Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

The Power of Words

The power of words has always fascinated me. There are limitless possibilities in the use of only one of them, because its power stems not only from its lexical meaning but its historical connotations and changes, its previous contexts, media and user, its audience, location and timing. And, as is always the case with a superpower, it can be used for good or evil, and alas, misunderstood or misused as well. But whatever the effect may be, the desired one or its complete opposite, effect takes place, and it makes a change or a difference, or both. 

It never ceases to amaze me how many emotions and ideas can stem from just one word. When you see it, hear it or say it, regardless of whether its effect is immediate or delayed, it is simply unbeatable and irresistible. It’s like magic, and I do like magic, just like any other child trapped in an ageing body.  

One such word, hidden within a bundle of other wonderful and horrible, yet all impressive words, as I read it in one of my all-time favourite stories, grabbed my attention instantly. It was ‘threshold’. Mind you, in the story I was reading, it was completely unimportant, and simply denoted the entrance to a house in a description. But to me, it was that word which stopped me from reading and forced me to pick up a pen and write this story. 

As soon as I started writing it, a new world opened up before my eyes, like in those science-fiction TV-series, when a starship goes into warp and everything changes at light speed. The world becomes different and bigger, and you are transported into a place so far away from home that it seems you will never go back. Till the story is finished and you warp your way back, with the merciless blow of disappointment at your story being over, and still, quickly psyched up again over another new word and another adventure, beyond our world, yet so much part of our world. 

The Threshold is about change, which is different for everyone, no more or less than we deserve. The change is eventually always consistent with our decision on how we choose to react to that change. The threshold is always open, but what we choose to do with the door is our choice, and ours alone. 

(From the foreword of The Threshold)

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​There’s no magic trick quite like reading

When you are a bookworm, like me, and reading for you constitutes pleasure, relaxation and escape, then it is only logical that reading in the summertime is somewhat synonymous with a holiday.

Even my early childhood memories of the beach and the summer break always involve some sort of reading, be that of magazines, comic books or adventure books. As life moved onwards, and the days of vacation and free time grew shorter, I found it fascinating how my favourite summer reads had become longer, more detailed books, even series of books. From Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear to binge reading Harry Potter and several recently discovered indie authors, reading has become my magical vacation within a vacation, adding a new, extradimensional journey beyond commonplace time and place, free of travelling expenses, packing or congested roads. And I relish it.

It was always unclear to me how some people say summer reading is difficult for them, they can’t concentrate on the beach and it only unnerves them. But, as always, it may simply be a matter of making the wrong choice. Let me explain.

Last summer I started observing people’s reading habits on a family-oriented beach where we spent our holidays. I had picked up a collection of indie short stories and, to my joy, discovered that reading great short stories on the beach was a special treat; it became my ritual – a story a day, and several novels before bedtime and at early sunrise (because who needs sleep on holidays, right?). Short stories are a charming way to get a tan without counting the tanning minutes; you mentally disappear into worlds and situations, and yet finish just in time to go for a swim, have a cocktail or build a sandcastle with your kid. Furthermore, I enjoyed recommending the stories to my friends, who took interest in reading something that was a quality read, and yet short enough not to be time or attention consuming.

Giddy about discovering that ‘no-strings attached’ short-story beach thrill, I was somewhat disappointed to see other people reading long novels on the beach; they were mostly battling with thrillers or romance novels. Battling, I say, because they would either read without even getting into the story (shame, shame, shame), mostly holding their books or devices as sunshade, or truly did get into the story but were then agitated at every interruption from friends, children, other tourists… Nobody shared my short-story fad!? Apparently not. But hey – here is my chance to educate, right?

As this year’s holidays approach, be it on a beach, garden deck chair or just our home terrace, I am already looking forward to choosing a short story collection for the brief moments of lounging between active relaxing or social interactions, and also extensive novels for the blissful alone-time when everyone falls asleep or just before they wake up. Mind you, some of those extensive novels will be by authors I discovered through their short stories – by ‘sampling the dish’ in a way. Like the Extension Charm to my holiday, short stories will add one dimension, novels another, and a week’s vacation will suddenly seem like an amazing fortnight at least.

