Tag Archives: make the right mark

Homecoming

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Time’s rushing by like a river. There was a hard frost on the ground this morning. I’ve been busy with work and busy with play and busy chasing hopes and dreams in between, so I hadn’t noticed winter creeping up around the edges. I was hanging suspended for a while, swaying, not sure which way to go, but you’ll be happy to know I’ve thrown up some threads and started to weave a web again. I feel steadier, less raw, less exposed – a little frost won’t hurt me now. I’ve been distracted, but there can be delight in distraction – it shows you paths you might not have seen when you were single-minded. You can come back to yourself and find a little purpose. And in the meantime, I po’ed an em.

 

Homecoming

Nothing to reproach

Sunlight sparkling on a crystal lake

Mountains folding you in a rocky embrace

And clouds floating by their greeting

You were gone too long

Don’t go away again

Everyone leaves

That’s what they say

But if you come back

The streets will welcome you

New faces will become old friends

Just show yours

Take the roads you used to ride

Gently pluck the threads

See, they resonate like musical strings

The past becomes a story

A song

The future an open book

A symphony

 

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What Happens Over Coffee With Helena Hann-Basquiat

Chai Latte

Something a bit different again this week! As I invite you to be a fly on the wall. The inimitable Helena Hann-Basquiat invited me for a coffee, and this is what happened… One thing I will say before I hand over to Helena – make sure to click the PUBSLUSH link at the very, very end. Anyone who isn’t yet a Dilettante fan is in for a treat!

In October 2014, Sara Litchfield released her first novel, The Night Butterflies. Helena Hann-Basquiat currently has a Pubslush campaign taking pre-orders for Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two, and is also publishing a Shakespearean-style play, a tragi-comedy called Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. They sat down across International Time Zones to chat.

Overheard over coffee at Helena’s…

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Well, Sara, this time zone thing is quite strange. So I’m going to ask what everyone in the Western Hemisphere wants to know — what are tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers?

me2

I’m afraid I’m keeping that under my hat! I don’t want to mess with the space-time continuum.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Timey-wimey and all that. I get it. Now, I’d offer you a beverage, but as it’s kind of tea time for you and nearly bed-time for me, I’m not sure what to offer. I did have the very strangest drink this evening, by a soda company called Jones Soda — it was Peanut Butter and Jelly flavoured soda.

me2

Well, with my nut-allergy, I’ll definitely pass on that! Wrong on so many levels! A cup of English breakfast is always my preference, though I do fancy a chai latte now and again as a treat.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Would you believe that it was NUT FREE???? Worrying, I’d say. I’m glad I tried it, but I never want another again. And Chai lattes are a special treat now and again, aren’t they?

me2

Haha no way – and I’m still not tempted.. But a chai is deeeelicious.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

So, I confess, I’ve been looking forward to sitting down and talking to you ever since I finished Night Butterflies — but life and time zones, and Pubslushes and such. But here we are.

me2

It’s a pleasure! Sorry I’ve been hard to pin down myself, moving country every two weeks… Congratulations on the campaign being live!

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Thank you – yes, your vagabond lifestyle has definitely kept you in the wind. Did you get any inspiration from travelling? Any new insights?

me2

Definitely – the funniest ideas come to me when I’m sleep-deprived and in transit for one! But I also try and capture the feeling of excitement I get on entering a new country, with the boundless possibilities lying in the landscape, and try to pin that feeling into words – I want people to feel that kind of excitement when they turn a page of my books-to-be.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Sleep deprivation tends to be an inspiration for me. The last three days I’ve woken in the middle of the night, and after tossing and turning for a couple hours, I start dreaming up story ideas. Sometimes I ask myself the strangest questions – like, “What if Jessica B. Bell had written The Velveteen Rabbit?”

me2

Haha! Gosh, maybe she did! That is one creepy piece of work…

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Wait ’til I’m done with it…

me2

Was your Star-Crossed (People of the Manatii) idea a middle-of-the-night episode?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

NO… would you believe the genesis of that came from my daughter? She had come to me with a story idea about an island of women, and mermaids and such — and I dumped in a spoonful of Lord of the Flies, an ounce of Heart of Darkness, and just a pinch of Call of Cthulu and Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, and it became something a bit more mature. She still helps be brainstorm stuff for it every now and again.

me2

That’s amazing!! I wish I’d kept a log of some of the out-of-the-box ideas that came to me as a child – I’m sure I could work with them now! I can see those elements – and having been privileged to sneak a peek at the first part, I am so over-excited to read the next!

