I’m very pleased with the cover art of ‘Shapers’ and have been hugging it like a baby, though it’s time to share it with you. The process started with a few imaginative designs done by Rachel, a designer colleague of my son. One early sample was based on the image of an ammonite fossil, which I photographed some years ago at the house of a friend. The image, while relevant to the time-travelling aspect of the novel, turned out too heavy, overpowering the text of the title. My son sourced a paler fossil and photographed it in high resolution. Rachel’s new design has now a mythical quality. I love the subtle and delicate details.
The design resonates well with the cover of ‘Course of Mirrors’ the prequel to ‘Shapers.’ Both novels can stand alone, as immersive adventures with a timeless psychological theme depicting the journey of individuation. Once the sequel is published, I hope readers will be curious enough to explore the prequel (see book page,) which sparked this odyssey through time.
I’ve previously shared small excerpts of ‘Shapers,’ but here a short description …
* * *
Shapers – an underground community of scientists and mystics – must take subtle action in a time of political tyranny in Rhonda.
Continuing her search for the Real, the rebellious young Ana recasts as Mesa, centuries ahead to Rhonda, AD 2450, where Governors uphold a law that inhibits emotions as the solution to crime. As anarchy looms, Mesa navigates her soul bond with Ana and Cara.
Mesa, an agent of the Ypocs, a genetically enhanced species, is re-called by Cassia, the Shaper oracle, from a future timeline to alleviate the crisis in Rhonda. As Mesa aids the survival of Rhondeans and Shapers, she must also explore the origin and myth of her being and her tribe of Ypocs to find clues as to why time is slowing in her utopian world.
Time is a bridge that Ana, Mesa and Cara traverse towards the realisation that they are a triple soul, existing in different places at once. Each bears the urgent task to mend relationships across parallel epochs.
As they encounter each other, they must explore the myth of past, present and future …
* * *
The text of ‘Shapers’ is presently going through a last proof check, helped by my faithful editors, who seem to never tire reading the story – a most precious gift to my confidence.
I’ll update my readers here as to the publishing date. Thank you for maintaining interest in my projects and thoughts.
I feel excited, because a first cover design idea for ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors’ has arrived. I like it a lot, though more ideas are worked on. My son found a wonderful designer, Rachel, who also likes my writing … a bonus. Not yet, but sometime soon I’ll post a cover reveal. The manuscript is presently being formatted by Matador/Troubador, a high-quality self-publishing imprint. I’m too old to wait months on end for agents or publishers to respond to queries. It’s their loss.
In Shapers, time is a bridge that Ana, Mesa and Cara traverse towards the realisation they are a triple soul existing in different places. They each have an urgent task to mend relationships across parallel epochs. As they gradually come to encounter each other so they must explore the myth of past, present, future.
From the prologue … The underground community of Shapers – scientists with a mystical bent – take subtle actions in a time of political tyranny. Their shape-shifting Oracle, Cassia, can call earthlings from any time or space into the present when a catalyst is needed …
In AD 2450, Cassia calls back Mesa from a future time to alleviate a crisis in Rhonda. Mesa is an agent of the Ypocs, a genetically-enhanced species. Answering the call, Mesa uses her intuitive powers for a double task of assisting the survival of Rhondeans and Shapers and of exploring the origins of her tribe of Ypocs to find clues about why time slows down in her tribe’s utopian world.
I thought I treat my readers to a segment from the first chapter of Shapers …
“Wake up.” I nudged Luke, alerting him to the pale mist pouring over the rim of the sea, like the kind that swirls up when warm milk hits a cold pail.
Luke rubbed his eyes and frowned. “I don’t like the silence,” he said, peeling himself from the sailcloth covers of the small lifeboat Captain Jacko Ponto had granted us as sleeping quarters, since all cabins were taken at the time of our late booking.
We were sailing under three square-rigged masts towards the Western Isles. For weeks, since leaving Itaka, our journey on board the impressive Engrail had been favoured by lively currents. This morning, water stretched deadly calm like liquid silver, a novel and beautiful surprise which also struck me as ominous. The stifling air mystified everyone on board. Sails hung slack. Sailors assembled and stared vacantly across the waters that lay flat and deceptively serene. Luke joined them.
The sailors had tolerated Luke’s interest in their acrobatic feats, but they did not permit him to climb the riggings, to trim or adjust sails. He kept fit by practising martial arts, while I became the ship’s mascot. Elevated on coils of rope, with paper and charcoal in my lap, I drafted impressions of Luke, which were blurred with recollected gestures of his twin, Rufus, who burdened my conscience. I churned out sketch after sketch of fellow travellers, men perched on masts pencilled into the sky, and glittering currents and blustering sails.
