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Archive for the ‘The Elements’ Category

Last week it was HOT… A steamy, sultry, stifling hot. So I did the only sensible thing and made my way deeper into the forest, following an ancient path beneath the cool green canopy; a path that has sunk a couple of metres or more into the ground over many centuries, as countless feet trod its way.

I descend…deeper, cooler. Around me, the scent of sun caressed pine trees mingles with something darker, older…centuries old oaks and beeches…, and the sappy exuberance of hazels and birches.
My feet pad softly on the cool earth, crumbling pine needles as I walk.
Birdsong, joyful, riotous, in praise of the life gift of the sun. Yet as I descend further, it seems to soften, as do the shards of sunlight slanting through the trees, turning from yellow-gold to amber.
I hear another sound now. A bubbling, cascading melody that flows through me like liquid, dancing sunlight.
The path has ended. I step off onto an almost invisible track; one made not by human feet, but by those of the forest dwellers, deer and foxes, badgers and wild boar…and perhaps by others less known to humans.

The river lies before me. I stop.
Around me, the forest. Far, far away, humans.
I listen to the song of the river…

I gaze into the water…

I see reflected the greenwood. I watch the water meander on. What has happened to that reflection? Where is it now? Has it gone…a momentary image like a photograph, reflected in water and then vanished? Or is there something else in water…? The Water Element…

Water cleanses, purifies. It carries away all the old, worn out debris of lives. But there is more to Water than that…

Imagine two pools of water. Take one scoop of water from each and pour them into a bowl. Which part of the water in that bowl comes from the first pool and which from the second?…Now take one droplet from that bowl. What is in that one droplet is identical to what is in the bowl….a perfect copy.
Now imagine two rivers flowing to the ocean…

Imagine each river carries in those water droplets a memory of what was imprinted as it passed by…the forest, a mountain meadow, a city…a child bathing, a cow drinking…Imagine those memories washing down into a great Ocean…

I gaze into the river and see water that has come from a spring deep inside the Earth; water that as it emerges into the light of the Sun, has never before been seen in that form by human eyes. It cascades down mountains, meanders through meadows and forests, to flow into the sea…

The next day. Rain clouds are building  in the West. The land is dry and dreaming of rain. The first drops fall……….I turn my face to the rain. Why would anyone want to shelter inside and not feel those soft raindrops upon their cheeks?!

I listen to the song of the rain….A song of deep, dark earth, wild mountains, greenest forest…of drinking deer and spawning frogs, muddy water rats and iridescent leaping fishes…of drowsily meandering river and wide estuaries where the ospreys dive…And then I hear the ocean sing… I hear the roar of the Atlantic; storming, raging waves…furious crests blinding white beneath an icy Northern sky…and then coconut kissed, turquoise hued coral seas gently drifting towards a beach of softest vanilla sand…
I hear the song of the rocky cliffs of Finistere…hear the song rolling in over the magical forests of Merlin, carrying all those memories…memories held within one tiny raindrop, just as within the whole vast ocean…

The first drops kiss my cheeks just as they kiss the earth….

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Annie helping me write

Apparently, it was Mark Twain who said « Write what you know ».

He also said « I have never let my schooling interfere with my education »,« It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. » and « If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. »

I think I would have liked Mark Twain.

And I think he was right about writing what you know, which is I why I wrote about elemental spirits, dragons, alchemists, magic, trees and animals.

What you know isn’t just the day to day mundane minutiae of your life, it’s all the worlds and lives you’ve conjured up in your imagination. People so often dismiss the imagination, « It’s not real ». Real? REAL? A myth written down, or passed down orally, or a story that resonates, can touch a person centuries later. The world formed in Tolkein’s imagination, is more powerful and alive today than the day that he put the final full stop to Lord of the Rings. He’s dead. The so-called ‘real’ stuff, like what he ate for breakfast on a certain day, a painful tooth, the love he felt for his wife… all just momentary, transient things. The creations of his imagination, however, live on. So, which is actually the more real?

Anyway…back to writing.
When I’m writing a book, I live inside it. This works on two levels.

Tell me more!


The first, is simply that I enact scenes in my books. You know those deranged looking people who walk along the street talking to themselves? That’s me. It’s fine normally. I live in the middle of nowhere, and my dogs are non-judgemental. I talk through scenes as I walk them in the morning, playing all characters, trying out different versions of the same scene until it sounds right. If a stranger, lost in the forest, were to stumble upon these morning walks and hear me, especially the bits where I laugh out loud in the manner of e.g. a cackling hedge hag, then he might jump to wrong conclusions. But it doesn’t happen. No strangers venture this far into the wilds!

I do, however, occasionally have to venture into the land of humans…which is something I find very difficult. In order to cope with the horror of a supermarket -the hideous strip lights, buzzing aircon, chemically smell, nasty piped music and row after row of garishly packaged poison that no one actually needs- I retreat into my books.

So…I’m walking along the coffee aisle. My basic survival instinct guides me to the coffee that I want. But my self-protection mechanism has sent me off to the Arivala Isles in Bryah, where on a beach of rainbow coloured sand, Arin is offering the Scorpion child a song in exchange for his freedom. I speak the words…My face betrays the fear felt by Arin…and then the haughty entitlement of the Scorpion child. I begin to sing Arin’s song………..

