Tag Archives: Course of Mirrors

… resurrected treasures – fables …

Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai – Tales of Friendship and Betrayal – by Ramsay Wood.

Fables can shock and surprise us, irrespective of their antiquity. Various collections, like Aesop’s, derived from versions of beast fables originating from the oral traditions of cultures that existed thousands of years ago. It must be the profound exposition of human nature revealed in this deep sea of tales that made them show up in all corners of the earth. The punchiness of these tales remains relevant to this day, in that their wisdom cuts through our neurotic habit of jumping to conclusions.

Ramsay Wood’s passion and labours of love has given us the humorous and delightful retellings of Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai, with vibrant attention to detail. His research includes the famous Panchatantra, and a Persian version of the same, translated into Arabic.

In the first volume it says upfront: This book is dedicated to the many midwives of the book, including al-Kashifi, who in the preface to his fifteenth-century Persian version of this story described himself as ‘this contemptible atom of but small intellectual store.’

My 1982 Granada edition is among a bunch of books I’ve loved to bits – with pages falling apart. One of its tales within tales, ‘The Cormorant and the Star,’ depicts how appearances deceive, as all surfaces do. A line from Socrates appears in the margin, ‘Living starts when you start doubting everything that comes before you.’ Given the mirage of opinions floating across our electric screens, if this sensible advice were to catch on, the creativity released would be phenomenal.

Ramsay Wood kindly allowed me to use the little tale of  The Cormorant and the Star in my novel, Course of Mirrors.

Volume 1 of Kalila and Dimna has an introduction by Doris Lessing. She writes: ‘The claim has been made for this book that it has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China… It is hard to say where the beginning was… One progenitor was the Buddhist cycle of Birth Tales (or Jātaka Stories) where Buddha appears as a monkey, dear, lion, and so on… Sir Richard Burton, who like all the other orientalists of the nineteenth century was involved with Bidpai, suggested that man’s use of beast-fables commemorates our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom, on two legs but still with claws and fangs.’

Our inherited animal traits go a long way to explain the variations of our conflicting human dispositions and idiosyncrasies. I wrote a post last year about the perception of difference.

Ramsay Wood presents us with Dr. Bidpai, an incorruptible Indian sage living under the reign of King Dabschelim. The king is a stargazer, blissfully blind to the sufferings of his subjects. In desperation, Bidpai resolves to offer him his wisdom. The reader gets to know the good man through his own voice, sharing how his nervous and skittish wife fusses over his robe before the royal appointment, expressing her apprehension. Bidpai, though terrified of confronting the king, feigns complete confidence. His wife’s instincts were entirely correct, but he knew that his male arrogance would give her the blind strength of anger and that, at least, was better than the helplessness of fear. In truth, jails were full of men and women who had merely irritated The King.

Alas, no matter how delicately and tactfully Bidpai expresses his concerns to King Dabschelim, employing his words as both narcotic and as a scalpel; his audacity lands him in the dungeon. That is, until the king witnesses a shooting star, followed by a prophetic dream, leading him to a buried treasure. When he finds the treasure, it comes with a letter of admonitions from the long dead King Houschenk, addressed to the future King Dabschelim in person. The letter mentions Bidpai as a storehouse of fables that will illustrate the cautions.  Suddenly the sage’s counsel is most urgently required. From there on Bidpai’s wisdom unfolds in the form of stories within stories (think of 1001 Nights,) one tale branching to another, like the roots of a tree that also mirror the branches and tendrils reaching for the sky. The same method of telling can sometimes be found in the visual arts of painting, photography, collage, installations – images within images that convey truths in a dreamlike and surreal fashion. Artists note – fables provide endless inspirations and connections.

Here some links to click on, which will lead to Ramsay Wood’s books of fables:

Kalaila and Dimna Vol 1– introduced by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Margaret Kilrenny.   See also a present Giveaway on Goodreads.  

