Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Do Not Wash My Feet

I would ask you:
Do not wash my feet
For I have not walked
A thousand miles in dusty lanes
that coat sandalled feet in grime,
Nor yet barefoot on the pilgrim way
Wincing at every step away from grass.
My feet have not carried me through
The smoke and filth of battle,
Nor have I stood amid the wives
Who wait to see their men return.
Instead
I would ask you:
Wash my soul instead,
For though I have been spared
The trials of life
That others suffer,
Mine have left their soil
Upon my soul as well.

Piracy, pricing and the pernicious effects of victim-less crimes

Piracy is not Johnny Depp running around in kohl and dreadlocks, pretending to be Jack Sparrow. Piracy is a terrifying reality on the seas to this day but that’s not the type of piracy I’m wanting to raise awareness of. The type of piracy I mean is a so-called victim-less crime.
Piracy in the creative industry is the stealing of content without the consent of the creator. Every DVD starts with an anti-piracy notice; most you cannot even fast forward through. But I’ve heard people say it’s not a crime and that an artist ought to be flattered that someone has thought their content worthy of lifting. I suspect that most reading this will be on the side of the angels and I may be ranting simply to relieve my feelings. I don’t know if any of my work has been pirated; I don’t want to look, really. Cease and desist notices seem to have limited effects and to be honest, they’re a hydra – a many-headed beast that grows ever more heads each time one is cut off. It’s the mentality that sends people to pirate sites that needs addressing as much as anything; the implementation of DRM has done nothing to reduce piracy and much to inconvenience genuine users.
I had a friend who had in the past committed what he considered victim-less crimes of eating at expensive restaurants and then sauntering off without paying. The argument was that it was something that restaurants factored into their costs and it was therefore not really a problem. The same friend also used to steal things like pillows from hotels, again using the argument that such losses were covered by insurance, and that didn’t everyone do it? Excuse me while I bang my head on a brick wall for a while in frustration. Stupid and immoral doesn’t even cover the half of it!
Shops inevitably lose a significant proportion of their good via shop-lifting and the losses are adjusted by raising the prices of the goods. Smaller shops go out of business as a result of the rise in insurance premiums, the cost of replacing stolen goods and because of the sheer misery of being robbed constantly. It’s easy to forget that shops are not always run by face-less business moguls but actual human beings with feelings.
It’s the same for books. Even when it’s a big name author who is being pirated, they lose out. For independent authors, it’s even more striking. You might argue that writers write for the love of it and not for money, but you know what? It’s possible we do it for both. We all have bills to pay. I’ve seen the argument that books are priced so high that people cannot afford to buy them. Unlike food, books are not an actual necessity of life, though life without books would be dull and grim. Books are always freely available, either via libraries (you can actually request particular books to be ordered from your library) or from the vast array of books that are no longer subject to copyright and have been made available by such fabulous initiatives as the Gutenberg project. These are the only free books I get now, ones by authors who have long since shuffled off this mortal coil.
If it is price that puts people off buying a book, then I do not understand why quite so many bought, for example, J.K Rowling’s newest offerings when they were initially almost £12 for the e-book version. I know she has millions of fans, but honestly, £12 for an e-book? That’s prohibitively expensive. I’m still looking on the shelves of second-hand bookshops for copies of her detective novel. I appreciate that there’s few who will take a punt on an unknown author if the price tag is above a certain amount but it’s depressing to see that price is trotted out as a reason for not even trying. With Kindle, you get a decent chunk of sample for free to see if you like the style. I’ve already written about why I think free is a problem but there are a few things I would like to suggest in relation to free books. If you pick up a free book, resolve to actually read it. I’ve stopped getting free books for this reason; they are sitting on my Kindle, unread. The psychology of this is complex but basically paying for something gives it value and time is our most valuable commodity. If a book is free and is the first in a series, consider paying for the next instalment if you enjoyed the free book. Consider writing a review for free books; it’s one of the reasons authors make a book free, in the hope that reviews may come. Independent authors often have zero budget for advertising and reviews can be very helpful.
I said earlier than while writers write for pleasure, being paid for it is important. There comes a point when many authors actually stop putting books out, because the sense of futility can become overwhelming. I’ve heard of authors being messaged by people asking to be informed when the next book is going to be free. I cannot imagine anything more inducing of despair than such a message. It says, I like your books but you won’t catch me paying for them. There are shelves on Goodreads that in essence say the same: books I want when they are up for free (or so I am told. I don’t and won’t use Goodreads because it scares me).
One other thing. Pirate sites for books often provide books that are poorly formatted, incomplete and can be laden with viruses. Karma’s only a bitch if you are.

For a limited time only, The Bet will be available at 99p only. The price goes up first to £1.99 and then back to the original (and very reasonable price) of £2.94.

