Celebrate Earth Day

It is Earth Day and people everywhere are rejoicing in celebrating this wonderful planet we live in full of gorgeous flowers, birds and bees.

poppy

Long-tailed Tit colour 2

buzzy bumble

Such a shame humans have ruined it. Earth is slowly dying, choked by fumes, plastic, concrete, massive fatbergs clogging sewage systems and pollutants poisoning our fresh water and oceans.

469c7f65526f2e109a508fc60c39c159

skynews-ocean-rescue-roatan_4141450

Now is the time to stop killing our home.

Now is the time to stand up and fight for survival of the Earth and every creature that lives in it.

Now is the time to stop being selfish and live without all the stuff people think they need. 

Now is the time, because we are running out of it.

Please do what you can to make Governments and Companies realise that we can’t go on destroying our habitat for greed. Sign petitions, go on marches, use your car less, go on fewer trips abroad and help us have a future.

This world is beautiful and should stay that way.

bee garden

Some of the fiction I write has a clear message about the dangers of ignoring global warming and the damage pollution and deforestation is doing to our world. If you would like to have a look at my books please do so. The Chronicles of Mayer deals with a future where Mother Nature retaliates and mankind is in danger of extinction.

As a catastrophic flood wipes out most of the population of Great Britain, cow herds, Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha (Mayer) and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, of Mahabharata House, a Buddhist community, are forced to flee, taking the cows with them.

With water levels rising at an alarming rate, and terrifying storms endangering their pilgrimage, Mayer and Arjuna must battle not only the elements but hungry survivors and rogue soldiers intent on butchering the holy cattle.

Can they build a sanctuary in the mountains of Scotland to secure the survival of mankind if disease, brutal attacks, and infertility threaten to wipe out all human and animal life?

Available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074P65LD9

Advertisements

Forgotten Women Madam d’Ora – Part One

DKselfportrait

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I thought I’d post this story about an amazing pioneering female photographer that history has forgot.

In my new book, an Historical Crime Thriller set in Vienna 1899, my protagonist, Leo Katz, is a photographer. Whilst researching photographers from that period, I was delighted to discover that women were emerging as professionals in this field.

One woman caught my attention, Dora Kallmus. She was extremely influential in changing the way people posed for their picture. Dora’s unique style helped to popularise the celebrity portrait, and her fashion photography broke all the rules. Yet, History has chosen to forget her.

79161b712ed302c52df13b837c0f9f21
Born in 1881 to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Dora was clearly a headstrong young woman and knew what she wanted to do. She befriended the son of the painter Hans Makart, and whilst assisting him in his studio, she discovered the wonders of photography.

In 1905, she became the first woman allowed to study theory at the city’s Graphic Training Centre,  GraphischenLehr-und Versuchsanstalt, and in the same year was accepted as a member of the Association of Austrian Photographers. Two years later she finished an apprenticeship with Nicola Perscheid, where she learned her craft.

Although she was not allowed to do the technical training, because she was a woman, that did not stop her opening her own studio in Vienna in 1907. She brought a fellow student of Nicola Pesrcheid with her, Arthur Benda, who would remain her technical assistant throughout her early career.

images-2 copy-1

Her studio Atelier d’Ora, became a sensation, and along with Arthur Benda, Madame d’Ora’s shop was the place to go for the fashionable and cultural elite of Vienna. Her new approach to photographing a subject, natural, relaxed poses rather than the stiff, grim images people were used to, made her photographs sought after. The artist, Gustav Klimt and his muse Emilie Flöge, being some of her most famous clients.

a28004b420985740cb6e30c0f806faac--gustav-klimt-the-movement

Dora’s Middle Class Jewish background aided her in attracting customers. Her father, Doctor Phillipp Kalmus, a respected lawyer, brought clients from the civil service, government, and the banking world. With such a notorious profile, Dora landed the job of photographing the coronation of Kaiser Karl, King of Hungary. Now she was in demand by royalty and members of the Imperial family who visited her studio to have their portrait taken.

But it was through her cousin, the acclaimed actress Rosa Bertens, that Dora broke into what was to become her trademark work. Photographing the rich and famous throughout the theatre, music, fashion and art worlds.

