Of hammocks and new growth.
As with the spring and the mountain greening, the fall of autumn begins in patches. It is first noticed one morning, with two or three trees shunning their former verdancy, in exchange for a cloak of gold. Then another tree, and another. Before a week has passed a north-facing slope is no longer green but vibrant with oranges, reds, and yellows, a nearby deep gully bronzed and auburn, leaves leaching, dancing their final show before the curtain fall of winter.
This is a time of harvest, vines heavy with grape, figs ripening to the joy of the blackbirds, stray pumpkins appearing near the former compost heap. Fresh produce is not hard to find for much of the year, here in this corner of France, and I do not take it for granted. Perhaps there is not quite as much choice or freshness as there was in Portugal — the growing season there is longer — but it is certainly a far cry from the latest news coming out of the UK, where grapes, for example, will apparently increasingly be sourced in Australia (with attendant 5+ week journey from harvest to shop), rather than from the south of Europe (with attendant 15 hour journey from harvest to shop).
I still derive great pleasure from learning new things about food. For example, although I have drunk my fair share of the sweet Muscat wine, I had never eaten the actual grape until this week. It is revelatory, utterly different to the other options. The figs here, straight from the tree, are likewise different from those I sampled (copiously) in Portugal. And there is a reason the walnut in the Francophone world is known as noix de Grenoble. Soon, it shall be chataigne season, something I did not appreciate until visiting France — the wild sweet chestnuts in the UK were often devoured by the non-native grey squirrel, long before they were ripe enough for our palate (likewise with hazelnuts, often long gone before they have a chance to ripen on the tree).
This is a season of restlessness, of change and the lure of wilder places, crisper mornings, fewer mosquitoes and brilliant night skies. It is when the birds and Snufkin head south, when Orion is bright in the north, and when the stags begin to roar. It always makes me want to head to the woods, swing in my hammock, and inhale, deeply.
Eleven years ago today I awoke to the freshest of air, the scent of the ocean, the shore, the peat hills and deep oaken forest greeting me in my hammock. I had left civilisation behind the day before and it would be December before I again slept in a bed, under a roof not made of tarp, heather, branches, or leaves.
A year has passed since I shared this piece, which talks about the genesis of this adventure. As I have said before, one day I shall expand the essays and posts on this period, turn my memories into a proper book about how it shaped me, about how I think experiences such as these are a force of power, a crucible to forge oneself anew — at this point, however, that book is still no closer to being crafted.
That is not to say I have done nothing about it. I often think and take notes, scribble ideas and record words, phrases, vignettes, which shall all eventually be pieced together, a thread here, a stitch there, warp and weft. Some books take longer marinating than others.
The more I look at the world, the more I see those who are caught in a torrent of negative news, those who fail to see hope even when it is right in front of them — the more I know I have to write that book. And others. My strength is certainly words, and I know this is also a good way to pass along messages, share thoughts and gently push what is real, what is true, what is right.
But first, other things must happen.
For this month (until the 8th of October) I am a part of the group promotion, Fantasy & Sci-Fi Worlds to Explore. By following this link, you can find over 50 books, given away by their respective authors, including the first novella in my series, The Lesser Evil, entitled Only One Death. Spoiler alert: there’s more than one death. Each of these tales is FREE and, I know I’ve mentioned this before, and one should not judge a book by its cover, but there are some lovely, superbly-professional covers in this group!
Do follow the link and have a look.
Very soon, I’ll potentially be offering review copies of Tales of The Lesser Evil: Volume 1, along with Kindle Unlimited groups for the forthcoming Death In Harmony. Watch this space…
To Do. A Brief Recap.
I know I mentioned some of this schedule relatively recently, but not only are there some new friends here, but it also keeps my mind on track to share it with you all!
So, what is happening with me in the coming months? For a start, in roughly this order, these things will happen:
- The ebook of Death in Harmony is published on Amazon, in order to be able to utilise Kindle Unlimited. (Both Death in Harmony and Dancing with Death are now edited, revised, revisited, and reedited. They are ready to go, thanks to my editors!)
- (After a certain time the ebook of Death in Harmony shall be made available widely, this time shall be measured in months.)