I’ve not used the Countdown programme before so this is very much an experiment. Please pass this offer on if you can, buy the book, tweet and share.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397118432&sr=1-2

A Tale of Seeds

 

A tale of seeds

There was once a small collective of gardeners who banded together to buy their equipment and supplies. Tools and compost, fertilizer and weed killer all come cheaper if you buy in bulk so the four friends would split the costs and share the benefits.
One spring, as a free bonus with their order, their usual seed company offered a mystery gift. When it arrived they were eager to see what they had been sent. The gift came in a small cardboard box which, when opened proved to contain four small items. Each was about an inch long, dark brown and slightly wrinkled looking.
“They must be seeds of some kind,” said the oldest friend, turning them over in his hand. “Is there any information with them?”
A note fell out of the box, explaining that the seeds were part of a consignment sent to the seed company from an explorer who worked in far off places, collecting new plants and sending back their seeds. It seemed that the original label of the last batch had become detached from the parcel and the seed company did not know precisely what the seeds were for. “Grow them and see!” said the note. “And send us your pictures when you get them to bloom!”
“That’s no good,” said the second oldest friend. “How can we grow something if we don’t know what it is? What’s the point of that? I only have a small garden. I have to be careful of what I grow in case it’s too big for me.”
“And how can we grow it if we don’t know what it is?” said the third oldest. “Different seeds need different conditions. Some need to be frozen for two years before they grow. I’m not happy. Some free gift!”
The youngest said nothing but held the seed in her hand, and ran her fingers over it, stroking the ridged surface and trying to sense the life within.
In the end they agreed they would each take a single seed and nothing more was said.
The oldest friend took his seed home and spent many hours searching the internet to see if he could find out what it was and how best to grow it. He contacted all manner of experts before deciding that the seed must be new to science. He took many photos of it and sent it to a professor of ethno-botany at a university to study. The professor looked at it briefly, before writing back to say he didn’t know either but the letter and the seed got lost in the post.

The second oldest friend looked at the seed with suspicion. It looked like a nut so it would surely grown into a tree, far too huge for his little garden. Even planting it in a pot would take up far too much room and anyway, what use would it be? It wasn’t as if he was going to be able to eat the fruit from it; it would take many years before it grew big enough to fruit. He put the seed in an envelope and put it into the back of a drawer and forgot about it.
The third oldest took it home and after much thought, planted it in a nice terracotta pot and watered it, giving it a label that simply read ? Each week she came back and checked the moisture in the soil. After six weeks, she scraped the compost back to see if anything had changed. The seed remained hard and unchanged. She covered it over and watered it again. Every few weeks she pushed back the soil to see if the seed had begun to germinate. Eventually the seed began to crack and open and the thick tap root delved down into the compost, seeking purchase. “It looks like a bean plant,” she said, disappointed, but fetched sticks for it to climb up. When the first leaves began to appear, she changed her mind for there were no tendrils that indicated a climber. When it got to six inches high, she thought it must be a begonia and pinched out the growing tip to keep it nice and bushy. The plant withered and shrivelled and eventually died.

The youngest took the seed home and planted it in a pot, watered it and left it alone, whispering that small prayer every gardener has uttered, “Bless you, now GROW!”. Returning only to make sure the pot was moist enough, one day she saw that the seed had burst into a shoot, verdant and vital but still unrecognisable. She kept watering it, and every time the plant got too big for its pot, she moved it to a bigger one. With steady doses of sunshine and showers, the plant grew and grew until one day, a few years after it had been planted, it began to bloom.
Still no one knew what it was yet except the youngest gardener. Visitors to her garden would ask her what it was and she told them with a proud smile.
“It’s beautiful, that’s what it is, and it’s itself. That’s enough for me,” she’d say.

