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.

IMAG0228_1

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

IMAG0232

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

Ili-ava-gully-hontas… Wait, What?

I’m thinking I might walk off the face of the Earth for a while and fall into the infinity of darkness and light to go exploring through the faraway galaxies. And then, maybe, I could touch back down to Earth with mystical stardust in my pocket and sprinkle it over those so disheartened to make them feel the burning hope of those beautiful dreams glistening high above again. If only, eh. Wouldn’t that be fun? But, basically, what I’m saying here is that I might go away for a while (at least from posting). But then again, I might not. I haven’t decided yet. I don’t know what would be best for me.

I want to leap off the Earth because (ready yourself for the best news (at least for me) in a long time) I’m FINALLY back on the case with Book 2. Finally. How long has it been? Like a year. Seriously. Poor Book 2. But I got really keen the other day because I was writing a scene AND IT’S SO EXCITING. Well… it’s actually not… It’s two people walking through a forest. But it’s exciting, trust me. They look at a tree and everything… 😉 Am I convincing you? I feel not. It’s a special tree, though. And it is exciting. Book 2 is amazing. Am I allowed to say that? I look at my chapter overviews/notes and I have to try hard not to bounce off the walls. There is nothing else in this world that makes my face light up like the thought of Book 2, which is why it broke my heart so much that I was neglecting it.

Anyway, before I bore you to death with my over-excitable ramblings of Book 2, the short of it is that if I suddenly disappear for a while, or for lengths at a time, you know why. I imagine this potential disappearing will be relevant for the rest of this year. So, now you know!

***

Ili-ava-gully-hontas!

(What in the world am I talking about?)

So, I’m just to throw some things out there regarding Ilimoskus. If you are interested, read on! If not, then… don’t.

Besides writing again, I’m also in the process of reading Book 1, Times of Old, properly for the first time since it was published. It’s practically been a year since I’ve done that, because I always put it off as I did not want to look at it. My book and I don’t really have the healthiest relationship. It’s a rocky road. But we’re working on it 😉 I’d like to add that the only reason I’m reading it is because I’m scouting for mistakes. I’m pleasantly surprised by how few there are; most are just silly errors which really don’t matter at the end of the day, let’s be honest. Maybe I did a better job with it than I thought. I have to say though, reading it back, I find myself falling in love with it again. I love it really – always have and always will – but I’ve just been through such an horrendous process that I forgot.

I particularly love the friendship between Rhu and Nax. Reading it again, it’s so touching, and by the end of the book it really is quite sad. There’s quite a lot going on in the Ilimoskus story – we’ve got themes of the environment and love and duty and guilt and destiny/hope/faith and bravery etc – but there is also a very, very strong theme of friendship, and this is good. There are too few stories these days that focus on friendship, if you ask me. It’s always about love. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with love, but I believe there should be friendship in love, too, and not just this lust-passion malark. Friendship and love are joined at the hip – or at least they should be. As I said above, there is a theme of love in Ilimoskus (I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t), but the theme of friendship totally blows love out the water. Camaraderie! Unity! Unlikely friendships! Reconciliation! That’s what we get in Ilimoskus, both with the humans and the Ilimoskus themselves. Friendship is everywhere in my story.

And, perhaps, you could argue that there is friendship between the Ilimoskus and nature. There are TOO FEW stories that focus on the environment, as well. Too few! By about a million. Obviously, the absolute ultimate, most important theme in Ilimoskus is the environment, and that is because it means more to me than I could ever, ever articulate into words. I can’t even talk about the environment 90% of the time because I honestly just burst out crying whenever I do. You want to see me passionate about something? My goodness. I scare myself sometimes. I go totally berserk at something so small – e.g. when a friend at school used to drop a tiny piece of litter on the field. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU IDIOT!? JUST GO TO THE F-ING BIN! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!? I MEAN WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLAYING AT?! IT’S NOT DIFFICULT TO WALK TO THE BIN IS IT! YOU HAVE LEGS! PICK IT UP AND PUT IT IN THE BIN! OR IF YOU CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO WALK JUST OVER THERE, PUT IT IN YOUR BAG AND THROW IT AWAY LATER.” <- That was me. Still is. The environmental theme in Ilimoskus doesn’t truly kick off in all its glory until Book 2, but it is still there in Book 1. Why are there not more stories in the world about caring for the environment? There are about 700 billion (slight exaggeration) about stupid love triangles, or chick-litty my-life-is-over-ugh-men stories; why can’t there be 700 billion about the environment? It cannot be rammed into us enough, for we must be constantly reminded about how important it is. Surely people care, right…? There needs to be more, so here I am, writing one.

I watched a film the other day (I know, isn’t that such a riveting piece of information). This film was FernGully. It is THE BEST FILM EVER. It came out in 1992, and I watched it about a 100,000 times as a child. I’m not sure that one is an exaggeration.

