The Many Doors in a Writer’s Life #Writers #WritersLife #AmWriting

Featured Image -- 2081

I’ve just realised it’s Thursday and, for the first time (I think) since I started it, I didn’t post a Wednesday Wander yesterday. I suppose my focus this week has been on documenting the weekend away with The Silent Eye, so in a way I’ve been Wandering all week. Today is Thursday and there is another instalment to be posted – however, I usually post a door today. Instead, please enjoy this lovely post from Lucy over at Blondewritemore, about the different types of doors in a writer’s life – well worth a read!

BlondeWriteMore

writing-doors-2

Photo Credit: Upsplash.

Inspiration for this post has come from Helen Jones who blogs atJourney to Ambeth.

I have started reading the first book (Oak and Mist) from Helen’s series ‘The Ambeth Chronicles’ and I am hooked!

At the start of ‘Oak and Mist’ Alma finds a doorway to another world between two trees in her local park and this is where the idea for this post came from.

So, I forced myself to put Helen’s book down for five minutes and started thinking about the many doors in a writer’s life. I don’t know what it is about doors but once you start thinking about them you can’t stop..sigh!

  1. Writing the opening line of a story is like building an imaginary door. Stories are like doors that open and transport the reader off to a different place, world or time.
  2. A painful episode of writer’s block…

View original post 404 more words

Circles Beyond Time – Sorrow

img_3591This is the continued story of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. Please click here for instalment one and two.

After the visit to Carl Wark and an excellent dinner, I returned to my hotel unable to do anything other than watch TV for a while before falling asleep, thoughts of finishing my short story gone in the face of my experiences on the hill. Besides, I thought, I can look at it tomorrow.

img_3588Despite all the travelling the previous day, I woke early, and was one of the first people down for breakfast in the old oak-beamed dining room. Once finished, I realised I had an hour or so to spare before being picked up, so decided to take a look around Hathersage. Sue had mentioned that I should visit the church, so I upon leaving the hotel I headed left, taking a cobbled path between stone cottages towards where Google Maps told me the church should be. I came to a long muddy road and turned left again, following a glimpse of spire above the trees. After being splashed by an enthusiastically muddy spaniel, I found a gravelled path leading past mossy stone walls. The sign on the tree helped, too. ;-D

img_3590The path led towards a walled enclosure, a grove of trees crowning the hill where the church hid. I wandered up, dodging cowpats and taking care to close the gates behind me, enjoying the views across the village, thinking what a lovely place it would be to live in.

img_3601When I reached the church, I wandered around the graveyard for a little while. It was peaceful, the gravestones grey with age and lichen, family names appearing again and again speaking of an uninterrupted line of existence linked to the village. I love to read old gravestones – the stories they tell of lives lived, of loved ones and families – and there were plenty of fine examples. I didn’t find the Eyre family, which was a shame, but I did find one rather famous fellow.

img_3608This is the grave (reputedly) of Little John, he of Robin Hood fame. As you can see, it’s a very long grave, in keeping with his fabled height, and the gravestone tells the story of how he once lived nearby. Well, why not? I thought, as I took the pathway back towards the gate, smiling at the ladies decorating the ancient stone doorway with flowers, no doubt in preparation for a wedding later that day. But I had somewhere else to be and time was ticking, so I walked back to the hotel, collected my pack, then joined the companions for another day of exploration.

img_3609This time we were heading to Gardoms Edge. I didn’t really know anything about it, but, as we walked through the fields towards to the gate, Sue filled us in. Gardoms Edge was once a Neolithic village – stone hut circles, walls and other evidence had all been excavated and mapped by archaeologists, then left in place for the lichen and heather to cover once more. This sounded fascinating, and I couldn’t wait to take a look.

img_3623We entered via a farm gate, then walked among trees and tumbled stones, hut circles and walls ancient remnants of the people who once made their homes here, thousands of years ago. This would have been a nice place to live, I thought, looking out to the view across hills and valleys, the high ridge protected by virtue of its location.

