Saturday 24 November 2018

The Evolution of a Book Cover

My Mom always used to say that your first child should be disposable because a first -time mother makes all her mistakes on that poor first child. The same principle applies to the cover of your first novel. 

Way back in 2011, I made all my mistakes on that first cover of the first edition of my first novel "DANCING IN THE SHADOW OF LOVE." The end result was nothing like I wanted it to be.

I loved my second cover, designed by a professional in 2012. But, as beautiful and unusual as it is, it still wasn't quite right for the book: it sent the wrong message to readers. This novel is not a romance novel, but a hard-hitting,  gritty spiritual allegory.  

In 2018, I decided to try again. I returned to the beginning. The artwork of my 2011 and 2018 covers is a mixed media painting by South African artist, Martin Wenkidu. Called "Man and the World of Stars" it - like the novel - is dense with symbolism. You can read an interview with the artist here, where he explains the imagery and symbolism.  This image resonates deeply with the content of the novel: the three figures in the dance of life, arms upraised to connect to the Divine, coming out of the shadows and into the light of Love. 

Third time lucky! Using the original artwork, Wendy from Apple Pie Graphics did a stunning job on the cover. Now I feel this book is finally complete and I can close the chapter on it. What a relief!

Monday 13 August 2018

My "annus horribilis"

Some years are more challenging than others; who would've thought moving and renovations would be so super stressful. 

We're finally in our new home after 5 weeks of squatting at my Mom, and poor Shadow spending 6 weeks in the cattery (I visited her as often as I could but it took a while for her to forgive me!) The short version of the move is - it was challenging! My beloved husband's health continues to deteriorate, although in his own quiet way, he is fighting the cancer with an indomitable strength, but his latest scan was not encouraging news. Between the move and his health, I had to make the hard decision to abandon my astrology course, but that plan will be reinstated in 2019! 

There is always some good news too - I received an email from Commonwealth Writers Prize (see below!) saying that the short story I had entered into the 2018 competition made it to the longlist of 200 entries out of 5000! I was so inspired I managed to write another short story which I entered into the 2019 Gerald Kraak/Jacana Award, and I'm busy on an outline to enter a new short story into the 2019 Commonwealth Prize which opens on 1/9/2018. There's also a vague outline of another poetry volume that is starting to bubble away but I must finish unpacking the rest of the boxes first!

And talking of boxes, I better return to the grindstone and unpack a few more before the day begins ... 

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Writing: the drumbeat of your soul's evolution

