A gift of dreams – a short story for Christmas

I’m not that much into Christmas. I’ll therefore let my blogger friend Andrea deliver to you a bit of magic this Christmas Eve.

Harvesting Hecate

My food ran out days ago and there’s no prospect of rescue up here at the top of the world. I try to put up my tent, but the arctic wind bludgeons and tears at the fabric. My compass is gone, my GPS is behaving strangely and the whiteout obliterates the stars. I no longer know which direction to walk in. The next time I fall, I stay there, slumped in the snow, ready to give in to sleep at last.

I drift, watching flurries of snow dart past my goggles. The snowstorm cancels out any differences in the landscape. When my eyes close it’s darker, but that’s the only difference, it seems, between being awake or asleep.

There is something tugging me. Something rough and insistent. I try to shrug it off but it gives me no rest. I open my eyes to a blur of dark movement. It…

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I thought a few of you might like to see this excellent blog post describing the celebration of Lucia, the Bringer of Light. It is chiefly celebrated in Sweden and is told by Annika Perry.

Annika Perry's Writing Blog

My Three Lucia Figurines

TODAY (13th December) nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant in Sweden is celebrating LUCIA.

Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.

Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.

Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head…

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A visit to Gorey, Jersey

A quiet December day, I’ve been de-selected from jury service. Go back to work maybe? Nah. I’ll take a walk and – in particular – pay a visit to Mont Orgueil, something I haven’t done for years. And fair play to them for opening all year round. Times past, Jersey basically shut down from October to March, its money made from the summer tourists. Those days have gone.

Gorey became a fortress town 800 years ago. As relations improved with France over the centuries its strategic position fell away. Oyster farming became a big industry and source of employment, until the oyster beds were dredged out. Shipbuilding took its place, until steam overtook sail.

Today Gorey is probably as quiet a place as it has been for 100 years. Let’s take a look.

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Secondary Characters

Like a bad penny you turned up in the change

In any novel that we read or write there will most likely be a protagonist and an antagonist. You may end up with more than one protagonist, especially where there are different threads or stories throughout the novel. In Supply and Demand there are three clear protagonists.

Your antagonist may be a single person or entity. There might be one antagonist, or a group of some sort. Or your antagonist might indeed be ephemeral. In Supply and Demand it might be said that the entire human trafficking industry, or perhaps a section of it, acts as the protagonist in the story.

Then you have your secondary characters – those who act as facilitators and who add colour and context to the narrative. A question to the writers out there. What becomes of your secondary characters? Do they fade and disappear when their part in your story is done? Or do they resonate with you so strongly that they turn up later in your writing? Like a bad penny.Bad penny

Tess Reitzel née Picot was one of four main characters in A Jersey Midsummer Tale. During that long, hot day four became three, then two. But when the story was done Tess kept calling to me. ‘Tell my story,’ she called. And so I did in Tess of Portelet Manor.
Similarly in A West Cork Mystery one of my protagonists started off in a Darwin (Australia) bar. There he was given a helping hand by a hard-bitten, blonde barmaid. Chantilly lasted for a chapter. But she deserved a bigger part as I pondered in this post. Finally she got what she deserved as one of my three protagonists in Supply and Demand.

platinum blonde

Chantilly maybe?

So, to the writers, have you ever – without pre-planning – found a future role for a secondary character who you previously threw away?

Some stormy nights your memory haunts me
You won’t go away
(Rory Gallagher)

Supply and Demand

‘Me and my mother and the babies, we live in a hut, in a room, next to the canal. We have nothing. We only wish for my father to come and live with us again. You see my foot?’ She pointed to her left foot. Startled, Dilawar now saw she had only four toes. ‘One night when I was small, a rat ate my little toe in the night. That is how we live. But it is OK. I am good at selling flowers.’

It was in 2011 that I watched the documentary The Day My God Died. I blogged about it shortly thereafter. Seven years later, after a number of false starts, my story inspired by the film sees the light of day.

dfw-rm-sad-cover-3dIt’s not a book that you may wish to read. It’s disturbing though not graphic. But, knowing that – as individuals – we are powerless to halt human trafficking, I felt impelled to write on the subject. If it helps to raise awareness then who knows, it might do some good.

Kindle e-book at the moment, paperback to follow shortly.
United Kingdom – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07KV4SJX9
United States – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KV4SJX9
India (where much of the story is set) – https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07KV4SJX9

I Hate This Bit

The story’s written. It’s been beta read. Edits and minor re-writes done. I’ve proofread it to death (and still finding the odd blooper on the fifth read-through). I could almost recite the 66,000 words if asked. Now to turn my Word document into a mobi file for Kindle. ‘Simple’ you cry.

