Tag Archives: novel

… story – art – quest for the cypher – symbol …

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.

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… ambiguity – living & writing the mystery …

‘The Magician,’ a painting by Silvia Pastore

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.

another relevant post  the magic of remembrance

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… the afterglow of relationships …

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’m reminded of one of my first posts, about the shadow

Click on the above link and you’re there.

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… weeks sans heating – rant about smart devices – an offer …

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:

The paperback will be half price for a limited period on this Troubadour page

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.

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… my hexed home & a short scene from Course of Mirrors …

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 areremember’ – 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.

 

Check out the novel here a truly immersive Christmas read.

Course of Mirrors, a multi-faceted, inspiring, magical, gripping, page-turning story with vivid characters. Great fun, with breath-taking scenery …

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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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