by Judy Croome

How many times recently have you heard someone say, “I’m writing a book”? Or, the next best thing, “I want to write a book”? Have you ever said, or thought, “I can write a better book than this!”
Image iStock_000013900930_Large
Since we’ve entered the 21st century, it seems as if everyone you speak to wants to write a book – a novel, a memoir or a non-fiction self-help or cook-book.
Well, American author Joseph Epstein wrote in The New York Times that 81% of all Americans want to write a book, or believe they have a book in them. In 2012, that’s roughly 250 million Americans who want to write a book. Add on all the rest of the people in the world who want to write a book, and the mind boggles at the number of aspiring authors.
Why writing? One doesn’t hear every other person say, “I want to be a musician” or “I think I have at least one sculpture in me.”
No, it’s always “I want to write!”
One reason could be is that we learn to write as early as we learn to read. Somehow, that makes writing seem an easier expression of our individual creativity than other art forms, which overtly require special skills and expensive equipment. To write, you need the most basic of tools – a pencil and a piece of paper (or, these days, a laptop.)
Speaking to other writers, and trolling the multitude of on-line writing forums, I found the reasons people write are as many and as varied as the number of books on
... I’m in it for the booze, chicks and money. I like to write for the same reason I like to read: escapism. I can forget about the boring real world for a while. Of course, it would be nice to think that after I die there will be a chunk of writing with my name on it somewhere. It’s a free hobby. It’s a compulsion. Writing is freedom. I want to prove to myself that I’m not a complete failure. Writing is one way to leave your mark on the world. Some people are in love with the idea of being a writer. I think it has to do with the innate desire to communicate; we all want to be ‘heard’. The lure of easy money. I can exist in another world. Some people are driven by inner forces. Chicks dig writers. There’s an Artist’s Mystique. These people want personal validation. Writing provides the opportunity to create something unique. On the days when there seem to be innumerable bills, I admit guiltily to daydreaming about getting rich one day. Writers don’t just entertain, they record a time, a place, a sliver of the human experience. Writers write because it’s their natural response to the world. Their life experiences keep haunting them so they want to pour it out, and writing is the best medium. I guess I just write, because I have an idea I don’t want to waste. People are trying to cash in on what they see as easy money. It really is my dream to write a book …
That’s a lot of reasons for writing, and that’s not even all of them. If we look into them more closely, we can see that, as individually expressed as each reason is, we can narrow them down to:
  • Dreams of fame & fortune (and the material rewards that go with that)
  • The perception that writing is an “easy” art
  • The need to escape their material reality
  • The desire for immortality (to make a mark on the world)
  • For personal validation or a sense of self-worth
  • A creative compulsion to entertain or communicate
Epstein, in his New York Times article, suggests that the desire to write a book has taken on a greater significance in the modern world because it fills the void left by the collapse of religion as the answer to our reason for existence. Where once people believed that faith in God could provide a road to salvation, now, he says, they search for meaning by writing a book.
With my interest in evolutionary astrology I, however, see the intoxicating drumbeat of writing currently calling to so many people somewhat differently.
The end of the Mayan calendar – the so-called end of the world – came and went a few short years ago. Despite the rousing calls of the coming rapture, and to the delighted mockery of the sceptics, the world still exists.
But, if we step back from our fears and our emptiness, if we switch off our intellect and, like The Fool in the Tarot, leap across the abyss of faith, we may find that the world as we knew it has indeed “ended.”
The evolutionary imperative of the human spirit has outgrown the compassion of the Age of Pisces and shifted gear into the Age of Aquarius. Aquarian energy, at once more egalitarian and more technological than the heart-based Piscean energy, is now a powerful force propelling humankind into the next phase of its spiritual evolution.
But in the search for the Divine – for salvation, if you will – an individual’s wholeness can only be attained when both the light and the dark within are embraced.
In this New Age, which fully began the day the Mayan calendar ended, the detached Aquarian energy is driving humanity to create a more equal world for all (the Arab Spring, the rising call to narrow the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots are two examples).
Just as fire was a gift from the Divine to light the evolutionary path for those ancients who walked this earth before us, so the advancements of science and technology are the Divine gift to light the evolutionary path for our modern world. And without those scientific and technological advancements of the past 250 years (more advancements than the rest of the Age of Pisces in total), we wouldn’t be living in a global village in which both a high school student and a professor of English can write and publish their own book, with an equal possibility of success. You can’t get more egalitarian than that.
But, the brighter the light, the darker the shadow and the evolutionary shadow that stalks the human soul in our brave new world is hidden in the energy of the Aquarian polarity: the sign of Leo, king of the jungle.
If Aquarius energy is more comfortable with the cool and rational intellect and objectively works towards the best interests of the collective, the fiery Leo archetype, or psychology, ruled by the dazzling Sun and associated with the 5th house (representing, inter alia, the creativity and self-expression of the individual) is anything but.
Leo is a creative energy; it also wants to be like its ruler the Sun: the centre of attention. In its wilful desire nature, Leo will do whatever it takes to gain fame and fortune, prestige and passion. And because it operates from the shadows of the evolutionary imperatives of the Aquarian Age, it seeks its individual creative expression through the perceived easiest route to fame, fortune and celebrity status: writing a book.
However, writing, like the spiritual evolution of humankind itself, is not as easy as it first appears. As any one of those more than 250 million Americans who want to write a book will find out (and those populating the rest of the world, too), once one starts writing that first book, one’s spiritual evolution as an individual begins, whether one wants it or not.
The fates lead him who will – him who won’t, they drag. – Seneca (Roman philosopher, 4 BC – 65 AD)
Epstein, in the New York Times, urges people to think twice before starting to write a book and calls this consuming passion to write “a serious and time-consuming mistake.” 
No matter what a writer’s conscious reasons for first answering the call of the writing drum, ultimately the current surge in struggling writers is a symptom of Divine evolutionary forces at work: the new writer will inevitably find that the rewards he seeks may not be the rewards he ultimately receives. His spiritual growth will come from learning to recognise that the urge to write a book may not end with a completed or published book. And, if he chooses to go the self-published route from ego rather than from spirit, he may have a published book, but will he have readers?
Can the spiritual evolution of humankind be a serious and time-consuming mistake?
Whether you finish your book, or not; whether your completed book is published or not; whether you become the next J K Rowling or not, when next you hear that distant drumbeat, calling you to write, write and write … stop. Listen. And then write some more.
For, with that first word you type on the first blank page you stare at, you’ll be embarking on a journey like none other: the journey to spiritual enlightenment and a new way of living.
This article first appeared as a guest post on BODYSENSING, the blog of T'ai Ch'i Chu'an and Alexander Technique teacher of 25 years Marguerite van der Merwe. Marguerite lives with her husband, the accomplished artist, Charles van der Merwe, in the small coastal village of Kleinmond, South Africa. 
As Marguerite Osler, she is the author of THE ART OF WALKING (2011), a beguiling handbook on the art of natural, conscious walking and a path to health and the richness of well-being. Marguerite is the sister of Zen master, Buddhist monk, human rights advocate and author, Anthony Osler, (Stoep Zen, 2008)

