Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blank Page Syndrome

Beginning any project can prove a fearful experience for many; a perilous precipice of white expanse where no words dare to fall. Toes curl, hair bristles on the back of necks and fingers pause over keys. They envy those who freefall into the abyss and dream of the day when chapters gush onto the page in a vomit of inspiration. Yes, writing is a messy craft for some.
I recently wrote a blog on keeping a writing ‘log’ after experiencing insecurities over the little time I thought I was spending on my craft. It turned out these insecurities were unfounded and other areas of my life had only appeared to have consumed my writing time. Quite often doubts and insecurities arise when we are confronted with what our own psyche views as a mammoth task.
Starting a new novel, entirely undrafted or plotted in any way except for a title had shaken my confidence. The ‘Blank Page Syndrome’ had crept in while I had been busy with daily work and family routines, to undermine my ability to even begin! Goodness, it had even cast doubts on whether I was doing any writing at all, about anything.
A few weeks into the log settled those initial doubts. Then it was time to get to work on the fear of that vacant page. Where did I begin? I read books, lots of books, all factual research on various topics relating to the novel I hoped to write. As I made notes on Druidry, equine history, Autism and the movement of Celtic peoples after the departure of the Roman Empire from Britain, visions emerged. My vacant page contained words, not of a story per se, but of scenarios.
Finding the roots of your story is one way to chase away the Blank Page Syndrome. Once you set down roots, it is hard to be uprooted as the trunk expands, branches spread and leaves grow with your ideas. Soon these disparate scenarios contain characters, or at the very least names or titles of the protagonists. They may not have faces or hair colour, but they are saying things and moving around a landscape that is slowly emerging, like a watercolour filtering over paper.
Soon you discover you are linking these scenarios together and forming a jigsaw with them, slotting in new ideas or moving them around. External factors or other characters appear to tip the delicately balanced plot, sometimes even before it has completely formed and you find the story spiralling into unknown, unplanned pastures.

You have the beginnings of a book!


  • Have you ever suffered with the blank page syndrome? If so, how have you dealt with it?
  • Are you a tight plotter, loose pantster or a little of both?
  • If you have an idea do you stall it and pause to assess if it will be detrimental to the original plot, or run with it and see where it will lead?
  • Do you throw out an idea if it doesn’t fit within the strict confines of the perfect story arc you created, or allow it to alter your story?

Writing as ‘E S Moxon’, Elaine's debut historical fiction adventure ‘WULFSUNA’ was published January 21st, 2015 and is the first in her Wolf Spear Saga series. She is currently writing her second novel, set once again in the Dark Ages of 5th Century Britain, where the legendary Saga ensures a Seer and one named 'Wolf Spear' are destined to meet. You can find out more about Elaine’s novels on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Elaine lives in the Midlands with her family and their chocolate Labrador.

~ ~ ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
An ancient saga is weaving their destiny.
A treacherous rival threatens their fate.
A Seer's magic may be all that can save them.

