More ice

Ah, the glitter and crunch of an early morning walk in the woods! We’re being warned that this winter will be cold, and I welcome it after the last three or four ones which were dismal. Last year it rained on Christmas Day! Completely unheard of.


I keep posting things that have a silver lining, don’t I? Not only clouds can be edged with brightness, but flowers, grass, trees, and people too.



But here’s something I haven’t posted before. There’s this one slope where I’ve seen both bear droppings and bear tracks, and it’s no great leap of logic to surmise that this here carcass was made by a bear! I wonder what kind of creature met its nemesis here – the ribcage seems too small to belong to a moose.


The stream is covered by a thin layer of ice now.


Just a few months ago, it looked like this:




Isn’t the variety of nature amazing?




Ice drops

We’re at that stage now where the frost in the most shadowed corners doesn’t have time to thaw completely before night falls again. Even on a sunny day, the dewdrops have a core of ice.


You can see the bubbles in the frozen centre, like a tiny explosion.


And the hedgegrows are their own kind of explosion, with frost-dewy grass glittering everywhere in the setting sun.


As the sky darkens, the almost-thawed ice drops harden again into translucent pearls. Night has fallen over our part of the world, and soon everything will have fallen silent in the cold.


Shakespeare, Marlowe and the pageboy guy

So the world is talking about Shakespeare’s collaborations, and this girl couldn’t be happier. We’ve long known that Will’s plays are full of interpolations from other writers, but to have Kit be specially credited warms my heart.

Because the whole point of Rival Poet is that Will needs help. His hand, his country manners, his lack of brashness, his dialect, his tendency to give up… he wouldn’t have got anywhere without his best friend Richard, his loyal company from whose voices he crafted his characters, and above all, without Kit.

And neither would I.

You see, Kit is the person I never can be, but sometimes wish I could. He’s my secret animus and the man of my dreams – literally. When I was eighteen, I started having this recurring dream about a tall guy with a pageboy cut – which was sometimes a bright green – who just sort of moved through the dream and was cool and mysterious and intelligent and wore a Sherlock style coat. Irresistible. I always woke up with a feeling of yearning. I wanted that man to be real. I wanted him in my life.

But not as a partner. I wanted to be him.

So for me the “pageboy guy” has become the symbol of a side I never reveal. He’s the part of me that speaks through my less-than-considerate characters. He’s Becca in Pax, and maybe Nathan. He’s Laila in All You Can Eat and Garangjas in Last Communion. But above all, he’s Kit Marlowe.

MAJOR RIVAL POET SPOILERS AHEAD. If you want to avoid them, scroll until you see the cover and then continue reading below it.


There was an earlier version of Rival Poet where Kit actually died for real. A non-romance version, obviously. But he continued haunting me. There was a niggling doubt at the back of my head. I didn’t want him dead. I also didn’t want to buy into some stupid conspiracy theory and ruin the part of the plot where losing Kit was the breeding ground for all of Will’s tragedies. To say I had cognitive dissonance is an understatement.

And then finally, I brought him back. I sometimes wonder if it was the right thing to do, but the answer is always the same: yes. Because he does live on. Just like Shakespeare, Marlowe is as alive today as he was four hundred years ago, and I needed that scene, that (slightly twisted) riding-into-the-sunset-and-living-forever scene that can be taken as face value, but which also has a more symbolic meaning that nudges the reader and says, “You know? Wink, wink.”

Rival Poet ARe


So yeah, seeing people today be all excited about how my two favourite boys collaborated on a bunch of plays is a joy for me, because I’m personally convinced they did. Will and Kit go together like the two halves of my soul: the middle-aged woman who guards her tongue, and the devil-may-care shadow with the artsy coat who laughs at everything.

I even wrote a song about it. Now, I’m not a flawless singer, and I’m definitely not a pianist, but I do consider myself an amateur composer. (Can’t write novels all the time, you know?) So here it is, in all its do-I-really-remember-the-chords glory: my tribute to Kit Marlowe.

