When I have writer’s block

I have only realised recently that, when I have writer’s block, it’s not because I am not focused on my story, but because I am too focused. If there is pressure to write, I simply can’t do it. The words jam in my mind like a blocked drain, with water building up and straining to bursting point. The best words come to me at the most inconvenient times; usually as I am just dropping off to sleep, out and about with friends, at work, or in the middle of doing a hundred different jobs. They come to me in a furious flurry, driving into my head until I can’t ignore them anymore, and have to write them down. Then they shimmer on the page, and my mind rages as inspiration begins to flow. Writer’s block is like a river dam, broken down only by a sudden gush of uncontrollable revelation.

When I’m away with the fairies – making up random characters in my head, giving them personalities and emotions, relationships and secrets – that’s when the cogs in my mind begin to turn. When I’m in a world of my own, daydreaming, night dreaming, half-listening whilst scribbling doodles absentmindedly, the cogs are turning, cooking up new adventures for my naïve characters. Creating enemies and lovers, trustworthy friends and unruly scallywags. When my mind begins to slip . . . ever so slightly . . . down the rabbit hole . . . that’s when everything becomes shiny and exotic. The slumbering adjectives and verbs begin to rouse, the thisckles and scillywocks awaken, and the mythical creatures and angry tyrants stretch and yawn. Myths and legends solidify to truth, the adventurers line up at the starting mark, and the story begins.

The universe was hers to hold, little did she know…

The universe was hers to hold, little did she know

Hers to mould and shape

The world would reform at her command

Reform, or crack and break

But she lost it to another, whose hand was mightier still

And he threw the earth to ruin

And spat on the lands until

 

She returned with a force

So powerful and bright

And called it the sun

And the moon at night

To guard the world from all peril

Demons and shadows borne from the devil

 

And the mighty one hid between the cracks

In the lava and smoke above land

But there he was spied, too late to hide

And was banished by her towering hand

 

To a place of hate and sorrow

A place of trickery and blight

Until the day of reckoning

The day he saw the light

When she flew to him from the ashes

Of a war he had wreaked one night

 

She grasped his steely hand

And flew low under skies of red

Soaring over trees and mountaintops

Littered with bodies of the dead

 

This is your doing, this is your world

To the heavens she roared

To the seas she hurled

Words of anger, words to scare

Words to force thought, words to make him care

 

But care he could not, for his heart was stone

And so she saw, he could not be alone

So placing him down on the edge of the land

Staring into the abyss, she took his hand

 

A life like no other, a life like this…

She gestured her arm away

To a land touched by the devil’s kiss

This was your vision, this was your dream

To rule from the skies, to command unseen

But you failed to deliver

Failed to commit

And thus your world is destroyed, and you with it

 

Here now we stand, together but apart

In the hopes of recovery, and a new start

Of building a legacy from an era of pain

But it can be done, as before when I came

And created the sun, the moon and the stars

To watch over earth, and heal its scars

 

Together we can rule, together we can fly

Together we can create and love, you and I

Harmony is all I ask

So, will you accept this task?

 

Know that I am patient, know that I am strong

Know that I will never give up, and that I am never wrong

For I am the goddess of wonder and starlight, of light and majesty and peace

I am the one who guides this world, and all the universe apiece

 

My eye sees beyond this world to the next, and everything within

It sees the war and destruction, and everything akin

It sees you amongst people, walking and building homes

It sees you loving and pleasing, smiling and writing tomes

For you will lead again, my friend

You will shine and dance

Because I can transform you to brilliance

If you would only give me a chance

 

Say yes to me now and the world is saved

Say no and it is doomed

Give me your word and your heart my friend, and the way forward is paved

For I am the goddess of twilight, the goddess of dawn and dew

And I pledge to help, my friend, to remove the darkness from you

 

Slowly he faced her, red eyes gleaming in the dark

A single tear rolled down a blackened cheek

The whispering groan of a breaking heart

The choice has been made, he growled, offering his lethal claw

Do with me what you will, I have a care no more

 

She held his hand gently, like a damaged and fragile thing

And bowing her head low, softly began to sing

The darkness vanished, replaced with dazzling light

The hand was clear, unmarked of any plight

Stand tall my friend, for you are anew

You have changed your ways, you will live as true

 

Tall and proud, there stood he

Made for goodness, made to be free

For the evil was banished, gone, destroyed

Leaving only a shell, a puppet to be toyed

And she took his hand and whispered a word

Then guided him away, to a place unheard

To live once more, in a land of love

In a land of starlight and wonder

Cast down from the universe above

Eternally Walking

She walks and walks, tirelessly, endlessly, eternally. The places she walks differ, but her stride never breaks. Through forests she treks, leaves brushing her face with every step. They caress her skin, smooth and moist, invigorating her, energising her, replenishing her. She breathes in, inhaling the musky scents of the flowers; sniffs the fragrances of the other plants further away, bringing with them pleasant whiffs of ecstasy.