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

All good things… now, you and I happen to share a favourite book — do you want to talk a bit about how Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 influenced Night Butterflies?

me2

Well, from the starting line in both – we’re playing with fire. Burning, on so many levels, permeates TNB as well as F451 – burning up, burning out, incineration of ideas and hope.. And there’s a return from an internal inferno – a revolution against turning free-thinking to ash.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I saw a lot of parallels in terms of blind acceptance — in Fahrenheit, people voluntarily drug themselves to accept the state of society — it’s a bit harsher in Butterflies. I also saw a lot of Faber — the retired university professor from Fahrenheit — in Butterflies. That sort of shell-shocked, cowardly response. Hiding from the truth of things.

me2

Yes – there’s definitely a retreat and regression, partly-medicated but partly from the loss of a will to fight on. And you have people playing the opposite of their roles – Mothers who are not nurturing, leaders and scientists who are not improving or progressing welfare, just as firemen are starting fires, not quenching them – hurting people rather than helping.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Oh, what a great way to put it – that role reversal. Forgive me if I’ve asked before, but have you read Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos? (Readers might be familiar with the film version Village of the Damned). The kids in Butterflies are every bit as creepy as the kids from Cuckoos.

me2

No but I know the film! And when you mentioned it, it went straight on my to-read list!

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Brilliant. And Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood. Big influence on me – in fact, I once described the whole People of the Manatii trilogy as a mix of Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies and Lovecraft. A strange mix, but I’m a strange person.

me2

Ah I’d agree with that – the description of the book rather than you! Atwood is a massive influence. The Handmaid’s Tale is a story that stays with you. Have you read Oryx and Crake?

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Yes, and Year of the Flood — but haven’t read the newest one in that line. She’s a force of nature. But then, so are you, I think. You, like our mutual friend Lizzi, seem bent on making the world a better place. Can you tell me what brought about this philosophy of yours — the whole Right Ink on the Wall idea?

me2

Ah! To be mentioned like that along with Atwood & Lizzi is beyond compliment thank you! The philosophy of Right Ink On The Wall began as the story behind my editing business. I believe in the power of naming, and I just really wanted to convey in a play-on-words the idea that what we do matters. That the world is like a wall on which we leave our mark. And that whatever we write, whatever we do – we should remember that it is recorded, and aim to leave the right sort of ink behind us for others to witness, encouraging them to live a life of ideas as well – one worth reading. The root is the doom-laden phrase ‘the writing on the wall’, which I reclaimed in a fashion – we may have these short lives, but that gives us a reason to really live. Lots more on the background here if you want to go a bit deeper – http://rightinkonthewall.com/2013/08/whats-in-a-name/

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I think it’s an excellent reminder. I’ve left such a mess behind, I’m trying to embrace it ironically and hope no one notices. But speaking of the past, I really go into it with Volume Two of Memoirs. I remember you and I just happened to stumble into each other on line when I was writing one of the more painful stories.

me2

Ah yes, but you can really learn something from making a mess. And sharing your past makes one hell of a read! Very excited to receive Volume Two. When I first spied you on that Valentine’s, it was literally love at first read. If I remember a’right, both instalments of the story were freshly-pressed – it blew so may people away. So if that’s the stuff Volume Two is made of, I’ll start stock-piling tissues now!