News of her avant-garde work spread, and customers flocked to her doors. Now everyone wanted to be photographed by Madame d’Ora, whose unorthodox compositions were the talk of the town. Attracting famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova, Josephine Baker, and, Mary Wigman. Writers such as Arthur Schnitzler, artists, Gustav Klimt, actors, Maurice Chevalier, musicians, Pablo Casals and the composer, Albern Berg.

bdd1889138522e67dcfcd2d89ebedb78

9eebd882beac8fa9a36f3582164b4bf7

338d9ee63e1390b122cbe515121c45f2

Klimtmauricecasals-1

832f5283a16c784b32c61d860537ea8c

Her keen interest in fashion photography inspired her to change the way the industry presented their clothes. She created new ways to portray models, and her fresh ideas were soon snapped up by many lifestyle periodicals such as Die, Madame, and Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode.

Madame d’Ora became Coco Channels first choice to capture her new creations in all of their glory. All this when she was still under thirty years of age.

b4bebefae2a43d117e9235cbbb3ec5d2
In Part Two, I will focus on Dora’s later career and how she developed not only as a portrait photographer to the stars, but how the traumas of the second world war developed her career as a documentary photographer.
1c7fa7fb8405dadc30b8f96ad2fece83
If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: www.oddlybooks.com
To view some of my photography go to: 

My review of The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while. So I thought I’d start again with my recent review of a collection of unorthodox short stories from a writer with a dark and creative imagination. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading stories that are different and weird.

You can grab your copy here:

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Orthography-Madness-Misgivings-Micha%C3%ABl-Wertenberg-ebook/dp/B07N5XM1SN

Amazon.UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Orthography-Madness-Misgivings-Michaël-Wertenberg-ebook/dp/B07N5XM1SN

 

Refreshingly different

The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings by Michaël Wertenberg is a collection of short stories largely about the human condition when in a heightened state. Most of the tales are gruesome and troubling with some marvellous flashes of magic realism that keep you thinking about them long after you have read them. There are lovely vivid descriptions that make you shudder our laugh. I particularly enjoyed the stories in diary form of the author’s experiences living in different countries. Worth a read if you prefer literary fiction to pulp. There are a few inconsistencies in the narrative that need to be addressed, but nothing that detracts from the overall enjoyment of his work.

 

The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings by [Wertenberg, Michaël]

 

If you would like to see what I’m currently working on please go to my website and click on ‘Work in Progress‘. It’s an Historical Crime Thriller set in Vienna 1899, working title – Black Vienna.

http://www.oddlybooks.com/

The Joy of Hex – Part Two -Witchcraft

From prehistoric times some form of ‘witchcraft’ has existed, but then, unlike now, the casting of spells was more to do with the art of healing than any association with devilry. Most ‘witches’ were herbalists, wise women, or, ‘cunning folk’, who were adept at making potions to cure a range of illnesses. Often providing charms and offerings alongside incantations to protect livestock from predators by using these ‘blessings’ to keep them safe.

The belief in the power of magic has existed since mankind created social settlements where large numbers of people lived and worked. Fearing the forces of nature, inevitably, someone would try to make the unknown less scary by using rituals and spells to ward off evil spirits, whether natural or supernatural. Cave drawings often show people dancing wearing animal costumes alongside images of a ‘witch’ as seen in the photograph below.

Once, such ‘magical’ folk were revered, but as time went on people became wary of these magicians that could seemingly perform supernatural feats. From the 7th century, attitudes changed and terms such as ‘black magic’ spread fear into the hearts of god-fearing folk. With Christianity taking over from paganism as the main religion, it wasn’t long before the church found such powerful shaman a threat. Witch hunts in the name of God became a way to frighten people into turning against their own to preserve the status quo and get rid of annoying, possibly subversive women and men in the community. These poor people didn’t stand a chance against the prejudices and hatred from fanatics who turned communities against someone who was not quite like everyone else. So began the long centuries of demonising the innocent.

During medieval times being accused of witchcraft was a death sentence. Anyone who had a black cat, a mole, some kind of physical tick or blemish, and could conjure up an effective poultice for a wound or boil, would be suspected of being in league with the devil. The caricature of the old hag with a broomstick became the norm.  Wise women in a village were the subject of scorn and accused of evil deeds.

 In the UK, The Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins, made it his life’s work to seek out and destroy those accused of witchcraft. Through gruesome torture, he and his allies gained forced confessions from terrified men and women who would often be accused of the crime by friends or family. From the 15th to the 16h century over 100,000 people were hanged or burned at the stake for being witches.

This fear of sorcery lasted well into the eighteenth century when the cruel and unjust system of identifying a witch was abolished, courtesy of – The Enlightenment. A period in history which advocated the use of reason over superstition, and in 1736 the laws against witchcraft were repealed.

