Here today is a short excerpt of my book, Evertrue: An Underworld Fairytale, which is available in paperback and kindle from Amazon. Read on to find out more.

To save Grandma Crick from being fed to the ravenous Monger turtles, Mila must journey into the underworld to steal the Evertrue Emerald from the demon, Malrook. Joined by a motley bunch of experts through the deadly, dragon-infested caves, they meet Captain Tuna the accordion-playing walrus, a karate-kicking fairy, and a colony of strange and grumpy troglonomes. As time runs out, Mila discovers that friendship and ingenuity can unearth the greatest strength of all and win her heart’s desire.

Evertrue is a fairy-tale for readers young and old, and will appeal to fans of Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling’s The Ickabog.

Falliiing! from chapter 6 of Evertrue:

A wind blew up around them as they edged across the bridge, catching their breath and making them gasp. The bridge seemed impossibly narrow and so old it was a wonder it hadn’t fallen down years ago—something Mila kept expecting at every step.

The end was in sight, but then Tomas slipped and suddenly they were falling. Tumbling down and down, their hearts in their mouths as they screamed. Mila saw something dark coming up toward them and they found themselves caught in a net.

“Hang on,” boomed a voice.

The net inched into what looked like a basket hanging suspended from a balloon, or rather, many balloons tied together. Inside the basket was a walrus, or something like one.

“I don’t normally catch things like you,” said the walrus. “Normally it’s just fish, but welcome aboard the Misty Queen. My name is Captain Tuna. Can I take you on a cruise of the pit? To be honest, it doesn’t really go anywhere exciting, just up and down, on and on in an endless kind of way. I’ve drawn a map of the pit if you’d care to see?”

He showed them a drawing of a tube that disappeared off the edge of the page in both directions. Apart from the places where Captain Tuna had marked out shoals of fish, and the occasional exit into a cave, it was a very dull map.

“Can you take us to Malrook’s Lair?” Mila asked.

Captain Tuna rubbed his chin.

“Let me check the map,” he said. “There might be a shortcut.”

On the map was a doorway further down, marked with the word ‘shortcut’.

“Yes, there it is,” said Captain Tuna. “It’s a bit below us, but once we get to that door it won’t be far to Malrook’s Lair. Can I ask why you want to go there?”

Mila explained about the king and the emerald.

“That’s bad luck,” said Captain Tuna. “Malrook is a tricky one. Lots of people have tried to get his emerald, and he’s fooled every one of them. You’ll need to be quick not to get caught in one of his games.”

Captain Tuna cut loose some balloons and the basket sank downwards.

“What kind of fish do you catch?” Mila asked.

“Flying fish,” said Captain Tuna. “A few climbing fish, but I hunt for the Great Swordfish of the Deep, though I’ve only ever seen the top of his great fin. I’m also learning the accordion,” he added.

He played for them as they travelled down the pit. The tunes were lively but loud, like a group of angry parrots arguing. Mila and Tomas had heard enough by the time Mila spotted the door some way below them.

“It even has a ‘shortcut’ sign,” she added as Tomas came over to look.

The captain brought them up to the door and let out a plank for them to walk across, and this time they made it without falling.

“I hope you manage to catch that swordfish,” Mila called out.

“Good luck getting the emerald,” Captain Tuna called back, and he sailed away, the squawking sounds of his accordion growing ever fainter.


Evertrue is available to buy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08X4SJYDD

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zThWDcNx14

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Realm of Possibilities and the spark that leads us there.

Inspiring images

Today I want to find out what drives people to start a new writing project. What is it that sparks a story? Some start with a question, a what if?, as Stephen King reportedly does with many of his. Some start with an image, like C.S. Lewis’ picture of the lamp-post in the snow, while for others it’s a mix of the two. Whatever route you take there needs to be some kind of impetus, of in-put in other words, as ideas need material to spring from. For me, my latest story began with this image, of Old Father Time and his scythe and the baby new year with his hourglass.

The inspiration for my latest work.
New Year and Old Father Time

Its a commonplace image yet seemingly full of meaning and I began asking questions about it. Were the two characters one and the same (as is sometimes suggested, with Old Time representing the past year leaving to make way for the new year who then grows old, thus endlessly repeating the cycle) or was the old man really Time himself? If the baby was really in charge of the universe for a year how might it go awry (recent events account for much here!) and, assuming both are representations of mythical gods, how would the other gods treat this all-controlling child?

The original Aeon featured in a mosaic in Arles, France. VER.83.56.87. Mosaïque de l’Annus-Aiôn

There are gods of time in many mythologies but as I searched for the identities of the strange duo, some possibilities came to light. Greek perceptions of Time suggest three personalities, Chronos, Aeon and Kairos, whose roles sometimes merge but who embody distinct differences. Chronos is the classic god of time, a titan sometimes seen as a primordial god who gave birth to the world egg. Aeon is depicted as a youth representing eternity, often accompanied by a golden wheel inscribed with signs of the zodiac, whilst Kairos relates to the idea of opportunity. Might the answers to my questions lie with these three?

Chronos classic. Mutter Erde – Chronos,sleeping on Wolff grave
A new Chronos for a new story.
Image; Eclipse by Anne Magill.

As I played around with these characters and questions it seemed clear that a great deal of potential tensions might exist between them, as there are with other characters in Greek mythology. The greatest tension however involved Chronos, a cold and forbidding titan, and Aeon, who I began to see as the young keeper of the new year, and who – in my line of questioning – was about to see in some bad events. Was the boy acting out in reaction to his distant father? Did such a proud god as Chronos resent a wayward son and how far might he go to make him toe the line? The questions intrigued me and as I continued mulling them over other supporting characters began to emerge.

A heliocentric armillary sphere

Kairos in my story becomes Kaira, the personification of Time’s clock, a huge machine resembling a sort of geocentric armillary sphere. Other primordial entities suggested more ideas, like Death (Thanatos) and the elements, represented by many gods in Greek myth (Theoi Meteoroi) but which I fused into Tempest, not a traditional Greek god but someone perhaps excluded from the pantheon, thereby developing a host of complex issues. I soon realised that Aeon wasn’t the only bad boy that Mount Olympus took exception to, and more forsaken gods and goddesses appeared, all put out at their rough treatment and ready to unite!

Prometheus, fire-bringer. Angerer der Aeltere, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From the short story I had initially thought possible a much larger story began to emerge. What was missing in all this were the humans, who most often bore the brunt of the gods’ spiteful mistreatment. Representing the humans I picked those most maligned; the witches. To me, no single group in the history of humankind were more hated but similarly more likely to rise to our aid (and more able to stand up to to gods) than these persecuted women. The arrival of the humans in all this brought Prometheus, the creator of mankind and yet another banished titan. A theme was emerging, and this god soon became an integral part of it.