If you have not seen it, YOU MUST WATCH IT.

>>> “How can you live without trees?”  <<<

But watching this film got me thinking. This is one of the few environmental stories out there, along with Avatar and Pocahontas. All the bright sparks out there will now have worked out what Ili-ava-gully-hontas is all about – a merge of the titles. If anyone knows of any more environmental stories, do let me know (I appreciate Epic is also kind of environmental, but not quite in the same way, as the humans in that story are helpful, whereas in the other three they are the cause of destruction, hence why Epic is not included in my little montage of titles).

This is arguably one of the most meaningful songs out there.

Anyway, I hadn’t seen FernGully since I was a kid, until the other day, and it made me realise that it was probably a huge inspiration to me, although I had completely forgotten about the film when I was planning my story. People these days seem to love saying how that story/book/film copied that other story/book/film, and so, naturally, everyone says Avatar copied FernGully, and also Pocahontas because of the love aspect. Surely, then, it would only be natural for the world to think that I copied Avatar, FernGully AND Pocahontas. Well… no, I didn’t, but even so, there will no doubt be people who think that. I actually get quite cross with myself when I really sit down to think about it, and quite disheartened, for I pick out the similarities between Ilimoskus and those other stories, and, yeah, it does look quite bad for me. It’s funny: I don’t really like Avatar very much (lol), but I feel that is the one my story has most in common with. How did that work out?

  • The Ilimoskus have weird/different coloured skin and they have different eyes and ears and they have markings on their skin, and they have their own society and language and creatures. Err… Avatar?
  • Hidden beings living in a forest, away from humans. Err… FernGully?
  • Two different ‘worlds’ meeting, crossing over. Err… Pocahontas? FernGully? Avatar?!
  • A contrast and/or clash between humans and another race (fantasy or otherwise). Err… FernGully? Pocahontas? AVATAR?!

I am sure there is more I can say, but I’d likely be here all day. Here is a transcript of a rough conversation between my mother and I, for I am forever saying these things to her:

Me: Uuuggghh, everyone’s going to say I copied Avatar and everything else. I’ve basically just come up with the most unoriginal story ever.

Mum: No you haven’t! No one’s going to say that. It is an original story.

Me: Yes they will – there are huge similarities. Why did I even bother?! (Note: my mother deserves a medal for having me as a daughter)

Mum: You could read anything from any story and find similarities with another. That’s just the way inspiration is. Yes, there may be similarities between your story and Avatar, but that doesn’t mean you copied it. 

This photo was taken in America 2013 on my auntie’s front doorstep. Don’t mind the ghost glowering over my shoulder… (it was Halloween)

Isn’t my mother a wonderfully wise woman? Look at her. A very beautiful wise woman. I owe her so much, and I have no idea what I’d do without her. What she says is true, about inspiration and all that. And if we were not inspired by other things, we would never progress, and nor would we have anything new.

So, although there may be similarities between my story and the others, there are also many differences. And now I remember WHY I started writing it in the first place (well, there are actually a few, very combined deep reasons, but only one is relevant right now). There may be environmental stories out there, few and far between (SADLY), but I felt that something was missing from them all. They are all relevant, of course, but none of them really seem to address the problem we have NOW. In this world, on this planet, right here right now, with a massive point raised (FernGully is probably the closest to this). So, as anyone would do, I wrote my own story to rectify this 😉 The Ilimoskus story is set in the present day, right now, on this planet, with modern technology, attitudes and society. The perspective of the story is split: half of it is told via the Ilimoskus world/point of view, and the other half is told via the human world/point of view. I think that makes things fairer, and we humans can identify with humans easier than a fantasy race, surely. It drums the point in better with such human involvement, I feel, and having the contrasting Ilimoskus viewpoint is a little bit of an eye-opener. And, the main human character is a fifteen year old girl – a child, in the grand scheme of things. The future belongs to our children, so what better viewpoint to take than a human child? Little Lizzie – i.e. Elizabeth Gott – is the voice for all children on Earth. I appreciate that sounds quite dramatic, but if we get down to it, that is the case. When we are dead and gone, it will be our children – our children’s children – dealing with the mess we refused to acknowledge and deal with when we had the chance. I fear for the world, and I fear for the children being born now. If you love your children, you must love the planet, for there will be no children if we have no planet. We’re all one, guys. We’ve got to work together.

I feel as though I’m being a bit preachy right now, so I apologise if it seems that way, but I do not apologise for speaking the voice in my heart. Why should I be? Someone’s got to speak out. I’m certainly not afraid to. The world could deal me the greatest wrath imaginable for doing so, but I would still speak out, for I would rather die than sit and not even try to do something – again: dramatic, but true.

