Friday, September 4, 2020

Classical Themes - 2 of 4


Classical Themes within the ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series

Myths, magic, rituals, quests, places, people and animals; all of these elements are helping to shape the forthcoming tales in my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series. Here is the second of FOUR posts.


The Dark Goddess

She is a pre-patriarchal, ancient belief from Neolithic culture in many countries. Tomb burials, caves and the deep, dark ocean introduce us to the Dark Goddess. She rules the world’s ocean as well as the inner tides (our emotions, passions, psychic perceptions and soul regeneration). The ferryman of souls can deliver us to her in his glass boat, to the Sacred Isle where we enter the cave and pass through the veil to the Otherworld - the land of the dead. There is much to explore here in terms of characters’ responses to water and its powers, but also human emotions and how these fluctuate in various circumstances.

Grey beach of rocks leading to the sea

Boats

Boats and their contents have more than a passing link to the land of the dead. As well as ferrying those near death across a sacred lake to the afterlife, boats can take the form of offerings to the gods and vessels transporting offerings to the gods - treasure hoards defaced and buried in thanks for victory. Found most profusely in Denmark (though also in other countries), boats of war and the weapons of their defeated warriors have for millennia been deposited in lakes in gratitude of the gods’ protection. As well as afterlife journeys for characters, this provides us with response to conflict within societies and the rituals invoked. Boats themselves can have souls and characters, as can weapons such as valued swords or even amulets of the gods and goddesses of the time. Many of these themes are integral to my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series.

Consider:      Hjortspring and Nydam boats from Denmark – deliberately sunk into lakes, these boats contain a multitude of offerings from vanquished enemies: swords; axes; spears; shields; chainmail; knives; horse tack; brooches; tweezers; ear spoons; bones of horses, lambs, calves and dogs.

Oseberg ship burial

Rainbows

Another way to the afterlife can be via a bridge, often linked to rainbows, found in Christian, Norse, Greek, Chinese and Australian aboriginal cultures, among others. Water was a sacred element through which one could travel to the Otherworld, so to cross it was to, in some respect, cheat death and almost magical. Tales of dangerous creatures inhabiting the undersides of bridges come from this concept, such as Norwegian Trolls, river sirens like the 'nix' and Celtic Kelpies in the form of horses or women, who would drag people down to their deaths. Flag Fen is an excellent example of how bridges over water held magical properties, where Iron Age people deposited metal, stone, ceramic and food gifts from the causeway. Bridges can also represent boundaries between earthly realms like county borders, or unearthly realms, both of which can present characters with problems depending on the purpose of their journey. I tinker with this theme in ‘Wulfsuna’ and also forthcoming ‘Wolf Spear Sagas’.

Think of:

Bifrost – linking Earth to Asgard;

Sword Bridge – crossed by Lancelot to rescue Guinevere from the Castle of Death;

Bridge of Heaven;

Greek goddess ‘Iris’, who guarded a rainbow (from where ‘iridescent’ is derived)

Wooden bridge in dark forest

  • What classical themes most interest you?


~   ~   ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
They come to honour a Warrior-Lord’s dream,
An ancient saga weaving their destiny,
But a treacherous rival threatens their fate.
The Wolf Sons are coming.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Classical Themes - 1 of 4


Classical Themes within the ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series

Myths, magic, rituals, quests, places, people and animals; all of these elements are helping to shape the forthcoming tales in my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series. Here is the first of FOUR posts.


Magical beasts and food; feuding siblings; rags to riches; death and rebirth; initiation and rites of passage; serpents, dragons and treasure – drawing on ancient and classical themes are of utmost importance in providing familiar storytelling arcs that readers can naturally connect with. Whether we realise it or not, most stories will resonate with an ancient theme and ‘remind’ us of something we have encountered previously in our conscious or subconscious. Fairytales are but one example of how repeated themes provide a wide variety of stories. 