Witches and warlocks exist to this day but are no longer seen as dangerous. Often known as Wiccans, these people regard themselves as spiritual folk following pagan beliefs, incorporating mystical sorcery such as divination, herbalism and, Tarot reading. Casting spells not to summon demons or ghouls but to help find a true love, get promoted at work, or simply to engage more with nature and the universe.

You can read more about Wiccan magic in this article:

 https://wiccanspells.info/wiccan-pagan-articles/different-types-magick/

The idea of possessing supernatural powers is deep-rooted within our psyche. Whether it comes from a religious source or from the belief in our own need to connect with natural forces, magic and the casting of spells will never go away. Now, we accept it as part of our everyday world, whether it is reading our astrological predictions or buying Himalayan Salt Lamps, we need to believe that we are more than the sum of our parts, and can control the elements to do our bidding. Does it work? It might. The power is in the belief that it will.

Go to this blog to find out how to cast spells for good luck here:

Since it is Halloween, I thought I’d post an extract from one of my ghostly horror short stories – Daub – it’s in my anthology Glimmer, which just happens to be on offer for only 99c! You can purchase a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

From Daub:

Isabelle fell back onto her ankles and covered her mouth with her hands. She heard a muffled sobbing come from the place where she had seen the child squatting the night before, and shuffled away. She looked at the wall. The yellowing plaster moved in and out like sickly lungs and Isabelle saw a small mouth appear. It opened and closed as if trying to suck in air and said, ‘When can I come out?’

‘What? Who’s speaking?’

‘It’s me mama, Roland. Can I come out now, it’s too hot and I can’t breathe. Mama? Mama, where are you? Mama!’ The child’s voice became hysterical and it shrieked the last, ‘Mama’ so loud that Isabelle thought her eardrums would bleed. She felt something tickle her wrist, looked down and saw the imprints of five small fingers on her skin.

glimmer front red 2 copy

 

If you want to know more about my work, visit my website: 

or my Amazon page: 

The Joy of Hex

Part one: The Power of Words

Today and tomorrow I will be publishing some witchy-type posts especially for Halloween.

spelljpg

Ever since mankind created language, words have been used to manipulate, enlighten and confuse. So it is little wonder that words should also prove to be powerful weapons in the form of spells, hexes and incantations. Even prayers and hymns have special supernatural powers as they are a way to grab the attention of a god, or gods. Most religions encourage these invocations to create a sense of spiritualisation and ceremony that help the devotee contact their inner soul becoming closer to nature, God, and themselves.

images-1

Certain words have become magical, imbibed with a power that if spoken or written down, can be used as a charm to ward off evil, or cause an adversary to come to harm. The most familiar of these is Abracadabra. Although known as a stage magicians phrase, the word dates back to Roman times and is thought to come from the Hebrew words for the Father, son and Holy Spirit – ‘ab, ben, ruach hakodesh’. Which some say is derived from, Abraxas. This word has special powers as according to Greek numerology, it adds up to 365 which is the number of days in a year.

These words become even more potent if written or said repeatedly. As in the case of Abracadabra, when it is in a pyramid shape and used as a Medicinal charm:

220px-Abracadabra_triangle_(cropped)

When mankind began to write words, such magical incantations could now be stored and used at the discretion of the owner. The earliest ‘spell’ comes from ancient Mesopotamia etched onto cuneiform clay tablets found in the city of Uruk somewhere between the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

unnamed

Books of magic spells have been around since ancient times and have been used not only for religious purposes but also for science. Alchemists used magic to find The Philosopher’s Stone and turn base metal into gold. Witch doctors and wise women, used words to help heal the sick, and don’t forget early scientists had numerous books for predicting the future through astrology.

In Ancient Egypt, magic and spells were a part of everyday life. The symbolic use of words was very important. Used for protection, to summon gods and demons, and to help loved ones live a happy afterlife. These words are often found etched onto tombs, pillars, and even embalming shrouds, showing just how important magical words were to these superstitious people.

Ancient Egyptian priests used many magic books such as The Book of the Dead, to help those who have died pass on to the next life. The most potent of all was The Book of Dreams. This book allowed people, through incantations, to fall into a dream-like state to travel through time, space, and even to the realm of the dead.

images-2 copy 2

Papyri Graecae Magicae, or The Greek Magical Papyri is the name for scrolls from Graeco-Roman Egypt, that contain magical spells, formulae, hymns, and rituals dating as far back as the 100s BC to the 400s AD. For use by travelling magicians, scholars and medical practitioners, these ‘books’ have detailed descriptions on how to cast spells, invoke spirts, demons, and even how to create love charms.

download-1 copy 3

A similar Jewish papyri dating back to ancient Egyptian times, seems to be rooted in performing religious ceremonies to interact with spirits in order gain advantage over another. Names are also important in Jewish magical traditions. In the creation of man, God summons life after a series of ‘speech acts’. Mentioning one of God’s many names can be a powerful tool to finding love or as with Joshua, demolishing the walls of Jericho.

