Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reviews

Yes, I know, I’ve been failing miserably in my mandate to provide regular doses of fiction, but you see, thing is that I’m suffering from a severe case of The Block. My last post in it’s awful un-funniness is testimony to that.

You know how as a writer, there are times when you have this logorrhoea that your fingers dancing across the keyboard struggle to keep track of? Well equally there are times when you suffer from – for lack of a better analogy and the creative skill to think one up – a constipation of sorts. When you can feel these words building up inside of you and no matter how hard you ‘strain’ you cannot produce that stream of fluid prose. And you are left feeling bloated and unhappy, simply because you cannot get it out.

So to make life bearable - for life is only bearable in the presence of words and lots of them - I have been drowning myself in words. I read two books this week. Each book took me a day. And both were rather enjoyable.

Let me begin with the lesser of the two.





Imagine reading a book about a man who gets blown off the toilet by the appearance of the Angel of the Eleventh Hour sent by the Intelligence of the Intelligency to anoint him as a prophet. This is what George, the protagonist in Tom Eaton’s Texas experienced one night and it was a pretty crappy night at that. The angel, Madadoel his name, was a hairy – really hairy – man. Taller than average who had thought it wise to endow himself with a rather large manhood. And of course we know this, since he makes his appearance in the nude.

Texas was funny, irreverent, strange – and that’s putting it mildly – but it provided me with the escape I was looking for. And that is really all that matters. Texas left me with one question though. Do you, as a reader need to establish a rapport with the protagonist? Must you like him? I’ve always believed this to be a vital ingredient when trying to produce a good book, but George, banal though he is, suffering under the mountain of insecurities like just about every person of the ‘Time’ – why else do we need books to tell us how to parent, make love, live, be fulfilled? – endears himself as he warms to his role.

One thing that annoyed me, was that the picture on the cover was not consistent with what was written in the book. I don't know whether this bothers you, but is always something that works on my nerves.

It wasn't a pointless book though. There was something deeper there, which I will attempt to ‘get at’ when I am feeling less mentally challenged.




And now on to the Love Story. I love a good love story. It satisfies the romantic in me, the person who is determined to believe in love that is eternal in spite of the divorce statistics. The person who believes in happy endings despite experience in life to the contrary.

And Anthony Capella’s Food of Love did just that. I suppose being able to identify with the passion that gripped Bruno when he prepared food, glorious Italian food, for his beloved meant that I was coming at this from a position of intimacy, if you will. I knew the feeling, having felt it myself. I understood what it meant to express yourself through your creation of something that is beautiful and satisfying in more than one way.

The plot was clever. It moved along rapidly, drew you in completely. Rome was vividly recreated on paper. I could smell the alleys, could see the fountains, the bridges and almost taste the wonderful food. I am biased, of course, having read Capella’s The Wedding Officer as well. And after reading both of his books, I can say that I have finally found my own ‘favourite contemporary author’.

As long as I can read and celebrate the music that is words, I am not completely lost. And theirein lies hope, the seed from whence all great things flourish. The Block will pass. It must. In the meantime, I need to find someone who can direct me to a good verbal laxative. A good purgative. It always makes you feel better, doesn't it?


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Biology Lesson


I was told the other day by an ‘enlightened soul’ that people who live lives that are devoid of goodness will be re-incarnated as amoebas. Now for those of you who have forgotten all the biology lessons, let me jog your memory a little.


