Lucky Seven Meme: I got tagged …

manuscript
Photo credit: El Chupacabrito

So I got tagged by Gillian of skybluepinkish …

She’s posted 7 sentences from her current manuscript, “The Dorothy Summer” (check it out), and now it’s my turn:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating!
  • Tag 7 other authors to do the same

Most of my stuff is less than seven pages (I put up a fresh short story nearly every week at “Stories from the Borders of Sleep“). However, with minimal preamble, here are the seven sentences beginning from the seventh line from the seventh page of my most advanced work-in-progress, a phantasy novelette entitled, “The Coat and Ring”.

Like a man who has been in the sun all day and who through the night gives off the radiance of what he has absorbed, I felt a strong glow from him. It was impossible to tell his age for his skin was well weathered by the elements rather than age, and he gave off an air of rude health. As he looked at me, I also had the impression that he was about to pounce on me and overpower me in a playful attack, like a young cub intent on tussling one of his brothers into submission.

I introduced myself and asked how he came to be there at Terence’s table on this particular night. I wished to discover if Terence had a continuous traffic of guests to whom the same attentive hospitality was shown or if I had stumbled into some sort of occasional celebration.

Selwyn looked at me with slight amusement under his moustache once again and took a few moments to answer me, as if he was weighing whether to play a joke on me or not.

Delightfully random …

So I’m handing the baton on to a few of my favourite writer bloggers (who may or may not appreciate being tagged), but I recommend you check them out anyway:

Valerie Storey at http://valeriestorey.blogspot.co.uk

James Tallet at http://thefourpartland.com

Rolando Garcia at http://phantomimic.weebly.com

Mandy Eve Barnett at http://mandyevebarnett.wordpress.com

Curtiss Ann Matlock at http://curtissannmatlock.com

Marly Youmans at http://thepalaceat2.blogspot.co.uk

Lisa Wright at http://wrightales.com

Amberr Meadows at http://www.amberrisme.com

Google Insights: Fairies decline in popularity but trolls and goblins are on the rise

Every now and then I drop into “Google Insights” to take the pulse of popular opinion. Today I thought I’d see what the state of play is with the relative popularity of mythical creatures.

Not surprisingly, fairies rule. But, not for much longer? While gnomes hold a steady baseline there seems to be a rising interest in trolls and goblins. In fact, if they joined forces they could push the fairies into obscurity any day now. The vulnerability of fairies is shown in a distinct downward trend in their popularity over the last six years – at least as far as Google searches are concerned.

Should we be worried about these developments? What do you think?

I’m rooting for the little green guys and their under-bridge dwelling allies, to be honest, but where do their hopes lie?

A quick look at the breakdown by country shows that is is in South Africa that the goblins are finding their strongest support and, oddly enough, the Belgians don’t give a stuff about fairies and prefer gnomes by a long way.

It would also seem that, according to some school children, goblins have been making trouble in Zimbabwe lately.

If you fancy hearing a story about the war between the fairies and the goblins that took place simultaneously with one of our world wars you can have a listen to the story, “Two Handkerchiefs” at Stories from the Borders of Sleep.

Bedside Books: His and Hers

This morning I noticed that my wife and I have a tendency to stack a pile of books next to our beds. I also have a tendency to analyse people by their bookshelves. I have a rude habit of making for people’s bookshelves when I visit them in order to see the sort of thing they are into. There is probably a whole science to this for those that care to develop one. One of the many great things about the 1980s was Lloyd Grossman on ITV’s “Through the Keyhole”, a programme which had Lloyd exploring the houses of famous people, trying to guess “who would live in a house like this?”

So join me as we go “through the keyhole” and take a look at our bedside book-stacks …

