Glancing back

First up, apologies for the long gap! It’s been over a year since last I scribbled random thoughts on this blog. There are reasons. 2022 was not kind to us, and I’ll not delve into that here. But the power of positivity shines through if one allows. And as Mercury spins retro this New Year, it seems a good time to focus on inspirations looking forward and back. Love will always shine through, even in the darkest of times.

Our stoic optimism and inspiration may drive us forward, “… say, if I only could – I’d be running up that hill – with no problems …” sang the wonderful Kate Bush. Looking back can help too. Especially on a dull January afternoon. Once, long ago, I used to walk through hazel and birch woods in Netherfield, East Sussex. An Angle Saxon name meaning the field of the adders––and during summer there were many curled and sleeping in sunny spots. England’s only venomous serpents are lazy and fat, but handsome fellows with their diamond stripes. I liked them, but I digress as memory wanders.

For me, those creaky, misty groves held the magic of Lothlorien. My dreamy strolling would lead to tingling streams where an elf would wait, or perhaps Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, maybe even Strider himself––a teenage bookworm’s imagination has no bounds. Later, around ’78, I purchased an album by Sally Oldfield called Water Bearer. I’d heard her hit Mirrors on the duke box in the local pub while arm-wrestling with my crew. My friend Paul loved Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. Funny, he was a tough toothless lad, but that song always made him weep. Must have been the rabbits. 🙂

Every decade holds some magic for those gazing fondly back from afar. The 70s gave us Prog Rock – bands like Yes, Genesis, The Moody Blues, and toward the end, Marillion, named after The Silmarillion, Imho Tolkien’s finest work. It was a time of musical exploration, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, Oxgene, by Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, etc. Incredible distinctive sounds. But Water Bearer is unique. Sally’s first album takes us on journeys through Middle Earth. Her beautiful, evocative voice lifts the enchanted listener to magical realms. Like books and art, music feeds the muse. Sally Oldfield’s Playing in the Flame album cover inspired my Jaran Saerk stories, with its mystical east meets west vibe. Like Tolkien, Sally has been a huge influence on my ongoing Legends of Ansu series.

I remember one morning in 1980, on guard duty at Lothian Barracks, Detmold BFG. A dour place, at one time used by the SS. Bad vibes. I used to escape into the town, which I loved. That morning I’d been feeling down and was walking to the NAAFI when I heard Sally Oldfield’s Night Theme––one of my favorite tracks from Water Bearer. It seemed so strange and wonderful to hear her voice in that bleak surrounding. A treasured memory. Apropos, I recently heard Sally speaking on a podcast about her music and early times when she and brother Mike started out. A wonderful listen and she kindly allowed me to share the link with you here:

Water Bearer by Sally Oldfield

Gazing forward

Decades on and14 books later, my twist on the fantasy genre has evolved, thanks to inspiration from Sally and JRRT, and legendary fantasy artists like Rodney Matthews and Alan Lee, and of course our friend Roger Garland sadly missed. The world I named Ansu after too many beers has evolved, shifting backwards and forwards in time, crossing dimensions, dancing dreamily towards … goodness knows what. I have no control over this, but I’ll let you know when we get there. 🙂

This year we’ll have a new world map created by the same terrific cartographer who worked on the intricate charts for Game of Thrones, WarCraft and many others. More on Francesca later! Aside from that, there’ll be two more books out completing Gujun’s trilogy, and we’ll be moving on to conclude Garland and Queen Ariane’s voyage of misadventure in The Sea God’s Woman – release planned next Spring. After that, I’m moving back to Gol and beyond. To Ansu’s beginning, when the truculent gods lived amongst us mortal folk. Archer’s Moon (long planned) will appear late 2024 and replace Gol as the first in the series chronologically. I’ll also be sharing a time line as we’ve covered two thousand years between Gol and Gujun, so clarity is called for!

Archer’s Moon Coming Soonish …

If you’ve not yet delved into Ansu, now’s a perfect time. My latest book – Dreamslayers, the first of the Gujun (Slayer) books and a spinoff from the Jaran Saerk (Berserker) Trilogy will be available for free this week, as will indeed that trilogy – Jan 4th through 8th. Click the link to view these books on the Amazon Author Page: You can also hear me talking about the first of Jaran’s books in this podcast interview by The Authors Show. Click here to listen:

Afterthought … Writers I know strive for the art of creating worthy literature. Producing highly disciplined, neatly oiled tomes of this and that. They confer and confess with their peers, sharing weakness and strength, and their determination for the right word. Oxford Comma – what do you think? Show Don’t Tell! Heavens forbid! What does Stephen King say? Kevin, I wrote 10’000 words this morning, and before coffee. And so they go … That’s great, but for me it’s all about the story.

The Story.

A gift from above that we fable weavers can stretch and enrich before sending back into the Universe. We live on a spinning ball of gas that my cat seems to understand. The greatest blessing is to make someone smile who’s sharing our voyage through time and space. We don’t get long. I never know how many words I’ve written. Sometimes I’ll remember the amount of beers I’ve drunk. All that matters is that the song inside writes the book. The Muse must be free to dance! The story tells itself. And, hopefully, the editors will carve the unruly leviathan into a readable tome.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Jim – JWW –