Winter Nights

There’s a cold wind blowing and grey clouds brewing. Time to ‘batten down the hatches’. Apparently, in winter, we actually produce hormones that make us sleepy, designed to restore body, mind and soul. Well, whilst I appreciate cosying up on a cold winter night, my mind still races on. It seems, for me at least, the writing struggles to keep pace with the thinking.

It never gets old, seeing the book I wrote in print. I’m generally hopeless at remembering dates, but 24th May 2018 will likely stick for a long time to come: the date I held my first published book. Since then I’ve ventured out, introducing people to the story of Return of the Mantra. I appreciate each person who has taken the time to let me know how much they enjoyed it. A recent moment of excitement when it appeared as Day 8 of a reader’s book advent list – thank you twitter.

And now I’m working on a sequel; I’ve lost track of how many years ago I started it. The first book was complete, with an ending, but there always was going to be loose ends. I decided to re-visit the characters ten years on (in their world). And as they struggle to come to terms with their own history, a whole new land is introduced. In the planning stages I looked at some of my paintings and had a thought.

The paintings that offered up inspiration were hand-painted mosaics – though at this stage I couldn’t possibly tell what it was that inspired the story!

Desert Mosaic

City Mosaic

Both canvasses are big, approximately a metre square to fill with painstaking detail. Always it comes down to inspiration. So I thought of oases in the desert, the detail of henna, and the vibrancy of Durban amid the grey. It took a total of almost three months to complete the largest, in what felt like a sort of meditation. Tuning out and focusing on the detail is not dissimilar to writing.

Each project goes through the same cyclic process. For the sequel, I’ve thought, I’ve written, I’ve edited and hopefully now I’m on polish. And as I tighten the narrative and fine tune the characters, the world gets sharper in my mind. It’s not a world of black and white, but rather varying tones of grey. And yes, there’s a book 3, although think and write is about as far as I’ve got with that, so a long way to go. But first the polishing of book 2, and hopefully, with perseverance, it will find itself in print, nestled on my bookshelf.

Happy Tuesday!

 

Sharing Stories

 

It’s the Monday after Exeter’s first literary festival, and I’m left with the question, ‘Do we stop to think how much we take for granted?’

I’m thinking about the main character in Return of the Mantra; a young woman who grows up in a society where freedom of speech, books, stories and historical truth are controlled.

FantasyCon 2018

Last weekend was busy, with a trip to Chester to attend my first FantasyCon. It was amazing, and slightly overwhelming, to meet so many writers and readers of fantasy fiction. I took the plunge and signed up to the programme, including joining a fantasy reading panel. I read from Return of the Mantra, the part where Suni’s life irreversibly changes after she experiences tragedy. She poses as a boy and heads off to the mines in search of her estranged father, but life at the mines isn’t what she anticipates. Survival will depend on keeping her female identity secret, and on courage as she discovers her connection to ancient gifts passed down in bloodlines from the days of the tribes.

Inspiration

For me, painting is like storytelling; another medium to creatively put down thoughts. I started painting years ago, then when we bought our current house and white-washed the walls, I saw blank canvasses I was driven to fill. As with my first book, Return of the Mantra, thoughts born from time spent in Sudan and South Africa would feature in those canvasses.

Storytellers

There’s a reason why people in the UK obsess about the weather, when all four seasons can happen in one day. Conversations often feature words like nippy, overcast, drizzling… and end with dismayed comments like, ‘I’ve got washing on the line,’ or optimistic comments like, ‘it’s turned out nice again’. So after weeks of an uncommon and persistent heatwave, variable weather is back on the agenda.

Balance

It’s been a busy few months amid an unusual heatwave. Long sunny days are a great excuse to get out and about and enjoy the delights of your local area. I often think people’s tendency to explore gets saved for when they’re away on holiday, but what about the treasures on our own doorsteps?  For me that’s Devon, and while we haven’t actually ‘been away’, we have made a point of having holiday days.