On imagination.

My beloved B and I recently returned from four days in Barcelona. The Catalan capital has long been on our bucket list, largely due to an architect called Antoni Gaudí. We have seen many iconic images and films about his work. A potent appetizer. His natural forms and original thinking appealed to us hugely.

Expectation and images had created a… an appeal, an appetite that could easily have led to disappointment. Too often we have been underwhelmed when reality has failed to match such expectation. We have stood before certain great works in Rome and Amsterdam and been respectfully awed by the obvious talent and skill that created such work but somehow we remained underwhelmed, unmoved.

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And so we approached Casa Batlló with restrained optimism.  Huge crowds stood outside the tall thin terrace and that kicked in my aversion to long queues. We looked from across La Rambla at the extraordinary exterior and that was enough to encourage me to cross the road. As it happened the dense crowd was content with the exterior and few had joined the ticket line. We were inside in minutes and since it was early it was not oppressively crowded.

As we climbed the stairs to the first floor we exchanged knowing grins. There was going to be no disappointment here. We pointed, smiled, touched and minutely observed a great deal but spoke little, as we drank in the detail and the forms. We were truly and properly awed by the small-scale spectacle of Gaudí’s achievement. The beauty was in the detail and the overwhelming attention to every tiny facet of the design. On the way back down from the roof I stood by a door with my fingers nestling in the ergonomically perfect form of a small handle shaped to fit the hand. I called B and she too held it and smiled and a tear moistened her eye. We sighed and smiled and touched each other and we were silent.

That day we saw more, so much more, but it was only when we lay side-by-side back in our hotel that we spoke of the Gaudí house that had moved B to tears of joy.

We replayed and synced our mind movies and talked: “The blue tiles in the light-well that were graduated from dark to lighter lower down to exaggerate the incoming light…”

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“The turtle shell patterns…”

“The curved organic flow of wood in windows and frames and the way light was used to paint rooms through stained class…”

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Those mind movies play still so that weeks later we share and try to find words to connect our imaginations so our four-day break will stretch into the future.

I marvel at the power of imagination; I marvel at the creative spark that can move others to a lifetime altered by that creative spark that ignites ones’ imagination to previously unknown heights of … what? ‘Aesthetic appreciation’ is accurate but too narrow. The nature and power of the human imagination, when done this well, is a soaring flight that lifts us and makes us feel glad we have that creative spark. Some, like me, try to find that spark in words, others like B, in dance movement, still others with music or paint or film or any of the other arts-and-crafts that seem so fundamental a part of the human imagination.

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For me the majesty of Gaudí’s basilica Sagrada Familia, is a homage not to any religious mystical experience, but to that spark and leap of human imagination that can create joy and tears in us.

The box set.

The way to give a gift to a bibliophile family member of friend. A compulsive and absorbing series.

The great value box set.

The great value box set.

Chepi The Butterfly Effect. The next novel.

I am perhaps half way through the first draft of the last in the trilogy: The Butterfly Effect.  Chepi is a fascinating character that has a secondary but pivotal role in many of my previous novels.  A first nation Cree who grows to be a seer and medicine woman. I say woman because that’s how she lives but she was born a boy who is … I was going to say transsexual; but that is not accurate – Chepi transcends normal ideas of sexual identity.

In this novel we follow Chepi from childhood to extreme old age – she lives to be over 115 years old.  The fist half of Chepi’s story is as it was in the Prairie Companions, the Daniel series, and the West Cork Trilogy.

In this novel Chepi’s path changes as we follow the alternative story lines established in the two Rachel novellas and the Bonny and Lauren novels of this trilogy.

Thanks to Nancy G Photography, I have a perfect image for the cover of the Chepi. This image is exactly how I saw the young Chepi.

Chepi as a child.

Chepi as a child. The new cover.

What’s in a name?

What is in a name?   A whole world of meaning, inspiration and ideas that are highly personal to the namers.

Art was a surprise to me but the inspiration story was not. Ria and Paul were looking at the first scan print and she said, “It’s like art.”  A glance and a grin told these pair of creative artist they’d found their child’s name. Art it was.

Leonis came when they remembered looking at the night sky in Donegal during a late honeymoon when the baby was earnestly  wished for on the stars . Constellations were named and ’Leo or ‘Leonis’ spoke to them.

So we had Art Leonis Elliott.

Then  the birth fell on the birthday  of Paul’s much loved Grandfather, Parker Lindsay Legear so in tribute, Parker was added and we have Art Leonis Parker Elliott.

I have written about the First Nation tradition of letting a new-born find its name. The child or mukki will be known as say, Ria’s mukki until that happens.  In the western Christian tradition a child is named at birth in case it dies and it used to be baptised quickly too. So we tend to seek out names before the birth. My daughter Ria and her man Paul had names sorted because they knew it was boy well in advance.

Ria's bump henna Ria had a great henna design on the bump with the name rendered in Hindi. We did our heads in trying to translate it but never did get it.

Birth is about renewal and the passing  on of genes and influence from one generation to the next. Little Art found his names early and he can choose which fits him best when he is older.

We who are onlookers may be tempted to be critics but we shouldn’t be because we are not entitled – for what’s in a name is personal and belongs only to the parents and the child. On the 15th of June at 13.05  I celebrated this birth and the continuation of my line and the child with the unique personality who found the names: Art Leonis Parker Elliott.

 

Music in my novels.

In my novels there is one piece of music that features several times. It is the aria: Je crois entendre encore, from the little known George Bizet opera: Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers).

