Why We Need Superheroes

 

Black Panther_Marvel comics
Black Panther: Source – Marvel Comics

The Superhero film genre is in overdrive at the moment, with at least one new movie every year. This year’s second superhero movie is ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in a franchise that started in 2012 with ‘The Avengers’, bringing Marvel comic characters to life. This follows the quirky and successful ‘Black Panther’ (2018) that cleverly introduces a sub-genre element by showcasing mainly non-white actors, thus broadening the superhero genre appeal to different ethnic groups.

The recurring theme in this genre is not new – mankind is under threat from a terrifying external power and need heroes with superhuman powers to defend it. This storyline goes back to early human society when primitive man had an intuitive way of interpreting the awesome and incomprehensible power of nature. The animistic gods of the Ancients are often part-human/part-animal incarnations that represent the main elements – earth, water, air and fire, or aspects thereof. These were feared, revered and appeased with offerings and sacrifices in the hope of favourable outcomes or protection from the uncontrollable power of Nature.

thor-marvel-comics-fanpop.com
Thor – source: Marvel Comics

It is no surprise that some ancient gods, most notably Thor from Norse mythology, have been incorporated into Marvel’s superhero stories. Although Thor is a god, he has human form and is the defender of mankind against ‘foreign’ enemies. They evoke familiar tribalistic defence mechanisms in an audience primed to circle the wagons at the first signs of danger from an unknown or unfamiliar predatory enemy.

The earliest human societies, pre-dating and including the recorded tales from Ancient Greece, invented creation stories that often involved superhuman god-like creatures who created the world and ruled over it in an age before the coming of Mankind. These gods became invisible forces to be invoked and appeased in ritual ceremonies as humans inherited the earth. It filled a powerful need in early Man’s consciousness to make sense of his surroundings, and pre-dates our Age of Science and Reason approach to understanding our world and beyond.

The blurb for the new superheroes movie reads, “’Avengers: Infinity War’ brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.”

The plot of this film centres on the concept of infinity or timelessness, through the infinity stones, or gems (six immensely powerful gems that appear in Marvel Comic stories known as the Mind, Soul, Space, Power, Time and Reality). This representation of attributes in physical objects harks back to ancient societies – objects to be revered or deified in the belief that they can affect desired outcomes. The stones are ancient artefacts, thus connecting the story to early human history and invoking the theme of the continuum of time.

Teenagers/Young Adults are the core target audience for this repeated narrative of humans with superpowers battling unknown or alien forces whose intentions are always hostile to human society. A show of destructive power by an evil character usually sets up the story, whereby one or more superhero will do battle, like gladiators, on behalf of a frightened and powerless population. Often the stakes are the highest imaginable – the fate of Planet Earth.

Charly_and_the_super_heroes group pic
Charly & The Superheroes

It is no surprise, then, that my own teenage daughter, Cathy, is thoroughly transfixed by superhero movies. She becomes engrossed in the latest story of heroic figures fighting on her behalf against external forces of evil who would destroy her home and family. She has no problem identifying with the ‘goodies’ – often male and female characters who represent ‘the best’ of humankind. When I asked her what our character, Charly Holmes’ next adventure should be, she quickly replied, “let’s make up a superhero story!”

And so, we have now completed our story – ‘Charly & The Superheroes’, based on Cathy’s idea that Charly, whilst on a film studio tour, is invited to substitute for a child actor in a superhero movie. The rest of the story developed from there. Our superheroes represent the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – but when a real disaster strikes, the actors are challenged to use their own knowledge and skills to help the group through a series of dangerous situations.

Charly paperback coverOur own homage to the superhero genre, ‘Charly & The Superheroes’, is available from 19th September in e-book and paperback formats from Amazon and other online stores. Suitable for children aged 10+, juveniles, young adults, teachers and parents:

Paperback (UK):

Paperback (USA/World):

Kindle

i-books, Kobo, Nook, Playster, Tolino and other platforms…

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Abandoned Re-loaded

I’ve just re-published a new, longer second edition of Abandoned, book one in A Light in the Dark Ages series. It addresses the complaints at the brevity of the original novella that told the story of Marcus and the defence of Calleva. This is now incorporated into a longer story that charts Britannia’s troubled journey from abandonment by the Romans to choosing a king to organise their defence from determined raiders.

