Author Interview: ‘Fields of Grace’ by Wendy Waters from The Reading Nook

Reading Nook

About the Book:

From the author of Catch The Moon, Mary comes this epic drama spanning seven decades. Set against a backdrop of war in 1930s’ Europe, Grace Fieldergill, a starry-eyed young actress from Devon, moves to London to pursue her dream of becoming a star. The lovable boarders of Wyncote House, a ladies-only establishment, take her under their collective wing and share her triumph when she is accepted into the brilliant young John Gielgud’s Company as Peggy Ashcroft’s understudy. When Peggy misses a show one night, Grace gets her chance. Watching her performance that evening are two people who will change her life forever, London’s most famous actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and a man whose love she never thought she could win.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I…

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Review The Rebirth of Nature

the Rebirth of Nature I have just finished reading Rupert Sheldrake’s The Rebirth of Nature and even though it was published in 1990, over thirty years ago, it speaks to the present moment with even more exigency.

Sheldrake argues persuasively for the sentience of Nature and the urgency of re-connection. He warns that if we continue down this path of economic pillage and industrial rape we will lose the compliance of the natural kingdom, a circumstance I fear has come to pass with COVID. That Nature has soul and sentience is disputed by the mechanistic fraternity and their tenet licences the incursion of corporate industry, a reductive racket built on the premise of infinite growth.

We ignore people like Sheldrake at our peril.

His belief in the sentience of nature is shared by such illuminated minds as Alexander Pope who wrote this in 1711.

“First follow Nature, and your judgement frame

By her just standard which is still the same:

Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,

One clear unchanged and universal light.”

Universal light, an interconnected field of resonance permeated with collective memory and unrealized potential fuelled by imagination.  Sheldrake speaks of a changing model.

Page 70 “For three centuries, from the time of Descartes until 1927, physicists lived under the spell of a powerful illusion. Everything was believed to be fully determinate and hence in principle, though not in practice, entirely predictable.”

But in reality, or at least perceived reality, life spins on a dime, moving with an inherent spontaneity that argues for impulse and curiosity rather than mathematical formulae masquerading as physical law.

Page 71 “And this chaos, openness, spontaneity and freedom of nature provide the matrix of creativity.”

In short Sheldrake argues for mindfulness and sentience in the seemingly inanimate Universe that self-organised via a grid of mathematical equations that predicate growth, infinite growth at that.

But infinite growth is an illusion as powerful as the addiction to money as a measurement for spiritual worth. Many of us are concerned that the unchecked pollution of the earth will have dire consequences.

Page 124 “The realization that we are polluting the earth, upsetting the balance of nature, and changing the global climate points to the same conclusion (that we are all earth’s children). The destructive forces unleashed through economic development and the growth of technology have taken on a life of their own, proceeding in blithe disregard for their planetary consequences. And they have been accompanied by an unprecedented growth in the human population. These processes now seem unstoppable. But our activities are not separate from the earth. We live within her. If we disregard her in pursuit of our human ends, we endanger our own survival.”

But despite the pleas of a younger generation bannered by the brave Greta Thunberg and supported by the legendary Sir David Attenborough, it seems economic growth is still bastioned over ecological health. As Sheldrake says, how willing you are to accept a mind-driven universe depends on your tolerance of mystery. In a world that is shamelessly self-aggrandizing and run by toxic masculinity as exemplified by the morbidly unimaginative corporates and the stultifying privileged and the psychotically greedy, stone-neck politicians like Trump and Johnson it is difficult to calibrate the vitality of mystery and the power of beauty for its own sake. People who tunnel their lives in ever-diminishing spirals of habitual thoughtlessness may well consider themselves masters of their own domain. And this insouciance masquerading as masculinity and privilege is inhibiting the development of their own souls and denying the greater reaches of sentience and the interconnection of life.

