Total Pageviews

Friday, 18 April 2014

My new inspiration: Meet Zane Conroy



Zane Conroy





Life changes for all of us, sometimes slower than we'd like it to. But the big changes, the seriously major impacts usually happen very fast. Sometimes that change is precipitated by a split second decision, like diving into water and breaking your neck on a sandbar.

X-ray showing the damage from the impact to the spine.


Meet Zane Conroy, a young South African who did just that. The accident left him a paraplegic, with day-to-day living costs that are truly horrific. Most people would be depressed, bitter and angry at being dealt this hand. (Hell, I still sulk when my leg acts up.) Zane still acts as inspiration and touch-stone for his friends and family, and they are raising funds for him by doing a 4000km bike ride across Australia. Now THAT's love, people - and when I did this interview with him, I understood why.



Zane and Glendon, before the accident




1.  Let’s start with the easy stuff – coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Chocolate or meat? Horror or comedy?
Both
Neither
Both
Comedy - Do the above answers give it away? :)




2.   Give us your top three phobias?


I've never been asked that before. Ha, but if I had to answer I'd say:
1. Drowning (which I nearly did on the night of the accident - luckily faced that fear).
2. Bad driving.
3. When someone moves something in my bedroom/home without me knowing...then going to use it and it's not there. I'm a bit OCD like that haha. But I believe - "A place for everything and everything in it's place".



3.  And the good stuff – top three dreams?


Yay! I like this interview.
1. Walk again!
2. Walk again!
3. Walk again!


:)


But if I had to give another dream, it would be to live long enough to have a gathering of every single person I ever met all at one place :)
Zane and Eddie

Amaal and Zane


4.       Your mates are raising funds for you, you suffered devastating injuries in a freak accident a few years ago. What can you tell us about yourself and what happened to you?


I'm a very easy going guy, adventurous and usually up for anything. I really enjoy to laugh and smile - it sounds cheesy but it's truly natures best medicine. I'm enjoying regular doses of it to this day. I'm loyal I'd say, woof :D No seriously, my friends may or may not know, but I actually adopt them as family. Being an only child I think has a lot to do with that, but what I know in my heart, is that these friends/family members love me very much, and knowing that is truly an invisible feeling more valuable than any currency that exists or that will ever exist - I mean just look at what they're doing!? Its two syllables - Awe-Some!!
My injury has been physically devastating. Not only can't I walk, but I don't have the use of my hands either, they're also paralyzed. Not being able to grasp an object, walk around or even do the simplest of tasks like shower, eat or get into bed can take a toll on one’s mind. But, that's the very thing I'd like to be completely grateful and joyful for - I still have my mind. Not sure if you've seen the movie "Ray"? About Ray Charles' life? Well, he learned when he lost his sight, that his hearing improved dramatically as well as his sense of awareness. The same applies with me. Upon losing my physical ability to walk etc., I've found my mind has amplified a whole lot more! It sounds corny but I truly do observe so much more and wait for it, the finer things in life :)


Gathering of friends - Good Times!


5.       What is it like experiencing such an injury? During the accident, during recovery, and now in every day life?


What if I told you that, the injury itself as it happened, allowed me to experience "relativity"? That's rhetorical don't worry :)
You know Einstein's theory, sit on a hot plate it feels like hours. Go on a date with a hot guy/girl, feels like milliseconds by the end of it. The same happened to me. As I broke my neck I knew I was paralyzed. I then realized while I was face down in the water, busy drowning, I couldn't flip myself over and was going to die unless someone flipped me over. My Brother (friend), Amaal, did in fact flip me over and saved my life. All of which happened in the space of about 30 seconds - this, felt like an eternity! The most profound thing was, that I was ready to go. I had no regrets and was actually smiling at the notion of going right there and then. My entire life was analysed and scrutinized by my brain, mind and thoughts - it was as I said, relativity. Pretty cool huh. Well, I thought it was. Look I'll level with you, by no means am I ok with being so badly hurt or being disabled for the rest of my life, but it has taught me how strong a person can be and what true determination is. What insane levels of love and friendship that exist in this world - & by insane I mean amazing, awesome, genuine, moving and uninventable (yes I just made that up).
Recovery is extremely slow and limited. It can be disheartening to get a twitch in your toe after two years and see that as progress! But, it gives me reason to train hard (physiotherapy), dream big and open my mind to the unimaginable.
Everyday life is, to be honest, fun. I've discovered a new passion of mine which is to be outside in the garden, growing plants and veggies. So I get ready, exercise, work outside, research/read, eat, listen to music and best of all laugh with friends and family :)




6.   The team is riding across a large part of Australia by bike to raise funds for you. Are we talking bicycle bike here? What does this mean to you?


Indeed we are! I say to people my friend Alex is CYCLING or riding his BICYCLE from Perth to Sydney! The expressions are priceless! It's 4000km over a month or so. He has to average around 130km per day - it's seeerious going.
But, if I know Alex, it's that he has an incredibly strong and focused mind. I've enjoyed many a chats with him about the "unimaginable realm". We spoke of this ride over two years ago, and it was at that moment, that Alex gave me inspiration beyond his own understanding. Good thing I was sitting in a wheelchair else I would have fallen over! It was an incredible moment that I had shared with him and if Alex ever gets to read or hear this interview, he will very well know that his courage to achieve the unimaginable has etched INSPIRATION into my soul for all eternity... I will be forever grateful and am still completely amazed he has taken on this mammoth task to also raise funds for me and my wellbeing. I'm truly honoured to know him.

4000 kms ON A BICYCLE. OUCH!

Zane - never stops smiling.


7.   What do you think the challenges will be on the ride, and how will the guys cope?


Challenges will be the heat, no doubt. The sitting in the saddle will become very uncomfortable. Hydration and correct food intake will be tricky too. But after having spoken with Alex about it, I know in my heart he has the ability to push past the physical realm and achieve whatever his mind and heart desires. Of course, I feel I can sleep extremely well at night knowing that our Awesome Sickpunk friend Eddie (that was a term of endearment hehe), is trailing behind him in a motor home with supplies and probably beer - knowing Eddie, I know Alex is in very safe hands.



8.       Where can people follow the team during the ride? (twitter, Facebook etc.)


There is a blog that will be updated during the ride. It's actually on the website itself:


Glendon can provide invites to "Like" the Facebook page I'm sure.


9.   How can people help? (links, donations, supplies)


Help would be hugely appreciated by donating on the website at:




Other ways can be to spread the word of what the incredible power of friendship has :) 
If I may, just end off by saying a massive thank you to the other awesome people involved in this amazing story of friendship, family and down right, love of/for people. Glendon Evarts, Simone Daniel-Watkiss, Jonny Morris, Eddie Silver and of course Alex Watkiss, what an incredible bunch of people. Thank You! & check them out at:




As for you, Janet, thanks for your time and effort to ask me the questions and take an interest in the story, cheers!


Then, a BIG thank you again to Chris Niarchos, your support has overwhelmed me, my friends and all my family back home in South Africa, cheers!


