Tag Archives: writing

… 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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… letting go of letting go & duende …

An apple doesn’t drop by itself before it’s ripe. And unless fate delivers us a hard blow natural ripeness applies equally to experience. Experts are quick to tell us, or we tell ourselves, to let go of whatever – an attachment, a fear, a grievance, an addiction, a desire, melancholy, sadness, the ego, and so on, while we are enmeshed with our life and its phenomena. The best chance of ripening towards a possible potential lies in keeping one’s balance on the tightrope of contradictions, that is, the fine line between the particle state and the wave state – as in Blake’s ‘Kiss the joy while flies.’

Natural letting go happens every second. We breathe, well, we are breathed, though we mainly notice when the rhythm of our breath is disrupted – through pain, exhaustion, anger, anxiety, anger or sheer exasperation, when anyone uttering, ‘Calm down,’ deserves a punch.

(Thanks Joe Linker for the great doodle)

Emotional balance wavers from day to day, but when self-blame knots up our muscles it makes sense to focus on the body. There are plenty of ways to relax: exercise, sex, music, singing, mantras, doodling, magnesium, weed, pills, wine … or to imagine brilliant light circling through the breath, like the basic drone of a reed harmonium or a tanpura holding up multiple sounds. Everything in nature has an essential frequency, which tends to flush out what obstructs its flow, even if it takes earthquakes, storms and floods. To right imbalances of the planet is beyond individuals, we can however bring a clear intention towards balancing our body’s frequency. Try this:

Inhale through your nose – draw brilliant light from head the chest – counting to 7   

Exhale through your mouth – let the light flow to your feet and out – counting to 11

Imagine the out breath taking along the tensions held in your muscles. A few rounds of this ritual should calm the heartbeat for a while. Being in resonance with your body draws the shy soul closer, bringing a sense of oneness – satiating our thirst for belonging. And it makes us aware that beauty is not in things, but in the soul of things, even the tiniest thing has soul.

Enjoy the circular sound by the wonderful mantra singer Hein Braat.

However, a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.

Our struggle for balance can be intense. But each of us has the chance to live with zest, inspired by the earth spirit and its dark power for spontaneous creation born of sadness and pain. Garcia Frederico-Lorca talked about art being inspired in three ways: by muses of the past, angelic visons of the future, and by duende – inspiration of the present. Duende springs from the core of one’s being in direct confrontation with death. You can read Lorca’s remarkable speech here: ‘Theory and Play of the Duende.’  

… You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves …  from – Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’

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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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… The banality of good – a review of ‘Alone in Berlin’ …

 

For me, Edward Munch’s painting  –  – The Scream —  sums up the fear of the unknown, and by implication, the fear of the feminine principle – a fear that spurns men towards controlling nature.

Hans Fallada’s novel, Jeder stirbt für sich allein’ (Everyone dies alone,) first came to my attention through its publication in English, ‘Alone in Berlin,’ a translation that was delayed by 60 years. The book has been sitting on my shelf as a ‘must read’ for a long while. Burdened by regressive small-mindedness and divisions around the world, I finally tackled ‘Alone in Berlin,’ aware that it would be a grim read, having been described as a testament to the darkest years of the 20th century from the point of view and experience of ordinary people.

Resistance to the Nazi regime by individuals had no news value after the war. Yet such stories provide the most poignant insights into what it is like to oppose a state under a dictatorship. As such, this book, written raw and in haste eighteen month after the defeat of Nazism, offers a high alert to simple solutions for social problems. The author, Hans Fallada, aka Rudolf Ditzen, died before this last of his works was published in 1947.

The urgency behind the writing is palpable. The players, sketched with harsh strokes, embody the full range of human nature – the capacity for compassion, kindness, complacency, stupidity, meanness, stubbornness, false pride, envy, hate, and resentment, fear, fanaticism and vengeance tipping into the most depraved cruelty.

Very quickly the dread of being caught in the nightmarish system of a totalitarian state jumps at the reader. While the ghostly despot drifts in the background, his control is shown through the dynamic interactions of ordinary citizens – be they power-hungry officers, opportunists, cunning manipulators, cowards, reticent objectors or unsung heroes. Resistance carried the threat of death and seemed futile.

The anguish conveyed is chilling, intensified by the archetypal hue clinging to the tragic comic characters, at times suggesting caricatures. The sheer absurdness of the stupidities and sadistic cruelties depicted may dilute the shock, but it makes the scenes all the more heart-breaking.

The classic method of totalitarianism is to instil fear and divide factions of society against each other, so people spy on each other and nobody can be trusted anymore. In this chapter of history fear served as the leverage for forcing the banal idea of a perfect state that can be safeguarded through clockwork control.

Fallada’s main protagonists, Otto and Anna Quangel, were based on the records of two insignificant objectors to the regime, Otto and Elise Hampel. The elderly couple started spreading anti-Nazi missives written on postcards in buildings around Berlin. For their sadly ineffective attempts of rebellion, the Hampel’s were arrested in 1942, tried in 1943 and executed shortly after. The same fate befell their friends and relatives.

Can a few virtuous individuals, each driven by personal idiosyncrasies, redeem the moral integrity of a nation? It is up to the reader to decide whether the many deaths a totalitarian regime inflicts on soon forgotten brave people are in vain.

The book brought alive the pressure my grandparents must have lived under, as well as the uncanny anxious atmosphere that spoiled my parents’ teen years, and, the wariness I personally and many of the post-war generation developed towards overbearing authority.

Presented in the context of ordinary individual lives, the story reads like a tragic comedy that screams – let us never forget that freedom lies in people being allowed to be different, not chained to a hell of obedience and conformity.

Primo Levi’s declared ‘Alone in Berlin’ as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. English readers have had to wait 60 years to read the novel.

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… political poker games …

reflections-moving-copy

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

Rock-a-by baby

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:

Here is everywhere …

Brexasperation …

Perception of difference …

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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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… I lost an ally, but not her frequency …

Launch of 'Heart of a Sufi.'

2011 launch of ‘Heart of a Sufi’ at a friend’s place.

Before I share the book cover of ‘Course of Mirrors,’ my first novel to be released in spring, I must step back and credit once more a book I co-edited and am proud to have helped produce. ‘Heart of a Sufi’ was published by a group of friends in 2011. A limited print-run of hardbacks sold quickly and recouped our expenses. I wrote about the background to this project in honour of Fazal Inayat-Khan here in March 2013.

 

Joe Linker, a blogger friend, wrote only this week a spot-on review of this unusual book – brilliant, heartfelt thanks. One of our small editorial team, Rahima (Elspeth) Milburn, would have been delighted with the review of this book she endorsed with passion. Sadly she died peacefully shortly before 2017 was rung in.

by-ashen-portrait-of-elspeth-spottiswood-smallerI miss her. She was a deep thinking woman, a painter, psychotherapist and lover of poetry, especially Rumi, whose verses she recited often in her very deep and distinctive voice.  She was an inspiration to many. For over ten year, up to 2004, we run monthly seminars and additional workshops together, on themes like mythology, the power of the imagination, and the significance of dreams. I feel deep gratitude for her supportive friendship and feel strongly that her frequency lives on.

The portrait on the right I did in her studio, around the Millennium.

A group of us, companions on her path, will travel to Cornwall next week to join the large Milburn family and send their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother on her journey. Some of my readers may remember a humorous poem I wrote for Rahima and her family – posted here last October:

Regarding ‘Heart of a Sufi’ … while there are only very few of the beautiful hard copies left, some with Watkins in London, the work is also available as an e-book  with Troubador or Amazon.

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