Happy New Year 2019.

Winter within the Woodland

At one hour past midnight in a glade filled with soft snow, the sounds of a small babies cries echoed through the bare snow dressed trees, around the ancient woodland that surrounded Robbie’s Mere, and the house of the Lord Loxley and his wife Runestone.

   As if they all knew, the few animals that scratched in the snow for food, stopped and all raised their heads and looked in the direction of the wooden house. It was a sacred time when a power of the sight of the future was brought by Stephanie and Jessica into the world.

   The house rang with cheers, and laughter and the ringing of glasses of celebration, and somehow in the world of the woodland that was asleep for the winter, life seemed to tread round the trees and bring tidings to all of a new addition to the noble line of Loxley.

Taken from The Queen of the Violet Isle. HTTK Book Four, by Robin John Morgan.

Is it 2019 already?

It is hard to believe that 10 years ago in January of 2009, I sat with my girlfriend, later to be my wife, and looked through every page of the Bowman of Loxley. We were in the process of starting what was to become a publishing deal for the first editions of HTTK, the only problem was, the publisher was concerned about the word count. We edited a sizeable chunk from the first book, something I did very begrudgingly, as this book was the culmination of 20 years of research and ideas.

It was an exciting time, I had been pushed and pushed by a lot of people to publish this book, and for two years I had dodged doing it, from my own point of view I did not feel like I was a writer, I simply wrote stuff down and enjoyed doing it. Writing was a past time, a hobby, it was not something that was meant to be serious, but having been pushed by just about everyone who had read the rough first draft, I had finally made the decision to publish and set about getting things ready.

The rest as we know is history, the book was edited down, the book was published in April 2009, followed by book two the same year, and the third book came out a year later. It has all felt like a whirl wind trip, and the kind of story dreams are made of, but sadly that was not to be the case.

The fourth book in the series was not published until 2014, four years after the third book, which was mainly due to the fact that as my third book hit the stores, I began to feel very uneasy about allowing my publisher of that time work on the fourth. Things felt wrong, and my suspicions grew a great deal that things with the publisher were not as expected. I am glad now that I listened to my gut feelings because as I arrive in 2019 I still have not received a single penny in royalties from those first editions, and I can no longer reach the publisher as they have disappeared, I have had no choice but to write off those earnings from what at the time was a lot of book sales.

It served as a lesson for the future, and became my driving force to set things right and establish HTTK by a means I could control, and funnily enough, it was New Year’s Day 2014 that I launched Violet Circle Publishing, after a year of seriously hard work and effort on the part of my wife and myself. January 2014 was once again a hive of activity as I pushed to firstly revisit the first three books, and put back all the edits that had been removed from the first editions. The focus from that point on was to completely re-format the interior with a format that could be replicated throughout all the books, I wanted it simple, clean, and easy to read, and by making the page size a little larger, I manged to drop the page count, and thus reduce the price of the books, as I had always felt the first editions were just too expensive.

January 2019 is going to follow a similar pattern; I will be writing none stop as my wife looks towards the editing of each chapter as I write it, in order to speed up production of the final book of the series. It will feel good to finish with the final book on the tenth anniversary of the first publication, a feat that will bring to a close a whopping twelve years of none stop writing of this particular series of books. Who knew it would take so long to actually get all of it to this point and into print?

Heirs to the Kingdom has seen me write millions of words, spend literally a good few years of just editing and revising, I have taken thousands of photographs, driven hundreds of miles, and have hours of notes on my digital voice recorder, and I think I have used a good few trees worth of recycled paper in the process.

I would love to say it’s been exhausting, but honestly even though there have been so many nights sat up alone writing, and I have at times suffered sleep deprivation because I got carried away on a particular stubborn part of the tale. Exhaustion was never an issue, it has been a challenge of that there is no doubt, but I loved every moment I have worked on this story, and it has become a huge part of the person I have become, and hopefully I think I can say I have finally earned my stripes as full time writer.

2019 will take me into a place where my focus and concentration have to be better than ever, I have a lot still to do to bring this story to its final conclusion, and it with that in mind that I take my inspiration from the last ten years of working to publish this story. It still needs a much bigger fan base if I am going to continue to write, and once the final book hits the shelves, that will be my goal for the second part of this year, but for now, I am simply doing what I love the most, writing the tale that you have all come to love, for all of you who read this are one of the inspirations that drives me forward, and I will be forever grateful to all of you.

I wish all of you the very best for this coming year, I wish you all peace, and safety in whatever you may face this year, and I hope all of you will get to walk a greener path lit by the shade of old trees.

Happy New Year 2019 to you all.

The dappled shade of the Woodland

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The Parting of Sapphire and Keith.

Handfasting or Marriage

I have had a few comments from readers on the breakup between Sapphire and Keith. Quite a few of you have expressed some sadness at their parting of the ways. They met in book two, and it appeared that they were destined to be together forever, especially when you look to book four, and Sapphire’s ordeal at the hands of Brother Argus, and how distraught she became about her prospects for future chances of children with Keith.

I try in all that I write to give an honest representation of life, and I think the story of Sapphire and Keith serves as a good reflection of our modern world today, and there is a line I have used many times as I have talked to someone suffering a broken heart, which simply put is, “Some people are meant to belong in our hearts, but not always in our lives.”

I have seen a great deal in my half century on this earth, and since I was a young boy, a great deal has changed in regard to relationships and marriage. I think with age I have grown a little cynical about the future of what is now seen as out of date values, and I have watched the game change into something so different from the family roles I learned as a young boy. I do try very hard to present a modern take on my woodland world, and I spend a great deal of time thinking about how the rules of society would change after a life changing event such as the Red Death, and one thing I do know, is that if you put people into a survival situation, pretty much most of their view points on life will shift, especially in regard to long term goals.

Modern culture is unrecognisable to that of my youth, and as a people watcher who is fascinated with the human condition, I have observed many of the younger couples that have grown around me. Marriages are changing, so are relationships, and in today’s world, sadly a marriage is something no longer measured as for life. The young embrace marriage and relationships as a short term phase, most marriages today encounter cheating and infidelity much sooner than say twenty years ago, it appears that forever has a life span of only ten years in the modern world, and I think about this a great deal.

Pagan ritual of marriage

The fact is, modern society sees relationships so much more differently than I did in my twenties, they have adopted a more  disposable lifestyle, which I think creates an attitude and a live in the now approach. To a degree I understand this, as I grew up opposed to marriage due mainly to my own observations of those around me, and I chose to live my own life in search of liberty and self-discovery. It was only in my later years that I even considered marriage, and so I feel that maybe the youth of today are a little more wiser to life, and want to enjoy being single for far longer than many of my peers did before settling down. When I was younger I was taught marriage is for life, you pick one person and then tough it out no matter what the circumstances, today traditional marriage is just one of many options, that include open lifestyles of varying degrees, and I have observed these in action, and considered it and realised that a marriage in the modern world, is whatever that couple wants it to be, and I actually can see some sense to this.