Lyrics below.



He steps out of the shadows like
An impish sprite on the lookout
For a narrative to hijack
’Cause he didn’t have enough time
In his own lifetime
To fill the world with his words
And he will not be able to sleep soundly
In his grave until

He has conquered all the world
Like the pampered jade he is
He’s been made immortal by
Another Helen’s kiss
His cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

So here I am, in this song
I suppose it’s about me
But if you look, I’ll be gone
’Cause I’m strange and elusive
Now you see me, now you don’t
I’m the Magus, I’m the Puck
I am Mercury, I bring a message from the gods

I have conquered all the world
Like the pampered jade I am
I’ll be made immortal by
The kiss from another man
My cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

I am back from Hades
And I know you can’t resist
So come with me and we will get
Fictionally pissed

’Cause you can conquer all the world
Like the pampered jade you are
You’ll be made immortal by
The kiss from a shooting star
Your cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

The sun!

Oh, how welcome it was today. We’ve had two weeks of grey, grey, grey. A lid of clouds that has made everything dull and heavy. But today at last, the lid lifted. I’d almost forgotten what a difference the sunshine makes, but I was made aware when I went for my forest walk. After weeks of dragging my feet, suddenly there was a spring in my step!


Even the bare trees by the stream brightened in the afternoon light. Leaning over the rippling mirror, they made such pretty geometric figures, I had to capture it.


An abrupt edge strengthened the illusion of a mirror.


En route

A lake full of swans and geese against a sombre autumnal background.



A bird in flight – my first! In the local dialect, it’s called “skwakan”, which is actually sort of onomatopoetic and corresponds to the English “squawk” – ie “the squawker”!



A last stop before leaving us for warmer climates. The water looks so cold!



Behind the scenes

Just like movies sometimes come with a blooper reel, I thought I’d give you a quick peek into the rubbish bin where my many, many failed pictures end up.

The Death card is supposed to be serene and sombre, but to get there, I had to work for a couple of hours, spread out over two days, just to take one good picture of myself with the right props in the right location at the right angle. Many times, the shutter clicked during my preparations, rather than when I’d arranged myself properly – or it captured the precise moment when the wind blew the hood into my face! Add to this that it was below freezing, snow had fallen, and I desperately needed mittens…

I’m not a photographer, and I don’t have photographers’ stuff. So I take what I have – like, for example, a hot pink ground sheet (as a kind of “green screen”) and three lamps! Anything to bring out the contrasts and highlights in the sword I used for my Swords suite.


The Moon card is supposed to be magical and otherworldly. Not, you know… a bumbling woman in dark grey trousers trying to get a rainbow curtain to behave!



In popular culture, like movies, the Death card is often used for effect to symbolize – yup, you guessed it: literal, physical death. Which it almost never means in an actual reading. Serious interpretations view the Death card as a more general ending, as leaving something behind, cutting ties and burying the old to make way for something new.


Of course it can still be scary, and still give rise to grief. Big changes are often hard to process, and you may have to prepare for a period of mourning before you move on. But even though Death puts an end to something, it’s not The End. On the other side of sorrow there’s a new beginning, and in the long run, leaving the past behind will likely feel like a relief.

The last gasp

Hubby and I went for a walk to capture the last of the autumn colours around our cabin, and the yellowed and reddish grasses glowed under the overcast sky and dark green pine trees. It’s not easy to convey that mood with a camera, since so much in photography is about light, but here is a handful of my harvest.


It was all about the dark water, the naked branches andthe gradients of wan colour.



We really are done with this year’s flowers and greenery. But there’s a special, calm kind of beauty about October, even when it’s grey.


Three of Swords

The Three of Swords is a difficult card, denoting pain, grief and separation. A decision has been made, or a distressing discovery, and now your heart is pierced by cold, cruel blades.


You can’t think clearly because of the pain. You’re not even trying to shield yourself from it. You’re just holding your breath, hoping the storm will pass.

And it will.