Consider:

Sleeping Beauty                      Beauty and the Beast

Cinderella                               Snow White

King Arthur                              Chronicles of Narnia

Red Riding Hood                     Alice in Wonderland

Lord of the Rings

Stag in misty forest

I have immense pleasure incorporating these fascinating myths, legends and beliefs into my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series and hope you, my readers, have as much pleasure hunting for the morsels embroidered into my tales; small threads weaving through the whole. In my second ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ novel I have elements of the following themes:


Rights of Succession of Kings

This is deeply rooted in Indo-European mythology. There is an underlying, ancient archetype of a son or grandson killing their father or grandfather in order to marry and/or rule alongside the queen or mother goddess. The son has a hand in despatching the father (not necessarily a blood descendant and not necessarily with malice) and the son-lover joins the female sovereignty until the next ‘son’ arrives and repeats the cycle.

Think of:          Perseus and Acrisius, or

                        Oedipus and Laius

Celtic warrior aloft a war chariot drawn by two horses

Feuding Siblings

These also appear frequently in my sagas, though not all are blood-related. Brothers and sisters can be actual relatives, or bonded kinsfolk in religious orders or warrior bands. For my second ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ I was inspired by the half-brothers Nissyen (who wished for harmony) and Evnissyen (who wished for discord) from the ‘Sorrows of Branwen’ in the Mabinogion. Where there is disharmony, there is always interesting conflict!

Pair of wolves

Cinderella Stories

These are another recurring theme in many cultures: a hero or heroine undergoes a series of trials at the domestic hearth or in the wilderness, their true worth revealed at the story’s climax. This crisis-initiation-resolution appears in several forms. I’ve already used it for two main characters in my first novel in my series ‘Wulfsuna’ and expect to see it again in future sagas.

Midnight pyre


  • Can you think of other classical themes repeated in literature?
  • Do you like to include ancient themes in your writing?


~   ~   ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
They come to honour a Warrior-Lord’s dream,
An ancient saga weaving their destiny,
But a treacherous rival threatens their fate.
The Wolf Sons are coming.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Using Skaldic Verse to Develop Characters

Axe on bench of Viking longship

Written by Vikings, about Vikings, Skaldic verse is an insight into how they viewed themselves and others, but not necessarily a precise description of what they did or looked like in outward appearance. These sources are more appropriately valuable to garner how Vikings viewed life and their actions or those of others within that life - also how they viewed death. The Hávamál poems are an intriguing source of socio-economic and emotional scenarios that fill daily Viking life: from noble kings down to the poor traveller, we can peer into all aspects and levels of Scandinavian life from the 9th to 12th Centuries.

Hávamál… ‘The words of the High One’ [is a collection of verses that] form one of the most important, and baffling, of the Eddic poems. It survives as a group of separate and very different poems.’ …(R.I. Page)


Interior of Viking Longhouse

I find these verse an intrinsic part of my research, alongside what some may class as the mundane (but I find thrilling) world of archaeology. While archaeology forms an important role in fact-gathering for flora/fauna, climate, tools/weapons, structures, cooking and farming, clothing and bedding, I want to know how the people ‘thought’. Knowing the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of a group of people, enables me to add subtle layers to my fictional characters. I can learn how my characters may react when presented with a particular scenario. This I cannot learn from archaeological reference books in enough detail.

Section of design from the Havamal

Furthermore, it is the ‘kennings’ that can be the most revealing; delightful, alarming and incredibly descriptive metaphors that illuminate the Vikings’ love of language and painting a vivid image for whomever heard the poems. Battles were the ‘Storm of the Valkyrie’ or ‘Odin’s Storm’. Spilt blood became the ‘current of the spear’ or a ‘battle sea’. Armour was ‘Odin’s Clothing’ and swords were ‘wound-fires’. Carrion that came after the battle to claim the flesh of the dead are called ‘tasters of blood’ and their prey were ‘fodder for Hugin’, named after one of Odin’s two ravens – Hugin and Munin.


