Monday, 26 November 2012


I continue my travels through the unfamiliar territory of literary fantasy. So far, it continues to be rather a tiresome trek. I think half the problem is the number of pages it takes to really hook me.  If the characters, or the writing, have not grabbed me by the end of the first chapter I’m inclined to think it will be a waste of my time to read further. But there is a bit of bulldog in me so I slog on.  Having begun, and sort of finished, a fantasy novel for young teens, I am now reading two adult titles, swapping from one to the other when I get too bored, determined I will complete them and maybe, even, arrive at a point where I’m so engrossed that I want to give each one my sole attention to the end. But as wise Solomon wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, so it had better happen soon!

The books I am alternating between are The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, and William Horwood’s Awakening. I thought it best to read different styles of fantasy, so this is a comparison between magic realism and traditional fantasy. This is the third time I have attempted Eyre. I’m a third of the way through - the same point at which I stopped reading the first two times – and while I recognise the cleverness of it all, I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, and I haven’t laughed once. The bulldog is in command, but only just.  With Horwood’s book, I’m four chapters in and there are some teensy-weensy signs of warming in the care-factor. It’s a big book so I hope the temperature rises rapidly from now on.

The exception in my fantasy journey thus far has been Charles De Lint’s urban fantasy, The Mystery of Grace.  The main character, a tattoo enthusiast known as Grace to her fellow mechanics at the garage where they restore classic cars, had me hooked almost immediately. But even without that, DeLint’s command of language would have kept me reading; that, and the redemptive nature of the story. I don’t need a happy ending for me to enjoy a book, but I appreciate  layers of story-telling that make it possible for the characters to be redeemed, if not in the confines of the plot, then in the landscape of my imagination.  DeLint made me think, made me laugh, made me re-read lines just for the sheer pleasure of it, and, yes, gave me a fresh appreciation of the grace of God.

Monday, 19 November 2012


Right, you have a room of your own, you have squeezed some hours from your schedule and you have a great idea burning a hole in your imagination.  All you have to do is start writing. Yeah, right. So what stops you?

My own experience is that it’s usually interior issues that derail the process, not external ones. You know, the whisper in your head that says your writing isn’t that good, that you’re wasting your time and, is that what you’re really here for anyway? Or that confrontation with a colleague or family member that, while smoothed over, has left you feeling out of kilter. It’s all that stuff that camps in the inner sanctum of our being that causes a vague uneasiness.  On the outside, in the ‘real’ world, we attempt to conform things to the ideal, but inside, there’s chaos.

This was brought home to me this week by two unconnected events. A Face Book friend was spending time in an idyllic setting, away from home, in an attempt to re-ignite the writing fire.  At the same time, I began reading The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint, an urban fantasy novelist. Both illustrated the point that we don’t deal with interior issues by changing our surroundings. My friend hoped that by substituting an idyllic setting and solitude for the real world, she would sort out the doubts and write freely. Charles De Lint’s characters realise that “wherever you go, you take yourself with you. That’s the way it is when you’re alive, and it doesn’t change after you’re dead….Our baggage stays with us until we deal with it.”  

My friend has recourse to God and a higher reality, while De Lint’s main character, Grace, is marooned between heaven and hell. Will they discover where they belong? Will they find fulfillment? I’m not worried about my friend, but if you’ll excuse me, I must finish the book and find out about Grace.

Friday, 9 November 2012


Today I was guilty of committing an un-natural act.  I found myself in the Fantasy section of my local library, which was not only un-natural, but downright scary.  I gazed at shelf after interminable shelf, mesmerised by little yellow dots on thousands of spines the titles of which had mostly to do with dragons and mazes and quests. Can there truly be this many fantasy writers in the world all writing the same plots? How do they all make a living? Silly question, really.  There must be money in it. There wouldn’t be this many people doing it, otherwise. As with any other genre, however, I reckoned some fantasy writers might be better than others and so I set out on my own quest to find one.  I flicked through the pages of a few examples. Please, there has to be one.

I gave myself an imaginary slap on the side of the head and forced myself to focus. Get a plan of procedure, Arrowhead. That’s my blog name, and for the first time I was wondering why I’d chosen it.  It sounds suspiciously like something a fantasy writer might choose. Have you noticed how many names beginning with ‘A’ feature in fantasy writing?  I killed the thought and concentrated on my action plan. First, I selected a few titles that didn’t actually turn my stomach.  Next, I read the blurbs on the inside front cover flap.  Any mention of Merlin, or witches or vampires, and it went straight back on the shelf.  I read the lists of ‘also written by’. If the author had written in other genres I was encouraged sufficiently to read the first page and if that piqued my interest I was prepared to wade through the rest of it.  And that’s another thing; apparently it’s obligatory for fantasy fiction to be heavier than an old fashioned mobile phone and four times larger.

 I reminded myself why I was doing this.  It had been brought to my notice that the only fantasy I had ever read was the Narnia series – and that was only because I was reading it to my children.  I grew out of fairy stories by the time I was six, was bored rigid by Greek mythology, and never had I seen more than the first 15 minutes in several attempts to watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It was suggested I might be missing a link in the writer’s chain of command of language and genre.  

But just two books met my initial selection criteria before my brain fogged and my eyes glazed.  I’m sure there could have been more, but I’d lost the will to live.  I carried home ‘Awakening’ from the Hyddenworld series by William Horwood and ‘The Mystery of Grace’ by Charles De Lint, who is the ‘master of urban fantasy’ according to the back cover. I might need a stiff brandy to get started on either of them.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


In my very first post I included a poem and I said I’d never do it again.  Hand on heart, I meant it. But I'm going to break my promise. This is why.

Last weekend I joined a group of very enthusiastic and creative Young Things at a writing workshop; a workshop the like of which I’d never encountered before.  I kid myself that I may have been invited in the capacity of elder statesman, to contribute words of wisdom re the writing process, perhaps to inspire them to heights I, myself, can only dream of.  The reality is I received much, much more than I contributed.

The format was simple. Following on from a time of free-form singing in praise of the One who is the Word from the beginning (and what a wild time that was!) there were to be several ten minute sessions during which we were invited to relax and listen, soaking in the live sounds of guitars, keyboard and a hand drum. As we listened, images and phrases came dancing into the mind like whispers from infinite space/heaven and soon we were jotting notes of the ideas that flowed. I could only describe it as prophetic writing.  It didn’t ignore the intellect so much as over-ran it, in the manner of a great river rushing to its outlet, sweeping along with it those things that had previously been deposited in its course.

What appeared in my head as the musicians played was a large W.  Not knowing what else to do I began by jotting random words beginning with that letter and because parts of the music sounded bubbly and fluid the first one was ‘water’.  This, not re-worked since, is what I wrote in that first 10 minute session using some of those ‘w’ words.
Vagrant wandering, wasteland waiting,
                                    Just breathing is war, like a wail from a distant train.
                                    Walked into a waterfall, found a well,
                                    Washed me light, like dust dancing.

I feel like I want to engage in the whole process again in order to develop this stanza into a longer piece, but I’m almost scared to try just in case I spoil what I have.  And then I remember something I saw on Face Book recently:  “The essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid”.  So there it is, I will have to give it a go. Dust has to dance.