Abandoned second edition ebook coverThe narrative thrust is loosely guided by the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 1136 work, The History of the Kings of Britain. The romantic in me likes to think there might be some credence in his account of events in fifth century Britannia leading up to the coming of King Arthur (now widely thought to be a composite of a number of leaders who organised opposition to the spread of Anglo-Saxon colonists).
I’m holding the e-book price at just 99p/99c – so please help me replace the lost reviews from the now unpublished first edition. Much work has gone into this upgrade from novella to novel – I hope you enjoy it!
http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FKT7W8J
http://amazon.com/dp/B07FKT7W8J

Happy Publication Day for ‘Curtain Call’

Fellow indie author, C.H. Clepitt, has launched her new book today – congratulations!

C H Clepitt has a knack for creating real, relatable characters, who face adversity with humour and humanity, and Curtain Call is no exception.

Covers (2)When an assistant to the director role turns into P.A. to her favourite film star, Jen can’t believe her luck. Eleanor Francis is charming, kind and funny, but she has a secret, and when tragedy strikes, things threaten to unravel at an uncontrollable pace. Despite being out of her depth Jen has to adapt to her new role quickly, to protect Eleanor, with whom she is rapidly falling in love.

This is a sweet, understated story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. If you’ve enjoyed C H Clepitt’s other books (including the witty, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse) then this is not to be missed.

“The story is very well written and flows nicely… I would love to read more about the two main characters in future books.” – Simon Leonard – Black Books Blog

“Love blossoms in an unexpected place in this emotional short story. A change of direction for Clepitt but delicately written and heartfelt.” – Claire Buss – Author of ​The Rose Thief and other novels.

“The story’s optimism that makes it such a joy to read and leaves one feeling there must be hope after all.” A.M. Leibowitz – Author of ​Keeping the Faith and other novels

Curtain Call is available in e-book format at £1.99 from Amazon –

 

Dance Hall Days

June 1966 – England had just won the World Cup at London’s Wembley Stadium and a happy nation basked in the warm satisfaction of sporting success. Teenage boys in ironed white shirts, inch-wide ties and pleated trousers lounged against the wall outside The Ritz Ballroom in Camden Town on a balmy summer’s evening, eyeing up the girls in their colourful dresses – the hemlines having recently moved up to expose knees and thighs. The two groups exchanged banter in a timeless mating ritual – coquettish glances and shy giggles elicited macho poses from strutting cocks who combed up their Brylcreemed hair and dragged on their tabs, nonchalantly flicking the stubs in the general direction of the gutter.

dance hall days

Brian Smith knew whom he was after. A pretty little blonde girl he knew from school called Helen. She was one year his junior but was no longer a geeky schoolgirl – she had blossomed into an attractive young woman, and he was determined to ask her to dance. That was the protocol. Bundle inside, pay your sixpence at the box office, get a paper cup of fruit punch and line the walls with your mates – waiting for the hall to fill and the jazz band to strike up a familiar tune. Brian combed back his brown quiff and pushed off the wall, with a ‘good luck mate’ from a friend bolstering his nerve.

The crowds seemed to part before him as he crossed the hall. Her friends whispered and giggled as she looked up – it was as if she had been waiting for him. He held her wide blue-eyed gaze and asked, “Would you like to dance?”

“I can’t jive,” she said. Her friends laughed as if it was the funniest joke ever, buying Brian a few seconds to formulate his next move.

“Then let’s get some punch and wait for the next one,” he said, taking her firmly by the arm and leading her away from her friends. ‘Always try to separate them from their mates’ was the advice that came to mind, given by one of the older boys.

“Are you always so forceful?” she asked, sipping her drink and glancing over at her jealous friends.

“I’m no longer a kid. I’m joining the police next week,” he said. This was designed to impress her and it worked – responsibility and a steady job.

“I like this one,” she said, as the band played a popular hit. This time it was Helen doing the leading, as the infatuated couple found a space and held each other in a classic dance pose.

“It all seemed so easy,” Brian told his mates the next day. “As if it were meant to be. We’re going out now, so no comments or whistles.”

He transitioned seamlessly from hanging out with mischief in mind to police training college and being in a steady relationship. He even put his name down for a council flat. In those heady days of youth everything seemed possible, and his world was full of firsts. First girlfriend; first job; first pay cheque; first passport; first holiday and soon after, marriage and first home of their own.

