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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

 

FB Kindle new release demon interrupted the right cover

 

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!

 

Tunnel Vision & Straight Down the Rabbit Hole Again!

Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777There’s been another serious case of tunnel vision at Grace Manor these days. With three new manuscripts finished and ready to sub or being subbed and another one about to be written during the month of April for Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s not likely to end any time soon.

 

‘Did you take out the recyclables?’ my husband asks.

 

‘They’re in the refrigerator,’ I reply.

 

He’s used to the drill by now. It happens several times a year and with major shifts in my writing landscape taking place, it’s happening even more than usual.

 

‘Are you hungry?’ He asks.

 

‘I’ll have some next week,’ I reply, from my position in front of the monitor all hunched over and bleary-eyed, tap, tap, taping at the keyboard.

 

I pour plain hot water from the mocha maker because I forgot to put in the coffee. Never mind. I slap a teabag in the cup of hot water and go back to the WIP.

 

Spiders have taken residence in a number of nooks and crannies. They know the odds of dusting happening in the near future are slim, and the safety of their homes is pretty much guaranteed. Can’t tell you how delighted I was to hear that J. K. Rowling’s great productivity came from “living in squalor” and not cleaning house. I feel vindicated in my neurotic sense of focus!

 

My presence on social media has dwindled to the occasional sharing and liking of other people’s stuff. My list of unanswered emails is growing longer every day and I haven’t done a newsletter in months.

 

Tunnel Vision. Yep, my old friend. When the Muse is in residence poking me with her big stick, it’s like I’ve temporarily left the planet, and for all practical purposes, I have. She jabs me in the ribs; I write. That is all. I’m sucked mercilessly NaNoWriMocrest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76into another dimension, the dimension of the story. The thing about the dimension of the story is that it’s a whole lot easier for me to go there than it is for me to come back. These days the Muse grudgingly allows for gym breaks and walks because she knows they get the results she wants. Beyond that, it’s a crap shoot.

 

I’m in the world of the novel now, and whenever I go there, it’s hard to say when I’ll get back home again. Early on I learned that one novel seldom comes by itself. It usually brings friends who aren’t patient to wait until the house gets clean or the garbage gets taken out. Add to that the fact that the novels have a good bit of love, sex, intrigue, and people I’d like to be, and I’m very likely to linger as long as possible. In fact, I bet if you could go someplace similar right now, you would, wouldn’t you?

 

Come on, be honest! Everyone who’s ever read a good book gets the chance to follow the writer down the rabbit hole of Tunnel Vision. We all go there willingly and happily while the spiders take up residence and the recycling accumulates. We’re disappointed when it’s not quite the world we’d hoped for. We’re equally disappointed when it’s more than we could have imagined. When that happens, we don’t want to leave. We want to stay with those characters we’ve grown so fond of and take up residence in that place that now feels like home. We’ve grown used to the excitement, the adventure, the sex, the love, the intrigue, and we’ve especially grown used to the opportunity to, for a little while, be someone else.

 

The land of Tunnel Vision is also the land of multiple personalities. In my novel, I get to be ALL of the characters. They all whisper in my ear and tell me their sordid secrets and their darkest fantasies. Then I, like an evil gossip columnist, Coffee potsplash their inner workings all over the written page for the world to see. Bwa ha ha ha ha! I get to do that because I’m the most powerful person in their world. In fact, in their world, I’m god. K D giveth and K D taketh away!

 

So, I’ve come back from the world of Tunnel Vision just long enough to cook an egg, grab an apple, write a blog post
and ignore the spiders. Consider this a postcard from the world of Medusa’s Consortium. It’s my way of saying ‘having a great time, wish you were here.’ If you’ve enjoyed In The Flesh, the serial, through the months, then I hope you have visions in your head of exactly the world I’m talking about. I promise a detailed account to come … maybe in a newsletter … but then again maybe not. In the meantime, you’ll just have to settle for a blog post and a little tease now and again and enjoy my filthy weekend serial The Psychology of Dreams 101 until I get back.

 

Some Days I Just Need to Write Something

Dreams imageIMG_0347Some days I just need to write something, but I don’t know what. I want to write something, but everything in my brain is a jumble, a bit like picking raisins out of a scone. I’m looking for the tasty bits, the sweet bits, the bits that will take me by surprise and get my pulse thumping with thinking outside the box and letting the imagination run wild. Some days those things I want to write, those things I really need to write only show up in my mind when I’m walking or when I’m just going to sleep or when up to my elbows in dirty dishes, and I think I’ll write them right down in just a moment, just as soon as I can settle in front of the computer, and then they’re gone.

