Broke and happy … please help the story to spiral out to readers … available worldwide.
Broke and happy … please help the story to spiral out to readers … available worldwide.
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.
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
circling round and round
spun by the mesh of time
I see your whirling
and sense my turning too
in its mystic trance
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
your rising pitch one vow
winging yonder blue
towards the break of dawn
above the silver winding stream
your passing leaves no mark
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
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.
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:
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
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.
Ideas spook the night
Hardly the will of people
Who were told lies & fed
Bizarre facts or fake events
By those who contrived
This fear that rocks the cradle
And will have it swing
In brittle boughs of nothing
They sing while fanning the wind
Of your discontent
I’m flabbergasted by the sheer absurdity of the present political poker games. No use imagining I’m a stranger that landed on this planet by mistake. I’m here – feeling overwhelmed when watching clips that show the hardship refugees endure with slim hopes for building a life, and the helpless helpers who offer support without solutions in sight?
I dream of patches of land or purpose-build islands/ships, where migrants are allowed to build fresh communities and gain self-respect. Where are the pragmatic deals to alleviate this suffering, and the help for countries unable to cope with the influx of people?
Commentaries on events in the wake of the Brexit referendum vote leave me distraught, angry, compassionate, ironic and detached, all at the same time. How to evade the bug of collective despair? Not good, not good at all. I want to shout from the rooftops: read the history of excessive nationalism. Do not – I implore – succumb to fear-mongering.
Today I played my small reed-harmonium in a meditative way, following one note to the next, and the next, forming melancholic rhymes, prolonging and softening notes, the charm a reed-harmonium offers. From a strong upward scale a melody formed. My heart calmed and my mind cleared enough to allow these words to tumble onto the screen.
If I were in full time employment, I’d skim through news, ridicule stuff with colleagues and do what the job at hand required. But since I work from home, in charge of my days, I make space to write – and think – though it goes nowhere, this thinking, other than to ponder the theme of globalisation – a phenomenon long before the term was coined. If time allows click the link to this worthwhile long read.
Insights could be applied to address the hyper race of progress that rewards only short term goals. The main cause for all this mess, in my view. Do away with all benefits and provide everyone with basic income, so people can relax, start innovative & creative community projects, or study, or build a career, whatever. Why not work for the common interests of our shared humanity and celebrate this gift of life? I’m dreaming, I know.
The robins in my garden have more sense. Animals, guests from a wholesome planet.
Other relevant posts:
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.
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 …
Soothing hearts is of the essence.
So insults are spat
from voices of discontent
and righteousness trumps
on every side of the fence
like bubbles of soap
words dissolve on air
all names sound hollow
deep down we know
that truth flows among solids
as a soft wave – rolling
back and forth in time
moved by love that can’t be told
though it turns all worlds
I’ll keep on bridging
realms that mirror each other
and may grace whirl me
on my shadows’ crest – that is
this mystery’s heart dance …
Bridging is also a theme of my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ whose cover image I’ll reveal in the New Year
* * * I’m wishing you all many moments of grace in 2017 * * *
I hugely enjoyed ‘Women talking about Cars,’ Victoria C Mitchell interviewing Dawn French on BBC 4 Hilarious memories unfurled. Pollution problems were not on the agenda when cars begun do offer unprecedented freedom of movement during the last century, especially for women. One book would not hold my stories about cars, but I like to share a few snippets, if only to inspire some of you to travel down their car timeline.
My first car, a small Triumph convertible, was given to me by a friend who returned to his home country after his medical studies. There it was – a white little sports car in front of my door in Schwabing (Munich’s student patch during the 1970s.) By then I was working as a freelance photographer and paid a fortune for Taxis to get me and my gear to destinations. ‘This will motivate you to get your driving licence,’ my generous friend said.
From day one I took the Triumph round the block in the middle of the night, every night. With a thumping heart I practiced gears, parking and turning. Some weeks on an archaeology student friend visited from Munster. That day I had a photo shoot and was ready to call a Taxi. ‘But you have a car,’ he said. I explained that I didn’t have a driving licence, yet.
