The moon as inspiration

I was stuck editing the second book in the series ‘The Song of Forgetfulness’. I didn’t know how to start a particular chapter.

I wandered around the house- didn’t take long, small house- and looked out of the bedroom window. Clouds parted in the star free night sky, and there was the moon looking down at me as if to say, “Oh, get on with it.”

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Then I took a photo of it. Thanks moon.

 

You can take a look at an exclusive excerpt from the as yet unreleased second book in the series, ‘The song of Forgetfulness on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness

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Creative use of language in novels.

Nadsat, Newspeak and Bubchat

 

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I have been reading mostly science fiction books lately, and I have begun to question why a lot of writers choose not to modify the language they use to create a sense of another time and place. It seems that in the future, vocabulary will remain the same and people will talk to each other exactly the way they do now. Which doesn’t really make sense, does it? The spoken and written word has changed over the years, and most authors have reflected this in their works: from Shakespeare to Bronte, Dickens to Faulkner, and James Joyce to Irvine Welsh.

I overheard a conversation between three teenage girls. I texted a snippet of what they were saying to my friend, who has a fifteen year old, and she said that they were talking about a boy that two of them found attractive, but one of them didn’t.

Girl 1:  Yo, see Jay? He gone all tank, well yoked.

Girl 2:  Yeah, he fully gassed narmean?

Girl 3:  Nah, you dutty fam. He’s well piff.

Girl 1: Nah, he FAF.

Girl 3:  Wa, you beefin’ me?

Girl 1:  Wa, you seriously say he butters?

So, if young people talk like this today, wouldn’t it make sense that hundreds of years in the future, people would be conversing with words that are different from the ones we use now?

In his novel, Nineteen eighty-four, George Orwell introduced words and phrases that were not familiar to readers of that era, to create a futuristic realm where language is used as a weapon to subjugate the masses: duckspeak, thoughtcrime, bellyfeel, doublethink, and speakwrite. Would it have been such a powerful read if the author had not employed the use of such evocative words? Who can forget ‘Newspeak’, or ‘Big Brother’?

In A Clockwork Orange, the use of slang is vital to the narrative to give credibility to this dystopian future. Alex speaks ‘nadsat’ a language that sets him and his friends

apart from the rest of society.

“These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of

my gulliver and my plott,” I said, “that’s what it is.”

“Quaint,” said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, “the dialect of the tribe. “

So, bearing this in mind, when I came to write my Sci-Fi/Dystopian series The Song of Forgetfulness, I made sure that I used words that were appropriate for the world I was creating. Since it is written from the viewpoint of a seventeen- year -old, Adara, in the first person, it was imperative that her voice rang true in order for the characters to maintain credibility in this vision of the future. I created ‘Bubchat’.

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“I showed respect and bowed, then turned toward the not-right teen. He gave me a tiny smile, and for reasons I know not, I took his hand and said, “Show me where you splosh.” His face went redder than a bub about to plop and everyone, including me, let out a merry guffaw. I hadn’t meant to use such a nursery word, but when I looked at his soft brown eyes and slender arms I went all mumsly. Not like me at all. I began to wonder if the ‘dults had palmed a soother into my stew.”

You can view all of my books on my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

I went to Lewis Carol for inspiration. I remembered I had a favourite poem from my childhood, The Jabberwoky, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found. It is a delight in the creative use of vocabulary. The language is rich and full of evocative words that create a unique setting where his story unfolds.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Science fiction and fantasy are the ideal genres for authors to invent new languages and different ways of speaking. To shake off the confines of correct word usage and play around with narrative form. But not everyone warms to such experimentation, and critics often chastise authors for breaking the rules of grammar that ‘The Elements of Style’, by Strunk and White, have branded into the English language. There is a good anti Elements of Style essay by Geoffrey A Pullmen called, ‘50 Years of stupid Grammar’. It will make you think twice before reaching for the Spelling and grammar tool on your computer. http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497

So, all you authors out there don’t be put off experimenting with vocabulary. Let your imagination fly and write from your heart, not your head. (Then go back and edit it.)

