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When Mourning Becomes Joy

Happy Blissemas, everyone!

For those of you who don’t know about Blissemas, a quick refresher. The season of Blissemas starts on the 1st December and will finish on the 24th December. Every day of Blissemas a different author will post up gems of delight in the guise of festive stories, excerpts, recipes, hints and tips and this year one lucky winner will receive a Kindle Voyage! Click here to find out how you can join in the Blissemas celebration and increase your chance of winning.

 

 

I love Blissemas! I always find it a time to be thankful for all of the blessings of the year and a chance to look forward with hope to all that will be in the New Year. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, and sometimes the joy of the season is mixed with tears and sadness, mourning and loss. I lost my brother to cancer on December 21st. It’s been fifteen years ago now, and I still remember the Christmas that followed as one of the richest, deepest Christmases, one of the ones in which I had the most to be thankful for of any I’ve ever had.

 

My husband and I were living abroad at the time. We’d gotten used to spending our holidays away from family, as so many people have, and while it was always a good experience for us, it had become very insular. At the news of my brother’s death – not unexpected, we were on the next plane to Colorado, and what could have easily become one of the worst Christmases of my life became a Christmas filled with wonder and love and appreciation for all that’s good in my life.

 

It was bitterly cold and snowing when we landed at Stapleton International Airport outside Denver after flying forever. We were met by old friends I’d not seen in years, who had heard the news of my brother’s death and insisted we spend the night with them before we headed over the treacherous mountain pass. They took us to their home, fed us, gave us a warm place to stay for the night along with a much-needed dose of laughter and good conversation. In the morning after a good breakfast, they insisted that for the trip over the mountains to my brother’s house in Wyoming, and for the duration of our stay in the Rockies, we take their four-wheel drive SUV instead of trusting to a rental. They drove the mountain roads in winter, and they were always prepared.

 

We arrived safely at my brother’s house in very rural Wyoming to find the whole family already gathered and the house full of food brought in by neighbors and friends. That night before the funeral, we put up the tree, something my husband and I hadn’t done in a long time, but something we all did together for my brother’s first grandchild, who was four at the time and just old enough to miss his papa and to delight in the magic of Christmas. It had been a long time since I’d seen the wonder of Christmas through a child’s eyes, and I found myself delighting in Timothy’s delight and remembering how it had been when I was a kid.

 

At the funeral, there were old friends, friends I hadn’t seen since childhood, all with memories to share of times they had spent with my brother and with all of our family. Some of them came back to my brother’s house afterwards and we all laughed and reminisced and remembered not only the best of my brother’s life – but how far we had all come in our own journeys and just how much we all had to be thankful for.

 

Christmas morning dawned just as bitterly cold as the rest of our time there had been, but with a dusting of new snow – the dry kind with more sparkle than substance, shining like diamonds in the cold winter sun. We all shared in Timothy’s excitement as he opened his gifts, as he laughed and squealed. One particular gift, I recall was a bowling ball – possibly a bit much for a four year old, but not for a four year old from a family who had a passion for bowling. “This is from Papa,” my sister-in-law told him.

 

“I miss Papa,” he said, looking down at the ball he held in his lap.

 

In a strange way, I think I felt my brother’s presence more that Christmas than I ever did when I was a child. We were not close then, and we understood little about each other. Before my brother became bedridden, he had successfully hunted elk that year with his friends, which meant he’d left the freezer well stocked for his family. He had also had time to make sure there was plenty of wood laid in for the winter. The house had a fireplace and a wood-burning stove. My brother was old school – fourteen years my senior, and caring for his family meant keeping them warm and well-fed. I know, that’s what every parent sees as their responsibility to their family, but in the open spaces of rural Wyoming, in the dead of winter, those basics were taken much more literally than they are for those of us living in a more urban setting.

 

Two days after Christmas, we set off back over the pass to catch our flight back to England. As we watched the smoke from the chimney and loaded our borrowed SUV, we walked past the woodpile. Probably every house in a community that was no more than a dozen homes spread over probably twice that many miles had a woodpile, but for me, it symbolized my brother’s last act of caring for his family.

