Walking in Middle Earth – Puzzlewood

Have you ever wanted to roam around Lothlorien looking for the elves? Or test your courage in Mirkwood against the foul things that dwell there? Well pop into Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean and you can.


You’ll need a smidge of imagination, but not much to understand why this place is said to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s visions of Middle Earth.



Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland, where ore was mined from Roman times and possibly earlier. It’s caves have eroded away leaving moss covered rock formations, hidden caves and lush green tangles of trees and bushes




When you first arrive it doesn’t look like much, a car park leading to some huts, a cafe and a playground. But move beyond that, down a small path and through the gate and you find yourself in a place that doesn’t seem to exist.


Steps were added in the 19th Century to make it easier to walk around but be warned, it’s uneven and slippery underfoot. Those who have mobility problems may find it tricky to get around.

It’s no surprise this magical place has been the filming location for ‘Merlin’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and most recently ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. This is a place of other worlds, when a break in reality has allowed us to catch a glimpse of a hidden fairytale kingdom.

I don’t think I could possibly find words to describe it. I took a lot of pictures, but I’ve tried not to put too many on here, they can only give a flavour of the wonder.

We went at half term so it was fairly noisy and child-filled, but you could find quieter spots in the 14 acres. Be careful around the place though, it’s slippery.

Related reads

Abandoned buildings in the Azores – part 1
Dark woods
Cornwall

Abandoned Buildings in the Azores – Part 2

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores interior

The Monte Hotel is a rather different to Gerna Manor, the derelict building I wrote about in part 1. It’s a lot bigger, far more accessible and has an interesting story behind its rise and fall.

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores

Perched high above the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, you can understand the attraction of building a hotel here. It’s stunning views are a tourist attraction even today, and the Monte was a luxurious place. It had 88 rooms, two restaurants, a bank, a hairdresser – even a nightclub.

But high end tourism can’t be sustained by views alone. In the end, its location worked against it. It’s difficult to get to along winding narrow roads and the beautiful lake is often shrouded in fog. In addition, the Monte was built in the late eighties, years before the Azores had any kind of major tourism. So the hotel closed its doors only two years after it opened.

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores staircasePhoto of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores entrance

But it wasn’t re-purposed or pulled down. The story goes that for nine years or so it was guarded and fenced off. Then the guards stopped being paid so they stopped well, guarding. The fences disappeared and nature returned.

You can now wander freely about the majority of the vast building, stripped of any internal decor except some sodden carpets. The concrete shell is decorated by graffiti and mould, but the level to which you can explore is disconcerting. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to doing some real urban exploring.

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores interior

Its balconies and rooftop make an excellent places to get an unspoiled view of the lake. With parking for a viewpoint opposite, it’s also easy to access if you can find a parking space.

I’ll admit I had a very eerie feeling walking about the place, not just because of my natural feeling that i was trespassing. Because of it’s recent age, it’s almost post-apocalyptic – as if I’d stumbled into part of the ‘Fallout’ series of video games. You can just about visualise the guests and staff sleeping, eating and living in luxury (there are some ‘before’ photos online which are fascinating and very eighties).

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores interior rooms

It provided some serious brain food and I have a nice short story (or possibly even film script) brewing about the place.

If you’re going anywhere around the lakes and have an interest in such things, I’d advise a careful visit even if you just stand outside and look. Has anyone else explored the Monte hotel? Or somewhere similar?

Related reads

Abandoned Buildings in the Azores Part 1
A Visit to Glasgow Necropolis
Dark Woods

Abandoned Buildings in the Azores – Part 1

Interior of Gerna Manor - Azores

The Azores are a stunning set of islands in the Atlantic, formed by volcanos and colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th-century. They’re perfect for walkers with lush, mountainous trails dotted with fascinating points of interest – including an abandoned building or two.

dav
This is what’s left of Grena Manor, built next to Lake Furnas by the English Consul-General in the 1855.

Abandoned buildings are fascinating to me, but in the UK they’re invariably stuck behind fences and warnings of CCTV and guard dogs. So finding one you’re able to (carefully) get up close and personal to is a treat.

The potential story behind a derelict building is what appeals of course. Bricks and mortar they may be but they were also part of someone’s life. So you start to wonder – what happened to them? Why were they left to rot? What happened? And if you’re a writer, you inevitably end up making up a narrative.

It’s hard to imagine this building in its heyday, lost among tangled vegetation, dripping with rain and covered in lichen. But with a little thought, you can still picture it in its glory days, walls white and gleaming on a summers day as it’s inhabitants look down onto the magnificent lake below.

After passing through various hands, the Government bought the property and land around it – and promptly forgot about it. You can’t go inside as it’s way to broken down and dangerous for that, but you can get some good pics and it’s an interesting sight to come across on a walk.