Luke and I counted time by the ascending sounds from the ship’s bell, until eight rings called for the watch to change. Last night, as every night, we had cuddled together in our snug lifeboat under the gleaming fabric of stars, into which we wove our dreams. Salty breezes flavoured stories we shared, secrets that troubled our lives.
Today I pondered our reckless exit from Rusk towards open horizons, spurned by the mysterious quest proposed by Cassia, the prophetess, as Luke called her now, and, as it turned out, the Oracle of the Shapers, a secret organisation that endured across time. Cassia once told me: You are the bridge, Ana.
My musings were broken by the noisy splutter of an emergency engine, which promptly ceased to function. Luke returned. “Sailors grumble, they’re called below deck and use oars,” he said. The monotonous creaking of oars did nothing to lift our mood. Passengers wandered aimlessly, gaping in vain to distinguish sea from sky, which had blended together into grey mist. Soon people congregated in groups where plenty of rum was shared. Cheering each other with rude songs, shrill enough to chase ghosts away, some people tumbled into each other’s arms as if a puppeteer had tangled up the strings.
I escaped to our lifeboat, to re-read my latest journal entries of Cara, my soul companion. Luke stayed nearby, keeping watch. He thought Cara, whose messages I transcribed into my journal, was a reverie. I had omitted to mention that she lived in a time alien to ours, centuries ahead. When I grew up lonely at Katun Court and sensed the deep wrong in my family, Cara spoke frequently as a voice moving through my head. But once the world unravelled during my river journey between Nimrich and Katun provinces, her presence became sporadic. A few days ago I chose to initiate contact by addressing a message to her. To my delight, she responded. Sentences appeared as if written on air, fragments of events, which I recorded in my journal. Cara’s journey had assumed an uncanny resonance with my own:
I thought I had lost you, Ana. Like you, I accompany a lover on a quest. Let me tell you about us. Your Luke is my Dillon. We are crossing the Atlantic by plane to America. Four weeks from now they’ll elect a new president. From my window seat I watch Canada’s lakes far below – pink mirrors strewn among purple damask. We have been chasing the sunset for hours, bound for Washington D.C., with a stopover in New York to change planes.
An icy wind greets us. I wear a coat sewn by hand from a charcoal-coloured blanket, trimmed with blue velvet. I could be a successful designer instead of a poor seeker with expedient philosophies, such as money obstructs the spiritual quest. My coat has rustic elegance but scarcely keeps out the fierce cold of Capitol Hill. Our charming escort delivers us to one of our hosts. My limbs quiver like frosted leaves. It is Christmas Eve.
We have a festive lunch with students who share this spacious house beyond George Town. Our host’s mother is old and ailing. The door to her room beyond the hall of the dining room is permanently open. From her bed she listens to our table talk. Imagine – all of a sudden she sits bolt upright and points a finger at us. ‘You don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to do anything. They were the first words God yelled out loud when he made the universe.’ With that she slumps back into her pillows. Some of our party smile, knowingly, others gaze absentmindedly at the white turkey slices on their plates, adorned with glaringly red cranberry sauce and green sprouts. While our chatter about spiritual matters resumes, I ponder whether the ultimate clue to our search has possibly just come from the ancient woman across the hall. But it can’t be that simple.
The scenes and places Cara described felt alien, but the incident with the old woman made me laugh and lifted my spirits over conditions on the Engrail:
Dillon avoids talking about his quest. Yet our eccentric status, partial to the arcane path of the fool, and our credentials, arouse curiosity. As Dillon elegantly steers the table conversation away from us, we end up listening with growing amazement to a rapid succession of expositions – on Crazy Wisdom versions of Buddhism, Gurdjieff, Tantra, Zen, Kundalini, Agni Yoga, Theosophy and various Sufi paths. Everyone in this house follows a different teaching. America has supermarkets for everything, including exotic tastes of the divine.
But let’s assume you know deep inside something that does not correspond to what is accepted as possible. Should you express your truth it would be ridiculed. On Boxing Day we meet the main host we came to see. Imagine someone of high standing in society who radiates authenticity and talks with natural ease about experiences you tend to doubt you ever had; imagine that someone drops the end of his cigar into your half-empty coffee cup to jolt you from one dream into another. This someone is our host.
Here’s some feedback re: ‘Course of Mirrors,’ the prequel, on my website:
Sun, finally, bliss. I sit in the garden, reading, among Robin friends flitting through the apple blossoms. After two hours in the heat my body needs shade. I resolve to clear some cobwebbed drawers in the shed.
