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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.










Friday, 15 November 2013

Dateable Girl Rules aka Justin Lookadoo, You're a Numpty

So, this link popped up on my Facebook feed: http://jezebel.com/smart-texas-high-schoolers-lambast-dickhead-lecturer-on-1464428854 and I clicked on it. Go ahead and check it out, I'll wait.

Then I clicked on this silly little man's website link, and found a list. This is a a list of the dateable girl rules. Followed swiftly by the dateable guy rules (next post), because numptiness applies to all. It gives me great pleasure to rip them apart here for you:

Girls first, right? Right.


  1. Accept your girly-ness.
     You’re a girl. Be proud of all that means. You are soft, you are gentle, you are a woman. Don’t try to be a guy. Guys like you because you are different from them. So let your girly-ness soar

                      1. My Response: 
                      1. First of all, I am not now nor have I ever been, fabric softener. If you want soft and gentle, get a fluffy pillow. Also, feel free to go through PMs, childbirth and get itchy nipples on a monthly basis. Then come back and tell me how frigging soft and gentle I am. By the way, Justin, if my girly-ness ever soars, I'll probably be visiting a doctor.

                        Tell it like it is. Dateable girls don’t lie to themselves. They don’t say stuff like, “His girlfriend just isn’t good to him, that’s why he’s seeing me on the side.” Or “She started it so I’m going to get even.” The Dateable girl let’s God run the world, and tells herself the truth–that all she can control is herself. She doesn’t imagine things to be more than they are.

My Response: 

Oh, Justin. If you think girls are the only ones who lie to themselves, you've never been to a football match  with die-hard fans. And, no offence, but any deity that sticks it's nose into my romantic life will get it smacked.  Also, Justin, control yourself is hard. That's why the gods created Spanx.   


The sexiest thing on a girl is happiness. Girls try so hard to add beauty and sexuality to themselves with clothes and make-up, but the truth is it’s your spirit that makes you hot. Your outlook on life, your happiness factor. Dateable girls aren’t downers, they love life.


My Response: 

The sexiest thing on almost ANYONE is a smile.  Also, confidence and being a decent person. My spirit sizzles, Justin. It sizzles.

Girls don’t fight girls, ever. Revenge belongs to God. Dateable girls know that when they fight other girls they look stupid and catty, and guys don’t like it any more than God does.

My Response: 

My old kickboxing class will gutted to hear this.  And if you believe your deity exists to take revenge for real or imagined slights, you have a problem.

Believe in your beauty. Dateable girl learn how to overcome the sins of the past that have been perpetrated on them. They don’t let the enemy steal their beauty. God made them, so they know they are beautiful, even if they don’t feel like it sometimes.

My Response:
Could someone translate this into english for me, please? Because I'm reading it like someone  can walk up and steal my stunning, supermodel looks.  I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN, BITCH.

Be mysterious. Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab.

My Response:

Did you just tell me to shut up? Kiss my fuzzy tattooed butt, Justin. I'm starting to think you aren't really into this dating thing. You want a blow -up doll.

Act confident. Dateable girls know that confidence is hot. And the cool part is that no one knows if you are confident but you. Confidence isn’t how you feel, it’s how you act. Act confident and people will think you are.

My Response:

This I actually agree with. But I'm not confident because I want to  date, Justin. I'm confident because I like myself as a person. Let me tell you, that took years, and the odds of the average teen getting there ? Not so much.

Look ‘em in the eye. Part of being a Dateable girl means you really see people. They matter, and if you don’t look them in the eye then you will never see them and they will never know they matter to you. Look ‘em in the eye. They are valuable.

My Response:

Yeah, because staring at someone the entire evening isn't creepy at all. Nope.

Let him lead. God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!

My Response:

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Fuck off.

Need him. Dateable girls know that guys need to be needed. A Dateable girl isn’t Miss Independent. She knows we are made for community. Needing each other is part of faith. She allows him to be needed at times, knowing he was called to serve just as much as she was.

My Response:

Dude, I've dated needy guys. It's a drain, it's annoying beyond all recognition, and said needy guys aren't looking for a date, they're looking for a second mommy. I would rather lick a cheese-grater than do this again.


So there you have it. If you want to be a dateable girl, you need to be a large, plush-skinned, make-up free blow-up doll. Batteries included. Don't have an opinion, don't speak your mind.

