Ancient Inspiration

Before I get to the main point of this post, I would like to take a moment to mention Windows 10. My laptop upgraded itself the other day. It’s all very well, I suppose – I have nothing to complain about. Unless, that is, you wish to count that I had only just got my head around Windows 8, and now I’m sure it will take me another century to work this one out too. One notable thing I must mention about Windows 10 is its sound. What pretty, delicate little noises it makes, no? Not like the earlier versions of Windows, like 95 and 98, which went DYOINK!! when you clicked on something sometimes. Remember that? And it usually gave you a heart attack, that strident noise. Goodness.

But this upgrade has caused me some grief in one respect: my phone input. I refuse to believe I am the only person who struggles connecting their mobile to their computer. With Windows 8, I had it sussed, all was well and life was splendid. Windows 10? I can’t. I don’t understand. It’s linked me to OneDrive and I cannot cope with such technological complexities. I am not good with technology, in case you hadn’t already gathered this, and, if I can’t cope with technology now, I dread to think what I’ll be like in ten, twenty, thirty years time. It took me about nine thousand years to get the photos from my phone to this WordPress post, with plentiful clawing at the face and near throwing-phone-and-or-laptop-out-of-window moments. But finally! Success.

Yet, one thing I found incredibly curious was how I rediscovered photos on my laptop which I KNOW I deleted aaaages ago. How on earth did Windows 10 bring them back…? Does Microsoft store all deleted stuff in some far-off, technological cavern to snoop on all your doings, or so they may haunt you with things you once believed to be gone for good? Hmm. Though, disconcerting as this thought may be, I did find it amusing trawling through old, once-deleted photos – namely the five hundred or so accidental photos I accidentally took with my temperamental laptop camera (I may be exaggerating just a smidge). Seriously though, how do you accidentally take so many photos? The stupid camera app thing on Windows 8 always got in my way, opening up in the middle of my work, and while my head was down or my eyes were elsewhere I heard a sly click; when I looked up, I saw my face looking back at me. Here are two examples:

WIN_20140214_095846 WIN_20140411_203740

I mean, there I was, minding my own business, TRYING to work, and my stupid camera takes a snap. I swear my laptop has a mind of its own. This is also quite a disconcerting thought. Sometimes, when I open up MS Word, the cursor does a mad jig across the page, or, when I’ve opened a large document (such as my manuscript), it scrolls endlessly down through the pages. Maybe it’s possessed. This is the only logical explanation, obviously. Although, I am pleased to say that accidental photos are a thing of the past, and it has been a long while since MS Word has had a funky jig. Mellowed with age, that’s what it is.

***

So, enough of Windows. In this post I thought I would write about writer inspiration (for myself, at any rate).

I am fortunate to live on the edge of Exmoor National Park, a beautiful landscape in the southwest of England. As a nature-lover, I can’t ask for much more. There are many beautiful walks and sights to see on Exmoor, all of which are no farther than a thirty minute drive away from me. The other day I visited a place called Tarr Steps. A slightly deceptive name on the face of it, for there are no steps at Tarr Steps – unless, that is, you associate the ‘steps’ with the physical stepping one does there. Tarr Steps is actually a Grade I listed (a very old protected structure of historical and architectural interest, for those not from England) clapper bridge, which is an ancient form of bridge usually built from stone found in UK moors and uplands across fords and rivers.

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There is some mystery surrounding Tarr Steps, since no one is quite sure how old the bridge actually is: it is believed to be a medieval construction, but that can range from anywhere between 500 – 1485 AD. The word clapper derives from the Old English wordcleaca’, which means “stepping-stones”, while the word tarr derives from the Celtic word ‘tochar’, which means “causeway”.