The moment I lift a weighty plastic bag, I know it contains German pfennige (pennies,) about 2 kg in weight, at least. These one & two penny coins were meant to buy my wedding shoes. It escapes me how I came to start this collection. In any case, the coins were never used, though the wedding took place, and the marriage lasted for a good while. Two eccentrics … but that’s another story.
For the rest of the day I fell into a kind of Scrooge Duck hallucination, since, as I learned from Google, some two pfennig coins had acquired high iconic value. Up to 1968 German pennies were of copper, from there on steel was added, which made the coins magnetic.
So, equipped with a small magnet from the door of my fridge, a magnifying glass, various breakfast bowls, a glass of water, and another glass of wine, I returned to my sun spot and commenced with methodical sorting, looking for two ghosts – a 1967 coin marked G (printed in Karlsruhe) that had already steel in it, and a 1969 late limited edition of still pure copper, marked J (printed in Hamburg.)
With hundreds of pennies, the odds seemed promising, at least compared to the lottery ticket I buy once a week.
I felt a rush of energy I hadn’t felt for some time. Purpose with a promise is a high energy state, I thought, giggling to myself, a habit of late, due to the surreal atmosphere since the corona virus lock down. What if? What if I find a penny worth £3000 to £5000 to collectors? I could afford to market my book, regain confidence to publish the sequel, have some work done around here, fix the shed roof, asks a painter in, buy a number of books, and leave a chunk aside for emergencies.
Well, I was as meticulous as can be, but by the time dusk chill set in, I hadn’t discovered even one ghosts. Some coins might fetch a few £s from collectors, given more research. Thing is, I’d make a good buyer for a business, having excellent taste and a knack for bargains, but selling is not my forte.
Nor am I a talented collector; otherwise, for instance, I wouldn’t have burned negatives and photographs of praiseworthy experiential novelty, including images of celebrities taken during the 1960s/1970s. Vain laurels, I thought then, devaluing my achievements. Nor would I have gifted away hundreds of vinyl records of that period, and precious books, all in a minimalist attempt to travel light into a new adventure. Profit, for better or worse, has always been secondary. And that’s another story …
The only things I collect, or maybe they collect me, are small stones. The irony of choosing to treasure such solid items is not lost on me. It’s to counter-balance my high energy states. These states, which I love, though they also exhaust, generated many satisfying projects, often in relation to groups. I gradually learned to balance the energies between my extrovert and introvert, between intense emotional and cognitive investment and periods of drifting and dreaming – incubating a new beginning – waiting for another decisive moment of clarity. How this energy seesaw was impressed in me directly after my birth is another story …
Instances of high energy in the last decade were more solitary, though I had great supporters, the co-editing Heart of a Sufi, which came out in 2011, and the writing and editing my novels, Course of Mirrors, and its sequel, Shapers. The former came out in 2017. Since then stressful events dented my spirits, a lunatic Brexit, my father’s erratic care needs, which wrecked my income, his death in 2018, and the global lock down to halt a virus, but spreading hopelessness like a trance. Procrastination became keyword for just about everything.
Somehow my short-lived penny passion brought back a taste of excitement, which beautifully sums up the essence of my first novel – finally an elevator pitch – that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.
It’s sobering that the magic carpet of journeying has been grounded worldwide. And with the present road blocks, investing energy into a journey seems pointless, unless it’s an inner journey. Here I’m fortunate to hold rich life experiences. Being reminded what a strong purpose feels like, will, I hope, motivate me to value my writing again.
Sadness pops up when I think of teens, the young, whose natural impulse is to be active and connect physically with their peer groups, and whose desire for journeying is now frustrated – in stark contrast to the inspiring decades of my youth during the 60s/70s. Old or young, we’re all missing spontaneity, direct contact, stimulating discussions, hugs. One can never have enough hugs. Too many people struggle at present in isolation, or, indeed, in strained togetherness.
How do I cope? I don’t watch TV, haven’t done so for years. I prefer to read coherent articles and watch movies on BFI. And I’m lucky to have a garden, with nature to touch and absorb. The lilac tree waves, the laurel hedge sparkles; Robins build their nests, tulips nod in the breeze. Oh, and to end my ramblings, I just picked some delicate violets and forget-me-nots from my garden. They both have five leaves.
It’s time for me to read my odyssey once more, to attract the wind of light required for refining the sequel. You, too, might enjoy the read, for a taste of
… that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.
Links regarding Course of Mirrors appear on my book page
News reminds me that today is the fifties anniversary of America’s moon landing.
