My best advice for my fellow authors is to continue to create if a book fails to thrive. If you must, hang up your notebooks and computers for a time, but in the tradition of ‘getting back on the horse’, return to the sanity of work and hunker down. After all, creative work is an artist’s center. Dry off, gird your pages, and keep on writing. Do not go gentle into obscurity.
A novel may be a hard ship to launch, but hardships aside, it’s the greatest ‘show-and-tell’ on earth. Be forewarned, or is it foreshadowed – a cautious toe in the waters of self-publishing barely creates a ripple, and it takes a ripple effect to create even the smallest splash. One would assume that Big splashes from little splashes, grow. Realistically… hardly ever. Such is the reality of a writer’s life. Treading water is mandatory. Water wings can’t hurt.
There are specific times for splashing out and mindful times to withdraw and listen. In any case, writing a bestseller is not the goal. The goal is to write the best book you can. A novel has to incubate, and while it matures, so must the savvy writer. We are advised to write ‘hot’, edit with a ‘cool’ head, and then, eyes open, step off the cliff. Surprisingly, not as foolhardy as it sounds.
Nevertheless, still-waters often run shallow for unknown authors, lured off course by the false promises of predators. Books often run aground, dashed on the rocks of business. But then, the love of words has its own rewards which is just as well… the odds of making a huge publishing splash is mercurial.
During a life-threatening pandemic, there’s no such thing as spare time.
…SHOT IN THE ARM #1 …CREATIVITY
As passionate storytellers, secret poets, and wannabe novelists hooked on unlimited premises, humans are hardwired for fiction. Jump-start your personal depths and heights of imagination by writing a memoir, short story, children’s book, or a novel.
Read for pleasure. Read out loud. Read to a shut-in. Reread your old children’s books at bedtime. Read biographies, histories, the classics, memoirs, and poetry. Read books on the craft of writing. Listen to audio books.
Join a virtual local writing group or a book club. Shelve literary horrors in favor of life-affirming genres. Whet your dormant visualization techniques. Set up a personal writing space. Complete a simple writing project from outlining to final draft. Share your thoughts, memories, story ideas, and insights by documenting daydreams and night dreams. Begin a diary. Turn off the Television. Be the library.
It’s human nature to make art: with paints, clay, or film. Paint, draw, sculpt, carve, build, design, cook, design, decorate, sew, knit, scrapbook, and share your personal wealth by teaching others your area of expertise.
Think motivationally: create, play, produce, fashion, craft, build, construct, generate, invent, show, tell, reinvent, observe, watch, perceive, witness, design, question, initiate, establish, entice, perform, dream, and most of all, begin. Have fun.
…SHOT IN THE ARM #2 …DISCOVERY
Humans thirst for knowledge. We are armchair explorers, absorbers of stories, seekers of wonder, science-mad, competitive gamers, addictive solvers of puzzles, curious discoverers of clues, dedicated researchers, steadfast students, resolute historians,and tenacious investigative reporters. Enroll in an online master class. Take up a new hobby. And especially, fan the flames of continuing education by teaching others.
Explore, research, learn, read, and watch documentaries. My two favorites are:
‘Lucy Worsley’s’ historical documentaries and ‘Time Team’ for archaeology.
Listen to interviews with brilliant scientists and artists. My two favorites:
‘The Making Sense Podcast’ with Sam Harris and
‘The Origins podcast’ with Lawrence Krauss.
…SHOT IN THE ARM #3 …MINDFULNESS
The human spirit requires periods of tranquillity to reset, and since thoughts can inspire or contaminate, we must choose them prudently. Embrace white noise. Nurture kindness and compassion. Celebrate the human spirit. Treasure moments of solitude. Focus on the breath. Summon serene inner landscapes and spend time there. Bank the fires of anxiety by stilling the mind with Guided Meditation. I highly recommend:
‘The Waking Up app’ with neuroscientist Sam Harris.