Causeway

noun

A raised road or track across low or wet ground

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The name “Tarr Steps” doesn’t seem so strange for this bridge now, does it? The causeway stepping-stones. But it is no wonder there is so much head-scratching about the age of Tarr Steps, since clapper bridges are constructions first recorded in the Middle Ages, yet its name, tarr, is of Celtic origin. It does annoy me when everyone associates the Celts to purely be the ancient folk of Ireland and Scotland, because, actually, the whole of Britain was once Celtic – the Celts were who dwelt on these lands in BC. There were three main groups of Celts across the northwest of Europe: the Gauls (France, Belgium, western Germany and northern Italy); the Gaels (Ireland and Scotland – Scotland was once called the Picts, I believe, but they merged with the Gaels); and the Britons (ENGLAND and Wales). So. There we go. It is only because invasions pushed the Celts up the country to Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and also down to Cornwall. Due to the hundreds of invasions Britain suffered over the centuries – from the Vikings, Romans, Angles, Saxons and Jutes – this country is a total, total mishmash of ancient cultures and languages, and the invaders ended up merging with the native Celts and their culture, though the Celts were mostly to be found in the corners of the country, which is why the country of England ended up differing and evolving more and more from the Celts they once were. It is, therefore, only fair to say that England has Celtic blood. Always has, always will.

Moving on from that history lesson (sorry about that, I’m a bit of a history geek), I often believe that we folk of Britain have a slight advantage over most other countries of the world when it comes to writing inspiration – certainly fantasy writing, at any rate. Why do I say this? Well, of course, there are fantastic fantasy writers from all across the globe – and certainly from America/Canada, which are very young countries compared to the UK and Europe – but dare I say their fantastical inspiration comes from the parts of history their countries never got the chance to live, to experience? The knights, the castles, the cavalry and the kings; the rituals, the legends, the magic and the myth. Whether we appreciate it or not, we Britons are immersed and surrounded by such rich, deep history, and indeed, it is so second nature for us to see an ancient building, to hear an ancient story, that many of us do not stop to think about it. We absorb this history. It is a part of our blood.

J.R.R. Tolkien changed the face of fantasy forever. Lord of the Rings. He was British.

J.K. Rowling captured the hearts of the world. Harry Potter. She is British.

C.S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia. British.

Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland. British.

J.M. Barrie. Peter Pan. British.

Beatrix Potter. The Tales of Peter Rabbit. British.

Terry Pratchett. Discworld. British.

Roald Dahl. (Too many to list). British.

T.H. White. The Sword in the Stone. British.

Needless to say, the United Kingdom has a pretty hefty list of influential fantasy writers. As children, our historical school trips consist of adventures to castles and ruins, and we are never more than a stone’s throw away from some historical sight or structure. I grew up by castle ruins. I used to go there and hang out with my friends, sat amongst the cathedral ruins in the outer bailey, or walked the dog up there frequently. When I was a kid, I vividly remember going to a castle on a school trip (Warwick, I believe – an AMAZING castle. Go there. Instantly) and we had to dress according to the times at court, so we girls were royal ladies with hennin (those weird hats) or with medieval hairstyles, and the boys were jesters or knights or other royal court people.

Stuff like this

How I wish I had a photo of my old class, but alas. You can imagine how thrilled we were as children to dress up as medieval dames and knights, parading around the castle and its ground to see jousting knight re-enactments and dances and music. What a marvellous country this is.

Needless to say, every time I visit/see an ancient place in this country, my mind swells with imagination, and ideas and thoughts zoom about. It is a joy. There is such wonder in inspiration from history. Of course, some places come to life for you, as demonstrated in the video, and so your mind does not have such an opportunity to thrive; however, even with that you can daydream about a maiden’s story, or a knight’s adventure. Let your imagination flourish!

Tarr Steps was busy with people on the day I visited – families making the most of the elusive sun – but the bridge itself is nothing but that: a bridge. What imagination can come from an ancient stone bridge? So much!

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Ancient places are so special. What stories do these ancient stones have to tell? What sights have they seen throughout the ages, and who have they greeted? I was but one more footprint to add to its immense history, already gone and forgotten. In centuries to come, will another stand upon these stones and wonder who walked there before them? Maybe they will stand in the exact same place I did.

***

Wander through an ancient place and listen to the tales the stone tells you. Your mind will hear! Let the grass or trees or river whisper to your imagination, and you may find the greatest story yet to be told.

May your mind be free and your heart peaceful.

