Star Child *

I have a friend (crazy, I know). Her name is Alex. Hi, Alex! *waves*. She has read my book, and she likes my book. This makes me happy, of course. Alex is a writer herself (a fantasy one, at that), and it is so lovely to have a friend who can share such things with you, who understands, and who actually knows what you’re talking about when you say ‘Sta’reghiime’, for example.

Do you know what that is? I highly doubt it.

It’s something in my book.

Which you would not know unless you have read it.

Funny how these things work…

A good while back, I was moaning to Alex about the languages I have created for my fantasy world. I wondered what possessed me to do three. Woeful. One language is simple enough, I suppose: that is Kurpian, the language of the Ilimoskus (my main language). The other two are… Well, one is the hardest thing in the world to pronounce/the biggest mouthful language going, and the other has the worst grammar. But who do I have to blame but myself? Why, Jenny? Whhyyyyyyyy? *falls upon knees and howls in despair*

But anyway. I was talking about my languages. Specifically Kurpian. Alex said that it would be cool to learn Kurpian (or something like that), to which I replied, “I’ll give you a lesson someday 😉

(An aside: The Kurpian language is traditionally a syllabic alphabet with limited logograms, which, in English, basically means there are symbols that represent syllables. There are always two symbols that make me smile, though, because “xu” looks like a smiley face with a massive nose, and “ly” looks like a man doing some funky dance. Behold: )

ohk

((An aside aside: Apparently one of the most ‘hated’ fantasy clichés is ‘Authors who go overboard in creating a ‘language’.‘ Oh, and also Anthropomorphism‘Non-human’ or sentient animal races that act, think, and socialise just like humans.’ Pffttt. Well, if that’s the case, AVOID my story at all costs. WARNING–WARNING–I tell you! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES LEST MY TERRIBLE, AMATEUR FANTASY STORY DEVOURS YOUR MIND INTO A STATE OF UTTER PARALYSIS FROM ITS SHEER ATROCITY TO THE FANTASY NAME. I love fantasy. Fantasy is my life. But I hate the fantasy ‘circle’ more than anything. It is the most critical, judgemental and contemptuous of all fandoms. Obviously, I’m not speaking for everyone here, but that’s the general vibe you get. Oh, and by the way, I actually have a very detailed explanation as to why my Ilimoskus are so humanoid, yet if I put such an explanation into my story I would be criticised for rabbiting on about information no one cares about, or for focusing too much on needless history as opposed to storyline. You can’t win, right? Which is why you should live your life true to yourself and write only from the heart. That’s my lesson for the day.))

So. There is a character in my book called Gnotsu Teeze (“NOTE-soo”, by the way – everyone pronounces it wrong). Gnotsu is the wise, wizened, wise man of the story. Obligatory in fantasy, no? A trope, not a cliché 😉 Though, if you ask me, he is more than just a wise elder: he is immensely powerful and mysterious – so much so that his kin do not even realise the extent of this. Gnotsu has dedicated the majority of his life guiding others in their greatest time of need – a carer and protector to all the sad hearts who come his way.

gnot-tt

This is a sketch I did of Gnotsu

Due to this, I often say, “Everyone needs a Gnotsu in their life.” We do. We really do. We all need a mentor to teach us the wonders of life, of nature, of the soul. Oft times I find myself pining for a Gnotsu conversation, to be before his exuding aura of perpetual wisdom *wistfully sighs*. But, it is precisely this teaching nature of Gnotsu’s that led me to write this post. Combining both things together (Alex and Kurpian), who better to consult than dear old Gnotsu?

And so, my friends, I share with you a fictional scenario between Alex and Gnotsu as she has a Kurpian lesson. Perhaps some context is required. Let’s just pretend that Alex woke up, drowsy and bewildered, thousands of miles away from home in an English wood which just so happened to be Kaxenff (that is, the home of Gnotsu). Gnotsu, being the compassionate soul he is, took Alex under his wing and taught her the ways of the Ilimoskus (and we shall ignore technicalities within the story itself, such as humans not being able to see Ilimoskus, but sshhhhhhhhh. Alex is special. She can see the Ilimoskus, ’cause I say so 😉 ).

(To people who do not know the story: There are going to be many strange words in this piece. I shall briefly explain them at the end. Strange words shall be underlined.)

Dear Alex, I know you could do with a Gnotsu conversation. I hope you enjoy this.

Love and light to you, x

***

Alex rushed through the holid, swerving past the kus coming her way as they gave her an array of curious looks. She was late.

She had not slept well, awaking before the dawn, and so she had decided to leave Gnotsu’s hohot and go for a quiet stroll through the woods. It was strange to be out in the Ilimoskus’ holid when it was so silent, so deserted, but she could not deny the sense of relief that filled her, for the lack of the foreign beings – kindly as they were – watching her every move meant she could dally and inspect to her heart’s content. She had absent-mindedly watched the sunlight burn the woodland in golden fire, beckoning the Flamikus to awaken, and, while sitting on a log near Idimis, observed kus undertaking their morning duties. She had not been here long, but she had already discerned just how diligent the Ilimoskus were. She had also discerned that they were seriously nosy, yet politely so, if that was at all possible; they forever peered inquisitively over her private doings, and she caught wind of gossip about her, such as, ‘She speaks very weirdly. Do you think she has something wrong with her?’ As gossip went, it was harmless enough, and she could hardly blame them – after all, she was as good as an alien to them, and she did speak very differently to them: her accent was Canadian, and theirs was a rather curious blend of English and… Kurpian? She supposed, were she with another human, she would be gossiping about them, too. It was only when some kus passed close by her, chattering away – and, of course, giving her a lengthy perusal – that she thought about their accent again. But then it suddenly hit her. She had agreed to have a Kurpian lesson with Gnotsu at first light. Dammit! She leapt up and darted away, giving all nearby eyes even more reason to look at her.

