Happy Samhain everyone. Or at least Happy Samhain for next week, I'm a bit early I know.
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), or Halloween as it is better known, is a special time for many reasons, let me share a few with you and some great ways to celebrate.
A Beginners Guide to Celebrating the Traditional Pagan Festivals of the Seasons
Samhain is both the end and the beginning of the Celtic and Wiccan year. It is often referred to as the Witches New Year. The name 'Samhain' is believed to be a Celtic word which, when loosely translated, means 'summers end'. This is a time when the final harvest is safely in and so it is appropriate to celebrate the fruitfulness of the land over the past year as it prepares to rest and regenerate through the winter. This is also the time when the veil between the physical world and the world of Spirit is at its most insubstantial so it is a perfect time to remember and honour our ancestors and perhaps hold a feast in their honour. Ideal magical workings at this time will reflect the Endings and New Beginnings theme of Samhain. I have included some spells and a Meditation in the next chapters.
This is one of my competition winning short stories. It is one of my earliest successes and it was judged by the RSPCA. So naturally enough the story had to be animal based. At the time I had a golden retriever named, Elsa and we attended training classes and generally had a great time. She was super to train, very quick to please; usually me but sometimes she couldn't resist being a rebel. We always had a Christmas party where we would do something a bit special at the training group we attended. This is the story of Elsa breaking the rules at one of those parties and loving every minute of it.
were ready. After weeks of preparation, success was only a few short days away.
We had trained hard. What could go wrong? Elsa, like most golden retrievers, was
intelligent, alert and quick to learn. She had attended obedience classes from
the age of six months and by the grand old age of seven years she had ‘been
there, done that, and…’ well, you know what I mean. Suffice to say she had
mastered far more complicated exercises than ‘food refusal’. In fact it wasn’t
even the first time she had performed the food refusal exercise and come
through it with
flying colours! So why was I worrying? Well, for some reason
best known to themselves the organisers had decided not to use the reasonably
resistible dried dog food. Oh no! This time sausages were to be used instead.
mention that Elsa was a golden retriever? Put a Goldie in the vicinity of accessiblesausages and you have a sausage-fest. Goldies have a passion for
food, any food and let’s face it sausages weren’t just any old food. For her to
walk past a plump, succulent sausage without even a second look would be
nothing short of a miracle, but three weeks and two and a half kilos of plump
succulent sausage later I believed we were ready; the technique perfected.
a simple enough routine - I tell her to sit and stay, I walk away from her, I
turn to face her, I wait for a second or two, then I call her to me. Elementary
stuff. Puppy-hood stuff even, except, between me and her lay, The Sausage, and
to get to me
she had to pass it.
But hey, no problem, we were ready. Right?
day of the competition we arrived at the hall in plenty of time. As we ran
through our usual warm-up routines Elsa was keen and alert. I was quietly
confident. When it was time for the judging we walked sedately onto the floor
for the first of the exercises. She worked well and listened carefully to my
commands. Taking our turn at each of the exercises we sailed through Seek Back
and Send Away then Scent Retrieval. It was looking good.
it was time for the Food Refusal. As soon as she saw the small mat that the
sausage was to be placed on she began bouncing with excitement. As each of her
peers took their turn the tension grew until she was whining softly to herself.
Just keen that’s all.
I told myself, but there was a definite tremor in my confidence. So I reminded myself of how much she loved to work and that she was
probably just wanting to get on with it and I felt… worried.
last it was our turn.
onto the floor with Elsa at heel like the beautifully trained dog she pretended…
I mean she is. We take up position at one end of the hall and I give the
away. I pass the sausage and get to the other end of the hall where I turn to
face her and wait. Elsa, quivering with suppressed excitement, sits waiting for
the recall command.
keen don’t worry.
With my confidence registering point eight on the tremor scale I give the
she leaps into action with such speed her claws are scrabbling for purchase on
the hall’s wooden floor. When she at last moves forward it is horribly obvious
that all her attention is now on the sausage not on me.
Leave. Down,’ I yell
three commands, hot on each others heels are never-the-less just in time. She drops
down nose comfortable resting on the mat and 5 cm away from the sausage.
in control - of myself - I clear my throat. (Did it sound like a growl?
Personally I don’t believe it did despite what they said later!) The other
competitors and their dogs are now absolutely silent, watching, waiting. I try
not to notice them and focus on Elsa.
I remind her to, ‘Leave it.’
rises slowly to her feet but her head seems too heavy for her neck and she has
trouble lifting it from the mat where the sausage is nestled. At last she
begins to drag herself forward but it becomes obvious that her feet are now
caught in some Treacherous Treacle Trap and she has trouble moving her legs as
well as her head. Two tiny steps, three, the silence is total; her reputation
is on the line. Three and a half strides… and the sausage was gone! It happened
so fast I didn’t have time to draw breath. In fact it happened so fast I’m
still not sure how she did it exactly.
crowd went wild with delight and Elsa, grinning in immense satisfaction, was
off on a lap of honour around her fellow competitors. They all congratulated
her with ecstatic yelps on the audacity and speed of the strike and she thanked
them graciously, lapping up the adulation as her due.
