Tag Archives: reviews

… in gratitude to unnamed authors & soul companions …

Plenty of subjects nudged me towards a blog post during these last weeks. No gust struck a chime – the sure sign I was avoiding something. I stepped back – into gardening, watching birds, boring paperwork, reading, and posting two reviews of thought-provoking novels on Goodreads: ‘Immortality’ by Milan Kundera and ‘The Passion According to G. H.’ by Clarice Lispector 

Otherwise I managed bits of networking and endured the tragic/comic soap operas of global politics, until, finally, the avoided task fell into place – the next editing round for Shapers, sequel to Course of Mirrors, which can now be found on Troubador  or Amazon  and other outlets.

For good reasons, not least to push my first novel into the light, the sequel was neglected for many months. Returning to the characters of CoM in a far future time was such bliss that I almost forgot about you, my readers here.

Yesterday I met with friends I had not seen for a while. We shared stories upon stories. With each of us being the lonely manifested part of our soul crowd, we fine-tuned into the universal themes of combined interests. It’s tricky to express what happens when we allow our associated crowds to wake and remind us of their presences within us. I tried to enlarge on the theme of soul families in a recent post – here.

The gathering of friends reminded me how my novels are based on dialogues with inner companions, opening into a symbolic journey with extended soul families. To acknowledge that our experiences are guided by presences from past and future worlds, gives credence to how we are bound to unnamed companions speaking and acting through us.

*     *    *

‘A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.’ – Albert Einstein

‘A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why?  Because all time is contained in now.’  – Meister Eckhart

 ‘Long live the dead because we live in them.’ ― Clarice Lispector – A Breath of Life.

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… 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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… 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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… 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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