Only there for a second, leaving her wishing for more, but more pleasurable with each return. The hum of insects and twitter of birds is the sweetest music, and when she opens her mouth and sings with them, her voice is just as sweet to the ear, and equally as powerful. The wildlife stops, listens, and joins in; it is a Forestry Orchestra. She only sees the participants in glimpses, as they dart among the trees in flashes of electric blue, deep red, bright yellow and vivid orange.

She is entering a clearing now, and walks towards a pool of water in the centre. She stops singing, and the Orchestra ceases. Closing her eyes, she balances, her toes on the edge of the pool, pivoting on her heels but retaining her balance. Her arms are outstretched gracefully, and with a deep breath she opens her eyes and stares at the crystal clear water. Sky blue eyes stare straight back at her, determinedly, forcefully, daringly. She blinks, the reflection blinks too. She smiles, and the reflection follows suit. She laughs and waits… the smile falters, disappears. She is alone. Eternally alone in Paradise.

***

He walks and walks, determinedly, unceasingly, and everlastingly. For as long as he can remember he has walked; through icy realms with blustery mountain ledges, jagged spikes of cobalt glacial ice lurking a foot away from where he struggles. The wind makes his face red and raw, then blue and numb. He hears nothing but the howling wind, screaming and wailing in anguish. He makes no sound, never opens his mouth for fear that the icy tendrils will enter and consume him. Onward he treads, slowly but steadily, always walking, never pausing, his eyes squinted against the ferocious gales.

He meets no one; he has not met anyone in many years. Time is nothing but a concept now, eating and sleeping are mere fantasies. His road is treacherous, but he never thinks about turning around. He must continue, through the lashing daggers of rain, the blinding blizzards and the perilous drop over the edge… He is beginning to feel tired; he has never felt tired before, and it scares him that he should feel weaker. But something urges him on; he senses something ahead, something good. He is not sure what he will find at the end of his journey, but he knows it is good.

Then through the suffocating snowstorm he glimpses something. A faint light, but a light nonetheless, shining through the storm. Wrapping his arms closer to his chest he speeds up, determined to reach the light. He turns a corner on the mountain, and the blizzard is gone. In shock, he stops for the first time in forever, and looks up, confused. Ahead is a great plain of dry land, and beyond that a great forest towering high in the sky. He squints at it for a second in the brightness, before raising his hand to block the dazzling sunlight and, never looking back, begins to walk.

***

They walk and walk; she through miles of moist, tangled jungle, him over miles of dust-coated, cracked earth. They have walked for hundreds of miles, never stopping, never looking behind, never wondering what lay at the end of their journeys. Only the feeling deep within, urging them on through any dangers they face, helping them find extra strength when they feel weak, and most importantly, giving them hope and ensuring that they are constantly moving. Days stretch into nights which stretch into days which are once more enveloped by night. Onward they tread, unknowingly and unsuspectingly, but hopefully.

***

Many suns and moons pass and suddenly it is a day like every other. The forest is alive and humid and the sun is up and burning. The two are still walking; her treading daintily over a carpet of grass, moss, and roots, searching for another crystal clear pool. Maybe this time she will find what she has been looking for. The hopeful feeling inside her is growing, and she smiles as she walks.

Him trudging heavily over the sun baked and deadened desert soil. Not even sparing a glance at the tempting shadow-infusing boulders. He is lagging, more now than ever. But he is not far from the wall of greenery; his pores are straining for the damp air between the trees, the elongated shadows of the towering trees, the refreshing spring water he senses, tantalisingly close now, after a lifetime of a journey.

***

The walk is coming to a close. They both feel it, know it. But they do not know what will end their journeys. Another feeling has begun to grow alongside the hope now; apprehension. The climax has begun. She walks faster now, tiptoeing no longer, pacing sure-footedly over bark and pebbles. She is near the next pool. The last pool.

***

He steps into the forest and breathes a sigh of relief, his skin absorbing the damp, hydrating air. He shed his furs and coats weeks ago, at the beginning of the desert. Now he strips off another layer, dropping it where he stands, and walking barefoot and bare-chested, disappears into the beckoning forest.

***

She is hurrying now, gliding through the bushes, paying no attention to the direction she flies, only knowing that it is the right way. Right then left then straight then left again; leaving the Forestry Orchestra behind. An unknown force propels her forwards, and perspiration explodes from her pores as she pushes forwards through a great curtain of leaves. Then she sees it; a shimmering, glistening, iridescent blue. It seems to call to her, summoning her to its calming presence.