 

That Christmas will always be a reminder for me that sometimes the very best of gifts come from the most painful places. Within the mourning, there was celebration, within the sadness there was joy, and surrounding the whole experience, there was love. That, I remember most of all.

 

Wishing you all celebration, joy and love this holiday season.

 *****

 

Here’s an outdoorsy wild wintery excerpt from the third of the Executive Decisions novel, The Exhibition. Enjoy!

 

The Exhibition: Book Three of the Executive Decision Series

Blurb:

Successful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though
the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?

 

 The Exhibition Excerpt — Call of the Wild:

The sun was just staining the sky pink when they topped the rise that overlooked an outcropping of rocks opposite them on the other side of a narrow canyon. And there on a ledge were the two mountain lions. Harris could feel the tensing of Stacie’s body in the excitement he knew she felt because he felt it too. From the looks of the situation the female had been calling for a mate, and the male, who crouched on the outcropping just above her, had just arrived. Harris breathed deeply and slowly to steady his hands as he aimed the camera. He was so engrossed in the cats that it took him a second to realize Stacie had her own camera, and he couldn’t help feeling a swell of pride at just how calm she was, already shooting next to him. But then he reminded himself she’d grown up in the Russian wilderness. Beneath the big city venire, she was made of stern stuff. He leaned close to her. ‘This is my cat all right. See the little notch in her left ear, some old injury.’ His voice was less than a whisper, but she nodded that she understood.

 

And then the action began as the two cats went about the business of getting acquainted, the female stretched long and lean across the rock before the male, not unlike Harris had seen Dee’s two tabbies do when they found a particularly nice place to sunbathe. In the crisp quiet of the morning, they could hear the rumble of the purr emanating from the female’s throat. It was a feline act through and through as the two made little grunts and growls at each other and the male sniffed the female’s readiness. It didn’t take long until the female rolled back onto her belly and positioned herself, flicking her tail to one side and lifting her bottom.

 

Being privy to such an intimate act of nature, such an intensely wild and primordial act made Harris’s pulse thunder against his throat. Simply seeing the two cats together like this was an unparalleled privilege, but to share it with Stacie made him feel as though he had somehow offered it to up her, as though he’d had something to do with the cats’ presence here. It felt right on a level that he had no words for. If he were ever to share such an experience, it should be with her. It couldn’t be with anyone else.

 

At some point he realized Stacie was taking pictures of him as well as the cats. He could see the rapid rise and fall of her chest through the dark green fleece she wore. He could almost feel her intense concentration and her delight at sharing the experience, at watching the cats as they got on with creating the next generation. He loved that she’d made no nervous twitters, no off-handed remarks about the cats’ mating. Most people would have. Most people would have been uncomfortable with seeing something so raw, so blatantly and unashamedly sexual.

 

The sky had gone from pink to blue and the monochromatic world had brightened to subtle desert shades of tan and mauve and kaki bathing the cats in golden light as they stretched and preened. Then Stacie and Harris watched as they moved on silent feet single file off the ledge and disappeared into the canyon. They stood and watched long after the cats were gone, as though to move, or to speak would somehow destroy the moment. Harris understood. He sat for nearly an hour after photographing the female with her kittens, unable to move, unable to do anything but try to take in what he’d just witnessed.

 

It was Stacie sniffling that brought him back to reality. He turned to find tear streaming unabated down her cheeks. She offered an embarrassed smile and wiped at her eyes with the backs of her hands. ‘Amazing,’ she managed. ‘They were amazing, so beautiful and powerful and …’ She looked up into his eyes. ‘Thank you for bringing me here.’

 

‘It was a pleasure,’ Harris managed, resisting the urge to take her into his arms. What she was feeling had nothing to do with him, and he didn’t want to take away from it.

 

‘I’d love to come back and try to find her after the kittens are born,’ she said.