A mind spiraling out of control into anger, depression, and anxiety, feeds the unsettling disquiet of social media. Decrease mind pollution. Refrain from consuming fright-based entertainment. Stifle the excessive blitz of social chaos, ignore vicious gossip, disregard false news, and silence conspiracy theories. Peace of mind is a natural state; there’s no need to wear yourself out seeking it. Peace of mind arises with acceptance. Acknowledge what is. Listen intently to stressful emotions and let them go. Release the temptation to live in the future. Now is the only time that exists.
Stay mindful throughout the processes of recreational therapy: solitude, silence, patience, focused listening, and the art of breathing.
Excerpt from ‘SNOW BEHIND THE DOOR’, the prequel to the ‘Bede Trilogy’, in Snow’s words:
[The first beginning I remember was arriving at Bede Hall with my father on a bitterly cold, snowy English day in August of the year 2020. Hadrian’s Wall was gone completely, buried under several feet of snow. My name was Ani, then, and I was wearing sandals.
The Hall looked like a low building with a blue door set into a row of small windows because its vast ballrooms and kitchens, and the red library, lay deep underground. Years of snow had covered the Hall up to the entrance of the Winter Room’s attic door. Father said the blue door was a true liminal threshold since it separated the worlds of opposite realities. He often said strange things like that. Mother said it was the magic in him speaking, because my father was a famous Egyptian alchemist, and people respected his knowledge even when it made no sense.
There are days when all that greets me from the other sides of mirrors are white mounds of furniture covered in sheets, when the dust lies thick as time and it’s my turn to comfort the house. It’s not easy being a child of many beginnings or a great house after you’ve been abandoned.
But on the golden days, when the gardens are in bloom once more and the maze and the old Saxon tower reappear, I play hide and seek with the topiaries and run wild through the Green Lady’s forest.
I’ve learned two things since I arrived here in the House of Reincarnations: My friend, Parks, the old head gardener, who used to be the King of the Trees, is a ghost like me, and that fairies are dreadful gossips.]
ON THE FACE OF IT, an old year is more than the sum of its parts.
In 2020, humanity bonded into an extended global family.
Populations gained worldwide awareness and a healthy respect for our planet in crisis. Compassion and heroism came to the fore. Nations were unified by compassion and grief. Humans shared a newfound respect for immortality. The importance of social interaction for essential mental health was brought home.
Individuals became closer through physical distancing for the greater good. Governments mobilized for survival. Doctors and scientists shared advances in medicine. A melting pot of nationalities forged concerted efforts to stem the spread of a common pathological enemy.
Science declared war against a pandemic predator.
Communities gained a new respect for the fragility and suffering of elders. Stifling inequalities exposed the need to air grievances without violence.
Mankind rallied to fight an invisible enemy and learned resilience is never futile. We never gave up. We never will.
Preview excerpt from ‘SNOW BEHIND THE DOOR’– the prequel to ‘the Bede Series’
[Before Kit and Ani broke into the decaying ruins of Bede Hall, they marveled at the icebound blue door encased in a thick blanket of frost. Once situated on the third floor, years of accumulated snow gave it the impression of resting on the ground – the Hall’s only entrance. Its doorknob of clear glass looked like a cut diamond the size of a snowball and shone like a lantern with a blue light inside it. The eerie light revealed a scowling face within the encrusted snow that Kit knew only too well.
Father and daughter set down their bundles and baskets, and brushed snow from the door’s escutcheon plate, revealing the face of a man with leaves for hair. “That’s the Green Man,” Kit said. “You can say hello. He won’t bite. In fact, he’s a guardian. He looks gloomy because he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
“There’s no need to frighten my daughter, Jack. Ani this is Jack Frost, an old friend.”
The frozen door held fast when Kit gave it a shove, but lumps of snow crumbled away.
For a moment, the keyhole smiled but it may have been a trick of the light. The face and Ani remained strangers.
“Ani needs to understand the truth about Winter to survive,” Jack said. “Given time, she will save us all.”
