Ties That Bind Us 2 ~ a poem about the bonds of love and loss

Ties that Bind 2

Do not cut those ties

To those you have lost.

The blade hurts beyond bearing

And cuts more than you know.

Let those ties fray rather

In the winds of passing time.

Thread by thread

Strand by strand,

Time wears the fabric down.

The first to fray is need;

Wiry like old roots,

It shrivels without feeding

Becoming dry and brittle

Before finally snapping

And becoming dust

That the wind catches

And blows away.

The next to go is illusion:

Flashing through rainbows

Of coloured pasts

That become slowly

Monochrome and clear.

You see things as they were

You see the truth

A skilful pen and ink sketch

Showing the bare lines

Of what there truly was.

Anger goes next,

Serpent-strong, writhing

Shrieking with fury

Dull red and thick with misery;

It grows quiet, finally

Stills its thrashing

Lies quiet and subdued.

You look again,

And it’s gone.

Each strand that bound you

One by one wears out

Frays to nothing


It’s gone.

And when each tie is gone,

You may find that one alone remains,

Bright shining silver,

Gleaming in the kinder light

That time will bring you.

This is the thread that never frays

Never breaks, never snaps.

If at the end of all the threads

This one remains,

Then leave it be.

Cutting this one

Only cuts your heart.

Synaesthesia, the senses and why characters in books need to smell

Synaesthesia, the senses and why characters in books need to smell

I’ve written before about being something of a sensitive bod but I’ve never mentioned except in passing anything to do with synaesthesia. One of the reasons for this is that it’s such a complex subject and is actually little understood. The usual explanation is that the brain gets its wires crossed and therefore some people can smell music, or see numbers as colours, or perceive words as textures. This makes it sound weird and a bit of a problem. It can also make those who do not experience things in this unusual way feel subconsciously that they might just be missing something, or that those who do are freaks. It can be a very emotive subject.

The way that we perceive the world around us is always unique to each person. I went to school with a kid who only discovered at aged 13, in some standard test from the school nurse that he was red/green colour blind. Up until that point, he was under the impression that everyone saw things the way he did. This is an extreme example but I often find myself wondering quite how different someone else’s perception of a thing might be to mine. I can sometimes “see” energy fields. I deliberately tune it out now, because it feels like spying on someone.

My experience of my own form of synaesthesia is not as dramatic as that of many. It tends to work around the sense of smell, and most smells for me have dimensions I can’t always describe. Combinations of smells and words evoke such strong emotional reactions that I can end up feeling faint. Smells often have colours, and sounds that come with them. The scent of rosemary is a silvery-blue, and it comes with a very high note of a hand-bell. Pine oil is brilliant white, usually and is silent. Vanilla. Now vanilla is old gold, velvet(a texture) and the sound of saxophones.

It’s hard to explain that these are not learned associations but something spontaneous. It’s not the case for every smell either, or colour. It’s often random and ridiculous. I will like or dislike a smell based on these reactions. I’d really love one day to visit the Fragonard fragrance museum in Paris and use the scent organ, a collection of essences where you can experience the process of creating  a new scent.

One of the things that will draw me most into a book is if it evokes the senses powerfully. I’m not interested in the slightest in mentions of clothing designer brands or shoes, and it might well make me give up as I have no mental image to associate with these things because they never enter my radar. If a writer tells me the heroine is wearing a Gucci dress, all it tells me is she has or has had more money than I’ll ever see in my life. I have no blueprint in my head for what this random fact means except money. But if you tell me as she swept past, the silk of her dress carrying in its rustling wake the odour of Bulgarian roses and a touch of honey and fine herbs, then something in me will sit up and a vivid picture has formed in my head. I can relate to the sound of the dress, and the scent it carries. The names of designers for me are pretty much meaningless, or actually quite negative in their connotations. They put me off reading more because their presence excludes me from the world of that book. I appreciate for many these are names that are familiar and desirable but not for me.

Evoking a world of reactions using well chosen sensory words is very difficult because our reactions to scents especially is very subjective. I had a client when I did reflexology who loathed the scent of lavender; it brought up a lot of emotions that she wasn’t ready to deal with. Yet for most this fragrance brings good images of clean laundry, cosy grandmotherly ladies and old world charm.

When an author names a famous fragrance I also find it hard to connect with if it isn’t one I have actually smelled. Some, like Chanel No.5 have a whole mystique built in around them, so that culturally there is a kind of persona about the perfume that many people may understand. However, this is usually gender specific; I wonder how many guys understand the subtle codes of perfume choices women make. So I don’t find it helpful to be told a character wore a certain perfume as the name alone rarely evokes any response in me.

