Tag Archives: hunting the egret

A brief history of egrets

There were no egrets in Gloucestershire when I was a child. They are not part of the traditional or ancient fauna of the UK, although people do get them a bit muddled up with herons, storks and cranes. The egrets have simply extended their range, and have arrived of their own volition, claiming a niche along our waterways. They aren’t that numerous nor do they breed prolifically, so it’s not appeared to cause much trouble.

When I originally wrote Hunting the Egret, I had not actually seen an egret in person. I’d seen images online, and fallen entirely in love with them. My first egret encounter was on the Somerset coast, and made me cry. Moving back to Gloucestershire, I found the egrets had made it this far, as I had envisaged in the novel, so I came to the redraft able to add details from experience. Although it turned out I didn’t need to change much – I had them pretty much figured out.

White creatures tend to feature in myth and legend as guides to the otherworld. White stags and white hares are probably the most common, white horses, and white dogs also have definite faerie associations. There are lots of stories linking swans to magic as well. In nature, very few things are pristine white. There’s snow and milk, and naturally white creatures and birds. Before humans invented bleach and white paint, mostly we lived with earth shades. Brilliant whiteness didn’t feature much, your white robed Druid (imagining they did exist) would probably have been somewhat off-white, dependant on sun bleaching, and not able to access the kinds of chemicals we now soak our clothes in regularly. Whiteness was unusual, and therefore all the more startling.

Seeing an egret fly out of the mist in the strange light of early morning, is a magical experience. They have the brilliant, pristine whiteness that suggests they may be harbingers of the otherworld. The slow flap of their wings has a stately quality, and, like cranes and herons, they are very good at standing still; poised and majestic. Being water birds, they tend to live along the margins, in the places that are neither quite land, nor water, making them powerful personifications of liminal places. Seeing one perched in a tree is a tad surreal, but like herons, they do favour tree perches and nest on branches.

Being relative newcomers, there is no British mythology around egrets, and no stories to tap into. No Mrs Tiggywinkle or Fantastic Mr Fox equivalents. As a child I loved the tales that shamelessly personified animals and made them accessible to me – Wind in the Willows, Duncton Wood, Farthing Wood, Brambly Hedge, Beatrix Potter… No doubt in other countries there are stories about egrets, but I have none, and that adds to their mystery rather. They have come from another world (France, not Faerie as I understand it) and we have not characterised them with tales, as yet.

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Hunting the Egret

One of the things I’ve been able to do as a consequence of having more internet and electricity, is look into a bit of self-publishing. I’ve written far more books and short stories than are currently available, and I thought it would be fun to put some of it out there. Ebook land is a shifting and unpredictable place, in which publishing houses come and go, so much of the work I have lying around has been published by someone at some point, and then reverted back to me as houses fell by the wayside. Not to imply that I am some kind of publishing kiss of death…

For the last few weeks, while clearing my head between drafts of the next Druid book, I’ve been working on revising Hunting the Egret, which previously went out into the world under my old name. This was the first book cover Tom ever did for me, so it was a bit of a nostalgia trip for me. However, Tom hadn’t had chance to read the story, so I tested it on him during the revision process. It’s a gothic love story, full of Pagan magic and messed up people. It comes from what I now think of as my messed up romance period. The basic premise that even the most weird and troubled person might be able to find a soul mate motivated me to write a great many stories, often for the erotica market. Many of them do not strike me as worth dusting off. However, having gone back to Hunting the Egret, there’s a lot of things going on in it about how the characters see the world.

I’ve managed to rework it so that it remains very much about the dynamics of power exchange in relationships, without being excessively adult. 50 Shades it most certainly isn’t, and there’s a kind of irony in toning down what could have been a BDSM erotica novel, now that sort of thing is really popular, to bring out the gothic lovestory aspect instead. When it was first published, BDSM erotica was niche and hardly discussed. Yeah, I’m clever like that.

However, I felt the original version was unbalanced, with too much time spent on the sex lives of the characters and not enough else explored in detail, so I’ve redressed that in a number of ways, and I feel better about it. I think when you’re putting content into a book in order to make it sell, you’re on a losing streak already, more often than not. I figure, the vast majority of books do not sell in the thousands anyway, so I might as well do the work I love, put that out and see if I can find a few people who like what I do. I’ll save the trying to do it for money for projects where someone offers to pay me upfront, because the rest is just gambling anyway. And who knows, maybe gothic romance with a dash of Paganism is poised to be the next big thing. I sincerely doubt it, but it would be a great deal of fun if that happened to be the case.

I’m going to blog a few excerpts and some wider reflections on the project over the coming days, but in the meantime if you are curious, Hunting the Egret is on kindle – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EKJCPY6 with a createspace version one day, and there is a print version over at Lulu – http://www.lulu.com/shop/nimue-brown/hunting-the-egret/paperback/product-21147485.html It could show up other places too, but there’s no knowing how long that might take.

I like feeling in control of my work some of the time, and I like how it feels to be sharing a story that really matters to me. Only when I came back to rework this tale did I realise how much it was about my own desire to find a soul mate, someone who would accept me as I am. That he created the cover for me, and I did not know that I had already found the person I needed, is a strange thing to look back at.

In regular fairy tales, beautiful princesses live happily ever after with the elegant prince of their choice. In my fairy stories, poverty stricken freaks with outlandish backgrounds and serious hang-ups manage to connect with each other and heal their wounds, and overcome their demons a bit. Looking across the table at the lovely man drawing on the far side of it, I know that kind of story is actually possible. Oddly ever after…