She loses her heart

This is a short poem inspired by fellow twitter poet, John Feaster whose original poem you can find here.


He came a courting to the door
With a smile as easy as could be
But my father’s face was set and stern
A fisherman was no match for me.

He whispered low so none could hear
And said to meet him on the strand.
When evening fell he was waiting there
And smiled his smile as he took my hand.

He took my hand and he took my heart
And he left on the tide in the wake of the tern.
Though I watch for the sail of his little boat
The mocking gulls cry that he’ll not return.


The author hot seat

To kick off my foray into the world of the author interview, I’m pleased to invite an old friend and fellow sufferer of Authonomy, Kate Jack. We swapped notes about fantasy writing before we ever tried to get published. Then we swapped rejection letters. Now we swap notes about promotion.
J: Kate, we know you write fantasy, and very good fantasy too. Could you tell us a bit about your work, its setting, and what provides your inspiration.
K: The first book in The Silver Flute Trilogy is called Land of Midnight Days. It’s a dystopian urban fantasy, set in a city not unlike my home town of Liverpool. The main protagonist is called Jeremiah Tully, who is a half Elwyn, half human musician, and to top it all, mute. The story takes the reader on a whirlwind journey, as Jeremiah tries to find out who he really is, and what purpose his musical gift holds.
The inspiration for the book came from staring out the window at work, at the famous art deco Littlewoods building. I remember thinking it would make a good scene for a story. I mulled the idea over for a while, gathering together other locations, such as Allerton Hall, a local mansion house, now converted into a pub/restaurant, and bombed out church, St Luke’s, in Liverpool city centre.

J: I was always struck by the originality of Jeremiah, your main character.
K: When I first thought up the character of Jeremiah, I wanted to make him a musician, but wasn’t sure what instrument he would play. Then one day I was listening to 70’s rock band Jethro Tull – and wham! That, and the Littlewoods building, gave me the impetuous to write the book.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? I’m told they can be very useful when it comes to marketing and promotion.
K: I did the usual rounds of agents and publishers, and came close to a publisher wanting to take the book on, but they pulled out. As for agents, it’s easier to get an interview with God than it is to interest them in your work. Regarding marketing, well unless you’re a best seller, publishers don’t really get involved. However, they’re quite a few eBook sites that will promote your book free of charge, or for a small fee.

J: Have you found any consumer resistance to your chosen genre?
K: Not really. Urban fantasy is now becoming a recognised genre.

J: I’m glad to hear you’re not tearing your hair out and asking: what am I? like some of us. You say that the burden of promotion almost always falls on the author. How do you get the word out?
K: I follow any links I find on Facebook for promotional sites such as: eBook soda, Awesome Gang, and so on

J: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?
K: Probably Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files. He also writes urban fantasy, with a touch of mythology thrown in for good measure.

J: Finally, is there any advice or experiences you’d like to pass on?
K: Don’t give up. It’s very easy to become disheartened, because writing is so competitive. Also, don’t rush your work, polish it until it shines. Nothing irritates me more than misspelling, bad grammar, and most of all the incorrect use of the words, “your” and “you’re. “ My experience as a writer has ranged from extreme highs, to the utter depths of despair. That said, if you’re not prepared to weather these storms, don’t become a writer.

I think we’d all agree with those words of common sense. Thank you, Kate for introducing us to your writing. You can find Kate’s books here: (Land of Midnight Days)

gloaming cover (Through the Gloaming)

read my review of Land of Midnight Days here

and catch up with Kate here: (Facebook page) (Website)

Wallflowers and drinking troughs

When I first started to write, I was living in Paris. What emerged were stories set mainly in London from where I had just moved, Yorkshire, where I grew up, and Ireland, the place of family holidays, memories, roots and history. They were about first loves, family, children— I was in the throes of starting my own family—and my first serious thoughts about what makes us what we are.

In Wicklow ©Harald Hansen
In Wicklow ©Harald Hansen

We moved from Paris to a quiet corner of Picardy. In the walled medieval town, 1.8 kilometres long and less than a kilometre at its widest point, there were 81 historic monuments. You tripped over historic monuments. Many of them were inhabited; many more were in ruins and in the process of being reclaimed by nature. Wild boar, deer, red squirrels and pine martens wandered into the gardens along the ramparts, mistaking the town for an extension of the surrounding woodland.

