Welcome to the Gossamer World

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

For some months I have been posting about my “Gossamer Steel” world, but now that world has evolved. Welcome to its new incarnation.

Gossamer Flames” is a series of short stories and novellas set in the post-apocalyptic world that arises after a catastrophic event leaves the planet ravaged and divided. Society is forced to adapt to a changed world where the surviving enclaves need to make use of their remaining resources. Only two regions are known to survive, Bhārata, formerly the Indian sub-continent, and The Country, comprising parts of Scandinavia. However, there are pockets of survivors in other areas, including within the desert areas of North America, in some remote mountainous regions of the Andes, and on some islands. Most of these are totally isolated from each other post the apocalypse.

The two principal enclaves of The Country (Scandinavia) and Bhārata (India sub-continent) have adopted economies that are regenerative and structured around renewable energy. Bhārata has the advantage of being built on the Republic of India’s self-reliance policy, although it is also hampered by the scale of the challenge. In The Country myths have come alive again and permeate society, but not all the forces favour re-building the world. The Ravagers, the people that pushed the technological fixes and exploitation of the Earth, are committed to destroying the greenpunk solutions that could be the future.

My 2014 posts in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge focused on various aspects in this future world, which at that point was still called Gossamer Steel, as in the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) that provides the mystery in my cyber-crime novel “Wyrm Bait”. In the MMORPG the two main playing zones are Bhārata and The Country and the game touches on aspects of the tales.

MY BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL CHALLENGE 2014 POSTS:

A is for Array ~ B is for the Blood-Marked ~ C is for Corylus Avellana ~ D is for Duskweald ~ E is for Energy ~ F is for Feeniks ~ G is for Garuda ~ H is for Herders ~ I is for Ithaka ~ J is for Junk ~ K is for Kitsune ~ L is for Lorelei ~ M is for Mojave ~ N is for Native~ O is for Outcasts  ~ P is for Punk ~ Q is for Quisling ~ R is for Ragnarök ~ S is for Seiðr ~ T is for Technology ~ U is for Urdu~ V is for Vidda ~ W is for Windsong ~X is for Xerarch ~ Y is for Yggdrasil  ~ Z is for Zephyr

Although “Gossamer Steel” had a good ring as a game, I felt that I needed a different title for the series of tales. An author needs a title that doesn’t require explaining, just one that sparks interest. I suggested various options to my followers, and after assessing your feedback, Gossamer Flames seemed the most appropriate and the most popular. Warning – explanation ahead!!

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Gossamer as in spider silk that makes such intricate webs, although technically gossamer is the silk used by spiderlings for ballooning or kiting to reach other locations. Spiders are often among the first inhabitants to recolonize a devastated area. Thus after an apocalypse Gossamer allows for new life and in my stories it also reflects the light touch of healing the planet. However, spider silk is both delicate and strong, exhibiting a unique combination of high tensile strength and extensibility. Most important, weight for weight, spider silk is stronger than steel, thus a force that cannot be ignored even amid the harshness of industrial solutions to the devastating problems remaining. Steel then is a contrast to Gossamer but I needed something even more evocative, hence ‘Flames’.

Flames have multiple meanings as in energy and passion as well as the destructive sense.  Flames can also generate ‘steam’, which covers the Steampunk’ elements in some of the tales. Flames can be both the devastating forces that threaten the world from the outset, and the passions that drive many of the characters forward towards the Renascence at the end.

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As my Gossamer Flames tales are released, I will post more details on the new Gossamer Flames page.

 

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My Writing Process

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This is one of those blog memes doing the rounds and it was Facebook writer friend David W Robinson who encouraged me to have a go  – although I had to confess that it might be another means to put off my outstanding edit. In fact that’s been outstanding for eleven months.

First I should say that David is the opposite of me, as a visit to his ‘My Writing Process’ post at http://www.dwrob.com/2014/05/my-writing-process/ should make clear. He’s also a very prolific writer and one of the awesome Crooked Cat authors, which is in contrast to my single novel in print. Or can I count all those magazine and newspaper articles… guess not.

However, we share a passion for crime even if his see daylight beyond his eyes. Please check out his site and enjoy his writing.

Enough prevaricating, time to confess about My Writing Process.

Beyond the words ‘sporadic’ and ‘erratic’ there is a pattern. At specific times of the year, mainly during November and NaNoWriMo, I focus on getting a first draft down on paper. I usually aim to plot this novel out in detail during previous months, leaving room for the characters to introduce their own direction to the tale. Sometimes I manage to fit the draft for another novel into a year, and write that in the same way – outline and fast first draft.

However, this process has left me with five unfinished novels, including the one that I class as “the outstanding edit” – ‘Wyrm Bait’. I wrote the first draft in July 2011 and I revised it in 2012 using a cut & past approach = printed version, lots of colour pens, cards, shuffling and slicing. When I was satisfied with the third draft of ‘Wyrm Bait’, I sent it to some professional editors – Hyland & Byrne – and received some very constructive comments, suggestions and line-by-line changes. That was in June and I still need to start on the next revision using their material.