I was in Prague. My then companion, for his birthday celebration, had organised a small group of friends to spend a weekend in this beautiful city, coinciding with the moon landing. We could afford a 5 star hotel, due to a bargain currency exchange rate in the wake of the short-lived Prague Spring … the invasion of Czechoslovakia by members of the Warsaw Pact, and then the country’s occupation. We found an eerie hush hush atmosphere, but once rapport was created, people were keen to treat us cash-spending visitors like royalty. Hotel staff attended to our every need, insisting on polishing our shoes overnight. Restaurants, beyond serving exquisite goulash, entertained us with stories and life music. Our luxury was tinged with sadness. These people had had a rough time. It would take many more years before the collapse of Communism.
Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon. Photograph: NASA
We watched the moon landing on a black & white TV in the lobby of our hotel, outnumbered by American tourists. The atmosphere was electric. All our eyes were glued to the small screen, witnessing the eagle’s landing, feet stepping down the ladder into the moon dust. And them Armstrong documenting Buzz Aldrin imprinting the dust with his heavy shoes. Given the lack of air-movement on the moon, these imprints may still be there, unless the later take-off erased them.
We took in the iconic exclamations … one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…
Americans around us burst into high decibels and fell into each other’s arms for joy. So yes, it was a memorable moment, and, without doubt, a magnificent achievement for the visionaries, like J.F. Kennedy, who sadly missed the event, and the many thousands of technicians and supporting staff involved in the project.
Earthrise, Dec 1968
However, for me it amplified a more significant image from the year before, a photograph called ‘earthrise.’ I sincerely hoped that beholding the wonder of this beautiful planet floating in dark space would widen political perspectives and bring people’s consciousness around the world to the realisation that we are in this adventure of life together.
That weekend in Prague, I visited the old Jewish cemetery. Stirred by a brilliant slanting light, I took a series of b&w photos, only to destroy them later, incl. negatives. (The scene became incorporated in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’) I regret the loss. The photos were stunning.
Wars, atrocities and poverty continued, nothing changed. Technological progress only worsened injustices. Protesters during the moon landing proclaimed “Billions for space. Pennies for the hungry.”
I came to the conclusion that the exploration of deep space requires the balance of another exploration … a deep exploration of the human mind. A befriending of the unconscious, the objective psyche, which we can’t control. The latter study inspired my subsequent vocation.
I grew up with this lullaby, my favourite …
Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar:
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weiße Nebel wunderbar.
As painters or sculptors do, I frequently step back from my writing projects, searching for the core, a half imagined essence to shine through and re-animate the creative flow. Skills alone don’t do it, techniques alone don’t do it, nor style. As long as the essence of what I try to express floats in the unconscious, my efforts will baffle and tease me.
Having listened to thousand and one stories during my 30 years of working as a transpersonal psychotherapist, I conclude that when we tell our story to ourselves, or others who watch and listen, we trace a rhythm, a sound, the distant bubbling of a spring – a theme. While sourcing and shaping words we ideally become aware of how we translate experiences, string up memories and weave a pattern that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our story. We may re-weave the past and change how we perceive life. Even a single image, too evanescent to fit ordinary reality, can assume significance. An ideal may sharpen – and with it a vision of what not yet exists, revealed by the imagination.
Sensual impression, dreams, primary images and the love/hate of relationships, present a puzzle we try to arrange in some kind of order, waiting for a theme to become intelligible, and therefore transmittable. Finding a structure to express our experiences through words, images, movements, sounds, music, or numbers is insufficient. We must play with the fragments – take out bits, or add bits, until a satisfying narrative suggests itself.
World objects from my sand tray
Fairy tales, heroes and villains of myth, historical figures, cartoon characters or pop stars may do the magic by evoking a psychic resonance and providing a metaphor, or a precious symbol to ease the pressure of the archetypal demand lurking in the unconscious.
Not only those we call artists, but all creative people respond to what holds sensual and cognitive fascination for them. I include trades, crafts, makers, men and women with affinities to certain elements, who explore the quality and beauty of materials, like weavers, potters, wood workers, printers, plumbers, electricians … I include technicians, engineers, inventors, scientists and mystics. Curiosity and passion for a subject deepen knowledge and intuition as to how things connect outside, and, vitally, how they connect inside us.
Ashen – directing a film in the woods.
My fascination with creating stories was revived while doing a film degree (as career brake) during the late 1990s. I’m curious about consciousness, relative perception of time, and the interplay of characters for which I invent pasts and futures, where ideals are the means to a goal, while as soon as the goal is reached, a new ideal looms over the horizon. If this were not so, evolution, our whole story would stop. Ursula Le Guin once wrote –
‘In eternity there is nothing novel, and there are no novels.’