…until the painted people came…

But as the land started to rise, and we moved towards the edge of the cliff, anxiety began to curl in my stomach, my breath hard to catch. I swallowed, frowning, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. After the release of last night, I had thought to find something similar today. But this was different.

Sue turned to me. ‘You don’t like it here either, do you?’ I shook my head, realising I was almost treading on her heels in my haste to get through this place. The stones here were larger, some piled precariously on the cliff edge itself, other placed in groupings, some alone. Apparently, Sue explained, this was thought to be the place where the bones of the dead were placed, a sacred spot. The valley below was peaceful, green-clad.

…yet she could see people falling, spread-eagled like starfish against the dark green below, pushed from the cliff edge to break upon the desecrated bones of their ancestors, their deaths taken from them, their sacred space destroyed…

Later, when we spoke about the place, I likened it to how a concentration camp felt, invoked 9/11. At the time, when we reached the gate in the modern fence, waiting for the rest of the group to join us, all I could say was that it felt defiled.

‘Do you not feel well? Stu asked, looking concerned.

I shook my head. ‘I feel sick,’ I said, bile rising in my throat as I looked back to the cliff edge, our companions still walking among the stones, taking photos. I had taken no photos, just wanting to get through the place.

‘It took me the same way, when I first came here,’ he said.

…she took a moment to regroup, wondering at the morning she’d had, visiting two places of the dead, one still sanctified, the other not. The dead are revered among all cultures, ceremony and ritual used to send them on their way, the origins of such practices lost in time. And to destroy such a place of ritual is to commit the deepest sacrilege. The reverberations of such an act still resonated in the land, millennia later, affecting her to her core…

As we went through another gate, a fence separating the cliff edge off from the wooded area beyond, I felt the sickness and fear start to ease, my breath coming easier. I didn’t want to go back through there again, though. I followed Sue and Stu through the woods until we stopped at a large standing stone in a clearing. It was set at an angle, notches carved into the head. A bit like a sundial, really…

img_3626

Circles Beyond Time – Release

This is the continued story of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. For the first instalment, please click here.

img_3545We left The Fox House in a small convoy of cars, heading towards Carl Wark. It’s a Neolithic site, designated a hill fort despite the fact it is like no other hill fort in the area. As we left the cars and started along the trail, we passed between two large stones. Though they were set far back from the path, they nonetheless felt to me as though they marked a gateway of sorts, the beginning of a path.

As we walked the curving path, talking among ourselves, the landscape opened up. To the right the stone was tumbled and jagged, evidence of more recent human activity, blasting into the natural rock for building materials. It felt unnatural, like a scar on the landscape when compared to the sweeping natural beauty to the left of us. Then the path changed, turning down towards a narrow stream that cut the valley in two. A low stone bridge was the only way across. But it was blocked.

img_3581A figure stood there in robes of wool, hair wild, a symbol bound on his brow, his staff held out to bar the way. We stopped. The figure looked like Stuart, and it sounded like Stuart, but there was an echo there of an earlier time. ‘Under the weather indeed,’ we muttered, equally entertained and enthralled by the spectacle. It was well done, as was the next part – each of us taking our turn to cross the narrow bridge and be welcomed into the land.

Ritual can be as simple as a few spoken words or a silent acknowledgement – it does not need to be complicated. And so it was here, words spoken and a welcome given, along with a name – a reminder that she was stepping back in time. As she crossed the water and began to ascend, her mood changed, emotion running high. Her fingers strayed to two rings on her right hand, gifts from her two beloved grandmothers – they were quite valuable, but she had felt bound to wear them. Tears prickled her eyes as she touched the golden circles, reminded of their love.

img_3551We ascended through heather and bracken, the path boggy in parts, large stones seeming to mark the way. I was feeling more and more teary for some reason, and I turned to Sue, who was behind me. ‘This is quite an emotional place, isn’t it?’

She nodded. ‘So you’re feeling it too.’