I have observed couples, who break up, and I have had the chance to talk to quite a few during their times of separation, and many have regrets, and equally as many do not want to let go. It is an interesting phenomenon, and something I wanted to reflect in the books. I have known females, who even though their partner treated them terribly, and left them for other women, they refused to let go, and have endured a long period of suffering alone as a result. I still to this day do not understand why anyone would want to be around someone who treated them so badly, but the facts are, they fought for all they were worth to try and win the man back, and even though I disagreed with them, I also admired them for such massive belief in the power of love to win over.

Others I know have had multiple affairs, and it has weighed heavily on them, and yet as unhappy as they were living in what they perceived as misery, they refused to leave their partners, as they did in a strange way actually love and care about them, and had no intention of hurting them. It is a strange thing to observe, as they worked so hard to save their marriage, only to end repeating their infidelity. I feel that today marriage and relationships are more flexible and easy to discard in the minds of a generation who swipe left or right, and can hook up instantly using the internet or a phone app. I also have had to ask myself, that if your life was plunged into the danger of an apocalyptic event, would that make people more likely to couple up for relationship security, and then in time, as the situation improved, would they be more likely or less likely to separate?

The way I see it, is that with the chance to start completely from scratch, would those with less than a satisfactory relationships separate for a complete change and a better future, or would that bond be strengthened, and therefore remove the all the sources of unhappiness with the struggle to survive? I talked to a lot of people about this and did a lot of reading, and I came to the decision that most bonds would probably be boosted. It is clear that during war time Europe of the 1930’s and 40’s with the chances of survival lower than say during peacetime, more people rushed into marriage, but again in many cases, military personal stationed  very far from home, sort companionship with partners who were not their legal spouses.

I think the higher the risk of death, the more willing some people were to risk everything and move away from the norms of society. With this in mind I turned to Sapphire and her situation.  Firstly Sapphire has had to endure 30yrs alone and isolated (Book 7), so in this scenario she grows use to being without Keith and learns to be dependent on just herself. Sapphire’s other important factor is that once she has used the Bridge of Sequana, she begins to understand that as her powers grow, she will attract the attention of the Dark One. One factor gives her separation and the other threatens death, both ultimately risk Keith’s life, and could end up with him alone if she dies. It is not a simple situation.

Celtic handfasting ribbon knot.

The fact is nothing in a relationship is simple, everything is a negotiation, as we see with Robbie and Runestone as they face their roles in life, and deal with the their commitment to each other and the family they are raising. I think in today’s modern world, they do set a good example to those who really are committed and want to live with the one they have chosen. I have always believed that every marriage is unique, and should not be a formula fixed by society. It is a negotiation lived by just two people, and it is up to them to define their boundaries and live as they chose without comment from the rest of the world. In the background of the books we can see this in all the varied forms of marriage and relationships the characters have, and all of them are very different. I can certainly say that in my own marriage, everything is openly discussed, and then we chose what our next step will be, it works for us, even though at times others do not understand it, but we are also aware it is not going to be the same experience for everyone else, and we try not to comment or judge others because of that.

I have looked at people and how they live together, and it has been clear to me that they are not destined to find their way through whatever crisis they face with each other, and it is because of those cases in real life, I think that I wrote Opal’s part in this as the one to advise Sapphire and maybe shows the greatest wisdom. When Sapphire confesses how she feels about Keith and her future, it is Opal who states it is unfair to continue, as it is not just her life; she must also consider Keith’s. Opal advises the break up after Sapphire explains she wishes to find her own path alone, and I think this shows great wisdom, as even though they are both aware of how much this will hurt Keith, it is in the long run the best thing for him. Given time, Keith will heal and start a new relationship, and through that he will discover the joys of life again. The sudden break up will mean that whilst he is still young, he will have the chance to find something of value that will last much longer, because if Sapphire does not have the courage, and drags it out, it is Keith that will ultimately suffer the worst, and eventually have a shorter life time with a new love.

Many agree with Opal, and some who have spoken to me do not, ultimately I am always going to side with Opal, after all the women is over a thousand years old, and has seen far more in life than I have. But I do think that whilst immensely difficult, Sapphire ultimately did the right thing to end it. Her life is about to change forever, as she becomes the centre of a circle that will grow to guide many lines of lives, and she will enter places in her life Keith will not be allowed to go to.

(Spoiler alert) Sapphire is half human and half Fae, and up until now she has lived a very human existence, her coming years will see her face and embrace her Fae side, as she will be ever drawn in that direction, and whilst the Fae of Earth embrace many freedoms of gender and relationships, Keith will not be allowed to be a part of certain aspects of Fae life. It is a very important factor in her decision, and why the book contains the heart breaking scene where Sapphire visits Keith for one last farewell.

This is not a situation where anyone wins, and for Sapphire I think it is as painful as it is for Keith, but you cannot rule out that she has lived 30 years alone, only to be returned back to the point in time where Robbie confronted the Dark One on Citadel Mount. Having felt the freedom the isolation has given her to learn her craft, she is now placed back into Keith’s arms, and within her so much has changed. Yes she still loves him and probably always will, but she has to be realistic and face the truth of life. The truth is she has learned to live without him, and has come to the realisation that isolation is her protection and her greatest strength. I admit it would be no problem to pick up where she left off again with Keith.

As a writer, it would have made little impact on the books and the story, but that is not how I work, as I want the characters to appear as real as me and you, and I spent a long time thinking about her situation. It made complete sense at the end of the process to have Sapphire admit the truth, there has been a little part of her caught in her teenage dreams and fantasies born out of her own isolation growing up, and as she matured, she had to face the facts that her position could no longer tolerate any form of deceit. Not only towards others, but more importantly towards herself.  Sapphire has to a degree been fooling herself that she can live a mortal life, but the fact remains that she is half Fae, and sooner or later she would have to leave Loxley, and so with that in mind, she had to break it off with Keith, for her journey now is into the unknown world of the mystics, a place no fully mortal person can travel.

I think in today’s world the outcome would be exactly the same. It is said that if you truly love someone, you have to love them enough to let them go, and I believe in that deeply, as I feel that a relationship is two individual people sharing a life experience together, and it is with that in mind I wrote the passages in book seven. It is my hope this series will have a true to life feeling, even though it is heavily wrapped in fantasy, and I hope you will take that into consideration.

The final book in this series of HTTK will illuminate many aspects of the realms and worlds and the people within them, and as all the strings get pulled together to draw this adventure to a close, I hope it will become a little clearer for the readership, and answer many more questions. I am writing what is the most complex book  at the moment in an attempt to finish the book as quickly as I can, and so hopefully it will not be much longer before you all have a copy in your hands, and can complete this journey with me. Until then I thank you for all your correspondence, and look forward to presenting the final instalment at some future point.

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The roadblocks of life.

When I started this year, I had high hopes and a long list of notes and ideas to move forward and complete the final book of the series in Heirs to the Kingdom.

Looking back through all the data I had collected last year, which for the past ten years have been the backbone of what was a story that had been an obsession for 20 years, it became clear very quickly that the notes for the start of this story, where sketchy at best.

I have extensive notes on the Ruling Council, Gwendolyn, Opal and the different lifestyles of all the different races of people within this story, but what I lacked was the very start of the line of Le Fey. Mostly I had a small roughly scribbled story of two members of the Fae races that met in Avalon during the time it was being constructed for Rhiannon, and it lacked a great deal of detail.