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

I do feel like I picked up a better stride with Volume Two, as far as storytelling goes. But don’t worry, there are plenty of laughs as well. I can’t stand just one flavour. Always have to keep moving on to the next thing. So what do you have on the go at the moment? Any new writing projects?

me2

I look forward to the laughs as well then! Well, I have a fantasy trilogy in the telling, tentatively-titled The Luminosa… Another dark world where the question is whether hope can win out in the end…

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Well, like Penny says, ‘It’s all about the trilogy, bitches…”

Have you done much writing on it? Or is it still in the brainstorming stage? Part two – how much planning do you usually do before you just dive in?

me2

Well I wrote the first draft of the first book during NaNoWriMo, as I did for TNB – so there’s a hot mess there to tidy up! Parts 2 and 3 require some heavy-duty brainstorming, which will be a departure from my norm – which is minimal planning, maximum pantsing, seeing where the words take me.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

It can be surprising. I started writing this morning, not knowing exactly where it would go — I just had a scene in my head and about 3/4 of the way through I suddenly realized what I had, and the excitement just took over. But I can’t say any more about that just yet…

me2

Ooh, the suspense! I never know what you’re going to come out with next – you seem able to master so many styles / genres – so it’s always very exciting!

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

You know, I actually don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working on a project! And I’m thrilled that we’re going to get to work on one together very soon! Sounds like we’re both going to have exciting years.

me2

Absolutely! I can’t wait to see what comes out of it! Thank you for inviting me on board the Dilettante express.

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

Okay, a couple of random questions:

a) Blue and Black or White and Gold and b) You go to a record store. You have London Calling by The Clash, Small Change by Tom Waits, Automatic for the People by R.E.M. and Let it Be by The Beatles in your hands, but you can ONLY buy one. Which one do you buy?

me2

Oh lord, that bloody dress – white and gold. And in perfect harmony with my thoughts on a), my other answer is Let It Be!

——

 

me2Born in the English midlands, Sara earned a Masters in Theology at the University of Cambridge before becoming a reluctant big-four accountant in London. She is now recovering in the southern hemisphere, where she devotes herself to all things words and wonderful from her base in Middle Earth (sometimes known as New Zealand). She blogs on happiness and hope at www.rightinkonthewall.com, which is also home to her editing business and publishing division, RIW Press – all aim to make the right mark on the wall of the world.

http://authorsaralitchfield.com/books/

https://www.facebook.com/rightinkonthewallbysaralitchfield

https://twitter.com/saralitchfield

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8729036.Sara_Litchfield

http://www.pinterest.com/rightink/right-ink-on-the-wall-by-sara-litchfield/

CoverIt is always dark. Warmer than it should be. The sun is a dull glower of reproach, only sometimes visible through the fallout. A once-majestic university town is crumbled, ashen and divided. The Men have made their home the Facility, where they develop the medication to combat the radiation that would otherwise kill those left alive.
 –
Another day at school for Teacher. Another morning of bullying and torment from a batch of doll-like triplets more violent and unbalanced by the day. They are the nightmare product of Project Eden, the operation devised by Leader for the survival of the community, seeded in the Mothers without their consent.
 –
Teacher has hope. She has a secret. When it is uncovered by Jimmy-1, a triplet who might be different, what will it mean for his future and hers?
 –
Not just another dystopian novel. New author Sara Litchfield explores what it means to be a child, a mother and a monster in a chilling world devoid of comfort.

NOTE TO READERS:

I LOVED this book. I’d go door to door selling this book. Here’s the review I wrote on Amazon:

In a world saturated by Hunger Games clones, The Night Butterflies is a refreshing, intelligent, well written alternative to the pseudo-dystopian novels that currently fill the shelves. This is no teenage angsty love triangle story. The characters in this novel aren’t complaining that their freedom or rights have been taken from them — they are, instead, stripped of their very humanity. In a post-war world where the very air is poison, Men and Women are separated, as a mysterious Leader and his circle of Men seek to develop medicine to keep everyone alive, but also, that thing that is crucial for a species to continue — healthy procreation.
This is where they have gone wrong — as wrong as possible — and the Mothers live in fear of their cruel, compassionless, inhumane children.
But suddenly, something begins to change for a couple of the characters, and a ray of hope begins to shine. Some of the children appear to be different, and some of the Mothers appear to be waking up from the drug induced stupors they usually stay in.

Lichfield uses multiple narrators, each with unique voices, even incorporating a sort of raw patois for one of the narrators, a young man who has not learned how to speak correctly. This was an inspired choice of storytelling method, giving the reader multiple points of view, and glimpses into the thoughts, fears, and motivations of each character.

