Tag Archives: publishing

… 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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… car adventures – home on wheels …

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 triumph-spitfire-4after 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-vw-bus-a9657d6dbc47ba01d46ace182e65619econtained 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.

img123030-cran-canaryBy 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.

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… a writer must selfie herself …

 

August 2016

August 2016

This  selfie of mine was taken last summer. As you can see, I’m an introvert.

If you’re in for a funny video on selfies, here is one I found on the Urban Dictionary website. Its definitions help to lift despair.

I was initially delighted when in spring 2013 my first novel was picked up by a small publisher. Course of Mirrors was in good shape, thanks to my dear beta reader friend and editor, Evlynn Sharp. Our selfie from 2014 shows below.

April 2014

When over time my publisher was prevented from preparing my novel for its launch, for various reasons beyond her control, I shelved my frustration, finished a sequel, and even started a third book – still, gradually my confidence suffered. Then again, if the promise for my first novel had not been there, I might not have continued writing, so whatever my misgivings, thank you Emma for loving my story.

Back in control, I decided to self-publish. And now I’m challenged, like many lovely writer friends whose fate I follow online, to set up a stage for ‘Course of Mirrors,’ squeezing myself into an overcrowded publishing scene.

I have lived and worked in England since 1978. When time allowed, I contributed poems and articles to specialist magazines and anthologies, but only started writing novels later in life. Writing was a vocation, not a career. An early humiliating experience at school, made me return to writing only through photography, film, and the freedom of another language. Though financially risky, I took time out, and writing became immersive.

Finding words to condense my myth into imagined worlds is totally satisfying, sans financial rewards. But then, forgive the sigh that escapes so many of us in the same situation, writing is a full time devotional activity, and I spent now many years writing and editing into midnight hours, a little financial reward would at least compensate for reduced income and allow me the occasional holiday.

I observe that marketing and advice professionals possibly outnumber writers. However brilliant these experts may be at their job, I can’t afford their services. Now even simple questions I hoped my publisher would support me with shout for answers: What’s your genre? What readership do you hope to address? How will you capture the tone of the novel in a title image? Should the cover express the concept, or a scene from the novel? What’s the unique angle of your story? How does your story differ from others in your genre?

In a public sphere over-saturated with information, how does one engage a reader’s attention without having to boast? I feel like having to provide an answer at gunpoint to one question only – Who are you?

Frankly, I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out. As I said, I’m an introvert. Like my protagonist, I’m a suspended character. The whole circus is a gamble. I can only hope that you, the readers of my blog, will stay with me through this labyrinth of my author-creation.

While I struggle with particulars, and hopefully amuse you with updates, I’m planning to launch ‘Course of Mirrors’ through Matador/Troubador in spring 2017.

Here, to deliciously confuse you, is a river of keywords relating to Course of Mirrors:

Course of Mirrors combines literary genres to thread in elements of: fantasy; mystery; thriller; adventure; friendship; romance; humour; suspense; magic realism and tragedy. It is adult and young adult fiction, and it includes allusive cultural references spanning: imaginal odyssey; coming of age; quest; road trip; identity; the single child; cinematic style of chapters; psychology; intrigue; loss; murder; betrayal; speculation; metaphysics; insight; poetics; irony; future; despair; passion; triple soul; compelling characters… and in the sequel – Shapers – shape-shifting and time travel across decades.

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… time to appreciate my work …

Yesterday a friend called my home a little palace. The semi has a lot going for it – road & off-road parking, a lovely back garden which opens additional living-space in summer, provided there is enough of a sunny summer. Over the years I had my share of annoyances coming through the adjoining walls – the TV of an old man who didn’t believe in hearing aids, a couple who screamed at each other every other night, and recently a developer who put up an extension and is now gutting the house to create an open-living space …

P1070069 - smallerSo when I saw the ad for a Chapel not far from where I live, my imagination soared – I envisaged part-ceilings with upstairs galleries and features of functional beauty – a little palace without adjoining walls, right?

That was until I popped over to look at the place. I guess the Parish cashed in on the adjoining land before they sold the Chapel as bargain to someone with a dream, who, unable to realise it, let a few years go by and is now hoping for profit – from another dreamer.

While the green roof enchants, the boundaries of the plot permit only a shoulder-hunched walk around the building. There is no room to park a car, let alone a builder’s van, without blocking a footpath or the narrow lane.