By this point I had so many questions and possibilities buzzing about in my head that I knew I had an obligation to the story, a need to see it written and, importantly, to get it right. I felt the weight of all those old writers of Greek mythology looking on in displeasure but here was a story begging to be written. It was heartening to remember that even with the original tales there was a great deal of reinterpretation, of reshaping and re-imagining, from the oldest storytellers to the newest, who even today still find new things to say about these fascinating gods. My story lies on the furthest edge of these, telling an entirely new tale but retaining all the energy of the original stories, all the intrigues and in-fighting which colour them. I had a great deal of fun writing Aeon Chronosson, building worlds for his story to play out in, and I hope some time soon I get to share that story with you.

Let me know in the comments below what drove you to start your latest work in progress; either a burning question, an image, or something else entirely. Has the pandemic given you more time to write or has it put writing out of the question. Either way I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

Jill x

The anxious writer – how tension makes a story (but writer anxiety breaks it.)

Every writer knows that stories need tension in order to grip readers. Many self-help books teach writers how to add tension, with easy-to-understand points set out in a helpful framework to explain how a story might work. They direct a reader in much the same way that your dad taught you how to dance.

Just as your dad took control of your feet, the author places the newbie’s feet on top of their own and waltzes them through the process of writing, except, when the newbie is back on their own two feet, they aren’t entirely sure what just happened. The problem is that all stories are not the same. We all know it, deep down. Yet, when the going gets tough, the temptation of a magic bullet to fix things can be strong, but it can also result in a dead story.

Self-help books are vital to learning and, contrary to what I seem to be saying, I advise anyone interested in storycraft to read them all, as you must learn if you hope to improve. Just remember that, while they can show you the waltz, they must not guide your feet. They can help you understand how to write, but have no business directing your story – which, after all, you alone must write.

The vast majority of unpublished stories suffer from anxiety, not the good stuff a story needs but the bad stuff; the writer’s. In their drive to create plot [tension] writers try to implement all that self-help advice about framework but instead they strangle the relaxed [competent] storytelling that breeds reader confidence. Rules are necessary for the writer to learn and grow but cannot override story – which must, and does, rule them all.

So what’s a writer to do?

Let’s consider how that vital ‘good tension’ relates to story, as it’s often the main source of anxiety for the writer. It’s no coincidence that this is also the part where self-help authors get most tangled up and so I’ll be as brief as possible, with my take on how to untangle the problem, with a little help from Sandra Bullock.

Writers worry about what to put in their stories. They’re often told to avoid ‘padding’ i.e. the non-essential and boring writing that readers hate. Yet, in some ways padding IS story – just offered in a misguided, unformed way, because the writer doesn’t fully understand their own story and what’s important to it. In another attempt to help the newbie, authors sometimes tell them to focus on ‘story strands’, the plot and subplot running through a story. This is good advice, yet talk of ‘story strands’ in relation to a book comprising scenes [which read like pools of events] doesn’t help, because not all story is ‘plot’, in the traditional way we think of it [even within a tightly plotted thriller, there are moments when the writer must introduce things like setting and character]. There’s a difference between story mode and plot mode, though both are part of the story and, unhelpfully, one scene may contain both elements.

In order to see the difference we must be aware of moments when plot comes to the fore and when story world is dominant. The film Gravity is an excellent example, as the plot [story tension] is very pronounced, with deadly meteor showers, low oxygen tanks and fires in space illustrating how to keep the audience hooked. Yet even sure-fire elements like these can fail if poorly done. It’s the ease and competency of the storytelling that holds us, just like Shawshank (note, the story environment of both provide underlying tension). Think how these high-octane scenes compare with those in which the heroine can think beyond the crisis at hand. High-quality stories don’t need to worry about hooks and story arcs and the like once the story has your attention and pays you in treats. The hooks are there but aren’t regimented, which is the main failing of the ‘framework’ teach-yourself titles.

Whether you plot, or not, be aware of tension in your story. Be kind to your reader and treat them with lots of exciting scenes and underlying anxiety, but be aware of how everything in your story ultimately relates to truth. The more time you devote to thinking about your story, the characters; their relationships, problems and intrigues, the better you’ll be able to transform that padding into the essential texture of your tale. The more your characters and their lives seem true, that they exist beyond a writer’s rulebook, the more eager your reader will be to stay the distance and finish the book. This is why Stephen King tells us that plot is clunky and artificial, because the truth in your story is the guiding light leading to masterful storytelling.

It’s vital to seek help with the difficult job of writing when something’s not working but, in our rush to fix things, we must pause before arming ourselves with magic bullets. The story might not survive.

The girl who went her own way.

By John D. Batten, illustrator – http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/illustrations/goldilocks/batten3bears.html, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21675946

She was not good at listening to advice. Not good at being told what to do, so contrary. She laughed when they told her to stay away from the woods, from the bears who made their home there. The bears that would blunder out from the undergrowth, their claws so sharp, their jaws so strong. It was no place for girls, they said, but what did they know?

The bears kept their cave immaculate, each building their bed to preference. The largest slept direct on the hard rock, his mate on a mound of soft leaves, the cub on a hard stone dressed with a leafy nest, making it just right. Wandering in the woods one day she stumbled on the bears’ home and made herself comfortable, but the bears returned early, stumbling in on her sleeping form. She woke with a fright and hitching her skirts, she ran.

There the story ends, but what became of the girl who refused to heed the warnings? How would she ever get used to the rules telling her to stay home when she had tasted the thrill of the deep, dark woods? Was there any hope for such a wayward girl? Better get smart, Goldilocks, choose wisely your path; safe is not always the right option.


Today I’d like to update you on one of the short stories I’ve had published recently in My Weekly, a magazine published here in the UK. My main work in progress has been all-consuming, although I did manage to find time to write some short stories. Back copies of My Weekly are available on Pressreader and you can read about Furbag the cat-sleuth there via this link, here. If you enjoy reading about the residents of Mulberry Drive I have a further story about Maggie, teller of tall tales, whose fabulous story might not be as outrageous as our hero, Josh, thinks. If you’d like a copy do let me know and I’ll add your name to the mailing.

For all you writers out there, I wrote a post about increasing your chances of getting a novel published via the magazine market before, which you can read about here.

Also I’d like to thank all those readers who liked yesterday’s post and followed the link to my online children’s story, and for your lovely comments. It means a lot to me.

Best wishes, Jill x

Short Kid Stories

I have great news to post up today and a chance for you guys to check out some of my work. I was told this morning that Short Kid Stories are to publish my story, Max and the Moonmaid, about a boy who catches a clever shape-shifting mermaid but who soon regrets it when she turns into a ravenous dragon. You can read this 6 minute story about max here If you like the story there’s an option to rate it on the site, plus you can visit my author page via the link. The site has many short stories to read; originals, retellings and classics, featuring favourites from Hans Christian Andersen, L. Frank Baum and Countess D’Aulnoy and more.

You can leave comments below, or just say hello! I love hearing from you.

Jill x

Welcome to my new look website

So yeah, I haven’t blogged in a little while. Like most people out there things have been…different 😉 In fact there have been all kinds of things happen in my life since I sat down for my last blog post, some of them good and some just too rubbish to even contemplate, not at this hour and not without some solid moral support (probably involving a stiff drink). On the good side of the list, I’ve managed to get writing! I’ve had more work published and have a brand new work in progress ready to roll out which I hope to share with you soon, as well as adding more posts to my blog. In the meantime have a look around the new site and please do get in touch!