As for everyone who knows me, who has donated or who has been involved in this in any way... Thank you!




lol (lots of laughs) :)

Zane

                       ********************************************
It's not often I post an interview with a lump in my throat, but this one has done it. Zane, you inspire me. May all your dreams come true.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

That thing you do… my writing process

My writing buddy and up-coming Master of Horror, Jamie Schultz, tagged me up for the writing process blog. It's interesting because it's not one of those things I've ever sat down and analysed, so I learnt a few new things about the way my mind works in writing gear.

1. What am I working on?

At the moment I'm skipping past the half-way point on Fur Thing, which is part of the Blue Moon Detective series. What that stalls, I work on the next Crescent story, which is turning out a lot darker than I ever intended. And I'm playing with ideas for a couple of good old-fashioned ghost stories; real old-school balls to the wall horror (I hope.)

I tend to let those ideas ferment for a long time, waiting for them to either turn into something useable, or fade away if I can't make them work. Then I have the opposite situation, where the ideas come through and bounce up and down screaming at me until I have to write them NOW to get a bit of peace.

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

I try and give things a bit of a twist that you hopefully don't find too often. The Crescent books fall under traditional/sword & sorcery - but the hawks are a new species, and people and interactions are complicated, and there isn't always a happy ending. The Blue Moon books feature a shifter that was born as a cat, a medicated house-cat, a vamp with serious Odin issues, a ghost that was traumatised both before and after death,  and a gay medium who adopts these people as his surrogate family when his own cut him off. And while they solve cases and help people, they all have good and bad points. I also have a fairly warped sense of humour that comes through in all of these; love and blood and oh-gods-the-world-is-ending needs a good punchline.

And of course, there's the pure slapstick, like House of F.A.R.T.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Well, according to my mother, it's all Stephen King's fault. I've always been drawn to horror and fantasy. But all fiction is a fantasy, and a lot of fact is horror. I think what really drew me in was that most of the stuff I grew up reading was unique, and pushed the boundaries. Romance never made me casually sidle into the lounge to finish reading a story, where there was light and other people to choose from if anything nasty decided to visit. Westerns never made me break out in a cold sweat as my mind stuttered over sentences. I LOVED that. I wanted the ability to do that to other people, to make someone check under their bed before they turn the light out.

That doesn't mean I won't explore other genres, eventually. The mind is a playground, and I haven't finished playing in this particular sand-pit yet - and there are a lot of other places to play - and combine with each other. That's the best part about writing. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.

4. How does my writing process work?

I have a rough idea of future books, and I do a lot of research both for what I'm working on and future story lines - I took an on-line course in archeology in 2012 for one of the Blue Moon books I'm planning. I'd say 80-90% of the research doesn't show up overtly in the books. It's background, and it's how I paint the world and drive the characters, but it's more important that I have the knowledge ticking away in the back of my mind.  (Although researching weaponry and symbolism probably put me on a number of watch-lists, and the non-fiction part of my library would make the average profiler wet themselves.)

The actual writing part is trickier; and it's pretty much time-defined. My handwriting is terrible - drunken spider attempting the hokey-pokey kind of illegible - so I type everything. I used to handwrite all my stories as a kid, until my mom gave me her old typewriter. Doing shorthand in college did not do my handwriting any favours.

I'm a pantser - I know what the plan is, but I've tried writing outlines in the past and my characters tend to ignore them. Then again, I've never had a story go exactly to plan - once the characters start talking and moving, all pre-conceived notions are as much use as a pair of chocolate panties.
It's more a case of "Tell me what happened next." Which is cool, because if the story starts to bore me I figure it out immediately, and I can step in and change direction.

I have a roughly hour-long commute on London transport to work and back. With train changes and the ability to get a seat, this translates to roughly 45 minutes of writing time each way. I stick my writing playlist on and write on my phone. 30 minutes writing for lunch. Weekends are writing,  re-writing and fixing issues and typos.

Usually around the 25K mark I re-read and think that this is frigging horrible. At that point, I know I have to leave it alone and work on the other book or another story for a bit. If I go back and it still reeks, the decision is either fix or delete. 95% of the time it's fixable, and just needs a clean-up. The other 5% gets run past Stace for a yay or nay. If she wants more story, I'll give it a shot. If it's dubious or a no, I hit the delete button. (It's impossible to make that decision alone; I don't know a single writer that cruises through every book and is happy with it. Most of us get to the point where we re-read and want to curl up in a ball and suck our thumbs for a while; and you can't make a final decision at that point because you can't be objective.) On the rare occasion I've had to delete, I've taken the view that it's a positive. The next story will be stronger for the mistakes I made, and I hopefully know what not to do going forwards. Every time you write you learn and you grow, and hopefully I'll still be learning new tricks when I hit 90.

Once the story is done it heads for beta land, and I try to forget it. When I get it back, I go through it with the beta notes and fix what needs to be fixed. Then the editing process starts, and by the time you get done with that, part of you wants to set the bloody book on fire and dance around it screaming.

Then it gets ignored for a bit until the final re-read. Guaranteed this is when I find typos and issues that everybody missed, and 99% at least one still slips in when the publishing thing happens. It's annoying, but it happens.

While the story is in the final marinading stage, I work on the cover. I either paint from scratch, using CorelPainter, or I use one of my photo's and manipulate it. I have tons of pictures on my iphone and you can do amazing things with manipulating colours and light now, and it's a relaxing thing for me.

Then I have to figure out the synopsis/publishing blurb, which goes back to wanting to set the bloody thing on fire all over again.

Then I fight with tech and upload the thing. Amazon is pretty easy. Smashwords gave me a minor nervous breakdown, to the point I haven't gone near it in a while.


So there you have it - a brief view of my writing process.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Phelps & Westboro may have actually been a good thing

Here's a thought that will make a number of people howl with outrage: Fred Phelps, the unlamented preacher of fury and bile, made the world a better place.

It was probably not his intention. This was a man who thrived on negativity; who blossomed on hatred and prejudice like a noxious weed. He fed on pain and misery, and I can't imagine the horror of growing up under his roof. It is hard to have much sorrow for the dying of a man who clawed and scratched and pecked at the world like a rabid chicken, but you have to pity someone so enamoured with hatred. You had the feeling the man would cut his own throat on a street corner if he thought it would (a) get attention and (b) hurt somebody he disagreed with.

He produced banners and had his cult picket funerals to enrage and provoke, and the end result was a number of people looked at the theories and believes, the twisting of a religion to something utterly obscene, and changed their minds. You see, the saddest thing about Phelps and Westboro group is that their views were once common place. Still are, if you are unlucky enough to stumble over certain comment trails on the internet. Some people cling to hate and outrage like limpets to rocks, and it's impossible to argue with such depths of fear. Because you don't hate something unless you fear it; unless it threatens you on some level.

Phelps and the Westboro group exposed that fear for what it is: mindless, groundless, and an excuse to hurt. It's an unpleasant feeling to look at actions you find repulsive and see your own beliefs reflected in them.

 So a number of people looked at what Westboro did, and responded. They formed honour guards at funerals, raised awareness of the hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community, and surrounded those that Phelps would have victimised in their most vulnerable times with community, spirit and caring. Their actions were their own, but Fred Phelps and his hate group were the catalyst.

