Friday, 24 October 2014

Samhain - 31 October

Happy Samhain everyone. Or at least Happy Samhain for next week, I'm a bit early I know.
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), or Halloween as it is better known, is a special time for many reasons, let me share a few with you and some great ways to celebrate.

Excerpt from 
A Beginners Guide to Celebrating the Traditional Pagan Festivals of the Seasons

Samhain is both the end and the beginning of the Celtic and Wiccan year. It is often referred to as the Witches New Year. The name 'Samhain'  is believed to be a Celtic word which, when loosely translated, means 'summers end'.  This is a time when the final harvest is safely in and so it is appropriate to celebrate the fruitfulness of the land over the past year as it prepares to rest and regenerate through the winter. This is also the time when the veil between the physical world and the world of Spirit is at its most insubstantial so it is a perfect time to remember and honour our ancestors and perhaps hold a feast in their honour. Ideal magical workings at this time will reflect the Endings and New Beginnings theme of Samhain. I have included some spells and a Meditation in the next chapters.
Blessed Be.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Competition Winner

This is one of my competition winning short stories. It is one of my earliest successes and it was judged by the RSPCA. So naturally enough the story had to be animal based. At the time I had a golden retriever named, Elsa and we attended training classes and generally had a great time. She was super to train, very quick to please; usually me but sometimes she couldn't resist being a rebel. We always had a Christmas party where we would do something a bit special at the training group we attended. This is the story of Elsa breaking the rules at one of those parties and loving every minute of it.

Technique Perfected

We were ready. After weeks of preparation, success was only a few short days away. We had trained hard. What could go wrong? Elsa, like most golden retrievers, was intelligent, alert and quick to learn. She had attended obedience classes from the age of six months and by the grand old age of seven years she had ‘been there, done that, and…’ well, you know what I mean. Suffice to say she had mastered far more complicated exercises than ‘food refusal’. In fact it wasn’t even the first time she had performed the food refusal exercise and come through it with
flying colours! So why was I worrying? Well, for some reason best known to themselves the organisers had decided not to use the reasonably resistible dried dog food. Oh no! This time sausages were to be used instead.

Did I mention that Elsa was a golden retriever? Put a Goldie in the vicinity of accessible sausages and you have a sausage-fest. Goldies have a passion for food, any food and let’s face it sausages weren’t just any old food. For her to walk past a plump, succulent sausage without even a second look would be nothing short of a miracle, but three weeks and two and a half kilos of plump succulent sausage later I believed we were ready; the technique perfected.
It was a simple enough routine - I tell her to sit and stay, I walk away from her, I turn to face her, I wait for a second or two, then I call her to me. Elementary stuff. Puppy-hood stuff even, except, between me and her lay, The Sausage, and to get to me she had to pass it. But hey, no problem, we were ready. Right?
On the day of the competition we arrived at the hall in plenty of time. As we ran through our usual warm-up routines Elsa was keen and alert. I was quietly confident. When it was time for the judging we walked sedately onto the floor for the first of the exercises. She worked well and listened carefully to my commands. Taking our turn at each of the exercises we sailed through Seek Back and Send Away then Scent Retrieval. It was looking good.
Then it was time for the Food Refusal. As soon as she saw the small mat that the sausage was to be placed on she began bouncing with excitement. As each of her peers took their turn the tension grew until she was whining softly to herself. Just keen that’s all. I told myself, but there was a definite tremor in my confidence. So I reminded myself of how much she loved to work and that she was probably just wanting to get on with it and I felt… worried.
At last it was our turn.
I walk onto the floor with Elsa at heel like the beautifully trained dog she pretended… I mean she is. We take up position at one end of the hall and I give the command;
‘Elsa, sit, stay.’
I walk away. I pass the sausage and get to the other end of the hall where I turn to face her and wait. Elsa, quivering with suppressed excitement, sits waiting for the recall command.
Just keen don’t worry. With my confidence registering point eight on the tremor scale I give the command.
‘Elsa, come.’
And she leaps into action with such speed her claws are scrabbling for purchase on the hall’s wooden floor. When she at last moves forward it is horribly obvious that all her attention is now on the sausage not on me.
‘No. Leave. Down,’ I yell
The three commands, hot on each others heels are never-the-less just in time. She drops down nose comfortable resting on the mat and 5 cm away from the sausage.
Back in control - of myself - I clear my throat. (Did it sound like a growl? Personally I don’t believe it did despite what they said later!) The other competitors and their dogs are now absolutely silent, watching, waiting. I try not to notice them and focus on Elsa.
 I remind her to, ‘Leave it.’
And then, ‘Come.’
She rises slowly to her feet but her head seems too heavy for her neck and she has trouble lifting it from the mat where the sausage is nestled. At last she begins to drag herself forward but it becomes obvious that her feet are now caught in some Treacherous Treacle Trap and she has trouble moving her legs as well as her head. Two tiny steps, three, the silence is total; her reputation is on the line. Three and a half strides… and the sausage was gone! It happened so fast I didn’t have time to draw breath. In fact it happened so fast I’m still not sure how she did it exactly.
The crowd went wild with delight and Elsa, grinning in immense satisfaction, was off on a lap of honour around her fellow competitors. They all congratulated her with ecstatic yelps on the audacity and speed of the strike and she thanked them graciously, lapping up the adulation as her due.
‘ELSA, COME’, I screamed over the noise and thus reminded of my existence she started back to me. On the way, however she suddenly remembered her manners and made a rapid detour, to the other side of the hall, to thank the kind person who had provided the sausage and made it all possible, checking out his pockets at the same time, then she came back. Perfectly of course and sat in the perfect return position with a perfectly huge smile on her face and her magnificent tail sweeping the floor behind her.
As I was saying, the whole problem of working with an intelligent, alert and quick to learn dog who has attended obedience classed from the age of six months is they are simply too smart for their owner’s good. I scowled at her. Elsa on the other hand was absolutely delighted with her performance. She looked up at me and her grin said as plain as any words, ‘Technique Perfected!’

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Plotting a Novel. Part Two

Plotting a novel - Part Two. 
The Chapters.

When writing my books I first need a framework.
Once I have the chapters or at least the 75% of them I give the book a time frame. If it is one of a series, as Dragon World is, then I decide how long it is since the last book, days, weeks, months? Then what time of the year it is again to correspond with  the last book. This will set the length of days, time of dawn and dusk, the climate and type of flora I could expect to find. As most of my books are adventure stories those details are important.

Once that is done I go back to the sentences for each of the chapters and under that one sentence I write down what is the minimum that chapter has to achieve. Each chapter has a role and each chapter must advance the story.  I make a note at the head of each chapter what time I can expect dawn and dusk. Then for the first two or three chapters I also note which day in the story it is, day one, or day two etc. and the approximate times I expect each event in the chapter to happen. When those chapters are written I  do the same for the next couple of chapters. Plotting it this way gives an overall structure and keeps the chronological order, day, night and all the stages in between, in their proper place. It also ensures that each chapter is contributing to the story.
This may sound like a very rigid framework but when I am writing a book it becomes a living thing. It grows and changes despite the confines I have set on it. New story lines grow, old ones fade. Characters often point-blank refuse to conform to the role I set for them; asserting that their character would never say that or do that. So the frame I have so carefully constructed stretches and gives and alters but it holds the whole in place.
This is how I plot my books. It is time consuming and painstaking but such fun and it makes the actual writing that much easier. I can concentrate on the details, filling in the colours and shades as I write knowing the structure is solid.

You can find the Dragon World books at Amazon and Smashwords