Book excerpt: A Tuscan Affair
If you enjoyed this chapter,
and see what else I’m up to!!
I have a story in me that pushes to come out. It’s several stories (note the ambitious plural), but that’s beside the point. Pushing. Poking. It leaves me with the image of mud pools in Rotorua. Bubbling with gasses that force their way to the surface. I suppose you could say, it’s mental indigestion.
After years of academic writing and blogging about trauma recovery and other self-improvement issues, it should be easy! Right? How difficult could it be to write a story when the plot line is interesting?
Since then I am on a steep learning curve with light bulbs going off right, left, and centre. Will I ever get it? I don’t know. But I am going to give it my best shot.
Many years ago I learned how to make pots and my home and those of my kids and friends show ample signs of my pottery skills. I didn’t start by just sitting in front of a pottery wheel, throwing a piece of clay on it and…tataaa…ended up with a perfect pot. I had to apply myself and learn pottery skills and techniques; and with determination and practice, practice, practice, I ended up with (some) decent pots.
I didn’t know there is more to storytelling than just telling a story. I didn’t know there are techniques, skills, and processes involved that combined and applied well, will bring a story to life AND when ignored will sink a story like a battleship after a torpedo hit.
It all started with a friend telling me to cut down on ‘ly-words.’ – I know now these things are called adverbs. – I followed that advice, although I didn’t real(ly) understand why. I thought things were nice(ly) expressed, quick(ly) sorted, and tasted heaven(ly). Stephen King said in his book On Writing: A memoir on the craft
the road to hell is paved with adverbs
I see that now. It’s sloppy, lazy writing and indicates the writer has used a weak verb or failed to show in the surrounding prose what’s going on. There you have it! There are some great examples here.
I suppose that’s a good start. But don’t be fooled. It’s just the beginning. There is so much more: POV (point of view), that’s another huge mountain to climb for me. And I haven’t even started with hooks, pacing, turning points, pinch points, show and don’t tell, beats, and structure.
Oh, how much fun is there waiting for me – as it will be for every newbie!
Image mud pool by Dan Nelson
It’s official: the All Blacks just a few hours ago beat the Wallabies in the Final of the 2015 Rugby World Championships. So that took care of my early morning. And there are still 2000 words I have to write. To be honest, I have a higher number in mind but dare not to talk about that openly, in case I don’t make it. It could kind of jinx it. We can’t have that.
Armed with an endless supply of coffee – this old machine runs on coffee alright – and dressed in the essential pyjama, I am sitting at the laptop trying to come up with the first line. What is it about first lines that make them so difficult? I resort to the good old technique of ‘researching’ on the internet. Blessed internet. A quick look what my Facebook friends are doing…I know I shouldn’t do that, but…what the heck.
After ten minutes, I have about twenty beginnings – but what about the title? I forgot all about the title. I was going to come up with a title yesterday, but I watched Midsummer Murders on TV instead.
It’s 10 am and writing this blog post is, of course, another distraction. Enough now, off to write a novel in 30 days – at least the rough draft that is. I found my first line:
Most mystics would agree that when our life ends, and we stand in front or our creator, she will ask two questions: Have you lived enough? and Have you loved enough?
It’ll be about Anne, a sixty-plus-year-old successful divorce lawyer, one of four friends whose stories I am about to tell. She’s coming from the wedding of her best friend Thea (Thea’s story is the first book in this four-friends-series and is waiting for the editor to tell me what’s right and wrong with it) and suddenly wonders whether she has lived enough and loved enough. Some days later, she finds herself at the mother of a cross-road and makes a life-decision that… yip that’s about as much as I want to reveal at this point.
The cool thing is, by writing this blog now I am all fired up to keep going. See you at the other end of today. My idea is to write every day a post about my process. I want to remember how this month went and how I bring a book to life – if it interests anybody, that’s a bonus.
Anybody who is doing NANO this year reading this? How did your first day and the beginning go?