-JKM

What Sights Await?

There is beauty in the simplest acts. Simplicity, despite all its definitions and connotations, is far more powerful than its outward impression suggests. I am a great lover of simplicity when it comes to living life. I like quiet, I like understated, I like simple. My most beloved moments and memories with those special people in my life – past and present – are the simplest of times. For example, I used to sit by the river with that special someone, and there we quietly sat, dipping our feet into its cool running waters while watching the natural world pass by, and often we would comment on the little fish that daringly ventured close to our feet, or sometimes he would try to teach me how to skip stones (I am hilariously awful at it, by the way); never in our whole time together did we go to a restaurant or needlessly waste spend money on each other. And I am glad, for the times we did spend together were therefore infinitely more precious.

But one of my favourite simple things to do is to gaze out a window. Are they like portals? I think so. You’ll always see something different out of every window, a different scene through the tear in the incorporeal gateway between worlds. Perhaps it’s merely the glass that causes this divide – so near it is touchable, but still always seeming just out of reach. Since moving house in January 2014, most of the windows I now gaze out of are over the garden. Of course, this is lovely for me, for I so love the outside world. But I do find myself missing my old bedroom window at times. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, for I had spent my entire life in that bedroom, and the amount of times I gazed out that window… It was a big bay, and I could sit on its windowsill. And so I did. I sat on that windowsill all the time, since childhood, and gazed out at the road on the other side. I watched the world go by. I loved that window.

As many of you may know, I am an author. In Times of Old, one of the main characters is fifteen year old Elizabeth Gott. I see a lot of myself in Elizabeth. This wasn’t actually intentional, but upon reflection I now realise that she was partly inspired by myself. She is shy. She is sensitive. She is a loner. She loves simplicity, and she loves the outdoors. Elizabeth finds great comfort in gazing out of her bedroom window, out over the woodland she lives by, and she does this many times throughout the course of the Ilimoskus story.

The very first time the reader meets Elizabeth, she is gazing out of her bedroom window. There is a storm. She watches the wind dynamically sway the trees while the lightning illuminates the world. The next time Elizabeth looks out of her bedroom window in the story, the sky is grey and overcast. The third time she gazes out of this window, the sky is clear, the world is bright, but she ends up yanking the curtains shut, frightened and repulsed by the outside world. Why?

A window is a simple thing. It is one of those objects in life that most people do not stop to take a second thought about. But sometimes simple things can be very important. Sometimes it is the quiet, understated things that end up making the biggest impact. Elizabeth’s bedroom window may be just that – a bedroom window – but it is also so much more: it is the gateway between two worlds; it is the divide between the near and the far, the physiological and the psychological; it is the obstacle of illusions and certainty. It is her sweetest dream and her worst nightmare.

The location of a window may remain the same, but they have the power to reveal new sights as time ever continues on. The window realm never settles, never ceases. You can see so much through one simple pane of glass. So, next time you casually look through a window, stop for a moment to truly take in what your eyes observe. What sights await?

Imagine Award and Lighthouse Award [Spread Your Wings and Touch the Sky]

The third and last award post! I can hear your sighs of relief as I type. It was supposed to be only one more award, but then Mr. Stevick Steven nominated me for another and disrupted my plans. How inconsiderate. JOKING! Thank you very, very much, Steven, they mean a lot! Atypically for me, I am rather excited about these two awards, for reasons I shall explain in just a moment.

So, as mentioned, Steven from moodsaplently (or simply ‘S’) nominated me, firstly, for the Imagine Award, whereby its purpose is to highlight blogs which make special use of creativity and passion.

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According to the rules, I must state 3-5 reasons why I like the S blog, and, of course, the Hewerishly handsome Steven himself:

>> His humour is simply fantastic. It really is the type humour which makes me giggle most of all.

>> He shares his amazing drawings/portraits regularly, and they are such a treat. One of these was Nick Hewer (i.e. a self portrait)

>> He has such inner strength and light which he should always remember! <- I hope you’re paying attention, Stevick, or I will go all Mother Jenny on you, despite the fact I’m not actually a mother, but shhhh. He is not shy to admit on his blog that he is low, that he is struggling, but still he comes into the world of WordPress and makes others smile with his words, or brightens up a day, and that is a truly wonderful thing.