Brian would twirl his police whistle in the pub for laughs, but cautioned his mates on their behaviour. He had the cocky confidence of his hero – football captain Bobby Moore – and each morning his feet slipped effortlessly into his size nine boots, as if this was always meant to be.

This short story is taken from Postcards from London by Tim Walker

http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B075C1M42Z

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Who Was Ambrosius?

This article has been written to provide background information to the release of a new historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, by Tim Walker. Download the e-book from Amazon here:-

http://amazon.com/dp/B06X9S7XQ7

http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B06X9S7XQ7

ambrosius-final-kindle-coverAmbrosius Aurelianus, to give him his full name, was a high king of the Britons in the early Dark Ages, some time after the exit of the Romans in the year 410. The exact dates of his reign, chronological details and physical evidence remain scant, and we must rely on the written accounts of three monks – Gildas (c. 650), Nennius (c.750) and Bede (c. 790), as well as the more fantastical History of the Kings of Briton by Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1140). The Britons shared a culture and language with similar Celtic tribes across northern Europe, a language similar to modern day Welsh.

The closest in time of the surviving accounts of events in the fifth century come from the gloomy On the Ruin of Britain by Welsh monk Gildas, written around the year 550. Here is what he said about Ambrosius:

The poor remnants of our nation… that they might not be brought to utter destruction, took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive.

britannia-fifth-century-mapThe Roman legions marched away between 409-410 never to return, and the Britons were left to defend themselves from various ‘barbarian’ raiders – the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from modern day Denmark and northern Germany, are not deemed to be invaders because they were employed to fight by an early high king named Vortigern (quite possibly a continuation of a tactic employed previously by the Romans). They clearly developed ambitions to settle having seen how green and pleasant England’s countryside was in comparison to their own salty marshes. They were also under pressure in their lands from other barbarian tribes pushing westwards.

Geoffrey of Monmouth is responsible for popularizing the legend of King Arthur and his knights, although there are earlier mentions of Arthur in the writings of Nennius in the eighth century. He more or less has a fifth century line-up of kings of Britain, starting with Constantine, who ‘wore the purple’, presumably as a provincial governor, and who was quickly murdered by ‘cruel and sly’ Vortigern. Vortigern is then defeated by Ambrosius Aurelianus and his brother Uther Pendragon. Uther then succeeds Aurelius, and is in turn succeeded by his son Arthur, with much sorcery from Merlin thrown into the mix. All of this is unproven in terms of hard archaeological facts. What happened where and when and who were the key players remain unanswered questions.

Taking up the story of Ambrosius from Geoffrey of Monmouth, we find the sons of Constantine, Ambrosius and Uther, arriving in Britain from Gaul with an army to confront Vortigern. He was already unpopular with the people for his brutal acts, constant wars and for employing Saxons to fight in his mercenary army:

As soon as news of his [Ambrosius’s] coming was divulged, the Britons, who had been dispersed by their great calamities, met together from all parts… having assembled together the clergy, they anointed Ambrosius king, and paid him the customary homage.

The brothers defeat Vortigern in battle and pursue him to his fortress, called Genoreu, where their attempt to burn him out results in his death. Ambrosius is then the unchallenged high king of the Britons, and ready to form resistance to the spread of the Saxon, Angle and Jute colonists, under brothers Hengist and Horsa.

Therefore, the Saxons, in fear of him, retired beyond the Humber, and in those parts did fortify the cities and towns… this was good news to Ambrosius, who augmented his army and made an expeditious march towards the north.

ambrosius_aurelianus_by_popiusGeoffrey goes on to describe the two armies meeting in battle on a field called Maisbeli, though to be somewhere in South Yorkshire. Again, a date and exact location of this battle is unknown. Another major battle in the late fifth century between the Britons and the Saxons often mentioned is Badon Hill, but again where this is and on what date it happened, and who commanded the Briton army – Ambrosius, Uther or Arthur – remains unknown.

It is widely thought that Geoffrey of Monmouth had supplemented the written sources of information he could muster with a fanciful imagination, perhaps also setting down folk legends that had been passed by word of mouth for generations. It is a masterful work, and all the more tantalising for the sparseness of other historical evidence of those misty days after the Romans departed and before Saxon kingdoms were established.

