The Imagination Season

17 Comments 04 November 2013

Recognise her? Yes, that's me when the muse hits. Fairly unstoppable. Until everyone runs out of socks then I am stopped by the Mountains of Doom (Laundry).

Recognise her? Yes, that’s me when the muse hits. Fairly unstoppable. Until everyone runs out of socks then I’m stopped by the Mountains of Doom (Laundry).

(Bear with me on this one…)

Stormblood rode to the crest of the hill and squinted out across the bleak landscape with sharp, black eyes. The Eternal Mountains sat like hunched giants on the horizon, daring anyone to approach. Below him were the smoking Darklands with their sudden, glowing crevices and the firebeasts that lived on narrow ledges within them waiting, hungry for travellers just like him. He set his jaw in grim determination, knowing that was where he had to lead this group of humans and half-breeds. He turned to look back at them. They had been watching him closely as he surveyed the way ahead; they were nervous, but ready.

He was impressed with each of them. The old magician had earned his place with his knowledge of the ancient tongue, the only language used on this side of the Silver River. Stormblood doubted that the old man had much real magic, or he might have used it when they fought off the migrebeasts. He promised the Lady Lillian he would escort the magician to the Eternal Mountains and so he would keep his word. The two Eringore men and their silent communication with every living thing made Stormblood uncomfortable. No weapons but thoughts? Subtlety was not his talent—unless he was with a woman. Plenty of women have appreciated his subtlety.

But this woman, the tall, dark skinned beauty that had slipped into their camp one night during his watch (he still ground his teeth at the thought of that) and begged him to take her to the Eternal Mountains had not been interested in his subtlety, only his ability to lead her where no other could. He worried she would be a liability but even she had surprised him with her bravery over the past few days. The vicious attack from the skellers in the Olden Woods showed her skill with the spark-knife and he made a note that she would be especially useful as they crossed the Darklands where the firebeasts waited for them.

The half-elf scowled at Stormblood all the time, as if he smelled like a rotten regengut to the fey creature. Perhaps he did. He didn’t care. The elf must have thought his smell was worth enduring for the safety Stormblood could offer. No one alive in the Westlands had ever gone to the Eternal Mountains and returned, apart from Stormblood.

The pay to escort these people to the most terrifying place in the world was enough to build a palace. He didn’t do it for the pay, but for an agenda all his own, and known only by one other. If his plans weren’t successful the coins would be worthless, as there would be nothing left to buy. But these people didn’t need to know that. Yet.

Stormblood gripped the handle of WorldRage, his sword and favourite companion, forged in the fires deep in those mountains. He knew what price he’d have to pay on return to them, but he kept that to himself. He took a deep breath and turned his mount, walked the great warbeast past the others on their smaller horses and they all in turn followed as he made a path through the tall grass, towards the Wyrwoods that bordered the Darklands.

And so it began.

* * *

So that was a bit over the top but it was meant to be a tribute to fantasy fiction, not a real attempt. I’m writing a psychological thriller right now, but I must admit I am drawn to the world building, suspense creating aspects of creating good fantasy fiction. Perhaps one day.

I was in Waterstones the other day looking for more psychological thrillers to read, trying to decide between a Susan Hill and a Stella Rimington and discussing both with a bookseller.

(Note: I have a special respect for booksellers and you should too. They read a huge volume of books. They’re more interesting to talk to about the books than all the Amazon reviews in the world. And they’re not on commission so they will tell you how it is. I know all this because I was once a bookseller in London.)

Anyway, we were talking about the Susan Hill being a ghost story and so perhaps more suitable for this time of year and I added that mysteries, ghost stories and fantasy fiction seem to be the only genres I crave in Autumn. The bookseller said they sell more fantasy fiction in the autumn than at any other time of the year.

Why is that?

(It could be because the highest number of fantasy releases are in the autumn.)

Autumn is a time for watching the skies, gathering firewood and supplies, and preparing for the winter to come. (Winter is coming. Sorry, had to say it.) The darkness arrives earlier and we light the fires, pull in close around the hearth, hold a warm drink in our hands and then the story telling begins.

The echoes of times past are everywhere in Britain, where we live daily with artefacts from over 2000 years of human history. Echoes of the older religions based on the cycles of nature are also everywhere. These echoes draw our minds to wander and wonder; imagination is allowed to flex her muscles, shake her mane and run a little wild. We’re drawn to subjects that help us exercise the imagination just a bit more. Mysteries, thrillers, ghost stories and fantasy fiction do just that.

My usual walk across the fields, along the river and through the woods feels the moods change into autumn as well. In the summer a breeze ruffles the leaves, whips through the crops, lifts the ghost fairy seeds of dandelion flowers. In the autumn the damp stillness holds the sweet scent of the fallen leaves, until from somewhere beyond the river a breeze pauses, changes direction and chases along the Hawthorne hedges, picking off leaves as it goes, mischievous and irritable, curling up in the shadow of a stone wall, then races out again, finds me and lifts my hair then runs on through the darkness of the woods past the ancient oaks behind me. I shiver and think about the warm cup of tea and the roaring fire at the end of the walk. And maybe I’ll take the afternoon off, curl up in a chair by the fire and read a good book.