The website of the group appears to be its usual incoherent mess (i.e; business as usual). Let them continue. Let them continue to make the case of bile and vicious judgement, and let the rest of us respond the way we have so far, by pointing and saying: I will not follow your descent into darkness, into scrabbling and biting against the skin of decency and human goodness like a common flea.

As long as we can look at the example set by Phelps and his ilk of what not to do, they will continue to make the world a better place to be in. Long may they continue.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A week of Aaaarggh, or WTF, Universe? (Still not dead, though)

I missed last week's Sunday post because I *sigh* fell down several stairs and was too damn sore to type anything.

Considering I landed like the world's largest bullfrog, and missed breaking my own silly neck by a matter of centimetres, I'm not really surprised I spent Monday with bruises on my bruises, lurching around the office like a zombie cowgirl. (One of the bruises was from my groin to my inner knee. No clue.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday I gave IT a nervous breakdown by logging on and discovering my desktop had reverted back to Windows 2008, which shouldn't be possible on our system. Then I gave three separate colleagues static shocks, and had the automatic doors downstairs try to ambush me. By Thursday every time I went near them they nearly fell apart trying to close on me.

Friday, I headed out to see a gig (The Twice - these boys are going to be huge if they get the support they deserve),  and ended up wearing my cool-drink before I even got to the train. Then I got lost. On the bright side; I actually got to see the gig, which was the highlight of my week.

Today I got around to trying to change the lightbulb on my main bedroom light. The problem here is that I'm pretty short - 5ft3 - and I can't reach the light standing on my bed. I got one of those extender light-changing thingies off amazon, but it came without a pole, and the slot is too small too just stick a broom handle in. And I wanted to change this without bugging Stace, so I lugged the ladder up, piled my duvet etc in a big heap on the bed just in case (because this is me) and climbed the ladder. I could just reach the lightbulb with the extender thing.  At this point, I was hopeful. I twisted. I reached over a little more. The extender thing got a prong caught in the spiral of the green efficiency lightbulb, and spun out of reach. I grabbed for it, missed completely (this is actually a good thing, because if I hadn't missed the next ten seconds would have seen me making new and intimate friends with bits of the ceiling and the light fitting) and face-planted from the top of the ladder into my pile of duvet. Above me, the extender thing dangled and swayed from the energy efficiency bulb.

My bedroom is small. Planting the ladder at the base of the bed meant I had no way out of the room. I contemplated sitting on the end of the bed and trying to collapse the ladder, but decided I look my computer, window, head and fingers in one piece. I texted Stacey, who came down, changed the lightbulb (after she found the right one, since the one I'd bought was wrong), then trotted back upstairs, still giggling at me.

I think I need a holiday, or 48 hours where the universe and everything electrical is not trying to kill me.







Sunday, 9 February 2014

What not to do on a Pilates Ball (Moment of Aargh)

So to fully explain this, I need to rewind a little to when I got back to London in January. I trudged through my front door, lurched up the stairs, staggered into my bedroom - and found a fairly impressive, anatomically correct (kinda) blow-up pool cushion on my bed, with a welcome home message from Stacey introducing me to Darryl. The anatomical part made a fairly convenient handle to carry it through to the lounge and sling it on top of the bean bag pile, although if the neighbours across the road were watching I predict a certain amount of eye-watering and leg-crossing.

I decided it was time to get back on the Pilates ball a few days ago. What I didn't realise was that at some point, Stacey had wedged my ball against the giant bean bags (now proudly topped with Darryl, in all his glory) to the point that it was holding them up.

I discovered that the Pilates ball had been performing a fairly useful function when I was half-way through the second exercise, which is a backwards stretch. What this means is that I was curved backwards over the bloody ball, finger-tips touching the carpet on one side, toe-tips on the other. This is not a position conducive to rapid movement.

Something shifted in the room. There was a gentle croaking, the whisper of pleather moving against itself. Darryl's pertinent bit (which was all I could really see from my position) wobbled. Then it wiggled.

I froze, trying to figure out what what make a six foot pile of giant bean bags and a blow-up male doll lilo thingie behave like this. My inner voice, which seems to catch on quicker than the rest of me in these situations, whimpered. Then everything happened very fast.

Me (starting to sit up) : Eh?
Beanbags: *Shudder*
Darryl: *Waggle*
Me: What the -
Inner Voice : OhCrapOhCrapOhCrap
Beanbags: *Slow Motion Avalanche*
Darryl : *Target Locked. Hey, babe.*
Me: OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

At which point the ball moved. Since I was totally unbalanced, I moved with it, back to the original position of being upside down. My toes left the ground. Somewhere, the gentle shifting of pleather turned into the silence you get just before everything really goes pear-shaped.

About three seconds later I was enveloped in two very large pleather beanbags, and Darryl.  I missed receiving a black eye from a blow-up dong by about six centimetres, and sheer luck.

And then I fell off the bloody Pilates ball.






Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The UK has it's own version of the Hunger Games, and here it is.

About 15 years ago, I hit a patch where eating was suddenly a luxury. The thought of doing what I can do today - walk into a supermarket and buy food in quantities to feed myself for a week or more - was so far out of reach it was a pipe-dream.

I was between part-time jobs, and studying full-time. Things were strained with my folks for a variety of reasons, and sheer stubbornness wouldn't let me call them and say I needed help, which they would've done in a minute. (Of course, I would've had to find the money for the phone call. We had no landline, and cell phones were in the realm of yuppie-land, along with fancy holidays and weekly grocery shopping trips.)

On bad days, when I had nothing apart from some instant coffee and sugar to eat, I'd gather the clothes I could part with, head down to the local second-hand shop, and sell them. On very bad days, I also sold off some of my books.
If I was lucky I'd come out with R20 to R40, and head to the store. Toilet paper, canned food - running a fridge costs money - bread, noodles. To this day I have an absolute horror of instant noodles; the sight of those little packets takes me straight back to walking into a shop with my favourite blouse tucked into a packet, and knowing I was about to grovel in the hope of a fair price.

I never got to the stage where I dumpster dived - I'd have broken down and called my folks first - but I knew people who did. They'd wait for the clean-out of the local shop at 7 o'clock. Bread a couple of days past it's sell-by date, cold meats that had expired, as long as they weren't green. If they were hungry enough, they took a chance on the green meat. They didn't have people they could go to and tell about the yawning pit in the base of their bellies; when eating is a luxury, you are always hungry. It's like a rat, sitting in the corner of your brain and chewing quietly at everything.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was in my final year at college, sharing a house with my boyfriend and a flat-mate. We all had  steady part-time incomes, enough that we hired a cleaning lady to come in once a week. We had graduated to weekly shopping trips. We weren't rolling in caviar, but we weren't eating instant noodles, either.
The second week the cleaning lady came, I went home early from college, and found her scraping food scraps out of our garbage and eating it. It turned out she'd walked into town because she couldn't afford the bus fare, and she was looking after her grandkids and a mentally disabled son. She hadn't eaten in three days; the money she got went on food for them, and she was scared to take any of the food in the kitchen and lose her job.
She went home with a food parcel that day, and we made sure that we had bread or left-overs from the night before for her from then on. We weren't rich, but we weren't starving, and cursed if we'd let anyone under our roof leave hungry after cleaning our mess up. And I still remembered the rat, that little frantic chewing of hope and dignity.