Wishing you all the best, Jill x

The Blue Hour magazine

The Blue Hour anthology

Guess who’s soon to be appearing in The Blue Hour magazine for the second time? Oh all right, you guessed it, it’s me 🙂

The Blue Hour magazine is an online art and literary magazine featuring the work of some very talented writers and artists, such as the wonderful Michele Seminara and Anne Bradshaw (If you haven’t discovered their work yet let me urge you to go and have a look).

The Blue Hour magazine welcomes submissions of all kinds and the editors are lovely so if you’re interested do consider submitting your poems, stories or artwork.

The Wood Beyond the Road

ahddfThe wood beyond the road is deep and dark as a sleeper’s dream. The leafy canopy blocks the sunlight from the detritus beneath and incubates the odour of mulch and rotting things. The path winds this way and that around the lattice of spiny leaves and jagged ferns hiding chirruping insects that underline the silence. The silence that is deep and dark.

In the woods, in a small clearing unnoticed by the world, a grey stone cottage hunches against the failing light. A thin thread of smoke drifts from the chimney and this, along with the faint glow of a bulb in the lower window, suggests somebody is home.

She is quite alone. Sitting by the low fire, motionless but for the steady rise and fall of her chest she appears cut from marble, cold and white as a midnight statue. A viewer, if there had been one in that barren room, would wish for some spark of life in her eyes, for some reassurance of animation in those limbs; lost in the form of her dress as they are. Her lace sleeves are stiff and cylindrical, two tunnels through which her arms thrust. Hardly real arms at all. But she moves, her breath halts, almost in anticipation, and she rises to her feet. She sways, and steadies, and for the first time her eyelid betrays a flicker. She stands motionless as if indefinitely fixed, as if she would stand all night, wound at last to the end of her mechanism.

She is breathing, though it cannot be heard, the sound has been replaced by another. Usurped by a tiny sound, a tiny scratching from the door. Such a small and innocent sound. Perhaps it is a little mouse, a cat, one sharp hooked claw or fingernail maybe, scraping the splintered wood. Her eyes flicker to life, and there are tears in them as she looks around, as if she has awoken to find the light outside extinguished. As if she has returned to realise the door lies unlocked. As if she has just remembered…

The scratching grows in strength as the darkness crowds in suffocatingly close; the door shaking, the old-fashioned latch bouncing fit to spring open. Her marble pallor heats suddenly, flares into flesh, and she springs toward the door, slamming it shut with the remains of her shaking strength. Holding it pinned with the last of her will, she wonders; where have I been?


© Jill London 2013

Want more like this? Try my latest novel Evertrue. It is a fairy-tale twist on the story of Orpheus, and is available now. Click here for a speedy wireless delivery to your reading device.

The Mask of a Genius



He was late, though the set was ready weeks

before, and brought the women cherry nude

fondants and fondly pinched their pert young cheeks.


He preened his new suit in the interlude,

Oh, the praise he urged for his gold silk shirt!

His moustache erect and suitably crude.


The cats ran away, nibbled fleas and trod dirt

in the wet floor, drew blood when roughly dried

by assistants immune to price tag art.


Cameras whirred and bellies growled, hid by pride.

Dali grew bored and lured the assistant,

though round the corner Gala feigned to hide.


When asked her impression of that giant

the photographer paused with rheumy eyes

and framed a reply aptly elegant:

L’enfant terrible aimed to build a disguise

to cover a heap of nothing but lies.


© Jill London 2013

Deirdre’s Lament

I’ve been meaning to reblog this for a while, because I think it’s brilliant. If you don’t agree then, sadly, you’re wrong.

Opus 61

Do you remember how I dreamed of this?
On the shores of Loch Ness, in the days of our bliss
I dreamed of a dove with mead in its mouth
Pursued by a hawk, red with blood from the south
And now you lie beautiful down in your grave
Between your two brothers, whom you couldn’t save

Naoise, oh Naoise my husband, my love
With soft spoken words and the eyes of a dove
Men will remember your sword of bright steel
But your wife will remember how you made her feel
On the shores of Loch Ness, in the days of our bliss
Before that dark night when I first dreamed of this

I was a fair maiden, the world was unknown
When first I espied you, your raven hair shone
And flew like the pennant when men go to war
To meet their sad fate on death’s lonely…

View original post 260 more words

Three more from the notebook


With age comes wisdom,

So say the monk and poet,

To ease the journey.

Flying Fish (Detail)
Flying Fish (Photo credit: Theron Trowbridge)



Concerning Errors

Fish may learn to fly

And man may learn forgiveness.

Wonders never cease.




Rain falls silently

Seeping in through the corners

Of my pounding heart.

© Jill London 2013

August – Dorothy Parker and Charles Courtney Curran


Charles Courtney Curran – Lotus Lilies 1888


When my eyes are weeds,
And my lips are petals, spinning
Down the wind that has beginning
Where the crumpled beeches start
In a fringe of salty reeds;
When my arms are elder-bushes,
And the rangy lilac pushes
Upward, upward through my heart;

Summer, do your worst!
Light your tinsel moon, and call on
Your performing stars to fall on
Headlong through your paper sky;
Nevermore shall I be cursed
By a flushed and amorous slattern,
With her dusty laces’ pattern
Trailing, as she straggles by.

Dorothy Parker


The World of Dr Seuss

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This slideshow features some gorgeous art from the hugely talented and, in my opinion, little appreciated Dr Seuss. Really, I know his work is still in demand and all but how often do we pause to think of him as the gifted and surprising artist he was? I always adored his books and the pictures really fed into my imagination and created a world of wonder and delight. Book illustrations contribute so much toward the finished article yet they are almost an overlooked resource. For all the illustrators out there, here’s looking at you, kid.

More here: http://www.drseussart.com/gallery/

Advice for the writer – Thomas More

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the younger
Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the younger

Advice for the indie writer can be found in the most surprising places sometimes. This extract, from More’s Utopia, is amazingly fresh and relevant considering it was written around 500 years ago.

“But to tell the truth, I’m still of two minds as to whether I should publish the book or not. For men’s tastes are so various, the tempers of some are so severe, their minds so ungrateful, their tempers so cross, that there seems no point in publishing something, even if it’s intended for their advantage, that they will receive only with contempt and ingratitude. Better simply to follow one’s own natural inclinations, lead a merry, peaceful life, and ignore the vexing problems of publication. Most men know nothing of learning; many despise it. The clod rejects as too difficult whatever isn’t cloddish. The pedant dismisses as mere trifling anything that isn’t stuffed with obsolete words. Some readers approve only of ancient authors: most men like their own writing best of all. Here’s a man so solemn he won’t allow a shadow of levity, and there’s one so insipid of taste that he can’t endure the salt of a little wit. Some dullards dread satire as a man bitten by a hydrophobic dog dreads water; some are so changeable that they like one thing when they’re seated and another when they’re standing.

