Friday, 12 October 2018

Inspiration de France ...Mont St Michel

It wouldn't surprise many to hear that I went on another cruise not so long ago. It was only a six dayer from Southampton, stopping at Lisbon and Oporto in Portugal, Vigo, Spain, and Cherbourg in France. For those who are unfamiliar with cruising, when you get to ports, you have the choice of either going it alone and exploring where you want, or booking one of the many excursions they offer. We weren't going to book any excursions on this trip, but then I saw that Cherbourg were offering a coach trip down to Mont St Michel in Normandy, France.

As soon as I looked this place up, I knew I couldn't turn this trip down.

I cruised with my mum and aunt but due to the warning of LOTS of steps, they opted out of going so I braved it alone. And I'm so glad I did.

Mont St Michel is an old monastery, still in use, literally built on a rock about half a mile off the coast. They've built a walkway out to it now but before you could only reach it when the tide was out, and even then it was treacherous as it's surrounded by sticky mud. The rock has been inhabited since before the 8th century, however, the main structure of the abbey that we see today wasn't built until the 11th century, and throughout the years has been adapted and altered to the stunning structure we see today.

Tolkien even found inspiration here and based Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings on Mont St Michel, and you can see why.

Obviously more about Mont St Michel can be read on Wiki but in the meantime, here are a few photos. I loved this place and took so many it was hard to decide which ones to share...



As you approached, it appears like the Disney Castle on the horizon, and yes, I was like a big kid when I saw it...

Ignore the tour guide's fantastic photo bomb...

The shops below are like something out of Harry Potter...

Looking up...

Steps...

Looking up again...

More steps...

Looking down this time...

Looking out across the flats...

The abbey itself perched on the very top...

View to the West where a second rock sits which was apparently a retirement island for aging monks of old. It's now a bird haven...

The abbey again...and my finger

If you look to the very front, you will see monks. There was a service in progress so we couldn't go much further...


Cloisters with medieval seagull..

Other side of the cloisters, still complete with medieval seagull...

Impressive chamber full of pillars. No one knows what it was used for, except as a weight-bearing structure to support the abbey above...

Yep, you guessed it. More steps...

Saying goodbye on the walkway...

The place is amazing, and if you happen to be in Normandy, France - and you're okay with steps - it has to be a must on your list of places to see...

Friday, 11 May 2018

Jousting at Warwick Castle . . .



Can you imagine the look on people's faces when they ask what plans I have for the weekend and tell them I'm going to Warwick Castle to cheer my friend on in a Jousting tournament? Yes, that's right. Jousting! People do that 'double take' thing which does make me chuckle. Jousting was a dead sport, but with the help of the Knights of Middle England, it looks like it may be fighting for a comeback, and my friend and fellow writer, Lucy, is right up there with them. 

Her love of jousting came after she received a Red Letter experience day. She's a horse rider anyway and loves a challenge, and she loved it that much she decided she wanted to train and has been jousting for a good few years now. And we are talking the proper lances, shields and full chain mail and armour here. Proper medieval stuff.

This year, however, was the first time the tournament was allowed to take place in the grounds of Warwick castle. The Knights of Middle England, also based in Warwick, do a lot around the UK and for films/TV (they did the jousting in A Knight's Tale) and have recently started doing events and shows for the castle, so for these amateur jousters to be able to joust with the castle as they're backdrop must have been an exhilarating feeling. And I have to say, it looked absolutely spectacular.

If you write medieval fantasy, the whole day would have been filled with inspiration. But because you missed it, I took a few photos for you instead...


Lady Lucy is on the closest steed in the picture



I believe they named a Pub after this horse - 
The Prancing Pony




 











Thursday, 29 March 2018

Does Writing Have To Be A Solitary Business? . . .

My friend and I decided to try something new the other evening - a group writing session. I say 'group' but there were only two of us. We were each armed with our laptops and each prepared for an evening of tapping away. She trundled over to mine where we had tea and munch, played with the cats for a bit and then settled down. We've both written flash fiction in writers' groups but never done serious work on our own WIPs.

I had this idea a while back. I was watching the first episode of Castle (back when it was semi new. I refused to watch it when it first aired in protest for the way they killed Firefly. I couldn't see Nathan Fillion as anyone else and the loss was still too painful then). Anyway, there he was, Rick Castle, a writer battling writer's block. Oh I was right there with him. The frustrations of the block. Anyway, I watched as he stalked the NYPD, chose a target, and wormed his way into a relationship that would forever be known as Caskett. Then came a scene where he sat down at his laptop and wrote.

Now, I'm not sure how scenes like this affect other writers, but I can only liken it to someone watching porn. Oh, just watching Castle tapping those words on the screen got creative things flowing in ways only other writers can know and understand. This got me thinking. What if I was in a room with other people all tapping away on works of fiction? Would this have the same affect as watching someone on the screen? Would it induce inspiration? If we're still talking porn, I imagine most people would say yes, this theory would work, but writing??

Turns out, it's also a yes. It worked just as good as porn, in fact even more productively so. Within a space of an hour both of us had cleared well over 1500 words. I understand many writers out there may clear that easily in that time, but for those who sometimes struggle, just listening to someone else tapping away, seeing the creative cogs turning in their eyes, is enough to get their own creative cogs shifting into motion.

So there you go. I was being both social and productive at the same time. How about that? Turns out writing doesn't always have to be a solitary business. Now, I wonder how Nathan Fillion would feel knowing his writing scene in the first episode has just been compared to pornography. Hmm...

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Oh, For The Love Of Horror . . .

Guess what? I've been writing again. I told myself, this slump has to come to an end, and low and behold, words were written on page. But these words didn't contribute to my current WIP. Nope, I had to start another.

