Summer is for reading…

Summer is for reading…

On average I read about two books a week. That takes into account the times when I don’t read much at all and those times when you can’t prise my fingers away from the book. I’ve been reading a lot of non fiction recently, working my way through various Jungian tomes, plus everything from Dion Fortune I can get my hands upon. I’ve also rediscovered Dennis Wheatley. My mother in law mentioned being so scared by The Haunting of Toby Jugg she couldn’t sleep (and never finished the book either) that I bought a second hand copy and roared through it. In the decades since the height of his fame, people have forgotten what a great storyteller he was and how superb he could be at hooking the reader into the story. I’ve ordered a second hand copy of one of his most famous novels but I intend to read it in broad day light. I found Toby Jugg a good read but it didn’t scare me much. I have strong nerves when it comes to the supernatural.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few gems I’ve enjoyed recently.

The first is Can of Worms by Paul Trembling.  This is an excellent book if you enjoy forensic/police procedural novels; it carries a ring of psychological truth that most such books don’t. Which is one reason why I seldom read them; the characters are too often card board cut outs and lack depth and reality.

Second I read ages ago but still love: Walker by Jane Alexander. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s labelled Young Adult (don’t get me started on this unnatural distinction created by genre-making publishers). The main character might be a teen age boy but the novel is one I think adults interested in shamanic ideas may well find enthralling. The plot draws you in and keeps you reading till the end comes only too quickly.

Third, again something I read ages back, Educating the Human by Kay Sluterbeck.  I’d call it soft sci fi but as a gentle, very human read that explores all sorts of things such as a sentient house, it’s a read that doesn’t go in for dog fights in the stars or violence.

Still on the sci fi, there’s Return of the Sagan by Neil O Donnell Harder edged sci fi, this has a main character who suffers with OCD. The novel explores what it means to be human in a space age setting; I found it touching how movies and books (like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) from our era had become classics that people referred to much as we might reference Shakespeare. I’m not a huge sci fi fan, but I enjoyed this because I was really rooting for Francis, the hero of the story, that he might overcome both his external and internal challenges.

Next, two books in a series by Ailsa Abraham.  Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum explore our world in the not-too-distant future, where the original organised religions have been banned from being practised in public. When I first came across the idea for these books, I was rather concerned, but in the context of the novels, the reasons and the results are revealed. I especially liked the two main characters Iamo and Riga.

I’ve already recommended Philippa Rees’s Involution but if you fancy tackling her other published work, A Shadow in Yucatan , I’d recommend that highly. Beautiful poetry weaves a very poignant and powerful novel. Read it aloud to yourself lying in a hammock on a hot day. I have beta read Philippa’s unpublished novel that isn’t poetry this time and I hope that one day it’ll be released too. She has a knack of writing deep stuff in a lighter manner than is sometimes exquisitely funny.

Anything by Gev Sweeney is a good read too. I read Beethoven’s Wife in Austria in February and loved it.

A final book, but one I haven’t read. Richard Pierce has written several excellent novels. Dead Men was short listed for the Guardian first book award, and it’s an excellent novel. However, in the wake of yet another fifty shades of cough cough cough, if you were looking for something a bit racy, then Richard’s book The Failed Assassin  might be right up your street. It’s not a genre I read but the reviews look good; it’s billed as an erotic thriller. Give it a go if that’s your thing. If you like a mystery, then his Bee Bones  is a good read too.

I’ll add at the very end that The Bet is currently on special offer (see previous post) for just 99p. Or £1.99 if you’re watching this on Dave. (UK readers will get that joke; for everyone else, I apologise!)

Have a wonderful summer reading.

Summer Solstice Sale

Welcome to midsummer.

Long days and short nights

Reading in the shade, reading on the beach.

Reading on the train or on the ‘plane.

Reading by the pool, reading in the garden.

Just for a few days, The Bet is on sale for a measly 99p. You can’t buy an ice lolly for that, and an e-book won’t melt in the sun, but perhaps the hero might melt even the coldest of hearts. It goes up to £1.99 in a couple of days; you can buy a lolly for that but it might last 15 minutes if you try. Then it goes back to its original and very reasonable price.

Give it a try!