Page 170 “Each of us faced with the mystery of our existence and experience has to try and find some way to make sense of it. We have a choice of philosophies: the mechanistic theory of nature and human life, with God as an optional extra; or the theory of nature as alive but without God; or the theory of a living God together with living nature. Each of these views can be elaborated intellectually, each can be defended on rational grounds, and each is held with deep conviction by many people.”

Or we can tune into that space within where soul chimes with resonance and “feel” what makes sense to us. Our conclusions will doubtless depend on our willingness to entertain and allow mystery.

Page 174 “The earth is all we have – a world of finite resources. We depend on our planet and those resources for our survival. We are part of a fragile interdependent network called LIFE. If our planet dies, we die…The way we live now cannot go on forever. We must change or face extinction.” (British Green Party pamphlet 1989)

1989. How shameful and cavalier that we have carried on rowing down the toxic river of denial.

Page 177 “Faced with the prospect of impending doom, we need a spirit of repentance that is not just individual but collective. The imbalances which threaten our world are not just the fault of a few greedy people in power; we are all part of the economic and political systems that have proved so destructive. At the very least our political and economic systems will have to change radically if we are to live in greater harmony with Gaia. The only question is, how radically?”

I take hope in the fact of this book and people like Rupert Sheldrake that it is not too late to restructure our relationship with the earth. But first, and most pressingly, we must restructure our relationship with money and with each other. It is not enough to simply hat-tip to waste management and consumerism. We have to reduce our consumption of everything and it would behoove us all to learn how to live off the grid and on the land. To understand and respect Nature’s rhythms and cycles and to match our own cycles of rest and activity to hers. As long as we blindly brace a philosophy of rampant growth and retrace the rutted footsteps of generations of worker bee ancestors we will never free ourselves up long enough to observe the mysteries and feel awe.

The Rebirth of Nature is available on Amazon

Good Writers

Best advice for real writers I’ve ever read. From #brilliant #poet Yechielyah

The PBS Blog

Maybe the book didn’t come out the way you envisioned it would or maybe you’ve got a one-star review. Maybe your editor marked all up and down your manuscript or someone critiqued the confidence right out of you. Maybe you failed, miserably. And maybe you want to crawl underneath the covers and will yourself away. If only you could shrink so that even your body disappears. Maybe, just maybe you are becoming a good writer.

Good writers get negative feedback at some point, period. Good writers get it wrong A LOT. Good writers fail, miserably. Good writers have confidence that appears low because good writers are humble. Good writers are scared to death of publishing the next book because good writers are real. They mess up. They get mixed reviews and feedback.

The difference between their failures and those who quit is that good writers have failed so many times…

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Book Review: Fields of Grace

Thank you so much Sarah Sansom at Book Whiskers for this generous and extraordinary review!

The Book's Whiskers

I have SO much to say about this book. I genuinely hope you stay with me through to the end of my review … but if you’re in a hurry, here’s my six-word summary: you need to read this book. Now. It’s a stunner; it seeks out every emotion within your soul and awakens each of them in turn, sometimes gently, sometimes with calculated cruelty, but always with such precision that you’ll be talking about it for a long time afterwards. I’m not alone in my adoration of this book … it’s been snapped up by an American screenwriter just last week, and we all know we love to read the book before we watch it’s transformation to the big screen.




Historical Fiction Romance Theatre Arts WWII Nazism


Title - Fields of Grace
Author - Wendy Waters
Published by - Amazon (October 2019)
Format

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Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Catch The Moon, Mary by Wendy Waters

I am overwhelmed by the generosity of reviewers like Yecheilyah and Sarah Sansom and Peter Donnelly and Jules Mortimer who give my struggles, my passion and my life’s work meaning. THANK YOU immeasurably.

