Wednesday, 30 October 2013

When the Veil is thin

On October, 31st at Halloween the veil is thin between our world and the place of the dead. Ghouls, ghosts and spirits can whisper in our ears, appear as an outline, a fleeting shadow or transient scent worn by someone who has gone before but can still reach out to us in thought.

Samhain, the old name by which it's known, is the time for many to honour the spirits. The Pagan New Year which traditionally marks the end of summer and start of winter. An occasion to consider the past, and the future. Christianity also commemorates it's Saints at the end of October in a similar thought.

It's a great time of year to be a writer! I've read Michelle Paver's Dark Matter; Susan Hill's The Small Hand and Woman in Black; Helen Dunsmore's The Greatcoat and I've just dipped into Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger as I'm ready again to be persuaded to be afraid.

You can feel Hecate's dark power in words, and I like reading  Shakespeare's Macbeth at Halloween:

"Second witch:  Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worms' sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble;
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

All witches: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble."

Why not write in this genre when you think you are alone, at night with the wind creaking the floorboards? Your back is to the door and it's more than likely you're wrong. Look into the shadows at the corner of the room furthest from the light. 

Why not choose a cold, sepulchral setting for a story or poem like Newstead Abbey, the Bryon ancestral home in winter when the candlelight flickers and extinguishes easily from a draught? Cold and darkness draw on something buried deep within us, the primeval creates atmosphere. Dark Matter wouldn't have worked nearly so well had it been set in the desert as was originally envisaged by the author. The tension builds in this novel as the plot moves from an artic summer to winter and the protagonist is alone, almost.

And what of Magic, the part it plays in all of this? The Oxford dictionary defines magic as "the pretended art of influencing a course of events by occult control of nature or of spirits, witchcraft." Whether you believe in it's power or superstition, the distant cousin, I see magic in the everyday not just at Halloween. The shimmer of sunlight in the trees on a hot summer day and the patterns in the clouds during a rainstorm. There's much in nature that lends itself to this. The beautiful sensation of falling in love and feeling the other person's heart beat next to yours. How can that not be magical too?

On October, 31st to trick or treat is part of the magic of life, the fun we can have. Open that door if you dare, but be safe and enjoy this year's celebration of life, and death.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

It's all about Writing!

I'm editing the first draft of my novel and trying hard not to do any more research. I want to finish writing the story, but there's still a few gaps left to fill, and some where the archaeology hasn't yet been able to complete an eighth century jigsaw puzzle. It's a fascinating time to write about.

I've written a number of poems too over the last couple of years, and would like to enter some competitions. I'm also thinking of compiling a poetry Anthology.

Scribble is a good venue for short stories Prize Magic has lots of ideas about where to submit the poems 

I've recently discovered Twitter, the challenge of 140 characters or less. Please follow me   

I love old poetry Anthologies. An extract from an anonymous poem, printed in the 1918 edition of A Garland of Quiet Thoughts, makes me think that the writer understood the value in quiet perseverance.  

"And on through the hours
The quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration -
"Doe the nexte Thynge."

We do though keep going as that's the nature of life, but every time we do something different it changes us, however imperceptibly, and which leads then to more change. I guess that's also the case when we write, helping us find our elusive voice, and hopefully then publication.

Here's one of the poems I wrote some time ago about the changing seasons in a relationship.

"The snow's cold tonight,
my love, icicle
fingers tingle.

A teardrop froze
on stained window glass,
did you see it,
feel the distant touch
of Spring? It's waiting 
for a thaw, to kiss 
again the snowdrop.

I remember,
just that our love
was once as wild 
as the summer berry
in the forest,
where magic walks
under the oak.

And now...
word - the sharp sting 
of the nettle bed."

Snowdrops in Spring represent hope, new beginnings, the place we can eventually reach as we carry on. Happy writing, have a great weekend!

Please leave a comment. I love hearing from you. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hands on the Clock

A minute moves imperceptibly,
each second rests in memory,
a sepia thought. It lingers long
in the hallways of yesterday,
the flowers in laughter's field,
soft summer kisses,
a few words spoken in love.

And if all the clocks don't stop
as death dims our eyes, but
continue a hopeful pace into
the hour when hearts race again,
will you stretch out your hand,
for mine, in just one more breath?

This week's Magpie Tales image is by crilleb50. If you would like to read more stories and poems based on this please visit