WULFSUNA








Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Year and a Book

A little over a year ago I began a writing log, because I felt I wasn’t giving enough time to my craft and that Book 2 in my Wolf Spear Saga series would never be written. I had decided to shelve complete drafts of the two novels I had written after ‘WULFSUNA’, as I wanted to remain with the characters from the first book a while longer. I felt the reader would also want to, and that the other novels could become later stories. This of course meant starting entirely from scratch – blank page syndrome. We all have commitments and it is a lucky few who find their writing successful enough to allow them to do it full-time. Work, family and life in general seemed to be taking over all my spare time. I felt I had let myself down and so the ‘log’ commenced.
Looking back on pages of handwritten columns of notes, word counts and hours revealed I had not forsaken my craft or Book 2 at all and I was writing ‘something’ every week. Exceptions to this were clearly delineated by family holidays (where I prefer to spend time with my tribe and leave the online world behind) or periods of illness. All my spare time had not been consumed by extraneous activities as the weeks and months of wide-ranging word count proved in black and white (or blue, or purple, or green – hey, I’m a writer; I love pens!). There had been words to count!
Admittedly the time spent actually writing averaged only an hour a day, including weekends, but I noticed also that length of time did not necessarily equate to the amount of words produced on the page/screen. I had spent several hours redrafting chapters where word count added had been minimal for the time allotted. In contrast, I had spent many a ten-minute slot scribbling a few hundred words off the bat.
Patterns also emerged, providing me with an insight into routines I had not consciously noticed, such as pockets of marketing and promotion in one-week blocks or periods where I read research material extensively and made copious notes. This was all time spent working towards my writing and the completion of my novel and so it was counted. Other patterns were more intriguing. Whether you believe in planetary energies or simply equate the full moon with lighter evenings and hence a sense of being more ‘awake’ for longer on those nights, my writing did peak in a week waxing up to a full moon. Word count was often triple or quadruple my usual levels.
Certainly, whatever these figures prove, the single outstanding factor is that I am writing regularly. Maintaining the log has merely revealed this fact to me, at a time when I imagined other areas of my life had taken over. It has given me impetus to continue and increased confidence that I have been managing my writing time effectively while, as they say in France, juggling the ‘train-train du jour’. And after a year, I have an ‘almost’ book that this week surpassed 91,000 words.

 The Wolf Spear legend will return!

  •  Have you ever faced difficulties in balancing your writing time with other factors in your life?
  • How have you overcome these?
  • What advice would you give to others who find themselves in the same situation?

Writing as ‘E S Moxon’, Elaine's debut historical fiction adventure ‘WULFSUNA’ was published January 21st, 2015 and is the first in her Wolf Spear Saga series. She is currently writing her second novel, set once again in the Dark Ages of 5th Century Britain, where the legendary Saga ensures a Seer and one named 'Wolf Spear' are destined to meet. You can find out more about Elaine’s novels on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Elaine lives in the Midlands with her family and their chocolate Labrador.

~ ~ ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
An ancient saga is weaving their destiny.
A treacherous rival threatens their fate.
A Seer's magic may be all that can save them.

WULFSUNA








Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Inspirational Tours #3 - Manorbier Castle


Manorbier Castle, looking up from the road

On the southern edge of Pembrokeshire’s National Park area stands Manorbier Castle. The site, occupied in some form by castles, forts and cromlechs since Neolithic times, became the seat of Norman Knight Odo de Barri during the 11th Century. Its name derives from more than one possible meaning:

‘Maenorbyr’                - Maenor, meaning 4 Trefs, a Welsh form of land measurement

                                    - Byr, from ‘Pyr’ the 6th Century Abbot of nearby Caldey

                                    Island, or ‘Bier’ meaning corn or pasture.

‘Maen Y Pyr’              - Meaning ‘Stone of Pyr’, referring to the cromlech or tomb,

                                    overlooking the bay called King’s Quoit (although no skeleton

                                    has ever been found).

However the castle came by its name, it remained the home of the de Barris for over 250 years. Odo’s fourth son, Gerald de Barri is probably more famously known as ‘Gerald of Wales’, the witty chronicler whose 17 publications provide sources of folklore and personal experiences of his time. In 1188 Gerald described Manorbier as follows:

‘This is a region rich in wheat, with fish from the sea and plenty of wine for sale. What is more important than all the rest is that, from its nearness to Ireland, heaven’s breath smells so wooingly there...Manorbier is the most pleasant place by far.’

A sculpture in the gardens, honouring Gerald of Wales
Hardly surprising that Gerald bestows such love for where he was born, but it is indeed a beautiful place. In its heyday it had fruit and nut trees, an apiary, deer park, flour mill, dovecote, buttery, sheep grazing and wool and leather production and much more. What you discover when exploring the castle’s many rooms is that, from almost any vantage point there is a magnificent view to behold.

  

The former Guardroom is now a delightful and snug café and shop.


The chapel/crypt and an upstairs room are used for civil weddings, providing a grand and mystical atmosphere for the occasions.