 

It encouraged him that she was thinking in terms of the future, a future without Terrance Jamison. ‘I’m sure Doug’ll let us know when that happens. It’ll be three months, maybe a little more, before they’ll be born.’

 

‘In the dead of winter? That’s a harsh time to bring kittens into the world.’

 

‘Don’t worry. She’s up for it. Doug says she’s successfully raised at least two litters before the one I saw. She knows what she’s doing.’

 

Stacie looked after the cats again, and Harris couldn’t resist. He lifted his camera and took a couple of shots of her. When she flipped him off and then offered her usual teasing smile, he only shrugged and continued. ‘Just returning the favour.’

 

The blush that crawled up her throat made her look even more beautiful if that were possible. ‘Yes but you look outdoorsy and ruggedly handsome. I look all swollen-eyed and under-slept.’

 

He kept shooting. ‘To me you look beautiful. You belong here almost as much as those cats do.’

 

*****

 

Instead of shoving at him as he’d expected her to do, she curled a hard fist in his hair and ravaged his mouth with every bit as much ferocity as he had given her, pulling him still closer, rubbing her body against his, making him instantly and startlingly erect.

 

She snaked a hand down between them and savaged his fly until he feared for what lay beneath, until her fingers wriggled and dug their way into his walking trousers to possess his cock with a tight grip as though it were a weapon, one she were about to use to do serious damage.

 

He fumbled to return the favor, with her ripping at her own fly to make room for him, to guide his fingers down over her mons. Her eyes locked his in a devastating gaze that felt as though she could see right through him. ‘I need you to touch me there.’ Her voice was a breathless whisper. ‘Where I’m wet, where I’m open, where I’m always, always hungry for you.’ Her breath caught; her eyelids fluttered and she sucked her bottom lip as he found her cleft, wet and open as she’d promised. ‘You can’t tell me you don’t want to be like those cats.’ She guided his hand still further and manipulated it until first two, then three fingers pressed up into her. ‘You can’t tell me that when I present myself to you all hot and ready and begging for it, you don’t want to service my need. You can’t tell me you don’t want to get a little primal with that cock of yours.’ She gave him a hard squeeze and drove her hand up and down his length, thumbing the already abundant pre-cum over and around the tip until he gritted his teeth and held his breath while his hips bucked hard against her efforts.

He scissored her deep with three fingers and raked the silky slickness of her up and over her clitoris, and the sounds from the back of her throat easily resembled the sounds the female cougar made when the male mounted her. They wildly, madly fucked each other’s hands. The wind had risen and even on the clear morning, the chill left no doubt about lingering for more than the quickest of releases. Then she shifted, pressed her back hard against the stone and rested both of her hands on his shoulders. Before he could protest the removal of her fingers from his cock, she wrapped her legs around his waist, her still clothed crotch rubbing tight and insanely hot against his exposed cock as she began to rock and gyrate, and it was all happening way too fast.

 

‘Stacie I –’

 

‘Shut up, Harris,’ she spoke between chattering teeth. ‘I need to come, and so do you. You can fuck me properly when we get back to the SUV. It’s too damn cold to linger.’ With each sentence she ground against him, baring down with the extra leverage the cliff at her back afforded and, almost before the words were out of her mouth, she convulsed. Her spine stiffened and her shivers had nothing to do with the cold. Harris could stand no more. He felt the eruption deep in his groin. It might have been embarrassing had the circumstances been different, but as he tried to cover himself, tried to hide the results of Stacie’s hard ride, she shoved his hand away, pushed him back and practically fell into the space between them positioning herself so that she caught his release, all of it in her mouth. What could he say to that? What could he do but hold her there, helplessly grunting the weight of his need into the back of her throat. It was an act as intimate and as primal as the cougars mating on the rocks minutes ago. And sex, any kind of sex, with Stacie Emerson was worlds apart from any other sexual experiences he’d ever had. As she stood and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand, the look of hunger in her eyes, the promise of more sex to come in the SUV before the trip home couldn’t help but lighten the mood. As they straightened and tucked and donned their packs, he wondered if that was maybe why she did it. Whatever her reason, it definitely worked for him in ways he was still trying to get his head around.