Once she had rushed back to his hohot, she saw that Gnotsu was waiting outside, his hands clasped together. Why did that make her feel so terrible? She continued to approach, now at a brisk walk, and Gnotsu spied her from a distance; he watched her every move with a placid expression, and when she was near he bestowed a warm smile.

“I-I’m sorry, Gnotsu!” Alex puffed, stopping before him. “I forgot!”

“Indeed you did. But then you remembered. Do not fret, Nieeb, for the recollection of our minds often fails us when our hearts are preoccupied with deeper things.”

“But… What deeper things?”

“You are new here,” he kindly replied. “This is a strange place to you, and you are in the process of adapting. Do not be hard on yourself.” He turned, holding back the door for her. “Come now, let us begin.”

She pulled a small but grateful smile and stepped inside. She saw that there were two wooden chairs – or, rather, stools – positioned to one side by the unlit fire, and so she headed over and sat on one, feeling much like she was back at school and about to take an exam. Ugh. Thank the gods the Ilimoskus did not have exams as she knew it.

Gnotsu wasted no time in getting down to business, as often was his way, and as he shut the door he spoke in his gentle, yet husky, voice, “If I were to say to you, ‘Ihmoiyon’, what would I be saying?”

“Oh, umm…” Alex sat contemplating, though she felt slightly bewildered after her rush and tried to rally her thoughts into some order. Ihmoiyon. She knew that. Come on, brain. WORK. “Err…”

Gnotsu smiled at her patent forgetfulness. “Shall I help you, Alix?”

She looked to the floor, thinking it would be better if Gnotsu did not see her trying to restrain her own smile. Alix. It did amuse her, how the Ilimoskus pronounced her name. “Uhh… Yeah, that would be really helpful, Gnotsu, thank you.” She looked back at him, having banished her smile for good.

“We greet one another this way in the morning,” he simply said.

“Oh!” she cried. Duh. It was so obvious now. “‘Good morning!'”

He dipped his head ever so slightly as his indication that she was correct, then moved closer to her, but still made the point to stand. “Now, I am going to speak to you in Kurpian, and you are going to tell me what I said in Akklun.”

“You mean English,” she automatically corrected, but then felt a wave of horror wash over her. Did she just imply Gnotsu was wrong about something? Could she be any more moronic? She had only been here a short while, yes, but she knew well enough that Gnotsu was considered the wisest elder in the holid, and no one dared to question him. Though, thankfully, Gnotsu was the most serene and forgiving kus she had met, and his eyes delicately smiled as he clasped his hands together.

“Lopa,” said he.

“…Hello,” she replied somewhat warily, for ‘lopa’ was the only Kurpian word she definitely knew, and all else he said would undoubtedly send her mind reeling.

“Yestana’asko-a Gnotsu od Teeze hon,” Gnotsu continued.

In Alex’s mind, the beginning of that utterance sounded like a complete load of babble, yet it was a particular strain of babble she recognised. She remembered Gnotsu teaching it to her before, and how she had fumbled over the syllables as if it were a tongue-twister. It did not help that Kurpian was spoken quite quickly.

“Every letter ‘a’ in the Kurpian language is short, without exception,” Gnotsu had said. “Like the ‘a’ in the Akklun word ‘apple’.

Alex tried to speak it once more. “Yes-tan-ahhhhs-ko…?” 

Gnotsu grinned, and then broke the sounds down slowly for her. “Yeh-stah-nah-AHSS-ko-ah.”

Alex sighed. “It’s a bit of a mouthful just to say, ‘My name is’, isn’t it?”

“My name is Gnotsu Teeze,” Alex repeated in English, having relived the memory of trying to speak that darn word, or phrase, or whatever it was.

“Yeestona’as-a pleh?”

“What is your name?”

“Very good,” said Gnotsu with a warm smile. “Now, Alix, I would like you to repeat that Kurpian question.”

Her heart plunged into her stomach. Oh, gods. “Err…” she paused briefly, trying to allow Gnotsu’s pronunciation to echo in her mind. “Yee-stoh-nah-AHSS-ah leh.”

“Valeciivie, Alix!” Gnotsu brightly praised. “Much better! Now, I shall speak in Akklun, and you shall repeat in Kurpian.”

Oh, GODS. Why? Resigning herself to what was sure to be the inevitable butchering of the wonderful, exotic Kurpian language, spoken from her stupid tongue, she softly sighed and nodded, noticing that she was pressing her lips together unusually firmly. Perhaps this was as bad as an exam, in its own, unique way.

“How are you?” Gnotsu asked.