Those are the days I need to write something, but it’s not story, it’s not ideas for stories. Some days it’s just the detritus that builds up like a log jam in my head and needs to get out there on the page to release the pressure, to let the ideas flow again, move again, be at ease again, to just let me rest a bit. I used to keep a journal, but I seldom take time for a good long navel gaze anymore. I let my characters do the navel gazing for me. They can do it once removed and I can make them squirm instead of me. But some days they’re just not having it. Some days they’re taking time off and I have to sort it all myself. Rude of them! Inconsiderate of them, but there you go. It’s not in their job description, I guess.

The truth is that it is in my job description. It’s more than just in my job description. I think it might actually be in my DNA – in fact it quite possibly might be in most writers’ DNA – that desperate need to write something, to write anything to write EVERYTHING! We writers define our world and everything in it in words, sentences, paragraphs, collections of images that are only real to us, only live for us when
we’ve written them down, mulled over them, analyzed them, compared them with other written images and defined their meaning in our world of words and story. For us, it’s as though things only actually Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020become real once we’ve written them down. At least that’s how it is for me. The fact that I can write my
own reality into fiction makes it all even better, gives the life I live more dimension, more depth, more
color, with every character a facet of some experience, some connection, some thing that’s found its way into my psyche. In essence, I get to live over and over and over again, to experience my own life and those of everyone around me not only for real, but vicariously re-imagined, redefined and recreated multiple times in story as well.

I suppose that’s it in a nutshell, what I needed to write today — only that I needed to write something, only that I wanted the opportunity to share it with you, and now that I’ve written it, toyed with it, seen what it feels like, what it looks like on the page, I feel better.

 

Sarah Blake: WLTM Handsome Prince… Seeking the Truth Behind the Fairy Tale Hero

Sarah Blake 8I can’t tell you how excited I am to have the totally awesome Sarah Blake as my guest today. Sarah is a playwright, theatre director and story teller, and founder of Cabinets of Curiosity. I had the pleasure of seeing Sarah’s fabulous play, Five Clever Courtesans, in London before it toured the Edinburgh Fringe, the Brighton Fringe and the HoffART Theatre in Germany. Most recently I’ve enjoyed her wonderful Fairy Tales for Adults, giving a whole different view on Happy Ever After and the story behind the stories. An audiobook of her trilogy of Fairy Tales For Grown Ups is now available to download worldwide from Amazon, iTunes and Audible. For further information, visit: www.soundscurious.net 

 

 

Welcome, Sarah! Do tell! 

 

By Sarah Blake

Sara Blake 5“Some day, my prince will come,
Some day, I’ll find my love
And how thrilling that moment will be!
When the prince of my dreams comes to me!”

So Snow White sings, in the Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The lyrics are simple, yet potent – in one short verse, they seem to echo back all the wistfulness and longing that we feel when we are waiting for… what, exactly?

Who, precisely, is this Prince of our Dreams? And why, even now, is he still seen as a shortcut to a happy ending?

The Prince is a standard figure in most fairy tales – and in stories that have a female protagonist (such as Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty), he is the ultimate goal – both the readers and the heroine know she has made it to happy-ever-after, once she has met and married him. But even outside the fairytale world, the figure of the Prince pervades contemporary folk and pop-culture genres – rom-com films, romantic novels and tv dramas are full of him. He remains the ultimate symbol of wish-fulfillment, and with the exception of a few surface tweaks, his persona has changed very little over the past few decades, in spite of the rise of feminism. So why does he persist? What drives contemporary storytellers – as well contemporary audiences – to continue to conflate the Prince with happy ever after?

Sarah Blake 1The psychologist Carl Jung theorised that all standard fairy tale characters (or ‘archetypes’) – such as the Prince, the Witch, the Stepmother, etc. – actually represent aspects of our subconscious selves. Viewed in this way, every story can be seen as the reflection of a person – and the interplay and conflict that occurs between the characters within the story mirrors the interplay and conflict that occurs within our own minds, as our subconscious traits and desires vie for dominance. In Jungian terms, the Prince/Hero archetype represents our desire to seek out a better way of life and find greater fulfillment – but practically-speaking, what does this mean?

Forget the fairy tales for a moment – in reality, for hundreds of years, women had no right to work, own money or property, or to engage in politics and vote. In other words, they had no power over their own fates whatsoever. The only way they could attain any degree of influence, privilege, security, comfort, or social status was by marrying well – and so

Sarah Blake 6literally, marrying the Prince (or the closest you could get to one) was your only chance to better your circumstances – both practically, in the material sense of having more wealth and security, but also personally, because society judged your worth by your husband – and all too often, society’s external judgements were (and continue to be) internalised within women’s own minds.