It’s that time of the year again: November – the (inter)national novel-writing month. Thousands of writers are going to aim for completing 50’000 words in one month. For those who always wanted to put pen to paper, this is a very good opportunity to do so. There is plenty of support for both the experienced and inexperienced writer.
Everyone can participate. It’s free, and if you love writing, it’ll be fun. You’ll meet lots of new people in the forums or your local nano-chapter.
Go to Kristen Lambs website she has some great tips for all things concerning writing.
See you at the other side of Nano month!
All over Bali are signs warning you to look out for THIS and THAT. Hati Hati: Watch your heart, be careful of holes in the roads, dangerous animals, intersections, or road works. Hati, Hati! There are no signs though to warn you not to fall in love with this amazing country. And … not falling in love with Bali is, according to my experience, an impossible feat.
I’ve thought long about what it is that makes Bali so loveable to me, the Francophile, who could live exclusively on baguette, camembert, and a light bordeaux. If you are looking for those things, forget Bali. The bread?…Na!, The Cheeses?…forget about it! The wine?…Not really! Other countries have beaches, warm weather, and lush vegetation too. Other countries have rubbish piles everywhere. Maybe not as many as Bali, but I blame the tourist industry for that sorry state of affair. There should be a sign warning of tourists (me included, a blessing and a curse all in one): Hati Hati>turis!
It’s the people. People shaped by the land and shaping the land in return. People whose life centres around their spirituality. Where else do you find a temple in almost every household? Little shrines and places of worship and offering in practically every shop, every house, every drive way? People, whose daily actions are deeply entwined with thanking their Gods for the gifts they received and with protecting them from evil spirits to take hold in their lives and the lives of loved one.
Take for example the Tooth-Filing-Ceremony mesangih or mepandes. It is a more than 2000 year old tradition that predates the arrival of hindu-ism and involves the filing down of the upper front teeth. These teeth symbolise greed, anger, jealousy, in general the more savage aspects of human nature. By filing down the carnivorous canines and incisors, the person is thought to be freed and protected from these unwanted traits of human nature. The ceremony is a rite of passage into adulthood and represents a path of social and spiritual well-being.
You may say “So what?” I think it’s an amazing tradition. It is actually one of the main celebrations a Balinese person is going to have. The whole family comes together, maybe even others from the village. It involves not just the filing, but an intricate ritual, temple service, blessings, and a feast. What I find so amazing about it is that in the consciousness of Balinese people the base nature of human beings has been recognised very early and declared as unwanted. There is a conscious effort to rid oneself of these ‘evil’ aspects and strive for honour and integrity.
I believe that this striving can be felt and experienced when we come in contact with the people from Bali! Suksma, Eka, for teaching me about this!
I have been here in Bali for 7 days now and have seen some very beautiful places and learnt a little bit about a culture that is so excitingly different from my own. Of course I have seen the spots that most tourists are lead to. The temples, the rice fields, and the temples. Places with huge parking lots filled with busses and taxis, brimming with lightly clad tourists swinging their cameras relentlessly at everything even remotely native. I suppose everybody who comes here wants to discover ‘The Real Bali.’
I am no exception. Besides going here to the dentist, who, I have decided is half God, half Magician, I want to see the real Bali too. The one I glimpsed in “Eat, Pray, Love”. I wouldn’t mind having deep conversations with a wise elder, being shown un-lived potentials, and biking through beautiful tropical landscapes. I wouldn’t mind being scouped up by Javier Bardem ( even though he is not Patrick Swayze), to a remote little something with no walls, flowy curtains, and a promise of adventure.
Lamentably, that hasn’t happened – yet! “Shush, longing heart, there are still 7 days to go. Who knows!”
Maybe that kind of real Bali can only be detected with the help of a 30 head film crew that has oodles of time to research and create what they are looking for. The average tourist will have to content with what big international hotel chains and tour operators have in store for us. On TripAdvisor I have read people calling some of these places and malls ‘ tourists rip-offs’. What do they expect for their $5 U.S.? Antiques instead of mass produced masks? Nobody is forcing anybody to buy anything.
