This morning I perused several posts on different internet pages extolling the importance of attending workshops and conferences for writers. All of them give the unsuspecting the totally wrong message, by implying that participation is a guarantee to literary success by sitting down with, and talking to, what the various sites claim are professionals in our business.
Most also suggest that by spending copious amounts of money to promote your work via their sites will also ensure success. This little time bomb is usually to be found buried in the small print, tucked well away from the main text.
To put it crudely – it’s all complete bollocks!
If you are a social climbing gadfly with money to burn who loves to tell anyone within earshot that you are an author, by all means flit between the various writers workshops and conferences, no matter where they are, to your heart’s content, or until you do an impression of Icarus. If you believe that doing this will somehow make you a writer – dream on idiot!
These days you will find many of these wannabe’s on sites like Facebook. They are fairly easy to spot. Usually they are the ones who add the word author as if it is one of their christian names – Author Joe Bloggs, or they add the word to their surname – Joe Bloggs – Author.
However, not all writers who have the word added to their name can be lumped together with the wannabes. There are one or two exceptions. Usually they are people who got caught out when creating an account on the social media site of their choice. As a general rule of thumb, you will find that hardworking real writers just use their given name.
If you delude yourself into believing that by rubbing shoulders with well known authors, that somehow or other some of their success will rub off on you, think again! As for the literary agents and publisher’s representatives who the various sites claim will be in attendance, if they turn up at all which is highly doubtful, they are only looking for one thing – a manuscript to exploit to their own financial advantage. They are certainly not there for you.
As for the kind of literary success the various sites say is yours for the taking, unless you are known celebrity, be it an actor, pop-star, socialite, television personality or sports man or woman, who has been approached by a publisher with an in-house ghost writer standing by – forget it! Come on now, you didn’t really think that your favourite movie star or singer actually penned that best selling autobiography did you?
Take it from one who knows – there is no substitute under the sun for hard work and long experience. That only comes after years of honing your craft. Most of us continue honing until the day we shuffle off this mortal coil. Don’t worry if it takes you several years or decades, one day you will pen a work which appeals to the general reading public, however briefly.
Don’t you know there is a war on? What does it take to get people to take things seriously? Do we need Chief Warden Hodges from Dad’s Army storming round Brussels shouting ‘Put that Light Out’?
There is a problem with people. They will continue to believe things even when they’re obviously not true. As an example of this, YouGov do a daily chat, they email it to tens of thousands of people. They will ask various questions on the subject chosen for today, but the fascinating part is that you see the number of people who have agreed with which answer.
So when they asked what precautions people were taking against covid, I took a screenshot of the answer. 47% of people said they were wearing a facemask. I have to ask where? In the comfort and safety of their own home? When they’re in bed? Because they’re certainly…
Seven years ago, after almost three weeks of endless pontificating I was once again back writing my science fiction WIP, The Guardian.
At the time the story was at a crossroads. I had several ways in mind for where it may go next. Each one wholly dependent on a specific character, or characters, and how they had reacted so far. I gradually eliminated each of them in my mind for varying reasons. That’s why it took me a lot of time to finally decide on which character, so that the story could continue.
If you are at all familiar with the way certain wooly headed academics behave, it will come as no great surprise that I’m using my character, Professor Ephraim Adelmann, once again. Having worked with academics like him for a quarter of a century, I know how they think. Most of the ones I knew seriously needed a notice slung from around their necks, clearly stating to all and sundry that under no circumstances should they ever be left alone for one second. When it comes to common sense, most truly classic academics have none. Ephraim is no exception. In short, he has… Whoops, I almost told you then. All you need to know for now is that this part of the story unfolds back where Adler and Lynne first became aware of just how much danger they faced when they arrived in the Valles Marineris on Mars.
I was hoping The Guardian kept its distance while I fixed the problem!
Some rower sets off from his childhood to cross the Atlantic of life as the crowds gather to applaud his courage and the adventures he is yet to discover. He is moved by the numbers of people who are there and pulls strongly on his oars and, as he approaches the harbour entrance, they are lined with well wishers: an astonishing and uplifting sight.
As he rows the harbour slips slowly behind him, but although close friends and family follow him in little power boats the crowd is left behind. Slowly as the shore line recedes , the friends turn back towards their harbour as his emotions well up: he so wishes he could go with them, but what a fool he’d look if he did, so on he rows, watching their figures move slowly out of sight. The training and the will power kick in as he pulls on…
At the time of writing this post I’m still working on the first draft of my work in progress Autumn 1066. More specifically, the second of the three battles apposite to the story that occupies each and every moment of each and every day for me.
