Life and Mountains

Life and Mountains


I sit facing the mountains as early sun heats my skin. There is a nest of sparrows at the top of one of the palms outside my bedroom window. The house lies in a valley of lemon and apricot orchards. Fat yellow lemons, impossibly seductive lie amid green branches and on the dry ground. I long to gather them up. The dry stony fields are circled by Cypress trees planted to shelter and protect the orchards and crops of onions and tomatoes from the sudden winds that blow in from the sea.

Pots of succulents and cacti lie around the garden, much like they do at home in Cornwall but here they seem to exist, like magic, in non-existent soil. There are English roses that have no smell and small pineapple plants with inner fronts startlingly like pale flesh.

The Tramuntana Mountains rise jagged, dominating the skyline. Mountains seem to captivate the soul with the random mystery of their being.  The evolution of rock face holds its own individual patterns, dark crags and hidden caves.It is easy to understand why men and women become obsessed with climbing or conquering them.

The first mountains I fell in love with were in Norway (where I spent a long winter in an empty log cabin used in summer by the Norwegian army.)

With only a baby from dawn to dusk I learned to map the moods of glorious snow capped peaks that swallowed and smothered us in silence.

I would walk my child in a sledge, perpetually wrapped in a papoose so he would not freeze to death. The only sounds were the plop of snow falling from the firs in the forest and the glittering mountains rising snow clad above me like stalwart and close friends.

Sometimes, driving, breath held, over a frozen mountain range we would stare mesmerised at waterfalls frozen in the act of falling. Cascades and twists and curls of rushing water frozen a bright iridescent green as it tumbled into the rivers below.

I looked down onto the parched mountains of Afghanistan as I flew to Pakistan and my stomach quailed as I thought of my son fighting somewhere down there with the British Army.

I walked in the sweet smelling forests of Northern Pakistan and gazed out across mountains tinged with gold, glimpsed the snowy peaks of Kashmir.  A sweet and cool climb that was made incongruous by security men with guns appearing suddenly from behind the trees as we climbed…  Startling each other in the shadows of trees filled with bird song and butterflies.

Below us, hidden, but near, lay the hotel with an English garden full of roses. A perfect backdrop (with hidden serpent) Aquamarine sky and the smell of roses set against the southern slopes of the Western Himalayan foothills.

I digress! I was merely going to jot my thoughts on the obvious… That travelling even a small distance to reassess life, find thinking time, can radically change ones perspective.

Life is hard for writers at the moment. It is so easy to get into a negative way of thinking. About the way publishing is going. How quickly the traditional way of producing books and promoting as well as reading them is changing.  The role of editors and agents seems to be changing too.

Most authors seem to be writing books without contracts and a publisher’s interest in synopsis and first chapters of a book will not always translate into actual acceptance on completion these days.  Publishers flounder too in this recession, somewhat cowardly and risk averse.

More and more writers are taking control and finding independent ways of getting their work published. There is a tsunami of advice and information on line to absorb and filter. Many writers are generous, passing on their acquired knowledge and the pitfalls they encounter along the way. Many have made a business out of giving advice and finding it gratefully received.

The perceived way of doing things is changing fast and as writers we have to adapt too and take control of our own future. In the current market we can no longer afford, hermit like, to shut ourselves away for a year, to the exclusion of all else, to write a book. The business of selling books means it is vital we engage more and more with the outside world, have interesting websites, build profiles, blog, twitter and do facebook.

A huge number of writers have always been media savvy. For younger writers, the facebook generation, sharing details of your life is a given.  A quick click informs. Promotion is, after all a vital part of producing a product.  A book is created (manufactured) and needs to sell like any other product to be successful. How else do people know you are out there?

Publishers rarely have money to spare for promotion even when you are published mainstream, so authors need to get used to promoting themselves in every way they can.  For some of us this has taken a little longer to sink in. Trust like we have floated along hoping for the best.

So, as I sit in the peace of mountains, rescue moths from the swimming pool, sniff the air full of honeysuckle and lemon I feel a subtle shift in myself. My mind is buzzing with creative ideas. Instead of mourning the waning of traditional publishing, the old and known ways I was comfortable with I feel suddenly able to celebrate the immense possibilities. To explore the huge and varied opportunities this technical age is now bringing writers like me. Not least there is simple pleasure of interacting with other writers and readers out there.

Who knows, life is circular and mainstream publishing might recover its nerve. Bookshops may flourish and thrive again one day, a lovely thought. Maybe they will be co-exist side by side with an equally thriving and respected form of publishing online. A place where writers began to drive and control their own destiny



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