The PBS Blog

Title: Catch the Moon, Mary

Author: Wendy Waters

Print Length: 258 pages

Publisher: Wendy Waters

Publication Date: October 16, 2019

Mary Granger is a gifted musician who sees visions of music and moves her hands to the tune of the song she hears in her head, like playing an invisible piano. The children call her “Mad Mary” because she doesn’t understand their jokes. She is nervous, and her mannerisms read like someone with autism or some other disorder. But Mary’s music is extraordinary and came as a way of dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse from her father, James.

Then, there’s the archangel Gabriel, who has been on Earth for a thousand years and is depressed about whether he will ever return to his glorious state. He returns to heaven to find it in chaos. His father (“God”) is gone, and so is his brother Rigel. The angels have…

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What makes a man a man?

Like most people I am learning to be still in a world that has become magnificently silent but for the sounds of nature. No more heavy traffic on the not-too-distant highway, no more planes flying overhead at 6 a.m. en-route to the airport. No more cacophonous crowds in the local Westfield Shopping Centre, no more crowded train trips into the city.

And in the silence I am rethinking my life and the way the world chooses to view life.

I am wistful for a life, or rather a way of life, I remember from the past when I lived in harmony with Nature and in peaceful cooperation with others whose primary concern was growth and creative expression. Yes, this was when I lived as a river guardian in the Kingdom of Nature. I have few recollections of this bucolic time other than to say it felt safe and when I see rivers and lakes and brooks dancing over rocks and hear their song of joy, I remember being at peace with the world.

I miss being part of a community that fiercely protected the rights of every living thing, including water and sunlight and those great majestic expressions of well-being, trees, to fully live and partake of Nature’s bounty.

In that idyllic realm the hallmark for health was balance.

Now I am human and forced to live in a world so cock-eyed and skewed with imbalance and injustice I despair of the young and idealistic surviving long enough to create a way of being in harmony with Nature and the wider Universe.

I look for a simple sentence that sums up the insanity and creates a starting point for healing. To date I have believed that the main social issue, the root cause of the world’s insanity and imbalance was misogyny, however, watching the teetering rise of leaders like Trump and Johnson whose misogyny is well-known and tolerated I have come to believe, for now, that perhaps the issue is not hatred of women but rather the way we perceive men.

WHAT MAKES A MAN A MAN?

Last week I had lunch with three women. We discussed these issues and whilst three of us were in agreement one woman defended men’s right to dominate, indeed, she said men were “built” that way.

Are they? Or are men allowed to be that way by women who enable them and a society that intoxicates them with the illusion of superiority?

I pointed out to her that men ceased to hunt centuries ago. Her repost was that men went to war to defend freedom and, my word here, rut national borders. 

She countered that with the old trope, “Would you want men to stand by and do nothing if foreign soldiers landed on our doorstep?”

I stopped arguing. What was the point? Right there was centuries of brainwashing encrypted in a few lines of spin.

Men go to war.

Right. Men are trained to love fighting. Men are brought up to believe that dying for your country is a great achievement. Men are taught that only rich men get the best women, the best cars, the best houses, the best lives. Only rich men are entitled to the privilege of an opinion. And God knows they must be listened to and OBEYED.

trump with women

So, in peacetime, little boys who will grow up to be soldiers, bankers and leaders are built up with the best food, the best education, first rights on everything because at some stage they will have to give up their lives to preserve an indecently-drawn border on land stolen from people who lacked the military skill to fight.

Did it never occur to those ancient, mainly white, settlers to negotiate peace and live in harmony with the existing population?

No. Because men have been taught to dominate.

A man is defined by his willingness to exert his will over territory and family and women and children. A man, a real man, marks his territory by leaving traces of himself everywhere – flags on the moon, boots in the hallway, clothes scattered all over the bedroom for the women to pick up and launder, his scent in every room of the house and his presence in every quarter of the world.

Stephen Schwartz wrote a brilliant lyric in Pocahontas when she addresses the white invader, John Smith, “You think you own whatever land you land on.”

A man dominates. If he fails to dominate he is weak. So says the rudest example of masculinity the world currently has on offer – Donald Trump.