Amoeba, any of a group of unicellular organisms characterized by their locomotive method of extending cytoplasm outward to form pseudopodia (false feet). The amoeboid group includes hundreds of different organisms, ranging in size from about .25 to 2.5 mm (about 0.0098 to 0.098 in). Amoebas are considered the most primitive animals and are classified in the kingdom Protista. All amoeboid organisms have thin cell membranes, a semirigid layer of ectoplasm, a granular, jellylike endoplasm, and an oval nucleus. Some species live on aquatic plants and some in moist ground; others are parasitic in animals.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

And that night when I slept I had a fascinating dream. It was the year 2030 and I had evolved to such an extent that I was able to understand the language spoken by amoebas.
I was sitting across a guy in a doctor’s waiting room. He looked really ill. Face contorted in agony, eyes bloodshot, running to the loo every few minutes. He had, by the looks of it, Amoebic Dysentery. Poor guy. Obviously been one of the fools to buy those veggies that are supposed to have been grown organically. Anyone with half a brain knew that the ‘organic’ was simply a euphemism for food grown in soil fertilized with unprocessed human waste. A maggoty mess, I tell you.

When he looked just about ready to pass out I heard voices from inside his gut.

Amoeba AD1: Good pickings huh?
Amoeba AD2: Ya, so, so.
Amoeba AD1: What’s the matter? You look like someone’s nicked your protazoa and tied your pseudopodia.
Amoeba AD2: Well, have you seen him?
Amoeba AD1: Seen who? And since when do we have he’s?
Amoeba AD2: Well he insists we call him a he. Says that his name is Amoeba Bush AD227.
Amoeba AD1: Phew, that’s some name. Would take about a million of us to spell it.
How come Bush? I thought that’s the stuff adults have in their nether regions or mountains have as cover.
Amoeba AD2: (whispering now) He says that his name in the other life was George Bush. He says that he’s King of the Gut and that he’s killed more humans than there are amoebas in this here guys gut.
Amoeba AD1: Ooh, sounds scary. I'm turning to jelly. Watch me wiggle. He’ll be King of the But before long. I hear this Doctor is good at killing us off. Has powerful drugs that no amoeba can ingest without dying.
Amoeba AD: Don’t you know anything? He reckons that he will ingest all the medicine and grow into a super amoeba and take over the brain and control the entire body.

It was then that I woke up.
Sigh, there are some things that even re-incarnation cannot change.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mother

written a few years ago... but still readable

her eyes

are watery

pools

her

hands,

blue and purple


gnarled

like an old

branch


from somewhere

inside

her

bent and

shrivelled

body


I came - to be

destroyed

at the hands

of

a caregiver

of

her choosing


I’m reviled by

myself

for what I have

been made

to experience


for my anger

at her

rejection

jealousy

manipulation


but a toy

in her

cruel hands


do I love her?

not sure

I know

I should

she is

my mother



but things

are not

as

they should be


Ever!


I’m tainted

distorted

suffered

at perverted hands

worst kind of

humiliation


perversion

without

motivation


Paedophile


words ring

in my

stinging ears

stinging eyes

tears

the wounds of

many years

raw, exposed

my soul

laid bare


yet


she doesn’t care







Friday, January 19, 2007

Politics

Now I know I was supposed to stick to fiction, but there are times when certain things demand a space on your soap box. A friend sent this to me. I know not whether it is a hoax. But I do know that it speaks my mind most eloquently. I don't want to start a battle of words and I post this knowing that those who read this blog are mature enough to disgaree respectfully. So here goes:

Letter from a U.S. citizen “addressed to the world”

1/15/2007 3:30:00 PM GMT


First let me speak to the people in Iran.


There is a large majority of Americans who are terrified by our governments inability to hear our voices. We do not want war. Not with you, not with anyone. We admire your ancient culture and respect your religious beliefs. While our government takes steps toward instigating another illegal war, this time on your great nation, we, the majority of United States citizens, are trying everything that is in our power to prevent this.


We have recently elected new officials in Congress, which we believe and hope will stand up with us in our desires to put an end to our current administration's designs of global occupation. However, we seem to have very little say in these matters anymore. While we may scream at the top of our lungs about how we feel, write letters to our officials, protest in the streets, demand accountability for our leaders' actions, our president ignores us and continues his one-man circus act.
I wish to apologize to the people of Iran now, and assure you that we will do everything in our power to prevent our government leaders from another grave mistake in foreign policy.