PS For those who have read it and loved it, I’d really appreciate passing on this post by reblogging or tweeting or just mentioning it to friends, and reviews are always welcome.


Take me deeper

Take me deeper

Take me deeper, I beg you.

I’m tired of paddling in the shallows,

Surrounded by squealing children

Wielding plastic buckets and spades,

Collecting sea weed and empty shells

And bright polished sea-glass

Mimicking treasure and gemstones

And barnacle-encrusted pirate loot.

I’m weary of the rock pools,

Their once-magical grottos

Of anemone and blennies

Are far too familiar now,

Their wonder dog-eared, faded.

There is no danger here,

Even nippy crabs or jellyfish stings

Do not daunt me.

Take me deeper, please,

Take me to where the Kraken

Waits, where the water turns

From blue to black

And light is lost.

Take me to where the wrecks rot,

And forgotten lands, drowned

By inundation and hubris

Still stand on ocean floor.

Time Travel and Necromancy: the easy way.

Time Travel and Necromancy: the easy way.

No, I haven’t gone over to the Dark Side with Dr Who. Chance would be a fine thing. I’ve been following my nose as a part of a project that is as much intuitive as it is nebulous, and I’m hoping to share a snippet of some of my discoveries. After all, one of the items on my bio on Twitter and elsewhere is Explorer and while I think most people reading this blog don’t expect me to disappear into jungles wearing a pith helmet and a goofy smile and not reappear for months or years, I do the Explorer thing in a very different way. I explore inner worlds.

When I say, following my nose, I do mean literally. I’ve been exploring the world of the sense of smell. I’ve hung round department stores, come home often with a dozen little smelling strips (which make delightful book marks, by the way), visited perfume shops, and bought blind on line. I can honestly say I have no real clear idea of what I’m doing. Or really, why. But there’s been some extraordinary results.

First one I’d like to share concerns a perfume from The Library of Fragrance. They have created a sort of physical data base of all sorts of extraordinary scents: everything from almond or apple blossom to wet garden or whisky tobacco. I’ve been given some and have bought a few others; they’re relatively inexpensive and light cologne type fragrances. Singly, some are a little thin, or depth-less, but the beauty is you can mix and match and create something quite different by using two or more at a time. Now, I’ve managed to recreate a now-unavailable perfume Amber from L’Occitane by mixing Amber with Thunderstorm; it’s as close as makes no difference when the original is gone from sale. The Library was having a sale a few weeks ago and my daughter and I pooled our resources and bought one each. I bought Iris but when mine arrived I got a shock because it brought a ghost with it.

A kindly ghost, I must add. The scent is quite hard to describe, but it conjured someone I admired hugely as a child and who I wished I had known better as an adult. Until I sprayed Iris on me, I hadn’t know that somehow, it had been her scent. I imagine it was a mixture of things, but it immediately brought to mind my headmistress from my infants’ school, who I stayed in touch with by letter until I was 23, when she passed away unexpectedly. Looking back, I know she had had a difficult life that it’s hard for a 21st century young woman to understand; not only had she lived through WW2, she would have also lived through the radical changes before that, and the changing world that meant that when she began her teaching career, it was accepted that a female teacher would quit if she married (it was once enforced as were dozens of other things we now look at with horror). So Iris was as if she had just walked through the room; it gave me great comfort and encouragement. It’s a perfume of quiet elegance and self-deprecating strength; not exactly floral either, but with a 1920’s feel to it that’s unlike anything else. 

The next perfume was one of sheer time travel. When I was 14, I went to France on an exchange programme. On one afternoon, we were let loose in the centre of Angers, and I found myself in the market. One of the stalls was selling joss sticks and perfumes and I haggled for several items. I came away with a hair clip, a joss stick holder and a tiny bottle of deep, dark resinous looking perfume that later I was not allowed to wear at home because my mum loathed it. I loved it, and though it was very different to the kind of scent you’d imagine an English school girl wearing, it was something that had drawn me. Of course, once it was gone (lost or finished, I do not recall) I had no name for it and could never find anything like it again. Then, part of my foraging on Amazon brought this to my nets: Opening it was like stepping back forty or so years. I imagine my mother will still hate it.