Tuesday 2 January 2018

New day, new year, new beginnings

We survived 2017! 

Another rollercoaster year has flown by - from the challenges of Beric’s cancer progressing to Stage 4 and the struggle to finish STREET SMART TAXPAYERS (published Juta Law, Sept 2017) to the fantastic function to celebrate Beric’s contribution to South African tax law literature over the course of his career,  to celebrating our silver wedding anniversary in style at the same hotel where we spent our first married night, to getting the keys for our new (smaller) home and a quiet but brilliant festive season shared with my Mom and Shadow, 2017 has been a memorable year!
Beric's mentor Professor Michael Katz reflecting on Beric's career in tax law

New adventures await us in 2018. 

We’re working towards a miracle for Beric’s health, but know that ultimately the result rests in his soul’s destiny. While we wait for the miracle, we’re taking the brilliant but irascible Charles Bukowski’s advice: 
We’re here to laugh at the odds and live life so well
that Death will tremble to take us.
(Charles Bukowski, Times-Life interview, 1988)
If Death does come calling in 2018, we'll face it in the open-hearted spirit of the young girl depicted in the magnificent Rider-Waite Major Arcana XIII Death Card: as a transformation of energy leading to a new dawn rising between the distant pillars of Heaven. Until then, we're going to live each and every day so well that Death trembles in his shiny black armour!

My writing career is taking a detour. Many of you know that for years (since 1988 to be exact) I've had a passionate amateur interest in Evolutionary Astrology. I've finally admitted to myself that my passion lies in astrology more than it does in writing. While I'll continue with my poetry writing, I can't make a living from that and with Beric no longer working due to his illness I need to brush up skills that can help put bread on the table.   

In Feburary 2018 I become a student of the internationally renowed South African astrologer Rod Suskin's School of Astrology. I've signed up for a 3 year Diploma in Professional Astrology, at the end of 2020, I'll be able to hang up my shingle and practice as a professional astrologist. There are also opportunities to follow my other love, writing: I can submit astrology articles for consideration by magazines such as The Mountain Astrologer; perhaps even one day submit a book on astrology to a publisher like Llewellyn's publisher. Who knows what the future holds? 

This next 6 months will be an intense but exciting time of my life - the enormous renovation project on the new house, working on Beric's health miracle and my astrology studies. 

Let the adventures begin!