Kalila and Dimna Vol 2 – introduced by Michael Wood, illustrated by G M Whitworth

In a review for the second volume, Aubrey Davies, another wonderful story teller, writes: Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.
The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.

Clicking on any links in this text will open a separate page without losing this post.

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… then they lived again – friends – soul families …

How we make friends is a mystery. What is the unremembered that draws people and groups together as in a mirror? Are there families of souls tasked to exchange particular reflections during particular times?

Via serendipitous events my son was born in a Hamlet in the deepest Somerset hills among neighbours who adored him. The phase lasted five years, enough to provide me with a much needed hiatus after intense years of work, travelling and communal life.

Our selfless neighbours left an indelible impression on my son. They made him a valued and loved part of a small community. Our farmer friend, Hope, was hungry for knowledge, though never realised her dream of travelling as a journalist. She had however the most vivid visions of Tibet; a place neither of us had visited but felt strong emotional connection with. Not the first time, I had a shock of appreciation for the unremembered sparking instant rapport slipping through time.

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ – William James

I was thirty then, had travelled much and been involved with innumerable internationally composed groupings, circles upon circles – this was to continue for decades to come. Among the groups were people who felt strangely familiar, like Hope. We would guard out solitude, cry together, or laugh hilariously about silly things. Equally there were those wary of me, often for reasons unknown to themselves, which made me wary of them. You may know this treading-on-eggshells feeling.

Serendipitous time-jumps weave through my novels. The cast of ‘Shapers’ has characters from ‘Course of Mirrors’ set in a future time, but caught in similar psychological dynamics.

It has been said that behind every creative expression is a desire for immortality, the prolonged influence of personal achievement. This seems simpleminded to me. I think our desire is to create beauty and meaning to make our existence worthwhile. It is the human search for our spiritual identity, generated by three persisting questions: who are we, why are we alive and what is the purpose of it all?

In this illusionary play of differences and multiple meanings we need friends. To have even one friend is a blessing. Friends distanced by space, and time, reside in the heart nevertheless. They include those who died. They may be writers, artists, innovators, past and present. They include friends who moved to other continents. They include the sympathetic minds we encounter via the internet, who greatly enrich our lives.

Friends I shared core experiences with are especially dear.  A few of them I see face to face at yearly intervals. We may catch up on the narratives we hold of each other, though there will be new thresholds – moments where the known encounters the unknown.

My mum used to put a ruler or a book on my head and mark my height with a date inside a doorframe during my rapid growth years. More than a physical measurement, these marks made me think of what else had changed during the months since the last recording. Our essence abides, but our persona grows and is mutable in the way we evaluate ourselves against the passage of time.

This is why I like having guests. When a Dutch friend visited last month, the thought arose as to how the time gaps between our actual meetings affect us. He suggested I write something about this. He works presently in Germany, so our conversation slipped into German, with snippets of Dutch and back into English. He uses one language for business, another for philosophy, and yet another for emotional subjects. This strikes me as a neat arrangement. A little space between feeling and thinking, and a choice between modes of operating can make one’s internal communication more finely tuned and coherent.

The occasional visit of a friend eclipses my routines and opens extra dimensions, like the virgin pages of a notebook where our idiosyncrasies are redrawn, edited and updated. Connective threads shift past memories or future visions.

We are re-imagined and in the process re-connect to our essence.

The lens we focus on each other is subtly adjusted by the most intimate of all friends, the angel that is our inner story teller.

 

 ‘Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.’ ― Henry David Thoreau

‘No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.’ ― Kahlil Gibran

 ‘Mankind is interdependent, and the happiness of each depends upon the happiness of all, and it is this lesson that humanity has to learn …’ –  Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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… three winners …

A week ago I used the Goodreads giveaway programme (click here) offering 3 signed copies of Course of Mirrors to readers around the world. I put a one week time-limit on the contest. To my delight, 1152 reader took up the offer during the week. I’m not privy to who they are, but have been given the addresses of the three winners – one from Kentucky and two from Canada. It cost a bit to have my tomes winged and tracked across the Atlantic Ocean, but how encouraging that a whole bunch of book lovers from all corners of the world were interested enough to enter the giveaway event, helping the novel’s visibility. Roughly 10 % of those who signed on to the giveaway event have put the book on their ‘to read’ list. Heartfelt thanks to all, whoever you are. And congratulations to the winners – your book should arrive within a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More delight – I discovered Course of Mirrors in my local Waterstones bookshop, in good company too, which gave me the courage to approach the local paper. There may follow a feature on the novel and its quirky author.