My ongoing writing project, a trilogy of stories, involves three soul sisters, Ana, Cara and Mesa. The first (already published) book of the trilogy, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ (see book page) narrates the quest of Ana, which is really the myth of the story teller, Cara, whose theme is seeking a balance for the enigma of clashing feminine and masculine principles. The sequel, ‘Shapers,’ (not yet published) introduces Cara in the twentieth century as she follows the characters of Ana’s myth into a far future society where emotional expressions are outlawed until the experiment breaks down under its duplicity.
In a third book, ‘Mesa,’ a work in progress, same characters move to a realm where time has slowed down to such extend that ‘novelty’ has to be rescued for life to continue. This story calls for a deep dive into the heart of my imagination.
I’m once more held in the cocoon stage. Given the ideological power games around the globe, I feel foolish about these musings, since I’ve been sharing the ups and downs of my quest here for the last seven years.
Do you, my reader, recognise the pressure to bring something into existence? How do you search for the cypher (the wild uniqueness in the soul) that informs your creative process?
* * *
A definition of Symbol … from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, transl. by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University
The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.
Ambiguity is my name. I’m burdened or blessed with a self-reliant streak. Major decisions in my life were made intuitively, magically, spontaneously. I tend to escape the tedium of – must – have to – social coercion – small mindedness, and the like, via stretches of doubt, waiting for the sixth sense and moments of clarity to kick in. You guess right, I dislike rigid structures, uniformity and over regulations that kill creativity. I juggle for authenticity. A glimpse into the psychology of this stance appears in this post from 2012 – the wild horse of the mind, but possibly rebels are simply born with a disposition to serve social balance and individual autonomy.
Ambiguity moves (as in emotion) – is subtle – complex – questions facts – tolerates uncertainty – leaves doors open – is universal and timeless – playful and iconoclastic – tends to link dust motes to the cosmos and embraces multiple meanings.
I climbed into the plum tree and ate the grapes I found there. The owner of the garden called to me, ‘Why are you eating my walnuts?’ … Yunus Emre
My son ordering my stone collection …
There is beauty in order and certainty.
There is beauty in chaos and uncertainty.
Ivan Aivazkovsky – Between the Waves
Life serves up both, be it in slow motion or in rapid succession.
From the tension between order and chaos springs creativity.
To strike a balance is becoming difficult. Scientists, today’s explorers, provide useful facts that endlessly improve our lives, bless them, but unlike individuals and small businesses, they can indulge in mistakes, because science funding continuous even when facts prove wrong and change, because it aids the economy. To use a quaint example, one moment coffee is said to kill us, next it is lauded as beneficial. The list of contradictions is endless, and amusing. Statistics, as expedient as they are, skip the varied metabolisms of individuals, the whim and wisdom of the body. Some bad stuff, in moderation, actually maintains the body/mind equilibrium. And there are the cosmic and psychic weather changes we have no control over that affect individual moods and attitudes. In short, the tyranny of algorithms that dictate what is good for us can be counterproductive.
Since having taken the risk of making time for writing, with less duties and roles to consider, I’m tolerant of disorder. My personal erratic filing, analogue or digital, starts out well, but as data builds up, valuable notes, articles and images sit unattended and unconnected, until I vaguely remember an item that might fit a present concern. It takes a day or two day fretting over, but if I open the question as to the whereabouts of particular information in the Noosphere my brain eventually makes the connection and goes ‘ping.’
I prefer this disorderly memory system. It liberates and enables me to switch off ‘overwhelmed,’ providing a descent amount of inner peace.
John Keats (in 1817) coined the term negative capability for his preference of intuition and uncertainty above reason and knowledge. His definition chimes, though for me, ‘living the mystery’ sums it up better.
Writing from intuition resulted in my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors, continued with a sequel venturing into SF, and a third book. There was no plan, only an initial image. From there on the characters created their world. My personal myth added spice and deepened the narrative, making it universally relevant.
I write for the pleasure of sharing the diverse experiences of my personal myth. My gut feeling tells me we need more living and writing through mystery.
My dream vanished. It’s going to be one of those weird days, I reckon, soon confirmed by a fleeting glance while passing a mirror. My morning ritual includes stretching muscles while coffee filters into the cup. I breakfast before the screen, skim through emails and various online papers, shake head at captions ranging from atrocious, futile to hilarious, the latter due to brexasparation. The scene beyond the window calms – wispy clouds, birds flitting from hedge to tree to hedge, familiar cats slouching across frosted grass, the ginger, the black & white bushy monster, the nimble black tom with white paws and white-tipped tail, much like an exclamation mark.