And following a close second – herd immunity says Boris Johnson even after he falls sick and survives due to the care of dedicated doctors and nurses who refuse to dominate.

Who else is utterly heart and soul sick of a world dominated by ego-driven bullies who fail to serve the spiritual and emotional well-being of the community?

In Nature there is balance, cooperation and respect for life. Nature is also ruthless in her determination to sustain the brightest and the best. She will kill to save the planet. But she will NOT destroy. There is a huge difference. And the culling is done on a physical level that does not impact on the spiritual well-being of her guardians.

But back to humanity and the mess we are in.

Humanity is struggling to redefine men and the qualities that serve them best because the age of male domination is over. It has been tried and tested and it has failed. Dominating men do not make the best leaders.

Let me show you another type of man altogether – one who refuses to dominate but instead fosters the weakest and most vulnerable members of society – dying children whom nobody else wants. He does not carry a weapon. He does not impose his will or his religion or his superior strength on those in his care. He gives love and selfless kindness to little children who lack the physical and mental ability to survive in the type of male-dominated world we passively condone and facilitate. He looks after these little angels until they pass mercifully and quickly to a brighter Kingdom.

This man, this wonderful man, makes sure they are not alone.

Tell me which kind of man you prefer – the bombastic bully who dominates or this unassuming saintly man who gives unstintingly with no thought of ownership or reward?

Let us redefine what makes a man a man before it’s too late for humanity.

Aren’t we over these types of men yet?

pedophiles

Do we really want to keep bracketing masculinity in men like this?

trump with epstein

And a word to the women who enable this stereotype of manhood.

You are the problem.

You are the ones who validate them.

You are letting yourselves and your daughters down.

fairy

 

This is Nature.

She would never stand for the lionizing of pedophiles or soldiers who destroy her empire.

She would never tolerate a bully who takes more than he gives.

She would not allow the dominance of one gender or one species over another.

She is the exquisite guardian of the forests, groves and rivers.

She works with her brothers to protect the citizens of Nature. She is LIFE.

Book Review: The Strawberry Thief

Sarah Sansom is a superb reviewer. I loved Chocolat and could joyfully return to Vianne’s world!

The Book's Whiskers

It’s been seven years since Vianne Rocher was last in my life – and what a long seven years they were. Within half an hour (yes, that long!) of copies of The Strawberry Thief appearing on the shelves in my local bookshop, I’d bought my copy and was alternately stroking the cover and inhaling that delicious new bookness at my desk. That was quite possibly the longest day at work. Needless to say, I started reading as soon as I got home and I positively devoured the first half of the book – it was like catching up with my most beloved old friends; Vianne and her girls, Reynaud, Joséphine, Roux (*swoons slightly*). But as I passed the halfway point I had to force myself to slow down … this was a book I was in no hurry to finish. The enchanting and addictive atmosphere is as delicious now as…

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Book Review: Catch The Moon, Mary

One of the most profoundly moving and revealing reviews of my book that I have read! Thank you so much, Sarah, you have revealed my hidden facets of my own soul to me! Many, many lives!!

The Book's Whiskers

There are times when I finish reading and feel a sense of loneliness at having closed the book on a story and characters who’ve drawn me into their world. Not this time! Catch the Moon, Mary is a beautiful story, a balm for the soul … but rather than feeling post-book sadness it left me enveloped in a profound sense of calm and positivity.



Author - Wendy Waters
Publisher - Linen Press 
Publication date - September 2015 
Format - Paperback 
Pages - 256 
Genre - Fiction / Magical Realism / Fantasy / Romance / Family
Rating - ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


I would like to thank Wendy Waters for providing me with acopy ofCatch The Moon, Maryin returnfor an honest review.


back cover blurb

A magical story about a gifted but vulnerable girl who is both saved and damned by an angel who falls…

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Change in the time of Coronavirus

with-the-earth-in-the-hands_1196-323There are a lot of very angry people expressing their rage on Twitter and Facebook right now. Why? Because they are craving the distractions that take up time and constitute or substitute for LIFE. They are stuck at home with not much to do but think and lament and pace and drive themselves mad for lack of activity.