So far three 5 star reviews have been posted, all on amazon.com (click here)   On other countries’ amazon sites, including the UK, it says on top of the page – be the first to review this item. To actually read the reviews one must scroll down the page. I don’t know if there are better ways to handle the various amazon pages, my knowledge and patience is limited.

What is annoying is that amazon tends to refuse reviews that cannot be sourced to a purchase with them. Friends, who bought my book at a signing event, for example, and like the story enough to share a few lines with potential readers, could try and add the line ‘purchased from the author at a signing event’ when they try posting a review on amazon. No idea if this works, creative ideas are welcome.

On my Troubador author site (click here) where I get better royalties from orders, one does not have to be a customer to paste a review, short or long, in the provided box, though it may take a while for new information to be updated.

It’s likely that by July I may have recouped 10% of my publishing expenses. It’s a start, but whether I’ll I recoup enough to publish the sequel to Course of Mirrors is written in the stars.

As for Goodreads – I was unaware that the site sports over 20 million readers. Click here to read up about its history. Amazing. My connections on Goodreads are few. I have not grokked how to best make use the site, but I look out for the reviews posted by my friends there and occasionally post my own book reviews.

That’s it – all about me and the excitement of having delivered my first novel into the public domain. I hope your forgive my indulgence. If it’s anything to go by, even my son was gripped by reading Course of Mirrors 🙂

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… first long review – this is not your mom’s fairy tale …

Once a novel is released into the public domain it belongs to readers who, when snatching the story from a stream running by, engage with it from their own perspective.

I’m a slow reader of novels. I like discovering myself in other worlds. When I’m not intrigued by chapter three, I drop the book. The language may excite me or put me into a pleasant trance. I may admire or envy the writer’s way with words, or think, huh, I’d have expressed this differently. Sometimes I find fresh metaphors that resonate or come upon a sentence that makes me catch my breath and pause for a while, at other times I rush through a story for the sheer adventure.

Reviews, feedback, short or long, are gold nuggets for a writer. What took years to compose is finally shared. Close-reading of a 400 page novel that sits grinning apologetically behind stacks of neat categories is no small feat. Joe Linker, a blogger friend from Oregon, had fun.  On amazon.com he heads his review  ‘Girl Disguised.’

Brilliant. Had this been the title, algorithms might have set it next to recent bestsellers, since ‘girls’ are the new trend. Joe posted the review originally on his blog  ‘The Coming of the Toads.’ … Go there and also check out the comic page, showing his ingenious electric doodles.

I was thrilled reading Joe’s thoughtful review. Here a few snippets:

… She’s interested in neither shame, nor honour … The holy grail of ‘Course of Mirrors: An Odyssey’ is a story of its own … This is not your mom’s fairy tale. … We are on a rogue adventure in a picaresque tale where disguise and subterfuge are necessary and ordinary … The writing style moves with the scenes … There is economy in the writing that is expedient, efficient … How serious is all this? … First, it’s great fun … Myth is not false news. It’s a way of telling a story.

An animated film quality is touched upon, likely influenced by my love for film, and, possibly, aided by the creative distance from my mother tongue that writing in English allows, giving me the liberty to step into multiple characters that resemble aspects of my suspended and ever-changing self, variously dormant or expressed in my life.

Last year I posted a review here on Joe’s novel, Penina’s Letters, about love, friendships and passion for the ocean, which made me grasp the exhilaration of catching a wave.