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Want to know more about me and my books? Go to my website and have a look around.

http://www.oddlybooks.com

Sign up to my newsletter and get a free download of Changeling Fog – a short story from The Song of Forgetfulness series:

http://eepurl.com/buH8qH

 

Macro Photography without using a tripod

My garden is overgrown. I like it that way. It attracts insects and birds and other creatures. I enjoy wading through the tall grass, plucking seedpods and flies from my arms and legs as I search for an interesting creature to photograph.

This year, the bee population has increased.
Hooray!
Last year there were hardly any.

On Sunday I counted eight different kinds of bees and managed to photograph about four using a macro lens. Because the flora is so wild and sprawling, using a tripod for stability is out of the question. So I have to take all my pictures hand-held. Another reason I don’t use the regular kind of tripod is that I find them too awkward to use when attempting to follow the speedy wing changes of bees and other flying insects. By the time I’ve set the thing up, the flying beastie has flown. Okay most of the pictures are a little shaky, but I do get some pretty good results.

The trick to being a good human tripod is to centre yourself. By that I mean, spread your feet to hip distance and slightly bend your knees. You should be balanced and stable. Next, try not to lean forward too quickly as this aggravates camera shake.  Breathe slowly and don’t hunch your shoulders as this causes the wobbles and a stiff neck! And finally, move the camera forward to focus rather than twisting the focus ring as that definitely adds to camera shake and out of focus images. You may look a little weird, but the results you get will be worth it

For more images of macro and beyond, visit: http://www.tracerlight.co.uk

 

 

Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

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Today I thought I would post a snippet from my middle grade Ancient Egyptian-themed book Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies. It’s full of good and evil gods and goddesses, nasty beasts and a battle of life and death to save the world – of course. I plan to send it to some publishers. I am still in the editing stage so any feedback would be noted, and very welcome.

A brief synopsis:

Feisty twelve-year-old Cleo Dalby and her archaeologist mother, find the remains of Imhotep and Hor in the Red pyramid, Dashur, only to discover that not only are the mummies cursed but Cleo is too – with the soul of Seth the god of chaos. When the mummies are stolen by the master criminal Erica Van Clutch, the curse is unleashed along with Seth, who wants to destroy the world. It is up to Cleo and her friends to journey to Duat, ancient Egypt’s afterlife, to find the Book of the Dead to summon Ma-at the goddess of order so that she can destroy Seth.

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 Excerpt from Chapter One – We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber of the pyramid. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh drifted towards her. It seemed to gather a friend as it neared, and soon the sad laments of two disembodied voices surrounded her. The whispering drifted in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade.

“We, the dead, quietly rest, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“But this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped. “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Is it she?”

“The chosen one?”

“Listen to our warning, child, or torments and madness will shadow your every move.”

“Leave, before evil takes your soul.”

The voices ceased.

There was a smell of rot so strong, she nearly vomited. “What the frog?” The stink disappeared. Cleo shook the torch gripped in her hand. “Stupid froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“There you are. I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mum, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say, ‘froggin’ I know what it means.”

A sound like the noise from a beehive buzzed inside her head. She put her fingers into her ears and wiggled them until it ceased. “Are you sure we’re the only ones here?”

“Apart from the mummies? Yes.”

“I thought I heard someone say something.” Cleo reached behind her and grabbed her mother’s hand as a gasp swept across their faces. “What was that?”

“I don’t know, I can’t see anything.”

“Sorry, it’s my fault the torch won’t work. I didn’t change the batteries. Although, Mum, if you’d brought wind-up ones we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

A throaty groan billowed past their open mouths.

“Ah! That horrible sound again.” Cleo swivelled round, buried her head into her mother’s chest and waited for the hideous moaning to go away. The gurgling, growling continued despite the comforting warmth from her mother’s body.

“Why won’t it stop?”

“It has.”

“No, it hasn’t. Can’t you hear it?”

“It’s my stomach.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I’m hungry, we missed breakfast because you slept in.”

“Sorry,” Cleo said and felt her eyes begin to sting.

“Don’t sniffle. Come on, we can’t let some stale air frighten us away. That’s what they want.”