Those people lounge around the taverns, and as they swill their ale pass judgement on the intelligence of writers. With complete assurance they condemn every author by his writings, just as they think best, plucking each one, as it were, by the beard. But they themselves remain safely under cover and, as the proverb has it, out of harm’s way. No use trying to lay hold of them; they’re shaved so close, there’s not so much as the hair of an honest man to catch them by.

Finally, some men are so ungrateful that even though they’re delighted with a work, they don’t like the author any better because of it. They are like rude, ungrateful guests who, after they have stuffed themselves with a splendid dinner, go off, carrying their full bellies homeward without a word of thanks to the host who invited them. A fine task, providing at your own expense a banquet for men of such finicky palates, such various tastes, and such rude, ungracious tempers.”

I don’t know about you but I was completely bowled over reading this. So often we’re led to believe that literature is scary and dull but More’s Utopia, like so many other works, has been a delightful surprise, and not a monster read either. If you have any interest in social reform, or finding out more about humanitarianism and the Renaissance Man, it will be right up your alley.

Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), known to Roman Catholics as Saint Thomas More since 1935, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and Lord Chancellor from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. More opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale, whose books he burned and followers he persecuted (!). More also wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an ideal and imaginary island nation. More later opposed the King’s separation from the Roman Catholic Church and refused to accept him as Supreme Head of the Church of England, because such disparaged Papal Authority and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Tried for treason, More was convicted on perjured testimony and beheaded. Source: Wikipedia.

You can read Utopia here: http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/more/utopia-contents.html

Daft dogs…and daft owners


Brought to you courtesy of Jill of All Trades over at


samsung ace 548

And here’s Lucy!

Her daft owners put the scarf on her but the sock in her mouth is all her own doing

(gun dogs like the feel of something in their mouths apparently –

which explains why she loves meal times so much I guess!).

She may be a little grey around the chops but she thinks she’s still a puppy.

Which reminds me of one of my favourite quotations from GB Shaw;

“We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing”


The Blue Hour magazine – plus me

I have a poem appearing in The Blue Hour magazine! Check it out here

I don’t generally think of myself as a poet (or an artist for that matter) but I have enjoyed writing a few of them, including this one which I wrote as a response poem to James Fenton‘s poem Wind. I hope you’ll take a look and let me know what you think.

You can read Fenton’s poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/wind-2

I must admit, I think it must be the best to have a book of your own poetry. Something to take off the shelf and idle over in a weak moment, even if no-one else got to read it. Just to please yourself. Isn’t it funny how ideas can grab you sometimes?

And now I’m feeling so dreamy and creative all at once, here’s a little something from my old drawing pad.

doe 001

Have a super weekend folks xx

Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast

samsung ace 560

You find the darndest things in your cereal sometimes but today my daughter found this ‘weird & wonderful’ facts card in her Chocolate Curls.

It features a ‘weird quiz’ on the back:

1) Which sea creature doesn’t have a brain?

a. Shark

b. Lobster

c. Starfish

2) How do butterflies taste things?

a. With their tongue

b. With their feet

c. With their wings

3) What was the first soup made from?

a. Hippopotamus

b. Potatoes

c. Chicken

The answers are fairly obvious (c,b,a) despite the fact that they seem so unlikely.

Do you know what I mean?

I know I’m no David Attenborough but are these facts true (including the one in the photo) or a stretch of the truth? Anyone?

Please feel free to leave any more unlikely facts here too.

The ‘British Accent’ – A Rough Guide for the Perplexed.

So I was chatting the other day to my friend Matthew Curry of The Chia Pet Circus and he very kindly tweeted this clip to me, reminding me how quaint the BBC used to be:

“Don’t forget your cocoa, and don’t let the bed-bugs bite. Breakfast will be at six SHARP!”

One of the things that stood out for me as I listened was how old-fashioned the presenter’s voice sounds. The BBC used to insist on a posh accent but these days tends to choose a softer accent and often a regional accent. After some discussion about how I would actually place this accent (thoughts anyone?) I got to thinking about how many accents we have on our tiny island. I tried to google how many and came up with zip. So much for research. As a general guide we might come up with something like this:



Scouse (Liverpool)

Mancunian (Manchester)

Geordie (Newcastle)

Cockney (Parts of London)

Brummie (Birmingham)

Yorkshire (Yorkshire)

West country (The west country e.g Bristol, Devon..)

Northern Irish,

Southern Irish,

Welsh (and some may divide this accent between North and South)

Glaswegian (Glasgow)

Aberdonian (Aberdeen)

My Scottish mother would add many more here including Dundonian etc.

The list goes on (please comment if I’ve missed any obvious ones) but for brevity’s sake I’ll draw a line here, but listen to this accent from the Scottish Islands:


Could you guess what they said? We used to have friends of my mum come down to visit sometimes and there was one very lovely old lady who couldn’t communicate with any but my aunt (not even my mum had a clue). She made these beautiful little cooing sounds and I would smile and nod as my aunt translated English into English! It wasn’t a different language she just had a very strong dialect. (Nothing to do with Dr Who btw.)

There are many more accents however. For example, ‘towns located less than 10 miles (16 km) from the city of Manchester such as BoltonOldham and Salford, each have distinct accents, all of which form the Lancashire accent, yet in extreme cases are different enough to be noticed even by a non-local listener’ so says Wikipedia. I would say Mancunian sounds nothing like Lancastrian but there you go.

In my newly adopted home county of Northamptonshire we can hear when someone is from Northampton and when they’re from Leicestershire (just a few miles away) for example. People hereabouts call women ‘duck’ as a term of endearment (like sweetie, lass etc. (It’s ‘hen’ in Scotland)) and they pronounce it ‘doook’ (a proper phonetics table would help here!) whereas from my mouth it’s a very different creature and doesn’t sound endearing at all!

My accent? Well some people say they hear Cockney, some say they hear the Queen’s; I would say it’s somewhere between the two, and yes, I have had a lot of comments in my lifetime, including from some (it’s happened more than once) who ask if I’m from New Zealand – really!! Some can even hear the Scottish influence in there. Would I record it for you? Not on your nelly. (That means no.)

The ever useful Beeb have gone about the UK recording accents and they have captured 1200 apparently. Take a look here:Capture2


They have a map too.

The green dots can be clicked on (on the site) and will give you a taste of the accent from that area.

So, in summary, it would be fair to say that there’s no such thing as a ‘British accent’ as many foreign students will tell you. We sometimes can’t understand one another here, despite being only 603 miles from John O’Groats to Land’ s End and smaller than many states around the world. But we are all united. At least at present.

I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty amazing.


The Few who Possess the Means of Livelihood

Julie Green Art & Photography

“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands – the ownership and control of their livelihoods – are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”

Helen Keller, Rebel Lives: Helen Keller

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Talking heads.





cephalophore (from the Greek for “head-carrier”) is a saint who is generally depicted carrying his or her own head; in art, this was usually meant to signify that the subject in question had been martyred by beheading.


