The power of words

The power of words

This is a blog about the power of words.  

The reason?  The loss of someone close to one of our dearest friends.  It was with humour and incredible bravery that he stuck two fingers up at Death as it approached.  He just didn’t blink.  He used words to make people laugh, he used words to let folk know that they should celebrate who he was with him.  Pity and sadness were not allowed, especially the former.  The latter could, and would, come later as it has now.   

As Love Of My Life, LOML, and I discussed this delightful and loved human being it brought to mind the poem that was spoken at the funerals of LOML’s father and mother.  

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep 

I am not there. I do not sleep. 

I am a thousand winds that blow. 

I am the diamond glints on snow. 

I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 

I am the gentle autumn rain. 

When you awaken in the morning’s hush 

I am the swift uplifting rush 

Of quiet birds in circled flight. 

I am the soft stars that shine at night. 

Do not stand at my grave and cry; 

I am not there. I did not die. 

Mary Elizabeth Frye

An example of how beautiful words can be.  How moving.  How inspiring.  

A quick search on Wikipedia provides some background.  Mary Elizabeth Fry was an American born in November, 1905 and died September, 2004.  The genesis of the poem, written in 1934, was inspired by the story of a young Jewish girl, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who had stayed with the Frye household.  She was unable to visit her dying mother in Germany due to anti-Semitic unrest.  

Anti-semitic unrest.  A horrible phrase, created by an obscene philosophy that pilloried a discrete religious / racial group and, in the end, exterminated in excess of six million of them.  

An example of how words can stir up hate.  

An example of how words can result in the death of millions.  

You will have your own examples of these promoters of hate and populist manipulation.  They tweet, they (mis-)use Facebook, (that dreadful, irresponsible publisher with no moral compass at all), they lie in the press and on television.  Without any sense of guilt or responsibility.  

And yet, and yet, we know that words can inspire and bring people together.  So, let’s use words that counter the hate and vilification espoused by others;  let’s use words that create laughter;  let’s use words that move us to a higher level of our humanity.  

Just like the man I have written about at the beginning of this blog.  

J J Mitchell

‘No one left behind’ 

Train journeys can be so useful

Train journeys can be so useful

Sitting on the train as it left Edinburgh Waverley en route to London to celebrate the birthday of the Love Of My Life, LOML.  We had planned to visit a number of places, The Cabinet War Rooms, museums, have great meals, y’know, the kind of thing you do when in a city.  

The ride is smooth, it’s fast and you can stare at the countryside, thinking about how beautiful it is as it glides past, take photographs of each station that you stop at as you travel on your way.  It also allows you to mull over things, personal, whatever, just where your mind takes you.  

Looking out, you see people going about their business.  Cars travelling down a motorway.  Where could they be going?  What’s their story?  Let’s make up a story…  Time drifts by.  Thinking.  

A thread develops.  Thinking about the Cabinet War Rooms, the war, the reasons for the war.  The number of people who were killed, wounded, wounded psychologically.  The heroes and heroines on all sides.  Thinking about my next book, current title, ‘Kold Kronicles 3:  Deliverance.’  What can I use as a driver?  Well, there has to be conflict of some kind.  The cause?  How about religion?  People have written about religion and wars.  

I admit that history is full of wars of religion; but on this point we must be very careful; it is not the multiplicity of religions that produced these wars, but the spirit of intolerance animating the religion that believed itself to be dominant.

(Letter 83) Persian Letters, (Montesquieu)  

So, use intolerance as the basis for the conflict rather than religion, but what kind of intolerance?  Perhaps race?  There again, what head of state would use race to push his own toxic agenda?  I need to keep in mind that even though I’m writing fiction, it has to have some semblance of reality underpinning it.  So that might have to be worked on a bit but the world I’m creating is  now becoming toxic.  Great!  

Okay, let’s just stay with hate and intolerance.  Why do people cling to  hate so vehemently.  

‘I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.’  (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time.)  

Okay, that might be worth keeping in mind.  Let’s develop it further.  I need to work around that a bit.  

So what I need is a faction that feels / is fed hate, wants a war and will use whatever they can to make an external enemy that is easy to identify.  Okay, what do I mean by faction?  Well this one works:  

‘a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community’.  (The Federalist Papers, James Madison)

adverse to the rights of other citizens…  Works for me.  