My suggestion to you? Find your favourite read, whichever length or genre it may be. Add dimension to your holiday. And by all means, share the joy with other people, be they people you’ve already met or those you’d like to. Books do offer excellent conversation starters, you know? And who knows to which dimension that can lead.

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Why authors♡ their characters

This has truly turned out to be an interesting series, with some more authors still to come by the 28th of February. I am grateful to all my guests and their readers fans who are quirky enough, just like I am, to love (and hate) book characters as if they were real. Well, they are, right;)?

Why I love…

There is a work in progress which has been lying in my writing cupboard for a while now. It only needs the final edits, but it is has taken such a large chunk of my life while writing it, and when it was finished, and read by several beta readers, I realized it is such a highly unusual blend of a children’s fairytale and adult horror that it might not be publishable. So I set it aside. 

However, the more it waits, the more convinced I am that it is meant to be what it is, just as it is. What is more, several beta readers have asked me about it, my loved and hated characters from it visit me from time to time, and too many things in all areas of my activity pop out unexpectedly to remind me of this novel. 

Therefore, this spring might finally bring The Forest of Trees to light. It has been the most intense book I have worked on so far and I live so many characters in there, even the trees. Especially the trees. And the children, each bearing the burden of their upbringing and character. Their parents – oh boy, how I love some of them. And all the people in that little town of Tillsworth. Well, not the Jacksons, at least not all of them. And the…

Yes. It is time to enter the Forest again. Absolutely.

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Geoff Nelder on Creativity & Writing

​This post touches on so many things that I often wonder about, quotes some of my favourite instances, and has an overall insightful and slightly humourous appeal I found irresistible! Thank you, Geoff Nelder!

http://geoffnelder.com/writing-is-bad-for-you/

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Elizabeth

Elizabeth Moore, one of my favourite authors, has agreed to be my guest in the What Bugs Me series. She has recently published her new novel, Incurable (see more below). In her own words, when she’s not writing feverishly, you will find her out walking or sightseeing. She’s crazy about coffee, books, good wine, cairn terriers, miniature ponies, historical houses, tapas, and witty people. Sometimes, things do bug her. Here is one of them.

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What Bugs Me

When Anita presented the “What Bugs Me” premise for her blog series, and I agreed to participate, I first came up with some obvious buggy choices: cockroaches, ants, houseflies—the usual suspects of the insect kingdom, those that drive us most crazy and seem to plague us wherever we go. Such pests can be a nuisance to be sure. But, as I pondered the underlying metaphor and considered what truly bugged me, I realized what belonged at the heart of the matter and chose the butterfly.

Of course, butterflies start out as caterpillars. Caterpillars are eating machines. They not only ruin that used-to-be-awesome wool suit in the hall closet, but they also ruin crops and wreak havoc in forests all over the world. I was shocked to learn they aren’t just homely and destructive, they often cause harm to humans.

From Wiki: Caterpillar hairs sometimes have venoms in them and species from approximately 12 families of moths or butterflies worldwide can inflict serious human injuries ranging from urticarial dermatitis and atopic asthma to osteochondritis, consumption coagulopathy, renal failure, and intracerebral hemorrhage. Skin rashes are the most common, but there have been fatalities. Lonomia is a frequent cause of envenomation in Brazil, with 354 cases reported between 1989 and 2005. Lethality ranging up to 20% with death caused most often by intracranial hemorrhage.
Caterpillar hair has also been known to cause kerato-conjunctivitis. The sharp barbs on the end of caterpillar hairs can get lodged in soft tissues and mucous membranes such as the eyes. Once they enter such tissues, they can be difficult to extract, often exacerbating the problem as they migrate across the membrane.

How scary! I remember my little sister’s odd fascination with caterpillars. Once we spent the day at the lake, and she brought two furry black specimens into the car because she wanted to keep them as pets. A few minutes into our drive she broke out in a rash on her hands and arms. Mom screamed for Dad stop the car and out they went! Mom placed her daughter in a warm bath as soon as we got home. But that wasn’t the last time my sister played with caterpillars; she thought they were so cute. I didn’t share her fondness for the furry buggers. I did love butterflies. We had a field in our neighborhood in Eastern Washington State, and I remember how colorful and abundant the butterflies were there.

