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  1. african hands for blog post

    Image courtesy of Africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    October 1st 2014

    When planning a rewrite of my novel, Destiny, I looked for a hero and heroine from an ethnic people, a people whose traditions and beliefs showed us how we should be living: for the land, not at the expense of the land as this is important to my story. I've always admired the Maori and Aborigini peoples' outlook on life. Similarly, the Native American tribes have a wisdom far beyond that of 'civilised' modern man. But these peoples were on the wrong continents for my story, so I turned to Africa, where I discovered the Oromo people. Thus far, I've only dipped into their culture, but their wisdom and care for the enviroment is obvious in their proverbs. This gave me the idea to find proverbs that were apt for my story, and which would help drive my story, and there are many.

    The following proverb illustrates the bedrock of my story and a short excerpt of the first draft follows.

    If there is peace between man, and animals, and the land, Waqqa who lives in the sky will send rain and great abundance. If there is no peace between man, and animals, and the land, there will be no fertility and the Oromo will cease to exist. – Oromo proverb.

     Chapter One

     

    Kiya froze, listening: it had barely been a noise. An elusive sound; a twig breaking underfoot, the quiet brushing of an animal against the undergrowth. She melted into the thicket of bushes, her nut-brown skin and earth-dyed travelling clothes blending with her surroundings. Crouched down to wait, knife at the ready, she balanced on the balls of her feet and slowed her breathing.

    Her heart thudded loud in her ears. Abe had seen strangers to the north, when he’d travelled the road from the high pass ten days back. Giants of men, he’d said: fair-haired and blue-eyed. He’d had dealings with their kind in the past and knew them to be merciless, war-mongering, deadly fighters. What did they want so far from their own land? Abe had stayed the night, traded his wares, joined their celebration, taken part in their storytelling, and travelled on, but his warning had made the village elders provision the secret caverns in case of need.

    She waited, still as a breezeless day, until her muscles cramped. The air brought the scents of rotting leaves underfoot, of wild boar, of dust, now wind-dry off the exposed and broken mountain slopes. The whisper of sound came again and a deer crossed the path in front of her. She breathed more freely: just a deer.

    Crossing the steep-sided narrow ravine, she picked her way over the bones of the ancient bridge and thanked Waqqa for the gift of water, as she did each time she crossed the tumbling river. The track wound upwards through the wooded cleft in the barren hills, and she strode easily, her bag swinging at her side. She paused at the top of the rise, where the trees thinned and allowed a view across the lands of legend to the south where, it was told, lay Boorana, the homeland of the Oromo peoples.

    Beyond the mountains in the west, towards the sea her people had never seen, the sun sank in a lowering sky, edging the clouds with fire and painting the first snow of the waning year orange on the summits. Snow meant spring-melt, and spring-melt meant water for crops and good grazing for cattle. The tallest peaks were white even in summer, and Abe said there were rivers of ice in the higher passes.

    Her eyes were drawn south again, across a sparse country of low hills, dotted with stunted oaks and juniper: stories said desert lay out there beyond the feet of the mountains, vast and uncrossable. No-one ventured that way, now, and from that direction none had come for many generations.

  2. Yes, where are the children?

     

    Very likely watching mind-numbing TV or playing computer games. A step up from that and they might be using an Xbox: they involve communicating with others. They could even, now and then, be logged into a site doing school work, with half an eye on the TV news. And is that suitable for youngsters to watch, especially alone? It is not: it involves more scenes of violence than most horror movies.

     

    Okay, so we get rain, and less daylight hours as autumn arrives. Does nobody play games anymore? Remember the board on the floor to make it easier for small people to reach? Do small people shrink in the rain? Would you? What happened to poo-sticks, picking blackberries, climbing trees, and building a den with your mates? None of the mums and dads can spare time at the weekend to keep a watchful eye?

     

    You live in a city? Remember, when you book that holiday, you do have children, not miniature adults to be kept quiet with the latest battery-run games. Sand begs to be made into castles. The sea ripples to the shore, and you do need help to jump higher over every seventh wave. Woods are full of trees, waiting to be climbed… and acorns, and fir cones and conkers are free.

     

    Plant an acorn… yes… you can buy a pot if the only garden you have is the balcony of your high-rise flat: if it grows, there are woodland reserves that will give it a home. Conkers! Now they are a health and safety hazard, baked hard with a hole bored through for the string. Are they? Maybe, once in thousands of fights. Fir cones sprayed with glitter decorate a Christmas tree better than “don’t touch” expensive baubles, or scattered as they come on the hearth.

     

    What happened to old clothes covered in mud, and wellies stashed in the porch?

     

    Where are the children? Safe indoors of course. Really? Do you think today’s children can’t circumvent parental controls on a computer? They’re probably in an adult chat room being groomed by a pervert, or watching porn. They could even be playing games on the Kindle Fire you left when Corrie came on. How long before they find a book and start reading?

     

    Reading is good. It is, and if children see you reading they’ll want to do it too. But what are they reading? There are great stories around for children, but that’s not what they’ll find on your Kindle, is it? It could be a book like mine… with luck, it is mine, and I hope you enjoy it, but please keep it away from the under-eighteens.

     

    What happened to bedtime stories, shelves full of books parents couldn’t afford, and library tickets?

     

    Where are the children?

     

     

  3.  

    I was approached by an editor who wanted me to write one chapter of a “crowd sourced” novel, or to put it another way, a book with seventy different authors. I refused, politely but firmly, as follows.

    Sorry, but I’m too busy writing the next book in a series. You must take a break sometimes, to let ideas gel. Yes, that’s when I sort real life. This would fascinate you. Readers are waiting to find out what happens next.

    And so it went on for a week, until curiosity overcame me and I clicked on the link to the plot, supplied of course, and sitting in an email teasing me.

    It’s good, very good. If I lived in America I would be happy to write the story myself, but I’m busy. Take a look at the characters. I’d like you to write about X, whom the reader suspects is having an affair, but isn’t sure, yet. It’s only a sub-plot. You can have a free hand, and I only want a thousand words.

    Somebody else would be landed with building on my creation of X’s mistress? A thousand words, with detailed instructions, shouldn’t take long and, as it happens, I’ve spent time in the State he’s using as the setting.

    I’m not writing in American English; “translating” takes forever. I’ll do that. I’ll have to edit a lot to keep the style flowing, and three thousand words wouldn’t be too much. I haven’t got time to write three thousand words.

    On the other hand, Rebecca slices what she calls waffle out of all my work and this chap could do it instead. It beats having to watch the word count.

    I’ll buy your book… my assistant will buy your book, and review it, honestly of course.

    Nobody reviews a book dishonestly, do they? Anyway I had nothing to worry about. The editor only approached me in the first place because he’d read a sample  of Dangerous Liaisons and liked it.

    Did I say this editor is a fisherman in his spare time? I didn’t, because I wasn’t aware he was until he had me on the hook.

    I’d like a scene expanding, but the end is masterly.

    Flattery will get him anywhere. He’s currently mulling over Draft Two of what I call The Chapter. And he’s right, it is fascinating and maybe one day you’ll find it advertised right here.

    Dear Readers, or those of you thinking of becoming readers, don’t worry about delays in the publication of Illicit Passion. I’ve given up sleeping.


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