Tag Archives: sara litchfield

Cummerbund Bandersnatch and the Desolation of Smog


A special guest here today my friends, with a special post. I daresay you’ve heard whispers of mysterious author extraordinaire Helena Hann-Basquiat here before. That’s because she’s a writer worth the knowing – but I’ll let her quirky words speak for themselves. Her Pubslush campaign has 13 days to go, and here we have a privileged sneak peek into the second volume of Memoirs of A Dilettante for your previewing pleasure…

There is a place, a dark place, just outside of the GTA (that’s the Greater Toronto Area, if you’re interested, darlings) where darkness dwells. A place where the smog hangs over Lake Ontario like a malignant force – for the Dwarves that lived there burned the fires of steel refining day and night, pumping their smoke into the sky, leaving a desolation usually reserved for such detestable places as Pittsburgh or (shudder) Cleveland. In the long dead language of the people who once dwelt there, it is called Khazad-dûm, but people today refer to it as Hamilton, and its name is spoken in hushed, fearful tones. Children are warned never to venture north of King Street in the dark, and in particular to avoid the dreaded Barton Street, where all manner of twisted creatures dwell, seeking to prey on any weak straggler who might venture into their path. It is a place of horror, where…

“Seriously, Helena?” Penny interjected.

“What?” I asked, standing firmly by my assessment.

“Well, iss not very noice, issit?” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia accused. You remember Penny, darlings. Tends to talk like a Dickensian street urchin from time to time, fancies herself something of a fashion trendsetter because of a incomparable collection of stripey socks, and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of the writing of one Mr. J.R.R. Tolkien.

“No, Penny, Hamilton isn’t very nice,” I agreed, knowing full well that’s not what she meant.

“You know full well thass not wot I meant, ya daft cow!” Penny protested passionately.

A couple of months ago, Penny and I had moved into her grandmother’s house in Hamilton in order to help look after her, and it had been an adjustment for everyone.

“Besides,” the Countess of Arcadia continued, “I fought you loiked West-day-oh.”

Westdale? Oh yes. Three coffee shops, a bakery, a shitty pub, a Pita Pit and a TCBY. What’s not to love?” I held my hand over my heart, all a-flutter.

“Hmm,” the Countess of Arcadia said, tapping a finger to her lips and looking pensive. “Interesting. How very interesting.”

I wasn’t going to bite. I had an inkling as to where this was going, having just sat through Star Trek: Into Darkness, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and two seasons of the BBC’s Sherlock on the weekend. Neither of us were feeling well, and so we loaded up on junk food and bundled our bacteria-besieged bodies in blankets and binged on Bandersnatch. Cummerbund Bandersnatch, that is, and if you want some back story on that silly sounding bit of schizophasia, it’s simple, darlings. One night, after one too many vodka and cranberries, the Countess declared her undying love for the star of Sherlock, one Benedict Cumberbatch, only in her drunkified state (drunkified is a good, fine, strong word, thank you very much, and seeing as it’s referring to a state in which one slurs one’s speech and engages in such dreadful activities as neologism, I’m standing by my use of it) she insisted (quite insistently, if I recall correctly, and I always do, darlings) that his name was Cummerbund Bandersnatch. It took, and that will forever be how we refer to the man in Casa de Hann-Basquiat.

“Fascinating,” the Countess continued, caressing her mouth as if deep in deductive thought.

“Okay,” I sighed. “What’s so fucking fascinating?”

“You seriously just swore for the sake of alliteration, didn’t you?” the Countess queried capriciously.

“You’re one to talk with your capricious queries,” I quipped.

“You need help,” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia accused, not unkindly.

“Yes, I thought we determined that,” I grinned. “Now go on, then. What do you find fascinating?”

“Ah yes,” the Countess of Arcadia (which is somewhere in the vicinity of 221B Baker Street, it would seem) resumed. “I find it fascinating that you claim to know so much about the village of Westdale, and claim to find it disagreeable and pedantic, and yet the true story of how you feel about it can be found in what you deliberately neglected to mention.”

