Inside the mind of a writer www.scskillman.co.uk

Archive for November, 2013

New Official Trailer for Mystical Circles

Watch the new official trailer for  Mystical Circles on my YouTube channel.

Craig's Farmhouse in MYSTICAL CIRCLES (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Craig’s Farmhouse in MYSTICAL CIRCLES (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Directed, produced, filmed and scripted by my daughter Abigail Robinson, who is a Creative Media Production student, it’s been six months in the making, and Abigail has done brilliantly.

For those of you living in England, in the deep chill of November, watch the idyllic shots of the Cotswolds in high summer, and may your spirits be lifted, as mine are.

Please share in the comments as I’d love to know your thoughts on the trailer!

 

Why So Many of Us Love Doctor Who

So many children’s bedrooms up and down the UK and around the world must look similar to this one, in our home.

Doctor Who display in teen bedroom (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Doctor Who display in teen bedroom (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

In the recent celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the BBC drama series Doctor Who, the question has been posed:  why do you think Doctor Who is so popular?

Since everyone in our house loves the Doctor,  I’ve asked myself this question.  And I concluded that we love the Doctor because:

* As a fictional character, he is a perfect combination of science and religion. He has the Christlike qualities of power, knowledge and goodness; combined with the vast possibilities of science. He plays into our archetypal longings for balance and justice in the universe, plus our thirst for knowledge and our fascination with the potential of science and our quest for empowerment.

* he has power over time. Time, death and the ageing process are among those things we cannot control, though we dream of doing so.

* he engages us on a spiritual level. He represents the perpetual battle between good and evil.

* the character of the Doctor, with all this  power, knowledge and goodness, contains both playfulness and gravity. We respond at a deep level to paradox. Every one of the eleven actors who has played the Doctor has at some level combined the weight of ultimate responsibility and moral integrity with a quirky, mercurial quality. And the twelfth Doctor seems set fair to carry this same quality.

* we are always learning new things about the Doctor. He always retains his mystery.

* the Doctor is essentially lonely and poignant. He loves, and he evokes love. Yet he can never become emotionally attached to any one human – not without tragic repercussions or complex tampering with the space time continuum.

* he regenerates, just like nature, just like the Green Man, a symbol of rebirth, found in many cultures from many ages around the world.

The Doctor is all these things and  more.

Doctor Who rules in teen bedroom (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Doctor Who rules in teen bedroom (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

And we love him not only because of all this, but  because of the genius of all those involved: the executives, actors, writers, directors, producers, monster-creators, technical people, visual and special effects people and composers and musicians. They will have overcome  everything that human weakness can throw at them, during the fifty years of the programme’s life, as we saw only too well from the Adventure in Space and Time episode about BBC executive Sydney Newman, actor William Hartnell, producer Verity Lambert, and director Waris Hussein.

It all seems summed up in David Tennant’s cry: “I don’t want to go.”

Yet the archetypal power of this fictional character, his relationships, his story represents for many our dream of transcending those limitations and that frailty.

Mystical Circles Kindle Countdown Deal; A Passionate Spirit Follows Fast!

Mystical Circles is on Kindle Countdown Deal for seven days.

On 21 November the price drops to 99p.

Mystical Circles cover image

Mystical Circles cover image

Two days later it steps up to £1.99.

And on 25 November it returns to its original list price £3.37.

Go over to the Kindle Store to get it when the price is right!

Meanwhile my new novel A Passionate Spirit nears completion, as I revise the manuscript for a commissioning editor.

A Passionate Spirit is a psycho-spiritual suspense novel with a dramatic storyline.

It features a fictional character my editor described as a wonderfully creepy and intimidating baddie.

Other hot news is I will be uploading  a new trailer video for Mystical Circles on my YouTube channel within the next week.

To whet your appetite here are a few preview shots from the trailer.

Craig's Farmhouse in MYSTICAL CIRCLES (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Craig’s Farmhouse in MYSTICAL CIRCLES (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Lamp and flowers in Craig's farmhouse in Mystical Circles (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Lamp and flowers in Craig’s farmhouse in Mystical Circles (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

actors playing Zoe & Craig in Mystical Circles (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

actors playing Zoe & Craig in Mystical Circles (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

A Review of JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

I’m a great  admirer of JK Rowling both as an author, and on a personal level. So when I knew she’d published her first adult novel, I was keen to read it.

When I began to read The Casual Vacancy several months ago, I found it a struggle to get through the unrelenting nastiness of the characters, without finding any one individual I could identify or empathize with. And at that time I chose to put it down.

The Casual Vacancy/JK Rowling

The Casual Vacancy/JK Rowling

Nevertheless, I was determined to come back to the novel later when I felt ready to tackle it. And I’m glad I did.  I very quickly began to recognize elements from the hometown of my childhood – local characters & social/political/economic issues.

When the author begins to fill in the backgrounds of the characters, giving them greater depth, I started to feel, at some level, empathy for Terri, and for Krystal, and for their terrible plight – and glimmers of humour also relieved the grimness of the characters’ behaviour.