In Dante‘s Divine Comedy (Canto 28) the poet meets the spectre of the troubadour Bertrand de Born in the eighth circle of the Inferno, carrying his severed head in his hand, slung by its hair, like a lantern; upon seeing Dante and Virgil, the head begins to speak.



The Green Knight is a character in the 14th-century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The knight appears in the court of King Arthur and challenges any man to strike him with his axe, under the condition that he be allowed to return the blow in one year’s time. Sir Gawain takes up the challenge and cuts the Green Knight’s head clean off. Surprisingly, the knight calmly picks up his own head and reasserts his oath to repay Gawain.


One July Summer – Dorothy Ardelle Merriam


One July Summer

What has happened to summer,
That’s what I want to know.
Is she on a vacation –
Who knows where did she go?
Tell, what was she wearing;
A zephyr breeze and rosebud
Or grass and wild berry?
Could she be honeymooning
With spring or early fall
Or has she gone so far away
She’ll not return at all?

Dorothy Ardelle Merriam:
It’s July, guys! Can you believe it? We’ll be heading on into Winter before you know it and then next thing you know – Christmas! Any organised souls out there have their presents bought yet? I’m last minute.com unfortunately, always have been always will, and right now it’s still summer, or at least it’s supposed to be. The only way we can tell here in the UK is that we don’t need to put the central heating on. Other than that I still put on a coat to go to the shops 😦
Hope you’re having a great summer, folks xxx

Henry Tonks – Spring Days 1928

Spring Days 1928 by Henry Tonks 1862-1937



SPRING DAYS c. 1926–29

Inscr. ‘H. Tonks 1928’ b.l.
Canvas, 34×32 (86×81).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1931.

Apparently this painting was begun in 1926 and ‘repainted at various times with different models’ as Tonks was never entirely satisfied with it.

Henry TonksFRCS (9 April 1862 – 8 January 1937) was a British surgeon and later draughtsman and painter of figure subjects, chiefly interiors, and a caricaturist. He became an influential art teacher.

He was one of the first British artists to be influenced by the French Impressionists; he exhibited with the New English Art Club, and was an associate of many of the more progressive artists of late Victorian Britain, including James McNeill WhistlerWalter SickertJohn Singer Sargent and George Clausen. Source: Wikipedia

Undiscovered Voices – advice for children’s writers

Undiscovered Voices is a competition for unpublished and un-agented writers and illustrators living in the EU, in partnership with SCBWI British Isles. Find out more here: http://www.undiscoveredvoices.com/
(Entries open: 1st July to 15th August 2013)

I’ve got hold of 5 videos featuring some of the top names in children’s publishing giving advice to SCBWI members as part of the Undiscovered Voices competition launch of April 18th 2013. The videos are a little on the quiet side unfortunately but they make for a fascinating insight into the publishing world and the speakers have some really good advice to share.
The panel includes; Ben Horslen – Editorial Director of Puffin, Gemma Cooper – Agent at The Bent Agency, Sallyanne Sweeney – Agent at Watson Little Ltd, Samantha Smith – Publisher at Scholastic and Sarah Lambert – Editorial Director at Quercus Children’s Books.

Undiscovered Voices 2014 Writers part 1 Making Your Manuscript Stand Out:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 Writers part 2 Judging Panel’s Mistakes to Avoid and Advice on Genre:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 Writers part 3 – Tips for Undiscovered Voices Writers:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 – Writers Bonus – Ben and Sam discuss “Is there ever a time for exposition:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 – Writers Bonus – The Panel discuss their recent acquisitions and why they loved them:

10 links for writers





Top links to help you discover more about the wonderful world of writing.


There’s no hook in my Nook

Sometimes you get so caught up in your writing it’s easy to forget the finished outcome. The act of creation is central to writing but if you want to write to be read please remember to spare a thought for the reader 🙂

Jill Weatherholt


I have a problem. I love to read. Of course my problem isn’t reading, it’s finding the time to read without the guilt. I try to maintain a balance of work, family and writing by reading at night.

There are times when a couple of pages turn into a much needed double dose of caffeine the next morning because I couldn’t put the book down.  I love those times. A page-turner is the type of book I prefer to read and some of us strive to write.

Despite the strict guidelines in the world of publishing, not all books are created equal. Sometimes I reach the end of the first chapter, put the book down and forget to pick it back up. I intend to finish the book, but my reading time is too limited to spend on a book that doesn’t grab my attention and keep me reading.

If you’re a…

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Happy Birthday Chris Van Allsburg!

Happy Birthday to Chris Van Allsburg who was born on this day in 1949. Chris is an American author and illustrator of children’s books including Jumanji and The Polar Express, both of which won him the Caldecott Medal, and Zathura.

“His books often depict fantastic, uncontrolled events and utilize sometimes brutal irony. Van Allsburg breaks out of the comfortable world of children literature to explore the darker side of human nature. For example, his book The Sweetest Fig is about a selfish man who is suddenly given the opportunity to make his wildest dreams come true. His greed is eventually his downfall. This is not an unusual moral for a story in children books, but Van Allsburg’s chilling characterization of the man brings a frightening tone to the narrative.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a collection of images on one side, and one sentence on the other (meant to be ‘recovered pages’ of longer books) continues the themes of darker undertones and was the inspiration for the short story “The House on Maple Street” by author Stephen King, in his collection: Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

The Wretched Stone, in which a ship’s crew is mesmerized and corrupted by the titular rock, is an allegorical tale about the negative impact of television” Source: Wikipedia.


Double Arch and Milky Way stars at Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Double Arch and Milky Way stars at Arches National Park, Utah, USA
Double Arch and Milky Way stars at Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Arches National Park, Utah: “The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.” Source: National Park Service

Image source:

Find out more:

The Essential Rumi – Like This

Listen to this delectable recording of Tilda Swinton reading Like This (and try to forget that it is in order to celebrate the launch of a perfume…)


Take a ride in my Time Machine.

Today’s post can take you back in time. No kidding. It is a time-travelling vehicle to take you back to what some might describe as a more innocent time. I’m not convinced it was necessarily innocent but the commercials back then were more fun than the majority of today’s slick and strategic offerings, and I know these ads had the power to stick in the mind.

Don’t worry about feeding the cat while you’re gone, we won’t be long.

(This love of commercials may seem an odd one, by the way, but I’m not alone in my affliction. Visit fellow TV nostalgia buff Matthew Curry for a selection of commercials from the US.)

Accurist: John Cleese and the endless possibilities of a wristwatch.

BT: Maureen Lipman as everybody’s favourite Jewish grandmother, Beatie.

Yellow Pages: Just one of the very memorable yellow pages ads; this one on the dangers of leaving your teenagers home alone.

Honey Puffs: With Henry McGee, better known as Benny Hill’s straight man.

Metz: Terrified many a viewer in the 1980s. Could this be the inspiration for Doctor Who’s Whispermen?

R Whites: Long before the harlem shake this sent many kids gyrating about the school playground.

Heineken: Bryan Pringle and the lovely Sylvestra Le Touzel in a scene nabbed from My Fair Lady.

