Monday 23 April 2012

Walker on YouTube

Well...not quite.  But in the last couple of days I've seen a couple of vids that show the inspiration for Walker pretty darn well.  Can landscape be a muse? Oh I think so.
The first is a music vid made by a local film-maker, Conor Purcell.  His vid shows the many moods of the moor beautifully - and stars some deeply cute Exmoor ponies.  Mind you, I don't envy Guy his dip in the sea - not at this time of year!

The second is from Mike and the Mechanics which was flagged up to me on Twitter.  I love the sweeping shots on this, showing the coastland around the edge of the moor and, in particular, the tiny church at Culbone - which appears in the book as Kitnor, home of the Kashebah.

Take a look.  Better still, come visit!

Thursday 15 March 2012

How it starts...

Chapter One: Rattled

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Hunter McKenzie kicked the guitar amp and stalked off set.
‘That was bloody crap,’ he said, unstrapping his bass guitar and slinging it in its case. ‘They’re gonna crucify us.’
Sam and Christian ground to a discordant halt. Max, the drummer, carried on, lost in his own world. Sam prodded his shoulder. ‘Meltdown time again,’ he said with a shrug.
Max let his sticks drop. ‘Oh you’re freaking kidding me. What now?’
‘Come on guys, we’re dead meat,’ said Hunter. ‘It’s a song about alienation, about existential angst, and you make it sound like the bloody teddy bear’s picnic.’
‘That’s a bit harsh,’ said Sam.
Hunter shook his thick blond hair out of his eyes and glowered. ‘Look, I’m thinking Joy Division and you’re channeling sodding Jack Johnson. We’re not a bloody surf band.’
‘You mean me. I’m screwing it up,’ said Christian. ‘Look man, if I’m doing such a crap job, why don’t you take over?’
‘He’s got a point, Hunt,’ said Sam. ‘They are your songs. It is your band.’
The others nodded. Hunter just walked out and slammed the door so hard it the house shook.
It always came down to this. He breathed in the humid city air and felt his chin itch. Reaching into his jeans pocket, he pulled out his inhaler and took a deep puff.
He knew they were right: he was the obvious front man. He was only just fifteen but he could do the brooding rock god to perfection.
The door opened. Sam came out, gave him a sympathetic grin and leaned against the wall. ‘They’re right, you know. There’s no point taking it out on us. You’ve got it, mate. All the girls are hot for you. You’ve even got that English accent girls go mad about. And you can play and you can sing.’ Sam ran his hands through his own frizzy mop and smiled ruefully.
It was true, he could. At home, in front of his bedroom mirror.
‘Yeah mate. But we all know what happens to me when we play live, don’t we?’
Sam glanced away. Density Matrix was one of those bands that might go all the way except that its natural lead guitarist and singer had…. Hunter barely liked to think the word, let alone say it. His best mate however had no such compunctions.
‘Look, it’s only stage-fright,’ Sam said. Hunter grimaced.
‘You’ll get over it.’
‘I don’t think so.’ He stabbed speed dial on his phone, turned away and spoke quickly. ‘Hey, Mum. Yeah, it’s me. I’m at Sam’s. Can you pick me up?’
He glared into the phone. ‘Yeah, we’re done here. Yeah I know it’s early. Yeah, I’m fine. Look, d’you want me to grab a cab or something?’ He knew that would get her.
Snapping shut the phone, he picked up his case.
‘See you tomorrow,’ he said, punching Sam on the arm.
‘Hey, come back and talk to the guys,’ said Sam. ‘Christian does his best. They all do.’
‘Yeah, well. Shame best isn’t better. This gig’s going to be a bloody farce.’
Sam shrugged and turned back to his house as Hunter slouched down the drive. The last thing he wanted was a post-mortem: he’d wait for his mum at the street corner. He knew he was being unfair but they hadn’t a clue how it felt. He loved writing songs, loved performing even – providing there wasn’t anyone watching. As soon as he had to play in front of more than the band, he froze. His hands started sweating and his fingers slipped on the strings. His voice, so deep and gravelly in the bathroom, turned shrill and squeaky.
‘Hey, it worked for Mika,’ Sam had said. He hadn’t found that remotely amusing.
A cat ran across the street, low and purposeful. It saw him and, instead of running away, stopped on the sidewalk in front of him.
‘Hey cat.’
The cat looked at him.
‘What you want, heh?’
The cat just stared, blocking his way.
‘Come on, cat. Scoot.’
He glared at the cat but it stared right back. He blinked and the cat looked scornful.
‘Look mate. Whatever it is you want, I haven’t got it, okay? This is a fish-free zone.’
It triggered a memory, long time back, of him in the garden of a house; he couldn’t remember where, they’d moved so much. He was sitting in long grass, talking to a cat and – this was where it went seriously wacko – the cat was talking back. Weirdo kid memories.
But the thing that really struck him, thinking back, had been his mum’s reaction. He must have been only – what? – four, five at the most. Most kids talk to animals or have imaginary friends at that age - but she’d seriously freaked. They’d moved pretty soon after and, now he came to think about it, they’d never had another garden. Not even a roof terrace.
They’d shunted all over the world, lived in pretty much every major city from Tokyo to London, New York to Sydney – he’d lost count. But they’d never had a garden and they’d never had a pet.
The sound of tyres broke his reverie.
‘What’s this crock of shit?’ he said as he slid his guitar into the back of the unfamiliar red car.
‘Hello darling and a very good evening to you too,’ said his mother, ladling the sarcasm with a spoon.
‘Sorry.’ He slid into the passenger seat and gave her an awkward hug across the gear shift.