 

By the end of the 14th Century, high running costs coupled with expensive and rare skilled labourers due to the Black Death, de Barri sold the castle and estate to two separate people. The ensuing confusion was resolved by Henry IV, when he granted the estate to the Countess of Huntingdon (mistress of Edward III) and other members of the royal family. Able to afford stewards to run the estate, the royal owners kept the castle until its sale to the local Bowen family in the 17th Century. In 1670 it was sold to Sir Erasmus Philipps for the sum of £6,000 plus his daughter for Thomas Bowen’s third wife. Since then, the castle has descended from Sir Erasmus.

It was a smugglers’ haven in the 19th Century and the barn was converted into a house in Victorian times and is used as a holiday home. During both world wars it was home to RAF servicemen and the castle has inspired several artists and writers, including Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Siegfried Sassoon. Today it is a flourishing tourist attraction that remains, as Sassoon put it, ‘wild, austere, and ocean-chanted’ and will delight visitors of any age. It is well worth exploration and admiration.

 

~ ~ ~
Acknowledgement:
Factual information courtesy of the Manorbier Castle site, and the guide book written by Caroline Dashwood.

All photographs copyright E S Moxon.

~ ~ ~



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hygge - the modern Mead Hall?


Since mid-December I’ve downed tools from writing book 2 in the Wolf Spear Saga series (mostly!) and taken a break from social media. Some might say it’s crazy, but it’s been marvellously refreshing. The day job had been hectic and I’d been scribbling away at my second novel, as well as reading up on some research material for books 2 and 3 in the series. When I broke up from the day job on 16th December, my brain disengaged from book writing and the outside world.

'Hygge'
I’ve been embracing Hygge, the Danish art of ‘being’ and ‘sharing’, and it got me thinking. This isn’t a new craze that’s never been tried before. This is something the Danish have been perfecting for hundreds of years. It’s something the human race has been practising for thousands of years. It’s simply a case of switching off from all the external distractions of life in our current world and curling up with those you love. It’s about downtime without artificial lights or modern technologies that interrupt us all the while. It’s time to switch off your smartphones, or in the case of our ancestors, leave the swords outside.
Leave your worries outside the door...
Some may argue that television is the modern equivalent to the tales of Scops or Skalds in the Mead Halls, except instead of listening to oral stories of brave heroes we are eagerly watching people dance or bake their way to glory. Here in the Moxon household we’ve had candles and fairy lights on and the whole tribe has been curled up on a sofa surrounded by cushions and blankets. There’s been reading, board games and knitting. I’ve almost completed a knitted tunic that I began in the spring, hoping to wear it for winter. This is now taking shape and I may still have the weather to wear it in. It made me think of medieval women combing raw wool as they sit by the fire. The ancient craft of nalbinding, or knot-making, was the precursor to modern knitting.
If I can just get this knot out...
Surprisingly, or not, all this Hyggelig behaviour spurred my writer’s brain into action. I’ve had plot ideas, promotional ideas and thoughts of exciting twists in future novels. We’ve planned holidays and daytrips or taken 40 winks, sent into slumber by the warmth of the dog beside us (not with the candles burning mind you!). The communal ‘downtime’ not only liberated us from modern society, but liberated our imaginations. It is easy to see how productive this socially engaging enclosure is and would have been to our ancestors in the Mead Halls. Campaigns could be formed and strategized; community disputes discussed and settled; plans passed for building and crop growing.
While the potage boils we'll write a few laws...
Like a warrior whittling runes into a horn cup, dreaming of heroic ventures as he warms his toes by the hearth, so we have been busy making and plotting in our own 21st Century way. There is a saying that ‘the old ones are the best’ and I think the Danes know this very well. Hygge is an old tradition and is still the best way to live, tapping into our past as we move into the future.
Do you Hygge?
The 'other' work in progress!
BE CANDLE SAFE – NEVER LEAVE A BURNING FLAME UNATTENDED
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COPYRIGHT E S MOXON, OR PUBLIC DOMAIN VIA VISUALHUNT.COM
~ ~ ~

Elaine writes historical fiction as ‘E S Moxon’. Her debut Wulfsuna was published January 21st, 2015 through Silverwood Books and is the first in her Wolf Spear Saga series of Saxon adventures, where a Seer and one named ‘Wolf Spear’ are destined to meet. She is currently writing her second novel, set once again in the Dark Ages of 5th Century Britain. You can find out more from Elaine’s website. Elaine lives in the Midlands with her family and their chocolate Labrador.