In the meantime I enjoy what I can glimpse and detect from what I think real Bali is. People with a deep sense of tradition and spirituality, who carve a living out of the resources this beautiful island provides. Private temples that are not just decoration but an integral part of Balinese daily life. Last but not least the non-tiring friendliness and hospitality of the Balinese.
I can already see that my next couple of teeth need attention in about two years to give me a valid excuse to come here again!
I don’t give away a secret when I tell you that when you reach a certain age the body demonstrates its reluctance to be wielded around like in the early twenties by creaking, hurting, and refusing to work (like my knees after sitting for an hour in one place), to list just some few dilemmas.
So when you are in Bali, as I am at the moment, and you have a creaking body like mine, you most certainly want to go and get massages. Because they are really affordable here, you want to get lots of them! Being out shopping at the Bali collection, the mall connected with the Nusa Dua resort group of hotels, just short of having a heat stroke, I dashed into one of the many day spas offering all kinds of massage…and an air conditioned reprieve from the heat.
Now, I am what I call a substantial woman! More a Wagnerian Valkyrie than a delicate Meg Ryan. Picture that on a massage table and this little Balinese girl, that barely reaches my bra-line with her eyes. How on earth are they going to get the accumulated knots out? Let me assure you, I unravelled THAT mystery in no time!
Before I knew it this tiny half-sized person jumped on the table with me and half straddled me. I fleetingly assured myself that I wasn’t in one of THOSE establishment before I received the pounding of my life, administered with everything she had available. Elbows, fists, and some very hard bits of her hand, which name evades me at the moment. I was once in a violent relationship and my then partner was an amateur compared to the pounding she dished out. Keep breathing and avoid tensing up, it hurts less! HOLY SMOKE! And all for NZ$18!
My body feels as if I fell into a fountain of youth afterwards!
It has been my second massage here, and I am gladly singing the praise of these amazing people. I have been told there are lots of places where you get them cheaper, but then, I refuse to barter for a cheaper price with people who have to save up for ten years to afford the airfare to New Zealand.
But independently from this obviously totally noble gesture of mine, I think I have discovered the secret behind the ability of Balinese dancers to twist their bodies into all those amazing positions! They all must have these little devils jumping around on their backs making sure they stay supple! I am here another 9 days, I think I am going to squeeze in a handful of massages before I dash home to winters New Zealand! And then I show my peeps what this re-juvenated body can do!
I grew up on an island where most people were connected to everything to do with sea, fishing…and did I say sea? I remember the writer and poet Gorch Fock mentioned the proverb on many fishing vessels saying: “Ora et Labora”. Pray and work! I suppose that’s what I’ve learned and that’s what most people lived by. The ‘old folks’ had a hard life, working around the clock, either on land behind dykes that could easily give way to the powers of the sea, or those at sea, battling the elements. They prayed and worked and worked.
In a strange way, that’s what I did too. Not so much praying, I have to say, but working long hours, several ‘jobs’ combining motherhood with working in our own business and initiating a social life for the family. And when I didn’t work, I thought about how to improve my work in courses, reading, up-skilling. I rarely complained because that’s what I knew one did. I actually liked it. I felt useful and effective.
“…and then the prince bowed down and kissed Sleeping Beauty awake!” – – Oh, darn, the wrong story. What really happened was, the Retirement-Fairy knocked at the front gate…not totally uninvited!
This is – or better was – my retirement dream. Not necessarily living on an island in the Pacific – after all, one has to meet one’s shopping needs, – but what it stands for. Sun, warmth, barmy waters, quiet, peace, no dead-lines, no have-to’s.