Dear Justin Lookadoo, you haven't a clue. None. What you appear to be looking for is a vagina with a heartbeat, and real women are more than that. You, sir, are a first class numpty. Google it.















Sunday, 10 November 2013

Moments of Skedification, and the weekend roundup

Let's start with the good and exciting, shall we? (Never fear, we'll move swiftly onto my weekend moments of WTF, of which there were a couple.)

Allegories is garnering great reviews, and stormed up the chart in the first week of release on Amazon. Hitting the top 100 is nice. Hitting it in several categories transfers into dreamlike. I think I can safely say all 22 of us made hysterical cooing noises over on Facebook.  (I re-read it this past week.Those stories rock.) If you want your mind blown, check it out on the Amazon site - and there is a paper edition available as well. I got the Moon card, and I came up with something a lot gentler than I normally do. (I've also been told I made a few readers cry, and THAT is a very strange feeling.) Anyone who jumps from that to House of F.A.R.T. is probably going to go into literary shock, though.

I (finally!) have an author page at Facebook, all thanks to Anne Chaconas at Badass Marketing. With my usual wonderful techie talent, I can't get the link to work, but it's JHSked, Author. (I suspect Anne is equally horrified and fascinated by what I do to tech. I'm pretty sure I reduced her to helpless gibbering at least once in the past week or so. I'll update on writing stuff over there as well, but since the general consensus was that the wall should be "Skedified", some of the strangeness that is life as I know it will end up there as well.

I have an interview with Eden Baylee, where she crawled into my mind and encouraged me to swear here: http://edenbaylee.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/get-inside-the-mind-of-author-j-h-sked-jhsked.
Eden is one of my fellow authors from the Allegories, and she's brilliant - head on over and say hi.

Moving swiftly onto the Skedification parts:

1) Zombie ribs. Not quite as horrifying as Zombie Duck was - I still haven't gathered the courage to attempt cooking a whole duck again, but it was bad. It was back to Chinese take-away since everything was still frozen.

2) Moment of Aargh, porn style: I should know better than to attempt opening yoghurt one-handed, I really should. On the bright side, I missed the ceiling, and actually got some in my mouth. It was actually good. The rest of it made friends with my ear, the fridge, the floor, and my trousers. Not a good look.

3) The lamp incident, which involved going for a two hour nap, and waking up with my floor lamp in bed with me. Said floor lamp tops out at 6 foot. I have no clue. None.

4) Forgetting to remove the seeds before roasting chilli peppers. Roast chilli is lovely, but forgetting to deseed meant trampling over Stacey on my way to stick my face under the cold tap because I thought my lips had caught fire. It is, however, an EXCELLENT way to clear your sinuses.

5) Walking into the lounge and nearly face-planting because I tried to miss what I thought was a large dog lying on the carpet. We don't have a dog, and there was nothing there, just my cousin, who closed her eyes and shook her head.

6) Near miss house fire. The plug is a twisted hunk of metal and plastic, and the socket is as scorched as if our local Conservative politician had farted at it. Both of us in the room; neither of us heard or smelled a damn thing. Get your fire alarms checked, guys. That one was too close.

So far, no pigeon sightings to be reported. Also a lack of SOS (Spawn of Spider, for any new readers), which I'm very happy about. There's something very unsettling about realising your carpet is moving towards you. (It's ALWAYS towards you.)












Friday, 8 November 2013

Allegories of the Tarot Interview and Give Away: Meet Red Tash

Allegories of the Tarot Badass Marketing Blog TourGet to know Red Tash, 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!). Red wrote her tale, The Hermit, based on the card of the same name. You can read an excerpt of†her story below.†

Get the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology 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 Red

Red TashRed Tash is a journalist-turned-novelist of dark fantasy for readers of all ages. Monsters,†wizards, trolls, fairies, and roller derby await you in her pantry of readerly delights. Tash is the†author of the Amazon best-selling dark fantasies Troll Or Derby and This Brilliant Darkness; and†a columnist for both LouisvilleKY.com and InveterateMediaJunkies.com, where she does†double-duty as a comic book reviewer.