I was driving Penny to the train station. One of the adjustments that we both had to make when we moved to Hamilton was a longer commute, and while neither of us enjoyed that very much, we tried to make the best of it.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I deflected, and then tried a different tact. “So are you going to go see the Desolation of Smaug this weekend?”

“You’re pronouncing that wrong, Helena, and you know you’re pronouncing that wrong.” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia (which is somewhere in the Misty Mountains) accused.

“How can you tell?” I asked, amused.

“Well, iss all in the bloody title, ennit?” the Dickensian street urchin that contrarily fancies herself a Countess replied. “You’re sayin’ it to rhyme with fog, but it don’t go loik that, does it? And Smaug don’t live in the Misty Mountains, neither. ‘E lives in the Lonely Mountain. And don’t fink I ‘aven’t noticed that you’ve, loik, changed the bleeding subject, you devious dilettante!”

I snickered into my coffee, nearly spilling it and driving us off the road.

“I thought you hated Tolkien,” I reminded her.

“I do,” Penny admitted. “Horrible writing. Archaic, laughable plot devices and in terrible need of an editor – but that man’s voice…”

“Cummerbund Bandersnatch,” I volunteered.

“Thass the one, ‘Elena, my love, my sweet,” she agreed with a lusty grin. “That beautiful man’s glorious voice melts my knickers, it does. And ‘e’s voicing the dragon Smaug, so…”

“I see,” I said plainly.

“Now,” the Countess resumed, composing herself. She may or may not have wiped a string of drool from her lips. “Back to the matter at hand. You deliberately neglected to mention the following bits of information concerning the village of Westdale, which you claim to find boring and uninteresting. One – Westdale has a charming little theatre, which I happen to know that you love, because you have chosen to see not one but three films there lately as opposed to seeing them at the giant cineplexes. Two – Westdale has not one but two comic book stores, and I can’t help but notice that you are not behind in reading Saga or Unwritten – so tell me, Helena – where have you been buying your comics, huh?”

“Well, I…” I began, but was immediately interrupted.

“Three!” The Countess continued presenting her damning evidence against me. “Adjacent to one of these comic book stores is a wonderful little used book store that has the TARDIS-like quality of being much larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Why, you could get lost in there for days perusing all those wonderful books.”

“Okay, okay, so what’s your point?” I asked, and she ignored me.

“Four!” Penny persisted. “You love one of those coffee shops you so surreptitiously dismissed. Any time we’re even in the vicinity, you’re all Hey, Penny, you wanna go to My Dog Joe? I submit that you are over-compensating, my dear. I have used my highly tuned powers of deduction to see through your ruse!”

“Have you, now?” I replied, amused at her amusement.

“Indeed.” Penny insisted.

“Indubitably.” I agreed.

“Yes. Quite.” The Countess Penelope of Arcadia counted, affecting a posher, more Windsor Castle-like accent. “And we are not amused.”

I laughed. “Oh, you are so amused, darling – admit it.”

Penny smiled at me. “Well, perhaps we are a touch amused. That does not mean I won’t call for your head if you do not agree to accompany me to the film this weekend!”

“So now I have to go with you?” I asked.

“But of course,” the Countess Arcade stated regally. “Who will protect me from the rabid Tolkienites?”

I sighed, “You’re going to wear your FUCK TOLKIEN t-shirt, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, but only because my TOLKIEN WAS A LAZY, UNIMAGINATIVE PRAT shirt got destroyed during that melee at the Role Playing Gamer’s convention, and I thought you promised you’d never bring that up again, thank you very much for re-opening those old wounds.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, completely deadpan.

“Apology accepted, Captain Needa,”[1] the Countess replied in her best Darth Vader (which wasn’t very good, and to be honest, still had a trace of the cockney street urchin in it, if you can imagine that). “But just for that, you’re paying for the tickets.”

“Very well,” I complied.

“And popcorn,” Penny amended.

“Okay,” I agreed.