They want someone to direct them, lead them to the promised land of avoidance but who has the map?

There was a function and purpose in the ancient practise of spending time in the wilderness. There is a function and purpose in practises like Vipassana where one is forced into silence for an allotted number of days. These periods of reconnection were choices but Coronavirus has forced everyone into the desert with nothing but our minds and souls for company.

And what do we find there? Who do we meet?

waitomo

People spend entire lifetimes running away from themselves because who we are is wanting. Who we are is never enough. Who we are will not save us from the wolf that prowls and howls and echoes our self-loathing. But now we are locked in with the wolf we would do well to tame it or at least, feed it. The wolf will navigate the wild parts of your soul, the part of you that looks at stars and wonders, the part of you that looks into a lake and remembers, the part of you that hears the voice of Nature and understands, the part of you that urbanity has suffocated and warped into compromise.

Now in the time of Coronavirus you have the chance to reconnect with your true self and decide who you want to be. If you dare.

But first we must all deal with our addictions.

Addiction is a process of reliance. It creeps up on you and eventually recalibrates your soul. Things that once had no importance have now enslaved you in dependence – dinner on Friday nights with friends, going to the club on Saturday afternoons for gambling with mates, meeting friends at a wine bar every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday night, breakfast with besties on Tuesday mornings, jogging every morning at 5am, bench-pressing weights at the gym every Monday night, working for a corporation whose CEO you’ve never met and obsessing about how you can make more money for him/her, planning your life all the way to the grave. Never looking up at the stars or into a lake or stepping outside the routines that have caught you in a sticky interlacing web.

All gone now. And what are you left with? Time and yourself. And at first it feels as if you are falling into an abyss. You have no idea what to do with yourself or how to be or what to think. If not about money and having fun then what?

Here’s the map. First, who are you? Or who were you before life reprogramed you? What did you want to be when you were a child? What delighted you? What did you dream of being? What were the pulses and drives that informed your soul?

Sometimes these answers are too painful to contemplate because you realise you have drifted so far from your innocence. If so, let it go. Let it all go and stand in emptiness for a while and wait. You’re not falling. You’re not dying. You’re just beginning to live authentically.

So, returning to this epidemic of rage on Twitter and Facebook and analysing it. People are terrified of change and they know it’s coming, like a tidal wave it is gaining height and momentum and the impact will wash away the existing structures. Is there any point clinging to your raft and defying the descending forces? No. But people are terrified of losing the constructs that define them and keep them unconscious. They will do anything to avoid re-imagining life. They want the life that has been encincturing generations for centuries. They want the routines that preclude involvement and effort. They do not want to create anything new because NEW means they have to trust themselves and most people don’t even know themselves let alone how to trust themselves. Rather than strike out alone most people would rather congregate in institutions like work and religion that impose ideologies and regulate behaviour.

Religion means people don’t have to strive for authentic connection with God or whatever they see as God. They prefer to join crowds in prayers and chants and cants that become addictive and hysterical with repetition. I have seen hysteria in church services and it’s both sad and frightening because it flags addiction and the inevitable clawing hunger that follows when the “high” wears off.

Work is another form of hysteria when it becomes a fierce competition to make as much money as you humanly can in as little time. Watch the feverish endeavour to close a deal and remember the zealotry of religious fervour and now look at a gambler’s desperation or and an addict’s comatose high.

It ALL looks the same.

Life is not addiction. Life is quiet reverence and the steady pursuit of excellence in a field that engages you body, mind and soul.

I have worked with addicts and watched their agony as they try to free themselves cold turkey. Some have succeeded. Some have failed. Now ALL of us are positioned to free ourselves from our addictions cold turkey. We have no choice. We must re-evaluate our lives and find a way of being that does not sever connection with our true selves.