And without much complaining, that is what I’ve got. I love it. I can follow my indulgences like reading, watching daytime TV, writing, going out for coffee, shopping, and my all-time favorite thing: Staying in bed till at least ….AM if not longer, sipping my tea or hot chocolate, reading the news, checking up on people on facebook, listening to an inspiring TED talk, or acquaint myself with the trials and tribulations of 19th Century noble women through my cherished writers like Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer.
BUT then something unpleasant happened: the old training kicking in. Instead of enjoying fully this time in my life, reaping the fruits of years of hard work, I catch myself, ever now and then, feeling guilty. Not enough ‘Labora’! I should be doing something productive. Lazy is not allowed. The old rules and childhood ‘examples’ set by the adults around at the time, are powerful reminders that creep into my mind unnoticed. Even the fortnightly pension payment triggers odd thoughts. I never was paid for doing nothing.
A friend told me that this feeling of ‘I need to do something, be productive, contribute’ will go on for a while, and being officially retired since the beginning of this year, I am told I have a while to go. I look forward to it. What surprises me that I feel this way. I did not expect it. For years I envied retired people for their ability to just pack up and do what they feel like. But, even though in my logical mind I have paid my dues and done my duty, I hesitate. How puzzling!
However, knowing how the human mind works I know that I feel what I think. As long as the childhood training is invading my thoughts with uncomfortable reminders of not enough ‘Labora’, I will being caught with feelings of guilt. It doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to lay back and enjoy this time. It pays not to takes one’s own thoughts so seriously. Just because I think it doesn’t mean its true.
I assume it takes a while to shift gear and, like the seasons, have a season for resting and harvesting. I’ll have to keep this in mind and ward against ideas that might have made sense around 1900 in Northern Germany but are out of date and out of place today… for me at least!
There is a thought: I need to go shopping and get a bed-table for my breakfast in bed to make a more enjoyable; and I am going to download some more romance novels for my ipad!
Heute hat mich jemand gefragt of ich die 3 Prinzipien auf Deutsch erklären könnte. Das ist gar nicht so einfach, zumal ich schon seit 33 Jahren im Ausland lebe und mein Deutsch ziemlich brüchig geworden ist – wie ein alter Landungssteg am See! Viele Ausdrücke kenne ich gar nicht auf Deutsch. Ich hoffe, meine Umschreibungen sind verständlich. Über die Grammatik will ich gar nicht erst reden!
Der Grundgedanke ist zu verstehen wie wir als Menschen ‘funktionieren’, dass wir leben, und wie unsere Gefühle generiert werden. Das erste Prinzip baut darauf auf das wir leben, dass es eine Energy gibt die genau andeutet of wir leben oder nicht mehr leben. Das kann man Natur nennen, oder Gott, oder Universelle Energie, Sydney Banks, der diese Gedanken zuerst formulierte hat den Ausdruck MIND genommen um neutral diese Lebensenergie zu beschreiben.
Zuerst müssen wir gewahr werden das jedes Gefühl, jede Sensation die wir im Körper verspüren, von einem Gedankenprozess verursacht wird. Von Langeweile, über Depression, zu Freude, Angst, Hunger, Schmerz, oder Ärger, nichts passiert in unserem Körper ohne das unsere sinn-machenden Gehirnprozesse es in Bewegung setzen und dirigieren. Im englischen benutzen wir für die sinn-machenden Prozesse das Word “THOUGHT”, das zweite Prinzip. Es beschreibt nicht nur einen konkreten Gedanken,sondern auch unsere Kapazität zu denken.
Was auch immer unsere Sinne in uns oder von unserer Umwelt wahrnehmen, diese ‘rohen Daten’ wird von unseren sinn-machenden Gehirnprozessen vor dem Hintergrund unserer lebenslangen Erinnerungen und Erfahrungen interpretiert und dann als Körpersensationen sozusagen an unser Bewusstsein weitergeben. Unsere Fähigkeit bewusst zu werden von inneren und äußeren Vorgängen ist das dritte Prinzip, CONSCIOUSNESS in Englisch. Das Problem mit unserem Bewusstsein und Wahrnehmungsvermögen is jedoch dass es nicht sehr zuverlässig ist und IMMER auf Interpretation aufbaut, was sehr subjektiv ist. Wir nehmen mehr wahr was wir wahrnehmen wollen und nicht was wirklich in der Welt wahrzunehmen ist.