Damn. Damn, damn, DAMN. In world-record fashion, she had already failed. She could never remember how to say ‘How are you?’ in Kurpian. Never. It was yet another mouthful phrase, and she remembered Gnotsu saying that there are actually two ways of asking this question: a formal way, and an informal way. Not that such a recollection mattered, because she could not remember either of them. She slapped her hands to her cheeks and pulled down at them. Why was Kurpian so difficult?

Gnotsu, observing Alex’s blatant struggle, calmly offered some assistance. “Do you remember that we focused on how to say it formally? Since you are not an Ilimoskus, and to appease the unsure minds of my kin, they would appreciate hearing the formal phrase from you. It goes, ‘Aa…’.” He paused, and a hopeful light glinted in the depths of his eyes that this would be enough of a recollection for her.

Alex sat, blankly staring. She feared that his hopeful light was soon to fade, since, even with his help, she could not remember. Though, from his helpful pointer, she remembered that the formal phrase did indeed contain the Kurpian diphthong ‘aa’. Oh, how she hated that diphthong. She could not pronounce it at all – at least not properly. It was the sound of a broad ‘a’, like ‘father’, but combined with this accursed rolled ‘r’ sound. It was like, ‘aaaaaaaRRR’, and she could not roll her tongue, no matter how hard she tried. She always sounded like a growling dog, or, if she did manage to roll her tongue properly, it went totally overboard and she sounded like a speed boat engine.

Gnotsu peered at her closely. “I sincerely hope you are not becoming stressed, Alix,” he judiciously spoke.

She shifted slightly in her seat. How did Gnotsu always manage to make you feel guilty about any emotion or thought you had just by looking at you with his dark, gentle eyes? “I… can’t remember, Gnotsu,” she muttered.

“No,” he said as if he already knew. “It is, ‘Aa-vickarvee pleh?’ Repeat it.”

ARR,” she tried to pronounce with all her might, though she knew she sounded just like a swashbuckling pirate, “-vih-kar-vee leh.”

“You are still struggling with the pronunciation of ‘aa’, but do not fret about it, Child – it is one of the more difficult letters to pronounce, and Kurpian is not your native tongue,” said he. “Therefore, to differentiate between ‘aa’ and ‘ar’, I would suggest you continue to put a greater emphasis on the ‘aa’ sound while you are still learning to perfect it.”

Had Gnotsu just told her to sound like a pirate?

“So, Alix,” continued the old kus, “tell me how you are.”

“Oh, I’m okay,” she casually spoke.

He smiled. “In Kurpian, Alix.”

“Oh! Right. Err… Fo unsc?

He chuckled most delicately as he cast his eyes to the ground, but then he stood in silence, frozen in his stance. “Are you okay, Alix?” he asked with atypical sobriety.

She frowned at his sudden shift of temperament, as well as at the question itself. “Yes…” answered she.

He peered at her with his head angled down most discreetly.

His penetrative gaze cut straight through her and she glanced away uneasily. How did Gnotsu do it?

“What can be gained from lying to your heart?” he quietly questioned.

“I’m not…” she began to reply, but she knew that she had no sharp rejoinder with which to respond. Besides, even if she did, Gnotsu would undoubtedly know it was a lie.

With the softest of sighs, Gnotsu walked over to the empty stool and sat himself down beside her. “All hearts hold sadness from time to time, yet, for one reason or another, we believe it necessary to hold onto it continually by means of denial. This weighs down our hearts, my dear child, for the burden of denied sadness is a heavy one. There is no shame in admitting sadness in the heart, for in this weakness we discover our strength. Tell me, Alix: do you know what happens when we deny the sadness in our hearts?”

Alex was taken aback somewhat by his direct question, so intent was she on listening to his wisdom. “Um… No…”

“It tries to escape,” said he. “In its desperate plight for freedom, it seeks to flee only to discover that the heart resists and prevents it from doing so. Thus, an inner conflict rages, and our souls then intervene, calling out to the heart in an attempt to convince it to set this sadness free. But the noise of the conflict is too loud, and our quiet souls cannot be heard. And so it is our souls are weakened, and, as I am sure you will agree, nieebko, this is not good. We Ilimoskus have a word for such an eventuality: diitharedan – the conflict in the heart and of the soul.”

Alex looked at her lap, feeling overwhelmed; she felt the sadness stir within her heart, clawing at the walls in its bid to escape. She found the courage within herself to look Gnotsu in the eye, beholding his benevolent face radiating solace as brightly as the sun. “How… How do you set your sadness free, Gnotsu?” she weakly asked, blinking numerous times to ward off the watery sheen in her eyes.

He took a moment to reply as the faintest origins of a smile emerged. “Cry,” was he simple answer. He placed his hand on her knee, and Alex felt the fiery heat of his skin even through her trousers. “Tears are the silent expression of our sorrow and our grief, are they not? The sadness flows out from our hearts, and so the heart is empty, but only then, when the sadness is free, can understanding take its place.”

“…Understanding?”

“Indeed, Nieeb,” Gnotsu softly spoke, clasping his hands together once more. “For when our sadness is free, the heart hears the soul once more and this harmony opens many a door for understanding ourselves and the world – this, we Ilimoskus call etalaresan. There is much wisdom in sadness, dear one. Perhaps sadness comes merely to teach us, and, in turn, help us be at peace.”