It’s not the only abandoned building we stumbled on whilst exploring the Azores. But I’ll get to that in Abandoned Buildings in the Azores – part 2.

Related reads

Dark Woods
A Visit to Stonehenge
A Visit to Glasgow Necropolis

 

How Writers can use Pinterest

Put your Words into Pictures

I used to think of Pinterest as a tool people used for things like interior design, wedding planning or perhaps picking a tattoo – for creating visual things essentially. But could this online mood board maker also be good for a writer?

Your book may have pictures, it may not but we’re all inspired by images. In the past I tried my hand at drawing pictures of characters but my sketching skills leave a lot to be desired. So how could a writer use Pinterest? Well, you could;

Be inspired

Maybe you’re stuck for an idea – or with an idea- and need a bit of creative inspiration. Pinterest could easily provide that as you browse through it’s various categories.

Set your scene

Let’s assume you have your idea already. Where is it set? In another country? Is it historical? Maybe it’s a fantasy and you need to do some serious world building. Pinterest could provide you with everything you need to visualise what you’re setting will look like. The possibilities are endless – landscape, technology, architecture, fashion.

Meet your characters

Maybe you can picture your characters clearly right down to their toenails. Perhaps you need some help to get them clear in your head. Either way, why not create boards to visualise them using Pinterest. You can add pictures to show how they look of course, but you could also add images that illustrate their personality, background etc to help fully round them out.

Get in the right mood

Sometimes you may need to get into the right mood before you write. Bright and bubbly for a comedy romance, an altogether darker mood for a crime thriller. A Pinterest mood board could quickly get you in the right state of mind to write!

So why not give it a go? It’s free after all. Have you ever used Pinterest for any of your writing? What did you think? Leave your comments below.

Related reads

Is ‘Elements of Style’ the only Writing book you need?
Get paid to do your own Writer’s retreat
Stuck for inspiration? Time to start digging

 

Can fidgeting help you write?

I fidget a lot. It’s a combination of my over active imagination and anxiety. Anything is fair game to be fiddled with – pens, necklaces, buttons, watch straps. But can fidgeting help you write?

Science would say…maybe. Research has shown that fidgeting or rather using your hands as well as your brain helps you to think. Nothing conclusive has been proven but that hasn’t stopped enterprising folks coming up with gadgets designed to help us fidget with purpose – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Image of Fidget Cube

This is the ‘Fidget Cube’ or, as I like to think of it, a cat toy for humans. It has a ‘light switch’, a swirly thing, some kind of joystick, more twiddly things and little buttons that go click. All of these make me happy.

Image of Fidget Cube

Whether they make me more productive is another matter. And as I’ve mentioned anything and everything can be fiddled with really (within reason). But if you don’t fidget much already, the ‘Fidget Cube’ may be a fun way to get started. Or a fun way to annoy people with clicking sounds.

Related reads

Why Exercise is good for a writer
Write every day

4 Writing Roadblocks and 4 Ways to Steamroll them!

Blog Post Checklist – get the Basics Right

To-do list with pen

If you’re a blogging beginner it’s good to get the basics right from the start. I didn’t, and I’m still tidying up ‘behind-the-scenes’ . How and what you write is up to you (that’s kind of the point). But if you’re looking for guidance on blog post fundamentals, here’s a handy check list. These simple tips will help make your blog posts easier to read for people and search engines.

  • Use pictures – photo based posts are popular as they’re easy to scan read. But any post can benefit from relevant images to break up text and add interest. I use the ‘Featured Image’ function on most of my posts to display a picture behind the heading.
  • Add titles and alt text to your pictures – search engine’s look at your whole post, including the pictures. Or rather they read the code that displays them. They’ll use everything, even the image title to help judge the quality of your post. So make sure you use a descriptive title. Alt text is used by screen readers and makes your blog posts more accessible for people who use them.
  • Include links to other posts – if someone’s read one of your posts, why not give them a reason to stay and read more? So add some related links in the copy or at the end of your posts. Search engines will look favourably on it too. But don’t add too many, make sure you keep it relevant to the post you’re writing.
  • Make a good URL – I did a recent check up on mine, I noticed were just numbers(!) Not good. Keep your URL simple but relevant and your readers and Google will like you better for it.
  • Share it – blogging platforms make this easy. Make sure you choose the feeds that you think will be best for your post. For example, I put how-to posts like this on LinkedIn, but keep more personal ones to other feeds.

What are the basics you always check off before you post?