The main bullet points highlighted the importance of this time, but they were just the bare bones, and lacked any kind of meat to build on. It became very clear that in order to complete the final story of HTTK, I needed a lot more detailed information on those times, something that could be achieved by writing the tale from start to finish. I soon understood that what I was about to embark on was the writing of two books side by side.

I began as I always do, researching and making rough notes of the plot, and started to write the back story, which was actually the very start of the series that I wanted to complete. Ten chapters in I had enough to go on with, and so turned my attention back to the final book of the HTTK series and made a start. The process that has been my routine for most of this year has been a strange kind of writing leap frog, the start of this series, and then jump to the final book and so forth, and as a result both books have progressed at a much slower pace than they would normally.

To give you all an idea of how fast these books come together, I wrote book one back in 2007 in a rough draft based on over twenty years of thorough research and notes, it took approximately three months to write the first draft, which was then revised and edited over a whole year to become what was the first edition. At that time (With a different publisher) I was not that happy with the final book, and so spent a further five months working on a revised edition in 2012, which was published as a second revised edition in 2014 via Violet Circle Publishing. Book One is still the fastest book I have written, book five took almost two years to write, and here I am trying to put together two very detailed books in as little time as possible, to say I have felt the pressure is an understatement.

2018 has to date possibly been one of the most difficult years of my life. My family life has been rocked since the year began, and as a family we have faced some very difficult and challenging times. I cannot deny that as I arrive in the last month of this year, I find myself stressed and strained and suffering from complete emotional and physical exhaustion. Endless hurdles to face and overcome has been the theme of my year, and even though there have been many times when I ached with the frustration to simply hide away and write, such has been the theme of this year that I have not completed anywhere near as much work as I would wish to. Writing, promoting my books and getting out and about to actually sell books to the public, have all been pushed on to the back burner many times, in order to have to stop and drop everything for the needs of others.

I have entered December this year hoping for some calm and stability in the hope of finally having the time to work through this whole month and play catch up on my writing, I am even considering planning to leave the house and hole up in some distant guest house, in order to finally complete the first manuscript of the last book, something I may well do in January if resources are available.

It has always been my plan to complete the last book and get it on the shelves, and then take my time finishing the final edits of what will be one last related book in the HTTK series, as it will become a prequel to the story with characters of whom you may have heard in references throughout the books, but you have not actually met to date.

I do get asked on a regular basis if there will be any other related tales, so I can say yes to at least one book, and there will always be a possibility of shorter tales, but for now I can only focus on the final book of the series, at which point I will see. I have other stories unrelated to HTTK I would love to complete, and so given the time and good health, I hope I can continue with those as well.

For now my frustration levels remain high, and my fingers are crossed for an uneventful life in 2019 so that I can relax and focus on the writing. Life is getting a little too much in the way, and I want to address that next year and withdraw more from the circles that surround me in order to focus on what I love the most, making up stories and getting them down on paper.

In the very little free time that has been available, I have managed to get some rough pieces together for the blog, and so with luck I will edit them and clean them up, and then get you some more insights into this wonderful tale on the blog over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed life will remain stable this month and I hope you enjoy what I can share with you.

My thanks and blessings to you all for the coming festivities. May you all walk safely and in peace into the coming New Year.

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Yuletide

  On the late afternoon of December 21st, he had returned, and with Runestone, they led the vigil in the old stone circle above the stockade and celebrated the Winter Solstice, and the going down of the sun on the shortest day of the year.

  Rune had smiled with joy as they headed back to the Mere in the darkness, and placed a fat heavy log on the fire to banish the darkness and celebrated with wine and ale. It was a time of family, and together they decorated the house with fresh holly and mistletoe, and Rune laughed with delight as Robbie carried in a large potted pine, to decorate with small decorations made of woven straw, and biscuits hung on red ribbon.

  The tree was topped with an elaborately made five pointed star of silver, which was their first ever Yule gift as a couple, and made by Jade’s skilled hand.

   All round the house candles burned, casting a warm flickering glow across everything, as the house rang to the sound of Rune, as she giggled with happiness while she prepared the meal for all the family who would be arriving shortly.

            Taken from “The Queen of the Violet Isle, HTTK Book Four.”

Green Man Yule.

Yule for me is time of darkness and light. At this time of year I always yearn to be alone and reflect on my year and my past, something that is not as possible now as I have a family. Before 2008 when I worked alone, I would always close up my shop at the end of the day of selling Christmas trees and wreaths, and walk home in the cold crisp air. On many occasions, I would divert from the road, and walk along the dark silent canal pathway, my mind lost in thoughtful reflection of my year. I think it was on one of those long walks home that I formulated what was to become the opening passage of book four, a section of which is at the top of this article.

The above passage from HTTK BK four, is based on real life events, and something I was a part of in my teenage years with a wonderful group of hippies, who changed my life, and showed me a way of living that was more in tune with who I was, and less in tune with the expectations of my family at that time. We numbered eight, of which today only three of us still live spread across three different countries, and on this day more than ever, I remember them and miss them dearly.

One figure more than any stands out for me, for she was the oldest of all us, and in many ways she became the focus of the character Steph in my books. I shall not name her out of respect for her family, for she walked from this realm and into another many years ago, and yet such was the power of her kindness and wisdom, I have never forgotten her, an feel privileged that I had a part in her life .

With her husband she made jewellery, and bags from cloth, she even knitted all of us warm hats and scarves, which she usually presented us with on Yule. Her husband was a Druid, and it was from him I learned a great deal of tree lore and the rituals of a Celtic past. My Steph figure was indeed a mother figure to all of us, even though she was only five years older than us, but even so her wisdom for her young years was honest, open, and deeply insightful. She gave me a lot of good advice at a time when I was lost, insecure, and looking for direction, and it was through her wisdom, which has stayed with me always, I think I found my way back into my love of plant lore and eventually writing.

I remember one Yule celebration and telling her how one person in my family life referred to me as the Scarecrow, and she smiled and asked how I felt about that. I was pretty scruffy at the time with my long tatty hair, faded Led Zeppelin tee, afghan coat, and patched pants, I told her it felt insulting and unjustified, and she simply smiled and asked, “are you ill at ease with the way you dress?” No I protested, I love how I dress, and her reply was simple, “Then embrace the Scarecrow, if you embrace it, then it will no longer feel unjust or an insult, I would say, it could be a compliment.” She gave a sly giggle and it made sense.

One particular member of my family expected our whole family to conform to her standards, I had refused to, and as a result of my teenage rebellion, I had embraced my free living side and joined the throng of growing hippies across the UK. She was appalled at it and refused to entertain me until I cut my shoulder length hair and changed my attire. Scarecrow was meant to be an insult, a means to shame me into conforming to her will, and so I embraced it and became more extreme, and whenever the insult was fired at me by herself or one of her pillar of society friends, I simply stood still and lifted my arms out in a Scarecrow pose. (I smile as write this)

It worked wonderfully, and soon the comments stopped. Embracing the Scarecrow took away my insecurity, and gave me the courage for the first time in my life to actually make a stand for who I was, and who I wanted to be. It felt like a life changing moment in my life at the time, and today as I look back, I can see how much of a difference it has made to the person I have become.