“And ice cream after the show,” the Countess demanded.

“We’ll see,” I said, as if she were four and not twenty-something.

“And then can we go mini-golfing?” Penny asked, deliberately upping the ante. “Or on pony rides?”

“You just keep pushing it, young lady,” I said in mock parental tones, “and we’ll be spending the weekend giving sponge baths at the old folk’s home.”

The Countess threw me a pathetic looking pout, and we both broke out laughing.

All things considered, it was good to be young and insane.

[1] To complete the trifecta, a Star Wars reference. After Darth Vader kills Captain Needa, he then accepts the man’s apology. You didn’t see that kind of badassery in those horrible prequels.


If you want to read more, BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

Available now! image06 JESSICA image07

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



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.



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



Sir Terry Pratchett – A Thank You

Terry Pratchett


My thank you sounds out from upon a disc, which sits upon the backs of four elephants, who stand on the back of a giant turtle, named Great A’Tuin. Who knows what he makes of this turn of events.

My thank you is so loud and so heartfelt that it can hopefully cross oceans without falling off the edge, cross universes without becoming lost in translation, cross even the borders between life and death without getting lost.

Every Hogswatch for a long, long time, I received a staple gift from the Hogfather – the latest Terry Pratchett, the latest Discworld feast for the senses. In this universe, words do more than meet your eyes – they get inside your mind and take up residence there. They treat the place like their own and turn things upside down and inside out and make you crease with laughter and tears more often than you’d think any combination of words in any collection of works possibly could. Words that are seriously funny, but also seriously clever. And, sometimes, seriously serious. There is often a message in the madness, scathing satire in the sands.

If I can make a scratch on the wall of the world even a millionth in depth of the mark made by Terry Pratchett, I will have achieved something. Books that make me laugh out loud, but also make me stop and think, but also make me grieve, but also make me cartwheel at the triumph of craft are among my most treasured possessions – thanks to Discworld, I have whole shelves of them.

It’s heartbreaking, of course, that there’ll be nothing new from someone taken too soon – that’s a refrain I’ve heard a lot these past days. But, oh my life, who else has left us so much? Terry Pratchett knew how to make moving pictures with words. He knew the colour of magic. Thanks to him, we can read all about it in the words he’s left behind. Words with a life of their own. So, thank you, Terry Pratchett, thank you for every single word.

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?


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.


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?


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.


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?


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?”


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…


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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 – https://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.


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?


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?


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…


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.


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?


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.






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.


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


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


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

A is for Adelaide, B is for Beauty, C is for Compassion


I came to Adelaide three months ago, a little bit broken. I’m leaving now, a little, well, less so.

This is due in part to an unwillingness just to curl up in a corner and not participate in the world, in part to the uplifting beauty to be found all around, but, most of all, it is due to compassion.

Compassion is someone holding out their hands rather than putting them behind their back. It is someone offering you their home rather than muttering a platitude. And then putting up with you every day in that home, while you un-mire yourself.

It is patience; it is kindness; it is observance. It is empathy; it is companionship; it is hope.

The world is a mess. It is depressing. Sometimes, it seems hopeless. The news is overwhelming. The small hurts and the big hurts form a league of reasons to bury your head in the sand.

I read a post a few days ago that made me dig myself out of the sand, because I saw others sitting up, taking note, and doing it too. Within a week, there are so many people digging that tunnels through the world, connecting all sorts of countries and people have appeared. Pop through those tunnels and you find writers worth knowing – because a common strand has resonated with them and tied them together. And it’s the idea of compassion.

Showing compassion, and talking about it, writing about it, championing it – this is one way to make the right mark on the wall of the world. It is one way we can lift up the people around us, rather than trampling them, rather than ignoring them. It is a call to action. So that more and more people can feel the vibrations, pop their heads out of their sand patches, and start digging themselves.

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

To join the group and start digging, go here: 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group

To read some background, go to meet Lizzi, who first popped her head out the sand, and go to meet Yvonne, who picked up the first shovel.

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

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.

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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