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
An ancient saga is weaving their destiny.
A treacherous rival threatens their fate.
A Seer's magic may be all that can save them.
WULFSUNA

Monday, October 31, 2016

'MYTHS RETOLD' by Diana Ferguson - A REVIEW

'A vivid retelling of 50 well-known myths from around the world.'

image: courtesy of amazon.co.uk

And that is precisely what Diana Ferguson gives us. She talks of not only myth, but beliefs and religions, as recurring patterns and archetypes formed by humans over and over again. This is a collective work containing some real gems from throughout ancient history; some you may know and some you my have forgotten, while many more will be new to you.

She deftly explores the rich meanings and deep significance revealed to us, once we decode the symbols and imagery of these ancient tales. If we look hard enough, she tells us, there is a rich landscape of symbolic language. Shapes and designs reappear across cultures and continents. Gods and their legendary antics echo around the globe, though the gods may carry different names. This is true, for through my own research I have found this to exist when comparing the cultures of my characters and the gods known to each of them. Think of five-pointed stars, spirals, crescents or tri-cornered knots.

Lakshmi
Quite soon into 'Myths Retold' parallels are evident that span global civilizations. Take for instance the idea of virgin conception and woman as the great sea of life. These are visible through several manifestations including the Virgin Mary, also found as Nana of Asia Minor, Cerridwen of Britain, Coatlicue of Mexico, Aphrodite of Greece and Lakshmi of Hindu myth. Consider too the intense similarity between 'Odin' as known to the Norse in Scandinavia and 'Woden' revered by the tribes of Germania.

I enjoyed poring through this volume as repetition and archetypes formed the basis for my early design of my book series. I purposely sought parallels in belief to bring characters closer together and reading this book, the same could be said for humanity itself over time. Humans have sought to repeat and replicate ancient themes that can be best described thus as 'a treasure hoard of wisdom, of compassion, of beauty, [and] triumph of the creative imagination'.

Hercules, and the Hesperides guarding Hera's apples of immortality

I feel this Armenian saying, taken from 'Myths Retold', concludes it well:

'Three golden apples fell from heaven:
one for those who told the story,
one for those who heard it,
and one for all the countless many
who have cared enough to remember...'


What myths or legends can you recall that thread through our lives today?

What is your favourite myth/legend?

Does your writing contain, or has it been inspired by, myth and legend?



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Inspiratioinal Tours Part #2 - Cotswold Lavender Fields

View from the car park

Inspiration can take many forms and be found in many places. My latest came this summer from the Cotswold Lavender Fields in Broadway, Worcestershire, UK. How can you fail to be inspired by a sea of lavender and wild flower meadows, set upon the brow of a hill deep in the Cotswold countryside? I left thoroughly inspired and exceptionally relaxed!

Coined 'the home of lavender growing' and at 1,000 feet above sea level, the third generation family farm commands breath-taking views of the Vale of Evesham. A stunning 450,000 plants occupy the limestone hill, containing over 35 varieties of lavender.

   

The farm has its own distillery where it extracts the essential oil from the plants using steam. The oil is then added to their own, British-made toiletry and gift products. You can inhale, wash and even eat lavender produce (the chocolate is potent, but amazing).

They have a fine tea room where you can partake in lavender Earl Grey tea and scones delicately flavoured with dried lavender flowers. There's (almost) something for everyone, providing of course you love lavender! I'd certainly recommend it for a good walk in lavender-infused fresh air, followed by some deserving naughties in the tea room. Go on, treat yourself.