Tree_of_life_bahir_Hebrew.svg

Later, more textbooks on magic came into existence, such as The Grimoire, or Spell books, which are still used today.

a98972_grimoire

These books give precise instructions on how to cast a spell and how to create magical amulets and talisman. You can read more about them in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/apr/08/history

So for authors, using spells as part of their story, is a natural choice when writing in genres such as fantasy and magic realism. The power of such words evokes a sense of otherworldliness and spirituality that helps a reader to become wholly engaged in what they are reading.

Books, therefore, are magic!

download copy 3

If you want to learn more about my work, visit my website:

www.oddlybooks.com 

or my Amazon page where all books in my Sci-fi/dystopian series – The Song of Forgetfulness – are on offer for only 99c each!!

https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/

SOFbanner27.01.17crop

Watch out for part two – Witches and Witchcraft

The Inventor of Crime Scene Photography

images

In my last post I talked about my Historical Crime Fiction novel and in particular, a pioneer in crime photography, Alphonse Bertillon. You can view it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/the-man-behind-the-mug-shot/

Today I continue the story on how this man influenced the advance in Forensic Science.

Not only did Alphonse Bertillon invent the Mug Shot, but a variety of ways to interpret how a crime happened. From simple burglaries, to murder, he came up with methods of measuring the amount of force used in break-ins, known as the Dynamometer. He was also responsible for using ballistics and materials to preserve footprints as clues to how a crime was committed.

images-2

Bertillon was quite a celebrity and even appeared in a few Sherlock Holmes stories, most notably, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when the following dialogue between Dr James Mortimer and Holmes.

“I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I recognized that I am myself an unpractical man and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe–”

“Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?” asked Holmes with some asperity.

“To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertillon must always appeal strongly.”

Yet it is his ground breaking use of photography at crime scenes that is his lasting legacy to present day methodology employed by detectives in solving crimes.

Bertillon School of Forensics

His use of taking a picture from above, was unique to crime procedures. Previously, an artist would draw the scene from their eye line, sketching the things that came in their limited range, but Bertillon gave the world a ‘god’s eye view’ showing the scene accurately and in more detail. Greatly improving the police’s chance of solving the case.

eb64fd3af34a2c5dbee56b627fce6896

He even used a special laboratory to take the Mug Shots, practice his precise methods and to process the ensuing prints.

images-1

To view the actual photographs, Bertillon took of crime scenes, please go to my Pinterest page.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikkimcdonagh56/arty-stuff-my-stories-including-glimmer-and-crow-b/

However, when Bertillon’s CSI photographs became known, they were thought of as unsavoury, even ghoulish since they showed the victim’s dead body. Yet these images gave detectives the necessary information to help them discover important clues such as body position, cause of death, wound entry, footprints, murder weapons, blood spattering and so on, that could easily be missed from an initial survey of the scene.

It is thanks to Alphonse Bertillon, that CSI has progressed from somewhat dubious facial measurements, to accurate fingerprinting, and his meticulous way of photographing a crime scene is still used today.

Berillon-Protocol

Here is another small snippet from the first draft, I shall call The Leo Katz Mysteries for want of a better title:

Chapter Three

I confess to being somewhat squeamish. As a child I could not even bear to squash a fly. Miriam had no such qualms and would race about my bedchamber with a rolled up newspaper swatting anything that buzzed. ‘Nasty things that eat dung. You must kill them before they lay eggs in your ears.’

I believed her and before falling asleep would probe my lugs for signs of infestation. I am not sure how I would have reacted if I had discovered an emerging bluebottle in my cochlea. Perhaps something akin to the way I retched on witnessing Klaus probe the severed nasal cavity of Ira Weiss.

‘Stay with us, Leopold. I need your expertise on imaging. Are you going to faint?’

I gulped hard and backed away from my tripod. ‘No, not at all. It’s the smell of the body mingled with the chemicals you use, it is overwhelming.’

‘Perhaps Herr, I mean, Leopold, would care for some fresh air? It is an acquired scent. Shall I escort you to the corridor?’ Lucy wiped her hands on a towel that hung from a nail in the wall next to the half glassed door of the mortuary.

‘Thank you, but I will continue. I must endeavour to overcome my reticence at observing the dead.’