“That’s what who want?” Cleo pulled away from her mother’s tight grip.

“The architects who built the pyramids were clever. They used all sorts of booby traps to scare looters away. All this noise and freezing wind is a just a ploy to put us off the scent. Come on, let’s carry on.” Mrs Dalby tugged at Cleo’s sleeve.

“Okay, but can you light a match at least? I really can’t see where I’m going.”

“There aren’t many left. In the rush to get here I didn’t pack everything.”

“Some holiday this is.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Cleo brushed her curly brown hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s not really a proper holiday ‘cause you were already here as a specialist advisor on that American dig thing.”

“You mean the unearthing of King Senebkay in the ancient city of Abydos.  True, technically I am working, but we are, you know, spending time together.”

“Like a proper family.”

“Yes, except…”

“Dad’s not here.”

“No, he isn’t.” There was a wobble in Mrs Dalby’s voice and Cleo quickly changed the subject.

“Good job Curator Blench gave you that tip off about this pyramid. Now we can finish the job you and Dad started.”

There was a long pause.

“Right then, shall we carry on?”

“’Suppose so. Mum, this is our first expedition together.”

“Yes, it is. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, I think it’s awesome.”

“Good. Anyway, we should save the candles since we don’t have many. We’re going to need all the light we can when we find the hidden chamber. So, for now, you’ll just have to put your hands out and feel your way like me.”

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You can lean more about my work here: www.oddlybooks.com

Thanks for reading.

National Pet Day

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Today is #NationalPetDay on Twitter. What better way to celebrate the friendship and love they give us by posting some pictures of my cats and chickens.

hens napping

kimi

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rasky posing

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I don’t think I could live without a cat in my life. They are wonderful creatures that only trust you when you deserve it. If you truly love a cat it will reciprocate and be your friend forever.

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Always respect a cat’s privacy

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Mess with a cat and be prepared to face the consequences.

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Ignore a cat at your peril.

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Happy Nation Pet Day everyone.

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Author Spotlight – Stevie Turner

I am very honoured to announce an author spotlight for the multi-award winning author Stevie Turner. As we speak, her novel, For the Sake of a Child, is being read by a New York film production company after winning a silver award in the Depth of Field International Film Festival competition. To learn more about Stevie, click below:  https://about.me/stevie_turner/ 

Website:  http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk

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This award winning novel will be on offer until 7th April for only £0.99! I highly recommend that you get your copy now!

For the Sake of a Child:

Ginny Ford is pleased to win the coveted job of housekeeper to the directors of PhizzFace Inc. However, her joy becomes tarnished by an accidental find whilst cleaning, leading her to suspect that all is not as it should be on the managerial corridor. Delving deeper, she is shocked to uncover corruption and a secret paedophile network that has remained hidden for years, involving the very people she has come to know and trust. Unable to live with her conscience any more, she decides that she cannot keep quiet and that she must find a way of helping all the children involved. However, by trying to help the children she discovers that she has unwittingly put her entire family at risk…..

For the Sake of a Child cover

Amazon.uk:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stevie-Turner/e/B00AV7YOTU/

Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Stevie-Turner/e/B00AV7YOTU/

Amazon Author Page (worldwide):  http://bookShow.me/B00AV7YOTU  

For more information about Stevie and her work please find details below:

YouTube:   https://goo.gl/E8OHai

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7172051.Stevie_Turner

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StevieTurnerAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/StevieTurner6

Pinterest:  https://uk.pinterest.com/stevieturner988/

WordPress Blog:  https://steviet3.wordpress.com/

Audible:  http://goo.gl/sz1cXS

Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/profile/preview?vpa=pub&locale=en_US

 Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/105747643789021738179/posts/p/pub

BookSprout:  https://booksproutapp.com/author/875/stevie-turner

Amazon page: http://bookShow.me/B00AV7YOTU

Blog:    https://steviet3.wordpress.com/

 

 

Victory is MINE!!

Hello and Happy Easter!! 

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I thought I would share some good news with you all.