Every year on December 21st and 22nd, we all made our way to her house, and as the light of the day faded, all the lights in the house were extinguished, and we would gather around the hearth of the old open grate fire. She would say a small blessing and thank the world around us for the gifts of life, and the bounty of the wilds, and then she would lean forward and light the kindling stacked in the chimney grate. Once the fire began to burn, she would take a large cut log out of a basket, and place it on the fire to burn slowly over the coming days. Candles were lit from the burning fire and placed all around the house, bringing light to every room.

Once the fire was burning, and the house filled with light, her husband would carry in the tree of scots pine, one year we even had a holly bush in a huge pot, and we would all take part in the decoration of the tree. There were few baubles, and only a short string of electric lights, all the rest of the decorations were small neatly wrapped packages bearing the names of each of us, and special cookies that hung on red ribbons. Even now I still find it to be one of the most magical parts of my life, which is why many years back when I wrote the above passage for the fourth book, I wanted to save that very important moment of my life within its pages.

Drink mead and hail the Ancestors.

Yule was a time of friends and feasting, and all of us stayed together for the two days and laughed, talked and got quite drunk as I remember, I almost danced once such was the power of the home brew.

It is a memory filled with light, but also for myself edged with darkness, for I miss those wonderful people deeply at this time of year. Heirs to the Kingdom is more than just a story, it is the combination of a life, of love for people, and the adventures that are woven through all of my life of experience. I realise for most people it is simply a tale of adventure and fantasy, but I can assure you it is so much more than that, it is filled to the core with a life as real as your own, carefully written from hidden truth of a time long since gone, when people cared about each other and love had a true meaning between not just lovers, but true friends. The world has changed so much since that time, which is why it was so important for this memory to be kept alive in print.

On this day I gather my family around my own fire, and light a candle to light the darkness and pay tribute to my friends, and those other important special people I have lost from my life. Alone later I will sit and toast them, and then for a sad while I shall sit alone and remember them.

Whether you follow Yuletide or not, I send out my blessings and goodwill to all of you, may you walk on green paths with the trees above you, to keep you all safe from the storms of life next year and beyond.

Yuletide blessings to you all.

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Natural Vs Unnatural

A few things have happened of late that have made me think. Firstly as I write this, yet another major social media player, Tumblr has decided to remove all NSFW (Notsuitable for work) Content from its platform. I am no fan of any kind of censorship, I believe in the freedom of speech, and of expression, especially when it comes to lifestyles and artwork.

Having watched many blogs that I have interacted with on Tumblr face the prospect of being deleted on Dec 17th, it has felt like a bitter blow to creative expression and freedom, and I really do feel their fear and pain as they face the prospect of being banned for life, when all they have done is paint pictures of natural people, or promoted body positivity via a naturist lifestyle.

Free Thinking

We have seen this kind of sweeping censorship cross many platforms in recent years, as Facebook, Instagram, Google and the like have cracked down on free lifestyles by classing them as Porn, which it most certainly is not. Watching this has reminded me of a few conversations I have had with readers of HTTK about areas of my writing that address the topics of Sex and Nudity or as I like to phrase it, “Natural Lifestyles.”

One conversation that comes to mind was during the writing of book two, it was the part where after Robbie has been found and is recovering, he takes Runestone to Robbie’s Mere for the first time, and they spend the night making love under the trees. The following morning, Runestone wakes to find Robbie has gone off hunting, and so she slips out from under her blankets and walks naked to the water and goes for a swim.

I was asked,“Should you really be writing that an attractive 16 year old girl swims naked in the Mere alone. What if someone saw her?” I cannot deny it made me smile, and I responded as such.

“Why does it matter? I then went on to explain that yes she was 16, and I actually have never said that she was attractive, I always implied that Robbie found her attractive, and as we all know from life, people are attracted to different things in others such as temperament and personality. Would it be fine is she was unattractive, and does it really matter if someone sees her? After all, she is obviously comfortable with her own body, and so therefore I would suggest that she would be fine with being seen naked.” I think the reader completely missed the point of who Runestone actually is.

Its not Rude to be Nude

The response I got was a resounding gasp of horror, so I informed the questioner. “I think your obvious shock, is probably based more out your own fear than it is Runestone’s.” So I questioned, “Have you ever swam naked in a wild pool, it really is a wonderful feeling?” My questioner blushed, and answered somewhat quickly. “NEVER!!!”

I am not sure what shocked her more, the thought of herself swimming naked, or my absolute belief that being naked could be seen as normal. She obviously has issues with herself, and it is one of the things I spot the most in those who read my work. I have no issues at all presenting different or alternative lifestyles to that of what the society we live in considers natural or unnatural. I really do see the world differently to most of the people who read my books, and yes I do challenge people when they read HTTK for the first time, and yes I have absolutely no problems challenging the world beliefs of any reader.

I believe that a book should be challenging, if every writer chose to write a safe story then how would we learn about different lifestyles and world perspectives? I don’t write graphic sex, I do find it to be a tad coarse, but I do write implied sex and allow the reader to judge the events from, their own perspective. The way I see it, if a younger reader is engaged in the book but has little sexual knowledge and experience, the way I have written the story will not increase their knowledge or experience, and in most cases I have been proven right, as the very few younger readers I have known of, have not really understood those passages, simply because events are implied but not graphically outlined.

I grew up around Hippies and Pagans, and so there was a minority who are so in tune with the natural world that they have no issues with being naked around clothed people, and after some time of this kind of exposure, you simply get used to it and see it for what it actually is, ‘None Sexual.’ Seriously try going to a major rock festival like Glastonbury and not seeing naked people, it simply is impossible.

I see the world as two distinct aspects, there is the world of ‘Stone’ Which is the world of today with all its societal rules and irrational fears, and the ‘TheWoodland Realm’ which is my world, one that embraces the natural aspects of nature and life, free of societies self-absorbed disjointed belief systems. I have worked in counselling and helped people with their sexual problems and relationship issues, and so I am naturally a sex positive person, and feel no shame that I would encourage a person to explore their body or sexual feelings. I have no issues with Naturism and have freely participated in many group skinny dipping sessions in my life, and believe me it truly is something everyone should try, as after those five minutes of fear before disrobing, I think you will find you wonder what all the fuss was about. It comes as naturally as breathing, so add it to your bucket list for life.

Today’s modern culture, especially with social media and all its censorship, has helped advertisers build a profile of body shaming based on fear, and it is this control that does indeed change the way people think. The world of Mason Knox is all about fear and control, and I see it more and more in the world around me today. In the Woodland Realm there is no such thing as unnatural. I have always thought that to be open and free spirited is the truth of nature, and so therefore it is impossible to be unnatural, for within nature, everything can only be natural, and it is from this point of view I write about the Green Realm.