‘I’ll drive you,’ he replied. And so he did. At first I felt fairly relaxed when he stalled the engine in the middle of the busy junction on Feilitzsch Platz, now Münchner Freiheit, though drivers all around us were furiously tooting their horns and swearing at us. My friend managed to start the car again and made it to a small side road. He released a massive sigh. ‘Thing is,’ he admitted, ‘I don’t have a driving licence either.’
The incident motivated me to get my license. Only three sessions were needed. Sadly, this first car soon had its demise when, trying to impress a group of peers with the engine’s speed, I misjudged a corner and bumped into a curb. The combined weight of six bodies, some sitting on the folded down roof, damaged the axle.
From there on I fell in love with the sturdy VW Bus, several, over the years. Hitting the road with a self-contained little house, which was, much like Dawn French shared, equipped for blizzards, resulted in countless adventures, some of them precarious: Gears failing on steep mountain slopes, flat tires on lone country lanes, pulling windshield wipers with a string from inside the car during heavy snowfall, border guards wanting to arrest me because I wore an army jacket and a Che Guevara cap. Once, on the island of Elba, a companion suggested a shortcut which got us stuck in a vineyard. The farmer who had to pull us out was not pleased. But heck, life was exciting.
With yet another VW Bus, driving across Europe on way to my parents with my fiancée, the engine seized. My father bailed us out so we could replace the engine. The incident was, to him, a further confirmation of my uselessness, even when it came to choosing a partner.
Having moved to Somerset with my then husband, I endured his learner-driving escapades along the narrow tracks of the Quantocks Hills. With a baby in the back seat, these shopping trips stretched my nerves, acutely so when my ex stalled the engine in a narrow bend, with oncoming drivers shaking their heads and my dear husband reacting with injured pride to my helpful suggestions … but I won’t go there. The engine of the last faithful VW Bus, the one that had transported us, our bedding and our books to England, expired via a sudden and fatal oil loss. Serendipity brought along an old Rover with injection gear. I remember the absolute joy when overtaking snail-snared drivers on the steep stretch from Taunton to our Hamlet.
Having moved to Surrey, this powerful horse developed starting hiccups during a cold spot. Someone I won’t name insisted my Rover was a greedy petrol eater and convinced me to buy his tinny Renault.
Eventually I had a lovely Rover again, for many years, until repairs didn’t make sense anymore. These days I drive a sixteen-year-old Honda, which sails through every MOT without fail. I dread the day when all cars will be fully automated.
By then I’ll get a good old sturdy Jeep, the kind you can rent on rocky islands.
Many people are anxious about driving, don’t want to drive, maybe never had the chance to acquire a license, or missed the opportunity.
I simply can’t imagine my life without independent transport. It’s a luxury I hardly pause to appreciate, though I should, very much, and be grateful. Only has to consider the surreal anomaly some cultures maintain to this day … women being persecuted for driving a car.
* * *
You may be curious about the publishing process for my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ now that its production is in my control. I don’t know why, but I’m hugging the recently approved beautiful cover and am hesitant to share it online … just yet.
If you’re on my Christmas card list you’ll get the cover image in the post. But quite soon, promise, I’ll reveal the cover here, on my virtual island.
Try and shut your eyes to slits and blink through autumn branches against the light. With patience, a moment arrives when black and white spaces inverse and clusters of stars shine from another dimension. The background has moved to the foreground. A tiny shift in our outlook can result in a new interpretation of what we see, like in the gestalt drawing on the right, which changes the age of the person if you let your eyes wander up and down the image. Visual tricks that open a sudden gap in our seeing reveal how we jump to superficial referencing. Making snap assessments is convenient, safes time, energy, and sometimes lives, but can also trap us in a kind of flatland of rigid divisions.
