be used a certain number of times before losing their sharp quality.


Some ancient cultures, like the Druids or the Polynesian and Native American tribes, had a strong oral tradition but never developed a writing system. That is why so little is known about their history today. Still, very old pictograms, drawings, and symbols carved in ancient stones, cliffs, caves, or etched over miles of Andean desert, baffle the anthropologists. This only tells us that some kind of writing communication may have existed well before what we understand today.

 
When the ancient Romans conquered the Greeks of antiquity, they borrowed and copied their culture, their religion, their arts, and adapted their alphabet to fit Rome’s needs, and for centuries, they thrived. Through conquest, the Romans imposed their culture and their Latin alphabet upon the defeated Frankish, Germanic, Saxon, and Breton tribes, overriding whatever local system they used at the time, and replacing it by the alphabet we are still using today in the west. 



 Of note is the fact that many countries added their own modifications to the alphabet. The French have the “oe” letter and many different types of accents. The Germans also have special characters on their keyboard that are not used by any other countries… so do the Danish and the Norwegians.

Roman writing tablet and stylus
 
Everywhere writing developed, it prompted a cultural revolution, the exchange of ideas and information, the first development of advanced culture, art, engineering, science, mathematics, and philosophy.

But there is much more to be told. Next month, in Part 3, we’ll talk about how writing evolved over the centuries, and how it translates in today’s society.

I write about the past and the future, as they are closely linked. My latest book is set on the Byzantium Space Station. Enjoy the read!

Akira's Choice
Byzantium Book 2 (standalone)
Find it from your favorite online store HERE

When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the Galactic Trade Alliance want a young kidnapped orphan dead or alive?

She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no-good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the Byzantium space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.

Kazmo, a decorated Resistance fighter, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Byzantium, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the space station?

Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.

"Science fiction romance at its best. Great story, interesting characters and a great cat make this story one to read and perhaps re-read. The world creating is top notch." 5 stars on amazon


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes



Monday, June 15, 2020

A brief history of the written word - Part one - by Vijaya Schartz


I was always fascinated by the multiplicity of languages, cultures, and different kinds of writing. My research about the origins of the written word only proved that not all the experts agree, but this is what I gathered. 


In every Asian country, there is a legend saying that writing was a science of the gods, and they taught it to man as a means to impart their knowledge. This explains why the most ancient writings are religious in nature and tell of the life and exploits of the ancient gods, as well as ancient teachings, like the knowledge of medicinal plants, acupuncture, etc.
 

In China, Cangjie, who, according to legend, brought writing to the court of the Yellow Emperor, was a very unique individual. He was described as having four eyes. Not your typical human being. 

A Chinese character is an entire word in itself, often a graphic representation, an image that evolved over time. The pictogram for rain, for example, represents a stylized window and the falling rain seen through that window, with a flat cloud above. The writing is read from top to bottom and from right to left, allowing continuous writing on long scrolls. 


Since Chinese is an agglutinant language, it doesn’t use prepositions or other small connecting words. The placement of the word inside the sentence clarifies the meaning (who is doing what to whom, how, why, where, whether it’s a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc.)
 

In the late 6th Century AD, a mass political exile saw large numbers of Chinese emigrating to Japan. They took with them the teachings of Confucius and their system of writing. Since the native islanders of the time (the ancient Ainu tribes) didn’t have writing, they used the Chinese ideograms to write their own language. Then different emigrants came to the islands and mixed with the Ainu and the Chinese to form the Japanese people. They wrote with Chinese characters, same meaning, different pronunciation, using the same brush strokes. 


However, the Japanese used a number of one-syllable connecting words to form sentences, and there were no phonetic syllables in Chinese. So, they added a number of small, simple connecting characters, called Hiragana, representing phonetic syllables, which are also used today to teach children to read and write, before they can memorize the thousands of complicated pictograms or ideograms (Kanji) necessary to read and write the main language.
 

Legends of India say that the Mahabharata, an ancient epic depicting the exploits of the gods during their time on Earth, was recited by the sage Vyasa from the oral tradition, while Lord Ganesha himself (the Elephant God) penned it down… implying that only the gods could write.
 

Other legends of India also portray the gods teaching writing to their people. Sanskrit is one of the oldest forms of sophisticated written language, used to write the Vedas. But it doesn’t use images, only letters linked together to form sounds and words. Sound is very important in India. Some sacred sounds are so powerful (like the mantras) that they are believed to manifest divinity.
 

In 3400 BC a cuneiform type of writing developed in Mesopotamia. Legend says it was given to the Sumerians by their Anunnaki gods, those who from the heavens came. The oldest tablets tell of the interactions of the Anunnaki with their human workers, stories of the flood, etc. The characters represented stylized Sumerian or Akkadian objects. Soon, these symbols were also used to represent specific sounds.
 

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs seem to have derived from Sumerian cuneiform writing. Sometimes they represent an object, an animal, a river, a sacred symbol. However, a bird doesn’t necessarily mean a bird, but the phonetic sound of the bird’s name, which is used as a syllable in a longer word or name. To indicate that, the full name of a Pharaoh, for example, is enclosed into a cartouche. 


Since I want to keep this post brief, I will continue this history of the written word in parts 2 and 3, in the next two months.