Bannered over the gate at the temple of Delphi were these words: KNOW THYSELF.

temple of DelphiMost of us don’t know who we are without our striving and our routines. This is our chance. Coronavirus is a great gift if we use the time wisely. It’s also a very painful process for many. Time alone with ourselves is the one thing every addict will tell you they don’t want. Sobriety reveals all the dreams that were planned and abandoned along the way and it’s too painful for most people. It takes courage.

Why do we work? Why do we want money? Answer those two questions honestly and you will see who you really are and how to find your way home.

It’s OK to be poor. It’s OK to be old. It’s OK to be a failure. It’s all OK.

You are so much more than your job, your body, your friends, your possessions, even your soul. You are so much more. You don’t even need to BE so much more. You already are. You are alive. You breathe. You think. You live. You observe. You create. You love. You feel. You crave meaning. You are a miracle and it is enough that you remember that.

Look at the stars. Do you think they should be more? Or different? They are and it is enough.

waitomom3Look at yourself and marvel at the fact of your being. That is the map out of addiction. What you do next, where you go, with whom and why is your choice. Just remember life can be reimagined now. It can be different from anything you’ve ever known. You do not need to entangle yourself in the old routines if you don’t want to. Live and engage with life authentically. You will never get a better opportunity than this to remake your life and ensure it has value.

I draw much of my solace from Nature in whom I invest my hope and my wonder. Do Nature spirits exist and if so, what are they and what is their purpose? Many cultures believe absolutely in the existence of Nature spirits and some people claim to have seen them. When I walk in the forest or by the sea or through a garden I feel a sentience. I am not sure if I separate this from the lifeforce of Nature or whether I am feeling the souls of Nature spirits. I don’t care much. The pulse of life in the world around me and its absence of neurosis gives me hope that humanity can also restore its sanity. We have so much to be proud of and admire in our accomplishments over the centuries and it is comforting and inspiring to spend time marvelling at works of human genius if only to remind ourselves of human sentience at its best.

I don’t believe that peitapeople who only make money are to be admired. Give them a chisel and a block of marble and see what they can do. If anything.

I am weary of the bleating of billionaires who are nothing without their money. I am tired of living in their world and listening to the dull booming of their toneless orchestrations. Life is more than money and mindless occupation. Find it within.

In this silence listen for the song of your soul and the song of the stars.

ALEXANDER – THE MUSICAL

Alexander square.

Logo Design by Dean Michael Rochford @DigiLuxEU – Art by Deano

I spent a little over a decade writing and rewriting the “book” of my musical ALEXANDER, first from the POV of the soldier/conqueror/King of Macedonia and then from the POV of a tortured visionary whose lust for both power and enlightenment finally drove him to the excesses characteristic of dictators of every stripe and creed.

ALEXANDER‘S physical quest is well-known. In 334 BC, following in the footsteps and mindset of his warrior father, King Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander embarked on a series of battles which ultimately broke the power of Persia. A decade later, when Alexander overthrew the sybaritic Persian King Darius III he had conquered the Achaemenid Empire in its entirety. At that point, Alexander’s empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Beas River, one of the largest empires in the ancient world but, this did not satisfy Alexander. Addicted to conquest, he endeavoured to reach the “ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea” and in 326 BC he invaded India, winning an important but incomplete victory over the sub-continent.

