Give Me Wild – for the Summer Solstice

Give Me Wild – for the Summer Solstice

Give me wild

Take me where the boughs bend low

Take me where the waters flow

Take me where the clean winds blow:

Give me wild

Show me where the bluebells sway

Show me where the otters play

Show me where the edges fray:

Give me wild

Teach me why each day is new

Teach me why the sky is blue

Teach me what we all can do:

Give me wild

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Review of KINDLE Ebook Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell

Delighted by this superb review of Square Peg, so I couldn’t resist reblogging it.

Brainfluff

I had downloaded Square Peg a while ago onto my Kindle, but suddenly turned to it as an antidote to the rather grim apocalyptic near-future NetGalley arc I’d just endured. I was so very glad I did…

“She’d seen faces like that before, but on the television, in films and in the history books. The faces of fanatics, cold and blind to all reason staring back at her.”

squarepegChloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the…

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Water in a Stone

Water in a Stone

Water in a Stone

I’ve long had a fascination for rocks; indeed, I considered studying geology for A level. I’ve been collecting rocks, fossils, crystals and gemstones for a long time now. I started when I was about nine or ten, becoming entranced by the cat’s-eye effect (chatoyance) of the semi precious stone Tiger’s Eye, and buying several pieces of the polished gem, one to wear as a pendant I still wear occasionally today.

It wasn’t until I was about fifteen and was visiting the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt that I really got hooked. One exhibit was a piece of rock crystal that was about the size of a small car. I remember walking round and round the massive rock, astounded that such a thing existed. The museum gift shop sold cheap gemstone jewellery and I found myself a piece of polished clear quartz set as a pendant. I have it still.

The Greeks thought rock crystal was ice that had frozen so hard it could never be thawed; in a way, they were right. Quartz does start out liquid, deep in the earth, but it’s only over time that it solidifies, growing into fabulous forms that are exquisitely lovely.

For me, any rock is a wonderful mystery: where did it come from, what is it made of, how did it get where it is today? I can walk almost any beach and find you a fossil. I pick up stones everywhere, and it occurred to me that I’m probably looking for the philosopher’s stone. I’ve dreamed about stones doing magical, wonderful things, and I meditate with them, often placing certain crystals on my forehead and holding them in my hands as I contemplate deep and impenetrable matters (I often fall asleep, to put that into perspective!). On one occasion, somehow or other I caused a crystal balanced on my forehead to light up from within, witnessed by one reliable source.

I’ve got boxes of rocks, ones that friends have sent me from special places they have visited, and dozens of crystals of various sorts, sizes and colours. There is something innately pleasing to me, at the very least, in the order and beauty of crystals; the fact that they form, either over aeons or spontaneously in milliseconds (no one is quite sure; some have been seen to grow slowly, others leap into being) regular, geometrically perfect solids is a sort of comfort to me. When I go to Austria, the hotel I usually stay at has a cabinet of fossils and rocks for sale; I’ve bought several, including a trilobite now named Josef after the hotelier. Like any collector, my collection is never going to be complete. There will always be something different to look out for.

I’ve not mentioned much the whole “woo woo” factor, because while I do believe there is something to it, it’s not something I really want to go into here. There is too much room for ridicule. Suffice it to say that I believe that rocks can be a source of healing.

Anyway, on a day trip to Ely a month or two back, I visited a stall on the market there that I’ve known for many years. She usually has unusual things, and isn’t extortionate in terms of prices. I spotted a couple of nice little things and one reasonably sized double terminated* quartz piece ( *it comes to a point at both ends), and liked it. It had a brilliant clarity and beauty that drew me. A few weeks after buying it, I spotted something very unusual indeed.

Inside the crystal was a bubble of liquid that moved when you turned the stone. Enhydros are quartz (and other stones) that contain water (or other liquids) from the time when the stone was forming. Sold as such, they’re fairly pricey; not precisely rare but unusual. A magnifying glass has shown there are other bubbles within the matrix of the rock; imagine the moving bubble of a spirit level and that’s not dissimilar.

Given the level of frozen-ness of my inner spirit and my life, and the fear that all the bubbling-over of images, ideas and stories might have dried up, finding this tiny reservoir of ancient, forgotten water deep inside a rock, is to me a symbol that perhaps buried so far down that I can’t even feel it, the water of life still shines.

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Future Library – fun, fad, fantasy or folly?

Future Library – fun, fad, fantasy or folly?

Future Library – fun, fad, fantasy or folly?

You might have spotted various articles recently concerning the project called Future Library. I’m not giving links because, for one thing, you can google as well as I can, and for another, I’m loathe to give the big websites any more traffic than they already get. Basically, the concept is this: authors have been approached to produce a book that after it’s been written and put into a form that will last, it will be sealed up for a hundred years. Various famous folks like David Mitchell (of Cloud Atlas and Bone Clocks fame), and Margaret Atwood ( The Handmaiden’s Tale) have already agreed and have written their books. Until the century is up, no one will know what they have written; none of us alive now will ever know.