 

 

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A Picture Really IS Worth a Thousand Words

(From the Archives 1st written for ERWA a year ago)

 

2015-08-19 16.25.54A picture is worth a thousand words and, for a writer, sometimes a picture is worth a whole story – even a whole novel.

As internet connections, wifi and smart phones have gotten better, I’ve gone from totally forgetting to take photos – even on the most amazing holidays and events – to being a shutter-snapping fiend. I take hundreds and hundreds of photos when I go away on a holiday, and if there’s something that interests me, even at home, I take a gazillion shots of it. Of course the instant gratification of sharing a trip or an event with everyone one through Face Book or Twitter and enjoying their responses is added incentive. I admit having shamelessly sent piccies of everything from my fish and chips in Lyme Regis to the scars on my knees after surgery, from the courgettes I grew in my garden to the blisters on my hands from kettle bells. Dearie me! I have become the monster I most feared.

 

The thing about an image is that it evokes senses other than just sight. It also stimulates memory and emotion and, for a writer, it stimulates imagination. I think that, more than anything else, that fact is responsible for my increase in photo snapping. The image doesn’t have to be beautiful any longer as it did in my earlier shutter-snapping days. The 2015-08-19 16.32.42image needs to be evocative. That’s the key for me. I played around on Pinterest quite a bit at one point. Some of you
may recall I wrote a post about my Pinterest experience, but evocative images happen wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, and an iPhone guarantees that if I want to capture that image for later use, I can do it without a second thought.

 

Here are some examples of what I mean. These shots were taken in the men and women’s loos in a pub in Inverness Scotland. Hubby took the men’s room shots for me after I told him what I saw in the ladies. The hair straightener in the ladies room at a pound a pop got me thinking about Rapunzel sneaking out from her tower prison for a little fun with her girlfriends. After wild dancing at the ceilidh, she notices her do is gone all frizzy, but since she’s Rapunzel, she has so much hair that she runs out of pound coins and has to offer sexual favors to the woman who spends money on a variety of sex toys from the vending machine, which she uses on Rapulzel.2015-08-26 13.44.06

 

Meanwhile Prince Charming, who finds her missing from the tower pursues her to the pub. Feeling frustrated, he treats himself to a portable pussy and some whisky flavoured condoms just in case he finds her. Well you get where I’m going with this.

 

Here is a shot of a deserted phone booth on the Isle of Sky near our cottage. With no wifi and no phone signal it’s easy
to imagine a hiker getting lost and ending up on a small farmstead. In desperation, she tries the phone booth, but when the phone doesn’t work, she elicits the help of the farmer who lives there — a bit of a twist on the ole farmer’s daughter stories and jokes. Of course the farmer could be a woman…

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Or perhaps you’d like a biker story with a twist? I’ve got inspirational images for that too. How about instead of a biker bar, we set our little tale in a biker bakery. In our little bakery the chef makes the most delectable bake goods of all time. She is enticed into providing all the bread, biscuits and buns for the local biker
gang. What kind of deal would the head of the biker gang make with the curvy head baker/pastry chef to get a bargain on her delectable buns?

 

I love the great outdoors, so for me every great-outdoorsy shot is an inspiration for a little garden porn or fun Al fresco, I’ve written whole series inspired by outdoor images of mountains lost in the midst and caves visited by demons and witches. But the truth is that sometimes a beautiful image is just a beautiful image, and being just back from the Highlands, as I am, and being a captive audience, as you are, I’ll leave you with this lovely image from the Isle of Sky.

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Inspiration On the Hoof

The best walks, like the best writing, happen when I end up in places I never really expected to be places I didn’t even know were there. That’s exactly what happened this past Saturday. With plans to spend the afternoon in the British Museum, I tagged along with Raymond to Regent’s Park, where he does martial arts training every Saturday until early afternoon. We planned to grab a sandwich then catch the Sicily exhibit before it ended. I figured I might as well get some walking in, and Regent’s Park in July is a great place for a walk.