 Laon: Palais de Justice
Laon: Palais de Justice

My writing turned to Paris, the most recent part of our history, but was tinged with the light and textures of our new home. It was only today, walking past a clump of pink snapdragons growing out of a crack in the pavement, that I was put in mind of the way the walls of our old home were covered in yellow wallflowers (Christine Matthews). I remembered the soft, golden light, the wilderness that had crept up to the grey stone ramparts of the town, and the way we used to watch for signs of spring in the dark loam of the garden.

©Christine Matthews
©Christine Matthews

The south is different. The light is harsher, the heat thick and heavy. Flowers grow everywhere, on window ledges, balconies, around the trees by the roadsides. Hollyhocks push their way out of nothing, in the tiny cracks between house wall and paving stones, lining entire streets with their cottage garden prettiness. Saplings sprout out of old guttering, buddleia from the damp cracks behind drainpipes. Pansies, Jerusalem cherry, all kinds of mallow grow wild—bright, cultivated things, pretty but tame.


Looking back on how my writing has changed, I can see the influence of environment, and I wonder how I will be writing in ten years time. We absorb, possibly without even being aware of it, the light, the sounds and smells that surround us. The atmosphere shapes the way we see things, alters out state of mind. But it takes time to distil, in my experience at least. I don’t write about the immediate, but the immediate past, the sights and sounds that have been shunted into history because of a change in the immediate, the humdrum and banal.

I have started to wonder about those things that are now history: the walks along the coast at Dingle, or the Hill of Howth; holding laughing babies up to the fountains in Paris parks; taking small children to thrash through the goldenrod to paddle in the ruins of the royal cattle’s drinking troughs, or watch lizards disappearing into the wild wallflowers.

All those things found their way into my stories. Do we have to change, move on, keep our senses ever open to new experiences in order to find inspiration? Or do we reach a point where we go back to the beginning again in our writing, and recall, with hazy inexactitude, those golden summers and crisp winters receding into history? I’d like to think so.


There are just too many things going on inside my head. Dipping in and out of too many different worlds is bewildering and in the end unproductive. The world of The Green Woman is where I spend most of my time, but there are so many distractions. After running up against the buffers when I dismembered the first part of the next series, the distractions have looked even more interesting. It was fun rereading a story I wrote several years ago, and once I’d taken the plunge and taken it apart, rewriting the first volume rattled on at a fair lick.

As often happens though, finishing the job is much more difficult. All the bits that are left, the plot that has to go forward, the characters that I’d pulled out of the first part because they were in the way, all have to be written into a coherent story and given a satisfactory conclusion.

It seems so much easier to play with an idea for a short story than to get down to serious work. Those little ideas that hit me when I’m brushing my teeth, or rummaging in the pantry for the onions, are so tempting. Over the last fortnight I’ve been an enchanted swan, a woman losing her mind, a Saxon sentry, a corrupt diplomat and a Gothic chieftain. Each time the bit of fun has become engrossing to the point that the problems of plot holes and discordance of chronology in the novel I’m rewriting have disappeared off the radar.

Next week I should have the first editorial suggestions for volume two of The Green Woman trilogy. So I will be back to battling with ‘the banality of evil’ in Providence. There are also the in-world stories to prepare for publication, more evil, flying horses and possessed children. And people wonder why I can’t get excited about a new breakfast cereal.


The birth of a story

Recently I have been writing short fiction. The first story evolved after jotting down a very strange but vivid dream I had; the second was in response to a magazine’s themed submission call. The next two stories were also written based on a one-word theme suggested by a magazine. Not that I submitted either of them; they were far too long by the time they were finished, but I suppose you either write with a word limit in the back of your mind, or you keep going until the story’s told. I then went on to write a story from a phrase that I thought would make a good title that had been trotting around in my head for years, then another from an image, a girl walking barefoot on a beach.

Looking at all my stories, a pattern emerges: they all grew out of a single idea, a snapshot image or a good line. Sometimes it is a visual image like the girl on a beach, or a small boy stuck on an escalator. Sometimes it has been an idea, the exhibition of human remains in a museum, for example.

It made me wonder what creative process was at work here, and whether other writers functioned in the same way. Do we need something to jolt the creative impulse, a mere germ of an idea that once it is set down in black and white unfolds all by itself into a whole new world? Or do we do our research as the books suggest, fix on a market, aim at an age group, target a popular trend? Can that single, vivid first line become just the first step on a journey that will cover a whole series of books?

How do you create a story? Do you get an idea that encompasses the entire arc from that first, catchy opening line, to a satisfying end? Do you start like I do with a random image or a nicely turned phrase?