In 2018 the amount of people joining Naturism has risen substantially compared to previous years, and I personally think it is a good thing. In the USA it is noted that lack of vitamin D (Natural occurring in skin exposure to sunlight) is now at an epic proportion, there is now more plastic surgery than ever before, and more and more cases of body dysmorphia are being reported. The modern technological life is disengaging people from real life, and depression and suicides are rising. The average woman is bombarded by body shamming advertising every minute of every day, and as a result sales of beauty enhancing products have become the leading booming industry on the planet. The Bra industry shames women into believing that wearing an underwired bra is the only look a women should have, and yet more and more studies are showing that underwired bras can contribute to breast problems such as cancer. The whole world is driven by body fear, designed to do nothing more than create wealth for mass manufacturing corporations, and suppression of body freedom is yet another way of preventing people from understanding the simple truth, which is none of us should be afraid or ashamed of our own skin. Science has made a case for a long time that nudity promotes good health, clothing restricts the body from breathing, especially at night, and exposure to light helps promotes greater Vitamin D production that helps fight depression and strengthens the cells throughout out the whole body, and yet mass media sensationalises it and promotes greater fear for no other reason than it helps promote major industries, it simply is wrong.

Good Fiction

 If onereader of my stories discovers something wonderful from a passage, that may allow them to let go of some of this stigma and indoctrination of this world, then I rejoice in the fact that I presented another way for them to approach life, for that simply put, is the purpose of a well written book.

Be yourself, embrace your natural being, and seriously who cares if people are watching, the chances are they are not, because they are too busy looking down at their phone. So if in doubt, look to nature, after all it is where our origins truly lie. Be natural, live true to yourself and simply put, read more and be yourself.

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Zandra’s Revenge

the first book in the series heirs to the Kingdom by Robin John Morgan.

A few days ago, whilst I was out with my wife driving, she asked quite out of nowhere if she could ask me about an element of HTTK. This is quite normal for us, we often pull apart the story in order to ensure there are no holes that may be picked up on by a reader, so as always, with possibly the one reader who knows more about this series of stories than any other living soul, I told her ask away.

There are one or two questions I do expect from her, (Literally because I know how much effort she puts in to looking at every layer within these stories), but there is one area of this story where I have done a lot of layering, and if I am honest, I don’t expect many to question me about it, today was one of those days where she spotted a very significant point, and for a moment, I think she felt she caught me out.

My wife began, “You know how power is passed down through the female lines?”

I gave a nod as I was driving, “Yeah what of it?”

I could feel her eyes on me as I looked forward out of the windscreen. “Well I have been thinking.”

“Ok.” I know how her mind works, and her tone of voice told me, she had figured something out, and I suspect she thought she had found a gaping hole in the story.She asked.

“If Mason has all these orphanages, then knowing female heirs will be powerful, why has he and his children not just taken any women they wish, and created a new powerful line?”

It is a great question, and one I have wondered if someone will find. My response was simply, “Zandra Hargreaves.” And I gave a smile; I knew that would confuse her.

So the reason I am writing this is I wondered how many more of you have looked this deep in the seven books that are already available. In explanation to her confused stare at me, I shall present the following, which is a loosely translated version of my response as I drove.

Mason did not really think when he married Zandra, he knew he needed an heir, and preferably a female one. At that point in his life he was developing his plans, but even he did not know that the Red Death was coming. I have always thought that when the Red Death struck, he suddenly realised that firstly, he could achieve his plans for domination much quicker. Secondly, he could do far more, and so began to expand his plans and work on a much larger scale than he had previously planned.

At that point he had married and expected children, and along came William, followed by Lance, and then his most precious prize, he gained a girl in Judith. In my mind he must have felt he had achieved his goal, and so when he did begin to establish his orphan program, he really had no need to use them himself, and at that point his children were too young to procreate.

I think with a man like Mason, who you have to understand he is ruthless and single minded, he may have considered that maybe one day he would be able to secure more heirs using his male children, but by this point, he had Judith, and so I think he would have been satisfied that he had an heir to Morgan le Fey, who he sees as his mother, but we are now aware (As Steph discovers) she is actually his grandmother.

His plan fell apart as the relationship with Zandra deteriorated; she became in his eyes, weak. Zandra became difficult, she complained and cried, and he grew very unhappy with her behaviour. I think his placing of William into Loxley would have shown how cruel and cold he could be, and that was the start of the end of any care between him and Zandra. She never forgave him for giving away her first child, and as a result she smothered her other two children with affection, and Mason began to suspect she was deliberately making her children weak, in order to ensure they did not grow to be monsters like their father.

It failed for Zandra, because as Mason and her argued constantly, I think it is certain that his wild tempers became a more frequent part of home life for Lance and Judith, and as a result, his children feared him. Zandra was not weak in my eyes, but she was mistreated, even though she lived in luxury. Lance appeared weak and feeble because he started to fear his father, but if you read between the lines, and have read all the books to date, you will clearly see that he formed a close bond with Mark Richard Dale, one of Mason’s closest friends, and a man even Mason admired.

Zandra in the final minutes of her life, made what is actually a very brave sacrifice, she leaped up in front of her husband to shield him in the cathedral, and it cost her life, as she was hit by the Hooded man’s arrow. This has been a big talking point with readers, so just to catch up let me say this. Zandra was deeply unhappy, and in that final moment I think she realised that Mason was probably the only chance her children would have for survival. She knew that she would never be able to escape his clutch, and if she did, the price she would pay would be to lose her two other children. Giving her life to save him, she ensured her children had the chance to grow and live, and I feel she hoped her loving care would show up in them, and through that they would fail to be the children he desired. In many ways it was a massively calculated risk, but one she was willing to test.

In the case of Judith, she was proved right. Judith at the loss of her mother fled from Mason to her uncle’s house, and ultimately ended up falling into the hands of Robbie via the House of Good Hope. It was a massive blow to Mason, who realised he no longer had a female heir, and he needed to find a way to create another, nevertheless he had learned much from his experience of Zandra.

the Third book in the series Heirs to the Kingdom by Robin John Morgan

Dana was one of his team, who played a large role in the orphanage organisation. She was tough, cold, and commanded a great deal of authority, something Zandra was not. Mason chose to pick a new wife who had most of the qualities he required in a child, and because she was actually quite emotionless, he knew the bond would not be as deep and loving as it had been with Zandra.

It’s a pretty cold act if you think about it, he basically used her for her womb, but as I worked out the plot, I gave it a great deal of thought, and finally I began to wonder who in this new relationship was actually colder. I think Dana is a smart woman, she is certainly no fool, and I think she was more than aware of what she was getting into. Dana craved power, and as the mother of Mason’s new heir she certainly got plenty, it was a win, win for both of them.

Raven Merle was always destined to be more like his grandmother, but with greater power, and in Mason’s eyes she would ultimately replace her. In truth he could have picked any woman, but having realised, he decided to look to his own ranks, and I think the fundamental reason for that, was very simply that he had a full profile of the behaviour of all his lead team. To use a random woman from the orphanage, could have resulted with a repeat of his experience with Zandra, so he picked from a list of woman he knew would have every aspect of the personality he desired for the mother of his child.