Alex indistinctly nodded, feeling her sadness swell in her eyes. “It’s a comforting thought…” she quietly said, too busy reflecting on what Gnotsu had said to be attentive to the volume of her voice. “But… if sadness brings us peace, why is it so… un-peaceful?”

Gnotsu chuckled. “We can look at the night sky and lament at the darkness while we wait for the sunrise, or, we can admire the beauty and wonder of the stars.”

“So… it’s up to us?” said she. “It’s our decision whether the process is a peaceful one or not?”

Gnotsu dipped his head so minutely Alex questioned whether he had moved it at all. But Gnotsu did not answer. There was quiet for a while as Gnotsu allowed her the time she needed.

She sighed, releasing the tension within herself. She could be peaceful. She could let her sadness be free. For in this weakness we discover our strength. But then she found herself thinking of the stars. Were they strong to shine amongst the darkness? “Gnotsu…” she said. “What’s the Kurpian word for stars?”

Gnotsu smiled warmly at this. “Ilckiido.

“Ill-kee-doe…” she slowly repeated.

“Elu’amel, niee’ckiido-niia.”

Alex stared at him blankly. “What?”

“Be at peace, precious child of the stars.”

This stirred her sadness more than anything else thus far, to such an extent that she knew she could no longer hide it, deny it. And so, looking at her lap, her eyes welled from the pain in her heart, and a tear trickled down her cheek.

***

Thank you for reading, my friends, I appreciate the time you have taken to reach the end.

I can only hope that you may take something from this little story, from Gnotsu and from Alex.

We can reconnect with wisdom in the subtlest of ways, if only our minds our open to receive.

Peace be within you,

~ JKM


Brief explanation of strange, underlined words:

Holid -> The equivalent of a city, in its way

Kus (Ilimoskus) -> The Ilimoskus are a race of elemental beings, at one with nature. The word kus is an abbreviation, but it can also mean ‘folk’. 

Hohot -> The equivalent of a house, or building

Flamikus -> The folk of fire specifically

Idimis -> A place name, a location, the heart/centre of a holid (‘city’)

Nieeb – or nieebko -> Nieeb means ‘child’, but it is often used as an affectionate term of address to anyone younger. Nieebko means “my child”, and is again used as an affectionate term. The ‘b’ is not pronounced: “nee-koe”

If I’ve missed anything and you’re wondering, please feel free to ask me and I’ll add it to this list!

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!

IMAG0223

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

Stone Heart

Stone Heart

© Jennifer K. Marsh 2015

I feel your gentle touch as your hand caresses my cheek, and through your skin seeps only the deepest affection. I see your eyes of sparkling hazel, so glistening with kindness and consideration, and your smile is so warm, yet so roguish. What adventure do you have planned, my sweetheart? Whatever it is, I will follow you.

Prising my eyes open, I see no one. I see only the trees lining the river and its flow shimmering in the the dull sunlight. The water rushes by, but focusing on its movement and its trickling sound only makes my heart pitifully whine. It’s not the same here without you.

He bends down and picks up a flat pebble from the bank. Turning sideways on to the river, he draws back his arm before skimming the pebble across the water. I watch the pebble, amazed, as it bounces from us numerous times, farther and farther away, until finally it plops down beneath the surface. 

“How did you do that?” I ask in wonder.

“I dunno,” he says with a shrug. “Just do it.”

“I want to try.”

He bursts into a grin. “Pick a flat stone.”

I inspect the bank and find a reasonably flat pebble. Attempting to mirror his previous actions, I stand sideways on to the river and throw to skim the top of the water.

PLOP!

My pebble miserably sinks.

He laughs, relishing from my visible disappointment. “Try again,” he says, picking another stone for me. He places it in my hand, but, instead of letting go, he keeps hold of my hand and positions himself behind me, moving me for himself. “You’ve got to throw it at an angle, and flick your wrist. Ready?”

I nod, though even with his physical guidance I do not feel overly hopeful.

He pulls my hand back and attempts to manoeuvre it correctly as I release the pebble.  

PLOP!

“Wow,” he says, sounding genuinely impressed at my inadequacy. “You’re terrible.”

I playfully push him away. “Oh, shut up!”

Laughing further, he seizes his arms around me and rest his head on my shoulder, nuzzling his nose into my neck. And he does not let go.

Bringing my hands up to hold onto his arms, we stay in this position and watch the river afore us. We could stay this way forever.

I gaze at the river, my expression as empty as my insides feel. I pick up a pebble settled beside me, analysing it for a time; its mottled brown stone taunts me alongside all its awkward angles and rough exterior. I cannot help but wonder if this resembles my heart. I forcefully toss the pebble down to the water, watching as its splash creates ripples as it hollowly plops, sinking, down. Gone.

Like you.

Like my heart.


I know, I know. I’ve actually posted something. *falls off chair in shock* It has been a while, hasn’t it? I apologise about that. I don’t even have much of an excuse, either. Or any excuse, as the case may be. I just needed to be away, I think. Alas, I have had a lot going on in my stupid head – emotional rubbish that ruins everything. I lost my muse for blogging. I think it is still lost, to be honest, but I forced myself to write something. This piece was inspired by a dream I had last night. Inspired by life, would be more accurate, however.