In my last post I talked about Amazon putting a warning up on one of my books, Whisper Gatherers because someone made a complaint that there were a lot of typos in it. The book has been for sale since 2015 with no complaints. The ‘Errors’  Amazon say are there are in fact not typos but the slang-based language I use to create a futuristic world. Rather like George Orwell does in 1984.

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Anyway, after a week of several emails explaining this to them, they have just emailed me to say that they have taken down the warning sign. I am very pleased about that. They did not apologise, however, but hey, whatever.

If you want to take a look at my book without the nasty warning sign, click on the links below the image.

Have a wonderful Easter!

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What if your last day at school turned out to be your first day as a rebel warrior?

Amazon US:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

Amazon UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YMSP1UA

Is This Censorship?

Amazon has a put a warning on my book Whisper Gatherers. A Dystopian/sci-fi novel set some 350 years in the future.

They emailed me to say that they have received complaints that the book has an excessive amount of typos. Now, I use a slang-based language that often combines words to make one long one, much the same as George Orwell does in 1984 – Newspeak, crimestop, thoughtcrime, goodthink, oldspeak, pornosec, unperson, and so on.

I have emailed Amazon to tell them that the ‘Errors’ they showed me are in fact intentional, and add to the futuristic tone of the book. They tell me that I must make the changes they specify or they will keep the warning sign up. Now, that is censoring my writing, isn’t it? Also, since when did Amazon become editors? Because that is what they are effectively doing, editing my work.

This book, Whisper Gatherers has been for sale on Amazon since 2015 without any complaints. In fact, I have received many 4 and 5 star reviews that enjoyed and recognised the quirky use of language. Here is a snippet from one such review:

on December 6, 2016
Dystopian is one of my favorite genres and I try to stay up-to-date with the latest novels. How come I missed this one so late? I don’t know!

The author created a very complex and appealing world I traveled with Adara with great pleasure. I must say the experimental English was at first hard to understand (English is my second language) but as I got used to it, I found it stunning. It helped develop the feeling of being there with the main character who narrates the story.

You can see more here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

 

Here is the email from Amazon:

Hello,
We’re writing to let you know that customers have reported some quality problems in your book. We confirmed the issues are present in your file and as a result we have temporarily posted a warning message on the book’s Amazon.com Kindle detail page until the issues are fixed.  Please make the following changes and resubmit your content to us as soon as you can:

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 281; Errored text: bordercheckpoint.; Context: We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint. ; Comments: “We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint.” should be “We stopped just in sight of the border checkpoint.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 341; Errored text: clothesspace; Context: It worked a treat and I diverted my gloomy musings by searching my clothesspace for stuff to wear at the ceremony. ; Comments: ” searching my clothesspace” should be ” searching my clothes space”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 755; Errored text: dryingsheet,; Context: I would have ablushed more of my bod, except there was no dryingsheet, so I wiped my damp flesh upon my tunic before returning to the others. ; Comments: “dryingsheet, so” should be “drying sheet, so”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1362; Errored text: cleansingplace; Context: Go fetch the medikit from the cleansing area.” “Will do.” I went all quickly into the cleansingplace and opened the cupboard. ; Comments: “cleansingplace and” should be “cleansing place and”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1580; Errored text: nanorope,; Context: It was as light as a bub’s eyelash, as strong as nanorope, and as see-through as a raindrop when it came into contact with its owners heartbeat. ; Comments:  “strong as nanorope” should be  “strong as nano rope”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1581; Errored text: girlygigs; Context: The Synthbag was a thing all the girlygigs in Cityplace hankered after. ;

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1584; Errored text: cleansingroom.; Context: I grabbed some of the Medistuff that Santy used to heal my wound and went into the cleansingroom. ; Comments: “into the cleansingroom.” should be “into the cleansing room.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1591; Errored text: cleansingarea,; Context: I sloped off into the cleansingarea, and packed my bloody bits with a reddysponge. ; Comments: “I sloped off into the cleansingarea” should be “I sloped off into the cleansing area”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1632; Errored text: comtext; Context: A whole load of comtext appeared. ; Comments: “A whole load of comtext appeared.” should be”A whole load of context appeared.”  This change does not even make sense in context to the narrative, as the character is talking about text on a computer screen, hence the word ‘comtext’.