Mason as the only parent of Lance, put all of his effort into creating a smaller version of himself, and he to date has done a very good job, Lance is as cold and emotionless as his father. Book seven shows how Lance has grown like his father intended, but I have often played with the notion that in this there is also a flaw. (Spoiler possibly coming)

Lance is just like his father, and seeks the same kind of power, and in so doing, he is ultimately the greatest danger to Mason. When Mordred’s spirit is brought back from the dead and planted within William with the black blade, Lance takes his chance to prepare his future. When Mordred cruelly beats and rapes the servant Nadia, Lance takes her under his wing and raises her son Victor as his own. Lance is repeating his father, and it is his hope that Victor will one day create a female child that has all the power of the line, but also has the cruelty and cold disposition of Mordred.

In his mind any child born to Victor, should according to the rules of power, (AKA be more powerful) should be stronger than Raven Merle. In his final moments faced with Runestone, in what is now an alternative reality to the current tale, Lance shows a small chink in his makeup, and finally Zandra gets what she always desires, as Lance makes it clear to Runestone, that Nadia and Victor are innocent and have been used by him.

He begs for Runestone to spare them, and his final moment shows an act of compassion by begging for their lives and freely offering his death . Zandra finally got her wish, and her love and compassion showed through to rival the cold and brutal side of Mason.

Zandra’s biggest success is that William (AKA Sage) confronts Mason and asks for him to stop the war. I have to admit it was a wonderful part of the book to write, and all the time I wrote it, I was thinking of how proud Zandra would have been of her son.

the first six books in the series Heirs to the Kingdom by Robin John Morgan

Somehow I never expected anyone to work all this out, but now they have, here it is shared with all of you, I hope it adds to your own enjoyment of Heirs to the Kingdom. Congrats Rin, it took a while, but you did find one of my more elaborate plots hidden within the text. Well done you. ?

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March 21st 1918

“Too many good men have been wounded or lost in battle. Too many mothers have wept at the loss of their sons, those left standing this day will call themselves the victors, but no one has won here, for if the price to be paid is the spilled blood of good men, then there can be no victory for anyone. War is caused by those few who yearn for greed or power, and their blood is always too precious to spill on the grass, so innocent men die in their place. Those that start wars always survive them with greater riches or power, and many families weep for the loss of their young. Tell me Rowan, where is the honour or victory in that?”
Robert of Loxley “Heirs to the Kingdom Book Eight.”

 

 

On the thirteenth of April 2018, I travelled with my father to a service at Manchester Cathedral.

 

Manchester Hill Remembered was a tribute to those who were wounded or killed during World War One, on a small hill just outside the town of Saint-Quentin in Northern France, on March 21st 1918.

 

For myself it was a chance to fit yet more pieces into the puzzle of my family history, and learn a little more about a man I never met, as he died before I was born, my grandfather. For my father, it meant a great deal more, for he remembered the man who returned from war and conceived a male child, who he would grow to love and then lose by age nine. I cannot imagine how my dad felt watching the show, all I could think of was how awful it was that one day after his ninth birthday, he would lose his own father, due mainly to his wounds that he received in service to his country on that cold stark hill in Northern France.

My grandfather William Morgan.

Private William Morgan, was one of many members of 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment that fought a brutal fight through fog and mustard gas, which resulted in him being shot in the head and left for dead, on what today is known as Manchester Hill. After the battle where the Germans took 1500 prisoners of war, my grandfather was listed as missing in action. I cannot say how horrible that must have been for my grandmother, who would have waited in hope for a miracle, and prayed her husband was not dead.
It was sometime later that she discovered that my grandfather had been taken by the Germans to a hospital where he was tended to and nursed, and thanks to their compassion, he finished the war as a prisoner, and returned home after a lasting deal for peace was reached. It was after the war in 1938 that my father was born, and then later in 1964 I came along. Thanks to the German forces I am here today, it could have been a very different story if they had left him to die on the battlefield.

 

168 members of the Manchester Regiment stood against a massive German army that day, and only 17 managed to make it back to the British camp when it was done. 79 lost their lives, and the rest were wounded in the brutal fight, or taken prisoner by the German forces. It is startling to realise that they were mostly aged 18 to 21 years old.

 

The total number of killed and wounded during World War One, both military and civilian, is generally estimated to be about 37 million. There were16 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The statistics for those who died include 9.7 million military personnel and about 6.8 million civilians. Allied losses were 5.7 million and the opposing forces about 4 million. Just to put that in perspective, that is a about half the population of the UK today.

 

Most people are unaware of these statistics, most people do not even realise that this year marks the hundredth anniversary of the battle of Manchester Hill, or even that World War One lasted from July 28th 1914, until November 11th 1918. I have asked a lot of people of late, as I knew a while ago I had been booked a ticket for this event, hardly anyone I know remembered that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. How quickly it has faded out of the memory of the masses, and maybe that is why we are still starting wars all over the planet.

 

Tonight I stood in a cathedral in the heart of Manchester, and I witnessed many relatives who attended, talk with reverence about their family members, but the thing that left me lost for words, was that all of them were grandchildren of lost soldiers. My father was the only person there who had lost a parent who had fought in the Great War; it was a surreal feeling as I watched the startled and amazed looks of those who spoke to him.
As I sat on the train tonight travelling home, I thought of my daughter. She is nine years old, exactly the same age as my father was when he lost his dad, and I could not bear the thought of her having to deal with the loss of me. How could anyone ask that of a nine year old? My father grew up watching his dad deal with shell shock and mustard gas poisoning, and the after effects of being shot in the head, in one of the worst days of fighting in World War One. He saw how it affected him, even though he was only nine, he learned to understand that, even though his dad never talked of any aspect of the war, and it breaks my heart to think of that.

 

All my life, I have studied the effects of war, and those of you who know me in person, know how opposed to war I am. For ten years I have been writing Heirs to the Kingdom, a series about life set to a backdrop of fear and war. I have explored all my thoughts and feelings throughout the books, and as you can see from the passage above, which will be in the final book of the series, I cannot and do not understand why we cannot learn the wisdom we have gained from fighting two world wars, let alone all those that have followed.

 

No one wins in war. It is easy as Brits to fill our chests with pride, and boast about how we won two World Wars, but did we really?

 

37 million dead, how is that a victory?

 

A whole generation wiped from the slate forever, and 37 million families destroyed with grief. Was it not bad enough we did not learn from one World War, and we had to have another 20 years later? If we cannot look to the past, to learn for the future, how can we even call ourselves a race of humanity?

 

Too many have forgotten that our free speech and democracy were bought and paid for in the blood of two world wars, we must learn to move forward in understanding of that sacrifice, and strive to live in peace. Schools betray our children by not teaching them enough of our history, so they too can learn the lessons of our past and prevent them from being our future. It bothers me that Gallipoli, The Somme, Manchester Hill, Dunkirk, and Normandy are no longer important aspects of modern education, no one should forget that most of those soldiers who died, did so to make a difference in the world, and give all of us the freedom to live as we have chosen today.

 

I shall not forget this night, watching a proud son share the story of his brave father, and I shall never forget the sadness on his 80 year old face as he did so, for it was clear how much he has missed his father. I have been anti-war and a flag bearer of personal freedom for most of my life, but tonight it hit me hard. For it was whilst I stood in the beautiful surroundings of Manchester Cathedral, a sacred place to so many, I watched a screen about those brave men and I realised why I have so much freedom. My grandfather survived the war, I am so lucky as from that brave recovery my father was born. But as the names of those who lost their lives slowly slid up the screen before me, I understood that those were the names of the men that gave me their freedom to live as I chose, and it is a mighty precious gift indeed.

