Monthly Archives: May 2014

… A taster of ‘Shapers’ …

I’m in the process of editing ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors,’  my first novel, awaiting release this year. By no means the final edit-round of Shapers, any feedback to this sequence from chapter eight is appreciated. Gart was called Rufus in  Course of Mirrors. He re-appears in a future society. This is the beginning of a kind of night-sea-journey, where Gart is tested for a role he may or may not fulfil.

The tunnel

Having shut down his craft, Gart looked up to the late light falling into the cave. He felt dwarfed by its lofty height. A sliver of pale moon shone through a crescent-shaped opening in the roof. A glimmer in the rock before him caught his attention. Stepping close, he distinguished the carving of a spiralling maze. Intrigued, he tried to determine its flowing pattern towards the centre, but soon felt dizzy. His head was not right. Odd – it had not occurred to him to ask Oruba why he was sent on this underground journey. Rats, he thought, rats had consumed his mind when the tunnel was mentioned. Here was his chance to meet real rats. He had never questioned why Leo kept providing him with banned books on these creatures, instilling this obsession. Governors were not known to forge relationships of interest, or confer weighty authority onto their staff. Gart smiled to himself. Leo lacked influence, not just politically. He relied on him to exercise command over the Guardian army.

RAT - damballaproductions.deviantart.com

RAT – damballaproductions.deviantart.com

The entry to the tunnel was narrow but gradually opened out. He chose his steps with care. Not trusting the rough ground, he switched the glower’s setting from its sharp beam to diffused light. Deadly still and cool air enveloped him. Every now and then a section of steps lowered the path. There were bends where the tunnel narrowed only to expand again. After an endless straight stretch, a cairn rose like an apparition, its stones stacked up higher than his head, with a rock sticking out like a crooked finger pointing to the right. He strained his ears to identify a sound underlying the silence, a faint drone. And there was another sound, whisperings, behind his back. A shiver in his neck made him turn to cast the light of the glower along the walls – nothing. He loathed the dark. Was this really his choice, or had the black man lured him into this tunnel? Willing himself forward, he counted several cairns that looked alike until his map showed he had reached a halfway point. Dragging on, his linen sack with provisions got snagged by a jutting rock – food – the thought made his stomach growl.

He placed the glower on the ground, rested his back against the rock, and pulled a tin from the sack. It contained biscuits. Chewing relaxed him, and his taste buds declared: moreish. The water in the flask was fresh, with a hint of lemon. An acute sense of pleasure spread throughout his body. Every single cell was drunk with joy.

The sensation astounded him. He took his time over another biscuit, letting the crumbs melt slowly on his tongue, closing his eyes to savour each morsel. A bird – it could not be, not here – yet it was.  A bird sang sweet notes in the branches of a blossoming tree under which he sat and played with stones and shells. A round-faced woman appeared, with a warm smile, tousling his hair. She handed him … Gart’s eyes snapped open. Disorientated, he stared at the opposite wall. The rock glimmered as if alive with tiny creatures, shifting and heaving. Shapes emerged – a nose, a mouth, a beard – the features of a frightful man with a savage scowl. Gart flinched as piercing eyes fixed on him. He heard a voice pleading – his own – please don’t leave me here, don’t leave me in the dark, I’ll be good, please. He curled up and sobbed. He was alone, utterly alone, facing a black abyss. The only control left was to play dead.

He woke with a shudder and cold limbs. Dampness from the tunnel floor had seeped through his uniform. From the rim of his consciousness a sound returned, the drone under the silence, and, close to his ear, a squeak, and another squeak. Speckles of silver danced before him. Something moved in the dark, and then shot through the ring of light cast by the glower. The creature stopped in a shaded nook. Tiny eyes gleamed there. Gart had swift recognition. A rat! He carefully pushed his back up against the wall. Without losing sight of the rodent, his hand felt for another biscuit. ‘Curious? Are we?’ The rat had not moved an inch. Gart broke off a small crumb and tossed it to land just within the faint radius of light. The rat twitched its nose. ‘I might as well have some more myself. Manna from heaven, or hell, my friend, whatever, it’s not a taste one forgets.’

He grasped a truth. Oruba had laced the biscuits to animate his dull senses. His new friend liked the crumbs too, and demanded more. He never had a friend before. ‘I’ll call you friend.’ It was the best he could come up with, and it sounded sweet to his ears. In response, the rat seemed to grow in beauty and size. Such intelligent eyes, making him feel special. ‘You understand, don’t you? I’m offering you alliance. That’s a precious deal, for me anyway.’ Rat nodded. He was sure of it. ‘Tell me about the man buried in the walls here, who smells of death.’ A shot in the dark, but a pressing question on Gart’s mind.