Now, the people of Iraq hear me out.


Please understand our sorrow in what our leaders have done to your nation. While most of us believe that Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator, we also understand that for many years, our country supported him and only deposed him as the president of Iraq when it was beneficial to our government. Our leaders lied to us about the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.


Most of our citizens at the time were quite fearful over what was happening in the world due to the attacks on September 11, 2001, and our president used that fear to further his personal agenda. It was WRONG. It was not our place to overthrow a dictator; it was yours if you so choose.

However, now your country is in ruins and many people die every day. Our president has just said that this is "unacceptable" to him. As usual, it seems that his words are woefully inadequate. Unacceptable is not a word to use when tens of thousands of people have died, and many more will in the time to come.


We cannot fix this mess. We can only make it worse. The majority of American people want our troops to be drawn down in your country to allow the Iraqi people a chance to help themselves. Please understand that we do not want to just abandon you. We wish to support you with our finances, our expertise in technology, our moral support, anything except more lives.


I know that you have suffered beyond anything that the US has ever suffered. But now is the time to send a message to the world that you do not need the United States to continue to occupy your sovereign nation. On behalf of most American citizens, we are eternally sorry for what we have allowed to be done to you.


To the people of Israel...


I'd like to say we understand.


We recognize your struggles in the world. We understand that for many years you were persecuted. However, that does not give you the right to do to others what has been done to you. I'm not suggesting that you bare all of the responsibility for the struggles in the West Asia, but you're not helping to solve it either.


Your fight is for property. Your fight is for recognition. Your fight is for peace. May I suggest to you that if after 60 years nothing has changed, maybe you're going about it the wrong way? I know that you will illicit images of bombings and terror to reinforce your actions. But please consider, violence in response to violence, only leads to more violence.


There must be a better solution. There is plenty of space to allow two separate and sovereign nations to exist. Israel and Palestine. I understand that there are more issues to discuss here, however, we have to start somewhere.


Do we really want to blame all the ills of life on "the other guys"? This sort of thinking is shortsighted and full of its own bigotry. And please, before dismissing me as just another anti-Semite, look at my name and understand that we share the same heritage.


To the people of the United States...


Are you afraid?


I am. Not of Al-Qaeda, not of Sunni or Shia militias, not of insurgents, not of so-called "Islamofascist", not of dirty bombs, not of having to "fight them here", not of a nuclear Iran, not of planes blowing up, not of anthrax in the mail, not of Hamas, not of Hezbollah, not of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), or of terrorist cells in my backyard.I am not afraid of any of the things that our government has worked so hard to scare me into believing is at my doorstep. Instead, I am afraid of our government. Can we forget about the lies that we were told over and over again by our leaders? Can we forget about the atrocities committed in our name? Can we forget the way the rest of the world sees this great nation now?


Never.

Can we stand by while legislation such as the Military Commissions Act dissolves our basic civil rights? Can we stand back and let our leaders listen to our phone calls, read our mail, investigate our library cards, or read our e-mails? I sincerely hope not.
Our president has given himself the authority to deem anyone at any place an enemy combatant. With this label, one can be arrested, detained indefinitely in Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) or some other military prison without charges being levied against them, and tortured.


Or, if they are lucky, they will be brought to trial.


Just not allowed to see or confront the evidence against them under the guise of national security.


It could be me for just writing this letter. It could be you for just reading it. Is this our country? Is this what the United States of America has turned into?


No more freedom of speech, lest we anger the president.


No more freedom of assembly, lest we anger the President.


No more right to a trial by a jury of our peers, no more protection against self-incrimination, unless you can withstand the torture.


We are at his mercy. We did the right thing during the November elections by taking steps to put an end to this lunacy. However, it can't stop there. We need to take a step back, Democrat and Republican alike, to examine the horrendous damage that has been done and continues to be done, to us, and in our name.