Today, women can and do seek independence. They can make their own fortunes and fulfill their own destinies. They can, theoretically, do anything a man can. Yet we still live in a patriarchal society. Any cursory glance at employment figures (where there is still a huge wage gap between men and women), the justice system (where the majority of female victims of sexual violence still see their attackers walk free), or the media (which still focuses unrelentingly on how women look, rather than on their characters or achievements) quickly demonstrates the inequality that still exists. So, too, do those societal judgements of women and the corresponding internalisations of self-worth that such judgements foster. And so, within a patriarchal society, the Prince remains an external symbol of internal desire, especially for women – because he represents a degree of privilege and freedom that most women can still only dream of. No matter how handsome he may be, it is rarely the Prince himself who is truly yearned for… rather, the privileges of liberty, autonomy and self-esteem that go along with him.

Sarah Blake 9The potency of the Prince as a representation of female desire is particularly heightened when we think of him in terms of romantic/sexual fulfillment. Even now, in our far less repressed age, women are still judged for their sexual appetites. They are frequently condemned as ‘sluts’ or ‘whores’ if they exercise their right to sexual liberty, or express their sensuality on their own terms – whereas similar behaviour in their male counterparts is often approved of by society at large, or merely shrugged off with an indulgent “boys will be boys” attitude. Women’s erotic lives are still all too often parcelled up with being looked at – being seen to be desirable, rather than having the autonomy and freedom to enjoy what feels desirable. So the Prince can also represent a woman’s license to roam freely, explore extensively and and enjoy (without fear of judgement) any and every erotic fantasy she can conjure. As long as an imbalance of power continues to exist between men and women, the Prince will always be there, representing a woman’s yearning for empowerment.

I would suggest that, for many women who sigh after a Prince-type hero – be it onscreen in a Disney Sarah Blake 2film, or within the pages of a romantic novel – what they are actually sighing for is autonomy and self-fulfillment. It might be sexual fulfillment, or intellectual, or economic, or social, or spiritual – or all of the above. The specific details of the desire don’t matter, so much as the desire itself. Whatever a woman yearns for, or feels is lacking in her life – freedom, self-knowledge, self-esteem, romance, adventure, recognition, a sense of connection – is what the Prince is there to provide. Historically, that has always been his role. And psychologically – while we continue to live within a patriarchal society – it remains so.

Viewed in this light, it’s easy to see why the Prince remains such a popular figure. However, this perspective also highlights the hazards for women who seek the fulfillment of all their desires through a literal prince – as well as for the men who find themselves unwittingly cast in that role. Whether you are male or female, patriarchal Sarah Blake 4expectations can place you in a trap, because the Prince was never meant to be real. He is an internal figure – an aspect of your own psyche – and finding your happy ending has as much to do with discovering and developing his characteristics within your own personality, as it has with finding another person to love. For far too long, women have been raised and encouraged by popular culture to view the Prince as a real, flesh-and-blood alpha male, who will swoop in and rescue them from all their troubles and worries. This is not only patronising to women, it is also extremely hard on men – after all, why should one flawed, fragile human be made to carry the full burden of another’s every hope and expectation?

Fortunately, fairy tales can provide us with a way past these traps and hazards. When viewed symbolically, what they teach us – at their deepest level – is that romance is only one aspect of joyful fulfillment and, ultimately, the only person who can rescue you, fulfill all your deepest desires and give you your happy ending is… yourself.Sarah Blake 3

This is the premise behind the three fairy tales in my own trilogy of stories – Fairy Tales For Grown Ups. The clue is in the title – they are stories for those of us who have been around the block a few times and are genuinely ready to help ourselves to a more balanced and fulfilling life. In some ways, they are very traditional tales – full of comedy, adventure, wit and, yes, even romance… fear not – the happy endings are still there! But I’ve also written these tales from a perspective of conscious awareness – so as well as serving to entertain, they can also be used as lights to illuminate the dark places in your mind and heart… and light up your path, as you venture forth into the deep forest.

Which path you decide to take, once you enter the forest, is up to you – and perhaps, like many a fairy tale heroine, you’ll discover that the path you choose end ups taking you somewhere completely unexpected. But whatever it is that you are wishing for – and no matter how you decide to pursue that wish – fairy tales are there to help you along your path. So is the Prince. He is waiting within you, ready to set forth on a perilous journey and brave unknown hazards, in order to find and fulfill your heart’s desire (whatever that might be). So, saddle up… and get ready for the quest of you life.

 

 

About Sarah Blake:Sarah Blake 7

 

Sarah Blake is a playwright, theatre director and storyteller. An audiobook of her trilogy of enchanted stories – Fairy Tales For Grown Ups – is available to download worldwide from Amazon, iTunes and Audible. For further information, visit: www.soundscurious.net

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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