But, although I lost my blogging muse, I am pleased to say that my muse for the Ilimoskus story – which had been absent for the entirety of 2015 – has finally returned with brutal force. And it is glorious. Oh, the endless joy! I cannot tell you. The progress I have made on Book 2 over the last couple of weeks has been greater than the entire year up to that point. I am encouraged and hopeful. With Grace, I will finish the first draft by the end of the year – so long as I keep this pace and enthusiasm up. How I missed this love for my story.

In fact, so potent is this love again, and so involved I am in the Ilimoskus world, that I find myself accidentally pronouncing English words wrong. This has happened before. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry in such instances. You see, for those of you who are unaware, the Ilimoskus have their own language, and I occasionally mispronounce English words as the Ilimoskus would pronounce them. Tragic, I know. Deary me.

For example, only yesterday I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I read this one tweet. I can’t remember it exactly, but I remember saying this word in my head and going, ‘Huh? What? DAR-ing? What’s DAR-ing?’

Daring. Daring, people. It was ‘daring’.

I don’t exactly help myself though, since sometimes, when reading a book, I stop and say the words as the Ilimoskus would, were they reading it as if in their language. *sigh* Why oh why do I do that? This, for instance:

‘Upon hearing this, she lifted her head and stood tall, splaying out her beautifully dramatic wings.’ – English sentence, from my WIP.

“oo-pon ee-ah-ring THiss, shee LIFF-ed err hee-add and stood tahl, sply-ing oot err bee-or-tiff-oo-lee drah-mah-tiss wingz.” – Ilimoskus pronunciation.

Practise – that’s it. Dedication to my fantasy world. I’m not mad or anything… *shifty eyes*

Alas, such sacrifices we fantasy writers must make: forsaking sanity in the name of fantastical progress and development! Woopwoop.

*

Anyway. I’ll try to post more regularly, though don’t hold your breath. I have a book to write, after all 😉

Take care, my friends.

Blessings to you.

May your heart ever be light and bright.

The 777 Writing Challenge – Peek-a-boo, Book 2!

My blogging buddy, Michael Fedison, has been around since the very beginning of my blog, offering support and kindness and encouragement, all of which I am incredibly thankful for. Mike is the author of The Eye-Dancers, which is a fabulous sci-fi/fantasy story about friendship and all sorts – I highly recommend 🙂

Anyway, he tagged me in the 777 Writing Challenge a little while back. And here state the 777 Writing Challenge rules:

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

How wonderfully simple, no?

Needless to say, my current work-in-progress is Book 2 of the Ilimoskus story. Regular followers will know that I forever refer to it as ‘Book 2’, though this is not because it is untitled – in fact, I named all three books way back when, such was the extent of my planning – but rather I refer to it as such because I wish for its title to remain secret. “Keep it secret, keep it safe.” So much is revealed as the story unravels and I wish no part in accidentally letting something slip, and so, as an extreme caution, my lips have been bolted shut. The nearer completion it becomes, the more I shall tell. But, for now, I must keep everyone in cruel suspense 😉

A while back I was thinking about sketching another character within the story, with the intention to… perhaps… share it with the world. This character is new in Book 2; this character is insanely important. I believe I have once disclosed that there are many new characters in Book 2, and let me tell you that ‘many’ is no exaggeration. You see, Book 2 is a joy for me in a vast variety of ways, though one of the greatest joys is the, I’m sure, long-awaited inclusion of the other ilyorz (or elements, to those of you unfamiliar with the story). Times of Old is wholly set within the Flamikus (fire folk) world, yet Book 2 welcomes the arrival of the Aeriikus (air folk), Agwikus (water folk), and Humiit-kus (earth folk) with open arms. Due to the other ilyorz being in this book, there are many new characters to meet within these other elemental worlds, and in turn many new dynamics and interactions. I so rarely get excited, but the thought of eventually sharing Book 2 with the world makes me buzz! I cannot wait to see what people think of the other ilyorz, or how they react to some of the new characters! And I know there is a good handful of people out there waiting for Book 2, and they have been for far, far too long. Life has been a bit cruel to me these past two years, and so writing Book 2 has been the last thing on my mind… Though I must deeply thank all those patiently waiting, for their interest and love for the story has not waned despite the length of time. It is truly touching. Thank you. And the Ilimoskus thank you, too 🙂 They want their story told as much as I do!

*

So! When tagged for this challenge, I was curious to know where Page 7 landed within the story of Book 2, and, due to my bolted lips, I wondered whether this landing would tell of something I was not willing to share. This would have made things quite the pickle, I’m sure you’d agree. In reaching my Page 7, I discarded the boring title pages of the manuscript, so, technically, this isn’t actually from the true Page 7, but it is Page 7 if counting from the very beginning of the told story. If that makes any sense. I have said “Page 7” too much.

