We do not know why the king went into the cave. Was he hiding? Seeking solitude? Was he meeting a lover? Or an envoy of his neighbour to negotiate a transfer of power? Was he fed up of being a king? I once asked my nursemaid and she told me it was better not to know. I disagreed with her. It’s always better to know.
A big thank you to all the writers and storytellers who allow us to live different lives in different places, and introduce us to characters who often feel like friends. If only for a short time, we can escape from this world and live in another.
As it’s Groundhog Day, here’s the story behind ’11:42′ – but not because of the cute little woodchuck that predicts the arrival of Spring every Feb 2nd in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Good advice new writers should already know if they’re worth their salt – but putting it all into practise is the hard part so it’s good to have a reminder. Especially true of Fiona Barton’s advice : “Every new writer should just get on with it.” 😀
Some books are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends.
When Florence’s baby was born dead, she found she couldn’t cry. Not at first. She had known for some time that it was dead. She voiced her concern to Doctor Foster just the week before, calling him to the house to listen to her still, silent belly.
“Nonsense, Mrs Morgan. I have never seen a young mother as healthy as you,” he declared.
He would hear no more of it and didn’t even bother to open his Gladstone bag or write anything down. Before he left her house, she heard him talking to George in his study about how women flapped too much at the slightest thing. George apologised for his wasted time.
The baby’s face was squashed and swollen and covered in scratches made by tiny fingernails. It would have been a girl. She would have been a girl. Florence named her Lucy out loud, but in her head she called her Little Lost Lucy. She was tiny and beautiful to her mother, and Florence held her cold, grey body and sang lullabies under her breath until the hospital nurse decided to separate them. One to the morgue, one to the ward. Florence wanted to go to the morgue too. So much. She clung to Little Lost Lucy with the last shred of her strength and determination, and the nurse had to fetch two more nurses to help her.
When her arms gave up her baby, Florence let out a noise like a wounded animal. The noise left the room, travelled down the corridor, and reached into every ward. All eighty-seven patients shifted in their beds, even the very sick ones. All of them knew that a mother had lost a child. It was that kind of noise.
Florence was wheeled into a ward where six new mothers sat cooing over their living babies. She was expected to recover from her grief surrounded by the happiness of others. The mothers did not speak to her because they didn’t know what to say. Nor did Florence speak to them, but that was because she couldn’t speak. She was afraid that, if she opened her mouth, the noise would come out again. It was waiting there, somewhere deep down in the darkness, like a patchwork dam holding back a lakeful of tears.
Doctor Foster visited. He patted her hand and ignored the glare she fixed on him. Muttered something about weak hearts. Florence closed her eyes tight shut and when she opened them again he was gone.
George visited. He said ‘There, there. Never mind’, and Florence wanted to wrap her hands around his neck and squeeze extremely hard. But, of course, she didn’t. In George’s humble opinion, there would be others. Florence was not quite twenty. George was not quite thirty. Plenty of time.
Florence dared to open her mouth at last. “I don’t want others. I wanted Lucy.”
Little Lost Lucy, her heart whispered.
“Lucy? What kind of name is that?” George said. “Not that it matters.”
Not that it matters.
Standing in the corner of my grandma’s hallway in my disgrace, the stolen shortbread still melting on my tongue, I placed my hands on the walls, closed my eyes and saw Grandad.
Writers crave good reviews even more than they crave chocolate cake or a really fantastic pen. This is the first one I got, dug up from the archives…
So awesome to hear that my lovely Blackwood book is still sending out ripples and appearing in dreams! I remember the first young girl who read it, aged 14, reporting that she’d had nightmares – but ‘good ones’!
This morning I woke up from a dream I could not remember, save that part of it was the haunting poem from Jo Danilo’s ‘The Blackwood Crusade’.
It is a very touching poem. Here is is in full.
‘Tis just the beginning of you and me
As we wander by the stream.
You on one side, I on the other,
Just water in between.
I’ll sing to you as time goes by,
As winter melts to spring.
As flowers bloom, and die again,
So to life we’ll cling.
I’ll sing to you as the river floods,
And we’re poured into the sea.
And then I’ll hold you in my arms
This is the song that the joint hero, Silas, sings to his baby sister, a strangely precocious and magical infant who seems to come, like the rest of Silas’ family, to a tragic end in the river.
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My new book, a time-travelling romance, is off to a cracking start with a note from my lovely editor, Malcolm