Category Archives: Travel writing

The Accusing Eye

Raven’s Wand chapter-by-chapter. This week – chapter Seven: The Accusing Eye

Humour’s important because it contrasts with the darker moments, and chapter seven ‘The Accusing Eye’ is one big dark moment. Eliza Cobb is the lone witch who suffers the horrors of interrogation, but I knew I had to make the scene memorable because later on another witch suffers the same fate and I didn’t want to write that scene in detail but rather in sparse back-story (SPOILER ALERT – the witch being interrogated later is just a child). And so one of Eliza’s jobs is to endure the unthinkable so the reader can easily, if not willingly, picture it applied to another character when the time comes. Her other job is to provide us with another insight into Krast’s demons, because what the chromosite uncovers devastates him. In fact, this entire chapter is concerned with plotting Krast’s story-arc, but how to do it in such a way as to keep it visual and thrilling? I could have had the Illuminata beating the answers out of Eliza, but it was too obvious and too brutal, and so I devised the ‘chromosites’ (chroma, as in colours and images, and ‘site’ as in parasite: chormosites hunts and steal subconscious imagery). This engineered creature grips the victim’s skull like a limpet and siphons out the desired information, to imprint it upon its retina to examine later. Originally the chromosite drilled fine needles into the victim’s brain, but I thought this too grim and irreversible – chances are the prisoner could only be questioned once before expiring!

The illustrator in me can’t help but be visual. Krast’s defining secret is locked in a vault in his mind; immediately there’s an image for the reader. This isn’t something I planned – I can’t help it; I see everything before I write it or as I’m writing it. When the vault explodes the secret Krast has tried so hard to bury consumes him again (now the interrogator is being tortured) but the secret isn’t shared with the reader yet because I had no idea what it was. Later, I knew I’d have to reveal all, but I told myself I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. By the way; the date ‘November 19th‘ is the day I finished the first three chapters of the book and contacted my first literary agent. Happy to be making things up as I went along, I charged ahead into chapter eight and crafted (what to me anyway) would become one of the book’s most memorable characters. Most hate her, but I love her because I always knew that although she appears more ‘bitch than witch’ she’s has a tale to tell: Sunday Flowers. . .

Don’t Feed the Animals


Most icebergs are white, while some are dirty grey or cobalt, and in exceptional circumstances they’re emerald green. Few are crimson though, but the one I’m looking at now is.

My tent is pitched between fingers of rounded rock, in a mossy hollow overlooking the bay. There are a lot of icebergs down there and in the setting sun they all begin to turn red, but that’s just a writer’s conceit. They turn dusky pink, or sometimes glow vermilion, but never true red, until tonight, but the sun isn’t the artist responsible.

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scrap yard

‘Take the shot, always take the shot’. My former art tutor’s words came back to me and they seemed made for this moment. But I just stood there holding the camera, watching my ‘prey’ and wondering again if he was right.

Once, the Inuit man opposite might have been an Elder, now he was just elderly. Clad in moon-boots, down jacket and baseball cap, he stumbled through the wreckage of untold lives here at Sisimiut town dump, Greenland. He shoved his dogsled through the broken washing machines, jagged bottles and disposable nappies, stopping occasionally to retrieve another fragment of someone else’s life and heap it on board. He reminded me of one of those prehistoric corpses preserved in a peat bog, whose inscrutable faces take on a mahogany sheen and a kind of fatalistic indifference. He continued on his way, straining at the sled, peering into the setting sun and muttering to himself, or ‘chuntering’ as people would say back in Yorkshire. If the sled had been a shopping trolley, then he’d have been the archetypal lost soul.

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