 

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I sometimes forget how amazing London parks can be for long walks, addicted to the countryside as I am, but that means that when I go back to London, when I just follow my nose and let my feet take me there, I find myself totally enthralled.

There were babies everywhere, and mums showing them off. I got some really up close and personal shots of a lovely mallard family:

 

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And a crèche of coots.

 

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I couldn’t really tell family groups, and coots and moorhens, like humans, have asynchronous hatchings, so the chicks vary in size.

 

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And of course there were plenty of human fledglings there as well. One delightful little girl, who looked to be maybe three or four, was prancing around the rose garden with her mum and dad sniffing roses as she went and actually commenting on the different scents or lack thereof. I didn’t take a piccie of her. Thought her parents might not appreciate that.

 

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Besides the fledglings, there were also some gorgeous grown-ups there as well. I only got shots of the feathered kind though. Didn’t want to be stalky. 🙂

 

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There were lovely little hide- holes and romantic waterfalls and lots of places to be inspired, as I let my feet take me deeper into the park

 

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As often is the case, I ended up thinking about nothing at all really, just inhabiting the space and moving through it at an observer’s pace. I’ve long believed that you never really get to know the soul of a place unless you explore it with your soles. For every little place I did explore, there were at least a dozen I had to pass up. Next time! … and the time after that …

 

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After awhile, I found that the hard exploring had left me in need of caffeine, so I got coffee with an extra shot (to keep me going) and thought I’d find a quiet place on the grass to sit and read. Didn’t happen. My coffee and I discovered the Regent’s Canal and the Jubilee Greenway! The canal is 13.8 kilometres long and is connected to the Grand Union Canal on one end and the River Thames on the other. I’m already envisioning more fabulous walks in my future.

 

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Apparently every summer when the weather heats up, there’s a bloom of green water plants. Couldn’t help but wonder if that’s why they called it the Greenway. But it did lend a very different ambience to the canal.

 

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BTW, that house there opposite the Tui, that’s my dream London writer’s retreat. Also I think it just might be the inspiration for a place Magda Gardener might have in London. The woman has cottages and flats everywhere, you know.

 

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I discovered the Regents Canal is an art gallery of sorts, with Dr. Manhattan looking rather thoughtful while enjoying a soft drink.

 

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I headed toward Camden Locks reminding myself that my time was limited. But promising myself I’d be back.

 

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Sadly I was a bit late for the market. Next time! The place was fascinating, but a bit to crowded for this introvert — especially when she’s trying to walk, so I turned back toward the park.

 

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Along the way I found this reminder that at one time the canal was for more than just fun, and it certainly was no fun for the horses!

 

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The best part of the canal on the Camden side of the park is there’s a wonderful mix of urban decay and pure romance. What more could a novelist ask of a good walk?

 

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I reached the point where the canal turns under a bridge and leads back past the zoo. The Chinese restaurant was tempting, if for nothing else its fabulous location!

 

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The canal meanders past the aviary of the zoo and while this isn’t my best photo, imagine my delight when I was greeted by a tree full of ibises … er ibi???

 

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Sadly I didn’t get as many photos on the zoo side of the canal because I was trying to cover as much distance as I could before it was time to meet Raymond. As much as I enjoyed the Sicily exhibit at the British Museum — and I do highly recommend it, from an inspirational point of view, at least for me, the walk was the best bit of my day. It was only a little niggle of a walk that demands more – lots more, but it left me feeling refreshed and open to the Muse and her big stick. Sometimes walking a story actually becomes just walking to open myself to what’s beyond the blinders I often wear as a writer focused on my work. Whether I’m walking the story or whether I’m walking to be renewed, from an author’s point of view, from a human point of view, a good walk never disappoints.