When I moved to London twelve years ago, one of the things that struck me was the infrastructure that appeared to be in place to help people out. People struggling to live could get housing, could get a small allowance. Students were given an allowance to study. There were no street kids. There were very few homeless sleeping in doorways, compared to South African cities. They were still there, but when you've grown used to three-year olds begging for food and money with that rat already settled in behind their eyes, the impact is lessened. It shouldn't be, but it is. Humans have a strange capacity for accepting the unacceptable, for tolerating circumstances that should make them blanch and say enough. 

Since then, the tabloids and the wealthy darlings currently running the country have made ordinary people ashamed to claim benefits, often times benefits they desperately need, and paid for during their working lives. (I'm aware of the scroungers. I'm also aware that they're a pretty small percentage of the people claiming.) The shelters and housing have been slashed. The student allowance, often something poorer kids needed to pay for their transport and gear for college has been eliminated. Rentals have tripled in London, and the odds of me ever affording a mortgage for a property in the UK? I have a better shot at winning the lottery. Food prices have soared; it is cheaper to eat the burgers they sell for £1.99 than to buy a loaf of bread and a slab of cheese. (Tesco brand bread : 0.45p. Cheddar cheese: £2.49).
The current arrangement if you're out of work seems expressly designed to make it impossible to keep your dignity and meet all the requirements to sign on for job-seekers allowance.

In the years since I got here, I've seen more and more people appear on the pavements. They sit beside ATM's, or in the stairwells of tube stations, they huddle in doorways and train stations. They wait for the shops to close and hang around the dustbins. If they can't get anything from the shop bins - most of them now lock up their rubbish so people cannot access it - they'll hunt through the bins and bags left for collection on garbage day. Most of them are on intimate terms with the rat.

The shops - all of the supermarkets - throw away thousands of tons of food a year. Instead of using the centres set up to redistribute it, it gets tossed in the trash.

Every now and then, one of the people desperate enough to dig through that skip full of trash behind the shop gets arrested. They get charged with handling stolen goods, or vagrancy. This is not shop-lifting. This is food that was thrown out. In the case of the "stolen goods" conviction, the woman concerned was given the package of food by a friend. Somebody needs to explain to me how it is in my interests - or any of the publics interest - to charge people who are desperate for food with a crime? Tell me how grinding down someone already scrabbling to survive, already choking on the constant fear that comes with constant hunger, with that fucking rat scrambling and chewing at the base of your brain, makes this country better, safer and stronger?

Here's a thought. Pass a law that states that instead of filling the giant skip behind your store, you use the same people and time it takes to fill it and hand that food out to anyone who needs it. Set up a schedule in the front of the shop that people can see. The excuse that some of the food is dangerous doesn't wash: if it was good enough to be on your shelves at 9:55, it's good enough to hand out at 10:30 to the guy who hasn't eaten in three days. If you do have food on your shelves that is poisonous, you should get hit with jail-time and the mother of all fines. Anything that's left can get collected by the agencies you've carefully ignored. Anything that's left will result in a fine to the shop, and the records will be audited, along with spot inspections.

And here's another thought. If the people running the country do not do something to raise the folks currently struggling into a situation where they can improve their lives, instead of grinding them down harder and faster, the UK is going to turn into the same pressure-cooker that we're seeing in other parts of the world. We had a fun taste of it during the riots a couple of years ago. Personally, I don't want to see that happen again, and neither does anyone with an ounce of sense and sanity. But if you take everything from people, including hope and dignity, they have nothing left to lose, and that is incredibly dangerous. Using the results as an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties will not address the underlying problem.

It isn't too late to turn it around. In another year, it may be. At the moment, the divide between the haves and have-nots is a yawning chasm. If someone doesn't built a bridge over it, we will end up with an overt class war; of the "eat the rich and bury the poor" kind.
Pressure-cookers and rats. It's a very bad combination.










Sunday, 19 January 2014

A perspective on not quite dying : It's time to live a little

A quick warning to family and friends who may read this: this post may upset you, because I'm going to be brutally honest about how I felt and what happened. It's pointless writing about it otherwise, but please don't read unless you're up for it. Also, there will be Strong Language involved, because *shrug* this is me, after all. It's also a long post. For the TLDR crowd; not dead yet. ;)

I'm back in London, which is surprisingly warm for this time of the year. The wedding was gorgeous; the bride was a vision, and my brother is a very happy and lucky guy. And if you can get yourself to New Zealand, do so; that country had the best food I've ever come across, and the most stunning scenery.

They also have one hell of a health service. I got to have my third ever ambulance ride in kiwi-land *sigh* the morning after the wedding, and the paramedics and staff at Timaru hospital (Hi, Dr O and Bernard!) saved my life. Considering how close I came to not getting out of the ambulance, I'm pretty damn grateful. I'm not ready to give up on walking the skin of this world just yet, it appears. Thinking how bleak the last year has been pain-wise, and how closely I resembled an ambulatory corpse when I got off the plane at the start of the holiday, this says a lot.

The wedding took place in the lovely little town of Geraldine. We stayed at the Geraldine Motel, which is great - self-contained little apartments and a very friendly owner, who ended up calling the ambulance and talking my folks through what was probably a horrifying experience for them. I started getting short of breath at the wedding which was really weird for me. I'm usually the first one up and the last one off the dance floor, but I just couldn't get my breath. I thought it was hay-fever; it's summer in that part of the world and large amount of the party was sneezing and coughing.

At around 5:30 the next morning I got up because Something Wasn't Right. At around 6:30 I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, and something poked a very cold finger into my spine and told me I was in a lot of trouble. My pupils were huge. I was pale, clammy and sweating. To be totally honest, I wasn't sure if I was having a heart attack or an asthma attack. My head hurt. I couldn't breathe.

I staggered into my parent's room.

"Mom. Mom. I need an ambulance. I can't breathe." And then I wheezed, standing upright, too afraid to sit down or lie down. I doubt I'd have gotten up again.

I don't know how long it took the ambulance to get there. I know they're staffed by volunteers, and were just down the road. It couldn't have been long, but when you can't breathe every second rattles through your body like eternity. Also, it hurt.

My mom rode in the front of the ambulance. I remember the paramedic in the back kept talking to me and asking questions, and I couldn't really answer her. The notes on my file say I could speak 3 words a minute.

A little way into the trip, I felt myself untether. I lifted the mask off my face and said to the paramedic: "I'm getting worse." A few minutes later everything narrowed down into a pinpoint of light. This time I looked at her and said: "I'm going." My pulse rate on the machine dropped, then flared, then dropped again. There was no panic involved; it felt utterly inevitable, and there's little point in panicking when you know it's going to happen.

The paramedic slapped another ventilator tab into the funky Darth Vader mask and dove into the front, and I floated above myself. (By the way, an OBE is NOT the best way to find out you missed a spot on your hair dye, and you look like you've sprouted a bald patch right at the top of your head. That was annoying and will be fixed ASAP.)