That does not mean endless hours spent writing. Rather the complete opposite. A story like this requires a lot of reading and forethought before hesitantly offering up words. If you want to do a story like this justice, writing a historical fiction based on actual events is not as easy as you may imagine.
While I’m now in no doubt whatsoever that the story will be short, the thing I’m really loving is looking at whats going on in the minds of my fictional characters from their eleventh century perspective. Despite the nine hundred and fifty one years that separate us, when comparing the Saxons and us, we’re not so different.
While I’m writing the book in present day English, not its eleventh century equivalent, I am using Saxon names, types of weapons and titles. For me this is fast becoming less about writing a book as much as conducting an intellectual exercise, purely for my own edification. While that may sound strange, even perhaps selfish to you, writing a book like this one is just that – an intellectual exercise governed by rules and regulations, unlike the freedom of writing an ordinary fictional story.
Now I’d better get back to where I left everything in abeyance in the second battle yesterday…
This was originally published in two parts, in 2018. I have combined both parts into one story of 2,600 words.
The picture was from Sue Judd’s blog, and I used it as a prompt. https://suejudd.com/
That summer of 1914 had started hot, and kept getting hotter. The sleepy town at the edge of the Massif Central felt more like the tropics, and Serge was uncomfortably hot in his Sunday Best suit as he walked along the path leading to the lake. But he wouldn’t slow his pace, as time with Sandrine was all too fleeting, and he wanted to make sure he got there early. They had no option but to meet in the old boat house. It was far enough away from the prying eyes of those who might recognise them, and it had proved to be a good choice, as they were never disturbed. Every Sunday for two…
Glob’s beautiful friend Lox, the leader of the Elves
Beware on Crellan’s Mine
It’s A Case of Balance, Do You See
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), and curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), together with Bejuss, the one-eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, and their friends and allies, head towards Crellan’s mine to rescue its slave workers.
Morweth ended a heated argument over what they would do with the black wizard Crellan when they finally caught up with him. This was the time for wisdom, magic and cunning, not revenge.
“No, no, no, Crellan must not die! Goblindom exists because it is in equilibrium. Life and death, growth and decay, summer and winter, and in magic’s case, good and evil. All contribute to keeping us hidden from prying eyes. Should any of these elements necessary to our existence cease to be, the magic barrier will simply dissolve, and our part of the world will be quickly overrun by the hated humans and end forever. If you will dear friends, Goblindom and everything in it will simply end for all time, soon to be forgotten. Our capability to live in peace together and converse with each other, be we witch or wizard, raven or eagle, humin or goblin, wyvern or griffin, ogre, troll, elf, mountain gremlin, even dragon, will also end. The human’s world beyond our barrier is in a state of chaos. The different kinds living in it cannot understand each other anymore. Consequently, they live in fear and kill rather than live side by side like us. Any mutual trust between all living things that they may have had is gone for all time. It’s a case of balance, do you see.”
“Then why’s is we goin ter his mine?” Nit enquired. Like the rest, he puzzled why they were heading east towards the Widow Spires and certain trouble, possibly even death, if not to end Crellan’s life.
“I’s can answers that Nit, if yer don’t minds me buttin in Morweth,” Glob interjected, in support of the white wizard, “we’s goin ter free the slaves if we’s can, n close the mine forever. Everyone knows taint natural, nor safe, ter dig big holes neath the ground. It coulds let danger from below enter Goblindom. I says beware on Crellan’s mine! Remembers wots almost gots out when we’s tried ter rescue Yathle’s cousin Ariadne.”
Those that had taken part in the abortive rescue attempt remembered the spine-chilling cry and the smell of brimstone, moments before the magic barrier closed behind them after they had reached the safety of this world, sealing off the one beneath their own.
“But what is Crellan up to?” Mica began, still not clear about the black wizard’s reason for needing so many jewels, “apart from looking pretty round a female’s neck, what possible purpose could Crellan have in mind for those coloured stones?”
“That my friend is what I wish to learn,” Morweth replied, like Mica he puzzled over what Crellan needed them for. For the moment the answer eluded him.
They had camped for the night at the head of a valley leading to the foothills of the Widow Spires beneath the easternmost edge of Goblindom’s thick oak woods. From now on they risked being seen by Crellan’s lookouts as they began following Brog. At long last he had seen the error of his ways after both Yathle and Slyth threatened to rip him apart with their powerful talons. Together with Nit, he would guide the army through the hills.