Autumn is also my favourite time to write and you can see why. The muses arrive on autumn breezes.

Are you a writer? When do you feel most inspired to create?


Your Comments

17 Comments so far

  1. Emma says:

    Loved this Michelle! Also a huge fan of Autumn and Winter, they just seem a lot more reliable to me than the other seasons! I think it’s traditionally a time for story telling as people spent more time inside, and perhaps we have just carried that down through the generations without even realising it! PS. You write so well by the way! :)

  2. I loathe and detest the autumn. Not that it’s pretty and smells nice; I like that bit. But I hate the way everyting dies, I get marked SAD, and my brain turns to creatve mush. I have to really fight to get anything working at all.
    Summer’s good for me. I like the warmth, the long hours of daylight, all that stuff.
    I think I should have been born in the tropics.
    I can see why fantasy is most popular in the darkening months. Most fantasiy stories incorporate a lot of blackness, storms, cold. Even my effort Villamkard was set in the winter. But the seasonal thing may be why it’s not a genre I particularly like, though I’ll have a go now and then.

  3. Mammasaurus says:

    I am hugely inspired to get creative during Autumn. Maybe it’s because the children are back at school and I have more time to myself or maybe it’s the darker nights that do it – but I feel it!

  4. Expat Mum says:

    Have to agree with Duncan. Despite everything looking all golden, here in Chicago all that means is that every single leaf falls off every single tree, the lawns all go brown and then die and we’re left with five months of sub zero barren vistas. Sorry – bit of a Debbie Downer view point I know, but give me a long, light summer evening any day.

    • Ooo, I forgot about the brown lawns. When I lived in Minnesota I didn’t like this time of year (or winter) either. I guess I should have emphasised that autumn in Britain is a fabulously creative time for me.

  5. Amazing!! Can’t wait to read your psychological thriller. I love the passion booksellers have – their recommendations are always spot on!

  6. Maybe I should tempt myself out of reading what I do and expand a little, im no writer but your words are inspiring to those who have some creative skills xxx

  7. Stacey Corrin says:

    Seriously – don’t stop writing that opening chapter, I was positively leaping off my chair with excitement. Love, love, loved it! You my dear, have an excellent way with words.

    Autumn and Winter are definitely my favourite months of the year. To be honest after the first month or so of spring, I’m desperate for the colder weather to come back again, because as you say, the muses arrive on autumn breezes. There’s something incredibly deep-rooted and spiritual about this time of the year that I find electrifying and it certainly makes me want to write more.

  8. Pinkoddy says:

    I don’t know about being inspired to write but I’m definitely inspired to read more of that – very well done.

  9. iyas says:

    There are SO MANY bloggers out there who harbour desires, open and secret, to write a book. There are SO FEW who actually just sit down and write. Which is ironic given how often (and often how well) they blog. I think whenever I come across another one, I’ll send them in your direction for inspiration (though it may have the reverse effect of making it more daunting).

    That’s a great opener, and although I’m more a fan of magical realism than fantasy fiction (unsurprisingly with One Hundred Years of Solitude featuring as one of my favourite books of all time), I’d definitely read that section if it turned into a book.

    • Iyas you’re wonderful! I love magical realism so much that I’m using it in my book. I am working with themes that might seem fantastic but I want to present them in a setting that is already fantastic (in northern Northumberland) so they’re accepted as reality. I don’t want the book to be mis-placed as a ‘paranormal thriller’. I know magical realism is predominantly a South American device (I enjoyed Marquez but Isabelle Allende is one of my favourite authors), but the qualities work so well as a device for my story it seemed logical to use it.

      Yes, there’s a lot of bloggers and non-bloggers who think they have a book in them and they’re right. Most of us have several in us! I met John Irving MANY years ago and I asked him the boring question only a fresh-off-the-boat kid could ask, ‘what’s the secret?’ I got a predicatbly succinct answer: sit down and WRITE. So I am finally doing that.

      Thank you, as ever, for your support.

      • iyas says:

        Allende for sure, and I have to say I find her more consistent than Marquez. None of his other works in my mind came close to 100 years, even though I enjoyed reading a stack of them. But Allende, who for me didn’t hit the wonder of 100 year, had the more consistently creative opus.

        And John Irving – wow! A long time favourite for a while was The World According to Garp (yes, predictable I know).

        I love the idea of magical realism in Northumberland. Although I enjoyed reading Louis de Berniere’s Latin American trilogy (I never really understood the fuss about Corelli, which I found nowhere near as creative or compelling), it did strike me as a shame that a British-born writer didn’t use the genre for the UK. So I really look forward to reading yours!

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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