- The print on demand version of Death in Harmony (with the bonus tale, Dancing With Death, included) is published on both Amazon and through Draft2Digital (I think!), with…
- …the print on demand version of Tales of The Lesser Evil: Volume 1 published at the same time, in the same places.
- I edit the fourth novella (perhaps, like Death in Harmony, potentially a novel), or seventh, if you count the bonus tales and I…
- …also edit the bonus for this (which ties ALL of the stories together with a neat anticipatory bow, in advance of the coming Lesser Evil trilogy).
- They are then published, ASAP, in a similar fashion to Death in Harmony — initially Amazon-only, then widely. Same with the print on demand copies.
- I have a break from The Lesser Evil and revisit The Greater Good. Starting with a thorough reread of all I have crafted on this, drafts, edits, notes, scribbles etc.
- Redraft/Edit The Care Industry, the first novel of The Greater Good and, when I and others judge it ready, I send it to agents.
- Return to The Lesser Evil (TLE) and draft the first novel. It’ll not be a short book. Not at all.
- Then back to The Greater Good (TGG), either for further work on The Care Industry, if accepted somewhere, or moving along to redrafting The Town at the End of the World.
- Edit and publish the first novel of TLE.
- Continue this cycle, TGG/TLE etc (It is around this point that I guess I may well write the book I mention above, non-fiction nature-centric memoir. With a healthy dose of bushcraft skills, I imagine — I think it would be fun to intersperse the pages with brief how-to passages, adding another layer to this work.)
There will also be marketing joys to contend with throughout all this period, including utilising the devil that is facebook to entice people here, and encourage them to read my stories. I won’t throw any money their way, however.
And how long will this all take? A while, I suspect. Years, not months.
You see, there are other things happening soon too, more of which, below…
Last Friday, I tweeted this:
And I still marvel at all those strands of fate that brought us together. Life can spin out incredible chance and wonder, and I am so very grateful.
Returning to the list of things which I still need to do, relatively soon, obviously continue planning a wedding is a big one of them. We would also like to find a house to live in and then move.
Then there’s the most exciting of all my news:
We’re having a baby girl (due date [French system] 19th October 2021. Aurélie began her maternity leave yesterday.).
This last, ridiculously exciting point is the principal reason we are in France now, rather than somewhere else on this wonderful planet we inhabit. In brief, Covid came along, I proposed, we started planning our wedding and then thought seriously about the ‘when do we have the child we both want’ question — although the serious thought didn’t last long, as we both knew it was the right time (and will now mean a 6+ month old at the wedding, rather than a younger baby).
After this decision was made, Aurélie became pregnant almost immediately, but we had a miscarriage at 11 weeks, mere days before the first scan. This happened in Portugal, where neither of us spoke much of the language, knew pretty much no one (thanks, Covid and lockdowns), and had no transport beyond taxis or the bus. Hence France for us both. Needless to say, the miscarriage was a difficult time in our lives, and I think it is important that more people talk about these things openly, rather than hiding them away.
We were fortunate that, after the miscarriage, when we started trying again, it really did not take long until Aurélie was once more pregnant. We know that this is not to be taken for granted.
We will be remain here in France for a few years, but both of us are wandering types, and the lure of slow travel is strong. There’s a world out there, after all. I suspect little Bonnet-Crow (the name Aurélie and I will both be adopting after the wedding) will be a LOT better at languages than her Papa (although attending antenatal classes in French has certainly increased my vocabulary; the French medical system is great), she’ll be bilingual, for a start, but I hope she learns other tongues in other nations too.
And that’s my/our exciting news. I expect you’ll hear more about this in coming months (and, in relation to that anniversary of my first day out in the woods, yes, of course I am planning a complex, all-encompassing bushcraft curriculum for the mini…).
There’ll be another newsletter very soon, seeing as Death In Harmony will be available this month (and, incidentally, if you have a book blog or are a keen book reviewer, do reply to this message and I’ll send you an ARC.).
As always, take care of yourselves, and do send this along to anyone you think may be interested. Don’t forget to hit reply, should you wish (and thanks to those of you who did after the last edition, I really appreciate it).
NOTE: All photographs my own, as usual, on this occasion taken on that first day away from the city, eleven years ago precisely. My first camp and tentative exploration of the area.