Category Archives: Bardic

All hands to the decks

This song is a collaboration with Penny Blake, who you can find on Patreon –  https://www.patreon.com/blakeandwight or over here – https://blakeandwight.com/ 

The song lyrics come from  Penny’s fabulous novel – The Curious Adventures of Smith and Skarry, Book 1, which you can find on Amazon.  I reviewed it here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/the-curious-adventures-of-smith-and-skarry-a-review/  

The whole thing is rather steampunk, with tea, pirates, and so forth so we decided to dress up for the occasion. Tom is frequently a tea pirate.

Tune by me, with singing in by Tom Brown and James Weaselgrease.

I don’t do much cosplay, but this is also me having a go at being Max – a gender complicated being from the same book. I need to buy a wig.


The glorious work of Gregg McNeil

Below is a film about Gregg McNeil and Dark Box Images. I first met Gregg at a steampunk event (Timequake in Manchester) nearly 2 years ago. He takes photos of people using an old camera, and develops images in the way that early photographers did – onto glass or tin plate. It is a wonderful thing to watch, and the results have an unpredictable quality that profoundly adds to their charm.

I’ve been plotting with Gregg in earnest for some time now. He’s fed me ideas, and helped me develop as I move towards an area of creative working that is entirely new to me. That light-touch mentoring has already proved invaluable and I am really excited about where we are going with all of this. And no, I am not talking details at this stage except to say that it is a Hopeless Maine project, the first draft is written, and one of the members of the team working on this does awesome things with old cameras. I shall be drip-feeding more as we go along.

For now, I can say that I am so inspired by the people I am working with, and more excited about this project than I’ve been about anything creative in years. It’s been a long time since I’ve run into something new that I wanted this much. I like how that feels.

Find out more about Dark Box Images here – https://www.darkboximages.com/ 


Something festive from Hopeless Maine

One from the other side… a festive song from the fictional island of Hopeless Maine. if you’re not familiar with this project, you can find out more at http://www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com

 

That’s me in the veil, glowing ominously. My son is wearing the octopus on his head, and the chap in the back hat is Tom Brown.


If it is not too much to ask – a poem

Bring me your excess and your unreason.

Bring me your broken hearted devastation

At the state of the world, your passionate desire

For something better, your idealism,

Your most irrational hope and wildest optimism.

Show me the places where you are

Almost unbearably tender, already shattered,

Wounded and healing, dripping sweat and tears

Show me your scars. The ones the world inflicted

The ones you made in your own skin

Out of grim necessity, the need for art,

The quest for some kind of meaning.

Tell me the outlandish stories of how

You came to be here, tell me the preposterous

Dreams that define the path you mean to take.

Share with me the warmth of your hands

On my hands, the warmth of you leaning against me

The sacred, magic circles of arms and holding.

Share the rites of passage, the rituals of meaning.

Give me the parts of yourself you are most afraid of.

Give me the weight of your shame, your loneliness.

I am hungry for these things in ways almost no one

Understands but perhaps you are one of the few

Who can cough up jagged truth like owl pellets

And breathe the flames of your most unacceptable self

Into my life. Bring me your unspeakable longing

And your existential fear, tell me what is

Worth dying for, and harder still,

What is worth living for.

And perhaps I can kiss the part of your soul

That was always unkissable and perhaps

I can bring my too raw, bloody and dangerous

Tenderness to the parts of you that you fear

And perhaps there are enough of us we can

Devise new ways of being in the world

With our tendencies to bleed to death when wounded

And scream in pain and ecstasy

And set fire to ourselves

And love everything too fiercely

And ourselves not sufficiently.

Perhaps we can talk about it all night.

We can make sense of it a little,

Make welcome what we keep hidden in the dark

On the inside.

Bring me your excess and unreason

That I may promise fantastical things

And weave life out of that dreaming.


Taking Mrs Beaten out in public

Mrs Beaten is a character from the Hopeless Maine project. She’s judgmental, obsessive, is probably in part an automaton (I’ve not yet clarified this) and has a messy personal history to say the least. Some of which comes up on this story…

Stroud Short Stories runs twice a year, picking ten readers to share their stories in an evening. I’ve read once before, judged for it and helped put together the first anthology of stories. I’m introduced in this video by John Holland – who runs the whole thing and who is a prize-winning short story writer himself.

Over to Mrs Beaten…


Remedies for Creative Block

You’re most likely to hear of writer’s block, but in practice, any creative person can get stuck and experience frustrating, arid patches. This isn’t just about high art, either. Creative block can strike around cooking, in your love life, in your Druidry and all kinds of other places as well. The loss of energy and inspiration can itself be distressing. So, what to do?

Make some time to look at your life as a whole and make sure all the basic things are in place. If you aren’t getting good rest and sleep, if your diet is poor, if you aren’t physically active enough or getting outside enough, start by fixing these things. If you have to do your creative stuff at the expense of your health, eventually what you do to your health will undermine your creativity. At the very least you have to stop and re-balance sometimes.

Where is your magic coming from? What inspires you? What feeds your mind? Because if all you do is create, without nourishing that creativity you might find you run out of inspiration. Early on we may have a lot of energy to bring to our creative stuff but find we can’t sustain it for the long haul. You might draw on years of life experience for one piece of work. But then what? Learning to be more interested in what’s outside of you gives you far greater resources to draw on for creating. It would seem daft to take up cooking in earnest and never open a recipe book! Experiencing the form you’re working in will teach you a lot and give you ideas. Anything else in any aspect of your life that you find interesting will help feed your inspiration.