In my historical fiction series, I have woven a family saga – the Pendragons – taken from the writings of Gildas, Nennius and Geoffrey, surmising that if King Arthur was a real military leader who may have died around the year 537 at the Battle of Camlann (as mentioned in two sources), then there is 127 years of mayhem leading up to this point from the date of the Roman’s departure. My guesswork is that Vortigern ruled some time from 410-440, followed by Ambrosius, perhaps 440-470, then Uther from 470-500 and Arthur from 500-537. This is a conjectural framework for my storytelling in my three-part series, A Light in the Dark Ages.

Part one, Abandoned! tells the story of Marcus Aquilius, a half-Roman half-Briton auxiliary cavalry commander who is left behind by accident in 410 when his legion marches away from the town of Calleva Atrebatum (modern day Silchester in Hampshire). He organizes the defence of his town from a roving Saxon army, as they revert to Briton tribal leadership, and Marcus adopts his mother’s name – Pendragon.

Part two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (just released) is the story of Ambrosius Aurelianus, who returns to Britain in 440 as an experienced soldier to confront high king Vortigern over the murder of his father. He finds Marcus in Calleva, who, as an elder of the town, guides him through the murky political waters of tribal jealousies and divisions. In time he becomes king, that much is already told, but what happens to him, and how does the succession pass to his brother Uther?

Part three – Uther’s Destiny, is a work in progress. Together, they build up to the coming of Arthur, a story too well known to be re-told with any conviction. I choose to end with Arthur as a boy, and his destiny stretching before him. He is the intended Light in the Dark Ages; but having read about the exploits of Ambrosius Aurelianus, the Divine One, I’m now of a mind to give him the title.

Heartwarming Christmas Anthology

I’m thrilled and honoured to have my holiday story, El Dorado, featured in this soon-to-be bestseller!  Holiday Heartwarmers came together after a shout-out to authors from around the World in a FaceBook Author Group, and the fifteen ‘best’ stories, set at Christmas time, were selected by Editor, Sunanda Chatterjee.

holiday-heartwarmers-cover

Immerse yourself in this eclectic collection of short stories featuring authors from around the world. Travel to different places with them as they enjoy an unexpected journey back home to reunite with family and take a chartered flight to the North Pole. Shiver with the cold and anxiety as their loved ones get stranded in a snow storm in Alaska or share the amazement of gazing at the spectacular views during a hike to Machu Picchu. Explore the Indian subcontinent by train, share an unforgettable vacation in Cyprus or venture into Afghanistan in the midst of war.

Holidays are a time of sharing and can take many forms. These stories explore the issues of family dynamics, reflections on life, and finding the true meaning of love and acceptance. They also show that sometimes, it is just as important to let go of old feelings and old memories.

This collection of short stories is sure to warm your heart and light the spirit of Christmas

Changes Made to Futuristic Novel

I’ve taken on board some useful feedback following the release of my first novel, Devil Gate Dawn, in April 2016, and as a result have made a few changes:

  • The cover has been changed to have a shadow figure standing at the gate
  • The quote on the front has been changed to, ‘Mild-mannered George must face his nemesis’
  • The start of chapter one now has George reflecting on an accident at work, indicating that such traumatic moments contributed to his decision to take early retirement.  Other work-related inner thoughts have been added through the early chapters, showing he is still haunted by past events.  These reflections stop when new events come to dominate his thoughts and actions.

DevilGateDawnModifiedCover_Aug_2016All in all, I’m proud of my achievement in pasting together this story from blogs and new material, and am thankful for the input of my copyeditor, Sinead Fitzgibbon, in helping to shape it into a structured story with sub-plots and suitably developed support characters.

George battles his way through problems with a calm, stoic approach, often bewildered by the extreme methods and actions of others.  In many ways, his pragmatic approach has mirrored my own problems with battling health issues whilst writing it.

I’ve made notes for a follow-up, and have pored over the 10,000 words of my abandoned novel, The Langley Leopard (submitted to the Richard and Judy novel competition three years ago!) that preceded this one, looking to salvage bits.

I’ve temporarily dropped the price to 99p and equivalent in other currencies to attract new readers.

In the meantime, I’m immersed in the mid-fifth century, ploughing on with researching and writing my next historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans.

http://hyperurl.co/ii7gpl