‘The BMW wasn’t ready so the garage lent me this one. How did rehearsal go, or don’t I ask?’
‘You don’t ask.’
‘Fair enough.
Hunter prodded the CD player. Nothing happened. He glared out of the window, watching as they drove over the river back into Boston.
‘What a crock of shit.’
‘You’ve said that already.’
‘And since when was repetition a crime?’
‘Since now. You’ve got an English exam coming up.’
He leaned back and rolled his neck until it clicked. ‘Hey, Mum? How come we move so much?’
‘Neat change of subject.’
‘Yeah, but really. Why do we?’
‘It’s work, hon. You know that.’
‘But are we ever going to, like, settle down someplace?’
His mum sighed. ‘I know it’s tough. Making new friends and all.’ She executed a neat reverse, parallel parking into a tiny gap, and then performed her own change of subject. ‘Hey, your dad’s back from London. He’ll be able to come and see you play tomorrow.’
Oh great, just bloody great. Someone else to watch the great humiliation. But he could see his mum’s face, eager and watchful.
‘That’s good. Really good.’
His dad was in the kitchen when they walked into the loft, chopping vegetables into tiny precise cubes. Hunter smiled. Dad was so flipping anal; such a geek. He even cooked in a geeky fashion.
‘Hey.’ His dad’s eyes lit up behind his little round glasses. They went through their usual welcome ritual: shook hands firmly, like good businessmen, and made firm eye contact; then cracked into grins and gave each other a bear-hug.
‘How did the conference go?’
‘Yeah, good. Got you those games I promised.’
‘Cool.’ His dad was a very useful geek, it had to be said.
They ate at the long rustic table. His mum wouldn’t buy anything mass-produced or synthetic, every single thing in the apartment had been made from natural materials. She lectured in anthropology and the place was full of weird objects she’d picked up on their travels. But they were all kept behind glass, in locked cabinets, like they might bite.
‘I’m looking forward to the gig,’ His dad said, carefully pouring a teaspoon of soy sauce and drizzling it in a neat circle over his bowl of noodles.
‘I wouldn’t bother.’
He caught the exchange of glances between his parents. The ‘don’t go there’ raise of the eyebrows.
‘Hey love, I forgot; I got you a present too,’ his dad said brightly, rummaging in his laptop bag.
His mum went all quiet as she unwrapped the brown paper parcel, as if she already knew what it contained.
‘Oh John.’
She frowned, her face unreadable. Hunter peered over, intrigued at what had provoked such a strange reaction. It didn’t look much cop, to be honest. Some kind of rattle made from what seemed to be animal skin with a bone handle. It made a shushing noise as she picked it up and Hunter felt a tingle down his spine.
‘I had one like this once,’ she said softly. ‘Back on Exmoor.’
His ears pricked up. His mother had never spoken about her childhood; just the bare minimum. She’d grown up in the middle of nowhere, which was why she said she liked cities so much. Her mother, his grandmother, still lived there, in her childhood home, but they never went. Not even a quick visit when they were living in London. His mum had said it would make his asthma worse, bring out allergies. When he asked why Granny Greenway didn’t come to visit them, she’d said her mother didn’t like flying, didn’t like cities and, anyhow, she couldn’t leave the animals. It was all excuses of course – bottom line, he guessed, they’d had some major falling out.
The mood had shifted and Hunter figured he’d leave them to sort it out. He’d go try out the new games in his room. But when he got there he cranked up The Cure – A Forest – instead and stretched out on his bed. The chords chimed and he felt his fingers flex to copy their shapes. It was so simple, so pure. He loved that old eighties’ music. He shook his head in irritation. He bet Robert Smith never had sodding stage fright.
His phone burred and he groaned at the ID. Charade. His girlfriend. She burbled on about what she’d bought at the mall, what was happening on some loser soap, what Frankie and Bella and Sparkle thought about various random crap. Like he gave a shit.
‘What? Yeah, of course I’m listening, babe. You said that Bella fancies Christian… What? Yeah, I meant Max. Whatever. Yeah, I’ll be cool at the gig. Look Char, I’ve got to go. Got to practice a new bassline.’
God she was annoying. But it did his ego no end of good going out with the hottest girl in class.
He couldn’t sleep. It was always like this before he performed. He tossed and turned; tried reading but couldn’t keep his focus on the page; tried listening to music but everything he played wound him up, shouted out his flaws, his weaknesses. He heard his parents go to bed, the low murmur of their voices. Outside a police siren wailed; a car braked hard; a heavy bass line of dub reggae; a girl laughing – the sounds of the city.
His mind floated back to the rattle. He could imagine the start of a song using that hiss ssh ssh in the background.
He padded down the corridor. The rattle wasn’t on the table. Hunter walked over to the large display cabinet. He knew the door would be locked but equally he knew where she kept the key. He felt bad rummaging through her bag – he knew she’d never interfere with his stuff – but hey… He found her key fob and slipped the smallest key in the lock. It opened with a faint creak and he reached for the rattle.
His head buzzed. A wave of nausea hit his throat and he sank to the floor, images flashing in front of his eyes. A herd of deer flying over moorland. Two stags rearing up, bellowing, the sound was a mix of a lion’s roar and a chainsaw revving up. Then the deer vanished and other images smashed into his mind. Malformed creatures – monstrous beings with no eyes but with wide gaping hungry mouths, sharp with teeth. They sniffed the air and paused – he had the horrible feeling that they had found their prey.