One of my favourite novels of all time is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, along with Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos, Moore’s V for Vendetta and Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. Sara Lichfield’s The Night Butterflies handles the topic of degradation and fear, and a society that has forgotten how to be human with equal skill and maturity. The rediscovery of the joys of connection with other human beings that happens with her characters is just as powerful as, for instance, Guy Montag’s awakening in Fahrenheit 451.

She is a truly gifted writer, and I will be adding this book to my list of books I read every year or so just to remind me why I read and why I write. To try — to keep trying — to create something as beautiful and inspiring as this.

—-

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettanteThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE

Available now! image06 JESSICA image07

BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

I Believe In Sunshine – A Song

The ranch

I believe in sunshine

I don’t believe in rain

I don’t believe that beating hearts

Deserve to live in pain

 –

I believe in fields of green

And flowers and starlight’s thrill

I believe in breaking free

To live and not to kill

 –

And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through

 –

I believe if we just try

This could be something new

 –

I believe that hand-in-hand

Who knows what we might do

I believe that silence can

Be the opposite of true

 –

I believe in crystal skies

In laughter’s tears not blue

I believe that one fine night

I’ll find myself with you

 –

And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through

 –

I believe that hand-in-hand

Who knows what we might do

 –

I believe the words come

When least we can expect

I don’t believe that it’s all right

To fail to be direct

 –

I believe that if we say

Exactly what we mean

Then we can spread our wings

And we can live the dream

 –

And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through

 –

I believe that word-by-word

I’ll fall in love with you

 –

And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through

 –

I believe that word-by-word

I’ll fall in love with you

(c) 2015 Sara Litchfield

1000 Voices For Compassion: A Stranger Held Me In The Street

1000Speak

Image Credit: www.theqwietmuse.com

Today is a special day. Over one thousand bloggers all over the world are raising their voices in chorus on the subject of compassion, under the label #1000Speak. They hope to inspire readers to think about it, to delve into its many facets, to ponder its meaning and makeup… But, above all, to show it. To practise as well as preach.

Over the last month of build-up, I’ve been amazed reading the compassionate content that’s ensued since the idea seeded, meeting like-minded people brought together by this common cause – championing something good in this world that is sometimes so cruel.

Then, last week, I fell out the loop a little. I moved country, again. Found a temporary home, again. I picked up old threads and more than one G&T and tried not to crash and burn in the process of coming back to a place where circumstances used to be so different, trying to block all the punches that unwelcome changes can hail on your heart. I also had some fun.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I feel things deeply. And, while we often go around trying to present our best faces to the world, sometimes we can only survive by being brutally honest, with others and with ourselves. In the circles I’ve become a part of since I started my writerly journey to authordom (fame and fortune to follow), I’ve seen people bare their souls on screen more often than I can count, not least through #1000Speak, and it is a good thing. A powerful thing.

Think about the painful things that have happened to you. Everybody has them, to whatever degree. For better or worse, these experiences, along with the good, make us who we are.

Have you ever seen someone crying in the street? Have you averted your gaze, thinking they’d rather not be bothered? Have you pitied, or even scorned? Have you really seen them, this other person who has a life just as you have a life? And have you wondered what it is they’re going through that it would evoke such a public display of their sorrow? Have you wondered out of voyeurism or from the heart? Have you stopped, or just stared and walked on, caught up in your own problems?

Reaching out to someone may be rebuffed; it certainly may not help with the actual issue. But it may make that someone realise that things might just be okay.

Compassion is the moment a stranger holds you in the street while you cry and tells you everything is going to be all right. Just living in a world where a complete unknown would interrupt their natural absorption in their own life and the lives of their nearest and dearest to reach out an unsolicited but comforting hand makes me hopeful, despite all the horrible, ugly things that can happen around us.

Use your experience of pain to make you more sympathetic to others and what they might be going through, whether they show their heart on their sleeve or not. When the same treatment – empathy, kindness, comfort – is accorded to you, you realise how much it counts. Humankind has capacity for great evil, but it also has limitless capacity for compassion. Show some compassion in your everyday life: to yourself, to your friends, to your colleagues, to a stranger on the street. And everything will be all right.