I have received another email stating that Amazon have taken on board my intentional use of language, and that my book is now in the hands of a Quality team:

Hello,

Thanks for letting us know that your book’s reading experience was intentional.

We’ve forwarded this information to our Quality team for review and we’ll get back to you within three business days.

Now, if this Quality team is an automated programme, I’m stuffed. Putting a warning that states a book is full of typos will have a detrimental effect on the sale of that book, surely? I have added my own ‘warning’ to the book description so that any potential purchaser knows that the language is intentional.  I am very upset about the whole thing.

What do you think?

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What if your last day at school turned out to be your first day as a rebel warrior?

Light part two – Religion

I don’t know when the first religion was created, but I think one of the first things that we humans worshipped was light. Darkness is not for us. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to see in the blackness of night. It stands to reason that when the sun appears we should want to celebrate its glory.

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From Ancient Egyptians and Aztec sun gods, to modern day Druids worshiping Alban Hefin the sun king during the Summer Solstice sunrise over Stonehenge, our need for light is deep routed in our physche. We need it to grow our crops, to warm us and to make us feel happy. No wonder many images of deities show rings of dazzling light around the heads of those who are revered.

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Many religions past and present have celebrated the joys of light. Festivals and special feast days such as Diwali, a Hindu tradition where families fill their homes and gardens with candles and lamps to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, to ignite wisdom in our hearts and bring hope to our darkest hours.

A devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony during the Diwali or Deepavali festival at a Hindu temple in Colombo

The Jewish festival Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenistic Syrians. In honour of the reclaiming of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem the festival begins with the lighting of the shamash candle in the menorah.  Each night of the festival a new candle is added, lit by the middle candle, shamash until all nine candles are lit.

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In Christianity, a bright star led the three Wise Men to the birth place of Jesus. At Christmas, the time to celebrate His birth, we decorate our houses with strings of cloloured lights not only as a symbol of that lone star, but to banish the dreary dark days of winter and bring us cheer.

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Humans may believe in many different religions, but I believe we all celebrate in much the same way by using light to give praise for what we have and what we can become.

So, why not lift your head to the sky, rejoice in all the good things that you have, and let the sun kiss your skin. After all, today is supposed to be:

#InternationalDayOfHappiness

 

Look out for Part Three: The Light Within.

 

Light and writing – part one – Inspiration

Let there be light. Why? Because without it nearly all life on this planet would cease to exist. It heats, illuminates, nourishes and gives life. It also inspires works of art. As a writer, I can use light in many forms, natural, supernatural and artificial to enhance my narrative. As a photographer, well, I wouldn’t be able to take photographs without it.

In this series about light, I will be dealing with the many forms it takes. From the glowing backsides of fireflies to the many ways human beings have found to illuminate the darkness.

Nature is amazing. We humans are, for the most part, in awe of it and have been ever since we crawled out of the primal ooze. Nothing stirs the soul quite so much as a beautiful sunset, a sunrise, a mass of twinkling stars, or the constant glow of the moon.

purple sunsetThe sun gives us light and warmth, stars make us wonder about far off worlds, the moon illuminates our darkness with its wide-eyed face looking down on us like a distant mother watching her children. No wonder creative minds have used light as inspiration.

super moon

Many writers have used light to express happiness, love, hope, expectation and joy. Just listen to some songs, the word ‘light’ comes up quite often. ‘Light my fire‘ The Doors. ‘You lIght up My Life’ Debbie Boone. ‘Ray of Light’ Madonna. ‘Shadows and Light‘ Joni Mitchel, to name but a few. The same is true of literature: ‘Northern Lights‘ PhillipPullman. ‘The Light that Failed’ Rudjard Kipling. ‘Where the Light Last and other stories‘ Agatha Christie.

In my short story Glimmer, the protagonist, a young man resisting the drugs he is given to keep him ‘sane’, retreats into his own world and listens  for the voices that come from the stars.

The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour.”

glimmer front red 2

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

Watch out for Part two in the series: Religion and Light.

For more information about my work please visit my website: 

www.oddlybooks