Pair of perched crows

It was a time when ships were ‘ocean steeds’ or ‘surge-beasts’ and a man of above-average height would be ‘elm-tall’. ‘Mood-acorns’ represented the heart, inside these tree-men who believed:

‘Cattle die, kin die,

The man dies too.

But good fame never dies

For the man who earns it.

 

Cattle die, kin die,

The man dies too.

One thing I know that never dies,

The good name of the dead.’

Hávamál… pp.139-140


Keel of a longship

These colourful kennings provide glimpses of lives many of us are far removed from. Of another time, these metaphorical paintings illuminate the lives of warring Vikings. When building my characters and a specific group of people, I can draw on the imagery formed by this evocative literature. When combined with individual personalities sculpted for purposes of my story arcs, it hopefully creates characters with depth and at least a hint of authenticity.

Runic Stone


‘The Eddi poems preserve the indirect evidence of the nature of the Viking Age. They do not tell of Vikings as such, but relate religious myths and traditional ways of thinking, and tales of ancient heroes’ …(R.I. Page)

Developing characters is a process of layering. You begin with the outer layer of an onion, its hard skin; as you peel each layer away you reach deeper and deeper into the onion, until finally you find the heart. Building fictional characters involves finding material for those layers from a multitude of sources. The Skaldic verse are, for me, only one of these sources, but a rich one. And a pleasant one, to be reading poetry as a way of researching!


  • What resources do you use to develop your characters?


~   ~   ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
They come to honour a Warrior-Lord’s dream,
An ancient saga weaving their destiny,
But a treacherous rival threatens their fate.
The Wolf Sons are coming.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Breathing in the Past

Nothing compares to visiting historical sites and locations used in your novels to literally ‘inhale’ the past around you. If you write about locations near to where you live, this is a boon and most convenient, and should not stop you from exploring what your characters would have explored.

Thundery skies over the Avebury Circle

However, we may write about far away places and if, for any number of reasons [national lockdown the latest barrier], you are unable to reach those destinations, there are alternatives. Consider the topography of the location: flora and fauna, how the land lies, types of trees and animals, weather. Then challenge yourself to find the same or similar in environments around you.

Stag in a misty forest

You may have to visit multiple local areas to come into contact with the sounds, sights and smells of the place you are writing about, but the important aspect here is to experience the same sensory stimulations.

Lady reclining on a hill in the sunshine

If it is a hot country, go out on a warm day and notice the difference in temperature on the skin, how sound travels in a dry atmosphere and how the heat can accentuate scents. If it is a Scandinavian country find a pine forest and visit on a cold, damp day to absorb the smell of the foliage and soil and the sound of how the wind sounds through the pine tops.

Waterfall

These will not be complete substitutes of actually going to a particular place, but it is all part of research as a novelist and making the most of what is available to you. The rest will be added using your imagination and creativity as a writer!

Once upon a time...


~   ~   ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
They come to honour a Warrior-Lord’s dream,
An ancient saga weaving their destiny,
But a treacherous rival threatens their fate.
The Wolf Sons are coming.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Creative Boost

A rainbow of journals


If, like me, you are one of the may writers who have lost momentum during lockdown (read my previous post) or you have decided to change career direction though are not sure where you want to go, or what you want to do, there is something you can try. Journalling and keeping a diary have been used for hundreds of years as an expressive art form and more recently as a therapeutic process. Documenting your daily thoughts and feelings keeps you focussed on the present and can reveal patterns in your lifestyle that you love, or that you want to change. Why not use this to your advantage?

Astronaut in space

Writing a daily journal keeps you ‘in the moment’ and distracts you from what’s happening around you. If you use the opportunity to write yourself into a preferred ‘reality’ by referring to yourself in the third person, you can escape into this make-believe world for a while. The distance you gain from daily troubles will reduce your anxiety. Also, by inserting yourself into a story of the life you want, you gain an insight into your dreams and create positive manifestation. By writing of the life you would like, you can bring about the changes to achieve it in the real world.

A beautiful garden and a gate leading somewhere...