Kia Ora: A well-loved classic.

Kinder Surprise: Cue the chorus of cries as toddlers and innocents witness the horror.

St Ives: Stop gap animations like they used to be.

If this has sparked memories of any old favourites you can’t quite remember you can find a plethora of UK adverts here:


Boum! Charles Trenet

I so enjoyed my last post on Le Rayol, France and the French Riviera that I’ve not been able to get this song out of my head since. I’ve tried to find a translation for it and this was the best I could come up with, though any suggestions would be welcome.

The clock goes tic-TOC-tick-TAC

Birds on the lake sing pik-PACK-pak

Glou-glou-glou all the turkeys sing

And the pretty bell rings DING-dong-DING

But boom!

When our heart goes boom!

All join in to say boom!

And it’s love that has awakened


It sang Love in Bloom

At the rhythm of this Boom!

Repeating Boom in our ear

Everything has changed since yesterday

On the street eyes look out of the windows

There’s lilac and there’s helping hands

On the sea the sun will appear


The star of the day makes boom

All join in to say boom

When our hearts go BOOM BOOM

The wind in the wood moans whou-whou

The doe at bay squeals me-Ya-Ya-Ya!!

The broken dish goes fric-frac-FRAC

The wet feet slip flip-flop-flap

But boom!

When our heart goes boom

Everyone says boom

The bird said boom it’s a storm



After lightning there’s the bang

And the good God says BOOM!

From his armchair of clouds

Because my love is brighter than the lightning

Lighter than a bird or a bee

Then if it goes boom if it makes me angry

It brings with it the wonders


The whole world goes BOOM!

Everyone joins in to say BOOM!

When our hearts go boom-boom


Boom Boom is ours

It directs us BOOM BOOM BOOM!


Read more: http://www.kovideo.net/boum-english-translation-lyrics-charles-trenet-1226406.html#ixzz2VPtRalg7

charles trenetCharles Trenet (18 May 1913 – 19 February 2001) was a French singer and songwriter, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s until the mid-1950s, though his career continued through the 1990s. In an era in which it was exceptional for a singer to write his or her own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and declined to record any but his own songs.

His best known songs include “Boum !“, “La Mer“, “Y’a d’la joie”, “Que reste-t-il de nos amours ?“, “Ménilmontant” and “Douce France”. His catalogue of songs is enormous, numbering close to a thousand. What set Trenet’s songs apart were their personal, poetic, sometimes quite eccentric qualities, often infused with a warm wit. Some of his songs had unconventional subject matter, with whimsical imagery bordering on the surreal. “Y’a d’la joie” evokes ‘joy’ through a series of disconnected images, including that of a subway car shooting out of its tunnel into the air, the Eiffel Tower crossing the street and a baker making excellent bread.  Source: Wikipedia

Le Rayol – The French Riviera



If, like me, you adore the rugged beauty and glamour of the Mediterranean then Le Rayol on the French Riviera is the place to be.

“Sleepy villas sunk in gardens, an old petrol station, a little grocery shop, a hairdresser with pink neon sign, a wonderful fish restaurant with wooden terrace overlooking the sea. Any new villa squeezes itself in quietly and tries not to attract attention. The road itself winds dramatically. Vistas explode ahead of you to reveal tantalising glimpses of wooded promontories, golden beaches, pine forest, crags and cliffs, and flowers tumbling through balustrades and down banks.” Source: The Telegraph.

Sounds exquisite, doesn’t it? It’s a 10 hour drive from Calais, but if you are lucky enough to be anywhere near the French Riviera anytime soon you may want to include Le Rayol in your itinerary.


Things to do, should you manage to be bored, include: The Domaine du Rayol – a botanical garden and arboretum located on the Avenue des Belges, Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer, is open to the public 365 days of the year, featuring 11 gardens from around the world. The Marine Garden – offers snorkelling along an underwater trail, and is open from June to September – adults € 19 – Children (8-17 years) 14 €.



How to murder your darlings – in just 5 steps

Let me start by making it clear that today’s post relates to the EDITING stage of your work only.

sergei-eisenstein-editing-film-octoberThe editing stage is notoriously difficult to define, and there’s a lot of good information out there on what constitutes a thorough edit, but I would like to suggest a few ideas based on one of the most elusive pieces of advice out there:

“Edit your work with a cold eye, as though you’ve never read this piece before.”

We’ve all seen this particular gem, but it’s nigh on impossible to do, isn’t it? We’ve been labouring so long and hard on our work the only way we can even hope to get it out of our system is to lock it away for several weeks/months without peeking, but even then an edit may not help much.

We often have the feeling we’re not happy about something, but working out what that something is is beyond us. That’s because we’re still in the role of writer and creator when what we really need to do is switch into the role of the editor.

So how do we do this?

  • First of all make a copy of your beloved work in progress then put the original in a safe folder on your hard-drive where, you promise yourself, it is safe from the hands of any evil editors or other detractors. Then rename your copy file using the title of your MS followed by the words Edit Version or any other tag to set the two copies apart. For my copy file I chose the subheading The Massacre, and this pretty much sums up how you’re going to approach this version because you are about to become your manuscript’s greatest foe.
  • Mentally adjust to the idea that you can now do an edit without worrying about spoiling your beloved manuscript.
  • Now, forget about checking for modifiers, spelling mistakes, character slippage or any of the other familiar edits and think about this:

Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action

This quotation (from Kurt Vonnegut btw) is going to be your guiding principle.

This next bit will hurt initially, it will hurt a lot, but the end result will be worth it, just like the sticker at the end of a visit to the dentist. All right, bad example, the sticker was never worth the pain of a visit to the dentist, but this one will be good, I promise.

Facing your duplicate manuscript now I want you to feel the flaws (you may add your own Star Wars quips here). The amount of flaws you feel will depend very much on how honest you’ve been with yourself over your beloved manuscript, and chances are, if you’re like me or most other writers, you have not been honest at all.

Here are just a few of the justifications which we writers silently make for our work (hopefully you’ve never actually asked a reader, agent or editor to bear these justifications in mind, -100 points if you ever have):

1)      The beginning is a little on the slow side / confusing / off subject but….

2)      I know x isn’t a very strong / interesting (well thought out) character but…

3)      The word count is a bit long / short but…

4)      This scene doesn’t really add anything to the story but…

5)      My spelling/grammar/punctuation needs improving but…

[This last entry is, as far as I can see, pure laziness. Never make this excuse when there are perfectly good writer’s manuals out there that can help you. Sure, we all make mistakes, but knowingly expecting others to turn a blind eye is an insult to all concerned.]Lovedust

There are any number of excuses we can make for our work and the reasons will be so beguilingly plausible that we won’t notice falling under their spell until we finally listen to that irritating Jiminy Cricket on our shoulder.