Alexander and his mother, Queen Olympias circa 326 BC.

alex and Olympias

 

Alexander the Great was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne of Macedonia at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on a military campaign through western Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty, he had created an empire stretching from Greece to north-western India. Undefeated in battle he came to believe in his mother, Olympias’, claim, that he was fathered by the God, Zeus, rather than the merely mortal, Philip. The world came to believe this fantasy, too, as Alexander, the master manipulator, gave credence to it by building oversized campsites enroute throughout his quest, leaving enormous chairs and tables made from boulders as if an army of giants had camped there. Discovering such things on a morning’s sheepherding must have been very disconcerting for the locals. Playing mind games with the soon-to-be-conquered became an established part of Alexander’s military repertoire. In a midnight climb he instructed his men to plant dozens of Macedonian flags outside the city gates of the unreachable mountaintop eerie called the Sogdian Rock. When the township woke to the sight of dozens of Macedonian flags outside their city gates the next morning they surrendered to the man who was either winged or had demons in his service.

In his determination to succeed, Alexander used every arrow in his quiver. A brilliant military strategist who thought outside the square, he also won the love and trust of his comrades by sleeping in the same rough soldier’s tents as his men and fronting every battle. He also knew the names of all his soldiers and in some cases, their wives and parents, too. It was a masterstroke in winning and maintaining loyalty.

That his success was due to his talent, personability and the discipline of his army is beyond dispute. It was also timely. Slaves the world over were tired of their lot in life and the extravagance of Darius III, the flagrant despot who built Persepolis, the largest and most extravagantly appointed Palace on earth, the antecedent of Versailles which sparked the revolution of 1789, drove many Persian subjects to the point of rebellion. In fact Darius III was murdered by two of his own generals, helping facilitate Alexander’s triumph over Persia.

persepolis

Ruins of the Palace of Persepolis.

So, by the time Alexander arrived, ready to liberate slaves and implement democracy, the rule of the people, it was a perfect storm of social unrest coupled with a brilliantly prepared and highly disciplined army bannering equality, albeit under Macedonian rule.

During his youth, Alexander the gifted student, was tutored by Aristotle and it was his political manifesto of Democracy that Alexander the genius conqueror, implemented throughout his empire. An open-minded man, he encouraged religious and cultural diversity and syncretism of existing beliefs. Always fascinated by spirituality, Alexander even embraced many of the religious practises he encountered on his quest. 

bagoas and Darius

King Darius III with his concubine eunuch, Bagoas.

The quest part of Alexander’s story has been well documented. What is less well-known is the man behind the soldier, a man who did as much harm as good. A man who came to believe himself a god. A man who had no idea what to do with himself in peacetime. A man who came to expect conquest because he had never known defeat. A man who conjured a legend that grew around him like a glamour. But ultimately, a man whose time ran out.

After returning to Babylon, recrossing the Himalayas in winter and leaving India half-conquered, Alexander’s loyal army was homesick and longing to be reunited with their families after a little over a decade of campaigning. Completing Alexander’s waning sandglass was the loss of his great love, Hephastion, who died in 324 BC. It was all too much for the world-weary conqueror, who died six months after Hephastion, perhaps from grief, perhaps from poison or perhaps because his battered body and soul gave up. This close departure from the world is always a mark of soulmates I believe.

       Hephastion 356 BC – 324 BC

hephastion

After the loss of Hephastion, success must have felt hollow indeed. From boyhood on Alexander and Hephastion had shared everything including Aristotle’s tutelage, the almost dual command of the army and for many years, a bed. Every dream and plan of Alexander’s had been co-conspired with Hephastion whose own talent for soldiering was considerable. Certainly of all the loves of Alexander’s life, Hephastion was the only one who shared the ‘trenches’ with him, often fighting side-by-side like guardian angels for each other.

Had Alexander lived he would have stumbled on alone, establishing Babylon as his capital and executing a series of campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia. In the years following his death in 323 BC, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, resulting in the establishment of several states ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander’s surviving generals and heirs.