Walker in images

Images are hugely important to me as a writer.  I see scenes in my head and then just let my hand write them down, trying to translate what I see, hear, smell, touch into words.
So Pinterest, a place where you can 'pin' images is a huge boon to me as a writer.  It's a place where I can pull together all the images that inspire me.  And, even better, I can show you a little of what's inside my head when I write.
So, do check out the board for Walker here.  It will show you a little of the wild Exmoor countryside that beats at the heart of the book.  And some vague ideas of the animals.  The people?  Not so much.  I know exactly what they look like but I suspect that, if you read the book, you would rather have your own idea.  Because that is part of the magic of reading, isn't it?

Anyhow, here's a little taster...
Trees are central to Walker.  I love this image - with the roots as important as the foliage.  In shamanism, the shaman will often use a tree as a means of accessing the upper and lower worlds - the upper by climbing up the branches of the tree; the lower by winding your way down through its roots.

This image reminds me of the Lady of the Deer - a strange creature, so wild she has almost become part of the land.
The Ferish are my 'fairy' folk - fierce warriors who have had to 'slide sideways' to keep out of the way of modern mankind. This image sums up their proud demeanour perfectly. Shame you can't see the tail. 
The great stag. The 'health stalker'.  Exmoor is synonymous with the wild red deer who roam freely over its moorland and wooded combes.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

What is your power animal?

One of the most fabulous things about shamanism is finding your own power animal. When you ‘journey’ into the other worlds you can meet guides who can offer help, advice, healing. In the ‘lower’ world these tend to be animals or birds and occasionally (though less commonly) reptiles or insects.
When people read Walker they often assume that the animal guides (Comer, Goss, Adante, Herniman etc) are akin to the daemons in the Philip Pullman books. They’re actually quite different. Animal guides are quite autonomous – although they may have an affinity with us, they are not part of us. Also, they don’t always stay with us forever. You can lose an animal through neglect or simply because times have changed and it’s time for a new energy to come into your work.
When I first learned about shamanism, I took a beginner’s course with The Sacred Trust. One of the first things we did was a journey to find our power animal. I had been looking forward to this more than anything. I was pretty convinced I knew what my animal would be – a big black panther, full of power and with thick soft fur.
But it wasn’t to be. When my creature came to find me it turned out to be a slim swift snake. My power creature wasn’t big but she was darn scary and the first thing she did was to bite me. Rather like Goss chews up Hunter and spits him out. I soon learned to love my snake (forgive me if I don’t share her name – it’s between the two of us) and spent a lot of time talking and listening, and dancing – yes spirit animals love you to dance and play with them. She also helped me navigate around the lower world and assisted me with healing.
Over the years, I have met many other power animals and certain allies will help me with certain tasks.

• What kind of power animal do you think you might have?
• Which animals do you like most? What are the qualities you like in them? Could you cultivate those qualities in yourself?
• Which animals do you fear? Do you know why? What qualities do THEY have? Do you think these are qualities that maybe you avoid in some way in your life?
• Do you ever dream of animals? Which ones and what are they doing? If an animal chases you in a dream, it’s usually trying to show you something or to change you in some way. Instead of running, try turning round and seeing what it wants.