Right, now that’s sorted, what is the delivery system?  I know, let’s weaponise the internet.  That’ll work, after all it’s being used as a weapon already.  Not fantasy then…  

I now have my structure for the third Kold Kronicles.  It’ll be about bad guys who comprise a faction that use hate and intolerance against those whom they consider different;  utilising a weaponised internet;  led by a bigot who appears to want a war.  

What to call them?  How about, ‘the Myrmidon.’  (A follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly.)  Hitler had quite a few of them, as did / do other autocrats. 

Yes, the bad guy’s followers shall be called the Myrmidon.  

How’s that for fiction, eh?  Donchajustloveit?  

Train journeys can be so useful.  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

I’m merely writing fantasy…

I’m merely writing fantasy…

I’m coming to the end of my second book, ‘Kold Kronicles Book Two:  Defiance’ and am in the middle of writing a big battle scene.  As always you need to balance being descriptive with not glorifying violence.  Can be a difficult balance as I know from my own experience and reading comments of other authors.  However, I need to remember, I’m merely writing fantasy…  

The other thing about coming to the end of something that, in this case, has taken almost two years to write is that you begin to feel a sense of loss.  Y’know, guilt, sadness, but most of all, what the hell am I going to write about in the next book?  That’ll be ‘Kold Kronicles Book Three:  Deliverance’ then.  

As you would imagine, research is important in any writer’s work.  For Book 2 I looked at the impact of a laser guided bomb exploading near a human body.  So, what effect would that have?  Answer – it ain’t nice.  What would be the result of gene splicing a Brazilian Banana Spider with a Camel Spider, aka Wind Scorpion?  Answer – somewhat frightening.  How dangerous would a group of gene spliced super beings be, i.e. the Schlachten, as a war-fighting unit?  Answer – you don’t wanna know.  Seriously, you don’t.  They even frighten me.  However, I’m merely writing fantasy…

Let’s then consider the world your characters inhabit.  You can look at the works of various political writers from throughout history for help in devising what you might create, (remember, I’m merely writing fantasy.)  I’ve found Montesquieu’s philosophy that ‘government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another’ quite interesting.  Look him up, quite a guy.  Obviously good points as well as some that are questionable, but he was a writer of his time, 1689 – 1755.  Context again.  He talks about the distribution of power.  About not linking the three elements of judicial, legislative and executive power because if you do:  There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals. (‘Montesquieu:  The Spirit of the Laws, Book XI Chapter 6)

He also defined three types of  government:  republican, monarchical, and despotic. In the first the people is possessed of the supreme power; in a monarchy a single person governs by fixed and established laws; in a despotic government a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice.

So, I’m thinking this could be the basic scenario for the next book.  The Connectome, (the über bad, rich group mentioned in Book 2), are after a world which will bend to their will and allow them to accrue even more wealth.  To succeed requires a puppet head of state.  They make use of what I laughingly call ‘social media’, (I’ve written about that misnomer here); ‘dark money’ and a browbeaten, morally corrupt, bicameral system;  add blackmail and violence and the result is the placement of a head of state who has, by using all of the above, been able to conjoin all three elements of the society concerned into one person’s hand – his.  

This, as Montesquieu wrote:  … would be an end of everything…  Since you’d have a despotic government, where ‘a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice.  Yep, that’s worth thinking about as a framework since, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m merely writing fantasy.  

Let me build on that a tad further.  In the next book I’m considering a scenario where a key character is someone whose business background and personal appetites make him puppet to an enemy power; who uses ‘social media’ to direct foreign and domestic policy utilising dog whistle politics; who alienates foreign countries who have been allies for decades;  responds to opponents with vitriol and spleen;  and who, finally, is unaware of those manipulating his strings.  He thinks he is successful because he knows his base believe he can do no wrong – no matter what he does; whilst others cannot believe that their country is sleepwalking into tyranny.  That is until my ‘good guys’ take him on. 

Hmmm, could work.  Needs some character development and fleshing out a bit though.  

Obviously, this scenario can never happen since I’m merely writing fantasy.   

Phew!  What a relief, eh?

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

The generosity of the writing fraternity…

The generosity of the writing fraternity…

We’re living in confused times, that’s for sure, and the world is still uncertain as to where we will all be a year from now.  If at all.  Enough has been written about POTUS 45 and his behaviour so I won’t waste my time, or yours, by commenting further since I’ve done enough of that in some previous blogs.  No, what I want to talk about is the power of words and how just one can create different opportunities.  