Ah. Yes, I was definitely feeling something. Sorrow, but an old sorrow, as though I were releasing a pain long held. I told Sue, though I don’t know why, that I had brought my grandmothers with me. She responded by telling me that was a good thing, as we were going to be working with the ancestors. Hmmm.

img_3549As we neared the summit, the scale of the stones crowning the hill became apparent. Large blocks and shapes were placed precariously along the edge, including one that stood out and seemed to change as we approached – one moment a fish, then a bird, then a curling shell, it drew the eye from every angle. Finally, we reached the top, and were greeted by an extraordinary Neolithic stone wall. After taking a few photos, we entered the enclosure to find stones placed everywhere, shaped and carved, defining pathways and areas to sit and take in the views. Yet the large stone perched on the cliff edge stood out, and it felt strangely as though it were watching me.

…all at once she could see that the stone was a raven, wings furled, beaked head turned to greet her. She caught a glimpse of blue and cloth of gold, the raven’s eye following her wherever she went.

‘Kneel.’

The command came, and in her mind’s eye she knelt, weeping as two ravens, living feather and bone, flew past, black against the smoky valley below.

img_3561My eyes were full of tears, emotion rolling over me. Stu and Sue came back along the path and I whimpered something incoherent about ravens and grandmothers before wandering further in, gradually regaining my calm. Eventually, we gathered once more as a group, taking shelter from the wind among a cluster of huge boulders to hear more about the history of the place, and to share any poems or readings we felt might be appropriate. There were a few poems read, then one of the group gifted us with a song, his voice rising with the wind across the valley, a lovely serenade to the landscape. When he finished we all applauded, then Sue invited us into a meditation.

…the great stone seemed to rise and fall beneath her, a movement separate from the buffeting wind, from the rhythm of the song. As though she leant against the side of some great beast, breath blowing in and out, a creature of earth and rock. She spiralled back through the years, travelling out across the valley to the high ridges beyond, a silver thread connecting her back to the group at the rocks…

img_3576We were going to stay and watch the sun set, but the wind was growing stronger and the low grey clouds meant there probably wouldn’t have been much to see other than a darkening sky, so the decision was made to head back to The Fox House and see if we could get our reserved table any earlier. We headed back to the stone wall for a group photo, then started back down the slope. As we crossed the bridge over the stream we each paused, taking a moment in our own way to mark the sanctity of the place we’d just visited. I felt quite different than how I had when I ascended, something I had been carrying a long time released.

img_3570When we reached The Fox House, they were happy to accommodate us. Amid the good food and conversation, I mentioned to Sue that I’d written a poem for the weekend. ‘But it didn’t feel the right time to read it,’ I’d said, ‘plus I think there’s another verse.’ There was certainly another line – ‘Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams.’ It turned round and round in my mind, and I knew it had to be included somehow. I pulled the notebook from my bag and gave it to Sue to read. She did, then passed it on to Stuart. He read it, then nodded at me.

‘We can work with this tomorrow, if that’s okay with you.’

Circles Beyond Time Weekend – Arrival

img_3567A little over two weeks ago I headed north for a three-day weekend with The Silent Eye, to be spent exploring Neolithic sites and ancient monuments in the Peak District. I travelled alone, meeting most of the group for the first time. And it was… intense. A heady mix of good company, wonderful scenery, and powerful landscapes. I had some interesting experiences – whether they can be ascribed to an over-active imagination, or something else, is unclear. It’s going to take me a few blog posts to write the story of the weekend, and I’ll try to explain things as best I can…

The adventure started early Friday with a train journey into London, then north to Manchester, where I would catch a regional train into the peak district. This was kind of a big deal for me – it had been a long while since I’d had any time away by myself. As I watched the landscape flash past, secure in my comfortable seat, I felt the demands of daily life lift. I was heading north, to stone circles and mystery, and I couldn’t wait.