‘He’s buried in you.’

‘Buried in me?’

‘You caught his hatred of the world. You must release him.’

Without warning, the drama of this man tore through Gart’s mind like a tree growing crooked in painful fast motion. A boy called Rufus was scarred by this twisting. He sensed that boy was him. No knowing when and where, the sensation was real, vivid. ‘He betrayed my birth right.’

‘He, too, was betrayed. He should have been king of Itaka. Then again, kingship is an inner state. Become king of yourself. Absolve your resentments, and become kin to a family of heart-species.’

This, Gart reasoned, was no rat talk. Whose voice was talking to him?

‘Look at me as a guardian to you, Guardian. Empty your heart of misgivings and what must be done will appear as clear as a diamond. You choose the shape of its setting.’

The image returned, of a garden, bird song in blossoming branches, a woman tousling his hair and handing him … it struck Gart that the Shapers knew more about him than he did.

 

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… surprise – blog tour interlude …

Ruth - watering plants in her allotment.

Ruth – watering plants in her allotment.

Wow – my friend Ruth Paris  joined a blog tour, which is the ritual of charting and connecting-up undiscovered blog-islands in the virtual sea. I was so impressed she took on this challenge I’ve so far avoided, my hand reached for the baton before I knew it. Besides, Ruth’s posts about her ‘middle-of-the-roundabout allotment project’  on her Huerto site are a pleasure to share. Here some photos from Sept 2011. Her recipe page alone is worth a visit … and certainly the virtual islands of the friends she introduces. And it’s true, she does pick out the teeny little stones and whispers encouragement to the weakest seedling. Look at her ‘about’ page and you find she also wears another hat.

The theme of gardens has irresistible appeal. I like the thought Ruth shares, inspired by our joint friend Shazadi – since we can’t change the world we can at least cultivate our gardens – which applies to earth-tilling plots as well as the metaphorical kind. In that sense, here are my responses to the 4 deceptively simple questions this tour asks of its participants.

1 – What am I working on?

I’m editing my second novel, a sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors,’ completed two years back. Last year I was contracted by a small, devoted publisher and am looking forward to having my first novel released in a few months. English not being my first language (more about this here) – allows me the perception of a stranger in the strange land of my psyche, not unlike the protagonist in R. Heinlein’s book. In a way we’re all exiles owning a planet somewhere – be it an inner world.

2 – How does my work differ from others of this genre?

I puzzle over the term – genre. It may apply to career writers, which I’m not. Writing is my moving on from photography, another tool to symbolically express what drives me. Set in an imaginary world, my characters outward their inner conflict, the archetypal tragic/comic exodus I feel entitled to elaborate on. If genre it must be, my novels could be called mythic poetic adventures, gripping magical quests.

3 – Why do I write what I do? 

I may fool myself, but I can’t help thinking that re-creating or co-creating history can make us whole. I’m fascinated by how our fragile identity is formed through early mirroring, how people and environments define us. How we oblige like sleepwalkers and build a myth on these early templates, and inevitably mirror others.  And yet, small shifts in awareness can change our perception from deep within. Each of us brings along something unique we’re yearning to recognise. Without the recall of that signature we feel a lack.  Having been intensely involved with many groups and sub-cultures throughout my life I now tend the seeds I gathered and cultivate my soul garden. using the magic of words that string together and create music, sculpt feelings and even lift the invisible.

4 – How does my writing process work?

It didn’t, until the pressure became so great I decided a few years ago to reduce my professional work and commit time to writing. When a character takes shape and is called on a journey, I trust the narrative will unfold in my imagination. With consistent attention there eventually emerges the emotional coherence of a short story, or a chapter, and another. For me, this process, though enjoyable, happens in semi-darkness. I can’t force the outcome.

Editing is fun, and sometimes torture, which is when I crave diversions – watch birds, make coffee, fix things, blitz-clean the house, sort finances, prune hedges, cut grass … and relieve my pangs of guilt for neglecting friend by stepping out from my solitude. I may go harvesting in public spaces – that is, observing how people move, which I find endlessly fascinating.  On really bad days doubt intervenes and I sulk over the ‘who-do-you-think-you-are’ syndrome,’ until I accept I’m no Shakespeare.

In the end it is always being with friends and reading that refreshes my conviction in writing.  On many levels engaging with people and their stories helped me understand my private myth, and more.