For example, I’ve just created a group of ‘bad guys’ called the Connektome.  They’ve been developed not only to create a little more tension in Kold Kronicles 2: Defiance, but also to prepare the story arc for Book 3 of the Kold Kronicles trilogy.   It’s based on the word, connectome which I heard when watching a tv programme recently  about psychology and behaviours.  For those of you of an academic / medical frame of mind, connectome is defined in Wikipedia as follows: 

…a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain, and may be thought of as its ‘wiring diagram’. More broadly, a connectome would include the mapping of all neural connections within an organism’s nervous system.’

In the book, the Connektome are a group of very, and I mean very, rich and well-connected people who can influence the way the world thinks and behaves.  Their current agenda is to put an easily manipulated individual in the White House.  (Isn’t fantasy great?  You can imagine anything.)  Isn’t it also interesting that one simple word can mean so much and potentially have an impact on a story arc? 

The power of words also made me think of how words can be put together to create an emotional response.  A good example of this is the work of the poet, Lexi Lefevre  whom I follow on Twitter.  I delight in her work and the word imagery she creates.  She’s a proud Canadian with an ability to write in raw, emotional terms. Here’s just one example:

Crystalline waves

set off

each

beat.

Tick,

tick,

tick.

My heart

is a

metronome,

keeping up

with the

rhythm of

going

home.

She writes many more, all equally sublime.  Definitely worth following.

There are others I follow but all of them have one thing in common, they are generous in their sharing of the words / worlds they create.  The writing fraternity tends to be generous that way, the good ones anyway.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of world was equally generous?  

J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

Some thoughts on humour, music and smells.

Some thoughts on humour, music and smells.

It’s a bit of a grey, overcast day here in Edinburgh so I thought I’d blog about something to lighten the day up – humour, music and smells. Why? They can add depth to your writing. However, all have to be appropriate otherwise it will ‘jar’ with the reader. 

Humour:  Here’s an awful joke for you, ‘What do you call a guy who likes to jump into leaves?’  Answer: ‘Russell.’  I know, I know, dreadful and it can make you wince, but there again, it made me smile when I first heard it. I also used it in the book.

Then there’s this three part joke: Q1: What do you call a donkey with only one eye?’ A: ‘A winky donkey.’ Q2: What do you call a donkey that only has, one eye and three legs?’  A: ‘A winky, wonky donkey.’  Q3: ‘What do you call a one eyed, three legged donkey that can also play the piano?’  A:  ‘A winky, wonky, honky tonky, donkey.’  Again, dreadful but also very funny.  (Tell this to a young child and just watch them collapse with laughter.)  I’ve also told this joke to a number of the guys I was with when I worked offshore – the ridiculousness of it invariably doubled them up and it soon became the rig’s in-joke for that hitch.  Most probably I won’t use it, but there again, if the situation warrants…

Music: It’s the same with music. There are times when you just stop what you’re doing and listen. With the development of web radio we now have thousands of stations from which to choose.  My own preference is for a more ambient style as personified by Soma FM and their station, ‘Groove Salad – a nicely chilled plate of ambient / downtempo beats and grooves.‘ Very restful and is the music to which I listen when writing. Advert free and supported by its listeners, it’s a delight. Try it out and think about supporting them as well. 

I’m also interested in stringed instruments since being given a ukulele a couple of years ago by my once in a lifetime love. Unlike me, Mac, one of the Normal characters in ‘The Kold Kronicles’, is pretty good at the ukulele. The downside, as he likes to phrase it, is that Linn, ‘when she’s had a few, likes to dance…  Not a pretty sight…’ Thus a mix of humour and the impact of music – and, it must be said, alcohol in Linn’s case when she decides to shimmy.

By the way, Mac’s uke isn’t a standard uke, it’s a tenor sized harp-ukulele and as you can see, it does actually exist.  Created by an outstanding luthier, Alistair Hay, Emerald Guitars. I have one and I love it.  

Synergy Uke Red Artisan (NPU) as Smart Object-1

Smells:  Then there are memories created by smells. They can be evocative of so many things.  

The good – the smell of the back of a newborn’s neck – beautiful. Fresh bread also comes to mind. I make my own and love the smell.  It is a smell of home and all that that word means – comfort, laughter, love and delight in being with another to name but a few.  