To my relief, Line 7 on the not-true-but-still-is-Page 7 could not have been better. Anyone would think this had been strategically planned, it is so perfect. For those unaware of ILIMOSKUS**, the story is split by being told between two perspectives: fantasy (the Ilimoskus world) and reality (the human world). There are, therefore, principal Ilimoskus characters and principal human characters. The last few chapters of Times of Old are set wholly with the Ilimoskus, and so there may be a few readers out there wondering whatever became of poor Elizabeth, for last we knew she was in a dreadful state. Well, my friends, these wonderings may cease at the beginning of Book 2, for the book begins with the human world. This Page 7 lands within the first chapter of Book 2 – a human chapter.

And now, here is the excerpt:

Anastasia was about to fire back, but then she noticed the horror on her sister’s face as she looked into the sky behind her. Confused, she turned to look too, but there was nothing to see. Walking the remainder of the way to reach Elizabeth, she critically said, “What are you gawping at?” once arriving in front of her.

Elizabeth’s eyes followed its trail of flight. It was another great yellow bird, exactly like the one she had seen that fateful afternoon. Although her heart once again spun into overdrive, the bird was merely gliding around in silence, yet the lack of its piercing noise made it far less daunting. “C-can… Can you not see it?” she asked faintly, pointing up at it. “How can you not see it?”

Dun-dun-duuunnnnnnn. Well, not really. If you have read the first book, you will understand the impact of that there excerpt. Though, if you read Times of Old‘s blurb, it is hardly a secret:

‘Throughout this ever-growing tension, Fii’dezrhu Reotum – a rebellious Flamikus – discovers a momentous secret he then acts upon by venturing to the forbidden human lands; while there, he inadvertently reveals the Ilimoskus’ existence to one young girl.’

All Sherlocks out there would likely have clicked that this ‘young girl’ is indeed Elizabeth 😉 Needless to say, this ‘great yellow bird’ is a creature within the Ilimoskus world (called an espi’motoff, for those of you who wish to know).

I’m not going to lie, I am now slightly stumped on what else to say about this. I shall thus embrace my bolted lips once more. Though, for all of those people out there waiting for Book 2, I will say that I am very nearly halfway through the story. It’s only taken me three years to get to this point, but, you know. Whatever. How it pays to dally with the snails! And with the snails I shall stay. It’s exciting, though. I’m excited. I love Book 2.

*

And so now I move on to tag other writers and their WIPs. I’m supposed to tag seven, though would you believe it would seem I hardly follow any writers who have a WIP… Unless I’m just blind and unobservant, of course – which I wouldn’t put past me. But anyway, I tag:

Valourborn

Like Star Filled Skies

Concerning Writing

They’re all great writers, do check them out 🙂

***

Thank you for reading! I always appreciate it. I hope that little excerpt was a tantalising insight. Please, try to remain seated throughout your hysteria. I know it’s difficult. Hopefully I will have some more news soon. Keep your eyes polished! (Not peeled. Who wants peeled eyes? Such grim imagery.)

Icktis que yer kard fait ya phyde urma, dear world.

“May the light from your heart always guide you”

***

** For those unaware of ILIMOSKUS, it is a deep, environmental fantasy story about a race of elemental beings (fire, earth, air, water) colliding with the world of humans. Please click on this link if you would like to discover more. **

Dear World: No.

I am currently annoyed. This happened before nine o’clock in the morning, which is, as I’m sure you’d agree, a wonderful way to start your day. But I am annoyed due to a writing matter, and I am not sure with whom – or with what – I am grousing. I just know I’m annoyed, and now I am going to express it.

I am one of those writers who has a tendency to write long sentences. Long, complex (or compound-complex) sentences. So? So indeed. Is that not just my writing style? And is there a problem with having such a writing style? You’d think not, right? Do not our unique, individual writing styles encourage our unique, individual voices to be heard? I think so. This is why I get so, so irritated when I forever see people **other writers** moaning about long, complex sentences, because, to me, it feels like I am being criticised for expressing my voice. That is not fair. And what right does everyone else have to tell you how you should be expressing yourself?

“Er, I’m sorry, Sir, but the lyrics you write don’t appeal to the masses, and so all your music must be wrong.”

“Excuse me, Ma’am, but I don’t think explaining your emotions via analogy is appropriate, and thus your feelings are insignificant.”

Would we say things like this to people? No. Well, I certainly hope not, anyway. But can you tell me how that is any different to writing? No, you cannot, because there is no difference.

“Um, I find some of your sentences too long, and therefore I deem your writing to be sub-par.”

No difference.

So, what is this gripe the world has towards long sentences? I am not saying we all have to love every type of worldly expression, not at all – we all have our opinions, our likes and dislikes – but just because one type of expression may not be as commonplace in this day and age, that does not mean it is the wrong way to express it. There is no right or wrong with expression. Ever. Don’t let anyone tell you so. I absolutely hate too many short sentences – it makes me twitch – but that does not mean I cast aside a piece of writing expressed in such a way. Every difference has its place. And, indeed, short sentences can be incredibly powerful and effective, and I do quite patently use them, since I have used many in this here post.

I don’t like short sentences because I find them too harsh. Too abrupt. I am not a harsh, abrupt person – certainly not when it comes to my writing, anyway, or only if something has riled me. To me, short sentences are like a malice stomp, whereas longer sentences have a gentleness about them, flowing peacefully on like a little stream; for this reason, I only turn to short sentences when I wish to make a point, or indeed for effect. What is wrong with that? Yeah. Nothing.