>> He is a creative spark! I like creativity.

>> This probably shouldn’t be a reason, but we have an insane amount in common, and when I say ‘insane amount’, I seriously mean that. It borders on creepy. But, it’s always nice when you have things in common with people.

And now, in accordance with the rules, I am to nominate 3-5 blogs for the Imagine Award:

Maugryph’s Blog

Valourborn

The Eye-Dancers

Now, did I not say I was excited about these awards? Why? As though Steven could read my thoughts, these two awards reflect everything going on in my mind at the moment – more so than usual, anyway. Regarding the Imagine Award, I think it’s fair to say that I’m quite a creative individual, and so receiving an award regarding imagination in all its glory, well, it’s always nice!

The perception the world seems to have with imagination being akin to unicorns prancing upon – or beneath – rainbows really does irritate me, though. This is probably because I’m Little Miss Pedantic, but where did this associate between unicorns and rainbows come from?? Unicorns, mythologically, do not prance gleefully with rainbows, but rather keep themselves incredibly elusive while being desperately proud, pure, noble, strong, and, to some degree, fierce creatures, said only ever to approach virgin maidens, which is why Medieval writers associated them with Christ, who “raised up a horn of salvation” and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Additionally, they are not the harmlessly frivolous creatures the world perceives them as today, but they were said to actually kill people who tried to catch them, or who pretended to be a virgin maiden.

I appreciate I am not being overly creative or imaginative right now. Allow me to rectify this issue.

I would love to be able to say I know all this about unicorns because I secretly have one residing in the little copse of trees in my back garden, and he spends many an hour telling me of his kind while painting rainbows with the magical touch of his hooves and creating a gloriously paradisal setting by turning early morning dewdrops into diamonds, but, alas, it is not so. I read some books.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the magical notion of unicorns, but magical in the sense of beautiful mystery, not dancing with leprechauns and fairies (and don’t get me started on fairies, that’s all wrong, too). Although I acknowledge the idea of the unicorn is something that has played on human imagination throughout the ages, personally I don’t think they should be the image of creativity. I have always viewed imagination/creativity to belong to the humble bird. Besides, if rainbows must be in the frame, then it is a bird that can fly away and ‘touch’ the sky-path of colour and dab the tips of its feather into the palette to paint the world as it sees fit. Birds are also the symbol of freedom, right? They are free to fly anywhere they like in the realm of IMAGINATION.

Sorry, that had to be done. But look, a rainbow!

Birds can swoop low or soar high; they can go wherever the urge takes them. And so can we, for our minds are birds, and they possess wings just waiting to stretch out and fly! Think of everything we could touch in the sky.

Which leads me nicely onto the next award.

***

Steven then nominated me for the Lighthouse Award, which is for blogs that bring light to a dark world.

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This award excites me in equal amounts as the first one (and I appreciate I haven’t properly explained why I’m excited, but I’ll get to that at the end of this post). Firstly, this award seemed like a bit of a “coinkydink”, as Stevick put it. Earlier on in the day, before I saw that he had so kindly nominated me for this award, I was listening to a song that was strangely relevant:

‘A spark soaring down through the pouring rain and restoring life to the lighthouse. A slow motion wave on the ocean stirs my emotion up like a raincloud. When did the sky turn black? And when will the light come back?’ – Beautiful Times by Owl City (good ol’ Owl City, eh)

Anyone who follows my blog, or who has read my book, will probably already know how much I love to play with the concept of light and dark. It is something that means a lot to me, and is something I will always keep in my writing. It goes without saying, then, that the deeper, creative meaning behind lighthouses makes me, quite literally, beam. Inside and out.

Perhaps light and dark doesn’t have such endless possibilities as with a flying bird, but still, I believe it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. After all, rainbows are not the only things in the sky. What about the sun? The moon? The stars? There is endless light in the sky, so as long as you can see it, believe it, you will always hold its uplifting message in the palms of your hands – or nestled beneath your feathers 😉 And what about the light of the Son…?