  • So, armed with your own personal clutch of painful justifications, start deleting. You can’t worry about diminishing word counts or ruining your elegant prose, remember your original manuscript is safely tucked away and will come to no harm, and if you have any resistance left at this point, remember; it’s better you should cut this stuff out rather than let that reader, agent or editor do the job by dismissing your beloved work (because they will). Cut out anything that feels redundant, and my suggestion would be to think of it as closer to amputation than cutting your nails.
  • As you begin to massacre your beloved work you will find more errors coming to light, vital errors that are not ‘revealing character’ or ‘advancing the action’. Apply any other sage pieces of writerly advice now and you’ll probably see more truth in them than you ever could have when facing your original beloved manuscript.

You’ll soon find as you begin this process that the pain begins to subside, and before long you will be feeling like a writer on fire, because you are finally discovering the real story in the middle of all those lumpy digressions, the real characters in the midst of those paper-thin extras and it feels good – so good in fact that I’m willing to bet you won’t give that original manuscript another glance. 

Happy writing, guys.

If you have any editing tips or thoughts on this article why not drop me a line in the comment box below?

Related search: http://www.notesfromtheslushpile.com/2009/09/fantasy-master-class-with-sara-o.html?spref=tw


Image source: campwander
Image source: campwander

“Wisteria woke me this morning,
And there was all June in the garden;
I felt them, early, warning
Lest I miss any part of the day.

Straight I walked to the trellis vine.
Wisteria touched a lifted nostril:
Feelings of beauty diffused, to entwine
My spirit with June’s own aura.”
–  Ann McGough, Summons


The Recording Angel

The Recording Angel - George Frederick Watts
The Recording Angel – George Frederick Watts

Not the most obvious name to spring to mind when mentioning great British artists, yet G F Watts is the man behind many beautifully engaging and recognisable works, and though less than a household name today he has apparently been called ‘England’s Michelangelo’.

Choosing (Dame Ellen Terry) - George Frederic Watts
Choosing (Dame Ellen Terry) – George Frederic Watts

If the name of George Frederick Watts isn’t instantly recognisable I think this image provides a real ah-ha moment.

His richly symbolic paintings often reveal a visionary’s perspective and really deserve a closer look, though it’s perhaps his portraits that might draw the greatest admiration.

Edith Villers, Countess of Lytton
Edith Villers, Countess of Lytton

Dear Kitty has devoted to an excellent post to the man and I was particularly interested to read this part:

“His socialist principles were the guiding force behind the creation of the gallery (the Watts Gallery in Surrey). Watts not only wanted to encourage a rich community spirit to develop through the language of art but also to create an educational centre which would provide free access to the art world for the benefit of the working class for the first time.”

Hmm, a man after my own heart then. Click the link below to read her excellent article in full, but before you go have a look at this short clip looking at the Watts Chapel (designed and built by his wife Mary Watts) and tell me it doesn’t knock your socks off – I challenge you.

Both the gallery and the chapel can be found in Compton, Surrey, just off the A3 south of Guildford.


Writers’ corner: How long will it take?

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule
Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule – but how useful is it for writers?

How do you make a genius? In his book Outliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell suggested that talent isn’t the decider but how many hours of practice you’re prepared to put into your chosen subject. In the above visualisation of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour principle the work of Bill Gates and The Beatles are used as an example of the successful ‘in action’.

Gladwell’s work was apparently based on the research of psychologist Anders Ericsson of Florida State University. However, as some have noted, Ericsson never mentioned 10,000 hours and it’s important to remember that there’s more to attaining success than simply ‘putting in the hours’. The key therefore is not merely to repeat an action but to learn from it and build on it.

Read this article from Suw Charman-Anderson which puts the 10,000 hour principle under the microscope.

It has also been suggested that, where writers are concerned, the number of words are vital. “A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.” ~David Eddings. Again, you should reasonably expect to have the majority of your early writing rejected (rejection slips can be seen as the ‘jogger’s nipple’ of the writing world after all), but this doesn’t explain how some writers achieve success relatively quickly, much sooner than any million words tide-mark, whilst others can labour for many years producing millions of words without gaining any satisfying results.

Conditions for Successful Practice

Instead of focusing on the amount of hours needed to cultivate success think about the following 4 conditions to improve performance (Mastery teaching, M. Hunter, 2004):

1. The learner must be sufficiently motivated. They must want to improve performance.

2. The learner must have all the knowledge necessary to understand the different ways the new knowledge or skill can be applied.

3. The learner must understand how to apply the knowledge to deal with a particular situation.

4. The learner must be able to analyse the results of their study and know what needs to be changed to improve performance in the future.

In summary: Stay motivated, read up on the subject, think actively about what you’ve read and analyse personal progress. So forget the number of hours involved, don’t give another thought to wasted word counts, just get on with engaging in the process of learning your craft. Remember that ‘every step taken is a step well-lived’.  All of which leads us to consider that, as writers, while we may spend many hours writing it is vital to stay open to advice, to read widely, and to edit thoroughly.

My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro is yet another unique and mesmerizing film from Studio Ghibli, which follows the adventures of two sisters who discover friendly wood spirits around their new house and garden in rural Japan. The artwork is delectable and the pace of the movie captures the spirit of those endless sunny days of childhood, when adventure and magic seemed a whisker away.

Watch this short but sweet behind the scenes clip featuring the voice actors from the English-speaking version, including the wonderfully precocious Elle and Dakota Fanning.


Seven Awards!!


The awards are piling up 🙂 I’ve recently received seven awards (!!) and have saved them up for today: The Best Moment Award from chandanimane , The Super Sweet Award from Pallaksharma, the Liebster Award from franny stevenson, the Wonderful Team Membership Award from Ajay, the Sunshine Award from Kavita Joshi, and the Dragon’s Loyalty Award and Shine on Award from Melissa Janda! Phew!!

Now because I let them pile up I’ve decided to put them together so that there are only 1 set of rules for any one of them. This way I figure you’re not going to be faced with endless lists of facts about me 🙂 and it also means that nominated bloggers can choose from the selection! I think it’s a win/win situation!

Nominees: Hopefully you’ll happily accept the award (though there is of course no obligation to do so), post the picture of your Award on your blog and say who nominated you for the award and link their blog (in this instance; me :-)).

And now THE RULES!

  • Answer the 10 random questions or those of your own choosing.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers for the Award and link their blog sites.
  • Notify the bloggers of their award.
  • Ask the award winners to answer the 10 questions when they accept their Award.

1. Do you have a goal in life? To seek out new life and new civilizations…

2. City or countryside? I love visiting cities but give me lots of land and the starry skies above (don’t fence me in ;-))

3. What was the last word you looked up in the dictionary? My dictionary app says it was Mardy (?) apparently – with no results, and Sastrugi (ridges of snow formed by the wind).

4. If you had a time machine where would you go? To the twenties but would want to come home after about twenty years 😉

5. Pirate or Vampires? Capt. Jack Sparrow compels me to say pirate.

6. Are you an easily satisfied person or you do you keep working to obtain something? I’m never satisfied with what I’ve done but hopefully I know when to stop!