Some of us recognize elegance in lowly creatures, places, and people. I’m afraid most are attracted to a more obvious beauty. The irony is: without the humble caterpillar there would be no butterfly to admire. So, as I consider the life cycle of the caterpillar/butterfly I reflect on how humans begin life as adorable babies and progress through childhood and adolescence and onto into early adulthood—which in our modern society is considered the prime of life. And, if you believe the proliferation of ads and current sentiment regarding any sign of aging, it can only go downhill from there.

I must admit, aging bugs me. Given the choice, I’d prefer to remain a lovely butterfly forever. I’m not so shallow I don’t see beauty in older faces. I just can’t tolerate an aging face staring back from my mirror.

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Thank you for your time, Elizabeth! Happy writing!

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WISHFUL THINKING

If we are lucky, summer vacation arrives just as we are at the end of our ropes. After all the worry, creative mess, paperwork, all the could-haves and should-haves, it’s time to relax. Quite a challenge for a workaholic teacher to really let go, but you muddle through somehow, knowing your body and mind need refuelling.

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Everyone always says teachers are lucky, with the entire summer to devote only to themselves, and to completely forget about  work. But for most teachers around the world, it’s the same – you simply can’t let go of everything. True, you don’t miss the endless paperwork or the sleepless nights. But all your students, their parents and your colleagues, are an intricate part of you, much like your friends and family. As you travel, take up hobbies, do all those delayed odd jobs around the house, read or listen to music, every now and then, something or someone reminds you of a student or a colleague, makes you smile imagining their reactions, or inspires you into saying ‘I have to tell my students about this.’

And then, suddenly, your vacation finishes and you find yourself itching. You still haven’t fulfilled so many private plans, yet your mind is already settling into its teacher’s mode, subconsciously making plans about the new school year. All those resolutions, all those going-tos and not-going-tos … they wash over your desire to extend the vacation like an ocean wave deleting a message in the sand.

And you start wishing.

You wish for your job to be less stressful that year, more effective and appreciated. You wish your school has been redecorated, your classrooms are abundant in teaching materials, and all the lesson planning can somehow be printed out by a telepathic mindprinter. You hope your colleagues are rested and happy, and your principal more supportive than ever.

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As for your students, you wish for them all to be kind, respectful and inquisitive to the point of a challenge. You keep your fingers crossed that their family situations have improved. You even look forward to the new students you will meet, the potential artists, scientists and humanists. You hope their parents have managed to blow off some stress, found a new hobby or rewarding job, and maybe even had time to talk to each other, so you won’t have to face sadness in their children’s eyes.

You look at yourself in the mirror and make some promises. You will keep an open mind and  you won’t bring work home. You promise things will not get to you. You will go through with your ideas, regardless of those who might not share your enthusiasm. You will sleep well, laugh, sing and devote time to yourself! And you mean it, too. Every syllable.

The new school year is already knocking on your door. Are you silly to hope? Is it just daydreaming? Honestly, I hope it’s contagious. I hope we all make our wishful thinking count. Children are worth it.

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Mark

Mark Fine is another one of amazing authors I met through BGS, one whose life story could be a book in itself. Apart from many issues that bug him, here is a very important one.

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WHAT BUGS ME? MOSQUITO

By Mark Fine

Why Oh why the infernal mosquito? What constructive purpose does this cursed pest play in the checks-and-balances of our fragile ecosystem? I look at its blood-swollen abdomen (my blood!) and its pile-driver proboscis plunged into my flesh (already, I feel the onrush of relentless itches) as I shake my head with frustration (the memory of the mozzie’s incessant buzz, as it closed in on me)—and all I’m left with is questioning the futility of it all.  What is it in the mosquitos’ nature that makes it so compulsively nihilistic? The answer is simple. Blood!

It has no choice but to nourish itself on bloodstream of other living creatures. It has been programmed that way. And in recompense for the generous feeding it receives from an unwilling host, well the mosquito’s generosity knows no bounds; leaving in gratitude a welt, an itch, and a cruel dose of Malaria or West Nile virus.

But the mosquito has an excuse. It is not, by my reckoning, a sentient being.  However, a human has no such excuse.