There’s been a lot of discussion about this and there seems to be a significant camp for whom this is cool, interesting and liberating and should be seen as art, and another camp (into which I fall) that is baffled by it. To me, it makes no sense, to which the other camp would say, it’s art, it doesn’t have to make sense. I would disagree profoundly; in my pretty humble opinion, art does need to make sense, on some level, however esoteric. It might be that my cognitive functions are so seriously impaired by the overwhelming depression that’s made life very hard at present, but I can’t find any sense in Future Library no matter how I try.

There are many reasons why I find the whole concept troubling. One is that I tend to wonder whether in a hundred year’s time whether there will be anyone around to actually retrieve these books. Another is that for me a book, a story, is a living thing, and the idea of hiding it away is like locking a dog in a bank vault. Every fibre of what’s left of my soul shrinks from this thought. Another problem is that those who are contributing are those whose work has reached a certain level of success and critical acclaim; yes, perhaps they can spare a book for the purpose, but given that neither of the two I named, is a prolific writer, I can’t help wondering if they might regret this act of sacrifice. Yet another concern is, what is this for? Why is it being done? Yes, we come back to the idea of it being art. I’m obviously too stupid to really get this.

If I had the means, the money and the influence, I’d do my own Future Library. It would be entirely different because the books would not be entombed and lost from view. I’d fill those shelves with the books that are already lost, those works by talented, clever, modest and self-effacing authors whose character and personality have meant that they can no more slash their way to prominence through the jungle of self-promotion, than they could slash their way through the tangled rainforests to find lost cities. I’m tired of being told, “You just gotta make yourself do it,” by people who cannot understand that to many of us are given gifts of word-crafting from the heart and soul, but we lack the huckster gene that means we can sell ourselves and our works like they were so many knock-off Rolex watches.

I’ve watched the toxin of despair seep into the souls of too many authors whose work (and them) I esteem so highly that I consider myself lucky that I can call them friends, because the Juggernaut of publishing crashes over them and speeds off into the distance, leaving them crushed and bewildered. In a recent blog post on the books she’s lately read, Clare Weiner reviewed a couple of my books, after those of a couple of very big names, prefacing the reviews by explaining that though I was an unknown, I deserved a wider audience recognition. Claire herself deserves that too, as do a significant number of authors whose work I would champion more had I more strength.

My Future Library would consist of books lost to easy discovery amid the millions of other books. They’d be the stories that I’d want grandchildren and great grandchildren to read, the lost voices of the first two decades of the twenty first century, those books that got trampled in the rush to commercial success but which contain tales that ought never have been so discarded by people who (like me) deserved a much wider audience than the one we got when we lived.

https://marihowardauthor.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/maris-reading-life-four-books-from-my-kindle/

Another one for under the blankets. Or the sun-lounger. You choose!

Another one for under the blankets. Or the sun-lounger. You choose!

Doesn’t feel much like summer where I live; feels like March in fact.

This week, Strangers and Pilgrims celebrates its fifth anniversary since publication and I’ve dropped the price for the first time in ages to mark the occasion. Initially it was UK only but then I thought, rest of the world, why not? That’ll be the price for a week or so, so if you haven’t got it already, now’s the time.

But I also decided to run a promotion for The Bet as well. From today it’ll be just 99p in the UK, going up to £1.99 a couple of days later, and a few days after that, back to its usual price.

It’s my own favourite book that I’ve written, and apart from one rather meh 2 star review, the reaction of almost everyone who has read it has been along they lines of “Wow, what a ride!” One reader has expressed (alas not in a review) that it’s one of the best books he’s ever read. Perfect whether you’re huddling under a blanket or sitting out in the sunshine. The sequel sits on my hard drive, written but not polished up for publication and lacking a nice cover.

Anyway, happy reading whatever you do, whatever the weather where you are.

 

 

Flaming June? Curl up under the blankets & read!

I can’t remember the last time I dropped the price for Strangers and Pilgrims but it’s been a while.

It’s really an autumn/winter book, but with weather in parts of the UK mimicking November, I figured it might be an inducement to readers to take a punt on it for little less than its usual price.

So for a short while, it’s only £1.99. It’s not often you can get an entire novel for less than two quid.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strangers-Pilgrims-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B0054D3DVQ

 

And as a bonus for the USA and the rest of the world, I’ve reduced the price there too:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0054D3DVQ

On losing faith

On losing faith

Faith is a strange thing; it’s almost impossible to explain precisely what it is. The various dictionary definitions do not help much. The Oxford English Dictionary has faith defined thus: 1) Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Or 2) Strong belief in the doctrine of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof:

( http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/faith)

Neither of which really captures what faith really is; it presupposes an instinctive understanding of the concept because it uses synonyms (trust, confidence, conviction).

