books, ness rambles

Bookish Influences – Real-Life Tales and Conflicting Opinions

Have you ever felt the urge to stand high up on a mountain, face a night of freezing cold, sleet and snow all the while staring heroically out into the distance? No? Well you obviously haven’t read Rora then.



by James Byron Huggins

I can remember when I first read this. The copy in my possession isn’t actually mine – it is my elder brother’s. I’m, er, looking after it for him.

I can recall reading this on the way home – by the light of the street lights, catching a sentence here, a paragraph there. I loved it. I hadn’t read anything like it before.

But first … the description:

The winds from the valley known as Pelice carried an ominous tale of sorrow and destruction. The army of the black-robed Inquisitors had laid seige to the defenseless inhabitants of the valley, destroying churches and killing those who refused to renounce their faith. Yet high on a granite mountain above the land that forms the border between Italy and France stood Joshua Gianavel—one man who held the fate of his people in his
hands. In the valley below Europe’s mightiest army gathered to lay siege to his people. He would not allow the same desolation to reach his home and people in the valley of Rora. With lionlike courage he waged warfare against the Inquisitors with a brilliance the world had never seen.

Based upon the true story of the historic stand of the Waldenses in 1655, Rora is a spellbinding tale of a legendary hero, of international intrigue and subterfuge, of cloak-and-dagger tactics, of a faith that refused to die.

What I thought then …

Rora was awesome, there was no doubt about it. The characters, oh the characters. They stayed with me – most prominently the warlord Pianessa and the courageous Joshua Gianavel, followed by the (very) evil Incomel, the young ruler Charles Emmanuel II, the noble Sir Morland and so many, many more – long after the book was closed.

It was bloody and brutal. Tender and bittersweet. Haunting. Full of shadowed halls and open battlefields.

Spies and warriors, thieves and priests, poets and kings, all were written on its pages. It was a sweeping tale full of opposites – bravery and fear, right and wrong, truth and lies. There was both sorrow and hope, nobility and greed.

I was enthralled by it – by this story that was about being prepared to stand up for what you believe to be right – no matter what the consequences were.

The Influence:

I started a story. “The Valley” I entitled it, and it began with a girl on a hill overlooking the land of her birth (the girl has since been exchanged for a boy, but that was a later addition). There was a Sir Morland character and persecution and hidden doors and all sorts of very cool things [EDIT: not the persecution, that wasn’t cool. The hidden doors and secrets, however, were].

I was inspired by Rora, greatly so, and perhaps the story started off like a mirror to it, however, it soon spiraled away as I created my own characters – one of which is waiting in the wings to be used in another story.

Rora taught me to write on a greater, more sweeping scale than I had thought to before.

What I think now …

[in the middle of battle] There are aproximently four hundred and seventy tw– no, four hundred and seventy one ants on the field. *clang* tenth dent in my armour. The clouds are cirrus. A sparrow just flew over- *thump* arm severed.

I still love Rora, but recently I’ve been rereading it and have found some characters to be unnaturally larger than life (is it really possible to notice every single thing that goes on around you? I tried to do it, but found myself strangely deficient in this awesome skill. I’ve begun to wonder if the skill is based in reality, I’m looking at you, Pianessa).

It is funny, but rereading a book after a long period of time (and many different books read in-between) shines a different light to it. Almost like my soft-toy dog – Fudge. He was huge, honestly – the largest soft-toy dog you’ve ever seen. Until, that is, he was put up in the loft and came down a couple of years later.

Goodness gracious, but the loft had shrunk him!

 Most Favoured Quote:

This one has stayed with ever since I first read it years ago:

What chains can hold belongs to a man. The rest is God’s.

[also, brief note – the letter Gianavel sends to Pianessa? Yes, that is the actual one that the real life Gianavel actually sent. Wow.]