Kit stamped the snow from his feet. “The Winter Room is special,” he said. “It changes the color of things to suit its mood.”
“How can a room be sad?” Ani asked.
“Good luck explaining that,” the keyhole wheezed.
Kit took a deep breath and heaved his weight against the door with his shoulder.
“It doesn’t sulk if that’s what you mean,” he replied. “The Winter Room is the heart of Bede Hall even though it was, is, and will remain on the topmost floor. It was situated under the roof for a reason.”
“I expect it was so we could get in,” Ani said simply.]
…the child ghost of Bede Hall’s Winter Room. She is 9 years old. This is her story:
Apart from a few shy phantoms, I live alone in a house of shadows. My father said they were memories of the past and foreshadows of things that might have been. But that was in the ‘high-winter’ when he’d been out of sorts, and as soon as he saw my eyes brim with tears, he enfolded me in a bear hug and told me not to worry because he had plans to capture the happy shadows of wonderful things yet to be…
The double Christmas tree in my hometown of Sooke, on Vancouver Island, Canada
I have wished you all a safe and peaceful Dec 25th. Admission: I tried to use the words ‘Merry Christmas’, however, the word ‘Merry’, tossed so glibly during our current time of humanity in crisis, was a stretch – an automatic muscle memory issued by rote, empty of the true greeting that wishing Merry Christmas was meant to invoke.
And so, I searched my handy thesaurus to find words relating to ‘merry’, and one in particular I could utter with unfettered goodwill. I found it at the tail end of expected synonyms: Happy Joyous Cheery Gleeful Cheerful Jolly Joyful Elated Ecstatic Thrilled Jubilant Pleased Glad Laughing Lively Delighted Exultant Wonderful Blissful Phantastic Enjoyable Carefree Heart-warming Overjoyed Euphoric Excited Over-the-moon Exhilarated Uplifted Strengthened Fortified Encouraged Enriched Heartened Elevated… and then, there it was, the word ‘Supported’.
I heartily wish you the continued nurturing support of loving family members, close friends, casual acquaintances, anonymous smiles, budding companions, caring colleagues, and the greater community of anonymous unselfish strangers committed to following the exacting rules of strict lockdown for the long haul.
May we be thankful for the support of endless entertainment on tap, a plethora of inexpensive e-books, inspirational stories, ground zero health workers, law enforcers, medics, modern medicine, scientists, truck drivers, postal workers, and essential workers manning the supply of food.
And in my hometown of Sooke on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, uninterrupted heating, clean water, sanitation and power, telephones, ferries, and the internet.
Like so many families, my children and I have been separated due to adhering to essential social distancing since Covid descended eleven months ago. Merriment strikes a sour note during a season of devastating losses and hardships.
Two extraordinarily mismatched minds are still better than one when telepathic twins,at odds over science and the supernatural, fight a curse of snow.
[The expression ‘running late’ preceded Bash’s mad dash down the rickety servants’ stairs. She was in no doubt the guests assembled in the red library would wait for her, and equally certain there’d be no escaping Lady Nan’s wrath. Her grandmother could never abide anyone being late when she was alive, and now, ironically as a ghost, she was technically ‘the late Beryl Stratford Smyth’, and more of a strict matriarch than ever.]
BASH’S MESSAGE BEDE HALL, England – January 15, 2018
“Kit, can you hear me? I’m too keyed up to focus properly but here goes. I’m guessing you’re a little keyed up yourself. Anyway, in case you can hear me, I’m in the Winter Room. I thought perhaps the vibes in here would make it easier to connect.
Being on constant high alert has everyone on edge. Emotions are running high, and if you can imagine such a thing, Lady Nan is skittish, and the Hall is more out of sorts than ever.
Jack sends his love every day. Apparently, dogs and cats and a certain ghost pal of yours, communicate freely. Jack talks to Anubis who talks to Taraq who talks to me. Don’t do anything daft. I’m running late. Over and out. Time travel is natural metaphysics. Mystical phenomena are to be expected.Talk soon. Please try to concentrate.”