There was a lot of radio chatter from the front, which I ignored. I was looking at my mom, at the way her knuckles were white as she clutched her hand-bag on her lap. I was thinking that I've had a good life. I have a family I adore (and who hopefully feel the same way about me). I have some of the best friends anyone could want. I've written a few good stories. I've just watched my brother get married to one of the best people I know. Am I done? Am I ready to be done? Because there was this tugging. This moment of knowing I could let go, I could be done. No more pain. No more fear. No more stress over bills and rent and work and all the trivial bullshit. No more migraine. No more spending three to four days a week trying not to throw up, convulsing, and shaking from pain. No more wondering how the hell I'm going to get the money for the op that might fix it. No more meds. Just. No. More.

I'd be a damn liar if I said I wasn't tempted; I'd had a couple of migraine attacks since arriving in Melbourne just before Christmas, and although they passed in a matter of hours, they were bad. Not as bad as before the Botox, but bad.

The ambulance had stopped. I drifted further over to the windshield, to the front. I could see the curve of my mother's cheek, the soft skin that was pale with worry. I could see her trying not to cry. Her lower lip was trembling despite being clamped between her teeth. I wanted to kiss her cheek.

Choose.

I thought about everything I haven't done yet. I thought about the books I haven't written, the stories still to be read. The friends still to meet and places to see. All the stuff I put off doing for whatever reason. I wasn't ready to go. I wasn't ready to die in the back of this ambulance with my mom sitting in front of me; that's not something I'm willing to do to somebody I love. Also, call me perverse, but I prefer to leave this planet on my damn terms, and those terms involve good whiskey and a few more decades, not slowly suffocating because of my own body throwing a strop.

I love you guys.

The back door of the ambulance opened and another woman scrambled in. She took a look at me, told the driver to "Step on it, but steady," and injected me with adrenaline.

Choose now.

Fuck it. I've never given up without a fight. I came back, about 5 seconds before they intubated me, which is something I'm quite happy to have missed, thank you very much. That hose looked nasty.

I'll skip the rest of the ride; I did the Darth Vader impression in the emergency room for a very long time. I had drips and drugs and enough blood taken to please the average vamp, and seven people working on me for the first hour or so in the actual hospital. Unfortunately I didn't get everyone's name, but thank you. (Also, not sure where they hire from, but everyone seemed drop-dead gorgeous. Like General Hospital casting pretty.)

The awesome Doctor O thought I'd be in for four days or so. I got released the next afternoon, and managed to see a great deal of New Zealand. A week later I was on a luge in Queenstown, thinking "I'm lucky. I'm forty years old and it's a beautiful day and I'm alive."

And here's the thing; this may have been the best thing to happen to me at this point in time. It made me realise how much I haven't been living, this past year or so. I've made a few attempts - gone out to friends, written a bit, worked a lot more - but it hasn't been living.  It's been existing on this frantic little treadmill of work-pain-meds-pain-work-pay bills, and I haven't enjoyed enough of it.

Time for a change. Time to live my life, however much time I have left. I have no idea how successful I'll be at it, but I'm cursed well going to try, as Amber would say. Because it shouldn't take almost dying in a foreign country to realise that you're in a rut, that you're marking time like a hamster on a wheel, and that life is still happening around you through the fog of pain-killers and grimness of I'm not enjoying this.  (Also, universe, you've had your annual shot at killing me. Can we give it a rest for a bit, now, ok?)

On my bucket list for this year - get my motorbike license (FINALLY!). Hopefully get around Europe a bit on a long weekend. Get my brain fixed.

My friend Anne-Mhairi Simpson read my blog last year on what happens when the Botox wears off, and started up a Go-fund me site here. A bunch of fellow authors have stepped up to offer give-aways. I read what Anne-Mhairi wrote and sat down and cried, but these were good tears. I have no idea what I did deserve friends like you, but I'm so very lucky and grateful. It gives me hope; they've already raised over £100. Considering the ultimate cost, every penny will help; it means I'm that much closer to getting my life back. I'd like to not do the funky chicken pain-dance again, ever. The last one was in the back of a taxi in Melbourne. But whatever happens, I promise you guys that I'm not going to give up. I promise to keep trying to live, and live well. How can I do anything else, with people like this in my corner?












Monday, 30 December 2013

Ye Travel Gods Strike Again : Moment of Oops, Aussie style

Bear with me folks - I'm attempting to type this on my phone. Hopefully I get to the end, hit publish, and it (a) actually publishes, and (b) does not end life on the planet as we know it.

I'm in Australia, gearing up for my brother's impending wedding in early January. Unfortunately in my usual affect on the travel gods, arrival dates got a bit muddled. To the point where I apparently had half of my UK family trying to figure out where I was, because the Aussie side pitched up at the airport and I never appeared. The itinerary said I landed 22 December, which was the date I gave. What I completely and utterly missed was the minuscule fine print that said (+1) at the bottom. To cut a long story short, the folks were anxiously waiting at the airport, wondering if I'd done something to upset customs, while I was lurching around Brunei airport, a little unsure how I'd ended up there. (The ticket said Dubai transfer. Brunei was never hinted at.)

So we finally landed in Melbourne, and I staggered onto the concourse expecting to see the beaming faces of the family... *crickets*


We'd landed early, and the Aussie customs are terrifyingly efficient compared to every other country I've flown through; passport and very pleasant interrogation done and dusted in under fifteen minutes. I made a beeline for the coffee shop and tried to ignore the migraine that had hit during the last hour of the flight (not fun. Having an attack on a jetliner may be one of the more unpleasant things I've managed) and texted my brother. At this point in time, I still thought it was the 22nd.

My brother called me and made growly noises about the date.

I caught a taxi to the house. Hopefully the trip back will be uneventful. It's a bit disconcerting to time-travel by accident. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Migraine Hell Week: This is what happens when the Botox wears off

So last week, the Botox I'd had for the migraines wore off. In one of the worst cases of incredibly bad timing my body has EVER come up with, it decided to respond to this by sending me into pain convulsions, swiftly followed by an episode of blindness, in the middle of the working day, at my desk.

Now, the guys I work with are aware that I get migraines. They've seen me with mild ones. I normally know when it's going to be bad, that I need to get home and into the dark, and I'll make sure I leave before that happens. I thought this one was going to stay mild. However, it ramped up so hard and so fast, that in the 90 or so seconds of me thinking I needed to go home and taking a couple of painkillers for the trip, I was suddenly in so much pain that I couldn't walk, talk or think. I sat in my chair and trembled.
My team thought I was having a seizure. I suppose technically I was, but it was pure pain. There's not much else to it.

The shaking thing isn't new. I get it when it's a bad one, but I'm usually curled up in the dark and by myself, in private. If I whimper and cry there's nobody else around to witness it, to see that moment of horrible vulnerability. Having it happen in a public setting, with people I work with daily, was a moment of personal humiliation I'd like to never repeat.

My boss sat down next to me in the middle of this and asked if I needed an ambulance. I'm very grateful they didn't get one; an emergency room is no place for someone in the middle of a severe migraine attack. It's bright, it's loud, and the smell is overpowering. I don't even want to think about the agony involved. I couldn't answer for a while; the pain had locked my vocal cords. All I could do was a raise a hand so he knew I was conscious, and let me tell you, I've rarely wanted to pass out so badly.