In my own writing, the only time I have named a perfume a character habitually wears is in an unpublished novel (now published The Bet )where the female main character  wears Poison. I chose the perfume with care; I have smelled it, didn’t much like it and I felt that it was a perfume with the right name for the character. Moderately expensive, excessively strong and rather aggressive and the marketing that goes with it is the kind that would appeal to the character.

I do usually know what my characters smell like often before I have got far writing a novel (or indeed a short story) and that scent picture is part of the back story for people. Chloe, best friend to Isobel of Away With The Fairies and due to have her own book out soon, smells of a mixture of jasmine, sandalwood and a hint of potting compost. The scent of jasmine is very much a part of her story, though she doesn’t realise it till much later in the story. The sandalwood is from a battered, old but authentic Buddha made of sandalwood she inherits from her grandmother. The potting compost? Well, she’s a gardener. But I knew what she smelled like before I wrote most of her story.

The characters from Strangers and Pilgrims all had their scent-signature too. Elizabeth, while she was still a nun, smelled of incense (Prinknash Basillica, if anyone knows what that smells like) and freshly ironed linen. Gareth smelled before his breakdown of whichever male fragrance was the most popular. Alex smelled of the tweed jacket he’d bought second-hand and which was impregnated with the scent of pipe tobacco; a non-smoker himself, I always felt he carried that rather comforting whiff of good baccy. Oh and old books, too. Always a good smell on a man, for me. When Ginny borrowed his jumper it smelled of cedarwood (presumably from cedarwood balls it would be stored with to deter moths) All of them carried in my mind a scent, a complex mixture of things that told me so much about who they all were.

It’s also a good technique for introducing things about characters without being obvious about it. Bad breath for example (yes, I know) is sometimes a product of someone not eating properly; ketones can be smelled on the breath. The smell of garlic tells you a lot, too, and if it all comes down to poor dental hygiene, then there’s a whole load of information there too. Certain medical conditions can make smells: a diabetic who is not managing their condition can have breath that smells of over ripe fruit. If someone smells strongly of soap, and in the middle of the day, it might indicate some OCD tendencies.

There’s a whole wealth of powerful non-visual imagery to be used and enjoyed so why stick to what things look like, why not go further and explore the sounds, the scents, the textures and the subtle feelings and tastes. For me this would turn a book into more than a mere tale to while away the idle hours but a sensuous treat of many layers of experience, and mental pleasure. 

The Wild Hunt and Other Tales

Today is Candlemas or Imbolc, as well as the 1st of February. It’s the day when people celebrated the very first signs of spring. Imbolc or Oilmelc means sheep’s milk and it is indeed at this time of year that the first lambs are born (some are already born!) and the flow of milk really starts. It’s also the time when we start to notice the return of the light; indeed Alfred the Great decreed that after this day no candles were to be used at milking either morning or evening. In theory there is now light enough for this twice daily task.

It’s one of those new beginning kind of days. About five years ago I went to a ceremony where one was supposed to set one’s intent for the year ahead and while I giggled through a lot of it, I in my turn marched to the centre with my lit candle and declared my intent for the year to be invincible. This provoked much comment later at coffee after the ceremony, but I’ve never changed from that intent and I’d like to reaffirm my decision to let nothing permanently discourage me!

So over the last few days, in preparation for today I wondered what to do. I’d had a thought for releasing some short stories and I decided to just go for it. All my other ebooks I have had my beloved at hand helping me get something sorted, and this time I decided I shall do it without assistance and maintain my invincible stance.

It turned out not to be as hard as I feared.

There are six stories in this little collection, some familar to long term readers of this blog and one completely new. All the tales are spun around a theme of ancient beings, whether deities, demi-gods, archetypes or others, somehow still interacting with the modern world, and with modern people.

I’ve had to classify it in fantasy and fairytales because I couldn’t think of anywhere better to list it! I’ve also priced it as low as it is possible to price it.

I should mention that if you don’t own an e-reader, you can download a Kindle app for free and then can read a Kindle book on any pc, tablet or even on your phone.

Anyway this is my wish for this Spring for myself: to be invincible still.



(If you are in another country that has Amazon, put my name into the search and you ought to find the book there. I don’t really expect to sell any in non-English speaking countries, though!)