That means there’s no writing process there, although I have completed another NaNo draft and various shorts set in my Gossamer Flamesl world. Somehow re-writing and editing shorts is easier to face than a whole novel. Too many distractions standing in my way like emails, reading other blogs, social media, not to mention moving house.

Yet, if I take a step back and look at this all carefully, I can see a pattern. Rather than work in large chunks of text or time, I choose smaller slivers to focus on – small specific targets, like short stories.

And what is a novel but a series of carefully crafted scenes, with twists, turns and threads weaving them together. Maybe dividing it up that way, pacing myself, will become my re-writing process.

So I have no excuse now. Tomorrow I must start on revising ‘Wyrm Bait’ – or maybe next week.

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Welsh Musings

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White dragon (wyvern). Adapted from wikipedia image of the wyvern flag of wessex. This two legged dragon (or wyvern) follows the style of the two dragons in Harold Godwinson’s death scene in the original 1066 Bayeux tapestry.

I’m not Welsh, either by heritage or because of where I was born. I don’t speak Welsh – I don’t think knowing “bore da” and “nos da” heralds more than the day or the night… and my struggle to pronounce other simple phrases.

I have to admit that I am a white dragon in red territory. I’m English with a touch of Scottish and a quarter Chilean blood to add some spice. An Englishman living in another country. Our puppy, Quetzal has more claim to being Welsh by birthplace – Garndolbenmaen.

However, my American wife, Juanita and I live in Wales. Our home on Pant Mawr Residential Park in Harlech has views that captivate us, giving life to the dreams that were impossible when linked to the States or Canada. One autumn weekend, in the light-sculpting rain, we made the decision to move.

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Now, gazing at the mountain panorama watching the spring light etch shapes or soften edges enchants our eyes. There are days when the house is wrapped in a white blanket but the sea mist stirs us, its aroma rich with estuary life. Birds are everywhere dawn through dusk, calling for mates, warning off interlopers, and enriching our ears.

Our lives and our hearts are in Snowdonia. So my musings must be Welsh for this land inspires them.

I have a novel, “Fates Maelstrom”, which was set on the edge of Dartmoor in its first draft. However, the land plays a crucial part and it calls out for more mountains, wild terrain and mists. In this land of legends there have to be the roots of the novel’s new life. “Accused of murdering her grandfather and condemned by her Romany blood, Twyla Locke faces prejudice,  family tradition, a mysterious double and declining health as she fights to prove her innocence and save her eviction-threatened community.  The arrival of Brogan Keyes, an American journalist offering his assistance, seems too contrived, especially when he claims to know about the Lockes’ past. Twyla fears that she is the victim of a scam that can only end in her death.”

I will post my Welsh Musings on my Blog but the Welsh Musings page will be their home. From there you can travel to each post with ease. Join me on this adventure and share your thoughts.

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Light ~ A Welsh Musing

 

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

 

My Welsh Musings began on March 1st. St David’s Day, with some thoughts scribbled on a sheet of paper. Here are those words given digital life – a new thread in this blog, which will evolve into a page, maybe a new Blog.

Tangled growth pierced by light. Light of the sky veiled by clouds. Clouds that drift, shifting the light upon the view.

A view that is more than dreamt of. Some moments the mountains are hidden, sometimes a glimpse of an escarpment or a peak. Out there where the snow catches the light is the mountain that lends the region its name. At this moment the clouds even mask the snow, letting the light settle on lower-lying upland swells.

Between distant mountains and the gentler land lies the estuary leading to the sea. Seagulls and crows soar towards us on the wind stirred currents. Spiralling over the trees, carving the air in graceful turns.

Birds dart among the trees, seeking food and mates in the tangled undergrowth. Birdsong fills the air, from dawn chorus to nocturnal calls. Robin hops across rocks that mark the edge where a wooden fence will support climbing roses.

Summer light will bring flower beds edging a patio creation. Days of sun that can already warm like our welcome to this wonderful new home. Neighbours offering willing arms, warm hearts and gifts to revive us after seven hours travelling. Cats wary of so many visitors, although curious about the woolly ones. But bravery has to come as doors are always opening at Pant Mawr.

For this is Wales, the land of dragons and blessings. The songs and words are in the light, the trees, the warmth, and the smiles. Even the sheep come down from the hills to dash around, pausing to pluck at grass and ornamental shrubs.

Welcome to Snowdonia and the mountain reaching for the light.

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Blogging a Dead Horse or an Ex-Parrot

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How do you keep blogging when you lack motivation and satisfaction? Do you ask yourself, why am I writing a blog? Who is out there waiting for the next captivating post?

Okay your blog will probably show how many people are following you and also how many times a page is viewed. I have 768 followers and I have got at the most 197 views – on one day in August 2013. But those followers include all those who follow my blog, plus my Facebook followers, those on Twitter and others. And the views include the times that I check my old posts when I’m not logged in. Do they include the times when I am logged in?