His

His

The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter – I got this for Christmas and it’s my next read, a group biography of JR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Charles Williams and writers of their ilk who used to hang out at The Eagle and Child in Oxford.
Bulfinch’s Mythology – For dipping into at bedtime for dream material. I’m working through the Norse section at the moment.
Subterranean by James Rollins – I read about six pages and couldn’t bear the writing style so it’s here to remind me to return it to the owner.
Hindu Scriptures  tr./ed.  Robert Charles Zaehner – I have been meaning to tackle this for a while having read around Hinduism quite a lot, I particularly want to read the Upanishads.
Strength to Love by Martin Luther King – This is wonderful for dipping into, inspiring and crammed with MLK’s powerful rhetoric and memorable turns of phrase.
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny – Classic SF book borrowing heavily from Hindu mythology. Very good. It’s here to remind me to return it to the owner.
Curating Worship by Jonny Baker – Another book waiting to go back to its owner. I think it has been influential. I read it and was a bit “meh”.
Vegan with a Vengance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz – Another one for dipping into, not as much for the recipes (which are great) as for Isa’s punk infused anecdotes.
English Grammar for DummiesGrammar is the main thing that keeps me awake at night so this is here for me to check stuff and get back to sleep.

Hers

Hers

Breakout by Mark Stibbe and Andrew Williams – An account of missional communities based from St. Andrew’s Chorley Wood.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership by Kate Coleman – Recommended to my wife by her spiritual director. Apparently it is very good. I can’t get over the title.
Restoring Your Spiritual Passion by Gordon MacDonald – I have read some of this author and he’s pretty helpful.
The Acts of The Apostles by Jimmy Dunn – My wife is doing a Masters in Theology and Ministry and was taught by Jimmy as an undergraduate.
The Vision and the Vow by Pete Grieg – I think this is a book about “boiler rooms”, centres of prayer in UK cities.
The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan – Presumably an appropriate bedtime read, I don’t know.
Overcoming Fear, Anxiety and Worry by Elyse Fitzpatrick – My wife does a lot of pastoral work and is constantly looking to learn and improve.
One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing – Rescuing dogs in Afghanistan. I don’t think she has read this one yet but I have my eye on it, too.
Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson – I’m not sure what this is about but Eugene Peterson is one of the few Christian authors I can stomach.
Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – Classics, I believe, lent by a friend.
World Without End by Ken Follett – Historical fiction. She is working her way through Follett at the moment.

So …

What is by your bed and why, and what does it say about you?

Review: The Man Who Was Magic by Paul Gallico

The Man Who Was Magic The Man Who Was Magic by Paul Gallico
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What would happen if one day a genuine magician with real magic came to a city of illusionists who live entirely in a world of artifice and sleight of hand?

This is one of the very few books that I have read more than once. It left a very deep impression on me the first time round, aged 13 or so, and not just because I got some sort of fictional-character-crush on the girl in the story. It was my first exposure to Paul Gallico’s profound gift for the allegorical and, with hindsight, I have to acknowledge that it must have shaped my impressionable mind in a very significant way.

The fact that first I read this book at a fairly young age demonstrates the universal appeal and accessibility of the writing, but having the opportunity to re-read it nearly 20 years later I found still more delight and depth in the telling of the tale although it was very much shorter than I remember it being. For a book that looms so large in my memory and imagination, I was surprised to re-read it in a single evening.

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The Best of Borders of Sleep

Borders of Sleep Artwork is by Robyn Trainer

Since the beginning of March this year I have been podcasting my short stories/fables/fairytales as “Stories from the Borders of Sleep“. It has been pretty exciting to see the listnership grow as we (that’s me and my producer, Tim, and Illustrator, Robyn)  have started to put new episodes out on a fortnightly basis.

There are a variety of stories to be found on the Borders of sleep, from autobiographical sketches to fantasy and reworked fables and fairytales. There is a loose underlying theme of dreaming and the blurring between real and imagined or dreamed realities in all the stories.

Looking at the stats, it appears that our listnership has recently been doubling every week. This morning we just crossed the 3000 downloads threshold. We have plans for the future …

The next step is to move from fortnightly to weekly podcasts. This will be a great challenge to creatively sustain. In the future, I would also like to look at showcasing the work of other authors whose work would compliment the “Borders of Sleep” style. I’m also hoping to look at other ways of publishing the stories.

In the meantime, here are the top three all-time favourite stories (by number of downloads) so far:

The Prince and the Bird – this was the first episode ever but it remains one of my personal favourites. In a dreamlike garden that is an external mirror to a prince’s internal world, an unexpected shadow is discovered.

Tree and Stream – easily one of the very shortest episodes but also the most popular by far; a resting traveller eavesdrops on a conversation between two different types of water.

One Stormy Night – also very popular, although it is the longest episode so far, this story spans a couple of generations and switches between the waking and sleeping worlds as a father and son share a similar mystical experience at key moments in their life.