He has sped up now, the forest air revitalising him, giving him the last strength he needs to complete his journey. Suddenly, out of the myriad of green he spies a flash of silver. His breath catches in his parched throat and he almost stops in shock. An overwhelming feeling of something unnameable is overpowering him. Perhaps it is the feeling of completion. Cautiously, he slows to a walk, picking his way through the undergrowth, never taking his eyes from the snatch of silver. The shining beacon of hope.

***

She is so close to the pool now, all she has to do is step forward one last time. She stands almost on the edge, but still she cannot see her reflection. One more step. But she does not dare, she cannot be disappointed again. So she stands motionless, tears falling down her cheeks, unsure for the first time in her life.

He can see the pool now, in all its sparkling splendour. Licking his broken lips he pushes aside the final branches of the surrounding trees and steps into the clearing. The pool is there, metres away, but instead of rushing forwards, he stops. His eyes widen, someone is there already.

***

Her back is to him, her shoulders hunched and shaking slightly. She feels the dooming sensation of loss begin to overcome her all over again.

He watches her silently for a minute. Why does she not take that last step? Then he realises what he must do. Padding into the clearing, he moves to her side, not looking at her face, and holds out his hand.

***

She feels his presence immediately as he stands by her side, but she does not look up. She waits, the feeling of loss being taken over by a new feeling of anticipation. His hand moves from his side, angles towards her, and stops, waiting. As if on its own, her hand begins to tilt, palm outwards, and moves away from her side towards him. His hand reacts, and as their fingertips touch, the feeling of anticipation is replaced by a feeling of reassurance. Hands locked together, they take a simultaneous deep breath, and step forwards.

***

Two faces greet them, as they stand looking into the pool. One with bright blue eyes, peering out of a pale, tear-streaked face. The other, sunburned and chapped. Their toes balance on the edge of the pool, millimetres away from the life-giving liquid beneath them. The toes wiggle, and the reflections blink together. Two smiles begin to appear, transforming the life-weathered faces. Their pasts are gone, their journeys forgotten; they have the rest of eternity to live for, together.

Together We Fall, Together We Fly

Hold on to me tight, and we’ll fall away into oblivion

We will soar over the edge of the world, and leave the Earth behind

We will fly where even the skies and seas cannot follow

Where the stars glitter closeby, and the blackness shrouds us from harm

I promise to protect you, if only you will come with me…

Book Review: Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1), Christina Henry

This is an unusual post for me as I don’t tend to write book reviews, despite having a rather extensive Goodreads account. However, the novel I have just finished deserves more than a simple shout out. It deserves to be hailed from the rooftops! Flown across the skies! Spread by messenger bottle, carrier pigeon, deep-sea submarine, or whatever method of transport will take this story to every nook and cranny on the globe!

However, not being a superhero (to my knowledge) means that a book review on my little corner of the internet may have to suffice for now.

Behold ‘Alice’, the most horrific adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy adventure that you will ever lay your hands upon. I will keep this review spoiler free, so it will be short and sweet, but if anyone would like to discuss the book further, do send me a note! This novel is a MUST READ. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, which says something considering I’ve just finished four years of studying literature. I have read many Stephen King horror/thriller novels, but other than those, I usually stick to fantasy and adventure stories. That being said, I could never resist a fairy-tale adaptation, so I was extremely curious to discover this new, bad-ass Alice.

The book was creepy, disturbing, horrific… and absolutely enthralling. From the outset the reader is plunged into a gritty, terrifying, and quite frankly disgusting world of the ‘Old City’. Following Alice and Hatcher through the gang-led territories, and stumbling across awful creatures each more gruesome and disturbed than the last, had me hooked until the very end. I was totally invested in the character journeys as Alice and Hatcher found not only their true selves, but rediscovered their past selves through the cruel assistance of the Old City puppeteers. Alongside realising their complicated pasts, Christina Henry intertwines her dystopic world with clever and witty references and links to the original Alice in Wonderland. It is with grim enjoyment that we recognise characters much darker and disturbed than the bizarre but non-threatening personalities in Carroll’s original. ‘Alice’ is by no means a fairy-tale (if anything it was a nightmare) yet it was engrossing to read, and I for one can’t wait to read the sequel book: ‘Red Queen’.

Fields of Gold

This was one of those rare days of spontaneity, the types of days I don’t embark on too often. Probably not often enough. It also happened to be my birthday, which meant the prospect of adventure was even more enthralling. On this day, I decided to go to a park, one i’d never visited before. To do this day I don’t remember the name, but I think perhaps that doesn’t matter. The ambiguity of a thing’s existence makes it all the more magical.