JKR inspires both pity & anger with her waspish vignettes of mothers who betray their children with submissiveness, moral weakness & cowardice, & fathers/husbands who trample close relationships with arrogance, intolerance & cruelty, & teenagers full of hatred & resentment. She also penetrates right to the heart of class consciousness & snobbery, & those who live with an innate sense of ‘superiority’. These attitudes riddle our society, & our hearts & souls; they blight lives, destroy hope, & ensure injustice and inequality prevails. They lower people’s self-esteem and propagate lies that last a lifetime. All this JKR skilfully conveys in The Casual Vacancy.

I found many sharp portrayals: the conversation as a social worker visits a drug addict; the inner life of a bullied teenager as she self harms, her situation made worse by a harsh, unsympathetic mother; the fragile threads upon which a drug addict’s rehabilitation depends; the pressures at home which force teenagers into depraved company and behaviour. JKR accurately conveys the effect that going to a certain sort of school has on one’s sense of self-worth, and upon the choices one makes in one’s friendships and future life.

It’s clear to me that the characters in this novel are behaving ‘their’ way – in other words, the default setting of human nature. It would be pointless and disingenuous for any of us who live in contemporary English society to pretend that we cannot recognize something murky of ourselves somewhere in this novel: something that points up the ‘devices and desires’ of our own hearts.

However, although I enormously admire what JKR has done in this story, I still feel it lacks a strong enough spiritual message or act of redemption at the end; and the potential for that is very strongly present as the narrative progresses.

JKR may not have wished to commit herself to an explicit spiritual message in the novel. But I cannot help feeling there is clear potential for an authentic Christian witness in this story, pointing to a different attitude, a different way of life.

Jesus knew all about the default setting of human nature, and the untrustworthiness of the human heart.

In John’s Gospel we read these words : But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside & out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them.

For The Casual Vacancy is, to me, essentially a story of ourselves as we are, now, in our communities, in our society today, just as we always have been; unredeemed, doing things ‘our way’ and not God’s way, and reaping the consequences.  It’s only JK Rowling’s decision not to take the opportunity for a stronger redemptive message which prevents me from giving her book the highest possible rating.

200 Years of Australian Art at the Royal Academy: Connections Between Painting and the Spiritual Realm

From indigenous art through to ‘discovery’ by European explorers, the arrival of the first British settlers, dismay, denial and idealization, to  acceptance, new understanding and redemption, this exhibition of Australian paintings at the Royal Academy in London took me on a journey through the spiritual heart of my own experience of this great continent.

AUSTRALIA EXHIBITION, Royal Academy of Arts

AUSTRALIA EXHIBITION, Royal Academy of Arts

As Russell Drysdale said, “In Australia there is a quality of strangeness that you do not find … anywhere else.”

Reviews of this exhibition have  been mixed, with a lot of  criticism levelled at it in the UK. But from the first painting of a  convict settlement, neat, peaceful, well spaced out and idealized, through to the contemporary paintings struggling to reconcile the wounded history of cruelty, misunderstanding and conflict between aboriginal people and European colonial settlers, this exhibition was for me an opportunity to revisit and relive my own experience of four and a half years living in this great continent.

In particular a swirling picture by a Queensland artist of the rainforest-clad mountains near Brisbane seemed to reflect exactly my own experience of this beautiful landscape.

The indigenous artworks were particularly moving, with their distinctive use of rarrk – the cross hatched patterns characteristic of aboriginal artists, as they depict rain running down dunes, undulating landscapes, waterholes and trees and spirit ancestors, believing that we tread the earth for a while then come out of it and become part of the ancestral realm again.

Two phrases seemed to touch the heart of this exhibition : “access to” and “isolation from”. Both of these were exemplified in a painting by John Brack, The Car (1955) which I couldn’t help responding to with amusement and yet behind it lay a profound resonance: a family in an ugly cheap car, out for a day trip, the father at the wheel, the mother smiling, the two children in the back staring straight at you, the viewer… and behind them the vastness of the Australian landscape.

And the picture “Australian Beach Pattern” by Charles Meere (1940) of the bronzed perfect bodies on the beach, men, women, children and babies, all strong, confident, was for me worryingly reminiscent of the kind of the pictures produced by artists in the Soviet Union as part of a propaganda campaign for the Soviet communist party. Yet later, the trauma of the Second World War affected the mood of optimism and this image was superseded by Albert Tucker with a painting of red,scorched hunks of flesh on another beach.

There was no painting of Sydney Opera House, my favourite of  all buildings; but there was one by Grace Cossington Smith of Sydney Harbour Bridge being built, (“The Bridge in Building”, 1929) viewed from below,  demonstrating pride, hope, creative enterprise, ingenuity, and above, beyond and around it a distinctly spiritual resonance.

The indigenous people of Australia  were the ones who fully understand and imbued the earth with sacred forces. They were the ones who gave this continent its air of mystery and spiritual power. And yet I can,too, be thankful to those eighteenth century settlers, because they prepared the way so that I,and many others, might have access to the most sublime of scenery. Even now when I drive up a steep winding road I think “Mount Glorious” . And when I saw Kenneth  McQueen’s picture I thought “Yes!” And my heart lifted. “Maiala Rainforest” – conveyed just as I experienced it and remember it now, in swirling patterns of movement.

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