Most of what followed is still broken into jagged little moments of memory. I know that I was half-carried, half-staggered into a dark office. I know I was crying. I know that shortly afterwards I lost my vision completely, and came pretty close to panicking; it's one thing having that happen at home. It's completely different in public, where you are vulnerable to everyone and everything around you. Thankfully, like the last time, the blindness passed in a few minutes.

They sent me home in a taxi. I stayed at home the next day with a pounding, throbbing head. I felt better that evening, sat in the lounge with Stacey, and managed to do the pain jitterbug all over the lounge carpet. No blindness this time, and Stace managed to get me to lie still and breath. It was a short episode, but it hurt. The migraine went from pounding to ultra-sharp; it felt like someone was trying to ram a long needle into my brain.

I felt okay the following morning and went into work. I lasted three hours before the panda-eyes of doom appeared and I got the shakes again. And then I lost my words. It's an interesting side-effect, that one. You lose words that you use every day. Your mind tries to find them and they just aren't there any more. As a bonus, you start slurring. The slurring starts off as a slight burr; and ends up sounding like you've just made friends with several shots of good-grade whiskey. The look of horror on my boss's face was impressive.
I refused a taxi - the previous episode had proved I'd get home faster on the train - and Stace met me at the station in case I had another pain-jitter attack. It was close, but I managed to not have it until I was back home and in bed.

Rinse, repeat, until Saturday, when I went into the migraine clinic again for more Botox, and an assessment of the diary I've been keeping.

Sunday I had ten hours pain-free. Today I've got a minor episode - functional, but not happy. It takes about 5 days for the Botox to kick in, so hopefully it speeds its merry way through my system.

Doc reckons I'm a good candidate for the operation which removes the muscle the nerve runs through at the top of the eye-socket, and moves the nerve at the back of the skull. He said I could reduce the migraines by between 80 - 90%, so there's hope that I can get my life back. I'm thinking about it, very hard. Apart from the issue of general anaesthetic and the risks of the op itself, the main barrier is cost. The NHS doesn't cover this, the op would take place in Berlin, and the charge is £7000. Seven grand is a LOT of money for me, particularly as the cost of Botox and a hefty dose of painkillers on a monthly basis has eaten up just about all my savings. This disease is expensive in every respect.

But seven grand to get my life back would be cheap, if I had the money. To be able to make plans to go out with friends and not cancel at the last minute. To be able to eat without throwing up from pain; I've lost a few kilos in the last week, and it's not a healthy weight-loss. To not walk around looking and feeling like an escapee from the Walking Dead make-up trailer. To not wonder just how easy it will be to one day miscalculate the pain-pills and accidentally overdose. You don't track too well with constant migraine; and if the pills don't dent it the urge to take more is huge. To be able to write, and work, and be pain-free for at least some of the time. To never see that look of helpless shock and horror and pity on the faces of your friends and colleagues again. To stop thinking dying might be a relief.
Yeah, seven grand - probably closer to eight if you factor in the flights and the stay in Berlin - it would be cheap.



Saturday, 7 December 2013

Farewell, Madiba. The giant is sleeping.

I went through the South African schooling system during the last years of Apartheid. It was a strange time. On the one hand, there was a subtle relaxation of the enforcement of some of the worst official behaviour. On the other hand, the casual brutality became more marked; I remember seeing a white security guard at a small shopping centre walk up behind a black man and rabbit-punch him in the back of the neck, then walk off, laughing.
I went over to help him up, and the look in his eyes was a combination of dazed, bitter helplessness and pure rage. He flinched away from me, and the friend I was with dragged me away.

In some respects I was the anomaly in school; the middle-class little white girl who wouldn't shut up about the unfairness of the Apartheid regime. I'm not entirely sure it was political awareness at this point; more that I hated bullies and the system made no sense. It was like deciding that if you had blonde hair and blue eyes, you could not use the same toilet, bus, school or movie theatre seat I was in, because I had brown hair and eyes and didn't want you in my vicinity. It felt like a temper tantrum enforced by a giant, spoilt and terrified child, and I never understood why people accepted it. Or maybe I was just perverse; I've never been one to follow the mainstream. Tell me I must believe something, and something tends to kick in and go, "Oh, really? Watch me."

It's surprisingly easy to brain-wash a population. You start with making laws, and you throw anyone who dares to disagree with them in prison. Or you kill them, either in an official hanging, or through an arranged accident. Or they fall out of windows on the top floor of the police station. You control the television, the newspapers and the radio. Then you move onto the schooling system. You ensure that only the official version of local history is taught, and you emphasise your bravery and nobility and love of country, and you point out the brutality and savagery of your opponents. You teach them that Mandela is a terrorist, and is on a small prison island for the good of the country.
In 1987, the history class I was in covered the Great Trek in some detail. The text book went to great lengths to explain the treachery and murderous reactions of the native tribes encountered, with an air of righteous indignation. Unfortunately, the wheels of the regime in that particular class encountered me, and  I stood up and pointed out that maybe the tribes involved were entitled to defend themselves against an unwanted invader. My family background is Scottish. I grew up on stories of unjust invasion and terror inflicted by military right; I tended to sympathise quite firmly with the tribes involved.
There were a number of gasps of horror from my classmates. My teacher stared at me - and then let us go early to break.
I got home to find my parents waiting for me. The school had phoned them. My dad sat me down and explained that I needed to be careful. He told me that if the school reported me to the authorities, he and my mother would be in a great deal of trouble, and could be arrested and charged, because nobody would believe that my opinions were my own. I was just a fourteen year old kid.
I don't think I stood up in that class again, and even after I changed schools at the end of the year, I never mentioned my beliefs to an authority figure again. My parents were a lot more important than running my mouth off - but that response from the school was all I needed to set those beliefs in stone.  The system was wrong.

I dug up everything I could find on Mandela. The official party line painted him as a very dangerous man, the equivalent of a rabid wolf. The armed wing of the ANC was planting bombs and blowing up shoppers; the news used to identify those killed and wounded by name if they were white, and by number and gender if they were not.
There were a number of people who believed Mandela should have been hanged after his trial; I think the main reason he wasn't is because the regime feared creating a martyr. Instead, they created a living focal point for change.
There was no internet, and the media was heavily censored. Eventually, though, I got hold of a couple of books and pamphlets that painted a very different story of the man working in the quarry while the rest of us went about our daily lives.

In 1989 I started working part-time at my local supermarket. That security guard was still there, and just as heavy-handed with non-white customers. He carried a pistol and a club, and although I never saw him use the gun, I have no doubt he wanted to. He hated and feared non-whites with a passion, and because of that he enjoyed humiliating and hurting them. In a normal society, he would have been locked up as dangerous. In this one, they armed him and let him have fun. For me, he was a symptom of everything that had poisoned the country. For him, I imagine he saw me as a dangerous reactive.
The two of us hated each other on sight.