***

In the run up to publishing this post, amongst the scores of compassionate content starting to hit the webs, I clicked on Dani’s story first because I caught sight of the title. Would you like to read the other side? Would you ever hug a total stranger and mean it?

It’s not too late to get involved.

To join the group and meet the movement, go here: 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group

To sing and dance together on Twitter, tweet #1000Speak.

#1000Speak - Listen

Why I Love Helena Hann-Basquiat… Whoever S/he Is

#whereishelenaDear readers, today we have a pre-exposé. Someone big in the blogging world, whom I’ve known for a while in our online playground, is revealing their true identity. And I stand here, like Lizzi, in support, forming an advance guard.

Who is Helena Hann-Basquiat?

Someone stands behind the entrancing persona of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante. I’ve known this from the very beginning, and so has everyone else, because Helena’s never said any different. This person has made me laugh often and weep much. And I’ve read the words – in blog posts, emails, and books (wow, H is prolific!) and always gone back for more. Sometimes wondering how much, if anything, is true, but all too often so caught up in the story that the only truth that matters is already in the words and the feelings they evoke. The mystery, for me, has only ever added an extra layer of intrigue to an already interesting picture.

Helena also writes as Jessica B Bell. A persona with a second pseudonym? It tickled me too. More layers. I think anyone who knows Helena & Jessica even a little would agree that they want, even need, to be heard. And their content demands attention and discussion. And so Helena has become connected personally with people, talking from their hearts to each other, in the comments to blog and Facebook posts, and also privately. Even though she’s not Helena, and never said she was, that’s who’s been presented before us and charmed our socks off.

I can see why Helena could be conflicted about these continuing connections and deepening friendships. And I was touched to be told in advance that the Big Reveal was coming. I felt a little like I did when I once guested Helena, when she released the amazing Postcards from California. When we talked about it all, like the proverbial genie, she offered me three questions that she would answer me true. It was a privilege. But I didn’t ask.

This time around, Helena’s asked me to articulate how I feel about it all. And what I have to say is this…

The reason I love Helena Hann-Basquiat, whoever s/he is, is that I’ve always been talking to a person with a heart and a soul and a voice, someone who has told stories and listened to mine, and been genuine in their intentions and interactions – whatever face they’ve presented me with. And I look forward to being entranced by many words to come from this unique voice, whoever’s name signs it off.

Have you ever had a friend with a secret identity? Join Helena’s unmasking tomorrow at Sisterwives and meet an amazing one.

Show Compassion – Save A Teddy Bear

Nicki

Meet my teddy bear, Nicki (an avid reader). I’ve had him since I was born in Coventry, at which time he was bought in Hamley’s. And that’s a long time ago, as I’m turned thirty now (the Internet says so, so it must be true). I love him in a way I love no other inanimate object. A teddy bear can be so much more than a possession. A childhood companion, friend – even family. Nicki’s come with me round the world, when many of my friends and family could not fit in my suitcase, so, in a way, I’ve spent more time with him than anyone. I’ve lost many things – but I’d be heartbroken to lose him, and I’m fully grown now (perhaps even shrinking, which, at five foot nothing, doesn’t seem fair). Losing him as a child would have been Armageddon.

Compassion can wear many coats, but it often involves placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, and doing what one can to make those shoes more comfortable for their original occupant. I know many people who don’t adore social media – it’s not their cup of tea. For others, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m one of the latter – ever sold on Facebook since someone found my wallet in the street and then found me on FB so they could send it back to me, from Edinburgh to London, declining my reimbursement of postage.

A post popped up yesterday comparing Facebook to a fridge – you know nothing’s changed, but you go and open it every ten minutes anyway. Working on my own, online, it’s often a welcome break that can clear my mind for a few seconds before getting back to it. And sometimes, magical treats have appeared in the fridge while I wasn’t looking.