 

A View From Above: Lakeland Keeps on Inspiring

I was reminded again how important that view of the overall picture can be when a good friend sent me a link to a breath-taking photo of the Lake District taken from the International Space Station, and I was deeply moved by such a view of a place I love, of a place that inspired and figured strongly, into each of the three Lakeland Heatwave novels, Demon Interrupted and the Medusa Consortium, almost as if it were another character in its own right.

 

The lake District image taken from the International space Station behbysjcaaayk3t-large

 

The photo was tweeted by Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield from on board the International Space Station, orbiting roughly 200 miles above the earth, moving at over 17,000 miles per hour.

How could such a ‘snapshot’ of one of my very favourite places not get me thinking about writers and the way we view our stories. I’ve always been an advocate of what I like to call snapshot writing. Snapshot writing is giving the reader snippets of detail, of experience, of a fleshed-out moment so full, so rich that the reader can feel it, taste it, revel in it. A snapshot can say so much about an event, often way more than words can. So for me one of the most powerful tools in my writing tool box is to create a snapshot with words, to write a moment so vividly that readers are instantly transported to the place and time. Commander Hadfield’s amazing snapshot from space has done just that for me.

Imagine my delight when I realised that I could not only see the whole of the Lakeland Witches stories and the Medusa Consortium stories in that snapshot, but I could see all the snapshots, all the intricately woven stories of my own adventures on the fells, of my own explorations and uncoverings of Lakeland one footstep at a time.

castlerigg_Stone_Circle1How could I not wonder what Alfred Wainwrightwould have thought if he could see his beloved Lakeland in such a view from above? His incredibly detailed drawings and descriptions of the Lakeland Fells are among the most accurate, most lovely, most poetic ever recorded. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in the Twa Dogs Inn in Keswick, the night before climbing a fell I’d never walked before, drinking Cumberland Ale while reading through Wainwright’s notes and studying the maps and drawings from his Pictorial Guides of the Lakeland Fells. The beauty in the minute detail of his work is now reflected in a stunning overview from space. How could anyone not be moved by that?

More than just the love of Lakeland, which I could go on and on about, and frequently do, is the sense of place such a snapshot from space gives. (I’ve added links with lots of pictures to show you the up-close-and personal of what you can see from a distance from the ISS photo. Enjoy!) I can look at that shot and see Ullswater and Derwent Water. I can see snow-capped Helvellyn and Skafell Pike, the highest peak in England. I can see the Borrowdale Valley, the Newlands HorseshoeHonister Pass – all the places my characters in the Lakeland trilogy frequent – all the places I’ve frequented, and I couldn’t not share it. So if you look closely at the picture, the highest snow-covered point in the lower Landscapesright — that’s Helvellyn. Its iconic Striding Edge put me to the test in one of the most adrenaline-laced, exquisite walks I’ve ever done in the Lake District.

And if you look to the left and slightly lower, at the last snow-covered range in the picture, that high point is Scafell Pike, the highest point in England and another walk I’m proud to say I’ve had the pleasure of doing.

But now, if you look in between those two ranges and slightly north, settled, almost centred, in between the two is a dark spot, roughly oval in shape with jagged edges. That’s Derwent Water with Keswick on the northeast shore invisible to the naked eye from so far above. To the south of the lake, where the fells begin again, is the Borrowdale Valley. And slightly to the left, you can just make out the irregular U-shape of the Newland’s Horseshoe, all of the above frequented by my characters in the Lakeland trilogy, frequented by me. The Newland’s Horseshoe is the place where both Marie Warren and I first ‘got lost’ in the mist. The Borrowdale Valley and the Newlands Horseshoe are the places that inspired the trilogy, the places where heather clings to steep cliffs, where deserted slate quarries make for slippery descents, where the views are breath-taking and where it can all disappear into the mist in a heartbeat.

I’m so glad it was clear the day Commander Hadfield took this picture. I can’t stop looking at it. I love the fact that I’m somehow connected to that place and all the stories it evokes – not just mine, but everyone else’s – all those poets and walkers and writers and photographers and artists – past, present and yet to come — who have found Lakeland as powerful and as moving as I have. I’m connected to all of them, and by that connection, to all of those who read the writings and look at the works of art inspired by that tiny, rugged piece of land that’s just as exquisite when seen from 200 miles above as it is when explored slowly, painstakingly, one footstep at a time.