Bejuss sat on Slyth’s great armoured head quietly talking to him. “Rarrk – we need ter thee how far wetht Crellan’th lookoutth are,” he lisped, while preening his feathers in between catching passing moths in his twisted beak which were attracted by the campfire.
Slyth’s belly growled. He hadn’t eaten a goblin for days. Being surrounded by hundreds of his favourite snacks was driving him crazy. For a split second, he even contemplated flicking his head to dislodge his feathered friend and swallow him whole. Then overcome with deep shame, he quickly dismissed the idea. He had momentarily placed his desperate need to eat above his deep friendship with the old raven. “We should go ter Morweth n tell him we need ter fly east ter spy on them Bejuss,” Slyth sheepishly suggested, desperately hoping that the old bird had not sensed his brief moment of madness brought on by his extreme hunger.
Maybe they could kill two birds with one stone so to speak. He and his brother Garr could fill their bellies at the same time as determining Crellan’s defences. Within a few minutes with Morweth’s blessing, the two griffins and Bejuss together with Yathle and her squadron of wyverns were heading towards the Widow Spires.
“I’s feds up n hungry! Where’s our relief, Derr?”
“Shuddup n stops moanin, they’ll be here soon enuff,” Derr replied to his companion, Tan. They had been on watch since sunset, and now it was close to dawn. Below them, they had a clear view of the reception camp, the mine’s entrance, and the carts being loaded by slave labourers with the freshly mined jewels.
Derr’s eyes misted up. Great drops of saliva fell from his mouth at the thought of all those jewels below. “Taint fair. Whys don’t we steals sum for us?” Tan suggested in a hushed tone, briefly forgetting his hunger as the thought of owning the jewels below overtook him. “Shush brother, don’t even thinks on it, else Crellan will hears n kills us both,” Derr hissed, as an involuntary shiver ran down his spine. The thought of crossing the black wizard made his green goblin blood run cold.
Back in his laboratory, Crellan’s face broke out in a contemptuous sneer while he watched and listened to their conversation, thanks to his mercury filled crystal seeing bowl before he retired to bed. Ungrateful plains goblins like those two were easily replaced. Tomorrow things would be different. As it turned out it was a prophetic thought on his part. So far his stocks of emeralds were building up nicely. He only needed twenty more cartloads before he could finally begin the second phase of his plan. Half a moon’s more mining should suffice.
Bejuss perched on Morweth’s shoulder moments after he and Slyth, together with Garr, Yathle and her sisters returned. “Rarrk – there ith three wayth ter the mine Morweth; one ith directly ahead on uth ter the eatht, but it’th heavily guarded like the one ter the thouth. But the one ter the north hath only a few lookoutth; it leadth directly ter a bluff above the mine.”
Morweth nodded his thanks. “No matter which path we take, Crellan will see us approach via his crystal seeing bowl my friends,” the old wizard declared, deeply concerned for everyone’s safety. “Yathle, can you take Brilith and me to Crellan’s home? Between us, we can cast a spell of invisibility to prevent us being observed by any of his minions along the way. But if he is still awake, whether it will fool him I simply don’t know. We have to get inside undetected to counter his magic. Perhaps we may even learn of his intent.”
Yathle fixed the old wizard with her golden eyes, gently smiled and nodded. Mica rose, and together with Lox, the leader of the elves, volunteered to accompany them. Morweth smiled and shook his head. “I thank you my friends, but no. You must lead the army to the mine. Bejuss will accompany us. If we are successful he will act as my messenger and fly back here to you. At that point, you will know it is safe to proceed. The battle for Crellan’s mine will be fierce my friends, make no mistake.”
Mica, Glob and the rest momentarily watched as Yathle rose into the sky with her two passengers with old Bejuss flying alongside before they all magically vanished from view. Now all Mica, Glob and the rest could do was wait.
Yathle landed silently on the roof of Crellan’s impregnable stone tower lair. Morweth motioned for both her and Bejuss to stay behind while he and Brilith stole silently down the tower’s winding stone steps leading to Crellan’s laboratory. As the pair approached the door still invisible, they came across two dozing mountain gremlin guards. Morweth turned them both to stone, after deftly relieving one of them of a set of keys. Brilith kept watch while the ancient wizard tried each key in the door. After they entered, Morweth quickly relocked the door behind them.
The first thing on his mind was to destroy the seeing bowl. Brilith stayed his hand. “Take it with us, it may prove useful later,” she whispered. Morweth handed it to her. After pouring the mercury into a stone flask, she quickly secreted both the flask and the crystal bowl into a large pocket inside her cape.
