For a time during my twenties I worked in construction, a brief happy period betwixt my military years and my eventual shift to driving trucks. On the whole I enjoyed the building trade, though not enough to make it a career – so many rainy days in Britain ensure bricklaying and carpentry is hard on the body. But what I learnt at that time left me with a keen interest for messing about with stone and wood, resulting in garden sheds, chicken coops, arches and arbors, and all sorts of arty farty nonsense cropping up throughout various gardens in England. For me there is something both inspiring and magical and wonderfully random in designing a garden, or rather an outdoor room where folk can sit and watch clouds race overhead, listen to the hectic chatter of birds, and feel the plants thriving around them. A green door opening on a place of peace and solitude where your mind is set free, but also a busy corner where production and colour and mixed aromas blend joyously rewarding honest physical graft, as seasons pass and time rolls on.
Gardens hint at stories with every shift of light and motion. They are places where an author creates not only earthly magic but weaves the threads for future tales. For me working with hammer and saw was ever in tune with weaving sagas. Staring at a blank sheet of paper is no way to start writing a book. Those yearning to spill words need to venture outside, feel the air and let the magic come. That’s how it works for me – the mind wanders as other things take shape and I start visualizing stories, fusing plots and then scribbling them down on paper. Like the first course of bricks supporting a wall, those early words (for me) paved the way for a series that will eventually comprise nine books. That story foundation was built twenty years ago and the wall of words heaped upon it has risen slowly. But the wall is strong and solid because those first word-bricks were laid level and true.
Landscaping gardens frees the mind to wander at will. Some of my best plots have seeped from my head whilst building a slate patio or working on timber decking. This is the Zen where construction meets pen. It’s that happy place where you sit surveying your work with a cold beer as the sun sinks low. That’s when you feel the stories come. The roaming left side of our brain that loves music, appreciates art and allows our minds go whither it will. As a wordsmith I get inspiration from many things: a walk through woods, a river flowing, a skein of geese passing high overhead, the silent settle of snow on leaf, and the eager quest of summer clouds patrolling clear blue skies. So as this year wanes and the next one looms I’ll plan taking a walk, feeling the breeze, and maybe if I’m in the mood I’ll plant a tree and build a shed, and as I do more stories will come.
Above picture shows my writer’s cabin in the woods that took form whilst working on The Lost Prince with help from puppy Oliver. That’s all for now folks, throughout 2016 the blog will continue with a mix of reflections on writing, weekly waffles, and every now and then one of my characters from Legends of Ansu will join in to blurt about their various trials and tribulations.
Fianlly I would like to thank all the people who helped me during 2015. There were many and I thank you all. In particular Roger Garland, my illustrator, Catherine Romano my editor, Debbi Stocco my formatter and book designer, and Julia Gibbs my proofreader – you are all very professional and a joy to work with! Last up I would like to thank YOU my special favorite reader 🙂
Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year! Here’s to 2016!