Cool, shady woodland shielded us from the sunbeams, as we danced through the dappled air, climbing up muddy inclines, and sliding down the other side just quickly enough to feel a little giddy. A stream meandered along nearby, growing wider and wider until the trees broke into a stretch of canal. Cyclists zoomed by, reveling in the swift airflow as we clambered over the canal bridges, looking down to see two goofy smiles twinkling back at us from the crystalline water below. We did not follow the canal long though, and, favouring the refuge of the leafy canopy, ventured back into the woods on a trail much less traveled. Here, the path was faint, nothing more than an animal trail. Oddly placed rocks, almost perceivable as steps, teased us as we attempted to find our way. Up and up we climbed, along a windy route, over twisted roots, under low-hanging branches, until we reached a wire mesh border. We looked left and right to see nothing but miles of trees all crammed together, pressed against the wire. In the distance ahead lay a multitude of houses, each with extensions stretching out to devour the meadows. No man’s land. Just along the horizon though, halfway between us and them, lay a peculiar band of yellow. We squinted, leaning over the barrier until our fingers were indented with mesh print. We looked at each other, there was only one way forward.

One conveniently-placed tree stump later and a slightly wobbly landing, we had landed in the meadow. Our feet were greeted by spongy, flat terrain, and we bounced along the tufts, the golden band looming ever closer. All at once we were in the midst of a sea of yellow. A thousand specs of sunshine nodded towards us in a wave of welcome. The houses forgotten, I sat down among the cluster of petals. They were like tiny pieces of sunshine, scattered around the field just waiting for someone to wander in and be overwhelmed by their magnificence. Pure, natural, floral brilliance. This was one of those moments, one of those moments of complete and utter happiness. For some time we sat, bathed in nature’s golden glow, warm, happy, content. Then the clouds began to draw in, and it was time to leave our shimmering meadow. Back across the field, into the woods, down the rocky steps, along the canal… and all at once, reality again.

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Sometimes it’s necessary to jump a fence or two to find the real magic

Reality is a strange concept really. What is real and what is fantasy? Where do the boundaries meet, overlap, overflow one into the other?  Is it simply judged by the limits of our imagination, or is it more than that? There have been many guesses, leading to many interesting and complex universal inquiries, but no real answers. All I know is, I am quite willing to allow my imagination to whisk me away from the present whenever it feels the need. I love seeing something totally normal – an object, utensil, building – and turning it into something fantastical. I love to stand on the tops of mountains, or deep in forests, or even in bustling market places, and imagine that I live in a parallel world where everything is bathed in a dystopic or utopic madness. Perspective is a wonderful thing, but just because I choose to view the world in a fantastical light does not mean everyone should. However, I believe that as long as pockets of real fantasy remain in the world, celebrated by those who have that rare vision, then magic will survive.

The Motorway of Magic

Have you ever seen a double-rainbow? Probably, in fact, i’d be surprised if you hadn’t. How about a full rainbow, not just half an arc, but the full semi-circle? Those are quite special to behold, especially when the colours are vibrant and sparkling. But also, not too unusual. Cast your mind to the rainbows you have seen, although the memories may be as fleeting as the colourful spectrum momentarily splayed across the sky.

Now, imagine…

…Driving along a rain-washed motorway, when out of nowhere a rainbow leaps into the road in front of you. Your eyes widen, and you look up, only to see another colourful crescent beaming across the horizon right in your path. You shake your head, and there’s another to your left, the colours dancing in unison with the arc to your right. With every metre the car speeds on the rainbows blaze, fading and returning faster than you can turn your head, transforming the blue sky into a kaleidoscopic fantasia. Every spray of water from the road throws up hues and shades, the rubber tyres giving a fleeting breath of life to a paradisiacal mirage, each one disappearing into the spray within a blink. Perhaps another world exists between the bands of the double-rainbow, in that peculiar space between which seems to shimmer, not quite earthly, not quite alien.

You are in awe. It is magical. It could be magic. The sun and rain merge together in an entirely explainable way, yet the phenomenon they produce creates something utterly fantastical. You breathe deeply. It could be a fantasy world colliding with ours, shaking the very air with its majesty and might, sending the airwaves into a tumultuous flurry of confusion. It could be the Gods of Asgard battling to the death, swords clashing, spraying out angry flares of light as we drive unawares, below the raging skies of war. It could be an explosion of dragon-fire bursting into our world through the cracks in the clouds, made invisible to us by the sunbeams streaming over the ground. It could be a million shooting stars, falling into the atmosphere and sprinkling the world with brilliance and delight, coating us in ephemeral perfection.

 

Or it could simply be a motorway, slick with rain, bedazzled by the sun.