The Revolutionary War was fought by brave people for a noble cause. This country was founded by people who refused tyranny and oppression. The majority has spoken and now action is necessary.


Stand up for what is right by putting an end to the war in Iraq, the war on the American people, and the instigation of more wars on innocent people. Are we Americans or not?


To the American troops


Please understand that you have our unwavering support. We know that you have your duty and take it very seriously. Rest assured, we will get you home. The majority of your fellow Americans are trying everything they can to end this war. Please know that our hearts break each day when we hear the news of another fallen soldier. Most of us do not support this war, BUT WE WILL ALWAYS SUPPORT YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES.


Mr President, are you listening?


I know that you do not care about my feelings, or that of any other American. Sir, I voted for you the first time. I am deeply ashamed of it and will forever have the blood of hundreds of thousands of people on my hands because of it. Almost every person in the world knows you are wrong.


Almost every American citizen knows that you are wrong.


You surround yourself with only people who agree with you, until they agree no more. Don't you dare think that you stand for me or the vast majority of American people. You never have. We are not nearly as ignorant as you would like to believe we are.


So bide your time in office, Mr President. We are not going to allow you to destroy us anymore. Only a coward allows people to die instead of standing up like a man and admitting they were wrong. Know this sir, that legacy that you care for so much will forever be tainted with deception and death.


Brian Bloom

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bookish Musings



That Harry Potter started a trend in young adult literature is something that even those who claim Rowling couldn’t write if the lives of all on earth depended on it, cannot deny. Fantasy, witches, wizards – they’ve become a vital ingredient - like sugar in a cake perhaps – to the success of a YA novel. This makes me ask the question. Did all these authors just wake up one morning with a witch/wizard banging around inside their heads, begging for their story to be told, or did they look at the success of Potter and decide, “Well I might as well hop onto the bandwagon.”?

And amongst these, very few have actually enjoyed even a fraction of the success that was Potter’s lot. So what does this mean for us as writers? What is it that we should be writing? For the market aka, what’s selling well? Or do sales figures really not mean that much?

Consider the following sobering statistics from Nielsen Bookscan, a company that in 2004 tracked the sales of 1.2 million books in the United States:
· Of those 1.2 million books, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies.
· Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies.
· Only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies.
· Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies.
· Only 10 books sold more than a million copies each.
· The average book in the United States sells about 500 copies.
(The above info is reprinted from the Levine Breaking News, an e-zine. To subscribe, send your email address to:
Join-elert@pr2.netatlantic.com.)


In trying to decipher exactly what is going on in the book world, I found the following:

81% of the population feels they have a book inside them.

27% would write fiction.

28% would write on personal development

27% would write history, biography, etc.

20% would do a picture book, cookbook, etc.

6 million have written a manuscript.

6 million manuscripts are making the rounds.

Out of every 10,000 children's books, 3 get published.

--Jerrold Jenkins. 15 May 99.
http://www.JenkinsGroup.com

Even more discouraging was this discovery:

Who is Reading Books (and who is not)

One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Many do not even graduate from high school.
58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
42% of college graduates never read another book.
80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57% of new books are not read to completion.


--Jerrold Jenkins.
http://www.JenkinsGroup.com

For me this says one things and one thing only, “Write what makes you happy and to heck with the rest.” Since the likelihood that your bbok will actually be published is slim enough and the possibility that your book will sell less than a hundred copies is enormous, why should you do something just because everyone is doing it right now?

Why did I write this rant? Because I want to write Short Fiction and the numbers tell me that it doesn’t sell. Do I care? Should I care? After reading all this, clearly not!


p.s. I understand that Publishers take a risk when the publish a book especially a first novel. But if it is something that you love, something that you believe in, somethings that resonates with your soul, I'm sure there would be readers who feel the same. And hopefully the gamble will pay off for you. I didn't write what the market wanted, but what I loved, and it sold. Surely Rowling did much the same. She sold Potter at a time when YA fantasy was declining. She took a chance, and succeeded.