KIT’S MESSAGE c. 1500 B.C. EGYPT
“Bash, I’m thinking of you. If you can hear me, please say hello to the Pidge and Taraq for me. Sometimes, I can almost hear their harping voices on my shoulder. I only wish I could hear yours, and yes, you DO harp. I’m stabilizing enough to begin my, of all things, alchemy lessons. How ironic that I will have to learn magic to resolve the logical problem of destroying our enemy. Yes, I know, I simplify, and you amplify, which is why we should have made a perfect team. In any case, I wish you were amplifying right now so I could hear what’s happening at home. I worry about Jack. And I miss you chiding me for… well, anything at the moment. Time travel is complex astrophysics. Temporal glitches are to be expected. Talk soon. Please try to concentrate.”
[A shrill squawk of phantom bird laughter resonated near enough to make Kit swivel around expecting to see the head of a brightly colored parrot, angled accusingly towards him, eying him with unblinking authority – a sound most assuredly delivered by an audible hallucination of his father’s testy bird named Pigeon, that used to read his mind at the most inopportune moments according to his perverse sense of humor and his innate ability to spew offense.
A distinct screech and the echo of Pigeon’s favorite word, ‘Pooh,’ faded like smoke into the distance, followed by silence.
Kit smiled. Funny how irritating things could lift the spirit when recalled through the perspective of time travel. Bash called Pigeon irascible, but then her hobby had been pulling people up, correcting them by using fancy words, egged on by their grandmother, Lady Nan. Bash’s word games, for that’s what they were, used to annoy him but the thought of being chastised again for his obsession with science and his denial of all things magical made him smile. ‘I guess that’s what’s meant by the good old days,’ he thought.
With a slam, a memory broke Kit’s concentration. He was back in day one… again, dropping from the portal in the Great Sphinx, landing on scorching sand. For an instant he lay curled in a heap like a newborn child. But a few deep breaths sent him crawling instinctively, wriggling on his stomach like a soldier to reach a safe distance from danger. He elbowed his body forward, inching his way through sand that grew increasingly painful until he rolled onto his back for relief. Kit was of two minds: stay and face his worst childhood nightmare or go home, a failure. But the unforgiving sun had other plans.]
The Bede Trilogy Book 1 of 3 ‘TWINTER – the first portal’ by V Knox is available here:
Book 2 of 3 ‘TIME FALLS LIKE SNOW’ by V Knox is available here:
Book 3 of 3 ‘TOMORROW AGAIN’ by V Knox:
*is scheduled for launch in January 2021 – it will be available as a Kindle for under $3 here:
That said, the exact number of pages to tell a whole story from start to finish remains the prerogative of the author. I write long.
Short stories, novels, or epic trilogies, a dedicated storyteller writes to represent their truest self without cowering to trends. Lewis Carrol nailed it; there are no set rules. Did I mention I write long?
Alice’s caterpillar fails to mention the commitments of years studying story structure, the hurdles of developmental editing, graphic design, formatting, marketing, or attempting to force well-rounded stories into square genres. Such are the realities of Indie Publishing.
Lewis Carrol’s Alice fell asleep reading, followed the magic running by, and descended to the subconscious realm of Wonderland. Carroll’s ‘nonsense verse’ broke through the boring rules of language and delivered wisdom the perpetual child within us understands. Alice recited a muddled account of events in a nonsensical stream of poetic consciousness.
Language has never been more creative or mystical or wise until A.A. Milne’s, ‘Pooh’, wandered out of the Hundred Acre Wood. The rest is literary history – literary gold.
The truth is, fictional realms aren’t created in a day, the best stories are created whole without skimping, and counting pages is an unworthy method for measuring a good book.
Read from the beginning go on to the end, then stop. And that’s the long and short of it.
I wish you all a delightfully long merry book to inspire 2021. I highly recommend ‘The House At Pooh Corner’.