Note: Just recently I have been gifted a new power animal and he is totally beautiful. :)

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Why the Ferish speak Anglo-Saxon

I absolutely love the Ferish – the tough warrior Fairyfolk of Walker. Exmoor has a lot of legends about fairies but I knew from the start that my fairies weren’t sweet little Tinkerbell types, no sirree.
Something that really fascinates me is the idea some scholars have that the fairyfolk, or fey, were really a race of creatures who had once lived openly on the land but were driven into hiding by invading races of people. In most accounts these people are small, even tiny (like the common image of fairies) but I wanted something far more arrogant and fearsome for my story.

I imagined that, if Ferish were to exist they would be pretty angry with what was being done to their world. Having been driven further and further into the wildest places, they would react with horror, anger and aggression if anyone threatened their last fastnesses.
They sprang pretty well fully-formed in my imagination. Apart from the tails. A writer friend of mine, Cheryl, said they needed tails and I realised immediately that she was right.

Why Anglo-Saxon?
The Ferish can speak modern-day English but their speech is littered with words and phrases derived from Old English, or Anglo-Saxon. I like to think that this was the common language in use when they last had any major dealings with humans.
It is a strong language, quite guttural sometimes, and very warlike. So it suits them perfectly. I think the words I’ve used in Walker are generally pretty clear from their setting – and often I have given a translation. However, here are some of the more Ferish words used in Walker, along with their meanings.

aesc (or aex) - axe
aesc-holt - spear
aetwindan – to escape
aglaeca - monster
aheawan – to cut down
bana: slayer
bancofa - body
bearm: tree
behat - promise
behatan – to promise
berypan – to strip
besmitan - to infect, defile
bestrypan – to plunder
bord-weall – shield-wall
byringnyss: burial
cystig – excellent
cyth - homeland
daegred – daybreak
deofol – devil
diormod - brave
dolh-wund - wound
dolich - stupid
eorthe - earth
faestenn - fortress
faestenn-grith – place of safe haven
fether-homa – feather form
freondschipe - friendship
gar-gewinn raed – council of war
getheodniss - alliance
gisl – hostage
heft-ned - captivity
meowle-bana – girl slayer
raed – council
sithfaet – journey
slaep – sleep
stan - stone
steorfa – pestilence
wuduholt - forest
wulf - wolf
wyrd - fate
btw, this picture is not of the's actually an image from the second book in the series....

The real Kitnor

Not that far from where I live there is a tiny hamlet called Culbone. It is one of my most favourite places in the world, one of those places that is just extra-special, with a soul all of its own.
One day I walked there on my own and for the first time stopped at a small hut. It was empty except for a table with a kettle, teabags, coffee, milk, biscuits – and a small honesty box. Plus a small selection of books and pamphlets written by a woman called Joan Cooper who had lived in Culbone.
I turned a few pages and everything slammed into place. No wonder I thought this was a special place – it was and is a special place.
I hope Joan won’t mind me quoting from her booklet Culbone – A Spiritual History...but this was the inspiration for the kashebah – a key part of the story of Walker.

“The Light, which was built into Culbone long before the time of Christ, was constructed first of all in the form of an invisible spiritual temple by spiritual beings, under God’s direction..... There are many such places of spiritual power in all parts of the earth.
There are a number of these spiritual temples in England, of which Culbone is one.
Spiritual sanctuaries or temples were created in the invisible etheric membrane around the earth around 9,000 BC after the fall of Atlantis and before the rise of the civilisations known to historians. Different kinds of temples were created, having different functions and giving out different kinds of power.”

The Kashebah

K’SH’B’H was a Sumerian word, usually written without vowels. It means ‘The Trinity of Holy Action’ and referred to places like Kitnor/Culbone where spiritual work was undertaken.
Why Sumerian? Well, legend has it that before Atlantis (the great civilisation that was drowned by a catastrophe) perished, wise teachers (who knew the end was coming) went out into the world to found new cradles of civilisation. They brought knowledge to Egypt, Sumer, Chaldea, India and, surprisingly, England. This was during the period 3300 and 2000BCE. Ruins from this period would be Avebury, Stonehenge and Ham Hill in Somerset (near where I used to live). From 3800BCE Glastonbury was one of the earliest ‘power centres’ in Europe. And, of course, the ‘Sumerian’ came to Culbone/Kitnor where he set up a school of knowledge to teach about the nature of the world, the reason for our existence here and to encourage people to grow spiritually and to become ‘whole’. You could say it was like a form of yoga – and mindfulness – learning how to live in the here and now, in the moment.

What do you think?
Do you think there was such a place as Atlantis?
Is it possible that teachers came to instil the wisdom of Atlantis to other places around the world?
Do you think there are hidden, invisible ‘temples’ around the world?
Kitnor is supposedly the temple of 'Peace' - what other temples do you think exist?

Monday 4 January 2010

Forget the tarot, the runes, the I Ching - learn how to tell your future by reading a stone at