If you’re a member of Goodreads, please  consider entering the give-away for 3 free copies of ‘Course of Mirrors,’ running from today, Sunday 11th June until Monday 19th June.

Apart from a chance to win a signed copy, your entering of the contest will increase the visibility of the novel, and, hopefully bring a rainbow of reviews. All different.

What fun.

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… sunshine ☼ parties between rain drops …

Last weekend I stepped out of my recluse bubble. It’s been a while, and I truly enjoyed a spell of rich socialising.

My editor visited and stayed over, enticing me to celebrate the release of ‘Course of Mirrors’ into the world. She brought along an excellent bottle of sparkle. I wish every writer was blessed with such a generous editor friend.

Truth be told, without Zohra’s editing support I would not have reached the confidence to publish my first novel, to continue writing a sequel and even start a third book.

Saturday’s party was to celebrate another friend’s birthday, once more with champagne, and a feast of the most delicious food, prepared by his partner, Ruthie. The afternoon was crowned by the appearance of an auspicious rainbow.

to greet the party – in a sky like rippled silk – a blessed rainbow

For the Sunday occasion a bunch of friends gathered in gratitude, giving honour to the memory of Rahima (Elspeth Milburn-Spottiswood) – a remarkable woman, painter, Sufi and Jungian psychotherapist.

The venue was a beautiful old barn in Surrey, surrounded by green lawns and lush, colourful gardens. We listened to recordings of our friend’s resonant voice reciting poetry by D. H. Lawrence and Rumi. And we watched film clips that brought back into awareness her kindness, knowledge, and her inspirational insights during seminars on archetypes we co-facilitated for many years. Stories were told, readings were offered – and music played. Among the gathering were strangers, new contacts, friends of friends, in the way networks grow.

The sun was warm enough to have a nap on the lawn. Family members, and some of the younger generation attended the day, which was heartwarming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rahima is sorely missed. I wrote about her on this blog before. In 2012  – October 2016 – and in January 2017

Miraculously, the weekend had only the occasional short shower between long spells of sunshine, augmented by the warmth of friendships.

I feel deeply nourished, and am left with the pleasure of knowing that Course of Mirrors is now travelling across the world, and readers, some of you among them, will already be immersed in the story, and hopefully post reviews.

The light in green shoots encapsulates the weekend.

Information on my first novel is on my book page here.

 

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… shortest post ever …

Broke and happy … please help the story to spiral out to readers … available  worldwide.

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… meetings – poem …

At times, our inner landscapes allow for communing with nature’s elements. Ana has this knack in Course of Mirrors. As long as she remembers to calm her heart, she senses invisible presences, the timeless spirit within things – telling her that nothing dies, only reforms. She also picks up thoughts forms from uncluttered minds, and some animals talk to her.

Aspects of my protagonist’s receptive traits are based on my own experiences, expressed in a poem I composed during the 1970s. The poem, as such, does not feature in the novel but I like to share it here, with minor tweaks insisted upon by my inner editor.

meetings

earth –

you swallow my hand

giving way with fluid grace

to this dream of flesh and bone

yet as I recall the form

you allow me to retrieve it

tree –

circling round and round

spun by the mesh of time

I see your whirling

and sense my turning too

in its mystic trance

snake –

you slither in the spine of waves

and lay a track of fate in sands

entranced I follow

to your cave and become

this rushing in the dark

bird –

your rising pitch one vow

winging yonder blue

towards the break of dawn

above the silver winding stream

your passing leaves no mark

rose –

by the blink of eye you sink

to my core as glowing cipher

allowing for your lush

and fragrant state

to unfurl from the heart

fire –

your white breath burns clean

dark corners in my mind

without a moment’s pause

you blow apart

all apparitions of my art

Update: My first novel can be found on Troubador, on international Amazon sites and Waterstones via searching for the title, Course of Mirrors, or my name, Ashen Venema.                                                                   The e-book is now available. The paperback will be released on 28th of April and can be pre-ordered.