I’d say I’ve been a person of faith for a long time, with pockets of total loss of faith. Some might say, Hurrah, she’s finally coming to her senses, but in reality it’s like losing a sense or an ability. Let me explain a little. Other than the workaday modern English I speak and write every day, I’ve studied in some depth another six languages to varying degrees of competency. Of those six, two are modern, living languages. I can’t call myself fluent in either, but I’m intermittently articulate in French (I can read it better than I speak it, and understand better than I speak) and stolidly, unimaginatively practical in German (I can ask the way to the library, order a pint of beer or a cup of coffee, make small talk about whether it will snow). To lose one’s faith is like discovering that one can no longer speak a word of a language one was once fluent in; there’s a sudden, gaping, aching void where the skill used to be. It feels akin to what I imagine certain kinds of brain injury might feel like; a leg, an arm, half your face, no longer at your command. The emotional pain of such a loss is not unsubstantial, and the frustration is vast.

Here are some ways I have lost faith:

I’ve lost faith in myself.

I’ve lost faith in humanity.

I’ve lost faith in the divine.

The loss of faith in myself is complex and painful. If I can use an example from my writing history to explain what I mean, it may help, but it goes beyond writing and enters every area of my existence. I’ve written most of my life and have never felt the desire or the need to “go and do a course.” In honesty, I am far from convinced they are a good idea, but I shall keep my more inflammatory opinions quiet. Whenever I began a book, I had a deep inner certainty that somehow or other, the book would write itself; I just needed to get out of the way and let it flow. I had no doubts that my own unconscious was capable of producing the story and the characters would be close to what Robert Holdstock called “mythagos”, that is archetypal beings that are shaped by both the narrator and the narration. If I had concerns about where the story was going, or how it might end, they seldom lasted; I trusted the process, that the story itself knew where it was going and how to get there. I believed in myself as a writer.

But that belief, that faith, has ebbed away under the sheer weight of confusion brought about by the intense and competitive world of writers jockeying for position. There are thousands of articles, memes, Facebook posts, courses, blogs, and even books, on How to Write, on what good writing is (or isn’t) and so on. I stopped reading them quite a while ago, sometimes giving in and checking out articles because, frankly, FOMO* (* Fear of Missing Out) but the damage is done. The worms are in my head, gnawing away at my self-belief and shitting doubt everywhere. It’s futile to say, Good writing is writing that YOU enjoy, when there’s a million other interpretations and opinions. I’ve always had trouble keeping strong psychic boundaries (most empaths struggle this way) but it’s caused me paralysing self-doubt that no amount of reassurance seems to be able to stem.

Losing faith in humanity is not hard to understand; to have access to a television or to the internet is enough to leave one weeping in despair. I will not list the things that we, as human beings, ought to be hanging our heads in shame for, because they are too many and too depressing. The single fact that a certain troll-like US business man with a terrible wig, has even been considered as a candidate for president, is in itself proof that humanity has not reached adulthood; the British equivalent, the former major of London, proves that this is a world wide thing. I could throttle people who say, “Oh I like Boris, he’s funny and he’s entertaining.” He’s not; he’s a man who veers closer to true (but hidden) evil and laughs in our faces for falling for the buffoon act. History may show quite how mistaken people have been.

Losing faith in the divine is something I ought to be used to by now but I’m not. It feels more like the death of someone close and very dear to me, than a cessation of belief. I’ve never been orthodox in my beliefs, nor yet comfortable with the simplistic set of beliefs that seem to be the norm. I used to find that in silence and in solitude, the sense of Other became clear to me. Now there is just a resounding silence, an echoing void of nothingness. On the odd occasion I attend corporate worship, the sense of void is even greater, and it underlines how alone I feel. For those who dismiss God as “an imaginary friend”, often said with contempt (citing various biased studies that suggest people of faith have lower IQ than atheists) I can only suggest that however imaginary that deity may be to you, it was very real to me. For without that sense of Other, I cannot find a way to live than does not leave me lost, alone and frightened, without purpose or meaning or future.

I do not ask for advice or sympathy here; understanding would be pleasant. I’ve been frustrated by my inability to express the depth of the pain of no longer being able to write; I cannot, as one commenter suggested in a previous post, just write for myself, or move on and leave the whole thing behind, go and do something more fruitful instead. I’ve begun to realise that perhaps, like with the concept of faith, losing faith is not something you can really grasp unless it has happened to you; the metaphors and similes can only reach so far. Experience is the most ruthless of educators, and much as I wish for understanding, I would not wish the experience needed for that onto anyone.