Alas, there are humans that are equally nihilistic, and significantly more destructive. And they truly bug me. Especially as they should know better, being raised themselves upon the bounty of mother earth.  Their elders in story and song, from the cradle, expressed with great passion the necessity to respect and preserve the fragile balance of our natural world. Yet, like the selfish mosquito these pesky (too kind a word, but the pejoratives I had in mind are not for the civilized) poachers have mooched and preyed upon rhino, and elephant, and zebra, and lion et al.

This rant isn’t intended to be a rationale argument. I’m not interested in debates about medicinal demand from Asia, or the poor pecuniary lot of the poachers. It’s simply wrong!

Now, I feel I must explain myself. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the dust of Africa flowing through my veins. This happy fact has blessed me with an abiding passion—and compassion—for all living creatures. This innate love for nature has remained with me all these years that I’ve been fortunate to live in the United States.

But despite the great geographic distance from the continent of Africa, my soul aches, because I sense the cry of the voiceless. Especially those large mammals: the elephant and the rhino. Triage demands we focus on the rhino immediately as their very survival is in imminent danger. In part due to the economic might of Asia, so the appetite of superstition and libido must be satisfied in an ever growing demand. Also, the needs of terror groups to finance their deadly attacks have grown. But it’s the deadly efficacy of modern instruments of death that have accelerated the rapacious escalation of poaching in the early 21st century; whether it be mass poisoning at a drinking well or hail of fire from a helicopter gunship.

Simply stated, demand is slaughtering supply! And the stream of blood left in its wake is more than enough to satisfy a googolplex of thirsty mosquitos. So, for me the extinction of the rhino and elephant are not an option. Instead, I’d gladly volunteer the bloody mosquito as fair trade—there are certainly enough of those miserable blighters to go around. 

Mark Fine, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story. And #RhinoProtector.

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Thank you, Mark, for taking the time to write this post. So many things bug us, but it is important to speak up and act!

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Neil

Neil Newton, author of Railroad, talks about what bothers him most in life. Do read on – there is much to think about here.

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What bugs me: time lost.

By Neil Newton

Sometimes wisdom comes from odd places. There is a very good face book page called Collective Evolution, a page I recommend. A particular post that caught my attention listed the main regrets of retirees. The list turned out to be what you would expect, based on many other previous similar posts. But there was one regret that was a bit higher up on the existential chain. Paraphrased, this particular regret was about living the way that “the world” wanted, not in a way that would be true to the person you are.
A bit lofty, I’ll admit. But I think that most people would admit some slippage in terms of “being true to oneself”. The horrifying conclusion of the oft recurring regret is that many people live their lives with the advice of the ages ringing in their ears and make the same mistake their ancestors did; they wait and hope that…something would will make it right. And it goes on.

The other bit of wisdom came from an even more unexpected source. I was watching a classic movie station that is featuring film noir for the summer. Film noir is a strange animal; its birth marked the first signs of the film industry graduating from a mostly sanitized view of American life to a study of life’s underbelly, something that has been common faire in the movies since the late sixties. The protagonist in this particular movie is an angry violent cop, so out of control that he is living on the edge of being thrown off the force. The conscience of the piece is a veteran cop who is a happily married man who makes his family his anchor in life. Catching the angry cop after one of his beat downs of a suspect, he reads him the riot act. Disgusted, our angry cop ask him, “How do you live with the job.” He’s told, “I live with other people, this is just a job. You only get out of life what you put in, from the heart.”

Silly watching a black and white hard boiled middle aged cop from a movie made in 1952 and me feeling exposed. At the age of 56 I  find myself feeling the press of time but I also found myself feeling the anticipated grief for generations who are just reaching adulthood and those that have yet to come into this world. I am angry that we aren’t taught to teach our children to take reasonable risks and to try to find themselves. Or at least to try be happy.

It’s common wisdom that we all make decisions that provide the trajectory of our lives; there are always choices, they say. So if things don’t work out, it must be our fault.  But choices, good choices, are informed, something that only comes from experience.  If there is a reason that young adults sometimes meander, having dysfunctional relationships and taking only what crumbs come their way, it is often because they have been taught that the one thing that would teach them how live, life experience and risk, is a bad thing.