Use positive quotes, clippings and photographs to assist you and enjoy the chance to ‘escape’ to anywhere in the world (or indeed the universe!). Make it as real or fantastical as you like, from wanting a change in home or career to a total lifestyle change such as becoming a millionaire or flying a rocket to Mars. Don’t plan it. Write it as it comes, off-the-cuff as it were. This way your subconscious will creep through and you may be surprised by what you create. If you are fortunate, you may gain insight into what makes you happy. You could unlock changes you can implement into your ‘real’ life.

Handwriting with pen on paper

While many of us prefer technology and our smartphones, this technique is best done with pen and paper. This method connects more closely to our subconscious through muscle memory and is more immersive.*

Grab a pen and explore!


  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
  • If you could be anything, what would it be?


*Mental Health Disclaimer – if you are under any medication and/or guidance for mental health issues, for safeguarding purposes please consult your GP or psychologist before trying this immersive diary technique.


~   ~   ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
They come to honour a Warrior-Lord’s dream,
An ancient saga weaving their destiny,
But a treacherous rival threatens their fate.
The Wolf Sons are coming.

Monday, July 20, 2020

NEW BOOK RELEASE!


circular wolf brooch emblem

A New Release is Coming!


I am very excited to announce a new publication, connected to my 'Wolf Spear Saga' series.

With an official release date of 1st August 2020, I shall soon be able to share more details with you.

I've seen the final cover proof and I love it - it encompasses all the ideas I wanted, linking it to 'Wulfsuna - Wolf Spear Saga 1' in terms of colours and key symbols.

Visit my website for blurb and cover reveals, as well as a forthcoming pre-order link and subscribe for regular updates - be the first to know!


Friday, July 10, 2020

Inspiration Hibernation

A blank piece of paper

You would imagine having twelve weeks at home would have been a writers' dream. No external distractions; no time wasted on journeys here, there and everywhere; no meeting friends in coffee shops or wasting time mooching around department stores. I'd been waking much earlier, often before my alarm at 6.15am, and not retiring to bed before 11pm most evenings. But... and this is the BIG 'but', I hadn't spent any extra time writing. My inspiration had gone into hibernation along with me!



Apple blossom

I have spoken with other creatives who haven’t sat at a laptop or picked up a pen or paintbrush either. Unable to go out and about, to see people or places, had sapped our spark. To rectify this I began by posting my ‘Hibernation Inspiration’ blog posts. These were a small effort to aid fellow creatives and a channel for me to kick-start some writing by creating the mini poems and prose for the posts. Here is my first 'Hibernation Inspiration post.


My little tray of filter coffee and matching mug

The ability to ‘find’ ideas comes from stimulation or solace, neither of which are always attainable when you are indoors for months with all your family! The muse wanders, so you have to find new methods. I substituted visits to coffee shops, woodland walks and running my local writing group with coffee moments at home, writing letters and spending more time in our garden for work or leisure. To maintain my writing group, I organised video meetings for my members and emailed them topics. I have found beauty and inspiration closer to home. To spur my writing, I switched to smaller projects needing less focus time and a shorter attention span. I extended deadlines on larger projects and succumbed to a slower pace of life.

Scales of work/life balance

Life is all about balance and when something is tossed at you that tips the scales, you make adjustments until you regain that balance. Sometimes it takes a while, but when you find the magical mix, mind and body relax. Relaxation of mind and body facilitates the return of the muse and eases creative production. If you are stuck in a creative rut, keep trying. Your muse it out there. You may simply need a little longer to find it. And take heart… during this time of global hibernation many people around the world have chosen the creative arts to express themselves, to entertain them and to inspire them to try new careers.


  • Have you struggled to write through lockdown?
  • What have you done to maintain inspiration?

~   ~   ~

Blood, betrayal and brotherhood.
They come to honour a Warrior-Lord’s dream,
An ancient saga weaving their destiny,
But a treacherous rival threatens their fate.
The Wolf Sons are coming.
WULFSUNA