Crisis

Aaargh! I thought I was smart and decided to give Afrocentric a new look. You know the New Year, time for change and all that. And after I've gone and done the ill advised thing, I find that all my links have vanished. I could very happily scream. Now I need to find a way of getting them all back up there, and I know little to nothing about HTML. Why, oh why was I so dumb!!!

Addendum:
After much wrangling, all of the regulars are back. But they still need to be alphabetised. Tomorrow... I'm bushed now!

And lest I forget, the feedback from the editor was very encouraging. They would like me to turn the collection into a novel. I shall get to work, lay out the stories, axe some, keep others, write new ones. A daunting task, but someday, I honestly believe this, I shall hold the book - freshly printed and bound - in my trembling hands. And I know you're rooting for me ;-)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Past


The road is broad and smooth. A new road. Starkly contrasting markings – white against the deep charcoal. It wends its way between mountains - crumpled blankets with acacia and fynbos for fluff. Cars pass me by. Pass my old car the colour of the road, minus the markings. They whine in the way that cars do, their wheels barely touching the burning tar.

Your car is like that. A shiny metallic green one that doesn’t cough and sputter like mine. That has electric windows and air-conditioning that work. That seems to fly across the wide road, one that shimmers under the broad African sky. The sky burnt white by the sun. But how does it do that, when you are weighted, so terribly weighted by Past? Past that sits with you on the leather seats, enjoys your air-conditioning and the thump of Hindi music that emanates from expensive speakers.

Do you ever feel Past? How it makes you hide from me? Hide from my eyes? You have always felt that I see too much. Even when I was eight.

“I’m never good for you.”
Your words echo. Even now in the corridors of Memory where my bogey men play hide and seek with the fairies, the ones who drank tea from my tea set.

I loved you. I still do. Somehow, though I wasn’t aware then that I knew, but I did. I knew you were hurting. I knew that Past held you firmly by the throat. That it tightened its hold whenever he did anything thoughtful.

“Remember,” it rasped, “Remember. He hurt you.”

And it pressed down more heavily still, until you are now one. You cannot tell where it ends and you begin. Who are you? Do you know?

Look at you now. A ‘Senior Citizen’. Yet a child within. Living with Past, in Past. Hurting whenever Past speaks, reminds, taunts. I feel powerless. I can’t help you, yet your eyes seem to beg for release.

Will you ever see? Only you can. Exorcise Past.


Please. For your sake. For mine.






Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back!!

Well don't you just hate it when holidays end??? Okay, don't answer that. Like I needed a reminder. Three days back in the real world and already I have the forum knocking on me door, the Minx wondering whether Christmas had gobbled me up, judging to complete for a Poetry Competition, and getting kids into the right schools to contend with.

Ah but for the long and dusty road that winds its way to Zeerust; for the crumpled blankets for mountains with little acacias and fynbos for fluff; for the brown grass that strectches out in all directions hiding the eland, impala, kudu and God alone knows what else.

For the smell of chlorine on the evening air; the feel of sunlight against warm skin.

Yes, I'm more than just nostaligic.


I have a story prickling my brain, one that needs to be written; I have feedback winging its way to me on my short story manuscript, which to quote the editor :

I’d really like you to take up the suggestions in the report, as I felt there was something there, but that it needs a bit of rethinking. I’d be glad to hear what you think of our feedback once you’ve received it.

And I just don't have the energy. But fiction will follow soon, I promise.

The strangest Google, though stats have dropped real low, has been someone wondering what 'haaibo haaibo' means. It's an expression dude. Kinda like someone saying 'Gheez' or 'Blimey'. Nothing exciting.

Smelly knickers was there too, but since I mentioned it before, I couldn't really repeat it.

Great to see you all. And my old friends, I really have missed you.

S