 

We should never forget them.

 

There is no victory for a country that has to pay such a high price, as the blood of our sons on the grass of a distant nation.

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Old Idea, Modern Twist.

Light and spacious, and freedom of movement

One of the most visually identifiable aspects of HTTK is without doubt the cloak. In the first book Robbie and Billy both receive a new one, which was made by Steph and Runestone. It is a garment that in the very early stages of HTTK is pretty dominant, and in a lot of the conversations I have in regard to the books, most people just assume that I included the cloak to add to the modern/medieval feelings of the transit back in time in which all the characters live.

The symbolism of the hooded man has to be a long hooded and cloaked figure, and where I must admit a cloak was indeed the perfect vehicle for the image I wanted to create, I actually shied away from it at first. I was very aware when writing the first book that using the words Bowman and Loxley in the title, a lot of people would instantly think this was yet another Robin Hood story, which for those of you have read HTTK, you will know that is very much not the case.

I spent a lot of time creating the world in which my characters would live, and the most important aspect of it would be that it was set in the year 2038, so it would be a futuristic tale. I was embarking on a world torn apart and destroyed by a virus, which lead to anarchy and destruction, leaving those who survived with very little. The villain of the story with his Cutters would set about collecting as much of the old world life as possible, and so those who barely survived, were faced with the task of starting from scratch in a world outside of town and city life. In my mind they would have been left with very little and had literally only the clothes on their backs.

From disaster to the start of book one, twenty six years have elapsed, and as I planned the start of my world, it became quite clear that those survivors would have had to toil hard to make it through, and the most obvious factor here would be wear and tear of the few articles of clothing they possessed. I think it is quite obvious that they would have no choice but to create new clothing, and it is here that the skills of the old would be a major factor. I imagined those very few of the older generations would be the saviours of the masses, because they would still have the skills required to move the survivors forward. In my mind the elders of each community would be a vital part of survival, something I actually feel in today’s modern life where we take our older generations for granted, we all miss the point that their early life was set to a background long before modern technology, where they literally learned the skills to create and repair most things.

The elderly would become the teachers of the old skills, making them one of the most important aspects of a new community, as they still remember the crafts of weaving, patching, darning, knitting and crochet. Even if they were not able to handle the work load of creating a new cottage industry, they would still be able to teach the young, and this is yet another reason why characters such as the Kirk sisters, Agatha Patterdale and Ruben Stein are so very important to the village life of Loxley. I am not sure how many of the older generations you may have spotted, but they are there weaving in and out of the story throughout all the books. Alfie and Lee Sherman, Old Joe, Fuse and Alf the butcher play vital roles in this story; even Oscar Hargreaves had his part to play as book seller and more importantly printer.

Runestone and Steph run Trinkets and Trousers, the shop that supplies many articles of clothing, and if you notice employ quite a few extras weaving and sewing, even Maddy and Una who were raised at a time long before the modern world, are gratefully welcomed into the community and play their parts as teachers working in this industry.
I gave a lot of thought to the clothing, and did at first think some people would indeed seek out supplies to stock pile, enter Harry and Smokes and also the Cutters, but even with a great deal of salvage from the last remnants of the modern world, there still would not be enough to clothe a new generation of woodland living people, and so I turned my attention to more practical means of protection from the cold or the hot summer sun.

In today’s world wearing a cloak would be seen as old fashioned, and to be honest those who wear them would be considered quite strange and bonkers, I know as I actually own a real woollen woodsman cloak replicated perfectly to the medieval period. It is a heavy winter cloak, and it is both thick and heavy to wear, but I must confess it is so comfortable to wear, that I have on occasion slipped on and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Back in 2006 I made one out of a blanket as I looked at what would be the best and most suitable article of clothing to wear. Few people realise that actually the cloak has been worn for thousands of years, and its demise is relatively a recent thing. Wearing a cape or cloak was quite common right up until the mid-1940’s and in some circles they were still worn right through to the late 1980’s. I remember many hippies who wore poncho’s and wraps in the early seventies, and yes there was still the odd eccentric who wore a cloak during those days also. But the simple fact remains that the cloak has been around as a worldwide phenomenon for a very long time, but why I asked myself?

Simply put, I think it is because the cloak is possibly the easiest thing to make from a long rectangular piece of fabric. A basic cloak is easily fashioned and very practical, I made one and went out into the woodland to test it and see. I must admit I did not have very good sewing skills at the time, but by folding a section of the top of my blanket back on itself to make the shoulder section double thick, and then adding a basic lace tie, I found that I could lift the folded section over my head in the rain creating a hood like appearance, and actually found as I walked under the trees in the pouring rain it was very effective, and I remained surprisingly warm and dry.

My blanket cloak felt heavy to hold in one hand, but once thrown across my back it felt amazingly light, and where I thought it may restrict my movements, it was quite surprising how easily it flowed around me, moving with my own body’s movements so it never actually restricted any kind of gesture or position I took up. There is zero restriction on the arms, so the firing of a long bow would be completely unhindered.

One day when it rained quite hard, I took a second walk in the woodland just to see how waterproof it would be. Now you have to consider that it was just a plain thick blanket with no form of waterproofing whatsoever on it, I literally folded the top section over for a double protection on the shoulders and added a lace tie. To my complete surprise, I found it kept me bone dry. The weight of the cloak did increase a bit as it absorbed the heavy rain, but my shirt and pants were completely dry. I think it was during that storm I decided it was the right choice for the story as it made complete sense that in a survival situation it would be the easiest to manufacture, and the most practical to wear.

It had some other surprising points that added to my choice as well, the first being the silence of wearing it. Something we do not realise is how noisy modern clothing can be; we all know what it is like to be out in a bad storm in a thick modern coat, which is usually made of nylon type fabric. I think it is safe to say that we have become accustomed to that putter patter sound as the rain hits us on the shoulders or head. Especially when you pull your hood up, you can hear the rain driving onto you, and it can at times be so loud you cannot hear yourself think. I was out in a massive downpour and yet it was totally silent. The thick wool absorbed all the impact, and the result was I could hear every sound of the woodland clearly; something I noted would be of great advantage to a woodsman. Another one of my pet hates is wet hands, I hate the way modern macs create rivers in the creases that always run off your shoulders and down your sleeves soaking your hands, but with a cloak there were no rivers running off me and my hands were safely tucked within the cloak.

It was quite a warn day, but had it been cold and wintery, I could see how the cloak could be pulled tight around me to keep me warm, and when I crouched against a tree, the cloak folded in like a small protective tent, and I was safe, warm, and very dry. I had to wonder why we have accepted the modern coat, which can be cumbersome and annoying, when we have been wearing possibly the perfect outdoor attire for thousands of years. My makeshift handmade cloak passed all the tests of warmth, movement, and water proofing that I needed to tell me that it would be right to include it in the books, and to date, I think it has become a prominent feature of my lead characters, but only because it would practically be the perfect garment for that situation. I find it no coincidence that the modern day army use waterproofed long cloak like garments to cover their packs and themselves whilst out in the field. They may be nylon and camouflaged, but their purpose serves exactly the same purpose it has for a thousand years, it provides protection from the elements, can be used a make shift tent or blanket, and helps break up the shape by softening it into the background.