Besides, not only are short sentences against my individual voice, but the Ilimoskus story would, quite frankly, be dire if it were written in a ‘shorter’ style. Let me make my point with the opening paragraph:

The sun was low in the sky as the day drew to a close; the faint remainder of light was shining through the trees of the forest in a soothing amber dusk, and birds were tweeting afar in their evensong. Amidst this idyllic setting, however, was Fii’dezrhu Reotum – infamous in the Flamikus ilyor as something of a troublemaker. — ORIGINAL

The sun was low in the sky as the day drew to a close. The faint remainder of light shone through the trees of the forest in a soothing amber dusk, and birds tweeted their evensong. But amid this idyllic setting was Fii’dezrhu Reotum, who was infamous in the Flamikus ilyor as a troubleamker. — ALTERED

I’m sorry, but no. Nuh-uhhhhh. I wonder how many people prefer the second version… Probably many. But it is not me, and it is not my story. With those few, minor alterations, I feel as though the charm of the original version has completely disappeared. I am not forsaking that charm – my voice – just because the world declares that longer sentences are obsolete and unnecessary. I have never been one to listen to the demands of the world around me, nor have I ever been one to oblige against my heart’s will.

It is times like these when I think back to my school days: I was fortunate enough to have the most amazing English teacher, Mrs. Jones, and she was one of the very few who made me feel like I could be something. Someone. One lesson, we were all silently working on our latest piece of coursework (Pride and Prejudice, actually – that old chestnut), and every now and then Mrs. Jones called someone up to her desk to discuss progress and suggest changes. My name was called, and so up I went to her with my work. Now. Mrs. Jones said something to me then that I have never forgotten, and which I will always keep with me, brandishing it whenever this matter emerges:

She pointed to my opening sentence. She said it was very long. But then she said that there were few people in our class who could get away with using such long sentences, and I was one of them.

“It doesn’t matter how long a sentence is, as long as it’s controlled.”

So said she. And how do we get such control over wriggly words? Punctuation. If you can manipulate punctuation properly, you can have controlled sentences that can cover six lines, for goodness sake. And, yes, I indeed have sentences in the Ilimoskus story that cover six lines. It doesn’t mean they’re bad sentences. Long, yes. But controlled. So what is the problem? It’s not like I write like this and include no punctuation whatsoever because that would just be silly and indeed very bad writing for who on earth would want to read a piece of writing that goes on in such a manner?

You are quite welcome to say, “I don’t like ILIMOSKUS, and I don’t like the writing style.” That is perfectly fine. In fact, someone SHOUT it at me! But do not tell me how I should be writing ILIMOSKUS. Do not tell anyone how their voice ‘should’ sound.

I am so sick of writing ‘rules’. They drive me mad. And, as earlier implied, I have always been a rule-breaker, and I will spend my entire life breaking the ‘rules’ of writing, in part to stay true to myself, in part to annoy the world on purpose, for that is just how I am. It’s a slight personality glitch. Or it is? You decide.

How can there possibly BE any writing ‘rules’ anyway? How can we put ‘rules’ on expression?

No. Just no.

Rise Above, Be Reborn

Here I am, running freely through Ilimoskus Valley. It is my hope to talk openly about much to do with Ilimoskus this year, for previously I had done so rather sparingly, as though I did not want to bother others with the mention of it. But, I realise now that the Ilimoskus story – the Ilimoskus world – is as much a part of me as my very breath, and to hold it in denies my heart of all its core values. So, here’s hoping for wonderful things to come out of this year!

*

And nor will I stay quiet about my mental health. I have a mental health problem. I am ill. And I have been for far too long, in honesty. Eight years too long. Modern society still sneers down on mental health as not being much of a problem (certainly in the UK, anyway), but truly I tell you to know that it is. It really is. Nobody asks to become ill. Do you think anyone asks for a mental illness? It is hideous, for you are trapped within your own mind, and every new step you take somehow leads you back into darkness, back into the eternal loop from which it seems impossible to escape. It is tough to get over an illness. I believe it is probably tougher to get over a mental one. The mind is a complex thing. Still! I am undergoing ‘treatment’, if you will, and I am sure I will be free eventually.

Fellow sufferers, to you I say: Please do not give up, please do not be overwhelmed. I know it is so, so hard, and there are some days you wake up and think, I cannot do this anymore, I cannot go on this way, and I know it can be tempting to do something about those feelings, but that is not the way. I know how lonely it feels. I know how forsaken life seems. But please do not give up. There is a way out of the darkness, and you find the light by seeking help, by forever seeking your inner strength. You will pull through. You can and you will.

Of course, finding your inner strength and clambering out of the darkness does not dig up roses, but rather it churns up thick mud and thorns spit in your face. But those thorns can only blind you if you let them, and the mud can only suck you under if you stand still. I don’t claim to have all the answers, of course I don’t – no one does – but I do know that finding the beauty and wonder in the world, in the tiny little things, allows the sun to shine upon you, and that is precious. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but I do know that the most beautiful people in the world are the ones who rise above their gloom and grab the sun for their own, shining its light – as well as theirs – upon the rest of us. A special grace and power comes to those who rise above the darkness. And their hearts, once so scarred and hopeless, turn into diamonds. Unbreakable and so, so beautiful.