Next, they both turned their attention to destroying Crellan’s laboratory using their powerful magic to reduce everything to dust. Then they left the laboratory, locked the door, and between them, cast a spell. Briefly, they watched as the door transformed itself, becoming part of the wall, sealing the laboratory off forever. When Crellan woke, not only would the two guards be nothing more than stone statues, but the wall of his laboratory would be solid with no entrance.
Brilith led the way down to where the slaves delivered the emeralds each day. They stopped outside Crellan’s bed chamber. Morweth quickly and quietly turned the sleeping wizard’s door to stone, making it blend into the rest of the wall just like the door to his laboratory, sealing him in.
On entering the vast ground floor their breath was completely taken away. Neither of them had ever seen so many emeralds before in their long lives. But they were not the only jewels stored there. Huge mounds of rubies, diamonds, beryl, sapphires, onyx and topaz filled the rest of the chamber. While they briefly surveyed the scene the first two cartloads of emeralds for the day were being unloaded by goblin slaves urged on by the vicious whips of their guards.
Morweth’s blood ran cold. He finally understood what Crellan intended. Only one kind of creature coveted jewels like these in such vast quantities – black dragons!
The black wizard was gathering together enough jewels of all kinds from beneath the ground to raise an army of dragons to help him seize Goblindom for himself. Perhaps he even intended to raid the world of the humans beyond the magic barrier, thereby threatening the very existence of their hidden world in his desire to become its ruler!
Their objective had now changed. Everything here had to be destroyed. Taking the drastic decision, between them, they cast a spell of undoing. This time, the spell was different to the one cast by Morweth and Crellan when they destroyed the black dragon Kilycke’s nest, being wholly cast using white magic. As the spell slowly took effect, stone by stone, jewel by jewel, Morweth followed Brilith on the long climb back to the tower roof where Yathle and Bejuss waited patiently. When the black wizard eventually woke, he was in for a few unwelcome surprises.
Glob passed wind violently as he ate his breakfast of honeycomb, wild onion and dried fish. Moments later he almost soiled himself, very nearly jumping out of his skin when Bejuss landed unseen on his shoulder. “Rarrk – it’th time ter begin,” the old raven announced. By the time Yathle returned with Morweth and Brilith, the army was already on the march to the northern path with Mica and Lox at its head, all following Brog. At the base of the path, Morweth divided the army in two.
Taking Mica and his warriors together with Lox and some of her elven archers, accompanied by Slyth and Garr, Morweth and Brilith set off to the lookout post above the mine. Glob, Neo, Make, Mous, Nit and Byz were to follow Brog further north over a precipitous path. With luck, they would not be detected as they approached the mine from behind.
Derr and Tan’s lives savagely ended when Mica picked them up by the scruff of their scrawny necks and threw them to Slyth and Garr, who sliced them in two with their great beaks after the party had stealthily crept up on them from behind. At long last the two griffins had finally filled their complaining bellies. They both flew off to join Yathle’s squadron feeling renewed. Now they could enjoy themselves.
Yathle and her sisters began by delivering well-aimed fire balls, first at the remaining lookout posts, and then the groups of mine guards far below beyond the reception camp’s boundary fence. Slyth and Garr flew low and fast, crisscrossing the inside of the camp, decapitating guards and creating panic among the goblin slaves who hid completely terrified beneath the wooden carts used to carry the emeralds.
Morweth and Brilith took Derr and Tan’s place, protected by some of Lox’s archers and Mica’s band of warriors, quickly setting up the crystal seeing bowl to direct the attack. When Glob, Brog and the rest appeared from behind the mine, the battle was practically at an end.
All around them lay the broken bodies of the former guards, a mixture of plains and mountain goblins, ogres, trolls and mountain gremlins. Some had missing limbs, some no head. Still others slowly bled to death. Most were burnt to a crisp by the powerful fire balls delivered by Yathle and her sister wyverns.
By nightfall the mine had been taken. The rest of Lox’s elven archers had quickly dispatched the remaining few guards when they burst forth from inside the mine. Neo led a party deep underground to bring out the slaves. Once Morweth was certain that the mine was finally empty, he cast a spell which sealed it forevermore.
While the battle for Crellan’s mine raged below him, Bejuss circled overhead. Something in the distance caught his attention and he flew off to investigate.
Among the broken stones of Crellan’s ruined lair, the old bird’s one eye focused on a dirty bundle of clothing. Bejuss landed and hopped over to the writhing pile. A tiny helpless baby with rapidly reddening skin screamed when it saw him towering over it. The baby looked up at him with pursed lips and defiant, yet tearful eyes. Bejuss gently gathered together the clothing around the infant thinking it was cold then quickly flew back to Brilith. She soon returned astride Yathle’s back following the old bird.