Related reads

10 tips for Better Blogging
5 Ways to Wordsmith your Work
Why you should have an About page on your blog

 

 

Notebook Collection – 8# The British Library

Notebooks

If you’re going to visit a library, why not start with top of the pile and go for the British Library in London. We visit pretty much every time we go to the capital and this particular notebook is from one of those visits.

You can probably guess why a self confessed ‘Wonderland’ obsessive like me found it irresistable! But the book contains quotes and sketches from a selection of novels making it a perfect souvenir of a library visit.

The British Library

The British Library building itself is not to everyone’s tastes and unfortunately it’s not exactly big enough for the ever growing collection it holds. wp-image-690615576jpg.jpgEvery single publication, magazine and newspaper published in the UK will send a copy here – and they all have to be stored somewhere!

I’d recommend a visit to any writer (or reader) or just if you fancy something a bit different. There are free exhibitions like the ‘Treasures of the British Library’, and there are temporary exhibitions you may have to pay for – but these are well worth it. dav

We went to one about the development of comics and graphic novels in 2014. And the ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ is going on my list for October 2017.

You can take a webinars and workshops, plus tour behind-the-scenes tours of the library and conservation areas.

In the Discworld books they have something L-space. The idea is that vast amounts of words and ideas held in on eplace can warp the fabric of time and space itself. Whenever I go somewhere like the British Library I can well imagine the weight of words collapsing reality in on itself. Ive nevr been in the stacks ( reserved for members) but id make sure to take a torch and guide if you do…

Have you ever been to the British Library? What did you think?

Related reads

A Tour of the British Library

Notebook Collection 7# – Google

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Words

 

Why your writing is important 

People often say that words aren’t dangerous. But writers know better than that. We understand the power that words have. When we wield them we are all aware how we’re casting lightening stolen from the Gods.

Events in the world prove just how fickle words are. Assaulted by ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’ a fiction writer gets concerned. People are using the words we love to spread fear not knowledge. Moreover, the seriousness of reality can make our whimsical tales feel unworthy of attention.

But fear not. Ursula Le Guin in her usual brilliant fashion, explained the difference between these ‘lies dressed as truth’ and actual fiction. You aren’t part of the distraction, you’re part of the fight against it.

Those words that you pull from your mind are not a distraction from current events. They are a mirror to it, deliberately or not. You have something to say. About life, love, truth. Your words will make people think and feel. By thinking people have power.And by feeling, people find truth. Research shows those who read fiction books are more empathetic to the world around them. They’ve been inside the minds and the stories of people who, though fictional, are not themeslves. Stories show us there’s a world of thoughts and feelings out there and though we are important, we are not only and we are not lonely.

Moreover these words you write – they’re important to you. They keep you going. They take what’s inside of you and give it somewhere to live. Your writing has extra meaning in these times. So keep broadening those horizons because we need it.

Related reads

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Words
In Real Life
Review of the Year or What the Hell was that?!

de

Find yourself at Star Wars: Identities

Hands up all Star Wars fans? Those of you with hands down, this post won’t be for you. The rest, come join me on a tour around the Star Wars Identities exhibition currently on at the O2 in London. It was a fun (if somewhat pricey at £20 per ticket) attraction for the average Stare Wars fan. On arrival you’re given an earpiece connected to a device that goes around your neck. And you get a wristband that let’s you build your identity.

wp-image-1545981697jpg.jpg

The exhibition is a novel mix of the usual props and costumes you get at these type of exhibitions, alongside interactive screens and some interesting ‘sciencey’ stuff about how our own.’identities’ are built. Liberally illustrated with a bunch of clips from the movies.

wp-image-512312440jpg.jpg

I was mostly going for the film memorabilia, but it was also quite fun to build my Star Wars character. Anyway, I’m not going to blather on about my love for Star Wars. Much better to just share some pictures from the experience with you.

Boba Fett

Spaceship models ‘in flight’

An early version of Yoda

And the one we know and love

But ‘did you get a notebook?’ I pretend to hear you cry. Of course I did!

Anyone else been to the exhibition?  What did you think?

Related reads

The Princess who Loved Words: Farewell to Carrie Fisher
Harry Potter Studio Tour
My notebook collection

Ones

Read.

Read books,

cereal boxes, warning signs, gravestones, instructions (ignore those), menus and timetables.

Listen.

Listen to storytellers,

tapes, records, liars, truth-tellers (maybe), gifs, voicemail messages and sports commentary.

Understand.

Understand that with each nugget of someone else’s world you uncover
you will stretch in all sides
and you will understand that

this is a person

and that is a person

and that is a person

And you won’t be able to say there is only one or a group of ones but that there all ones.

And twos and threes and fours and fives

You get the idea right?

You get it.

Now get to it.

 

Related reads

An Explanation of the Continuous Necessity

The Gate