3, Half Shaman in Space

Some good scenes in this, some nasty events, and all the sometimes hard-to-understand stuff in between where I tried to explain what life was like in the alien starship, also known as the “Octahedron”. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll have met this starship in Earth Girl, a mysterious object hanging low in the sky.

In this installment of what was to have finalized the trilogy, Jeb the half shaman meets Kosi Lionhair, the once-upon-a-time Earth Girl. Jeb and her people are in survival mode. As the human ‘face’ of the starship’s bored alien AI, Kosi causes Jeb and her people plenty of grief in the name of fun. A dramatic mix.

What follows is a taster … I’m having to learn a few more moves in the Compile section of Scrivener

Chapter 1: Entry
I’m aware. I’m awake. My breathing sounds loud. The space I’m in sounds big, so I’m not in the shuttle. I fall … but only a short distance. My legs seem too long.

I feel around me. Carpet or something under me, my hands and my thighs. I don’t hear Mongoose breathing beside me. I don’t feel him.

Snap! I open my eyes. Mongoose isn’t beside me!

I’m wearing a thin white tunic. Mongoose isn’t beside me!

I kneel up. Stand. I’m in a group of animals, still-as-statues, sitting or standing or frozen in a leap. Each on its own brown carpet square on a raised area in a huge white hall. What is this place? Where’s Mongoose?

Tiled white walls. White ceiling. White floor below the … carpeted podium? Among the statues I see animals I know. There’s a meerkat. A puma. A bear. A woodchuck. An orangutan. They are all life-sized.

No. They are all the size of human beings! There’s a thylacine with a front paw that is a different brown to the other. In the square next to the place where I was, is a mongoose. Sweat springs from me, is soaked up only where the skimpy tunic touches me. Everywhere else it rolls down me. I’m clammy in seconds. My heart hammers in my chest.

To be continued

Installment 2

Dryad after the Clear-felling, mixed media by Rita de Heer

This gig … of dumping 20 years worth of my work online … is turning out to be harder than I thought it could be. I had real trouble today just going to a File, saving it as a pdf, then inserting it here. This morning I first trapped myself thinking up a good title for this project. “A Broken Universe” sums it up quite nicely, I decided, since I could never get the timeline to gel.

I spent a couple of hours chasing through my Documents File for the long version of the Half Shaman in Space for Installment 3. As if it matters whether I post long or short, or anything in the order of the events, or anything.

But it does. There seem to be a few readers out there. Installment One did quite well.

Could only find a very short version. And I edited a couple of Files. And I did Delete a few odds and ends. Not a wasted day. Finally found what I was looking for in the Trash. Did retrieve it.

But anyway … installment two of the whole story is Half Shaman. One of the two published volumes, as it happens. Go to this Page for the details. https://wordpress.com/page/ritadeheer385131918.blog/1007

‘Ideas Debt’

Ideas shining like stars and dulling past their use-by-date
mixed media, Rita de Heer

I’ve been reading quite a bit about the ‘ideas debt’ (Jessica Abel) that many creatives allow themselves to be burdened with. Me included. And what to do about it as new creativity is slowed, and even stopped, while you figure out what to do with all this material that owns you, and what you owe it.

A form of emotional blackmail that you lay over yourself, I’ve started to think. Include here the people who know and love you, who know how much you invested in your project. There’s a chorus. But? But?

In my case this is where I spent twenty years learning to write novels, and then writing about a dozen interlocking science fantasy novels, most set in the same universe if not time span. Only one, maybe two, have been published. I see that I’ve left them behind so far already, that I don’t even recall whether I published that second one or not? Tch tch.

The recent two year gulf, gap, hiatus in my life put paid to any more work in that arena. I have no energy for finishing them … most are in the final chapters, or as far as beta drafts. The getting ready for marketing, and the marketing itself … exhausting.

I wonder if I have enough energy to turn each one into a pdf and post it as a blog installment, for example? Prefaced one and all with the same little letting-go story?

Watch this space.

Anxiety Rears its Head

David Gangur’s Stormy Sunset

So I read an article about World War III, how it’s already begun. I respect Stan Grant, the author, for his integrity so don’t find the content suspicious. Link included below for your interest. But the content of this article just aggregates with all the other anxiety-inducing news I’ve read since the Northern NSW floods.

I have an anxiety disorder and owe it to myself to not to step back onto the anxiety/immune system problems/inflammation treadmill after all the work I’ve done to get off it. I realize that to dampen down my increasing agitation, I need to back off from negative social media sensationalizing world problems.

I’m already doing what I can in relation to the primary challenge of our times–extreme climate change– and can’t do anything about the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. From this point on, I won’t be writing any letters to politicians, and I won’t be re-posting frightening, Earth-shattering scenarios.

I will be scrolling past all organizations asking for donations. I have my charities and will stick by them. I may post about real-world efforts towards mitigation, when and where I find them. I will continue to blog about science, art, story telling and story making, music and all the other things that tickle my fancy.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-10/russia-invasion-ukraine-rumblings-world-war-three-decades-ago/100977334?utm_source=abc_news_web&utm_medium=content_shared&utm_campaign=abc_news_web&utm_content=link

Tech Problems, xyz

Digital Illustration of a Cyborg Neck: A puzzle, because I am confused

Having internet problems meant no posts, again. All my best intentions went astray. Over here, on the east coast of Australia, we are in a La Nina weather pattern. Meaning that in Peru and Chile, people are suffering drought. In between the odd sunny day we had rain, wind, storms, more rain. Flash floods. River floods. Landslides. Road closures. Communication outages. Mobile phone towers down.

You get the picture.

My confusion is about the reason why I had a personal communication outage for two weeks longer than anyone else living in my patch. I’ve taken the modem off the power. Put it back on. Reset it.

I’ve read every Help page and FAQ on my provider’s website … I could do that by Hot Spotting my laptop to my mobile. I discovered that possibly the laptop is having battery problems but that shouldn’t affect my internet connection, what do you think?

I’d do the Hot Spot thing 24/7 and cancel my ISP contract if I had the same level of service. But I don’t. An ISP connection gives me the ability to write this blog and marshal imagery to my fingertips. Without it I can only read blogs.

The Hot Spot gives me wide-ranging shallow paddling. An ISP connection gives me the ability to dive deep into the virtual surf, through the wave and come out the other side where there are new things to discover.

Yeah. I missed my connection to the world.

For some inexplicable reason, when I reset the modem again this morning, the little light for the internet flashed, then steadied, and I suddenly have connection? Huh? Why didn’t it work the first or second time I did it?

Well, better not look a gift-horse in the mouth …

What I Did Yesterday …

Embroidery in progress …

A couple of days ago I read someone else’s post on this, describing how you can ‘say’ whatever you like without anyone ever really knowing you. It’s what you ‘do’ … maintains the theory … that will identify you.

I don’t know yet if it’ll work. Can but try, in the words of one of my characters. I have several typical days, and since it has been raining here for about a week, I can only describe a typical day at home.

I wake but do not roll instantly out of bed. One of my eyes will never open right away, I have to lie there and think a while, convince it of the day. On blue-sky days, my bedroom is striped with light–due to vertical blinds–after sunrise. But, all this week, the daylight stays grey.

Roll on to my side, sit up, swing legs over the side. Stump down the grey corridor to the kitchen. Oh wait, you expected me to at least wash my face? Yeah, I did that. Ablutions. In the en suite.

And I dressed. T shirt and shin-length pants. Slide my house-keys and rest of needs-musts in my right pants pocket. Mobile/cell in the left pocket. A few years ago, I fell over in my house and after lying unconscious for a time, had to crawl injured to a landline phone to raise the alarm. Since then I’ve worn a mobile on me at all times.

The kitchen is in the middle of the apartment. Dark on a sunless day. I make it friendlier by pulling out the slide-out range hood so that its automatic light shines warm above the benches. I get a bowl out, spoon in muesli, cooked brown rice, LSA and hemp seeds. Mix and pour on rice milk. Boil water. Dole out mineral supplements and anti histamine. Today, due to the dark, I eat at the round dining table.