Brilith instantly recognized the jagged birthmark on the baby’s badly sunburnt chest. The spell of undoing had done something completely unexpected. Crellan had suddenly woken up in great pain when strong sunlight struck him and began burning his exposed skin. In the distance, he could hear the sounds of battle going on. Why was he awake, it wasn’t dusk? What had happened to him? He lay in the rubble of his former home, thoroughly bewildered and covered in dust, unable to speak, stand or move. For the first time in his long life, he experienced real fear when the jet black raven suddenly appeared with its massive razor sharp twisted beak close to his face.
“So Crellan my lad, just wait until Morweth and the rest see what has happened to you,” she said laughing softly as she gently cradled the bad tempered infant black wizard in her arms.
Bejuss cocked his head, clearly still puzzled. He watched Crellan throw a tantrum. The black wizard stuck out his tongue and thrashed his chubby fists and legs in the air trying to hit Brilith. All he got for his petulant outburst was a smacked bottom which reduced him to tears, increasing his pain tenfold, much to Bejuss’ great delight. To add insult to injury, Yathle joined in Crellan’s humiliation by licking his sunburnt face with her long rough tongue, making him squirm even more, with a mixture of revulsion and great pain.
The black wizard would experience many more deeply humiliating incidents like this as he grew up for the second time. He would suffer Brilith’s no-nonsense attitude, and the inevitably painful chastisement administered by her for each transgression of her rules, many more times in the future. She was determined to change his ways. He tried to curse and blaspheme, but nothing came out of his mouth except screams, dribble and bubbles. The hidden world of Goblindom would be safe for a few more years now that it’s most dangerous son’s dark plans of domination had finally been ended.
Fortunately, the one thing the spell had not done was to wipe the vast knowledge of black magic from his mind. Thanks to this particular spell of undoing, Goblindom’s equilibrium had been maintained. White magic and black still existed.
See what happens to you when you have delusions of grandeur?
There is one infallible and quick way to determine the language level of non-native speakers, that is, detecting the way they more or less nonchalantly use bad words, but also their reaction when they become the object of that language too. Hence, when the most common Italian swearword, for example, the one which begins with a “V…” , to be clear, is translated into the equivalent in English which begins with an “F…”, well,“ its native hue of resolution is sickled o’er the pale cast of translation and loses the name of swearword” for an Italian. Of course, one understands the meaning, but somehow it is as if it were blunted in its effect.
So, when I accidentally came across an Instagram page with the name of my school preceded by that word which begins with the “F”, the options were just two: either the owner of the page wanted to…
Back in the day I was at the stage where I’d begun writing about the second of the three battles in my latest historical adventure Autumn 1066. Now read on…
While I have the facts, or should I say what is assumed to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’ve mention previously, the only account was written by a scribe fifty years after the battle – someone who in no way could ever be classed as a reliable, let alone impartial eyewitness.
At best the facts are sparse. At worst, woefully inadequate. While the fate of the historical figures involved is largely accepted by historians, what isn’t known is the fate of the ordinary participants in the battle. Because of the lack of written documentation, I now have to use artistic licence to give a flavour of what I believe they went through. This is the time where I begin the story within the story. For it to work, both the fictional and the historical stories must now blend into one, yet be separate in my mind as I write.
Surely that is a given I hear you smugly cry. I agree – it is. But, and its a big but, what I must be careful about is that the inner story does not wind up taking over at the expense of the historical. That is not so easy to do, and will require a lot of discipline on my part.
Why did I choose to wait until the second battle? In truth I don’t know. Except, the first battle occurred before my fictional characters enter into the story proper. Maybe once I’ve reached the conclusion of the first draft, that may change.
When Vasari described the Middle Ages as being in a ‘state of darkness,’ he reflected a confidence in his age that was rare in preceding centuries. Without entering into the snobbery of his claim – not only him, of course; Petrarch described the medieval era as being ‘surrounded by darkness’ – and the nobility of medieval art, I want to pause for a moment and cast a modern glance at the world of ‘light’ Vasari was so proud of.
When we think of the Renaissance the first names that come to our mind, as quickly and brightly as a bolt of lightning, are those of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Galileo. The period between the 14th and 16th centuries in Italy was a time of unprecedented artistic splendour. Not even the Classical era, the source of inspiration for any true Renaissance humanist, could match the quality and quantity…