With no commitments today, I embark on my weekly shopping trip to town. Small wonder I can’t get warm, the steep drop in temperature is topped by a bitter wind. Minding the weirdness of my day, I’m super careful on the road and pay for two hours parking, anticipating a disorganised shopping round. Sure enough, I miss items on my scrawled list and retrace my steps time and time again through a lattice of chilled shelves. I tell the woman at the checkout, ‘I can’t get warm today,’ a detail of hardly any interest to her or anyone, including me.
‘It will get colder,’ she nods, shrewdly.
At home, I store away stuff and screen up again. Beast from the East weather forecast, blog posts, articles. Weirdness continues. I cancel plans for more editing on my second novel, Shapers, and grab the vacuum cleaner instead, as if it could suck the dust from my mind. The effort earns me another coffee. Then a thought tumbles in from nowhere …
Often people are worth more dead than alive – where the heck did that come from?
My vanished dream lights up. Faces re-emerge, of friends who passed on during the last two decades, some through death, others through metaphorical deaths, that is, circumstantial rifts and distancing. The dream brought a vivid afterglow of relationships, insights of unconditional love, as well as shadow aspects – what I judged and misread in the behaviour of others, what others judged and misread in my behaviour. The dynamics of projections are illuminated by a revision of experiences through layers of time, and through the imagined intuitive eyes of others. Broken threads reweave into fresh patterns, consciousness expands.
I deeply appreciate the dreams that provide an afterglow to the relationships in my life, be it the ones marked by kindness and love or the ones distorted by projections and a narrow reading of intentions. The insights that dreams bring help me to renew my sense self, no matter how delusional, it’s what I need to function in this world.
We can always benefit and also contribute towards collective harmony with a widening of perspectives through other eyes, including the eyes of strangers.
I’ve not been so happy for a long time, which I’ll explain later. Following a November without heating, I was
The Poor Poet by C Spitzweg, 1839
initially cheered by a brand new boiler and enjoyed a span of blissful warmth and hot showers. Turned out the new boiler’s sensitive mechanism couldn’t cope with the system. In my young days I used to be tolerant of temperature changes. Small groups of poor students occupied large houses that had a big stove in the kitchen and coal or wood fires in individual rooms. Halls, toilets, bathrooms were freezing zones. During severe winters in Bavaria we used hairdryers to defrost our car engines. On the upside, our car tires had spikes in them, making driving on snow and ice brilliant and safe fun.
December brought two more weeks in sub-zero conditions. Attempts to write and edit with stiff fingers continued, helped by three pair of trousers, jumpers, legwarmers, wrist warmers, winter coat and hat. In addition I frequently refilled the hot water bottle on my knees to supplement the electric heater taking the chill off my back. Concentration was difficult, nerves frazzled. Baked chestnuts and hot lemon drinks brought a little warmth to my hands.
I dealt with government agencies that give grants towards new boilers, involving subcontractors, and more subcontractors. Bless them all, but among the experts I felt like a girl serving coffee at a conference table. The situation made me immensely grateful to have a home at all.
And being me, my mind went into a spin, considering the bursts of technological innovations during my lifetime, deceptively useful, miraculous even, yet challenging, never more so when it comes to integrate old systems with oversensitive devices and their narrow applications.
A mass of data doesn’t equate with intelligence, unless used with skill, heart, intuition and imagination. Artificial neural networks aim to emulate human potential that is only just emerging, be it the psychological understanding of the self in relationships, the impact of the unconscious psyche on our lives (as explored by C G Jung,) enmity or collaboration rooted in past experience, strange attractions, genius, intuition, creativity, attitude. A flow of fresh associations reach us from spheres that hold accrued knowledge. I like Pierre Teilhard de Chardine’s concept of a self-reflective noosphere.
Whatever one may call this sphere, white noise permeates it with a new brand of global wilderness. Beleaguered hive minds resist dialogue and integration. To use a lame metaphor, as a radio needs tuning to reach a required station, so a brain needs to be free of agitation to access harmonising frequencies.
I think of the physical brains as mediator, like the motherboard of a computer, or a radio. I hope future generations will be receptive to the body and find ways to relax it, so the brain can maintain the antennae to the psychic totality of the wisdom of our collective, non-local mind-being & its guidance, and not be misled by expectations that every pesky problem in daily life can be monitored and sorted by automated devices.
‘Long live the dead because we live in them.’ ― Clarice Lispector – A Breath of Life
From an old postcard I can’t source
AI intrigues, yet also brings our shortcomings into sharp perspective. Humans mirror the vast intelligence of the cosmos, through myth, art, religion, the insights of seers and scientists, all encapsulating equal measures of truth and untruth. If a higher will exists it must include the collective experience of a universal psyche, including yours and mine.