A quick shot, taken from the train

The flint walls and fruit trees of the south were far behind me as I headed east from Manchester Piccadilly into the misty hills and green valleys of the Peak District. The views from the small two-carriage train were extraordinary, the landscape changing at every turn. Yet many of my fellow passengers sat with newspapers open or on phones, familiarity making them immune to the beauty around them. I couldn’t get enough, the rising slopes and small villages reminiscent of North Wales, my favourite place on earth.

img_3710Upon reaching my destination, the George Hotel in Hathersage, I was delighted to find out that, apart from being a charming and comfortable hotel, The George was also once a favourite haunt of Charlotte Bronte. She visited often while staying at the nearby Hathersage Vicarage, and the village of Hathersage appears in Jane Eyre, the name changed to Morton. The family who owned The George at the time were also called Eyre, and it’s said this is where the name came from. This seemed to bode well. While looking forward to exploring during the weekend, I also had brought a rough draft of a Gothic short story with me, hoping to complete it in time to submit to a competition that coming week. Surely staying in the same place that had once hosted a Bronte sister would be great for inspiration.

img_3539After checking in, I wandered down to the lobby. I had a couple of hours to spare, so, being starving, I ordered a late lunch. While waiting for my food I noticed a library set into an angle of the building and went to take a closer look. I love libraries and this one, although tiny, was perfectly formed. So I took a few photos, then sat down to enjoy my meal. Once finished, I headed back to my room, packed my backpack and donned hiking boots and a waterproof jacket. It was almost time. Two of the companions were coming to collect me – we were to meet the others at the Fox House, then head to Carl Wark, the first of several sites we were to explore that weekend.

img_3543

The companions arrived, prompt to the minute, and there were hugs all around before we got in the car and headed up into the hills. As the landscape fell away the views became more spectacular, and I couldn’t wait to explore, deeper and further into the green. Upon reaching the Fox House, a sprawling old pub built of local grey stone, I met the rest of the companions – once again there were hugs, and I immediately felt welcomed as part of the group. Sue was there, and it was lovely to see her again, but Stuart was missing – apparently under the weather. Or so it seemed…

To be continued.

Guest Post with Author Kate M. Colby #Desertera

perf5.250x8.000.inddToday I’m very pleased to welcome author (and author-y friend!) Kate M. Colby to my blog. Kate has just released The Courtesan’s Avenger, the second book in her Desertera series (and if you haven’t read her first book, The Cogmsith’s Daughter, get yourselves a copy now!). Set in the steampunk world of Desertera, The Courtesan’s Avenger is a tale of murder, intrigue and justice – I can’t wait to read it🙂

Today, Kate’s written an excellent post about character motivation, something she feels is key to good story-telling. There’s a lot of useful information here, so read through and let us know what you think in the comments. Take it away, Kate!

As an author, the question I get asked more than any other is: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” or some variation of it. With the release of my second novel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, I finally feel like I’m in a place to offer some solid advice (without feeling like an imposter!). So, here it is: if I had
to give just one tip to budding writers, it would be to give your characters, both major and minor, a strong motivation.

Why? Because every person (or magical being or animal) you meet has a goal that drives them, influences their actions, and shapes their personality and worldview. Even a motivation as simple as getting through the work day, or as pure as surviving an apocalypse, can have huge impact on a character’s part in a story. For me, motivation is the core of a character and absolutely essential to creating well-rounded, complex, and relatable individuals. It’s also an aspect of my writing on which I really pride myself and I always love to see mentioned in reviews.

In my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, Aya Cogsmith is driven by revenge. More than anything, she wants to obtain justice for her wrongly executed father and resume her rightful place as heir to his workshop and trade. Aya’s vengeance is the guiding light of the novel and the vessel that influences her decisions (and therefore the plot). The goal makes her relatable to readers – who hasn’t felt wronged before? – and also leads to mistakes and stumbling points that give her further depth.

The sequel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, features a new leading lady with a similar motivation. Dellwyn Rutt wants to obtain justice for a fellow courtesan who has been murdered. However, unlike Aya, Dellwyn’s motives are not self-interested. She simply wants to see a wrong made right. Therefore, the path she takes is entirely different and far less dangerous. Instead of political turmoil, Dellwyn must face conflicts in her own sense of morality, strained friendships, and her inability to fully trust others.

Keep in mind, motivation shouldn’t be exclusive to your main and supporting characters. Know the motivation of everyone in your world. In The Cogsmith’s Daughter, there’s a scene in which Aya goes to a bakery. It’s early morning; the baker has been up since before dawn baking. She wants to get rid of Aya as quickly as possible, but she also wants to show a little kindness to the crestfallen young woman.