The rules say I must share up to three ways in which I like to help people. Well…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love– 1 Corinthians 13:13

It says in the Bible that money is the root of all evil, so why not say love is the root of all that is good? For you cannot help another if you do not have love in your heart, can you? Kindness, compassion, charity – these are all products of love. So, that is my answer, plain and simple. Love.

Though, I also like to help people with words, whenever possible. I am a writer at heart, after all.

A good friend of mine came to visit me the other day, and, as he put it, we “gatecrashed Spring Harvest for the day.” Despite the fact I nearly threw him out his wheelchair (neither of us were paying attention ’cause we were looking at something, and I rammed the chair straight into the kerb. This is what happens when I’m left in charge), we had a really brilliant day. While I was there, I saw a top which I simply fell in love with, for some reason (I’m never like that with clothes), and my friend SO KINDLY treated me to it, even though I was there for about ten minutes trying to talk him out of it. But we must humbly receive.

lovelifelivelove

I think that top to be quite appropriate right now, don’t you? You see that orange strip on the sleeve? John 15:9.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

But moving on from love, everyone wants a light in the dark, don’t they? Whether your light is Jesus, or whether your light is merely the meaning behind it all, that longing is the same. When you can see – or find – a light in the dark, does it not seem even more beautiful than you ever thought possible? It is a most precious thing.

Here are my nominations for the Lighthouse Award. The following are my lights in the dark. They are the lighthouse when I feel lost at sea, guiding me back to shore with a smile. They are the sun brightening my day. They are the stars glistening when the world falls into shadow. They are friends.

Rick at Jesus, Light of the World

Alex at Valourborn

James Radcliffe

Dear Sherri P at A View from My Summerhouse

Of course, Steven himself is also a lighthouse of mine.

***

So, there we have it. I am finished with awards. Though, now let me quickly explain further why these two mean so much. You may have already got the jist of it, but imagination/creativity is my life, given the story I am in the middle of writing as an author, and light in the dark is a massive part of my inspiration. I said in an earlier post (the Sunshine Award, I think) that I am going to start posting far more creative things from now on. When I first started this blog, I did so with the intention that this would be my ‘author blog’, and that I would promote my book and story through it… Well, I haven’t done that at all, really. So, I finally decided I would start to do that. If creative is what I am, I should be sharing that with the world, through stories and poems and through Ilimoskus itself.

And, do you know what? I’m actually going to start talking about my book more. Why shouldn’t I? I’ve always been shhhh hush hush about it, as though I am almost embarrassed to say that I have written a story. Well, that’s ridiculous, quite frankly. Get a grip, Jennifer. And again, do you know what? I have always played down how much Ilimoskus was inspired by my faith (that is, Christianity) in fear that it would put people off reading it, for I would hate them to think it’s a preachy tale (because it really isn’t), and also because I never particularly wanted people questioning me about it. But, no longer.

ILIMOSKUS is an environmental fantasy tale about a race of elemental beings (fire, earth, air and water) who live on Earth, unbeknown to humans. The first book of the trilogy is Times of Old, which takes the reader into a stark collision between fantasy and reality. It was inspired by nature, and God, and life. So there we go. 

  • It is fantasy because I love the imagination and freedom fantasy gives.
  • It is environmental because I love nature and the environment, and I care for it greatly. The world seriously needs to respect it more.
  • There is a stark collision between fantasy and reality because… read this post.
  • It is a trilogy because only when the three are put together is the whole story told. They are a trinity: three distinct existences, yet one tale. Does that remind you of anything? *coughs* The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit *coughs*
  • It was inspired by nature because, as I said, I love nature, and I spend so much of my time looking at it, being with it, walking in it.
  • It was inspired by GOD because He is everything, and everywhere. And there is so much in between the lines of my story linking to Him. In fact, half the time it’s not even in between the lines, because characters just full on blurt it. He IS the lines, and the words. If you do happen to read my story, look at the Ilimoskus themselves. Just look. (How terribly convoluted of me there, but I can’t be giving it all away 😉 ).
  • It was inspired by life because, as with everyone, I’ve had some less ideal times, and writing is how I heal myself. I take my negativity and pain and turn it into something good, something creative, something priceless. Writing is my escape, but it is also my duty. Ilimoskus is a story of life. Birth, death, suffering, laughter, friendship, love, guilt, secrets, courage, wisdom, hope, faith, duty, betrayal, reconciliation, conflict, growing up! But, out of everything, the emotion is what it’s all about. At least for me.