If you enjoy these stories, please subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or using the feed and please feel free to feed-back by commenting on the website at www.bordersofsleep.com

Thank you for reading (and listening)!

Writer Wednesday: Stories from the Borders of Sleep

I’m proud to announce the launch of my new podcast, “Stories from the Borders of Sleep.” This project has been taking up a large amount of my time over the past few weeks and I offer it by way of an excuse for being absent from this blog for a while.

Since November last year, things took off in an unexpected direction for me as I found my head buzzing with stories and pulled my creative energy away from commercial copy writing and directed it into fiction. It has been a very exciting time as I have become immersed in this project I call “Stories from the Borders of Sleep.”

The Borders of Sleep bit is a sidelong reference to the state of hypnagogia, experienced just on the edge of sleep where dreaming and waking realities become entangled. It seemed to me that many of the stories had this half-recognisable familiarity about them and contained elements drawn from my everyday experience of the world around me, woven with a few archetypical curve balls thrown in by my subconscious.

George MacDonald bio photo
George MacDonald: The Grandad of Phantasy

The stories could be described as “fairy tales” and I am unashamed to say that I owe my inspiration almost entirely to the grandfather of all Phantasy that is George MacDonald. Reading his book, “The Phantastes“, in particular, unlocked a latent stream of imagination in me that I had not listened to for about 20 years. It was a real homecoming. I feel as if, with these stories, I have actually begun something I would be proud to call my life’s work.

George MacDonald does include allegory in his work but it is never felt that the plot is forced to these ends and the sense is of shadowy truths, half grasped and leaving a taste in the mouth, rather than doctrines perfectly pictured. On reflection, I think I owe more of my spiritual growth and expansion to stories that have haunted me over the years than to a thousand Sunday’s worth of sermons. So there are allegorical layers to the Borders of Sleep stories, but the main idea is really just to tell stories that captivate and carry people.

I realised quite early on that I was writing with an ear on how the words would sound out loud, and these are definitely stories to be read out or told. The thrill of sharing the stories and having a sense of enabling other people to access their imaginations and journey with me has been especially intense. That is why it seemd like a good idea to podcast them.

You can have a little listen to what I have been up to by visiting the website. I have had some fantastic help from Robyn Trainer of Floral Footsteps with design and illustration and another good friend, Tim Wiles, has stepped up with his sound recording and producing skills.

The plan is to put out an (almost) weekly podcast with a new and original story every week. Although there is a backlog of material to keep me afloat for a few weeks, it will also call for the need to continue writing and producing material. I will also be looking to publish a series of anthologies of the best stories in the future, but for now, I invite you to go over to bordersofsleep.com and kick back for 15 minutes of so of audio phantasy.

Review: Twenty-one Stories by Graham Greene (Vintage Classics)

Twenty-one Stories (Vintage Classics)Twenty-one Stories by Graham Greene

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was my first exposure to Graham Greene. I very quickly found myself reading (and more or less enjoying) these perfectly crafted stories as items of social history and examples of wonderfully understated prose in which no word is wasted.

I couldn’t say that these are the sort of stories that I really enjoy. Perhaps Greene’s brilliance lies in his ability to create characters that are so unappealing and remote that they elicited no sympathy from me as a reader. He paints them and their world in dispassionate, harsh, gaslit penstrokes and allows no glimmer of hope to creep in under the door. I should not, however, allow my personal preference for optimistic art and happy endings to prevent me from appreciating that every one of these stories is perfectly honed.

A pervasive theme of corruption is worked over repeatedly in scenarios of adultery, suicide, disease, ageing, childhood, and loveless marriage, with the occasional intervention of black humour.

The one story that will stay with me is “The Basement Room” – a desolate account of a child prematurely initiated into the world of adults and their “secrets” that was reminiscent of some of L.P. Hartley‘s rite-of-passage works.

I did enjoy the way Greene leaves a lot to the reader, allowing the stories to stand on their own, often unresolved and unexplained. In fact, stopping short of talking myself round to saying that this book was brilliant and I loved it, I’ll concede that he is a consumately masterful writer and storyteller but this is not my bag. My personal taste is for literature that is at least cathartic if not more positive about human nature.

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