Want to see for yourself if the characters are unnaturally larger than life? Or maybe you just want a story about a real-life story to read. You can purchase the kindle version here.

ness writes about writing

It is a good day to live – A Study of Points of View

I’m afraid I must be a rather morbid person as for the example in this little study of mine, I have a man who- well, read on and you will hear his tale told not once, not twice, but four times.

via Pinterest

Third Person, Subjective, Present tense:

He sits on the bench and crosses his ankles, leaning back he looks upwards at the lime tree’s green leaves. The sky is blue and the sun shines brilliantly. He lets out a peaceful sigh – it is a good day to live.

There is a crack, breath is snatched from his body as it shudders just once. He looks down and sees the red which grows on his white shirt like an ink stain. He frowns. His body slumps.

His eyes close.

Third Person, Omnipresent, Present Tense:

He sits down on the bench. Crosses his ankles. Doesn’t know what is going to happen. He doesn’t see gun raised as he leans back and admires the day. It is a good day to live, he thinks. But then there is a crack and blood stains his shirt and he doesn’t see the irony of his thought as he slumps on the bench.

A dog-walker finds him fifteen minutes later, and screams.

First Person, Present Tense:

I sit down on the bench and cross my ankles, lean back and look upwards at the heavens – the branches of the lime tree sway slightly in the breeze and frame a blue sky, whilst the sun shines brilliantly, highlighting the leaves. Ah – it is a good day to live.

A crack and my body shudders. Winded, breathing is difficult.

I look down and frown. What is this? Red is growing, growing, growin- gro-

Second Person:

You sit down on the bench and cross your ankles. Upwards you look and the beauty of the day causes a small sigh. It is a good day to live, you think. You hear a crack and your body shudders. Breathing is elusive – it’s been knocked out of you. You look down and frown at the red which spoils the whiteness of your shirt.

The red spreads.

Your head lolls now and your body has slumped; you aren’t there to hold it up.

A dog-walker finds your hollow frame fifteen minutes later, and screams.

 Please Note: No dog walkers were traumatized or men were shot in the writing of this post. The sanctity of life is still firmly upheld.

ness writes about writing

He is swearing an oath to be warm

April’s Chatterbox is here once more and the topic is Resurrection (in this case – a resurrection of hope and of fear. A big thank you for Rachel for hosting again). This month I have chosen to write of The Many Trials of a Blacksmith and the character of one Gufflocks Thomas, former advisor to a slain king.

 — — —

The chamber is cold.

The black iron spirals across the white stone walls and he remembers a time when they weren’t there and the stone was crisp and without shadows.

But he also remembers the blood.

One night – that was all it took.

One night and red spattered the walls, coating it with dripping specks which shone dark by candle light.

He remembers the gurgled cries and cut-off screams.

He remembers the monster who strode in, whose armour was dark and sword was already crimson. One short laugh at the room and at the lords and the councillors in their white nightshirts and thick robes now torn and bloodied by the seeking blades.

One short laugh and fear rose up and consumed him. Choking him like a clinging vine.

Fifteen years and the fear has died – beaten down with sparse food and prison bars and an apathy that clings like the damp does the dungeon walls.

But here he is now – standing where it all began and all ended and he attempts to force down the memories which rise up before him and paint the walls red once more.

He turns his mind away from these thoughts and dwells upon a faded image – fifteen years have worn away the edges and dulled the face so that only the clear, ringing laugh is remembered with clarity.

But then he remembers the loss and turns from thoughts of her as well.

“Did you know – I distinctively remember meeting you for the first time in this room.”

He starts and turns and there, standing by the open door is him. He isn’t wearing armour, isn’t holding a sword. In fact, he is attired in a deep purple tunic, light yellow hose and brown boots with a thin circlet of silver atop of his dark head.

Nothing could be further from the monster of that night, long ago.

Except for one thing.

His eyes.

And fear is resurrected. Or perhaps it was there all along – slumbering in a deep sleep like a dragon awaiting its awakening in the distant caverns of his mind.