What do we mean when we say he or she is different – do they look different, act different, think different, or have customs that seem strange to us? Typical brackets are class, gender, cultural background, colour, language, age, ability … and migrants. Defining people by categories clicks in as a default opinion when real or imagined threats require scapegoats. Or resources are scare and solidarity is politically expedient. Suddenly the need to belong and historical prejudices reasserts themselves.
Beneath all habitual categories prowls what is frequently forgotten … the inherent natural tendency of each individual. Consider relatives, neighbours, familiars, friends and foes. The differences that delight or irritate us lie foremost in a person’s unique temperament and inherent tendencies. Background does not explain the mystery of characteristics we are born with, the random mix of evolutionary records in our bodies, a wisdom our minds expand upon through resonance with the collective psyche – a shared matrix of past experience and future potential from which we, ideally, emerge as a self-reflective persona. (The theory of a collective unconscious and similar non-evidenced theories relate to my experience.)
Environmental factors can distort the unfolding of latent knowledge in every living organism. Education has a detrimental effect on children when their intuition is belittled and their minds are flattened with facts before they developed the confidence to question these facts.
How come I’m invigorated by rushing waters, calmed by a smooth stone, a golden sunset? How do I sense the pulse in a tree, or what life is like for a boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog – unless all nature’s qualities also reside in me?
For example, anyone who sits in a public place and watches people stroll by will notice traces of animal features; can spot a temperament in gestures and movements, observe someone dragging their body behind their head, or push their belly out like a shield. Some people dance along with a fluid gait, while others tiptoe and glance nervously about them.
At social gatherings we may come upon clusters of meerkats grooming each other, turtles plodding through the crowd looking for a mate or a fresh salad leaf, peacocks, obsessed with their splendour, blustery cockerels, loving old dogs, sharp-eyed falcons, enchanting robins, and so on. …
Birds are keen on cake but wary of cats, whereas lions can afford to be relaxed. How amazing then to observe vastly different temperaments complementing each other – like a person with a butterfly nature tying up with a partner who occasionally roars. Given the rich lore of sensibilities mixing and battling in the human psyche, strangers should be less strange than we make them out to be.
Initial likes and dislikes, even among kin, have nothing to do with background, morals or ethics. Wariness goes along with fascination when it comes to difference. We may not be keen to share a nest, but sharing a street is fun. Nature is a mirror that teaches us how to become human. And animals deserve our special appreciation for reminding us of the innumerable diverse idiosyncrasies in ourselves.
The Persian translation became the Fables of Bidpai. Lovely collections of Kalila and Dimna were published by Ramsey Wood, one with an introduction from Doris Lessing. I got permission from Ramsay Wood to use a short tale from his collection in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’
Programmes on ‘Respecting Difference’ have made it into schools and institutions. But can respect be taught in a few hours? More effective are courses that help people to find self-respect through exploring the diverse feelings and judging voices within themselves, the inner conflicts that manifest for us outside.
Acknowledgement, at least, tolerance and patience with our inner crowd eases snap projections and allows us to rediscover ourselves in the eyes and minds of others day by day. The internet expands this mirroring into timeless realms, from where echoes of our own dissonance or resonance return.
In the analogue world people are on the move across the planet – for various reasons – war – drought – famine – persecution – fresh meaning – it is happening, and it will continue. The most productive response to this phenomenon is to embrace its creative potential.
The other day woke up with this thought: Migrants, indeed all citizens sans resources but able and willing to work, could be given the spaces to create new towns, be empowered to build their own houses and develop their own businesses, and conducts, as a way towards gaining self-respect, and in addition contribute to the well being of a community. Maybe this is a naive pipe dream, but worth contemplating nevertheless, since creative opportunities nurture self-respect and move us beyond self-concern.
‘The whole is other than the sum of the parts … it has an independent existence.’ – Kurt Koffka
Regarding the discovery of what we know, see the visionary work, Involution, by Philippa Rees, a remarkable poetic adventure, with brilliantly researched additional historic commentaries. A book to take on a Desert Island.