The bad – other smells, some of which are not so pleasant, but that’s for another time and a more dark mood.

So, think about using all the above when writing.  They can be evocative and powerful as a ‘mechanism’ if you want to create a particular scene. 

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

Varben – an introduction

Varben – an introduction

For those who have not yet read ‘The Kold Kronicles, Book 1: Discovery’, Varben are the life-partnered morphing soul weapon that Sylvern and Shadow use when in combat.

The Varben came about as I began to write some of the fighting scenes. There was a need for a weapon that was somehow different.  They are the Sylvern after all. 

I did some research on pre-modern combat weapons and, as usual, Wikipedia came to my aid. A quick search will provide you with a whole range of weapon types that can be considered when writing one-on-one combat. As I mentioned in a previous post, I find Japanese culture fascinating. Therefore, Alegria’s preference for Zastra morphing into a katana was a given.

As a matter of interest, Nux and his Varben, Yasuo, prefer a two-handed long sword with a large pommel, whilst Bracken and her Varben, Beth, prefer the Roman gladius. In Bracken’s case, it’s a weight thing. And an efficient way of killing thing. And it’s a pointy thing too…

As to how this partnership is created, well, Sylvern meld with Varben at The Choosing Place during their training to become Kombat Troopers. There again, sometimes they don’t. If this doesn’t happen, then that’s it. They are unable to continue their training as a potential Kombat Trooper. Varben cannot be directed as to with whom they will meld, they just know it. As do the Sylvern. The relationship between Sylvern and Varben is totally transparent with no hiding who you are.  Acceptance of all the strengths and challenges in each other’s character is a given. Each will die to protect the other. That is another given. 

In Alegria’s case, she melded with Zastra, (a Sanskrit word – look it up). Both mask their love by teasing the other. Honours tend to be even on that score. 

Then there’s Nux and Yasuo. She is gentle and wise and the relationship they have is less challenging. There again, with Nux not really being the Sylvern who many think he is, they have had the time to develop their relationship.  

Varben are a delight to write about and I feel they add some ‘colour’ to the world of The Korum.

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

The Kold Kronicles – its genesis

The Kold Kronicles – its genesis

It’s interesting reading why some authors write what they do or even why they feel the need to write.  Some have something to say; others want to make a difference; and quite a few mention that the book demanded to be written.  Invariably, it’s a mix.  

I have to admit that the main reason for writing The Kold Kronicles was that Alegria, the main character, demanded to be ‘heard’.  As the book evolved, other characters, Nux, Bracken and so on, also began to develop a strong voice demanding that I also write about them.  So I did.  

My second reason for writing The Kold Kronicles is that I had something to say.  I wanted to take away the ‘glamour’ that can sometimes be associated with violence.  You’ll have seen the kind of thing I’m talking about. The main character, male or female, takes on seven or eight armed killers and within forty seconds has despatched all of them.  Usually quite graphically.  The sound of broken bones is heard and much gore is seen. The victor looks at all the vanquished bodies, usually corpses, shrugs and makes a pun / joke and walks out, unharmed, unbruised, and breathing quite normally.  There’s no smell of bodily fluids or matter, no screaming of the wounded, no bruised knuckles on the victor, nothing.  It’s clinical, it’s video gaming.  What I find disturbing is that many who see this kind of ‘entertainment’, (and I have no issues with it, it’s just not my preferred choice,) confuse it with the reality of fighting.  They think that if they become involved in something similar they’ll be able to do the same.  Unfortunately, reality kicks in, sometimes literally, and they end up in pain, in hospital and, sometimes, in prison.  

The Kold Kronicles can be quite violent and I have deliberately made it so.  I have also made clear the cost of any combat in which our protagonists are involved.  It’s the reason why the Sylvern have Healers and Talkers available immediately a War Band returns from any operation where combat is experienced.  

To repeat, any form of violence, be it verbal or physical, has a cost on all involved.  We only have to look at the recent events in Paris to see this is so.  Survivors will need time to recover not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.  Those close to them require, and deserve, the same level of support and understanding.  

So, I wrote The Kold Kronicles because the characters ‘shouted’ at me to write about them.  It’s an adventure story, it’s about love, there’s meant to be some humour and it’s also a tad violent.  However, we forget the implications of violence at our peril.  That’s also what I wanted to write about.  Both were the genesis of The Kold Kronicles.  

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’