This idea - and namely this character, Rose Black - has been haunting me for a while now. And haunting is such an appropriate word seeing as Rose is actually a ghost.  During the Great Depression of the Slump, many hours of TV watching have been racked up, and one show in particular that caught my attention was Ghost Adventures. Cheesy, fake, overacting, it may possibly be, but for someone obsessed with all things paranormal, it makes for great entertainment. It also spurred the initial spark for Rose Black. Since then, and while I've been trying to continue with my other work, she has been sitting on my shoulder, growing, evolving, and now she's eager to be fleshed out. She's not letting me continue on my path, so I've given in and am now letting her lead the way.


So, is this going to be a cheesy, sterotypcal story about a poor ghost whose life was stolen before her time, and who misses her connections with the living, finding it hard to let go? Nope. Rose was a tragic victim of a serial killer, and who's life was brutally taken from her (brutal as in not all body parts were recovered) but this story is going to be dark, twisted, macarbe and all of the above. I'm going to have such fun writing this.

My current WIP was coming along beautifully, with over 80k words, but I just need something different to get me back in the flow. Don't get me wrong, this fantasy piece has a real dark element to it which I love, but remembering how much fun I had working on Tunnel brought back the nostalgia for a good old fashion horror. So I'm breaking my rule and taking a wee break from fantasy, opting for something set in the real word...kind of.

You win, Rose. Your story is being written, so you can stop hounding me and haunting my nightmares...wait...forget I said that. I might need those nightmares.

In other news, Tunnel seems to be doing really well and the few reviews left have been really good. I'm can safely say that's a piece I'm proud off.

Till next time...be safe and don't have nightmares :)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A Wee Trip To Scotland . . .

We've just had a long weekend in Scotland - Dunoon to be precise.

It's our third time up to Dunoon. We have friends there, but this time we went with another couple who had never been. I absolutely love Scotland. For our honeymoon 10 years ago we could have gone anywhere in the world, but I insisted on Scotland as I'd never been before. We rented a cottage just outside Inverness and I've never tired of going back there since. To say the landscape is stunning is an understatement, and its so rich in history that you're reminded of it practically everywhere you look. I'm so inspired by it, so I thought I'd share a few snapshot moments and share some inspiration...

Puks Glen is a national park where you can walk up the side of a woodland hill, following a waterfall

The view once you reach the top of Puks Glen

Some Scenic views...


 




Kilmun Church situated alongside another waterfall and with a historic graveyard and mausoleum


Inverury Castle

The tower of Inverury church

We also spotted some local wildlife, including birds, seals, and an animal that is extremely rare to see during the day and in this area. The genuine Wild Hairy Haggis. I was also lucky enough to bag one and sneak it home. Look at it!!!


Yep, I Love Scotland!



Friday, 25 August 2017

Pic of the Week . . . Phantom of the Opera

It's all about the Phantom of the Opera this week it seems, so what better theme for this week's Pic of the Week.

Apart from the sentimental value, what is it that I like about the Phantom? Well, it's a gothic romance, isn't it? What's not to like about that? Young, naive Christine Daae, dreams of becoming an opera singer having grown up listening to her father's tales about the Angel of Music. Then when she hears the voice in her dressing room, she believes it to be this celestial being and accepts singing lessons from him. His own voice is powerful and seductive and she finds herself enslaved by it, giving herself over to him. Then as her fame begins to spark, along comes Raoul, the future Count of Changny and childhood sweetheart, to sweep her off her feet. So what's a girl to do?

As you sink into the story line, you can't help but give yourself to the Phantom. His mysteriousness, his voice, his power. It's enchanting. It makes you think Raoul-Schmaoul. But then when you sit back and think about it, this disfigured person - Erik - is a master of seduction and deceit. He's allowed Christine to believe he is her Angel of Music. He haunts the Opera house and sparks fear in everyone who works there. He demands payment and keep from the owners lest terrible things should happen to the people. He kills for what he wants. He kills for Christine. And kidnapping and demanding marriage? Is that really how to win fair maiden?

Yet, you still want him, you still lust over him. So is Erik a monster or a victim of a cruel society who forced him to hide away, a society that would never accept him and his disfigurement for who he is?

Anyway, showcasing Anne Bachelier and her wonderful oil illustrations for said book. Joining with CFM Galleries, she has produced a collection of some wonderful pieces, some of which are for sale, and are well worth heading over there for just to see. The piece below is from the Masked Ball and I think it's absolutely stunning.

Have a good weekend and enjoy...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

It definitely left its mark . . .

Have you ever seen something that was so good it stayed with you, maybe even left its mark on you somehow? Well, I did, and it definitely left its mark on me - with added colour.


Ta da! My new artistic wrist addition.


I've always loved Phantom of the Opera. It's something that has been a part of me since childhood. My nan used to love it and owned the vinyl, and every Sunday my sisters and I would walk round to see her and listen to it and sing along (I dread to think what we actually sounded like...). Because of this, it's always held a little place in my heart.

So when my friend said she had tickets to see the show in London and asked if I wanted to join them I literally jumped at the chance. I'd obviously heard the soundtrack, I've watched the film with Gerard Butler, but I'd never seen it live.

Oh my God!!! It was amazing. I've been to numerous shows and nothing has touched me as much as this one. I don't know what it was, whether it was the emotional story line, the power in the songs, or even nostalgia, bringing back memories of my nan, but I loved it so much I decided I needed something to commemorate the occasion. And what better way to honor it than with a tattoo.

I'm not sure what my nan's views on tattoos were but I hope she would approve...lol (I know my dad won't 😬 )...


So have any of you felt the need to commemorate an event in such a permanent way?