I must be free to make mistakes and form perception. Neurotic people muddle through. Old cars muddle through, old washing machines, ovens, fridges and boilers muddle through all manner of obstructions and, with a little devoted attention, can be mended until they have fulfilled their purpose. Life wings through seasons of existence in this limited material world, resurrected through other forms in further life cycles. Heck; imagine your experiential persona trapped indefinitely in a robotic body whose every need is monitored and anticipated. Imagination and the potential to understand another human being would wither away, the wisdom of aeons reduced to numbers. What a dumb and spiritless existence.
‘Technology, instead of liberating us from myth, confronts us as a force of a second nature just as overwhelming as the forces of a more elementary nature in archaic times.’ – Walter Benjamin.
I like my old car. It doesn’t lock me in or out, records my whereabouts, or suddenly cuts off its engine at a red light because its programme decides to safe petrol. I like devices that can be repaired with a little thought or the occasional bang of a hammer. I like my seasoned washing machine that doesn’t tell the world where and when I’m doing my laundry.
My old boiler pushed through the sludge in my pipes and could have been made to work again, with attention to the system. My rant is NOT about the new as such, but about the general dis-empowering trend that sells us short and prevents recycling of perfectly repairable items.
Each day we navigate unpredictable situations and complex problems. We feel the joy and pain of organisms, creatures, people, and often our reason is clouded by our passion. If only children were taught about emotional intelligence early on. Yet industries decree that trusting humans is risky, dangerous, and uneconomical. The story begins to resemble Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Not worth a thought of course, because Shelley was a woman.
Jeanette Winterson expresses similar thoughts more poignantly in a lecture she gave in Holland … Super intelligence could conclude that all mankind is a waste of space and resources. Check for a translate button on the site. I thank my Dutch friend, Kitty, for sharing this link on FB.
Yesterday I had brilliant news. A couple of competent plumbers took up some floorboards and, with impressive intuition, and skill, solved the problem. My new boiler is at peace with the old system.
Happy & warm, I want to share my pleasure with a festive offer on Course of Mirrors:
In addition, the e-book will be 99 pence on most platforms up to the 2nd January 2018
In case you enjoyed reading my magical novel, you may consider leaving a short comment on the above Troubador site (no signing in required) and Amazon, where it apparently boosts sales, which would be wonderful.
I’m wishing all my readers peaceful festive days and a blessed New Year.
My home was hexed lately, so it feels peaceful to light a first advent candle. I’m still exhausted after spending weeks without heating, editing while wrapped up in several layers of outlandish costumes and with revolving hot water bottles on my lap. Blissfully warm again, a relentlessly dripping kitchen tap drove me nuts. Unable to focus on editing, I diverted myself with sorting client notes for confidential shredding. Tap fixed, my printer stopped working, just when I intended to make my batch of Christmas cards. It’s become a time-consuming job to get things mended. Chuck it, is the general advice.
I feel a little like Ana in the scene below, who discards stuff in preparation for her amazing quest.
I’ll occasionally share short excerpts from my first novel here.
a short scene from chapter two
Nothing stirred the air, not a single bird sailed along the cliffs, as if nature held its breath. I had emptied the three chests in my tree house, hauled their contents down the ladder, sack by heavy sack. Once my heartbeat calmed, only the distant drone of cascading water broke the quiet, and the lone yelp of a dog from my father’s court further down the mountain. I glanced at the treasures scattered near a designated area of flat rocks and felt my fingers itch to reach out and sift the objects that held so many fond memories.
Instead, I laid strips of cord and cloth soaked in hemp oil into a star formation, building a grid of tinder and dry branches on top. On this base I arranged layer upon layer of books and stacked them like bricks to form a conical heap that grew shoulder-high. I had brought a box of candle-ends and a flask of strong spirit in case extra fuel was needed.
Next were my drawings of plants – patterned shades in rock and bark, sketches of fossils, crystals, flowers on frosted glass and cloud-shapes. Captured moments of happy absorption, bound to mould away if left. Whoever thought to search here for secrets of mine would be disappointed. One by one I folded the drawings into flute-like shapes and tucked them between book spines until the formation resembled a giant hedgehog.
Last my arabesques. I longed to unroll each linen sheet, wander barefoot into its maze and merge with the patterns turning under me like fluid gossamer. Contemplating one sheet, my first, I kicked off my sandals and followed the meandering lines of the labyrinth to its centre. I closed my eyes hoping to connect with Cara, seeking her assurance even though I knew she applauded my decision. I drifted into reverie, and shook myself out of it. Not today. The trance would not serve my purpose. Gathering the sheets into ripples like waves, I set them round the cone as if decorating a festive cake then stepped back.