So it’s probably valuable information and stats – if you know how to read them correctly, and don’t get confused by false figures created by your own pingbacks. I don’t understand the minute detail and just get depressed looking at all the figures. They make we wonder if my blog is a dead horse or maybe an ex-parrot. [For those that understand, the answer is probably it’s “pining for the fjords” or simply “stunned”. Except it’s not Norwegian.]

I can see some pattern emerging as to which posts are viewed most – mainly the ones during the Indie Blog Party August 19-30 2013, plus a few posts referencing marketing strategies and my insecurities. My interviews with the characters of my first novel, Spiral of Hooves stirred some interest. But my posts during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge last month had a dozen views each, at most, with very few comments – some days none.

Does this mean that you want more insecure ramblings interspersed with the strategies of an unqualified novice? I’m not an expert on anything. My special subject is writing about other people after they have won some equestrian competition.

Maybe this blog needs to be put out to grass or stuffed – it would mean I’d have more time for writing fiction or gaming.

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Comments might be a guide to the blog’s health, if I can ignore the pingbacks again – each time I reference an old post, it becomes a comment – great. So this post is minimal with just one reference to another of my posts. But are comments relevant? I’ve read great posts with none, entertaining posts with numerous ones, and obscure weird minimalist posts with dozens. Mine just average two or three. Is there a magic formula?

Reading other blogs, I see that a specific theme can work, like book reviews, author interviews, or observations on the world outside.

Over to you readers and followers. How do you want to see this Blog evolve? What do you enjoy reading? I explored the options initially in Two Futures: Facts or Fiction back on January 18, with no conclusive suggestions.

Is it a dead horse or an ex-parrot? [Other animals bereft of life perhaps]

Or do I need more interviews with characters, or other writers, even riders? [Badminton winner, if I can reach him/her after the weekend.]

Or rant more about my insecurities and health? [Doing a backflip in my wheelchair on the front ramp.]

Should I be more selective in what I say, research less and save my words? [Small is beautiful.]

What do you think?

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This is my monthly post in the Insecure Writers Support Group day and I’m supposed to be offering encouragement. Maybe there will be some words of wisdom out there. I’m only number 207 among 320 other great bloggers. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want.

Winning formula for Badminton Horse Trials

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On Sunday 11th May the winner of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials will be decided after four days of intense CCI**** competition. Central to the winner’s success in this three phase competition will probably be the cross-country course designed by Giuseppe Della Chiesa, Badminton’s new designer – the first in 25 years.

But who are the prime contenders for the Badminton title? It takes years of training, dedication and great skill to succeed at the world’s most prestigious four star three-day. Sothere will be the “usual suspects”, including William Fox-Pitt on top form as winner of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at Lexington last weekend. This was William’s third Kentucky win, each one on a different horse. His 2012 winning ride, Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk is one of his rides at Badminton this year, and won Burghley in 2011. With two rides at Badminton, William will have to be a favourite.

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How's Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How’s Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

However, the field of 85 rides includes some notable previous winners, including equestrian legend and four times Badminton winner Mark Todd, GB Team stalwart Mary King, and Pippa Funnell – the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam (for consecutive wins at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley). There are also others in the field whose build-up may have given them and their rides a chance at the title. Of course injuries could also see some contenders fail to start – that is a risk with horses.

But not all of the riders and horses are likely winners, nor are they just making up the numbers. There are many other reasons for running. Some are aiming for a spot on their country’s team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy from August 23 – September 7, 2014 – the eventing is Thursday 28th-Sunday 31st August. For others this seems like a natural step in a horse’s career and could be the rider’s own Badminton debut. Many pony club riders dream of riding at Badminton and that dream may never die, even when it is fulfilled.

Many of the riders entered I know from my days as an equestrian journalist and photographer. A few I can remember competing at pony club trials, like Sophie Jenman, who is making her Badminton debut having done Burghley CCI**** in 2013. I used to write about her mother for local papers as she was a leading contender in the South East Eventers League, as were over a dozen of the riders.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

It’s a long road to Badminton and far from smooth. Portraying that struggle in realistic terms is difficult, and I hope in my novel “Spiral of Hooves” that I succeeded. Writing a Badminton winner was never my intention, but I wanted to set some scenes there. So over to my Badminton runners – why did you compete there?

Carly Tanner: When first asked about Badminton, I told a reporter that my mare Silver Torc is, “…fantastic and owes me nothing. If it wasn’t for her injury, we might have gone. Without a top horse, Badminton’s just a dream.” However, Gilles persuaded me that I was capable of riding there and realising my pony club ambition. I had to relent saying, “Okay. Torc and I have done a few three stars, so we need a challenge.” At that point I was unaware of where it would all lead.

Gilles Boissard: It should have been my dream but instead my competing at Badminton was driven by my father’s ambition of having bred a Canadian team horse. However, Carly told me when we walked the course, “That’s not you talking, that’s Roman’s pride. He doesn’t care about the means or the cost, just the result.” At that stage Carly was unaware of what pride and ambition would unleash.

So when the first horses do their dressage on Thursday 8th May 2014, keep your eyes on both the names like William Fox-Pitt, but also watch out for the outsiders and the hidden agendas. There might be a mystery there.