The second level, is that I immerse myself in the world I’m writing about. So, for example, for the fourth book, I needed to live as much as possible with the Air element. I read and researched like never before (air element…thinking, mental acuity…), I played with sylphs, got to know the Fool card of the Tarot, (those of you who’ve read ‘The Wakening of the Sword’ will have seen the Fool in there), surrounded myself with airy things: lavender, feathers, yellows and sky blues, strengthened my friendship with the Birch Tree, and since the guide in that book was a bee and bees played a vital rôle, I plunged into bee-dom. I ate pollen pellets, honey, propolis, royal jelly, drank mead, and followed the bees from flower to flower, danced the bee dance…dreamt of bees…dreamt I was a bee…

The Fool from the Tarot of the Sidhe

So, when my hero was saved by a bee in the Garden of the Seed, where the bees dance the dance of new life, I wrote what I knew.

« …The boy opened his eyes slowly. Around him all was dark. He waited, calmly, unafraid. This wasn’t the darkness of a nightmare. It was a warm, safe darkness. He could hear a deep, low humming, a humming that seemed to begin inside his head and then spread out in ripples into the darkness beyond. Then gradually he became aware of light. Very slowly, as the humming spiralled down through him, the darkness took on a deep amber glow. He couldn’t move, but it didn’t actually feel to him at that moment as though he had a body to move anyway. Later, when he tried to explain to his friends what had happened, he skipped over this bit. There weren’t words in his vocabulary to describe the sensation. The closest he could come was that the golden, amber light that rippled with rhythmic waves of humming, was now inside him. As though instead of looking out through his eyes at it, he was looking in. » ~The Wakening of the Sword.

Coming soon… The Mousefather: A terrifying tail. (sic)

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Writing…A blog about writing and I haven’t mentioned it yet!

I probably should.

The Elements series…1100 pages long, just under half a million words…and 9 years of writing. It looks quite a lot, especially when the 5 books are piled up on top of one another. But when I started writing the first book, all that time ago, it didn’t seem like a big challenge at all!

I was at last doing something that felt totally right, and knew without the slightest of doubts, that this was all I wanted to do…And it wasn’t going to be ‘one day, I’ll write a book’, it was ‘I am writing a book now.’

So…Why then? It wasn’t as though I hadn’t written bits and pieces before. What was different about that moment in 2003?

A dream. That was what was different. I woke up one morning with the entire story in my head…beginning to end. And unlike most dreams, this one didn’t fade away as the minutes passed. Infact, the opposite happened and that morning, as I scribbled down the bones of the story in a notebook, I remembered more and more detail.

And that was that. Whether I wanted to or not now, I had no choice really but to write the story… I had been given the story as a gift from the Story Spirits and to ignore it, to not write it, would be to throw that gift back in their faces!

Probably the sensible thing at this stage would have been to read lots of books about how to write books, or even to do a short creative writing course. It certainly wouldn’t be to give up the ‘day job’ and launch straight into a 5 book series. But I’m not a huge fan of the ‘sensible thing’. And I have a sneaking suspicion that had I been sensible and rational about it, the books would never have been written.

I can hear tut-tutting!…

That’s the why. Now the how.

It was obvious from the beginning that this was going to a series, something which has turned out to be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because no matter how demoralised I sometimes felt, I had to carry on. What would have become of the first 3 books if I had stopped there and left them dangling, left my hero tumbling into a dark hole?
A curse, because no matter how demoralised I sometimes felt, I had to carry on! I could have taken a break, written something else, but hanging over me was the constant spectre of an unfinished series…otherwise known as ‘what if I fall under a bus?’-syndrome.

So…a series, and a series with many different plot threads running through it. I put on an organised head and began to draw up a sort of massive grid system; characters, plot lines, themes, etc. running through all 5 books. And I wrote the end. Not in great detail, but the key points were there. I knew where the story was going to end.
The very last line of the last book reads « This is the end in which the beginning rests ». And so it is. Without the end there would have been no beginning.

Coming up…I start to actually write…Dragons will be involved…

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My first blog post! Here goes……….

This blog will be about my books. And about writing. And about being a writer… or rather, my experience of being a writer. So…it’s actually about being a forest dwelling, Pan-loving, hermit-alchemist writer.
There will be dragons, and nature Spirits…Hedge hags and undines…Magic, spells, potions, fairytales, animals (lots of animals), trees (lots of trees)…and green/eco things, the deer rut, golden orioles, ley lines, stars…and more dragons…….

This is me. ↓

I was born in England in 1967. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in Oriental Studies, I worked for a while in Europe and Asia, in noisy, crowded, bellicose cities, turning gold into more gold….Concrete and electromagnetic white noise instead of trees and the hum of bees…Striplights and chemical air freshener instead of sunlight and the scent of herbs…

I escaped!

I now live in the middle of the ancient and magical Armorican Forest in France, weaving stories, herding words, rescuing animals, growing giant vegetables, hunting the Green Lion and whispering to Dragons.

This is where I write…↓

These are some of my assistants…↓

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