The Picture Left Behind

The Picture Left Behind ~ on serendipity & happen-stance

I’ve moved house more times than many in my life, though I’ve rarely had much (if any choice) of where I have lived. On the one occasion when I did get to choose what house I was to live in, the process of house-hunting had to be fitted into ONE day, where seven possible properties were scheduled. It’s a long story why we had to do it all in such a short time but we settled on the second house; awareness of budget and other factors made it clear enough that there was no point in looking further.
It’s never bothered me (much) that when it’s come to housing, the default is pretty much Hobson’s Choice (this, or nothing). I’ve never thought there was a perfect home for me somewhere if I just kept looking; and since our residence also comes as part of the package of my husband’s job, I’ve learned to see that every home has draw-backs and advantages. My favourite house so far (in terms of practicality, looks, comfort and location) also happened to be on the flight path for East Midland’s airport, so every two or three minutes a plane would roar across the sky, alarmingly low, and drown out the birdsong.
When we moved into our house on the east coast, it had the advantage of being a half hour walk from the sea-shore, but moving in was part of a traumatic change of life-style and the first six months were cramped and confusing. I kept walking into walls, believing in a sleep-befuddled state that there ought to be a door into another room. Like any house move, we found small items left behind by the previous owners. Mostly junk and the usual detritus of bits of paper, the odd rug, oven tray and so on, there was one item I saved. Every move we have made we have usually found that previous occupants have abandoned or deliberately left behind furniture and other possessions; we once acquired a huge box of interesting old books, several (useful) beds and a wardrobe. I’m not fussy about where my belongings come from, and if they suit out uses, they are welcome (indeed, I have the three piece cottage suite donated by an aunt the year before we got married; it was over twenty years old even then). But the east coast move the single item I saved was a picture. It stayed stacked in a corner with other of our own pictures that I never got round to hanging on the walls of that house. Only after our most recent move did I look at it properly again.
Initially, you’d maybe not see why I didn’t bin it when I found it in the last house. It’s a print, framed many years ago by Boots (the Chemists) who used to do quite a range of things other than cotton wool, aspirin and toiletries, in a dark wood frame. There’s no intrinsic value and yet something made me keep it to one side and not throw it away. The signature of the artist is not legible (or I’d perhaps have tried to find the history of it). It’s a night time or twilight scene, somewhere exotic, probably Arabic or Persian, of a caravan of camels leaving a walled city or caravanserai by lamplight. The camels are being led through a high arched opening in the shadowy walls; moonlight seems to catch the tips of the long spears carried by turbaned figures. The lead camel is carrying a sort of covered palanquin, the colours of which are reminiscent of a Persian carpet, and inside sits a serene-faced man, dressed in rich robes quite unlike that of the camel drivers walking beside the animals. There’s a feeling of expectancy, a journey being embarked upon in hope and some trepidation.
In my mind is conjures words like Istafan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isfahan and a sense of the deserts beyond, the Silk Road and other such evocative things. And even though it’s an old, slightly faded and probably cheap print, it’s filled for me with mystery and stories waiting to be told.
And yet, when I found it, I had no story that would ever touch upon the images and the atmosphere this picture holds.
But now I do. Whether the memory of the picture has worked within my unconscious or whether the story has created the need to incorporate the feelings and the images and the connections from this picture, I do not know. Whatever the process involved, the picture now hangs on the wall of my study, near the door. I see it many times a day and it works upon my imagination.
Sometimes life throws us gifts we don’t realise the value of, when they arrive, because they don’t appear to fit our needs or wants at the time. But something can make our instincts prick up, and if we listen, we might see that this thing, this person, this occurrence is a way-marker or a guide or some kind of clue or prompt that has greater meaning that we at first can see.

Interview and give-away

I’m gearing up for surgery tomorrow but I thought I’d share this interview that Sonya did with me this week. For the very first time, I am offering a giveaway. There are 3 copies of The Moth’s Kiss in paperback up for grabs for those who comment at Sonya’s blog, so pop over and have a read and enter the competition:

http://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/interview-vivienne-tuffnell/

I’m hoping to have a post  for Monday as usual but it depends how I feel. It also depends whether I’m home from hospital or not. I know I could schedule one but even after five years, I like hitting *publish* for a post.

Life feels better when you have a plan” ~ on plans and oracles

I’ve got a difficult couple of weeks coming up. On Saturday, I am in for surgery to remove a tumour in my throat, caused by hyperparathyroidism. It’s a benign tumour in so much as it isn’t cancerous, but it’s been causing serious physical and mental health problems for heaven knows how long. The surgery is predicted to last about an hour, longer than I’ve ever been under anaesthesia before, and will leave a scar a couple of inches long in the hollow of my throat.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, because I am. Terrified, in fact. But it needs doing and that’s that. I’ve put a lot of things on hold that I’d intended to crack on with: final edits for Square Peg, working on several novels, garden stuff. You get the picture. What scares me almost as much as the surgery itself is the possibility that this won’t bring me significant relief. I’ve not been able to make any plans for some time. Even things like going away on holiday have been put to one side; many of the things we enjoy doing when off on holiday I’ve been too poorly to contemplate.

There’s an ad on British TV at present from insurance company Scottish Widows and it’s haunted me. The images and the music and the voice over have got under my skin.

Life feels better when you have a plan.” Note it says, ‘feels’, and doesn’t say ‘is’. People get hung up on plans, especially things like business plans, five year plans and life plans. Plans don’t work out the way you think they will but they give a sense of purpose and structure to what might otherwise be a meandering, spiral or even circular wandering through life. Plans are the coalescing of hopes, dreams, ambitions, giving you something to aim at.