COME’, I screamed over the noise and thus reminded of my existence she started back
to me. On the way, however she suddenly remembered her manners and made a rapid
detour, to the other side of the hall, to thank the kind person who had
provided the sausage and made it all possible, checking out his pockets at the
same time, then she came back. Perfectly of course and sat in the perfect
return position with a perfectly huge smile on her face and her magnificent
tail sweeping the floor behind her.
was saying, the whole problem of working with an intelligent, alert and quick
to learn dog who has attended obedience classed from the age of six months is
they are simply too smart for their owner’s good. I scowled at her. Elsa on the
other hand was absolutely delighted with her performance. She looked up at me
and her grin said as plain as any words, ‘Technique Perfected!’
Once I have the chapters or at least the 75% of them I give the book a time frame. If it is one of a series, as Dragon World is, then I decide how long it is since the last book, days, weeks, months? Then what time of the year it is again to correspond with the last book. This will set the length of days, time of dawn and dusk, the climate and type of flora I could expect to find. As most of my books are adventure stories those details are important.
Once that is done I go back to the sentences for each of the chapters and under that one sentence I write down what is the minimum that chapter has to achieve. Each chapter has a role and each chapter must advance the story. I make a note at the head of each chapter what time I can expect dawn and dusk. Then for the first two or three chapters I also note which day in the story it is, day one, or day two etc. and the approximate times I expect each event in the chapter to happen. When those chapters are written I do the same for the next couple of chapters. Plotting it this way gives an overall structure and keeps the chronological order, day, night and all the stages in between, in their proper place. It also ensures that each chapter is contributing to the story.
This may sound like a very rigid framework but when I am writing a book it becomes a living thing. It grows and changes despite the confines I have set on it. New story lines grow, old ones fade. Characters often point-blank refuse to conform to the role I set for them; asserting that their character would never say that or do that. So the frame I have so carefully constructed stretches and gives and alters but it holds the whole in place.
This is how I plot my books. It is time consuming and painstaking but such fun and it makes the actual writing that much easier. I can concentrate on the details, filling in the colours and shades as I write knowing the structure is solid.
I have been asked a number of times if I plot my books or if I just sit down and write. I plot. Most definitely. I have tried the 'just write' technique and though I find it invaluable for scenes within the novel or if I am brainstorming, the novel itself as to be plotted. Of course as I write I discover that the book takes on a life of its own and it will often suggest a course I had not thought of previously. But for for that magic to happen I first need a framework. Once I have the framework I can fill in the details rather like colouring in a picture. In my experience every writer works in a different way and what works for one may not work for another. But for those of you who have been asking me this here is part one of how I plot my novels.
When writing my books I first need a framework.
Plotting a novel - Part One. The basic framework.
I know it might sound simplistic but the first ingredients I need for a novel is a beginning a middle and an end. I have to have a good idea of what the essence of the book will be and the story I am intending to tell. Then I reduce the whole lot into one or at most two sentences. If I can do that then I know my aim is clear. The next step is to increase that sentence into three sentences. Then those three into nine and so forth. Each sentence follows the story in a chronological order from beginning to end. And each of those sentences becomes the basis of a chapter. I aim for around 30 chapters of around 3,000 words each but this is just a loose guide. The overall length of the book at this stage is judged to be around 90,000 words.
Mabon is just around the corner and as part of the celebration I would like to share an excerpt from The Wheel Of The Year with you. At Mabon most of us are hunkering down and getting ready for winter. But before the frost and snows arrive in earnest we have the glorious weeks of Autumn colour and perfect walking, gathering days. I hope The Wheel of the Year will help you in celebrating this beautiful season.
A Beginners Guide to Celebrating the Traditional Pagan Festivals of the Seasons.
Mabon is on of the Lesser Sabbats. It is a Quarter day midway between Lammas and Samhain. It is the Autumn Equinox which means that light and dark are once more equal, just as they were in Oestara which lies directly opposite on the Wheel of the Year. So Mabon is symbolic of equality and balance.
Mabon can be recognised in other ways than in a formal ritual. Prepare for the rebirth of the land by collecting seeds, gather and dry your herbs or maybe try your hand at wine making with the harvested fruit and berries. If none of that appeals then a simple walk in the woods or park to breathe in the change of seasons as the land prepares for the coming darkness can help you find inner balance.
Mabon is the time for spell work concerning balance, protection, self confidence and prosperity. I have included spells and a meditation in the next chapters to help you get started.
Seeking my favourite chair I was met with a united front. Diva and her half grown brood had gotten there first! I was clearly out numbered and out manoeuvred. Oh well, the coffee break will have to wait. Back to the computer and Dragon World book three!