7. Sweet or savoury? Savoury, and hopefully spicy too.

8. Do you believe in Karma? Absolutely.

9. What’s your favourite comedy film? Austen Powers – it has to be someone’s favourite, right?

10. Fantasy or sci-fi? Fantasy just pips it to the post.

My ten must see blogs from ten Über bloggers: Michele Seminara PigLove  Wanton Creation poeticlicensee  Lydia at myfeatherquill halfeatenmind Meeka’s Mind Steve at Imagineer-ing, Chourouk and Tazein Mirza Saad 🙂

My quest for the Lost City of Aelia Capitolina.

Today, please take a moment or two to enjoy this fascinating post from our ever entertaining man in the field terrytrekker 🙂 Happy reading folks!

Travel Treks and Quests

Twenty years ago, a fellow college student showed me a Roman coin stamped with the head of the emperor Hadrian.    The coin was dated around 130 AD, during the time when the Romans occupied Jerusalem.  hadrian coinIt is common knowledge that the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 10 AD, leveling the city to rubble.  However, many people including myself were unaware that Hadrian later built a beautiful Roman city over the ruins during the period 130 – 140 AD.  He named the city Aelia Capitolina, and it was laid out with beautiful marble roads, pillars, shops, large villas, roman baths, swimming pools, cisterns fed by an aqueduct, massive engraved gates, and a temple dedicated to the worship of Jupiter.

This beautiful city aroused my interest, and finding the city of Aelia Capitolina became my quest!

A few months later, I arrived in the old city of Jerusalem and was greeted by…

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The Velvet Gentleman

Today’s post not only features the work of one of my favourite people but, given my extremely high estimation of today’s inspirational person, I want to attempt something of a tribute. The greatest danger with tributes is that the writer is likely to fall into the trap of endless superlatives and long-winded, prattling fan-talk, so this is going to be something of a challenge. For this reason I’m guessing that it’s probably a good idea, a bit like resistance training or a stamina trial, but will you be able to read it, patient yet time-strapped reader? Tributes can be horrible, squirmish affairs and certainly this is likely to be more of the same, but when all’s said and done this is my blog, and this is my tribute so, with all due respect, make of it what you will.


Who is the velvet gentleman? It is said that the velvet gentleman only ever ate white foods. It is said that of his 27 years in residence at Arcueil, France, not one of his friends were ever invited inside and that after his death 84 identical handkerchiefs and dozens of umbrellas (numbered sometimes at 100 or 200) were discovered in his one bedroomed apartment. He kept a filing cabinet filled with drawings of imaginary buildings which he would sometimes post about in anonymous advertisements to local journals:

“A castle in lead, for sale or rent.”

He started his own religion, of which he was the only member, and wore a priest-like habit until he adopted the grey velvet suit as his public image, along with the bowler hat and umbrella of the bourgeoisie (though his politics ranged from socialist to communist). He worked with Man Ray and Francis Picabia yet is not considered a surrealist. It is difficult to sum up such an unconventional and bohemian a character as much of what he said and wrote acted as a kind of barrier between himself and the outside world. We can rarely take his words at face value but instead must sift and sort and read between the lines, and yet, I think if you try this tactic you are in danger of losing the man entirely.


“When I was young, people used to say to me: ‘Wait until you’re fifty, you’ll see’. I am fifty. I haven’t seen anything.”

Erik Satie, was a French composer of piano music of such beauty and humour that it would be pretty silly of me to attempt to describe them. Here are some of my favourite pieces of his work. Rather than giving you the entire set of six gnossiennes (lasting approximately 20 minutes) here is gnossienne No4:

Tell me, did that music bring any particular images to mind? What about this one:

Here, the music that first attracted me, the 3 ‘Gymnopédies’:

Satie wrote: “Everyone will tell you I am not a musician. That is correct. From the very beginning of my career I class myself a phonometrographer… The first time I used a phonoscope, I examined a B flat of medium size. I can assure you that I have never seen anything so revolting. I called in my man to show it to him. On my phono-scales a common or garden F sharp registered 93 kilos. It came out of a fat tenor whom I also weighed”. Satie’s writings are both fascinating and entertaining, and you can read more of the same online at the Satie Archives (listed first on the sources and more section below).

Satie of course gave his music unconventional titles; Genuine Flabby Preludes (for a dog), Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear and Dessicated Embryos being examples of a few. He also wrote instructions on his musical scores to direct the pianist on how best to play the piece, but warned them: “To whom it may concern: I forbid anyone to read the text aloud during the musical performance. Ignorance of my instructions will incur my righteous indignation against the presumptuous culprit. No exception will be allowed”.

Composer’s houses and museums are usually a fairly level headed affair but at the Maisons Satie expect a golden flying pear, a room with a case of split personality and a fully functioning merry-go-round that opens out and lights up like a prop for a Tim Burton film.

Satie collaborated with Picasso and Cocteau on the ballet Parade for Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes. It was not well-received, with audiences booing as they left the theatre. In answer to one harsh critic Satie responded: “Sir and dear friend—you are an arse, an arse without music! Signed, Erik Satie.” The critic sued Satie, and at the trial, fellow author Cocteau was beaten by police for repeatedly yelling “arse” in the courtroom. Satie was sentenced to eight days in jail.

Watch this clip of Cocteau reminiscing on the collaboration (although he doesn’t mention anything about arses. Sorry):

There is the sense that Satie was a man born out of his time, in his own words: “I came very young into the world in a very old time.” His music was similarly out of its time and didn’t fully come to be appreciated till the 1960s when it finally took off, to the point where now, 100 years later, documentaries on the Edwardian period feature his music as representative of the era. Sadly, it was not, but instead shows us how we wish that era could have been.

Sources and more:





Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition by Thomas B Holmes

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Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning at Sedona, Arizona – By Lee Miller, 1946




Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

Photo of Rainer Maria Rilke

“You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you ) I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple, “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

Then draw near to Nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Do not write love-poems; avoid at first those forms that are too facile or commonplace: they are the most difficult, for it takes a great, fully matured power to give something of your own where good and even excellent traditions come to mind in quantity. Therefore save yourself from these general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of beauty—describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity, and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the objects of your memory. If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place. And if you were in some prison the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses—would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly possession  that treasure-house of memories? Turn your attention thither.

Try to raise the submerged sensations of that ample past; your personality will grow more firm, your solitude will widen and will become a dusky dwelling past which the noise of others goes by far away.—And if out of this turning inward, out of this absorption into your own world, verses come, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good verses. Nor will you try to interest magazines in your poems: for you will see in them your fond natural possession, a fragment and a voice of your life. A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgement of it: there is no other. Therefore, my dear sir, I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.

But perhaps after this descent into yourself and into your inner solitude you will have to give up becoming a poet; (it is enough, as I said, to feel that one could live without writing: then one must not attempt it at all.) But even then this inward searching which I ask of you will not have been in vain. Your life will in any case find its own way thence, and that they may be good, rich and wide I wish you more than I can say.

What more shall I say to you? Everything seems to me to have its just emphasis; and after all I do only want to advise you to keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from the outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.

Yours faithfully and with all sympathy:

Rainer Maria Rilke

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