Das sind die 3 Grundbausteine unserer Existenz: Ohne die Lebensenergie gibt es keine Gedanken und keine Wahrnehmung; ohne Gedanken können wir nicht am Leben teilnehmen (z.b. jemand im Koma).
Die Frage, die mir gestellt wurde ist: wie man dieses Verständnis anwenden kann, wie es helfen kann, was man da machen muss. Die Antwort: man muss gar nichts machen sondern nur verstehen. Sobald wir erkennen das unsere Gefühle nicht von unseren Umständen herkommen, sondern von WIE WIR über unsere Umstände denken, dass wir die Gefühle selbst generieren, können wir uns zurücksetzen und sagen “Ach, wieder mal ein dummer Gedanke” und es nicht so wichtig nehmen. Nur weil wir etwas denken meint nicht das es auch wahr und wichtig ist. Wir haben zwischen 50.000 und 200.000 Gedanken am Tag, viele von denen sind ziemlich sinnlos und banal.
Wenn ich denke “Ach es ist ja nur ein Gedanke” dann werde ich nicht von der Gefühlsspirale in die Tiefe gezogen. Und je weniger aufgewühlt mein Zustand ist, je klarer und weiser sind meine Gedanken und Entscheidungen. Um dass zu erreichen versuche ich so oft und lange wie möglich in meiner ‘Wohlsein-Zone” zu sein. Gedanken die mich da herauslocken vermeide ich so oft wie möglich. Das gelingt zwar nicht immer, aber mit der Zeit immer öfter. Übung macht den Meister :). In der Wohlseins-Zone sind meine Gedanken ruhig und gelassen, da geniesse ich den Augenblick, sehe was gut ist, wertschätze was ich habe. In dem Zustand erlebe ich Frieden, Weisheit, und allgemeines Wohlsein.
Wenn Gedanken mich in den “Keller” geleitet haben und ich ärgerlich, ängstlich, depressive ….usw. bin, versuche ich so gut wie möglich meine Gedanken zu beruhigen um zurück in die Wohlseins-Zone zu kommen. Egal wie lange es dauert. Keller-Gedanken sind qualitative nicht sehr gut. (Stell Dir mal jemanden in einem Wutanfall vor. Was da aus dem Mund kommt ist selten von Wert oder reflektiert Weisheit)! Ich versuche keine wichtigen Entscheidungen zu treffen wenn ich im “Keller” bin, sondern warte bis meine Gedanken sich beruhigt haben und dann schaue ich mir das Problem an, das den Sturzflug verursacht hat. In der Wohlseins-Zone ist Weisheit, Überblick, Mitgefühl, Liebe, und Frieden…eine gute Grundlage für weise Entscheidungen.
Dass ist die Essenz. Wie es mir hilft? Ich fühle mich meistens sehr wohl, rege mich kaum über Sachen auf. Mein allgemeiner Stresspegel ist sehr niedrig. Es geht mir gesundheitlich besser, und meine Beziehungen zu anderen Menschen sind einfacher geworden. Ich nehme sehr wenig persönlich. Wenn jemand unhöflich zu mir ist, weiss ich dass es nichts mit mir zu tun hat, sondern das die Person gerade in ‘ihrem/seinem Keller’ ist. Ich habe selten das Bedürfnis recht zu haben. Ich weiss dass wir alle unsere eigene, persönliche Realität haben, und dass es nicht anders sein kann. Es gibt nicht die letztendliche Wahrheit. Wir können nur unsere persönliche Interpretation von unserer Wahrheit sehen.