A case study in point. A child lost their teddy bear, Ratty, and the story popped up in my newsfeed because of a local trading group I belong to in sunny Queenstown. It made me happy (not the child losing their teddy bear – I’m not a monster – but the story’s ending. Hmm, spoiler). This adorable photo is reposted with permission.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.43.21 am

People sympathised. And someone who’d seen a stray bear piped up. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the one.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.43.30 am

But then another did the same. And it was.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.43.34 am

Compassion can be big or small. It still counts. It can be a case of being big now, but remembering how much bigger small things were, when you yourself were smaller. It can be not walking past something that is lost, ignoring it because it is meaningless to you, but instead picking it up, because you know that it is meaningful to someone else.

Another treat in the fridge today? A case study from Lizzi, to whom compassion is first and second nature. It was sparked by seeing someone putting themselves in someone else’s running shoes. Look around you. Is there someone doing the same? Could you help? Is there a teddy bear lying in the corner, lost and alone? Maybe pick it up.

Join us on 20th February 2015 when 1000 voices will speak out for compassion.

To join the group and meet the movement, go here: 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group

To read some background, return to Lizzi, whose inspiring post beats like a heart in our village-centre, and check in with Yvonne, who called forth a body of builders to grow around it – now over a thousand strong.

To sing and dance together on Twitter, tweet #1000Speak.

#1000Speak - Listen

There And Back Again – Finding Direction In 2015

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Midnight 31/12/14

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Midnight 31/12/14

Happy new year! Here we are in 2015 and I hope it’s a wonderful one for you all! The festive road trip has finished and I’m back in Adelaide with much more movement to look forward to. And who knows where I’ll end up? I certainly don’t.

But that’s not a bad thing. A steady state has its comforts and attractions, but life has been a wonderful whirlwind since I left London three and half years ago, and the volatile roller coaster doesn’t seem about to stop. Coming to the beginning of a new year and looking back as well as forward – life has more highs than lows. Sometimes you just have to seek them out. Sometimes you need to take a shovel.

All I know is that it was a brilliant idea to end up in Sydney to see out the old year and in with the new – with the biggest of bangs. I adore fireworks and want to live my life like one – going off in all directions, popping, fizzing, delighting, colourful, crazy and illuminating. It doesn’t matter which way you’re going as long as you’re causing a ruckus on the way, filling as many lives as possible with light, laughter and love.

Many people will have so much they want to achieve this year, having achieved so much already – best of luck with it. Just don’t forget to stop, look around you, smell the roses, watch the sunsets, notice others, and leave the people you pass the happier for having known you. Strive as much as you like, but enrich those around you as well as yourself. Sing and dance, but invite others to add their voices and join the foxtrot. Put being plentiful in the soul before the pocket, and share.

Technically, ’tis the eleventh day of Christmas (who knew the twelve days start rather than end on Christmas day?!). So here’s a parting gift from my lovely friend and wonderful illustrator’s collection. As the familiar festive sights and scents fade away for another year, remember to keep the spirit of Christmas around and enjoy the whole twelve months ahead giving, loving and hoping. Everyone will have a better time for it.

What do you hope for this year? I hope it finds you.

Eleven Pipes Piping

(c) 2013 NKW-Illustration. All Rights Reserved.

* * *

Looking for something new to read this year? Enter the world of The Night Butterflies and join the search for hope amidst horror…002.5_Night Butterflies

Survival Of The Christmas

Christmas Lobster

Giant Lobster, Kingston SE, SA

I’m on another festive road-trip, this year OZ rather than NZ. Christmas is such a great time to take a holiday – and while I’d love to be tucked at home with family and friends in the UK, amidst cosy jumpers and twinkling trees, I also love the utter freedom of constant movement and the excitement of seeing brand new things every day. Especially the sunshine. And my year wouldn’t have been complete without Sunday’s giant lobster on the roadside.

Christmas, nestled as it is before the end of one year and the start of another, often seems a time to compare. Compare life now to this time last year; compare location, occupation, partners, possessions; compare life’s pros and cons, what’s been gained and what’s been lost.

Our first night camping, what was lost was mainly sleep. Having been sweltering over in South Australia, we took a selection of sheets but decided sleeping bags would be surplus. Wrong. The tent, positioned as it was in the centre of a vortex, winds tearing around out of nowhere, was freezing. And I hadn’t even brought layers of clothing that could ease the situation.