This beautifully haunting aria sung by Nadir (tenor) in which he sings of his love for Leïla has always touched me deeply. Why is not so mysterious. It is simply one of the most spine tingling, hair raising pieces of music ever written.

A scene from The Pearl Fishers - at the Met.

A scene from The Pearl Fishers – at the Met.

The Pearl Fishers is rarely performed, the last was created by the English National Opera in London in 2010. However the Met in New York decided to present this production as ‘a live to cinema and radio’ performance on Saturday the 16th Jan. It has been 100 years since the Met put on this opera featuring the legendary Enrico Caruso. I only spotted this on the cinema listings at four the same day when looking for times for the film The Danish Girl. I quickly got on line and booked one of the few remaining seats. I rushed off and came in to the cinema at 5.30 for the 6.00 performance only to discover I’d come to the wrong theater!

I got to the right place at 5.55 following a fast and furious drive to the far side of town. I settled in a house packed with Irish opera lovers of advanced age; I’d say I was the youngest person there by a decade.

I had listened to this opera many times on my iPod but this was the first time I’d seen the live performance. I was stupidly excited and worried I might be disappointed. I was not. The cinema fouled up the lighting in the theater which took the edge off a bit, but I left delighted, uplifted and having  had a supposedly unmanly blub just two times.

It confirmed for me the correctness of using this opera in a few high emotion romantic scenes in my novels.

It was fortuitous that I stumbled on this – it was without doubt a once in life time opportunity and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

 

 

The year past and ahead.

It is almost a requirement of this time of year to reflect on the year past and the year to come – so – uncharacteristically I am going to follow convention and do that. This was my writer’s year:

The big interest in the past year centered on an experiment on the value of social media for book sales. I have long been skeptical about the value of social media to an author in generating sales. Facebook and Twitter in particular, are awash with posts that essentially say: “LOOK AT ME and BUY MY BOOK.” I have never bought a book as result of such posts and I know of no other person who does. In the main such posts get ignored, blocked or sent straight to the trash bin. Advice books for writers are full of how to use social media and how essential it is to any Indi author. You see this advice mostly in books being sold on-line about how to sell on-line. It’s very incestuous and mostly absolute bullshit! Indi authors rarely sell serious numbers of books and are an easy target for people telling them how to get thousands of sales.

Books sell the same way they always have – by word of mouth recommendation reader to reader. That is especially true for writers like me who are not writing about shades of grey, vampires or what ever the current hot formula or genre is. If one writes literary fiction and presents ones work with good covers, properly edited and designed; then reader’s recommendation is the only thing that sells that work.

I decided to put this idea to the test last year. I withdrew from almost all social media activity. No tweets, only a simple announcement of a new book on FB, my website and blog and that is all. I stopped blogging every month and did not participate on Goodreads or any other forum.

Result? My sales are better for 2015 than 2014 when I was doing the social media thang.

The lesson for writers is this: Don’t buy into all the hype. Make the best book you can and keep writing. You must keep new titles coming and they must all be to the highest standard possible. Then hope readers like your efforts enough to buy the next and tell their friends. Unless you are Random House and can throw huge sums at a launch, then huge sales are not going to come your way. Accept that and your life, as a writer, will be better, more satisfying, and more productive. If you are hoping for fame and huge sales as an Indi you are playing a lottery with very unfavorable odds of winning. Write because you must.

A slowly growing base of readers who appreciate my efforts; the smile I get every time I get a sale announcement from Amazon or Smashwords, and the steady trickle of money into my account is my reward. A good and genuine review is sure to generate a broad smile.

Last year I published the first two novels of the Butterfly Effect Trilogy. Bonny The Butterfly Effect and Lauren The Butterfly Effect. I also wrote the next novella in the Rachel series: Rachel’s War. I refined and republished The Prairie Companions and tidied up all my other titles. It was a very productive year thanks to the time freed up by my largely abandoning social media activity.

 

The next novel.

The next novel.

What of 2016?  I have begun the next in the trilogy called: Chepi The Butterfly Effect. The cover of this is used here. The photo on which my cover artwork is based has been a puzzle.

It is well known image but I cannot find the person who might own the copyright to this photo. If you know please let me know. I may not be able to use this for the cover if I can’t find the copyright status of the image it’s based on. I have changed the image a good deal in this cover artwork but still I am reluctant to use images in this way with out the owner’s permission.

Apart from Chepi, I plan one other novella and perhaps I will finish: Beloved Warrior. This is about my family during the first war. It has been set aside three times and is proving to be a difficult subject, too personal perhaps?

More likely I will rewrite the novella called: Leotie Flower of the Prairie and turn it into the full sized experimental novel it was always intended to be.

Have a happy and productive new year.

(All three of you who read this?)

The latest novel.

I finished the second in “The Butterfly Effect Trilogy’. This will be: ‘Lauren The Butterfly Effect.’

The MS is with my editor Miriam for it’s final work and I hope to publish it mid-October.

The great challenge was finding a model for the cover, Lauren is an athlete and very muscular but also beautiful. Finding a suitable model and photographer has been difficult but I struck lucky in the end.  The model is Olivia Moschetti and the photographer Tyler Porter both from Colorado. I’ve played around with the image a little to give the golden skin and hair  described in the text but I am very pleased with the results. Olivia is closer to the younger Lauren than any other model I’ve seen.

This is the final cover as it will be on the paperback.

This book is out now for ebook and paperback on Amazon.

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