The flap swung more urgentlyuntil it froze, fully open, wide enough to welcome a yowling green mist that entered the cottage and materialized into a sleek black cat wearing a single gold hoop earring. The ghostly ‘sending’ padded silently across the floor, spun gracefully, thinned into a long green string, and slipped through the keyhole.
Once in the street, it resumed its feline shape and streaked down the country lanetowards Bede Hall, startling a lean fox emerging from a skeletal hedgerow. The fox stared at the disappearing vision and sniffed the distinctive splayed pawprints of a cat with extra toes.
The sending approached the long tail of an ancient stone wall curled protectively around the Hall like a dragon’s tail, shielding a sacred rowan from the Isle of Lindisfarne, the only vestige of green untouched from the unseasonal scorching winds of a perpetual hot spell.
The rowan stood, proudly in league with the Roman wall, overseeing the despoiled back gardens as the cat landed, light as a phantom, and padded a length of Hadrian’s Wall holding its tail high like an antenna. It positioned its back against the silver moon and stared up at a small window under the eaves that flashed with intermittent sparks of purple and green light.
After its eyes transformed to the perfect shade of purple, the cat closed them, the better to concentrate on its home – the temple of Bast in ancient Egypt. It lifted its head, yowled once, and shivered its tail wildly to clear the mental pathway strangled by sibling rivalry.
Bede Hall’s Winter Room remained cloaked in a fog of self-importance. Inside, Bash, the newly declared Mistress of the Green, quizzed an evasive boy who lived behind the wall, but the intensity of her energy effectively blocked the incoming S.O.S. the sending had come to unscramble. At dawn, a defeated feline shadow slunk over the brown lawns parched from two years without rain, entered the old maze, and disappeared.
Bast, a giant cat goddess with the head of a lioness, received her servant’s report. “Ma’am,” ArtuRa, growled, his fur bristling, his ears flattened in shame. “Kit’s parrot, Pa’a, followed me to England and his incessant squawking disrupted my mission. I was never heard, much less obeyed. I have failed, Majesty.”
Bast resumed her everyday persona, an Abyssinian housecat the size of a brontosaurus, and purred loudly. She licked her paws and closed her eyes. “Then it was for the best,” she said. “Pa’a is wise. He knows what’s best. We trust him. You did well.”
Babs, the goddess’s pet lioness, presented herself from behind a pillar. “So, at least the sister is promising, then,” she growled with distain. “Thank the Aten that one of the twins has the feline instincts necessary to ground the mystical energies of a time portal. A ‘topsy-turvy world’, Kit called it. Whatever that means.”
“Britannia is fast becoming a desert, Bast replied. “Not an acceptable climate for delicate Englishmen.” She yawned, deferring to a parrot’s timely intervention. “Eternal summer was never the curse’s intention. It was much worse.”
“Perhaps living in a desert will toughen them up,” Babs growled. “Kha said Bede Hall is the last stronghold of Pangea – he dubbed it ‘the defining bastion of time’.”
Bast’s eyes flashed open. “Bede Hall has always been steadfast,” she declared.
“I believe the word is obstinate,” Babs snarled.
Bast’s great tail thumped the floor in anger. “Be kind, Babylion,” she admonished, using Babs’ proper name. “It’s not easy being green on the inside when one’s verdant landscape has been turned into a wasteland, leeched of chlorophyl, literally ‘desert’ed by the rainy season. And with its Green Man’s whereabouts unknown, the Hall’s back is against the wall more than ever.”
The Bede Trilogy Book 1 of 3 ‘TWINTER – the first portal’ by V Knox is available here:
Book 2 of 3 ‘TIME FALLS LIKE SNOW’ by V Knox is available here:
Book 3 of 3 ‘TOMORROW AGAIN’ by V Knox:
*is scheduled for launch in January 2021 – it will be available as a Kindle for under $3 on V KNOX’s AMAZON author page.