Look hard at the economic aspect of your work. This can be uncomfortable. If you are selling your creativity to pay the bills, this added pressure can undermine you. If you have to work a full time job and do the creativity in your spare time, this will exhaust you. If you don’t have the financial security to give you relaxed working space, there aren’t any easy answers. It does help though to be honest about it, and to treat yourself kindly. Most of us can’t make the creativity pay enough to live on – that’s the state of the world, not a personal failing.

So long as you aren’t dependent on making things to pay the bills, fallow periods are ok. They are often necessary to allow growth and development. Being flat out all the time is not a good thing. If you have to work like a machine, it will compromise you. Again, that having to work flat out is a thing has a lot to do with the wider political and economic climate. If you need some down time, no amount of pushing is going to keep you churning out content forever. You will burn out if you do this, and burning out is not efficient. If you find any way of taking the pressure off, do it.

You are not a machine. While inspiration can be constant, it’s better if you don’t need it to be. You’re less likely to get seriously blocked if you can afford to have off days, and days off.


Videos I am implicated in

Recently, Tom and I did an interview with Wendy Steele and Sheena Cundy for the Witch Lit Podcast. We mostly talked about Hopeless Maine, there are some moments about how the Paganism and the comics relate to each other.

 

And in this one I’m singing with Tom (he’s the one with the beard) and my son James and the resident Tiggy.

 


Deliberately unattractive

I find it really interesting going out to perform in public as a deliberately unattractive character. I used to play monsters a lot in a mumming side. At the moment, I’m taking Hopeless Maine’s Mrs Beaten out to events.

I created Mrs Beaten for the Hopeless Maine blog – www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com She’s a complicated, conflicted creature. It is entirely possible that she is part machine, and whether the departed Mr Beaten was her husband, creator or jailer, or combinations thereof is hard to tell. It seems likely that she killed him in self defence. And although she hates him, she also misses him which isn’t unusual for abused people. But, she’s not sympathetic – she’s judgmental and unkind. Through her judging others I can get her to say things that nicer characters wouldn’t say, but that tend to need saying.

Going out to perform as Mrs Beaten I do not look my best. An austere hair arrangement. Little exposed skin. I might powder my face if there are going to be stage lights. I don’t smile much. I glower. I use a voice that is sanctimonious and/or harsh. She’s a figure who can both get laughs and make people uncomfortable and I enjoy playing with that.

At the same time, there’s something liberating in going out dressed not to be attractive. We all tend to make a lot of judgements on how people look. The pressure on women to be attractive, in professional life, in workplaces, in leisure, is a serious thing. I’m female appearing even though I don’t really feel that way, but people judge what they see. And Mrs Beaten judges back. I enjoy going out with no invitation to find me visually appealing. I enjoy not conforming to those pressures, and putting on a face that does not appeal.

Any man telling my Mrs Beaten character to smile, would, I promise, end up wishing he hadn’t said that.

Here’s me glowering for the camera at a recent Stroud Short Stories event where I read in first person as Mrs Beaten. I’m rather pleased with how this unflattering photo came out!

Photo by Tim Byford.

If you hop over to the page you can compare my presentation with the things other women reading have done with their faces. Although Kate Keogan also presented fierce, which is cool.

http://stroudshortstories.blogspot.com/


Re-learning to play

I played the violin for about 25 years – once I got out of the exam treadmill, I played folk, and acoustic rock and was much happier. During my twenties, it was a big part of my life, and music was central to how I communicated with people, and to a number of my most cherished relationships.

Some years ago, an elderly and much loved cat decided he wanted to spend the winter (his last winter, it turned out) sat on my left shoulder. He was not a small cat. He’d get up there and I’d let him stay until my left hand went numb – which it invariably did. The result of this, after some months, was some kind of compression injury, and my shoulder joint locked down. I lost a great deal of mobility. I couldn’t swim, I could barely get my hands round the bouzouki and I could not get my left arm to a place where I could play the violin. At its worst, I couldn’t reliably dress myself.

It took me a long time to rebuild strength and flexibility. I’ve been able to swim for the last few years and I can do most everyday things with no trouble. I don’t have full movement and most specifically, I cannot get my hand into a position that would allow me to play the violin. I’ve come to a point of accepting that I might never get that back.

I do have enough flexibility to get my hands round the viola – which is bigger, and doesn’t require getting my hand as close to my shoulder. For some time now, I’ve been relearning my violin repertoire on this instrument instead. Given that most of what I know is in terms of muscle memory, and the physical shape of tunes is different on a bigger instrument, this has been a bit of a thing. I’m nowhere like as good as I used to be and I have a lot of work to do.

On the plus side, the viola is the better instrument to sing with. I have ventured a thing…


Notes on my killing rampage

I have to kill a hundred people. It’s an author issue, and one that is going to occupy a good deal of my time in the coming months.

I wrote a blog post about it for fellow steampunk author Mark Hayes. Which was good of him, as he’s also one of the people I killed… https://markhayesblog.com/2019/10/03/how-to-kill-a-hundred-people-a-indie-october-guest-post-by-nimue-brown/

I had meant to do a cunning reblog this morning, but the technology has thwarted me, so, here’s the opening as a teaser…

“Let me begin by explaining Hopeless Maine. It started life as a graphic novel series set on an imaginary island off the coast of Maine. There’s now a role play game, prose books in the offing and other things in planning! For people who want to get involved, there’s www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com which is currently full of dead people…

Back in August, when we were figuring out the details for Hopeless Maine kickstarter, I suggested I could do obituaries for people as though they had died in the setting. Those became early bird bonuses, and “yes,” I blithely said, of course I can write a hundred of them.

Of course I didn’t think for a moment that 100 people would get in fast enough that I’d have to do it.”

And for the rest, hop over to Mark’s blog.