All was ready, poised at the brink of destruction. Unbidden, the image of my father intruded, the familiar frown, questioning my sanity. The moment passed and was countered by a gentle – ‘you are – remember’ – the voice of the luminous being that had risen from waters under the bridge to show me another world. I felt cleansed. My mind was clear.
Resolute, and chuckling to myself, I struck the back of my knife against a sharp edge of flint until the dry lichen and rabbit droppings in my tinderbox began to smoulder. A candle-end set to the trembling flame caught, and with it I ignited the exposed hemp cords around the pyre.
Wisps of smoke curled from the periphery of the mound. Tiny flames leapt from gap to dark gap between books. I expected a sudden flare but was pleased when the flickers settled into a slow burning. Simmering heat encircled the drawings and crinkled their edges. My arabesque sheets trapped the smoke, clinging and undulating, feathering up and down the pyre like wings.
My memory held a different blaze, not of pyres burning waste in the servants’ yards, but of those built by soldiers to dispose of plague-victims outside the walls of Father’s court – fires that hissed and roared skywards, grasping for more. This mound burned idly, radiating gentle heat, consuming itself. Drawings dropped like wilted leaves. The linen sheets dissolved while their ink-patterns endured like floating geometry. From its cradle of heat the tower burned from within while book spines and covers held their shape like ghostly shells. Lettering turned negative with titles visible: Humming Spheres, Lies of Time, Benedictions and Perils of Faith.
As the sun dropped below the western skyline, the chorus from within the pyre became a cabal of whispers. Each book was plump with air in its hollow, each single page defined in silvery grey. What sweet mystery held these forms in place? Was it my hesitation? I gently blew at a single spine. The whole skeletal mound collapsed to dust under my breath. A flurry of embers – and nothing left to gaze at but ash.
Stars emerged. I lay on my back and thought of Baba. The precious books, read over and over, had been her gifts to me. Deep down I knew she would forgive my reckless ritual of separation from a home that suffocated me and was based on a lie I could not fathom. I was hungry for truth and excitement as to what lay ahead. Secretly, before sunrise, I would descend the mountain from my mother’s mansion into Nimrich and follow the river, west. Tonight would be my last visit to Baba. We might never meet again.
It’s sufficiently intriguing to draw readers into my harvest of gathered paradoxical reality and, ideally, fall in love with the gripping odyssey of Ana and the memorable characters she meets. I took the photograph some years ago at the Atlantic coast, while exploring Morocco with a friend.
The official publishing date of Course of Mirrors – 29/04/2017 – and a short description, show up at my Troubador page, which will eventually have links added to amazon and other platforms.
When pre-ordering the book becomes possible I’ll let you know. It’s my hope that there’ll be early paper copies available at the Troubador stall during the London Book Fair in March.
At this stage the text of Course of Mirrors has been typeset and after a few tweaks looks great. Once a last proof between me and my editor is completed, I’ll forward PDFs to the two writers who kindly offered a review, unless they prefer to wait for a printed copy.
Releasing this book demanded years of patience, partly because I allowed my hands to be tied with a contract that did not materialise. This then is the beginning of a beginning that has awaited its beginning as in a dream. During the various delays I wrote Shapers, a sequel, where the myth-maker, Cara, is entangled with the same characters in a future time-zone. A SF, or a science of the heart, depending on how one looks at it .
Initially I’ll depend on friends to support my first offer and, if they enjoy the story, spread the word. At a later point I may have the resources to pay for promotion. Against all advice aimed at writers, I won’t set up a stall in the marketplace, nor will I create an e-mail list, nor will I increase the frequency of postings on this blog, though I’ll add a link to my Amazon Author Central page and my Goodreads page once the book becomes available.
A December 2016 blog post of mine was shared 58 times on Facebook. I’ve no idea who these kind people are. In case you’re one of them, please feel free to befriend me: Ashen Venema on Facebook, or join me on Twitter: @mushilgusha
I enjoy engaging with visitors here on all manner of quirky subjects, and I look forward to also respond to readers of my novel, inviting questions about the story and its characters.
This photo was recently taken by my son on a non-make-up day, after a delicious meal with one two glasses of wine. I softened the stark reality of my age with a slight photo shop treatment. It’s the best smile I can manage in this time of confusing tragic/comic politics, for which there is no solution but to pray that the majority of people, the psyche of the world, will be able to face and endure the shadow revelations of our age, and the usual opportunists of fear – without falling into despair …