I’m a sucker for oracles, as regular readers might know. Oracles like tarot don’t foretell the future, or even predict it; used skilfully, they can show you potential futures based on past experiences and choices. There’s nothing like understanding where you’ve already been for helping you understand where you’re going. On my birthday last week I bought Colette Baron-Reid’s The Map, a book and card set to help map out your life so far and see where it’s leading; I’m enjoying exploring the book (though it’s quite superficial and a little too whimsical for me) and finding the cards helpful too but one of the reasons I bought them was to do with something I started writing three years ago.

If you’ve been with me that long, you might recall I did a weekly serial called Lost. I posted ten episodes as I wrote them, and at a certain point, I stopped. I began the project after events in real life left me feeling worse than Lost; every time I got into a state about it, I worked through things and came to write a new instalment, in a state of trance. I didn’t plan or think or even care much; I let the words of the story draw me to a point where I could stop. I came back to it a year ago and began working the same way, though the excruciating emotional pain was gone. I realised it was a deep project, exploring my inner landscape and have been working on it slowly since then. I have no idea where it will go or when it will be finished, or even if once finished will I publish it.

Here’s a segment of it to illustrate my point:

I walk round, my feet leaving a silvery trail in the dew laden grass and select a tree I think I may be able to climb and find a massive oak, its bark green with lichen and moss and scramble up into the lower branches without much problem. Up and up I climb, awkward and inept and trembling at times when I look down.

It’s one of the tallest trees and when I reach the canopy, and have to stop to catch my breath, I make the mistake of looking down. A tangle of branches weave in and out like a mandala below me and my mind becomes confused by the pattern. I shut my eyes and try to focus.

I open them and steady myself, gripping the wood tightly and shift a little so I can turn left and right without risking slipping. Over the sea of greens, the sun is rising, a great red ball that becomes golden as I watch the mists spiralling up out of the forest. For as far as my eyes can see, there is only trees, mile upon mile of forest. I can see no roads or significant clearings beyond some that seem to be where the more ancient of trees have fallen to their deaths. I see no buildings or signs of people. In the extreme distance, I can see the faintest glimmer of a mountain range, a thin blue line of hummocks at the furthest horizon.

The forest is waking as I stand gazing over the canopy and I can hear birds and other creatures greeting the new day and I can also hear my stomach rumbling.

Slowly I realise that having got up this high, I have now to get down again and after fixing the direction of those mountains in my mind, I begin my shaky descent.

As I climb nervously down, all I can think about is that sea of green and the miles of endless forest ahead of me.

There are no paths. All around me, endless shades of green, with some brown and red and orange as counterpoint, and no opening, no indication that anyone has ever come this way before. I sag against the trunk of the tree I have just climbed, the memory of those distant mountains burned into my retina like the after-burn of lightning flashes, and for a few long minutes, I want to curl into a ball, and bury myself in the moist leaf-litter and return to the earth.

But somehow I square my shoulders and take a long deep breath. I gaze around carefully and I spot it: not a path as such, just a thread through the greenery. It’s probably a deer path but it seems to be going in the right direction at least, so I begin.

The way is not easy; I cannot walk, but rather have to weave myself in and out of fallen branches, over rocks and heavy rotting trunks. Sometimes, in the soft earth I see the footprints of the deer who use this trail and sometimes droppings, but they are old, and I feel sure the deer do not come this way often.

I merge with the forest, my mind slipping into its rhythms as the sun climbs higher and higher. I sip water from a tiny rivulet that crosses the path, scooping water into my mouth; it tastes earthy, a tang of smoky peat teases my taste buds, making me remember something I cannot quite put my finger on. It’s not unpleasant, just odd. I eat leaves, to stave off the hunger, and the occasional berry. In the back of my mind, I wonder how I know whether something is safe to eat or not, and worry that perhaps I do not.

By late afternoon, as the sun has begun its decline to evening, I have covered perhaps a mile in a straight line and am exhausted and filthy. I’ve crossed and recrossed the same ground, and it was only seeing my own footprints in the moist ground my a stream that told me I had doubled back. I never once thought they might belong to someone else. Throughout this great wide forest that seemed from the treetops to go on to the edges of the earth, I cannot sense another human soul. Only birdsong and insects disturb the peace here.

I can sense the sunset even though I cannot see it and I know I must find shelter for the night. I’ve nothing to keep me warm and I am dimly aware that the food I have eaten would be sufficient for a family of field-mice to live on. Every limb aches with exertion and my heart sinks because I know that those mountains are still as far away as ever.

As I climb into a tree and try to snuggle as close to the trunk as I can, feeling the living force of the sap slowing inside, I ask myself, why am I heading for the mountains?

But I sleep before I can even start to answer that question.”

Why am I heading for the mountains?”

An excellent question. But all I can say for this story and for my life is this:

Life feels better when you have a plan.”

 (you can watch the ad here. It’s rather moving)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuPrnomv1OM

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,228 other followers

%d bloggers like this: