Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

In December, I feel safe. It doesn’t matter that “the storm of the century” blows outside and that a fierce Snow Queen dabs the world in frost, in December I feel warm and cosy. December is a closed room, lighted by a lively fire that brings a glow of contentment on people’s faces. Nothing bad can touch me in there. December is gifts, and good food, and good wine (hot wine with sugar and cinnamon!), and snowmen, and sleighing. The year’s still here. There is still time.

In January, I feel vulnerable. January looks to me like a wide open space, a field of endless snow under a brilliant sun. I am afraid of January. It feels like uncharted territory. Who knows what I will have to face in there?

But enough of my New Year’s blues. The New Year is indeed here. I wish all of you that it is your best yet, I wish it full of hopes and dreams fulfilled, of love, and laughter, and loved ones, of good health and good cheer, of courage. Happy New Year!

What better time to listen to ABBA’s bittersweet song…

Happy New Year!


A Song For The New Year

By Barry Cornwall

(from “English Songs and Other Small Poems", 1844)

HARK!
The Old Year is gone!
And the young New Year is coming!
Through minutes, and days, and unknown skies,
My soul on her forward journey flies;
Over the regions of rain and snow;
And beyond where the wild March-trumpets blow:
And I see the meadows, all cowslip-strewn;
And I dream of the dove in the greenwood lone:
And the wild bee humming:-
And all because the New Year is coming!

The Winter is cold, the Winter is gray,
But he hath not a sound on his tongue to-day:
The son of the stormy Autumn, he
Totters about on a palsied knee,
With a frozen heart and a feeble head:
Let us pierce a barrel and drink him dead!
The fresh New Year is almost here;
Let us warm him with mistletoe boughs, my dear!
Let us welcome him hither, with songs and wine,
Who holdeth such joys in his arms divine!

What is the Past, - to you, or me,
But a thing that was, and was to be?
And now it is gone to a world unknown:
Its deeds are done; its flight is flown!

Hark to The Past! In a bitter tone,
It crieth “The good Old Year is flown,”-
The sire of a thousand thoughtful hours,
Of a thousand songs, of a thousand flowers!
Ah! why, thou ungrateful child of rhyme,
Rail’st thou at the deeds of our father Time?
Hath he not fed thee, day by day,
With fancies that soothe thy soul away?
Hath he not ‘wakened, with pleasant pain,
The Muse that slept in thy teeming brain?
Hath he not – ah! Dost thou forget
All the amount of the mighty debt?

Hush, hush! – The little I owe to Time
I’ll pay him, some day, with a moody rhyme, -
Full of phantasmas, dark and drear,
As the shadows thrown down by the old Old year,-
Dim as the echoes that lately fell
From the deep Night’s funereal bell,
Sounding hollow o’er hill and vale,
Like the close of a mournful tale!

.... In the meantime, - speak, trump and drum!
The Year is gone! The Year is come!
The fresh New Year, the bright New Year,
That telleth of hope and joy, my dear!
Let us model our spirit to chance and change,
Let us lesson our spirit to hope, and range
Through pleasures to come, - through years unknown;
But never forget the time that’s flown!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holidays!


Merry Christmas to you all, my darlings! And if for you there's another holiday at this time of the year, then I wish that to be happy too.
May you find pleasure in the little things, good food, good wine, good music, the mistletoe, and above all enjoy your loved ones, and share the love and the cheer!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On Novels and Short Stories

I deeply admire those who can write novels. Who can weave a complex tapestry of destinies and happenings, of loves and adventures, of feelings and action, of ideas.

I used to try doing just that.

Since I was – maybe – twelve and until a few years ago, I have always been writing novels… I would always enthusiastically start a new one and then a while later abandon it only to start work on another. I couldn’t conceive writing anything but novels. Short stories seemed insignificant to me, compared to the scope of a novel. But then I realised that I was never finishing anything and that, no matter how deeply I was living in those novels, it would have been nice to actually finish something at some point. That plus the realisation of how cruel time is.

So I started working on short stories. Those gave me at least the illusion of a much closer (in time) ending and thus of a chance at publication.

Yet, it didn’t take me less to write them. I suppose that is the effect of several factors. In no particular order, among them I would place the lack of time dedicated to writing, the absence of will power leading to procrastination, a tendency to perfectionism leading to profound research and endless plot tweaking even for the shortest of stories, maybe even the fear that once finished I will have to leave this world I’m building. I also noticed that the more detached I am from the characters, the easier it is for me to write their story. The more involved I am with them, including making myself a character, the more difficult it is to complete a work.

This (again) extended time frame, led me to a somehow bad experience with one of my most beloved stories. The idea for it came to me in ’97 (I know because I always put a date on the notes I scribble down) and, on and off, it took me till 2005 to put the magical words ‘the end’ at the bottom of the last page. At about 22,000 words, it’s more of a novella size story. I was very proud of it and ready to start sending it out, although magazines hardly accept works of such a size. And then I bought Orson Scott Card’s excellent book “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” and in there, in a chapter where he enumerates various means of time travel, I found my idea listed under a famous author’s name who, obviously, had already published a (different) story based on the same idea, in ’99 I believe. What a dreadful coincidence! I was so terribly, awfully, hopelessly depressed.

But, hey, that’s life! The onus is on me to work harder, to work faster. To remind myself that I couldn’t live without writing and that, regardless of whether or not I will ever be a published writer, I will always be a writer. And, to thicken my skin.

I am now more afraid than ever to even consider working again on a novel. There is a harsh world out there. Moonrat’s wonderfully insightful posts about the world of publishing confirm something that I half-knew and fully suspected.

As the New Year approaches, I wonder if I should make a resolution…

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Music



The perfect concert
is
to lie here
in your arms
and listen
to the song
of your blood

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Weirdly Contest

No, it is not a misuse of an adverb, but the name of the collection of short stories, “Weirdly – A Collection of Strange Tales”, which includes Bernita Harris’s “Stone Child”.

Bernita had the wonderful idea of organising a short-fiction contest, where the winner gets a copy of her book (never fondled and even autographed!). All you have to do to enter is write a piece of fiction, 250 words or less, using the image below for inspiration. The deadline to send in your story is Friday, December 14th, at midnight. For details, please read the official rules.



And this is what those trees told me:


The Right Package


“That was no lightning strike.”

“This was Lugh again, toying with the natives.”

The Commander was annoyed. Each of their planetary vehicles was unique, tailored for their owner’s chemistry, the exhaust trail a sure signature. But even without the spectral analysis, everything was telltale. The absence of leaves, the subtle carbonisation, the twigs twisted at a specific angle, the grass in the clearing almost imperceptibly shorter.

“The Controller’s arriving in three days. We’ll all be kicked off this quiet little planet if we don’t cover this. Lugh was my responsibility. Unless…”

“Could we use the man from yesterday? What did he call himself?”

“A …druwid.”

“Funny little fellow. Was he speaking to the oaks in the grove, or was he trying to contact us?”

“Do you think he knew of us?”

“Certain details might have leaked from Egypt, lately. Horus was discontent last time I saw him…”

“I wonder… This area only has some animistic attempts at explaining the reality. If we could persuade them to take up some human sacrifices… Any sacrifices at all. A belief in the reincarnation of the soul, at least. We’re in dire need of some fresh soul energy. And we can’t fool the Controller. We could sell them a good kit, complete with a resident god to start with.”

“Do you fancy becoming their own little god?”

“No, I’ll leave it to Lugh. That’ll teach him to behave – to be bound to this place forever, or at least till ‘they’ grow bored with him…”

Another Roar



Lovely and talented Szélsöfa has honoured me with another roar from the Shameless Lions Writing Circle. Thank you so much! I feel proud and humbled at the same time, that at least some of those who read my words think of them as powerful.

Seamus’s idea is rocking the blogosphere and he can tell you more about it, including the extent of this “tidal” wave.

I’m using this opportunity to bestow this award upon some great writers who fully deserve to be “heard” by the world:

Akasha Savage of Aspirations from the Dark Side - good luck with your novel, Debi!

Jeff Neale of The Write Thing - you have to send out your stories!

Red Dirt Girl of Red Dirt Scribbles - your poetry is superb.

Taffiny of To Taste a Peach - I’ve only seen one sample of her fiction yet, but what she writes in her blog is simply beautiful.

The rules and the award images can be found at Shameless Words.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Dance of Love


Into this wild abyss
of bliss
we fall

Some say it’s love
we call it
war

Onto this blade of trust
we walk
we dance

You hold me tight
as we abide
by this game’s
rule

Sweet avalanche
of blood
we seek

We fight
harsh tango of
the hearts

While in a wild abyss
of bliss
we hide

We kiss


Copyright © 2007 Vesper L. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Harsh Mistress



When I got out of the house this morning, at six o’clock, in the crisp darkness, at -14ºC or 6.8ºF, the first thing I saw was the Moon. A luminous sharp crescent, a narrow tilted sickle on the blue-black sky, but with the remainder of its body perfectly visible, its roundness noticeable in a dark matte grey. It stunned me. I don’t recall ever seeing it like that before.

Frigid winter nights like this, especially the “open” ones, when the sky is not lined in the snugly cotton of clouds, when the Moon casts its cold brilliant light and the stars are myriad, invariably make me think with longing of the Cosmos. I try to imagine what it would be like to be “up” there, among my beloved stars, and my heart aches because of their immense beauty and because of their utter intangibility.

I dream of the extremes in temperature and distances, of huge chemical reactions, of the tremendous poetry of astrophysics. Blue giants, and white dwarfs, and comets, and gas planets, and the asteroids in the trans-Neptunian region, all these almost unimaginable exotic things fascinate me. Speak to me knowledgeably of event horizons, of intergalactic space, of supernovae, of dark matter, of Messier objects, and I will fall for you, hard indeed.

Like all children, I think, when they were very very very young, my daughters were fascinated by the Moon. I had taught my youngest to answer, when asked where the Moon was, “In the Cosmos.” Most of the times she would get it right, pronouncing it in a hyphenated way “Cos-mos” but some other times she would invert the two syllables and would say “Mos-cos”, much to our delight. She laughs out heartily now when I remind her of that – she’s a big girl now, she’s four, not a baby anymore…

I hope to instil in them my love for astronomy. I hope they will be among those who lift their eyes, often, and contemplate the sky. And wonder. All things technical are evolving fast these days. Who knows, maybe one day they will walk in Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Showers…

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Only In My Heart


I have a memory of winds and grass. And bitter tears.

I think I was ten or maybe twelve. I had travelled with my Grandmother, Mother’s mom, to the countryside, to the village where she was born, and where her younger brother and his family still live. We used to do that almost every other year, during the summer holidays.

One day we took a walk, my Grandmother, her brother and I, through my great-uncle’s vineyard and then past it, climbing the hill on which the vineyard extended. The grass was tall on that hill, maybe knee-high, and the strong winds laid it down, revealing fallen tombstones. An old cemetery, abandoned, forgotten. I stopped - they went a little further. I watched them, brother and sister, holding each other, crying silently before the graves of their parents. I remained at a distance, shy, reluctant to intrude upon their shared sorrow. I don’t know if I realised the meaning of this at the time, but that desolate scene and that moment remain forever imprinted upon my mind’s eye.

My Grandmother died this day unbelievably twenty-one years ago, at 72. The meaning of the verb “to die” is still absurd to me. I cannot grasp it, be it others or myself that I think about. I cannot conjugate it.

This is not an homage. No poetry is needed nor sought. I will not polish this text – I have no metaphors, no nicely arranged words. It’s hard enough for me to write these simple words, plain as they are.

I still miss her immensely although I don’t think of her everyday anymore. Time numbs pains – so they say. She was the most kind-hearted and open-minded woman that I have ever met, even more so than Mother. She gave everything she had, and more, to others. She was a strong, courageous woman. A widow at twenty, she has never remarried and raised her daughter alone. I wish I did more when she was with us, but childhood is selfish and immortal. Many of these thoughts came to me much later – too late. Sometimes I dream of her and, when she comes to me in my sleep, I wake up happy in the morning, as if I could really touch her, physically, again.

So on this day, of Saint-Nicholas, among the gifts for children, when the pain resurfaces whole, I allow it to tear at my soul. And even though I lost them at other times, I think of my other grandparents too. My paternal Grandmother, who I knew much less but admired greatly for her strength – she lived alone running a household till she died at 87, in 1987. And my Grandfathers, who I never met, both disappeared before I was born, one at twenty-four in 1934, and the other at sixty-five in 1965. They are all mine and I love them.

Life is weird at times, unmerciful. Those were their lives. How strange it feels to use the past tense. And what remains? Some old pictures, some beautiful greatgrandchildren, and the love in my heart…

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Merry-Go-Round

Last Saturday morning we took our daughters to the Christmas Family Day, which my employer organises annually around this time of the year. They rent a sports complex for this event and transform two hockey arenas into a winter wonderland, complete with Santa Claus waiting for the kiddies in his realm run by elves and fairies. Among the attractions are huge inflatable slides and other games, a little train, a carousel, clowns making balloon sculptures, a seasonal theatre play, popcorn and candyfloss (or cotton candy, if you prefer), and of course gifts for each child. Not too bad. Quite enjoyable, in fact, if only for the happiness in the children’s eyes.



The carousel is big and beautiful, with flowers painted on it and many lights. This year, when riding it, round, and round, and round, and round, I suddenly thought of Cornelia Funke’s “The Thief Lord”. I read the book a few years ago and thoroughly took pleasure in it. It’s a beautiful children’s book - 9 to 12 years old as the publisher says, but perfectly fit for me - moving and exciting, the story of two orphan brothers in Venice, running of an evil aunt who wants to separate them, and joining the street gang of this boy called The Thief Lord. I remembered the book because of the carousel. There is one in there that can do magical things.

”Magical things?” Riccio looked at Ida Spavento wide-eyed, just the way he looked at Hornet when she read to them…

Ida nodded. “Yes, very strange things. People said that a few turns on the merry-go-round of the Merciful Sisters made adults out of children and children out of adults.”

For a few moments there was complete silence. Then Mosca laughed out loud. “And how’s that supposed to work?”

Ida shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I’m just telling you what I heard.”


Children want to grow up faster, adults dream of going back to the idealised bliss of younger ages. And I wonder, would you risk a ride in it? Would you know which way to spin it and when to jump off?

Monday, December 03, 2007

No Doubt


I look at Poetry in reverence
as it flows to me
on this December morn.
Gods’ frozen whispers
are lashing at the world.

Are these my everlasting doubts,
I wonder.
They come to me in the shape
of a Gorgon.
Snakes of snow,
adorning its head of fears,
threaten to turn
my heart into stone,
my very soul into
ashes,
if only I glanced
at its might.

It is your love, my darling,
my beloved,
my lover,
it is your fire
that quells
these illusions
of blizzard.

It is your hand
that holds mine
on this path
of ices.

And we dance
and we kiss
and we float in the snow.

Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.