The day they released Mandela, every paper in the country carried his photograph on the front page. I remember tapping the picture on the Sunday Times and smiling. The guard snarled at me.
"Things are changing," I said. "One day we'll have a black president, and then what good will your fists do?" It felt like a bell, chiming in my head.
"Never happen," he sneered. But his eyes looked terrified.

In the run-up to the 1994 elections, white South Africa shared that fear. There were runs on supermarkets and gun-shops as people stocked-up, expecting trouble. And to be perfectly honest, there was reason to fear. Mandela was a hero to every non-white who had victimised, abused, and marginalised - and that was pretty much all of them. He'd been stuck in prison for 27 years. He'd lost the prime of his life, working in a quarry. He'd got tuberculosis and his health was permanently damaged. If he had been a different kind of man; if he had got into power and demanded retribution in blood, the streets would have run red, and most people thought that was exactly what would happen. How many people would resist the chance for payback for a thousand slights, for the blood already spilled by the previous regime?

And then Mandela was elected, and the world held its breath, and the apocalypse never happened. Instead, we ended up with one of the most progressive legislations in the world, affording rights to people no matter what their colour or sexual orientation was. Instead of firing squads and butchered whites, we ended up with the much-abused death penalty removed, never to be used as a political weapon again, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

That bell that rang in my head the day he was released continued to chime softly over the intervening years. It said This is a good man. This is a giant. This is Madiba.
Madiba changed the world, and South Africa, and he did it in a good way. And while South Africa is still struggling with poverty and crime, there was no ethnic cleansing. There were incidents, yes. There are always incidents where there is hate and fear, and people like that security guard cling to both because they cannot see any other way of being.

When he stepped out of office, it was another myth squashed; the right-wingers had pretty much assumed it would become a dictatorship no matter what pretty words were spoken. His successors have struggled to fill the shoes he left behind ever since; it cannot be easy trying to step into the footprints of a giant.

Out of office, Madiba was still revered. Even those who'd viewed his presidency with scepticism started to soften. He never stopped his message of reconciliation, and he was never afraid to call out his own party when he disagreed with them; the ANC have managed some pretty brutal stuff themselves.

The bell began sounding weary a couple of years ago. I cannot imagine how exhausted he must have been. We never stopped needing him, and no matter how hard he tried to step back, to let others pick up the reigns, we never really let him. In the end, Madiba was imprisoned by love. It may be softer than the chains of a prison gang, but that kind of need is also grasping and suffocating. He was a man, with flaws as all humans have, but we never really let him step off the pedestal he never wanted to be on to start with.

When Madiba got sick earlier this year, we held our breath again. No-one wanted to let him go. Giants should be immortal, no matter how tired and sick they get. The media swarmed the hospital like locusts. There was a court case over graves, and another over his estate. The vultures gathered and settled in to wait.

On Thursday night, I was on Skype to my parents when the news hit my feed, and I told them. The shock on their faces was the strongest personal indicator of how Madiba changed my world.

So now the bell is silent, but the echoes remain. I have no idea what happens next in South Africa. Hopefully, the determination to hold his legacy will remain strong, and the ones who would use this as an excuse for violent change are ignored. I just don't know.
I know that a good man is dead, and the world mourns his passing. I know that there will never be another quite like him. I know that on Thursday night I sat in the bath and wept.

Hamba Kakuhle, Madiba. Even giants need to sleep after work. Safe journey to the Summerland.










Thursday, 28 November 2013

Tristan J Tarwater Interview & Giveaway!

Allegories of the Tarot Badass Marketing Blog TourGet to know Tristan J. Tarwater, one of the 22 contributors to the recently-released Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology (which is already trailblazing its way up the fantasy anthology charts on Amazon!). Tristan wrote her tale, The Strange Case of Sal and the Solar Elixir,†based on the Sun card.

Get the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology in on†Amazon,†Smashwords, Kobo, and everywhere else e-books are sold.†Add the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology†to your Goodreads to-read shelf!


About Tristan

Tristan J TarwaterTristan J Tarwater is the author of The Valley of Ten Crescents fantasy series as well as the
weird urban noir short story, Botanica Blues and the upcoming comic, The Misadventures of
Streetsman Shamsee. She has contributed to the roleplaying site Troll in the Corner and Pelgrane†Press. A fan of speculative fiction herself, the first fantasy book she fell in love with was The†Crystal Cave. Originally hailing from New York City, she considers Portland, OR her home.

Just a few questions...

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? The Sun is intriguing to me because it's such a straight up, positive card. It's just a good card to have on your side! I've heard it called 'one of the best cards in the Tarot,' which is both interesting and a bit scary to me, truth be told. I don't really write too much about characters who 'have their day in the sun,' as they say, and most of the subject matters in my writing are more internal, kept out of the light. In addition, I'm not someone who likes to be in the spotlight so this card should be challenging and fun to explore. I'll probably cast a bit of a shadow on this card, ha!

Why did you decide to get roped into this project? Well, when Annetta asked I really couldn't say no. One of my professional goals for NEXT year was to be included in a collaboration and so when she asked I just kind of stared at the computer for a bit and then quickly responded YES. The subject matter of the Tarot is also so very interesting, which, wow that's a bit of an understatement. Plus the project itself, 22 authors, 22 cards? I was excited to just READ it was going to happen. Being given the opportunity to be a part of it is honestly a big honor. I was hardly roped, heh.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? Yeah, I've always been interested in other religions and the occult; I had a fairly religious upbringing/youth and religions and people's beliefs, spiritual or secular, are fascinating to me. I've read about the Tarot before and I get readings done from time to time online (I generally choose the Lovecraft deck, because life is insane). I have a deck that I look at from time to time but I don't read for anyone. I'm on an online forum where people offer readings from time to time and so I will ask if I have something on my mind, just for a bit of clarity, to oil the wheels of my brain a bit.

What other projects do you have planned? Merp, uh...quite a few. If all goes well this year, I'll have finished my third fantasy novel, as well as a comic and an RPG source book, all for Ten Crescents. I hope to do a collection of three, short sci-fi stories I have kicking around in my head. If I'm REALLY ambitious, I'll start in on a fortune telling deck for The Valley of Ten Crescents, trying to get it designed and made up. Fortune telling comes up in pretty much every Ten Crescent story.† All this while settling in back home and maintaining some sort of social life. I've been shirking that as of late, heh.†

How did you decide what to write about?†Honestly? Ha, I asked Annetta which one she thought I should do. I trust her that much. She gave me the card and I took it up.

How literal did you want to get with your card?†Well, the Sun is kind of an in your face kind of card? So when I was brainstorming and considering what the card means, I was looking at the imagery of the card, knowing having some of it in my story wouldn't be in opposition to what the card stands for.

Is your story a part of something you've written about previously?†The story takes place in a world I've written about but it's the first story to be released from that world. It's very exciting for me.

Would you like to have written about any other card? Which card? Why?†Honestly, no. I tend to write a lot of Moon-centered stories so writing about the Sun was actually very exciting and different for me. Though I did manage to have the story take place at night. Ha!