“May the light from your heart always guide you”

Hey, look: light!

If you do actually have any questions about Ilimoskus, contact me and I’ll get back to you.

All glory to the Lord, because, without Him, I would be nothing. And Ilimoskus would not exist.

I hope everyone has a lovely Easter. Let’s think about the true meaning, and not just gorge on chocolate 😉

Helium Balloon

I am pleased to say that the chaos of recent has subdued significantly, which thankfully happened far sooner than I was anticipating. I have more time to myself. That can only be a good thing, right?

Firstly: I did a creative writing workshop in a primary school the other day, and I took some photos of the children’s work. Have a look! I had a great time, and the children were an absolute pleasure to work with. I really enjoyed reading their work and looking at their pictures – it was so heart-warming. A child’s imagination is truly a most wonderful thing. And, the best bit is, I got to keep a copy of it all. It was such a great feeling to see them enjoying the workshop, and enjoying the glory of imagination.

Secondly: I am going to confess something to you all. I am really struggling at the moment – in fact, I have been for months. So, I apologise if the occasional grim or depressing post pops up. Although I go about my daily business the same as always, I do so with a heavy heart. It is as though my hope is a helium balloon and I clasp its string in my hand, but the string is slowly slipping through my fingers… and I can’t seem to reclaim my firm grasp. One day, will I release the balloon completely, and helplessly watch as my hope floats ever farther from me until it bursts high above? I am very, very rarely a negative person, but unfortunately, negativity occasionally creeps up on me, and I cannot outrun it. It does not help that my few dear friends are miles away from me; it would be nice to sit beside one… Hey, Mint: shall I pretend you’re with me when I gaze out to sea, and think of you when I hear the singing whistles? Hey, Stew: shall I release my strength when I sigh, to be carried to you upon the wind? Hey, Camel: shall I laugh when I stand by the cliffs, and remember the howls of the wolves? But I wish them well, always, for they are following their hearts, their dreams. And that is a special thing.

This struggle of mine extends to writing. I have never been so close to giving up. It feels like everything has been against me for months, and I have not had the ability to fight it all off. It’s hard to fight it all when you stand alone. I am missing so much. You are free. I am hating so much. I am waiting. I am hurting so much. I have far too much to say. 

Sing me the song of the distant mountains…

I realise that parts of this post might not make much (if any) sense to people, but it’s just stuff I need to get out. Is a blog the best place to do that? Probably not. But I don’t have anyone to talk to (apart from God, of course, but at the moment it would seem His words are falling on deaf ears. Not to say that my faith is waning, because it most certainly isn’t.) But anyway, I know every writer struggles from time to time, and encouraging words from someone certainly wouldn’t go amiss right now.

I have been very musical recently. I usually play any random, improvised tune, and I sing whatever falls from my tongue. The music dictates me – I do not consciously think about what I am saying. And then, when I understand what this music has decided to be about, I write lyrics accordingly. But recently, the same theme keeps emerging. The voice in the ‘song’ has either lost something or someone, or is waiting for something or someone… The most recent song I’ve done (which was yesterday) is called ‘Here in the Meadow’. What is it about? Waiting…

Why am I obsessed with waiting at the moment? Everything I have been writing recently – poems, random paragraphs, lyrics – is about waiting. I don’t understand. Am I waiting for something, without even realising it? Is someone trying to tell me something, since I seem to be deaf right now? I don’t know.

May you all have a wonderful weekend with peace and contentment filling your hearts. I hope no one else is struggling. But, if you are, may the light guide you out of the darkness. You’ll be all right. Take care.