In my research I read The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, a book about Bagoas, the exquisite eunuch Alexander inherited from the court of King Darius III after the conquest of Persia. Brilliantly written, Renault shows Alexander through the eyes of the people closest to him. Unlike the ugly jostling for power in a harem, Alexander gives each of his loves their own place and the dignity befitting their role, avoiding the deadly competition writhing in the courts and harems of contemporaneous Kings and Sultans.

the persian boyMary Renault looks at Alexander through the eyes of Bagoas, a one-time prince of Persia who was ‘cut’ to preserve his beauty and interned in the harem of King Darius III as a sexual slave. Alexander, enthralled by the young man’s beauty and intelligence, makes him his houseboy and sometime lover.

bagoas 1

Bagoas Prince of Persia who became a eunuch prized for his beauty.

I became fascinated by the other satellite characters in Alexander’s world – his mother Olympias, beautiful, ambitious and driven, Roxanne, the Sogdian princess he marries after conquering her province, Hephastion, his 2IC and arguably love of his life and, of course, his beautiful black stallion, Bucephalus, who remained with him throughout his decade long campaign and whose death in 326 BC caused Alexander enormous grief.

bucephalus 1

All of them exhibited an unusual degree of loyalty to Alexander and a passion bordering on worship.

The love and loyalty of those closest to Alexander are great indicators of the character of a man whom many regarded as a monster warped by boundless ambition. But they only knew him from a distance and in the wake of conquests which arguably left them better off. But conquest is conquest no matter how benevolent the dictator.

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Alexander

So, I adjusted my “book” to focus on the ancillary characters in Alexander’s life and through them map the inner terrain that inversely echoed his expanding empire. As Alexander’s empire expanded, his psyche shrunk under the weight of success and delusion and the legend he and his mother created to inspire worship and obedience became his cage. The fantasy of his progenation by Zeus ultimately enslaved his mind and loosened his grip on terra firma, toppling him, Empire, ego, life and all.

alexander king

But for a musical theatre writer what an extraordinary narrative of lust, loss and tragedy, perfectly arced and embodied in an exquisite young cast, each one alluring in their own right and powerfully placed to influence the most famous man of his time.

I set about reconfiguring the book away from a chronological paralleling of his campaign and into the tragic arc of an idealistic young visionary/conqueror who morphs into a self-destructive,  power-crazed addict, messily transformational and ultimately immortalised through the alchemy of success. Musical theatre gold-dust.

               Alexander and Bucephalus.

aleander and bucephalus

When I completed the revised book I began writing the lyrics and to help me with the music I invited talented composer and pianist, Ian Camilleri on board and together we wrote all the music for Alexander in a succession of Sundays over the course of a year. Ian and I then took the show into a studio and with the help of friends we recorded a demo of five songs. In a series of truly serendipitous interventions we managed to acquire direct contacts with Cameron Macintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber and closer to home, producers Harry M. Miller and Michael Edgely – all of whom turned the show down flat.

Such is my manic perseverance I then decided to hire an arranger to orchestrate the show and lift it to another level. The result was a fuller sound closer to what may be expected in a West End or Broadway production. Over the course of five years the show was staged in concert version by Southbank Institute and later introduced to London audiences in selected songs in a showcase my own work, Wendy Waters Rites Words at The Pheasantry 3rd September 2019 with talented cast Frank Loman, Lauren Lovejoy, Louise Burke accompanied by pianist Ricardo Nunes Fernandes.

Wendy Waters Rites Words

Louise Burke, Lauren Lovejoy and Frank Loman – Cast of Wendy Waters Rites Words.

ricardo and louise Ricardo

Ricardo Nunes Fernandes rehearsing with Louise Burke for Wendy Waters Rites Words, The Pheasantry 3rd September 2019.

2020 brings its special challenges with COVID-19 and lockdown and bringing new work to the public is difficult but fortunately there is a visionary in Canada, Jean-Paul Yovanoff, who plays musical theatre songs all year around and especially encourages new works.

Here is a Podcast of my #musical ALEXANDER played on Canadian radio.  1drv.ms/u/s!AtFMpokjm_

sampler platter MTR with Alxander

Thank you Jean-Paul Yovanoff @MTR_Tweets 

MTR RADIO