Last night, we recovered in a motel. Whenever I stay in a motel I feel like I’m in an episode of the X-files. But there are no aliens here. Maybe just ghosts. I’m followed around by the ghost of last year’s Christmas road-trip, which I was lucky enough to enjoy with ex-partner-in-crime. I miss him like crazy. And last week, I went to see my friend Kade’s family on the Gold Coast. Not so much earlier than this time last year, partner-in-crime and I were over there for his funeral, and I’d not been back since.

Bad stuff has happened this year – stuff I’d rather hadn’t. But it’s not ever, nowhere near, the same as really losing someone. When someone dies, it doesn’t end. It’s never over. They’re gone forever. And every Christmas, every birthday, every holiday – they bring a peak in the ever-present pain for those who were closest. Seeing everyone left behind there, wishing my friend was still around, wishing it was possible to save each person from their grief… Those are Christmas wishes that could never be granted.

But such things are utterly out of our control. They can only be suffered and survived. And where there is unending grief, friends can only be supportive. Be present. Be there.

Not so with everything. Yesterday we acquired sleeping bags so we wouldn’t have another disastrous night of cold cramps. There are certainly things in our lives that go wrong that we can learn from and correct. Some things lost can be found again. I can think of several situations a tad more dire than lack of camping equipment that, with a little motivation, I can sort out next year.

Have a ridiculous holiday. Frolic until you’re famished and feast until you’re full. But spare a thought for those without. Those without the ones who would have made their Christmas complete. My heart goes out to you if you’re one of them. And if there’s anything distressing in your life that you know is fixable, that would make life merrier in 2015 if fixed, then make the resolution to address it. We owe it to ourselves – we who are lucky enough to have a full and fantastic life to live.

In A Parallel World…

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf Bay

David Tennant with Billie Piper, Dr Who, Season 2, Episode 13

Doctor Who, Season 2, Episode 13. I woke up this morning, put on the TV while I pottered around the flat tidying up, and that’s what came on.

For non-hardcore fans, or people who aren’t fans at all (baffled face), this is the episode where Dr Who (David Tennant) is separated from his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). They are torn apart into parallel worlds through a series of events where – look, just watch the episode. But first watch all the preceding episodes so the pain of this parting isn’t lost on you.

Why has this sparked a post? Well, along with making me cry, seeing this episode again made me think.

There’s a theory that for every decision every person makes, the universe is splintered into an infinite number of parallel worlds living the realities where a different decision was made and/or a different outcome experienced.

It can be as small as thinking that, in a parallel world, this particular episode wasn’t on when I turned on the TV, which probably meant I didn’t write this particular post. It can be as large as thinking, in a parallel world, the Nazis won the war. For an infinite number of moments, an infinite number of possibilities.

In a parallel world, the alien horde didn’t pass us by last week and instead decided we were worth invading. You get the idea.

I might easily not have turned the TV on at all this morning. I don’t normally. I haven’t lived somewhere with a TV since I left London (when, funnily enough, David Tennant was still the Doctor). I wouldn’t be here in Adelaide if I hadn’t been broken up with in Queenstown. What if that hadn’t happened? I spend a lot of time wanting to go back to how it was or how it might have been, wanting it to be different. But it’s not – not in this particular world.

But, overall, I like this particular world. I’ve had the chance to travel all over it; I make a living doing a job I enjoy; I have wonderful friends; I can go wherever I want. I’m free. If I hadn’t quit my job working as an accounting professional for Ernst & Young three and a half years ago, where would I be now? Who would I be? I might never have met previous partner-in-crime at all, and we had three amazing years together with a forever of friendship to come. I might never have started my business, Right Ink On The Wall, which I love and which grows as I grow. I might never have published my book, The Night Butterflies, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

So, instead of mourning what could have been and decisions that might have been different, I’m going to focus on what could happen now, what could happen next, now this new world of infinite possibilities has opened up in this of all possible worlds. Who knows what could happen tomorrow? Or the next day? It could be beyond amazing. Given the choice in five or ten years’ time, I might decide I would never have wanted to miss it. So it’s a good job I’m here.

What parallel life could you be living?  Would you go back and change something big, if you could?