Not all exploring is nice. I have had one experience recently with the scents I have been trying and it continues to haunt and upset me, because I cannot get the scent out of my mind and it’s a horrible one, truly horrible. I had been trying to find a version of amber I also remember from my teens. But this was not it. It brought to mind a person who isn’t dead but might as well be; not a complete scent but a note created by all sorts of things, and like with Iris, it was as if someone gone from my life had walked through my room. Needless to say, I had to use other scents to exorcise this memory.

I am hoping that this form of exploration will be a way of examining both memories and imagination in a manner that is quite different. It might not suit everyone but it’s been an interesting experience so far.

(For other posts of fragrance please click here  here  here or here

Not waving, not drowning: Treading Water

Treading water

I missed posting anything last week. I wonder how many people noticed. That’s not a bleat for attention, by the way, but a genuine musing on a question that has been bugging me. How much difference does it make whether I post a weekly blog or not? As in the whole spectrum of differences: to me, to you, to my books, to the whole world. I had a couple of poems in the drafts folder but I didn’t want to post them; the time didn’t seem right. I’d had a run-in with vast self-doubt some weeks before when a friend had been asking for submissions for a new poetry website he was starting. I’d sent in a handful, and immediately regretted it. Not because they weren’t good poems, or that it wasn’t a good website. I admire the chap running it and I like his poetry. But what I didn’t like was the stepping into the old role of supplicant; of being appraised and judged and inevitably found wanting. That was one reason I stopped entering poetry contests and why I stopped submitting to publishers. You might think I just need to toughen up, suck it up Buttercup and other such phrases. Maybe I do. I don’t know. That’s why self doubt is such a bitch. Perhaps what you fear about yourself IS actually true.


I’m treading water.

I’m struggling with my health, both mental and physical and I’m struggling too to filter out the effects of what has become known as inspiration porn. You know the stuff; Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest are plastered with it. The examples of people who overcame all sorts of disabilities and disasters to come back better, stronger, fitter, slimmer (SLIMMER???), the people who start a fitness regime in their 70s and become world champions, the people born without hands or feet who…. You get the picture. There’s always lots of pictures. And sound-bites. And people cheering them on. They don’t inspire me; they make me feeling guilty, a failure, a blob. The ones that start, “If I can do it, anyone can!” The ones that basically tell you that if you’re reading this (THIS? That) you’re one of the lucky ones. You know, I know I’m one of the lucky ones. It still doesn’t stop me hurting all over, and having bad days with depression where my biggest achievement is getting out of bed, showering and sitting all day hoping I’ll feel better. Again, this is not a bleat, but a statement. I don’t find the inspirational memes inspiring. I find them profoundly depressing because they actually ADD to the stigma that is levelled against those with depression and other debilitating conditions, by adding to the unconscious prejudice of human beings, that people (such as I) COULD help themselves if they just made up their mind to it and stopped being such negative nellies and made themselves sweat a bit at the gym blah blah blah.

Some of the things I’m doing while trying to keep my head above water:

1) I’ve produced a new edition of Strangers and Pilgrims, with a nice matte cover (though the same cover art, because I like it and it has significance to the book I might tell you about one day), and decent sized print, and like the Kindle edition, the errors of the first published version removed. It’s really rather lovely. It took me much longer to do that it ought to have, for all sorts of reasons, one of which is that I sell few paperbacks so the energy needed is disproportionate to the results. So far, no one has bought the new edition. QED.

2) I’ve got the collection of essays from this blog almost ready to publish. I’ve got paperback proof editions and am at the stage of weeding out any remaining issues after five people have kindly proof read it. There’s a launch party on Facebook here, though the date is currently moot because I’ve got various work commitments coming up. Do invite yourself and any friends.  I’m extremely pleased to have got this far; my brain some days is like fossilised treacle.

  1. I’ve got the next poetry collection almost ready in paperback. I need to go back and rewrite the back matter and blurb, because I realised that mentioning a Mary Oliver poem on there was unacceptable to me. I admire other poets and using their success to boost my own visibility (even though it would have been accidental) is just not right.

So, as long as it stays relatively calm I can keep treading water. If anyone could spare a life raft, life jacket or even a small boat (metaphysically speaking) it would be appreciated.