So, everyone, I leave you with this:

Dear blogger community/world,

I have a story to write. Hopefully now you can understand a little better just how much this story means to me, and understand why I may be away for any given length of time. Hopefully you can forgive the similarities between my story and Avatar, FernGully and Pocahontas, and rather open your eyes to a different perspective that is only trying to follow and reflect the heart behind it. I do not want to think that Ilimoskus is a preachy tale, for it is not, and that was far from its intention, but rather that it is a tale which brings awareness – no matter how slight, for any awareness is better than none – to a desperately important, global issue. If it makes someone think twice before dropping litter, it can only be considered a success to me.

I know it will be a long, hard road for me to complete this story of mine, but I am already on this road, and it’s too late to change lanes now. But I do not intend to give up – though, I’ve been near it a few hundred times!! How I am still standing, I’m not quite sure. Nevertheless, still I stand, and here I’ll stay.

Yours sincerely,

a girl on a mission

Merry It Is!

This has nothing to do with anything, but I’m sharing it with you nonetheless. I truly love listening to old English music, and I’ve been listening to it a lot recently, whenever I have the chance (it’s times like these when I wonder how I can love music like this, and then also love electronic stuff like Owl City. It couldn’t be more opposite if it tried!) Anyway, I wanted to show you a song. But while I’ve been listening to this song today, it suddenly made me think back to my days as an English Language student. And I realised just how much I love the history of the English language, and the development of it, and how engrossed I become when studying and analysing lyrics and poems and letters! I haven’t felt this buzz for English Language in a long while. In a way, I can’t believe I forgot about how much I love it.

This particular song is called ‘Miri It Is While Sumer Ilast’, and it’s from the early 13th Century. It’s quite a relevant song really, since summer has recently ended and we are moving ever deeper into the time of autumn, and ever closer to bitter winter.

This is from the time of Middle English, if I recall correctly from my student days. If anyone thinks I’m a bit strange for having such a love, or is not even remotely intrigued about history and/or language, I suggest you stop reading now, since I am only going to ramble on about language and reveal how passionate I am on the matter.

Here are the Middle English lyrics for the song:

Miri it is while sumer ilast 

with fugheles song.

Oc nu neheth windes blast 

and weder strong.

Ei! What this nicht is long, 

and ich with wel michel wrong,

soregh and murne and fast.

And what is that in Contemporary English?

Merry it is while summer lasts

with the song of birds.

But now draws near the wind’s blast

and harsh weather.

Alas! How long this night is,

and I, most unjustly wronged,

sorrow and mourn and fast.

Middle English is probably my favourite stage in the development of the English Language, purely because it looks and sounds rather different to the English of today, but if you actually sit down and look, most of it is surprisingly recognisable! Maybe not everyone thinks so, but I certainly do. I just love studying the words, the speech, of a bygone time. Is that not fascinating? I think so. I think it’s enchanting and mysterious: after all, if you can decipher olden talk and texts, what secrets may you find? Isn’t the mere thought of that enticing?

I don’t claim to be knowledgeable on this subject, nor do I claim to be able to accurately translate anything, but analysing and studying it always was, and always is, a joy for me. Middle English is the oldest form of English that can actually pass for being English. What am I talking about?, you may be wondering.

Trust me when I say this: Middle English is the easiest thing in the world to translate if comparing it to Old English. Seriously. I am talking from deep experience here. When I studied English Language, I once had to do a presentation on a little passage from the poem ‘Beowulf’. All I can say is that I was so, so glad we were put with a partner, otherwise I genuinely think I would have leapt out the window of the classroom. Let me just show you a tiny sample of what my partner and I had to work with:

Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,

þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,

hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

Yep… I feel my point has been made. I believe we actually managed to very roughly translate that snippet (after about an hour), and I also believe I still have it somewhere. I hope I do, anyway. If anyone is actually wondering: no – no, we did not choose to do Beowulf or Old English; our teacher just landed us with it. The stages were: Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, Late Modern English, and Contemporary English. I remember when my partner and I were told that we were doing Old English, we both looked at each other with an expression that spoke a million words. I’m sure you can probably guess what that expression was. And the pair that got Contemporary English… Well, I’m sure you can imagine how smug they were about it. They had to work with text messages. Yes, that’s right! Text messages. My partner and I were quite envious of everyone else, for they had it so much easier than us! As I said, even the Middle English stage was ten times easier than ours. The Middle English pair had to do a presentation on work by Geoffrey Chaucer. I wish I got to do Chaucer. But, in a way, I’m kind of glad I was given Old English, because I never would have chosen it myself, and although it was hard work to get even the tiniest bit of information on anything, it was incredibly rewarding.
Sometimes in life, you’ve got to dig deep. It’s hard, slow, painstaking work, but when all is done, you are left with a golden treasure long since forgotten, yet more precious than anything the surface could bestow.