So what bugs me? We are a society full of conflicting messages. We treat our children like helpless morons till they reach majority and then we expect them to quickly make informed decisions about school, career, relationships with no guidance and no experience. What bugs me more is that we are often lousy stewards of our children’s growth. Encouragement to try various careers by job shadowing is an idea that has not become a trend nor will it in most parts of the U.S.

At my age there is precious little that I can do to change the trajectory of my life. Living from the heart requires years of practice. I can feel sad for myself, but I am watching teenagers and young adults struggling to figure out which way to turn. And, in many cases, I can see them beginning to waste time in the way I did.

In cultures that we would consider primitive because they don’t have cable and cellphone, young men and women are put through rituals that bring them to adulthood, psychologically, gradually and in a timely fashion. Could we do the same? I leave that question to your imagination.

What bugs me? It can be best expressed in the last line of one of the better poems I’ve read: “In all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”

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Thank you, Neil. You truly have given us food for thought.

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The Wheels on the Marketing Bus Go Round&Round

Reblogging this from the BooksGoSocial web blog… Telling it like it is, even though it may not be what I want to hear;)
HOW BOOK SELLING REALLY WORKS

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Elizabeth H.N.

So pleased to have a new guest here today, sharing what annoys her most in life today. Elizabeth Horton-Newton, author, family woman, social activist and multitasker is here to blow off some steam.

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What Bugs You

By Elizabeth Horton Newton

The question of what bugs me started me thinking. I thought it would be easy to come up with a pithy response. Imagine my amazement when I could not think of a single thing. Not one to give up easily I thought harder. I set my standards lower. Suddenly my brain was overrun with annoyances. People who cut me off in traffic, people who take the last cookie in the jar, people who don’t offer their seat on a bus to the elderly or disabled, drivers who are not disabled parking in handicapped parking spots, people who allow their children to run wild in malls and stores… I could go on. Yet, these seem such minor irritations. In fact, they are minor. I turned back to the drawing board.

I reexamined my list and found every entry had something in common. At their root they were all instances of rudeness based on self absorption. It seems to me in recent years people have become so self-involved they cease to consider what effect their actions may have on others. It’s a new type of selfishness, practiced on a regular basis right there in front of everyone.

I can’t say precisely when the shift came; if it was sudden or if it happened gradually over time, unnoticed even by those affected. Did it begin with adults behaving badly, teaching their children by example? Or was it children who first ran amuck, somehow undisciplined or unable to be disciplined?

Perhaps this self concern was always present beneath the surface, concealed by society’s morés. At some point it was no longer rude for people to put their desires first. Please note I did not say they put their needs first. That would be understandable to a degree. I’m talking about the crowds at Filene’s bridal dress sale known as the Running of the Brides in Boston. True, Filene’s has gone bankrupt, but while it was still in business it created a mad rush every November. Women who were not even engaged would trample one another in an effort to acquire a designer wedding dress at a ridiculously low price.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US, is now known for injuries and deaths resulting from people fighting to get the sale item they must have to make Christmas complete. After all, they promised their child Santa would bring the ridiculously expensive toy for them to open on Christmas morning. By January the toy may lay forgotten on a playroom floor. People have been trampled, severely injured, even killed by aggressive shoppers who have no concern for others. The goal is to get the best while paying the least at any physical expense. There is a website that tallies the deaths since 2006.

You may wonder if this qualifies as simply being rude. It is perhaps the most extreme example of self gratification resulting in the most horrifying examples of rudeness. No thought is given to others in the drive to acquire some material object. Humanity goes by the wayside and instead homicidal consumerism takes over.

So, the next time you cut someone off on the highway, jump in front of another person in the grocery line, the next time you take the last Danish at a company breakfast or an extra cookie “for later”, give your actions a second thought. Did you hold the elevator door for someone hurrying to get on or did you pretend you didn’t hear as he asked you to wait? Did you look away on the subway as an older man or woman struggled to stand, hoping someone else would give up his seat? Did you park in a handicapped spot thinking you would only be a moment in the store? Do you want your child to emulate your behavior? Are you doing other selfish things unconsciously as your child looks on? Are you perpetuating rudeness with your behavior?

What bugs me? Rude, thoughtless behavior by people who are so self-absorbed they can’t see beyond their own desires and comfort. Does it bug you?

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Thank you, Lizzie! I can’t say I disagree with you;)!

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