In 2008 my wife bought me a proper woodsman’s cloak made from thick wool and lined with cotton, and

A thick heavy woollen cloak, yet suprisingly light to wear

the experience of this well-made hand stitched garment, completely proved that the decision to use a cloak made by a master seamstress such as Runestone for Robbie, was indeed the right way to go, and any anxiety I had felt writing the first book, soon diminished as I knew I chosen perfectly.
It probably sounds quite bonkers, but I would thoroughly recommend buying yourself a good quality cloak with a hood, compared to today’s machine made coats, it is a far better garment for winter or the summer, and if you get a little too hot, cast it back over your shoulders and cool down, it really is a wonderful experience, and I have no idea why they fell out of fashion. To be honest I live in hope that one day they will brought back in a revival, and if they are, I will be one of the first out there wearing mine.

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Happy New Year.

As the clock strikes midnight, and we all move from one year into another, I guess I will not be that sad to see 2017 end, its not be the easiest of years.

2017 has felt like the popular theme of my HTTK work, I have faced some pretty overwhelming odds and had to fight my way through. The year began in what for me is a creative frenzy, and I was inspired and working really well, but unfortunately it was not long before life began to tap me on the shoulder, and point out that things were occurring which required a great deal of my attention.

This country has seen some pretty major upheavals in recent years, and the most significant being the Brexit vote, at first I was not overly concerned, but after several years of Austerity cuts in this country, it became very clear that the book market was suffering, as people had less and less for a luxury product such as books.

A great deal of my attention was switched to promotion, as I had to don my VCP hat, and do what I could to help bolster the promotions, to try and find new audiences for not just myself, but the other authors I represent, and that at times has meant prioritising their work over my own. It has been a long and hard struggle to get the word out this year, especially against the bigger publishers who were feeling the same bite, and pushed more of their resources into promotion on levels I could not possibly compete with. It’s been a creative year there is no doubt, as VCP has expanded in many more ways on social media and networking, to find audiences with more disposable income. It has felt like a long hard struggle, and at times I cannot deny it has been exhausting.

My greatest set back has been in the form of simple life, events and growing issues around family have diverted a great deal of my attention away from writing into dealing with day to day life. Emotionally this has been the toughest year I have had for some years, and it has been hard to focus on writing in the small amounts of down time I have had between drama and the problems around me. I have felt very frustrated for a great deal of the year, and torn between VCP, HTTK and Family, not the best recipe for focused writing.

It’s not all grim news, HTTK is alive and well, and even though I started out 2017 with an ambitious project of getting two books ready for print, I have completed a considerable amount of my goal, and both stories have had a significant amount done on them. My aim for the quieter moments of 2018 is to start and get them finished ASAP. HTTK eight is my priority, which will then be followed up later with a related story, which will take the story right back to the start of everything, and open up the back story of how the Merle worked its way into the line of the Dark One. Both are in good shape and just need to be completed, I have written a huge amount on the back story, which has allowed me to weave elements of it into the final book of the HTTK series, and as I start this new year, the last HTTK edition and getting it finished is my priority.

I am feeling the pressure to get more readers, and finish the book, and also to make this a book worth reading.

To all of you who have shown such great loyalty to my work, I wish you every happiness for this New Year. I hope that the paths you walk are greener and shaded from the brightness of distraction, and the focus of your lives this year is peaceful, safe, and productive.

Happy New Year to you all.

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December 22nd 2007.

The Market Garden Shop December 2007

 

The picture on this post is possibly the last picture taken of the “Market Garden Shop” on Denton Market, it may even be the last picture of a trading shop on the market ever. It was taken on December 14th 2007, and within eight days of this moment, sadly the market and this little shop was closed forever bringing an end to 147 years of Market Trading Tradition in Denton, Greater Manchester in the UK.

Today 22nd of December 2017 is not such a great day for myself and a great friend, as today marks ten years since we lost our business to a council hell bent on ignoring the wishes of those who used the market, and their ambition to create a town plaza in Denton. It is yet another example of how local councils ride rough shot over ordinary people to achieve a pointless goal. The plaza that is now empty of life and has killed off a great deal of the surrounding business has been yet another very expensive nail in the coffin of local community.

For my good friend Pru and myself, we fought a long and hard campaign to try and save the market, but the odds were always against us, and for our efforts we paid a very high price. Our health suffered greatly and we lost the one thing we loved the most, we lost our market trading businesses. The people lost so much more, especially when you consider the impact that local communities have felt in the last eight years of austerity. Never before has there been a greater need for traders who work on smaller margins to keep prices low for the poorer members of our communities, never has there been a greater need for Market Traders.

We warned back in 2007 that all the local markets would be hit hard, and today we can see we were right and should have been listened to, but our warnings fell on deaf ears, and the cost that has been paid will be felt this Christmas by a lot of people, our markets stand shrunken, overpriced and almost empty.

It has taken me ten years to recover from that terrible time, it’s been a process that was long and hard and at great personal cost, and I have been asked many times if a regret the fight that cost me everything? I regret that I lost everything; I will never regret facing the overwhelming odds of a fight that took everything I had. I fought for what was right, and I still believe that it was the correct thing to do for the many people of Denton who needed a voice. I am sorry that Pru and myself could not bring the small victory our customers hoped for, and have always regretted that, but I think we can both say, we did our best in an impossible situation.

I have many happy memories of working on the market, and today as I look back, they will bring me some cheer. Markets were the life blood of our communities at one time, they were filled with so many different kinds of people, and I was always proud to be there to serve them. I have met many very kind people, many grumpy old souls, and some of the most bonkers people ever, I have not forgotten them, I never will, and so today I feel a little sadness.

All things end, and life no matter how bleak eventually brightens up. The light at the end of the tunnel was my decision to recover my health and change my career, and as a result I became a full time writer. My stories contain some of the struggle of those times, and some of the joys, life for me changed but the darkness of those times shaped the way I tell my stories, and that is the positive in my own personal story. This tiny little wooden shop meant so much to me at the time, and sat here ten years later it means even more. It is here in this little wooden building that the quiet moments of thought and talk with friends brought about the motivation that began another journey. On December 22nd 2007 I locked up my shop forever, and even though it has been demolished, and wiped from this earth, there on that cold empty plaza is a spot that will remain in my heart forever.

That spot to me is sacred, for it was there that I looked at my friend Louis, and told him of a story I had been working on for years, and I had begun to write it at last. In that little shop the very first draft of “The Bowman of Loxley” came into being, it was part one of a story that I had no idea would grow to a series of eight books, and bring pleasure to readers in many other countries from the one that I lived in. The Market Garden Shop, even though wiped from the face of the earth, is the birth place of Heirs to the Kingdom.

Let’s see the council try and take that away from me.

Merry Christmas Pru, and Louis, thanks for all your support and inspiration.

Blessed Yule Robbie, Runestone, and the Specialists.

 

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