P1070068 - smaller

P1070070 - smaller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sudden surge of energy, I understand, is in line with spring and, to come to the point, my need to overcome an obstruction that is pervading all else in my life, namely the dwindling hope that a publishing contract I signed nearly two years ago is going to result in the launch of my novels. The chapel with its constricting plot inhibiting development reflects precisely my deflated spirit and the state of mind I trapped myself in.

Given the nature we are, spring urges in us for scope and inspiration to move forward in different ways. For me – it’s time to appreciate my creative work and count my blessings. It would be marvellous to be in Chuang-Tzu’s position, but unlike him, most of us must summon an inner Kingship that keeps patient faith with our art.

A LITTLE STORY ABOUT TIME

Among Chuang-Tzu’s many skills, he was an expert draftsman. The King asked him to draw a crab. Chuang-Tzu replied that he needed five years, a country house, and twelve servants. Five years later the drawing was still not begun. ’I need another five years,’ said Chuang-Tzu. The King granted them. At the end of these ten years, Chuang-Tzu took up his brush and, in an instant, with a single stroke he drew a crab, the most perfect crab ever seen.

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… battling with the branding goddess …

A branding-class expert is something to be … anyone can be an expert, but branding the expertise takes imagination combined with determination. Establish a need, provide a context, add a striking image, a name, and presto, you attract a following of customers. Be like a dog, bury the bone, and bury it well, then dress it up virtually, mark it, package it, and you have a brand, it’s your invention. Don’t deviate; be like the dog, only tolerate your own teeth marks on it. We admire the sheer ingenuity of branding, which has turned into an art form. Take computers – they are memory devices, communication devices, and much more. Apple took a sumptuous bite out of the computing potential by developing an aesthetic language, a shiny package, and a logo with irresistible symbolic power.

Examples of successful branding have helped the growth of a fat goddess that pervades all fields of commerce. Her indulgence irks. There is the ambient kind of branding, like-minded people gathering around new mind tools, new therapies and self-help advice. Creative approaches I’d playfully developed in my work with clients for over two decades are presented as the latest invention, the latest trick revealed. By naming an approach or concept anew and creating a media platform, an idea becomes owned with the shield of a trademark. No free lunch. The trend is relentless. Even common herbs are re-named and patented.

Today, as ever, survival of the fittest means assertiveness, magnetism, influence, and, or material resources. I wouldn’t talk like this if I had a rewarding brand going, would I? While I resist the branding-bug I am free to ask … what will be the consequences? Where will it all lead? Will there come a time when a cooperation so inclined could offer you a tempting reward for a scratch-sample of your skin and patent your DNA? Would our human-rights-act guard against this invasion? Could the race over ownership, patenting and branding spread as far as shaking together a new race in a test-tube?

I am selectively brand-blind. I try to resist slogans, signatures, icons or familiars that aim to burn and mark my memory. It takes alertness, counter-programming. Subliminal stimuli in advertisement were banned, but subliminal messages abound. I prefer to make fresh associations each day. I want to choose my own habits. I want a flexible identity, and space to grow irrationally, no forced order, please. My inner world deserves a room within the social order. I seek no fault, but I make a stand for my inner silence, and my trust in the unknown. Don’t package me, label me or fit me in pre-fabricated boxes. Meet me when and wherever we meet as if it was the first time … like this …

Am I fooling my contradictory self? Surfing virtual networks, I am drawn to a new brand, the no-brand orphans. I’ve met you out there, searching for kinship.  You’re my audience. I wrote a story for you, about a heroine who does not want to comply with what is expected of her, knows well what she does not want and attracts more of the same, until she steps through the mirrors that reflect her.

Yet even when we are empowered by what we want, and this is the secret behind the presently fashionable ‘The Secret’ – psyche is not two-dimensional, it has multiple layers, and whether we are aware of this or not, life will pull us into another myth, and we will create another goddess we bow to.

Let me come clear, this is a plug for my book, a story in search of a platform, an attempt at branding  🙂 Established publishers – big brands – may well have a niche for a heroine who starts out not knowing what she wants, a story transgressing genres, it remains to be seen. I haven’t begun querying yet. But if it came to self-publishing, I would need to address my kinship, other branding orphans. Are you out there?

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