Paperbacks ordered within the UK will come from a stock of copies held by Troubador who distribute via Orca Book Services. Orders from abroad will be print-on-demand- copies, saving expensive postage.

If you enjoy writing reviews, they are easy to post on Troubador. On Amazon sites one has to log in as a customer, and a review entry only appears on the site of the country where it is entered, be it uk, de, fr, com … and so on. With a little effort reviews can be pasted into more than one Amazon site. 

Related posts:

… the magic of remembrance …

… cover reveal for course of mirrors …

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… guiding spirits & stones …

Contemplating buzzwords relating to my soon to be published novel, Course of Mirrors, I thought I make a start with guiding spirits, or angels.

We each have one, so ancient, such intimate presence, so discreet and soft spoken, we fail to notice. My protagonist forgets hers, despite obtaining an object of remembrance she takes on her journey as talisman – a shiny black stone, polished by the elements,  holding aeons of memory and embodying her first encounter with spirit in matter, the invisible in the visible:

“I was bridge, river, riverbed and water falling from the cliff, the aria of water. I was air, breeze and water dust rising. I was mirror to mirrors yet looked from beyond mirrors. Behind my eyes a truth flashed.”

When, seemingly by chance, she does remember her treasure, a timeless power is released, the miraculous happens, aligned with nature’s power to transform.

‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart

‘Time is eternity living dangerously.’  – John O’ Donohue

These related posts open new pages, so you don’t lose this one:

Oh my sweet crushed angel.

The magic of remembrance.

 

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… a little backstory to ‘course of mirrors’ …

When I enter the room Dot is absorbed in reading from a folder among stacks of papers stored in drawers under a bed. ‘Hey,’ she looks up, ‘this is fascinating. It’s got your name on it.’

We were clearing the main house of a workshop venue near London, a magical place I had been associated with for 30 years and which I facilitated during the winding down period of its operation, dealing with the grief of an international community, as well as managing group bookings for the remaining few months, before the estate was sold.

The folder Dot had discovered contained the beginning of a story I had drafted …  and then lost. For two action-filled decades my protagonist had lingered patiently in a corner of my mind. On that momentous spring day of clearing Ana emerged from her hibernation.

Resembling the experience of my own myth, Ana is called to her adventure by a kind of celestial twin, an agent between past and future, between dense and subtle realms.

The novel was completed five years on, much encouraged by E. Zohra Sharp, who offered her generous editing support. I also shared some chapters on the then still existing Harper Collins Authonomy site, where writers could give and receive feedback for work in progress, and have great fun with trolls.

In 2011 another project took priority for a few months, Heart of a Sufi, which involved organising, arranging and co-editing reminiscences about a remarkable teacher who had died in 1990, much too young. He was Fazal Inayat-Khan, aka Frank Kevlin, the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan – more here.

The same year, not wanting to become a writing recluse, I started this blog. Through a poet I met online, Course of Mirrors found a small publisher who loved the story, which perked my confidence. Three years passed without action – a long time when you are not getting any younger. During  the long wait, I did however write a time-travelling sequel and started a third book. Not keen to endure more agonising delays, I decided to self-publish.

In charge of the process, I had to make decision after decision, aided by a competent team at Troubador and my proof readers, Zohra and Susanne. There will be an initial print run, enabling bookshops to stock copies. The publishing date for Course of Mirrors is April 28th, but the book information is up and orders can be taken in advance, as paperback, and soon also as e-book.

Through Troubador, where I get the best royalties

Through Amazon …  and through Waterstones

Today the dynamics of spring enchanted. I glimpsed a yellow butterfly. Sunlight, dappled by branches into a gently moving lattice, was playing on a carpet of fresh cut grass, where Robins feasted on worms. The laurel hedge glistened. A few tulips made a pink and white appearance, their leaves folded as if in prayer.

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… Cover Reveal – Course of Mirrors …

venema-5th-draftr4r-darker

Every time I look at the image I smile.

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.

p1080518-smaller-likeThis 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 …

Soothing hearts is of the essence.

 

 

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