‘Ha! There’s my fellow. Solid and dependable. Well, compose yourself, my little friend and come closer. I need a shot of the entry wounds.’

With shaking hands I lifted my tripod and placed it close to Ira’s pale body. Lucy wiped the last remaining spots of blood from his chest, and joined Klaus by the cart laden with sharp knives and a variety of different sized saws. She did not flinch from the sight of the poor man’s shredded face. Leaning close to observe the raggedness of his wounds, she said, ‘Was he disfigured before or after death?’

My next post will continue the findings I have unearthed during the research for my new book. Watch out for Madame d’Ora!

For more information about my books, please visit my website:

4632622310_242x254

http://www.oddlybooks.com/

The Man Behind the Mug Shot

78e88d9babaa456e7b9d01b840b5068a

Inspiration comes at strange times on occasions. It hit me quite by chance when I was cleaning the cat litter tray. Why not write a crime thriller set in Victorian times about a photographer who has to find out who has been committing a series of murders? Wow, I thought, no one has done that before, or at least, I’ve never heard of a book quite like that.

Next I needed to set it somewhere. Vienna. Why not? After all it was the place for art and music at that time. After a bit of research, I unearthed some very interesting information about the politics of the time and how it adversely affected the Jewish population of the city. A plot was forming. The protagonist is a photographer that gets caught up in a series of brutal murders of Jewish activists in 1899 and has to solve the case via the use of photographs.

Whilst researching the history of criminal photography for the book, as yet untitled, I came upon the name, Alphonse Bertillon.  A nineteenth century French forensic documentarian.

It is thanks to this man we have access to the recording and storing of the physical details of a criminal. Before his efforts, offenders were hard to keep track of. They could give false names and addresses, so finding those who recommitted a misdemeanour, was often impossible.

Enter Bertillon.

Bertillon,_Alphonse,_fiche_anthropométrique_recto-verso-1As a records clerk at the Prefecture of Police in Paris 1879, Bertillon became irked by the chaotic way they kept criminal data. He worked on a better system to store and classify offenders to make it easier for someone to find them if they re-offended. Using his interest in anthropometry, the scientific study of the proportions and measurements of the human body, he developed a recording system for detailing the size and shape of a criminal’s distinguishing facial features.

620measurement

These facial descriptions, classified the shapes, size and breadth of the nose, eyes, ears and other facial features, which he called, “Portrait Parle”. Although the coded lexicon he Invented to use alongside his method was too difficult to use and later abandoned.

However, his idea of “Portrait Parle” lead to his definitive method of identification and recording of a suspect/criminal in the shape of the Mug Shot.

1493francis_galton_mug_shot_when_visiting_alphonse_bertillon_in_1893

For the first time a criminal could be photographed alongside his or her name both front and side view. Therefore, their identity could be accurately logged ready for use if they re-offended.

Bertillon’s index card system along with the photograph of the lawbreaker, identified re-offenders better than any other system before his invention, and as we know, the Mug Shot, is still used today, alongside fingerprints, to keep detailed records of criminals ready for use if needed.

610bertillonandcat

Next time, I’ll be discussing Bertillon’s influence on what we know today as Crime Scene Photography.

Here is a little taster from my book. Please bear in mind that this is just a first draft you will be reading. 

‘Oy, oy, where do you think you’re going?’

An officer broke free of the policeman chain and put his hands on my shoulders. I brushed them away and stood firm. ‘I am expected. Katz.’ I held up my case, shouting above the raised voices, ‘I’m to take images of the crime.’

‘Ah, that stuff. What do you need to do that for? The case is solved. She murdered him in cold blood. Ghoulish is what I call that.’ He pointed at my camera. ‘Some say it takes the soul from the body and the dead can’t go to heaven.’ I shook my head and sighed. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t expect a Jewboy to believe. Your lot haven’t got any souls anyway.’

Aaron stiffened and blurted out, ‘Hey, that’s not true. Take it back.’

‘Or what? Bloodsucker?’

I grabbed Aaron before he lunged towards the policeman. He relaxed a little and hung his head. ‘Do not become aggrieved at this Gentleman’s outburst. They are just words. Nothing more.’ He gulped and raised his chin.

‘Ya. Gift of the gab your lot and no mistake. Go on, get going, join your Yiddish pals.’ He spat at our feet when we shuffled past him towards the murder victim.

It was indeed a gruesome sight. I turned to Aaron. ‘You must go now. This is not a fitting thing for a boy to witness. Go home and be with your mother.’

If you would like to know more about my books, please go to my website:4632622310_242x254

www.oddlybooks.com