If you could have the power to divine the future, would you or would you not and why?†Not really. I have a child and the temptation to just know what would happen to her would probably destroy the happiness I have in the present I have with her and my Spouse. The future always brings death, regardless of whatever lies between and well, for someone like me, who tends to trap herself in her head and roll around there for hours on end...it's just a bad combination. I don't know that knowing the future would dampen my worries regarding it. It would probably bring more anxiety to my present, trying to find the causality in all things and well, I'd rather know the end and have my enjoyable moments from time to time towards that. If that makes any sense.

About Allegories of the Tarot

Allegories of the TarotOnce upon a time, there was an editor with a fascination for the Tarot. She was struck one day by a crazy idea. ìHey,î she said. ìWhat if twenty-two writers each wrote a story about the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and were fashioned into an anthology?î

The idea would not leave her alone.

And thus, the Allegories of the Tarot was born.

Crowdfunded by a campaign on Indiegogo with the help and support of an amazing group of writers, twenty-two stories were crafted around the mysteries of the Tarot. The group includes a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Pulp Ark nominee, a former Bigfoot researcher, a journalist, an award-winning YA author, and a Rhysling Award winner. Professional writers, new talent, and a range of genres boggling the mind: Horror, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Erotica, Mystery, Humor, Paranormal, Epic Fantasy, Literary, Romance, and Historical Fantasy.

What has emerged is an outstanding collection of fiction, unique and mysterious. Stories that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think. Stories that make you feel the touch of the Universe.

Dare to step through the portal to shadowy realms and emotional journeys.

Get the book!

Allegories of the Tarot†is available in e-book and paperback format†on Amazon, Kobo, and in multiple e-book formats†on Smashwords.

Donít forget to†add†Allegories of the Tarotto your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Connect with the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology on its†website,†Facebook, and†Twitter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Numptiness Continues: Dateable Boys Rules

Continuing the examination of the latest contender for Stupidest Dating Advice for Humans, let's have a look at Justin Lookadoo's Dating Rules for Boys. (Find the girls version here.) Now since in all fairness I haven't yet developed testicles and technically don't qualify, what I'll do is give you my comments as a female. Since I fall into, ya know, the gender half that you seem to want to encounter. (In Justin's world, there doesn't seem to be an acknowledgement of gay/bi/trans as a valid thing, because, you know, God.)


Being a guy is good. Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous, and more adventurous and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.

My Response:

There are enough idiots who trip over their egos already, and think acknowledging their emotions are dangerous. Why would I want to date one of them? Been there, done that, kicked the Neanderthal to the curb. Also, you want emotional, Justin? Try dating a musician. I'll give you stronger, because pure biology means most men are physically stronger than me. Mentally? Not. A. Hope. More dangerous? You try and get between a little old lady and the last packet of biscuits on the shelf, Justin. I'll hold your coat. Just tell me where you want the flowers sent. More adventurous? BWHAHAHAHAHAHA. I'm pretty sure I've done stuff, and enjoyed it, that'd make your hair fall out. And the real men comment? As opposed to what, Pinocchio? 

Believe in yourself. Dateable guys know they are men even if someone has tried to bring them down or make them less than men. They know that the past doesn’t define the future.

My Response:

*sigh* Unless they've been castrated, Justin, or are identify as other than male, they are men. There is no "real", unless we're heading back to the world of Pinocchio again. See, the problem with ripping off lines from cheesy inspirational posters is that when you examine them, they don't make any sense. The past sure as hell impacts the future, buddy. It colours it, it affects it, and yes, every now and then it defines it, for anyone who isn't a sociopath. 

Control your mind. Dateable guys know that God demands self control. They learn ways to control their minds so they can control their bodies.

My Response:

This is how you control your unwanted erections, boys! Just imagine it going away. (Note: You may regret this when you hit your forties.) If that doesn't work, point it out to God and wait for a personalised lightning strike.

Don’t just want a win, want an adventure. Dateable guys know life is about danger. You might not win, but that’s not the point, doing it is. Dateable guys risk failure to live the adventure of life.

My Response:

There is a small but noticeable difference between cheesy inspirational posters and sounding like a travel ad. Congratulations, Justin, you've managed to combine both.

Face your Fears. Dateable guys will not be controlled by fear. Whatever controls you owns you. Fear is from the enemy and so the Dateable guy stands in the face of it and says, “ha!”
My Response:

Well, technically fear is a survival mechanism, because as a species there isn't much point in dying before you've had a chance to breed. Standing in front of, say, a mugger with a gun and saying "Ha!" isn't facing your fears, it's nominating yourself for a Darwin award.


Men of God are wild, not domesticated. Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed.

My Response:

WTF? So men of God don't wear clothes, live in houses or believe in toilet training? Precisely what rules are we talking about here, because I'd love to know them. And Justin - you can't stand up for the oppressed if you're conquering lands. That makes you the oppressor. Just a thought.

Bring God into it. Dateable guys bring God into it. “What would He say if he was talking to me through this situation?” they ask.

My Response:

Depends on which book of the bible you're reading, I guess. We have the "KILL EVERYTHING!" option, which happened a few times. Or we have the "Go forth and multiply option," which is pretty loud and clear in other places. I'm pretty sure neither one of those is quite what you're looking for here. To be totally honest though, if you need to check with your deity on a date, you really should be tied to a chair under a descending blade before this happens. How about "DON'T DATE PSYCHO'S?" Will that do?

Be honest with girls.
Dateable guys don’t use the truth to their advantage. They know that girls read into things so they don’t use that for their good. They are honest and not manipulative.

My Response:

Em. What? Justin, honey, I have no idea what you just said. I would, however, like access to whatever you were taking when you came up with that. You know, so my poor little brain can read into things properly.


Be a gentleman. Chivalry is not dead with the Dateable guy. Even if society thinks this is old fashioned he knows that it is God-fashioned. He keeps his gentleman side strong and considers all women important enough to care for.

My Response:

You know, I'd prefer it if the guy I'm dating is considerate to everyone, and not a condescending prat. Strange, that. 

Keep it covered up. Dateable guys know that porn is bad for the spirit and the mind. They keep women covered up.


My Response:

What, exactly, do you intend covering me up with, Justin? Because let me tell you something, sweet stuff - you have no right to tell me or any other woman how to dress. Doing so is a warning sign of an abusive control freak. I don't particularly care if you watch Smurf porn on your day off, and most guys realise porn is fantasy, the same way Die Hard or Star Trek is. The ones that don't are the ones with issues.



To summarise, the dateable boy rules (gag me with a spoon) aren't as stupendously misogynistic as your dateable girl rules. They are, however, a bad combination of the worst self-help posters I've seen floating around the net for years. They also have no resemblance to real-life, and make no allowance for the human mind or spirit. 

You don't need any of these craptastic rules to be dateable. You do need to be a decent human being, not someone who thinks that boys and girls need different rules and different standards. Because they don't. Treat all people like they have value, and don't invalidate someone's opinions because of their sexuality, gender, colour, religion or nationality. That applies to men and women, straight, gay, transgender, or just figuring it out.

I should feel bad, Justin, because you've made it obvious you hold none of these values. Instead you're spewing idiocy at kids, most of whom are intelligent enough to eye-roll you so hard your ass should spin.  But you're still a numpty.