Because I know these short-term goals, I can express them through the baker’s actions and words. Will the reader identify them exactly? Maybe, maybe not. But the baker seems all the more real for having these goals.

On a similar note, feel free to give characters secret motivations. For example, Dellwyn’s employer has intimate connections to two of the other employees that I never tell the readers. These affect her aspirations for their careers, what she expects of them, and how she treats them. If I told the readers the full truth of these relationships, there would be a “lightbulb moment,” and the relationships would take on even greater depth. As it is, the employer’s motivations remain appropriately hidden (They’re not key to the plot, after all!), but her relationships to those two employees are complex, interesting, and feel real.

Motivation can make or break a character. It gives readers a way to empathize with, love, or love-to-loathe a character and creates a necessary depth within the character and story. In the case of minor characters, motivation is a simple way to take them from “good” to “great.” If you like character-driven novels (particularly starring strong females), complex relationships, expansive worldbuilding, and a dash of intrigue and romance, I think you’ll like my novels. If you liked the tips in this article, you’ll probably
like what I have to offer on my blog. Links to all this and more below.

Before I sign off, I want to extend a huge thank you to Helen Jones for hosting me. I really appreciate your authorly friendship and the opportunity to share more about my novels and writing process with your readers. If anyone reading hasn’t read Helen’s Ambeth series (What are you waiting for?!), I highly recommend it. It’s another great example of complex, motivated characters.

Wow! Thanks, Kate🙂 So, what do you think? Like Kate, I agree that knowing the motivation of every character, even the minor ones, is key to presenting a well-rounded story. Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

———————————————————————————————

kate-m-colby

Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

 

Book links:

The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1)

The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2)

Social links:

Website – http://www.katemcolby.com

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/katemcolby

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/authorkatemcolby

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/katemcolby

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/katemcolby

Tumblr – https://katemcolby.tumblr.com

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/katemcolby

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/katemcolby

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+KateMColby

Thursday Doors – Blacksmith Row

img_3409This door is the end one in a row of three connected cottages called Blacksmith Row. There is no blacksmith there any more but, as with so many names in Britain, clues to the history of the place lie in the name. When Leverstock Green was a village, before the post-war new town developments made it part of Hemel Hempstead, there was a smithy to the right of the cottages – in fact, right where the resident of this cottage now has a smart fenced garden.

img_3406Even though it’s been absorbed into a larger town, Leverstock Green still has a village feel, with the old pub, cricket played on the green and the picturesque cottages with their lovely gardens. I particularly like how, even though the cottages are separately owned, the owners have chosen to have the same colour front doors. It made them the perfect candidate for my Thursday Doors post this week.

This is my entry to Norm 2.0’s weekly Thursday Doors Challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.

 

Wednesday Wander – Throwback, Hollywood Style

This week, I’m wandering back in time as well as through space, to my first trip to California. It was 1985 – denim was faded, colours were bright, earrings were big and so was hair.

hollywood-bowlAnd here we are. My brother and I at the famed Hollywood Bowl, just sitting casually in front of the band shell. Well, at least I am. My brother looks, oddly enough, as though he’s playing air guitar. Odd, because he went on to become a professional musician, and now plays guitar all around the world. Not sure if he’s played at the Hollywood Bowl though – I’ll have to ask him.

Built in 1929, the Art Deco influence is obvious in the concentric arches of the band shell. The Bowl has hosted famous musicians almost beyond count – I remember my mum being very excited to be there. I believe The Beatles were mentioned several times. The large white spheres over the stage were designed by architect Frank Gehry, and were added during the 1980s to improve the sound system – apparently the deterioration of the acoustics were part of the reason this shell was demolished and replaced in 2004.

This trip was a fab trip – we drove from Los Angeles all the way along the coast road to San Francisco, a trip I repeated in part with my own family last year. The memories of the 1980’s trip are like a dream in some respects, all golden sun and green hills and blue ocean, like some fabled landscape in a story. I’m sure I’ll be back there again one day.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!