In the meantime, you can read my CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE series, where history and Celtic legends collide. Years of research went into it, and the result is an edgy medieval fantasy saga. Find it at - Amazon - B&N - Smashwords and more.  
From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.


HAPPY READING!


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coping with stress in difficult times - by Vijaya Schartz

Stuck at home? Listening to the news with growing anxiety? Dealing with confinement and social distancing, while worrying about your income or losing your 401K, can push our stress to intolerable levels. Here are a few of my stress relieving secrets to do at home. If it helps me keep my sanity, it might work for you as well.
 
It's me, front right, with the white shirt. You can do this at home.
Tai-Chi – an exercise you can do alone, at home. It doesn’t require any space and it doesn’t matter if you do it well or not, as long as you keep moving in a slow and constant flow. There are a number of free videos on U-tube. Just follow along as best you can. Apply yourself and you’ll get better as you go. It’s a practice that can help you deal with stress all year long and has a side effect of improving your general health. I practice Tai-Chi Essentials, which is derived from the 37 form, and developed exclusively for health purposes. (Harvard Medical school guide to Tai-Chi) 



Cat videos – When stressed, I find myself watching more and more cute cat videos on Facebook. Join a group like “I love cats” or a group with puppies if you are a dog person, and indulge in soft furry cuteness to free your mind of stressful thoughts and concerns. A good laugh, a chuckle, a few awwwws and your spirit can soar again. 

On TV – Last weekend, Animal Planet held a “Too Cute” marathon, featuring kittens and puppies and ducklings, and other furbabies. It was a big success, and they will probably do it again soon. Another advantage, it will also keep the kids, or grandkids also stuck at home, occupied and happy. 


Watching romantic movies and Christmas movies – Just like romance novels, romantic movies and Christmas movies are the perfect escape. You know in advance all will be okay at the end, so you feel safe sharing the obstacles the characters have to surmount to find their happily ever after. From your DVR, or Netflix or your favorite movie source. Some channels, like Hallmark and Hallmark Mysteries have also started to replay Christmas movies. I love them. 

Sit coms – my favorites are The Big Bang, Two and a half men, The Golden Girls. I always watch an episode or two late at night, before going to bed. It clears my mind for a good night sleep. 

I also like to cuddle with my cat, solve Crossword puzzles, and cook special meals for myself. I live alone, so I cook a batch then freeze individual portions to eat later. 

But the best relaxation device is a good novel or a favorite series. I prefer popular fiction, action, adventure, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction. Any story that can get you out of your worries and into a new, exciting world will buy you many hours of pure escape. 

The Curse of the Lost Isle - Celtic Legends series, is available in ebook and paperback HERE

I hope this helps you cope with these stressing times. If you want to check out my other books, visit my website or my page on amazon, B&N or your favorite online bookstore. Here are my latest releases (all are standalone stories with different sets of characters. The series indicates that they are set in the same universe). 

Happy Reading.


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon - B&N - Smashwords - Kobo - FB

Monday, October 21, 2019

Feudal Japan can be relevant even in science fiction - by Vijaya Schartz

Not so long ago, I practiced Aikido, a Japanese martial art. I lived in Hawaii at the time, a place of mixed cultures, where part of the population is of Japanese descent. I had a Japanese Sensei, who taught his pupils the fascinating traditions of ancient Japan. I even learned the language and visited the country with its feudal castles and many temples.

  



The most mysterious part of Samurai culture, at least for Westerners, is that deep sense of honor that pervades every thought and action. The Samurai were the equivalent of the medieval knights of ancient Europe… on steroid. Their dedication to the clan was complete. Without a second thought, they would sacrifice their life to save their master’s honor or the honor of the clan. 


 

 Myamoto Musashi was the most famous Samurai of ancient Japan. He was a Ronin, a masterless Samurai, and had the reputation of being ruthless. Himeji castle illustrates the architecture of the period. It was built to withstand battles and invasions... and it did survive the test of time. 



The movie THE LAST SAMURAI illustrates that innate sense of honor in a way most westerners can understand. But Martial arts are not reserved for men. Many young women, even in ancient times, took the sword and adopted the way of the Samurai... until they chose to marry and have children.



As I am finishing the story of AKIRA’S CHOICE, a November release from Books We Love, I enjoyed revisiting the heroic times of the Samurai. Although it's a science fiction romance, my heroine is of Japanese descent, a Samurai by tradition, and a bounty hunter by necessity. More precisely, she is a Ronin, a masterless Samurai. The story is set on the Byzantium space station, part of the Byzantium series but a standalone story, although a few characters do appear in several books. Oh, and Akira has a cheetah retriever as a companion.

When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the Galactic Trade Alliance want a kidnapped orphan dead or alive?

She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the Byzantium space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.

Kazmo, a decorated Resistance fighter, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Byzantium, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the space station?

Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.

"A captivating story with interesting, appealing characters. Being a cat lover, I found the relationship, with its psychic element, between Freckles and Shane absolutely captivating. As always, Ms. Schartz’s solid plot and crisply-written prose incorporates a good blend of action and intrigue... This story can easily stand alone... but I believe you’ll enjoy this exciting Sci-Fi series much more if you start reading it from the beginning... a must read for all fans of Sci-Fi romance. Go pick them up and settle into your favorite armchair for some entertaining reading. 4.5 stars - Manic Readers


Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
 amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  -  FB