Lavender Scone
(image: cotswoldlavender.co.uk)
Check out their extensive website, where you can buy most of their lavender merchandise online and learn about the health benefits and culinary delights of lavender! It will whet your appetites while you wait for the new season of lavender to begin in 2017 (the fields closed for this year on 7th August 2016).

I'll be back soon with more Inspirational Tours from my 2016 travels. Until then, bright blessings!

xXx

Friday, August 12, 2016

Guest Post - Mark Noce, author



My guest at Writers' Grove today is US historical fiction writer Mark Noce whose novel 'Between Two Fires' is released on 23rd August 2016. Paula Brackston, NYT Bestselling author of 'The Witch's Daughter' has this to say about it: “A spirited ride through a turbulent slice of Welsh history!”. Aside from being a writer of historical novels, he is partial to putting pen to the odd short story and is also a mariner, gardener and keen traveller. His debut is published by Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press and Macmillan) and is the first in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales.

He has graciously agreed to answer some questions about his writing and debut novel, and I'm thrilled to be his host for the day!


From where did your original idea for 'Between Two Fires' stem and did it become the book you originally set out to write?


For me, the core of a story stars with that first line. In this case, “Today I will marry a man I have never met.” That line haunted me because the moment it entered my head I knew who Branwen was and the story I wanted to tell. At that point I pretty much had no choice. Funny as it sounds, I simply had to write the story as she was speaking inside my head. I’m also always interested in “dark ages,” not just a backward or apocalyptic time, but an era that has left very little trace for modern archaeologists and historians. This gives me as an author a chance to bridge the gap with a plausible story that can extrapolate just a little further than a historian might feel comfortable doing. Plus, I just love a good medieval romantic story.


That's fascinating Mark, and I know exactly what you mean. Once those characters enter our heads, we are held captive at their will until all the words are written! I would also have to agree with you about the so-called "dark ages" and the excitement, as an author, of being able to illuminate them with our own creativity.


Are you a 'schedules and spreadsheets' writer or is your approach more organic?
I have to say, I used to be a planner and now I’m a total panster. I certainly do plenty of research, but I need the organic approach in order to make the plot flow the way I want and get the tension just right. And since I’m a big history buff, I’m pretty much always researching a dozen different eras that interest me anyway, so when inspiration strikes for one particular subject, I’m usually all ready to go anyways.

Yes, I consider the best approach to be a balance of good underlying planning, but then a free-flow of creative ideas. As you say, researching a variety of topics cannot fail to inspire and tug your plot in different directions. Often the best work arises from those unexpected moments.


'Between Two Fires' is the first in a series. What might we expect to see in following tales?
I actually already have the sequel written and in the hands of my publisher, as I originally signed a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press when I started. The sequel entitled The Long Defeat, chronicles the Welsh kingdoms dealing with a new threat, that of the Picts, and how they present problems entirely different from those that they encountered with the Saxons. We’ve no firm release date as of yet, but I’m hoping to have it out by late next year. Fingers crossed.


An intriguing time, Mark. I very much look forward to 'The Long Defeat' when it is revealed to the world.

Name 3 of your favourite books/authors of all time.
My three favorite authors in terms of their writing style and storytelling would probably be Lawrence Durrell, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But honestly, the list goes on and on for me. I love the classics, everything from Homer and Shakespeare to Hemingway, London, and Dumas, so nailing it down to three authors is pretty difficult for me.

Thanks Mark. An interesting collection. Thank you for being my guest on Writers' Grove today and the very best of luck with 'Between Two Fires'.

Thanks again for having me here, Elaine! 
 ~ ~ ~
 'Between Two Fires' is released 23rd August 2016, by Thomas Dunne Books
(an imprint of St. Martin's Press and Macmillan).


'Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.


But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.'


First in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales, you can purchase it from the following locations:-
 
You can keep up with Mark Noce via the following links:-

 Mark is also running a Thunderclap campaign for the release of 'Between Two Fires' You can help support him here:-