On a completely related note, I adore David Tennant. If I could have changed anything about the moment I met him, when he was filming for Einstein & Eddington at my college in Cambridge, it would be not turning into the epic failure of a fan girl who couldn’t utter an intelligent word in his presence (can you tell from my smile?!). Oh, and I would have done my hair that day.

David Tennant and Sara Litchfield

David Tennant with Sara Litchfield, St John’s College, Cambridge, May 2007

A Little Bit O’ Fan & A Wee Smidgen O’ Fare

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 7.36.07 PM

(c) 2013 NKW-Illustration. All Rights Reserved.

I feel torn into two people at the moment: Personal Me and Professional Me. They could as easily be called Whiney Me and Writer Me.

Whiney Me still has what’s left of her heart weighed down with an anchor. She wakes and huddles in the covers, limbs heavy, takes a peek into the cavity in her chest and continues to feel sad that she doesn’t miraculously feel better post break-up. She holds out hope, though, that one day she’ll wake up grinning again.

Writer Me has much to do, gearing up to win National Novel Writing Month at the end of the week and trying furiously make sense of her story, all while watching last year’s effort spread its wings and working to see opportunities blossom and scratches ratchet up in the ‘win’ column.

Of course, despite a little duality, Writer Me and Whiney Me being in essence the same person – they each have a little say in each other’s lives. Writer Me can’t help but at times find her pen a little woebegone, her protagonist a little weak, her work-in-progress a little wistful. But, meanwhile, Whiney Me can’t help but smile at some of the surprises and delights cropping up for Writer Me, and it’s those I’d rather focus on today.

So, in the spirit of cheer, here are some raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens in the form of five pieces of Night Butterflies news:

1. I had my first author interview with the lovely Sara Letourneau over at her brilliant blog. 

This was a lot of fun. Sara is one of the people I’m most happy to have met during Project Get Published. Take a peek for a look into my messy mind and some insights into the story. Sara’s also interviewed Mary Weber, author of Storm Siren – so I’m already keeping good company!

2. A short-story prequel to my novel has been published in the ‘Secrets’ issue of New Zealand magazine The Source.

This gives me thrills because it’s awesome to appear in something I always read myself, and it’s my first published magazine piece!

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3. My book is breaking into libraries.

As with all books published in the country, two copies of The Night Butterflies sit in the collections of the National Library of New Zealand. But approaching a library I frequent as a reader was a completely different experience and getting onto the shelf was such a brilliant piece of news to receive. I’d been so nervous for my first meeting as a published author when I went in to speak with the buyer for The Queenstown Lakes District Library. She kindly arranged for The Night Butterflies to be reviewed, with the result it was purchased for their collection. As far as milestones go, it’s a *big* one for me, made all the better for so many lovely people being delighted about it as well.

4. My book is having a party!

Upon reading one of Anne R Allen’s (always) valuable posts, on talent perhaps being overrated, I arranged for The Night Butterflies to be listed on Bookbzz.com. Little did I realise that posting about it would lead to the wonderful opportunity to have a virtual book party next week! And you’re all invited 🙂 It will be hosted by the lovely Nicole Grabner at The Whole Plot Thing (Facebook invite here). If you can’t make it (a little on the late side for my UK friends, sorry!), do pop over & visit Nicole’s lovely site anyway! Her book parties are just spreading their wings and I’m so happy to be a part of it all – The Whole Plot Thing is going to be a brilliant place to visit for news on fresh, engaging reads and their authors.

5. The Night Butterflies is starting to get some reviews.

So far I’ve had the book picked up by two wonderful book reviewers at Through The Wardrobe Door and A Bibliophile’s Reverie. I can’t wait for their feedback! And so far reviews are off to a promising beginning on Amazon. Garnering reviews is such a boost and so, so valuable for an independent author. If you can add to the collection, please oh please do!

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And there we have it – five things to backflip about 🙂 It’s so easy to focus on the negatives in your own life and the positives in everyone else’s. It’s wonderful being happy for your friends, but, with a little effort, I think you can find value in celebrating your own successes too.

Have two sides of your life ever taken drastically different trajectories? I think it’s important to focus on the one that’s looking up and find cause for a party where possible 🙂 On which note, do RSVP