*     *     *

A few entries on gardens from my archive https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/garden/

The task of choosing further runners for this tour from a tapestry of amazingly creative people gave me a headache. To stem the flood, I’ll cheat the rules and introduce only 2 writers to weave the thread onward and hopefully reveal more secret islands.

Philippa Rees

Philippa

Philippa

The book that wrote my life … Philippa says of – INVOLUTION – an Odyssey Reconciling Science and God – an epic poem, and a spiritual revelation. It’s been called a tour de force. In nine cantos the work travels through pre-human involution, the enfolding of consciousness in matter, early man’s emergence on the Serengeti … through the recorded civilizations of Greece, Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance towards Enlightenment and finally Modernisms’ success of science – of which the latter, ironically, obscures the internal story – the story of direct intuition, nous, experience.

I totally grok this.

And I’m looking forward to meeting Philippa this weekend. She’ll join a gathering of my friends and share what sparked her life-long project. I imagine she’s good company, holding memories of gripping stories, including her childhood in South Africa, which she’s beginning to share on her blog, ‘Careless Talk,’ accessed here.

Diane Dickson

Diane

Diane

Diane is a prolific writer of short stories and novellas. She hardly pauses, and generously shares the developing instalments of her work on her website. I’m totally addicted to her posts. Increasingly, she publishes e-books through Kindle and now also in print-versions.

Her characters are usually teetering on the edge of change before they slip into a life-changing crisis. The protagonists are often so hilarious you want to shout – get your act together. Then there’s a cliff-hanger and you’ve  to wait a day or two for the next instalment. Stories range from light-hearted, uplifting, to mysterious and dark and they all have surprising twists. As I said, I’m addicted. A recent published tale is:

The Man who lost his Manbag and Found Himself‘ Here’s a modern day odyssey, and a simple recipe for losing your identity.

Both authors presented here, like so many I came to know during these last years, fought their own publishing battles. I hugely admire and have great respect for their skill and perseverance. There was never a time I did not find selling myself daunting. Even during days of professional success I relied on others to shout out the existence of my ware. I need someone to hold my hand.

Some of my friends are slow in developing their island on the internet, yet offer compassionate mentor-ship I can’t emulate. Notably Evlynn Sharp  We worked on various projects together, and I feel deep gratitude for her support.

*     *     *

And here more cheating – I’d like to introduce the islands of two young people engaged in the buzz of life, with scarce time for leisurely blog-tours. They’re brilliant at what they do. They make me proud, my son, Yeshen  and his partner, Natasha.

I wrote about them recently https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/weddings-still-happen/

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… clouds …

Last week, during a flight to Munich, and equally this week during my return journey to London, I witnessed some spectacular cumulus scenes from above, with the moist earth being the canvas.

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P1050991 - SMALLER

The changing cloudscapes drifting on the wind teased my imagination. I wanted to wander into this world that words can scarce describe, be there alone with my own heartbeat, where past and future is one and present. I’m no Percy Bysshe Shelley, who gave an eloquent voice to The Cloud

… I am the daughter of Earth and Water,       P1050995 SMALLER                                                              And the nursling of the Sky …

 

His cloud speaks of the ‘pilot.’

 

… This pilot is guiding me,                                                                                                    Lured by the love of the genii that move                                                                  In the depth of the purple sea …  

Shelley’s time had no flying machines that did away with the invisible navigator. He perceived through the inner eye.

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The first Cloud Atlas was documented in 1896.

Today’s airline pilots must know their clouds 

 

 

Like us, clouds change but keep on living. We and they are fleeting manifestations of nature – a show of impermanence ornamenting this planet. The water of oceans, lakes and rivers, the sap of life, flowing through the perspiration of plants and all living organisms, including the breath of 7 Billion people, clings and seeps into the warm earth only to be drawn up again, where its vapour compacts in cold air and spirals into fluid shapes between us and the blue dome, where all moods find expression – wild charcoal formations with dove grey wisps parading at the horizon, luminous coloured tendrils and satin sheets in slanting sunlight at dawn and dusk, or dewy porcelain veils.

P1050993 SMALLERClouds are moisture made visible. Who knows what information is inscribed and carried in droplets from one place to another? It takes about one million cloud droplets to form one raindrop.

What rises also falls. There is a wonderful Sufi story about this cycle of transformation, serving as a metaphor for identity, the form we must inevitably relinquish to change into another form while maintaining our essence … here told by Terence Stamp: The Tale of the Sands

There is ongoing research of water as an agent – receiving impressions and holding patterns of information. Water can be vitalised, for example, which explains things we know the results of but not the reason. Such findings, while presently called pseudo-science, may yet confirm many of our intuitions. Water is alive, and living things form a centre and have intelligence.

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