Tashís own work in comics is included in Scary-Artís†The Pit and the Compendium, Filthy Cake, and is featured in Arcana Comicsí Steampunk†Originals. Prior to beginning her career in fiction, Tash wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper†column on parenting and family life, among other publishing credits. A rabid social media†junkie, Tash can be found on every conceivable corner of the internet, so just google heróshe†dares ya. Beyond writing, Tash has absolutely zero interest in anything, unless it is rehashing her†glory days as rollergirl Tyra Durden of the Derby City Rollergirls & RollerConís TeamMILF.

You can find Red Tash at RedTash.com

Just a few questions...

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? To me and to many others, the Hermit is the Tarot's representation of the Wise Old Man from the Hero's Journey of literary myth, and from Jungian archetypes. In fantasy and science fiction, he manifests as the Wizard (Dumbledore, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, etc.), and he's always revered for his wisdom. I was doing a Tarot reading many years ago for a friend, for fun, when I realized that the Hermit and the Fool were one and the same, just at opposite ends of the same journey. That idea has always intrigued me, and was in no small part inspiration for my series of Wizard Tales!

Why did you decide to get roped into this project?†I've been acquainted with Annetta and some of the other contributors for a little more than a year, so when I saw their names on the roster I was definitely interested. I actually swore off doing any anthologies in 2013 due to my ridiculously busy schedule, but I told myself that if the Hermit card wasn't taken, I'd do it! It was one of a handful of cards not claimed, so to my mind, it must be destiny.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? I've owned a few decks. My original guidebook fell apart from overuse until I made a new cover for it. I used to do readings for all my friends at parties, or just chilling out at my apartment back in the college days. Eventually while on my own ìHero's Journey,î I realized that I didn't truly believe in the predictive power of Tarot, I Ching, horoscopes, or anything of the like, so I packed my deck away. I remain fascinated with the Tarot, though, not just for the perfect storytelling framework opportunity that it presents, but as a conversational tool. It's a great way to walk yourself through a sort of 360 degree analysis of whatever is troubling you.

What other projects do you have planned?†In 2013 I'll write and hopefully release Troll Or Park, the sequel to my biggest hit, Troll Or Derby. I hope to release my fourth Wizard Tale, as well.

How literal did you want to get with your card?†I have a sincere appreciation for lore, so I tried to stick to the spirit of the card. The Hermit is an important leg of The Fool's Journey. I wanted to show the progression from Strength to Hermit, from Hermit to whatever the Wheel of Fortune brings next.

Is your story a part of something you've written about previously?†Actually, yes! I write a serial titled The Wizard Tales, and this will be the sixth story set in that world. Since it's exclusive to the anthology for a year, I'm not sure what official "number" it will be when it's re-released as part of the series.

Would you like to have written about any other card? Which card? Why? I†actually did, in this story. I wrote about the incarnation of Strength, as lived by the gypsy fortune teller Madame Zelda from Troll Or Derby. It really gave me the chance to delve into that previously minor character's finer points, and as a result, she's taking on a bigger role in the upcoming Troll Or Park! Honestly, though, the Hermit was story enough for me. I just couldn't resist involving another "card" in this tale.

If you could have the power to divine the future, would you or would you not and why?†I love the Tarot for a lot of reasons, and I respect the lore that goes with it, but if being great at reading Tarot cards gave you the ability to read the future, I'd have already won the lottery multiple times! Sometimes I think doing a spread just gives you an excuse to be honest with the person asking the question. Does that tell the future?

Honestly, I don't believe in that hocus pocus. We know what we know, we do what we do, we feel what we feel--sometimes it comes true, sometimes it doesn't. You don't have to be a fortune teller to give someone false hope. Ask any weatherman on a rainy Saturday in June.

I think we all do the best we can with the information we've got, whether it's a gut feeling or a conviction of ESP. We know enough about our world to know we don't know jack, right? Best we can do is do our best and live for today. I know enough about my future to know that.

An excerpt from†The Hermit

As I strolled through the flea market, the memory came unbidden: a gypsy tent awash with blood--deep reds and purples fading to brown before my eyes; the amber eye of the dragon, disembodied, palmed in the bloody hand of a child. The child looked up at me, a tiny girl with a hooked nose and silent tears streaming down her face. "My brother," she said, before choking on her own sobs. "My brother."

I was too late to Autumnfell.

Read the rest of†The Hermit†in the Allegories of the Tarot Anthology!

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.

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