As he meets the Duke’s gaze, he realizes that it doesn’t matter if the man is wearing armour and surrounded by bloodshed or standing in a clean room arrayed in immaculate purple – his eyes stay the same; cold as a winter’s night.

And he shivers from the cold of his gaze and wishes for a tinkling laugh which always seemed to melt every chill and warm him from every icy day.

And then the Duke is speaking and he is offered a choice. And the owner of the tinkling laugh is placed within his grasp and he sees her image, resurrected and alive in his mind’s eye and he chooses.

He may become a traitor to his country, a betrayer of his friend. But he is so very cold – he has been for fifteen years – and he has longed for an age and shivered in a tiny cell for an hundred lifetimes while her warmth fades from his heart.

And now a blazing fire could be his and he will do anything – anything at all, to sit by it and bask in its flickering blaze.

And so he closes his eyes and sees his wife once more. He gazes at her in hope and opens his lips and promises to be a traitor.

But in his mind he isn’t making a vow to doom a country.

He is swearing an oath to be warm.

A little while more, my love …
via pinterest


ness writes about writing

Of smiles, winking water, flesh-eating sows and branded memories month has gone by. I think I’ve finally resigned myself to the simple fact that a year is a short thing, and not as long as it first appears or indeed, ought to be. But still, we can fit plenty of living into it, plenty of love and plenty of laughter (all beginning with ‘l’!) and also, you’ll never guess but … we can squeeze plenty of writing in too. Which doesn’t begin with an l. But then writing uses letters so I suppose it sort of fits.

And despite the often gloomy weather and rain, the sun still peeks through and God is good, always. And also … it is awfully nice to write with the rain pattering against the window. (And if there isn’t any rain to be pattering or storming … have you heard of RainyMood?)

Anyway – below are some bits ‘n’ bobs from March.

– – –

A small smile was attempted, but it ended in a dismal failure; for lips that smile must turn up at the tips and not downwards like a fast sinking rock dropped in a pool of water.

– Unlikely

Staying by the stream I look up at the sky; the sun is low yet, and a soft haze of mist still covers the valley below. I let one hand drift in the stream and hold it just below the surface, feeling the numbing cold trickle between my fingers and watching the sunrays play with the water, causing it to twinkle and wink merrily back at me.

– The Dragons We Hunt

With an unsure glance at Bernice he decided to lay the deer on the table, indoors and out of sight and smell of the scavenging, lolloping pig. Bloody Bernice, they ought to have called her. The Flesh Eating Sow.

– The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

The scene would be forever etched in his memory, branded with all the ferocity of a red-hot iron. The tangled branches of overhanging trees straining over the path, the brown grasses which gave way to the forest, the brightly coloured uniforms of the Captain’s men, the limp body of his brother; awaiting his enemies with all the resistance of a newly born lamb.

– The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

ness writes about writing

Patience, Young Grasshopper




I was impatient –  I wanted to finish The Many Trials; to get it done. Over with. Complete. Move on to something else. And it seemed such a chore to do so.

I’m sure that you can see the error in my thinking – I didn’t though, and it took me awhile untill it ‘clicked’.

Why on earth was I worrying about getting it done? Why did it feel so hard to plonk one word in front of the other? Why was I beginning to loathe it?

I’d forgotten, you see.

I’d forgotten that writing isn’t about finishing it. Sure – doing so is, you know, just a teeny bit important. But there is no use in finishing a novel which drops like a dead weight around the neck at the very thought of completing it. It was like one of those awful dreams where you want to run, but are stuck in an invisible pool of glue and cannot move.

I’d forgotten to enjoy it – to love telling my tale. Forgotten the thrill of a funny piece of dialogue, a humourous description or an emotional scene.

And that is a rather big thing to forget.

So have patience, Young Grasshopper – you’ll reach the End. But what use is there in reaching the ending when the journey there has been dry and devoid of any enjoyment? Enjoy it. Put heart in every scene. Give colour to the voyage, and those who reach the End will be left with the longing to read just one page more.