Surely there is no other place in this whole world quite like Lakeland … no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when they are away from it.

Alfred Wainwright

 

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Don’t Miss any of my Demon Interrupted Blog Tour and Giveaway which starts tomorrow with stops at these fabulous blogs: 

 

 

Romancing the Chaos

Dreams imageIMG_0347There are few things a writer can do that will kick-start a story, then pull the reader in and keep them gripped right up to the very end quite as effectively as creating a little chaos. A calm and happy life in the real world might be just the ticket, but in story, there’s one word for it – BORING! A story is all about upsetting the apple cart, breaking the eggs, turning the bull loose in the china cupboard and — heart racing, palms sweating – seeing what happens, while we’re safely ensconced on the other side of the keyboard/Kindle/book. Is there anything quite as yummy as that adrenaline rush at someone else’s expense!

One of the best tools for dropping the character smack-dab into the middle of the chaos – and the reader vicariously – is sex. And the more inconvenient, the more inappropriate, the more confusing, the more SO not what the character was expecting, the more delicious the chaos will be. And let’s not forget just how much chaos NO sex can add to a story. Taking sex off the table has been a key ingredient for causing chaos in story ever since Lysistrata. A little unrequited lust can upset way more than the apple cart. Sex and withholding sex to get that chemistry overload between characters are both perfect recipes for chaos.

The thing about those great big human brains of ours is that they like to make us think we can control all the variables. The thing about the biological housing for those big brains is that it doesn’t always want to be controlled. There’s a reason why the junk is often referred to as the second brain. Oooh! I get goose bumps just thinking about what happens when the big brain gets a hankering and the biological soup starts overheating and sex happens … or doesn’t.

If we look at Western history from the point of view of religion and its effects on culture, there are few things the religious powers that be have made more of an effort to control than sex. And in story, in myth, there are few things that have caused more chaos than a little rough and tumble in the wrong place at the wrong time. Troy lost a war and was destroyed over it, King Author’s realm fell because of it, David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed because of it.

The resulting chaos that sex unleashes in a story can be nothing more than to create self-doubt in a cock-sure character, which is always a delight to see. Or the resulting chaos can be world-destroying, and anything in between. Sex can cause the kind of chaos that will make the reader laugh, or the kind of chaos that will make the reader say, ‘if only they hadn’t done that.’ However, the one thing sex should never do in a story is leave things the way they were before it happened. Can it be used for bonding? Of course! But the tighter the bond, the more chaos can be caused if that bond is tested or broken.

And because the unconscious part our big brains doesn’t give a damn if our sexual thoughts and fantasies are ‘socially acceptable,’ nor is it discriminating about who we might have those thoughts and fantasies about, the resulting internal chaos can be almost as delicious as the external – maybe even more so. That lovely mix of guilt and desire and self-loathing and arousal and denial and shear over-heated lust. OMG! It’s a total writer’s paradise there for the taking.waterhouse_apollo_and_daphne

I’m sure I’m like most writers in that I analyse what I read for pleasure in terms of what worked and what didn’t, what I would have done if I’d written it, and what I’ve learned from the author’s writing skills that can be used to make my own writing better. I have to say one of the biggies for me is how well the author uses chaos to move the story forward at a good pace; and especially how effectively sex is used to create chaos. I’m sure I pay a lot more attention to how sex is used in a story (or not) because I write erotica, but it’s the resulting chaos that fascinates me and keeps me reading in almost any kind of novel. The world is not a static place, and especially the world of story should not be static. Happy endings are called happy endings because they happen at the end. They follow the chaos and happen when the story is finished. There is no more story, or at least none the reader wants to follow. It’s the chaos that pulls us in and keeps us turning the pages, and when that chaos is directly tied to sex, hold on to your hat!

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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