DSCN0476DSCN0477So where did my page breaks go? What happened to my line spacing? I need chapters to begin on new pages. I need dialogue not to have spaces.

Yes I know. There are dozens of ‘how to’ articles out there. A child could fix it in minutes. The thing is, my brain shuts down at any onset of tricky technology. Reading ‘how to’ articles bewilders me more than ever.

Which is odd really. I was there at the dawn of office technology. A former employer proudly trumpeted that our accounts department was now computerised, as a selling point. No more Kalamazoo cards. I took to desktop computing as a duck to water, happily backing up each night onto floppy disks (when they were really floppy).floppy disk

With my colleagues I watched in awe as our Mark 1 facsimile machine sent its first document to New York. It took ten minutes, and we marvelled that the recipients were able to read it right away.

fax macine

It was a bit like this one.

I was there when the boss gave the secretary a thick, ribbon-bound document with instructions to email it to another office – he’d heard we’d installed this wondrous new invention that could do it.

I was there when the boss excitedly showed me something new called a spreadsheet which could add a row of figures in an instant. (Whatever happened to Supercalc?)Dilbert spreadsheet

See, I can cope to a degree having worked in offices and seen technologies come and go. (I mean, does anyone use a fax machine any more?) I’ve used Word, Excel etc. every day of my working life – at least since they became commonplace. But at a basic level. Anything beyond basic and my brain shuts down.

So I’ll battle on with the formatting. I’ll get there eventually, by trial and error. You can expect to see Supply & Demand available in a week or two. In Kindle anyway. Formatting for print will be a further battle.

Supply and Demand – cover reveal

Two young women from a remote Nepal village, full of happy hopes and dreams, are kidnapped and trafficked to work as sex slaves in Sonagachi, Kolkata’s notorious red-light district. One of them, Chameli, tells her story. Chameli’s younger brother sets off on a quixotic rescue mission only to find himself fighting to survive on the city’s streets. Meanwhile, an Australian student arrives in Kolkata with idealistic intent, determined to help young sex slaves if she can. Can there be a rare happy and life-affirming ending to this story of the world’s most inhumane trade?dfw-rm-sad-cover-3d

November Eve in Ireland

The pagan feast of Samhain – the last night of October – marked the end of the harvest and the arrival of winter. It was also understood to be a time when the boundary between the world we are familiar with, and the Otherworld, could most easily be crossed. The Otherworld is where the fairies/gentry/little people/good people of Old Ireland dwell. They were the ancient race, the Tuatha De Danann, who were banished underground many centuries ago having been defeated in battle.

Fairy mound authorpiblair.com

The poet and author WB Yeats says* ‘This night they (the fairies) dance with the ghosts, and the pooka is abroad, and witches make their spells, and girls set a table with food in the name of the devil, that the fetch (apparition) of their future lover may come through the window and eat of the food.’

WBYeats medium.com

Lady Jane Wilde - sheroesofhistory.wordpress.con

Lady Jane Wilde (sheroesofhistory.wordpress.com)

And Lady Jane Wilde, mother of Oscar** ‘It is esteemed a very wrong thing to be about on November Eve, minding any business, for the fairies have their flitting then, and do not like to be seen, or watched; and all the spirits come to meet them and help them. But mortal people should keep at home, or they will suffer for it; for the souls of the dead have power over all things on that one night of the year; and they hold a festival with the fairies, and drink red wine from the fairy cups, and dance to fairy music till the moon goes down’.

The only entrances to the Otherworld are via fairy forts, or raths. These abound in Ireland, in all parts of the country. They vary in size and prominence, are generally circular and are often covered with hawthorn. And, even to this modern day, it is considered most unwise by many Irish people to plough or disturb these raths in any way.

Farmers leave them undisturbed, the way they have been for centuries. Planners of roads and other developments take great care to avoid a rath wherever possible. It is said that extreme bad luck will befall anyone who disturbs a rath.

Cappeen Ringfort, Co Cork

Capeen Ringfort, Co Cork

Famously, one of Ireland’s richest businessmen, Sean Quinn, saw his empire collapse and he filed for bankruptcy in 2011. This after he had an ancient burial tomb moved to extend a quarry.

And in 1999 workers downed tools and refused to uproot a lone hawthorn bush. The Ennis by-pass was re-routed and the hawthorn bush remains.

Ardnamagh, Co Meath

Ardnamagh, Co Meath

I couldn’t, of course, resist writing about such a rath in A West Cork Mystery. Well, would you defy the fairies and disturb their home? You’re braver than I.

* Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry

** Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland. Read this online now.