But anyway… Enough of such sober matters. (Just don’t give up. Mental illness or no.)

*

I am here to talk about my precioussssssssss **gollum!-gollum!** That is, Ilimoskus. Lots to tell, lots to tell!

ONE) This is the most important, and so it comes first. I should have blurted this out ages ago, but, you know, I’ve been busy planting flowers in my mud. THIS POST <<- announced that my book, Ilimoskus: Times of Old, was no longer available for purchase, due a blumin’ publishing nightmare. BUT!! No more is this so! Back at the beginning of December (or maybe even the end of November, actually, I can’t remember) I was told that the book had been picked up by another company, and, thusly, it is back for the world to read. Hoorah, eh? So. If you would like to read the story, know now that you can. Jolly times.

TWO) I say ‘jolly times’, and indeed it is, but I was actually slightly miffed by this because I wanted to re-edit the manuscript before I put it back out to the world. Obviously that has not happened. Never mind. I’ll do it at some point. I am still re-editing Times of Old at the moment; I’ve cut some bits out, and I’ve made some alterations, such as the school uniform design for Anglarne Hill Independent School in the human world (which includes altering the colour of the house of Danebury, if anyone has read it and cares… It is now green, not red). I have also changed the little ‘dedication’ bit right at the beginning of the book… In my work-in-progress Book 2, the ‘dedication’ page is not a dedication at all, but rather a poem, and I have re-done Book 1’s to be of the same nature, and telling the same ‘story’, I guess. Because it might be a century before the new version is out, I shall share the new poem/dedication for Times of Old with you now:

‘A fire flares within a heart

as stone shields around;

in stormy skies it falls apart

into a sea where dreams so drown.

Can it see in the dark?

How does it stay so strong?

From where does its new life spark?

Do the depths help it belong?

The darkness beckons, olden one,

but you can see the dawn;

let these times go by – be done! –

for you will be reborn.’

THREE) The last thing to mention is a little something I have planned, which should be a treat for those who like the story. I had previously done this little sketch of the four ilyorz (or, in English, the four elements: fire, earth, air, water):

fourilyorz

But, long have I wanted to do more sketches of the Ilimoskus world and the characters in the story. And so, whenever I find the time, I have been trying to work on my drawing skills to do all my elemental friends justice (as within my artistic capabilities). My plan is to draw the most significant characters in the trilogy (which is a ridiculous number, I’ll have you know) and share them with the world on a new page on my website, in a gallery of some sort, with a sentence or two describing them. I thought it would be a nice thing to do! It will obviously take some time to draw them all, so I’ll upload the images as and when and subsequently announce it on my Facebook page and/or Twitter. Or maybe on here, actually. Who knows. But, given I haven’t even started creating the new page on my website yet, it’ll take a while until it’s sorted. I’ll keep you updated.

But, I also thought – assuming I find my sketches of the Ilimoskus at least tolerable – that I might create another page for them specifically, going into more depth about the four ilyorz (elements) and their clothing style. Because why not, I think you’ll find. It’s interesting, honestly 😉 You can see it slightly in the sketch above, but that isn’t really showing it very well. And, not only do they have different clothing styles depending on their ilyor, but they also have different clothing styles depending on their leoges (another strange word, yes: see here for clarification). There is great depth to the Ilimoskus world indeed!

And hey, maybe if I get really carried anyway, I’ll draw all the Ilimoskus creatures, too 😉 (which I’ve actually already done, just not very well since they are all in my rough notebooks).

So, yes! New things, new times, new hope. It is my aim this year to be kinder to the Ilimoskus story, and to be kinder to myself regarding it. I am telling you, I have been vicious to myself – and kind of vicious to my elementals as well (sorry, my friends) – over the past four years or whatever. Ilimoskus is a labour of love, not some hideous punishment I must endure, and so I have come to realise that this kind attitude is the one I must keep, despite external pressures or what have you. And, in being kinder, my love for it will ever soar, and I will travel to great heights with it, I am sure.

But I shall leave you now with two sketches I have already done of some characters within the Ilimoskus story. The main human characters!

Ana_Liz

This is Anastasia (right) and Elizabeth (left) Gott. They are sisters – Anastasia being the eldest. Here they are modelling the newly designed Anglarne Hill school uniform. Elizabeth (or ‘Lizzie’) is the main, main human protagonist within the story.

Dem_Leon

This is Demetri (left) and Leon (right) Carter. They are non-identical twins! They too are modelling the newly designed Anglarne Hill school uniform (don’t you just love the trousers?). These two are lovely characters, if I may say so 😉 – especially Demetri (or ‘Dem’, as he is often called)!

***

Fun, pointless fact for you all: Within this post, I have said that ilyorz means ‘elements’ in English. This is not actually true. That is just the easiest translation. The Ilimoskus word for the four elements of nature is rather ilimoss.


Thank you for reading, everyone. I know my posts can often be quite lengthy, and so I deeply appreciate anyone who takes the time out of their day to read my words.

Be well and true,

and rise above the beckoning darkness

to be reborn with your diamond heart

so to dwell amongst the stars

for evermore.

~~