While still drinking my three mugs of warm water, I check yesterday’s step score on my mobile and enter it in my exercise chart. Also on the mobile, I check the weather to see what temperatures and humidity I can expect. Then I check the weather in the town where I lived last year, the weather in Copecabana in NSW; Dover in Tasmania; Perth in Western Australia; Karratha in Western Australia; Cape York in North Queensland, Amsterdam and Singapore. All my places of interest for various reasons.

Still using the mobile I will have quick look at Facebook comments, trying not to get involved yet with anything needing research and or deep thought.

Today, after stacking the dishes in the sink, I started on my exercises. Eleven–I’m building up to fifteen– push-aways against the front door. It’s timber and the only place in the apartment that can take it. Eleven stand-ups from sitting on a chair not using my hands. Walking with half kilo weights, twelve stretches from front of the house to the back. I expect to graduate to 1 kg weights after my birthday in a few weeks.

Chart to record daily exercises

Make a cup of coffee and sit down with the laptop. Check my emails and answer the ones requiring it. I resist getting involved with newsletters though do read a couple of articles from the Fifth Estate Magazine. Do my Wordle.

Rain, rain, go away, many of my local acquaintances are saying. I also read a science article (on the weather website?) about research in Antarctica with ice cores. Averaged out over two thousand years, east coast Australia has had only two hundred wet years. That’s ten percent. Can’t get away from climate change. It’s going to get a lot drier is the forecast.

By about 11.00 a/m, I open the work of the day. MELD, part two of the Doomed series. I’m in the thick of a structural edit. I need to lose at least twenty thousand words, rewrite the first chapter, and re jig the first act. Finesse the middle fifty percent. The final act is good to go.

So, today, I read chapters 7 and 8 aloud to figure how I need to change them.

At about noon, a pathology assistant arrives. Courtney is her name. She is the only live person I talk with today. IE it’s Friday. No phone calls. I’m still isolating, as I have several co-morbidities and do not want to get sicker than I already am. I’m lucky because I don’t have to go out for a blood test. S & N come to the house. Takes ten minutes. My veins are recovering after the beating they received having chemo this time last year.

Afterwards I walk round the house for a while to start to build up the step count. I visit all the rooms in turn about twenty times. Lunch then. A frozen meal. Wack it into the microwave, 4.50 minutes. Dish up. Yum. Another three mugs of warm water. I read the two first chapters of MELD, printed out earlier, and start to mark up bits to keep and bits to cut.

Today, I do my lying down exercises after lunch. On my bed. Yes, the temptation is to doze off. Twelve air-grabs that warm up every muscle. Six bridges to a count of ten per bridge. Six legs raises, each leg, each raise for a count of ten. Twelve clam-shells, hold open to a count of ten. Doze, five to ten minutes.

Oh man. This is taking a long time. It doesn’t feel like I don’t do anything much.

Get up. More walking in the house. Still raining. BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) says 120mm has fallen in the last 24 hours and a huge rain cloud still hangs overhead. No going outside today. I get some walking music going. It’s God Speed You! Black Emperor today. I walk about an hour more, 5000 paces plus.

Sunset despite rain

When I rest this time, I do some embroidery while I listen to an ABC podcast. The stitching is slow but joyful. The colors sing. After the podcast I catch a few minutes of news. Nothing cheerful about that with old man Putin doing his thing.

Dinner is two rounds of toast, smashed avocado and a boiled egg. A pear for dessert. Three mugs of warm water. I start to re-read The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carre (1996) which I will talk about in the future.

After dinner, I work on this. I’m not posting it tonight. I need to mail myself some photos, from my mobile to my laptop.

Dogs: Jesse (1997 – 2009)

Jesse, Half-Staffie/Half-Australian Shepherd, loyal friend

Despite reading many wonderful novels with dogs and other animals as important characters, I didn’t try to write dog characters until I had raised a dog myself. That was Jesse, named by my son after one of the dogs in Footrot Flats by Murray Ball, a popular comic strip in the newspapers in the 1990s.

Our Jesse was a medium-sized half-Staffie/half-Australian Shepherd, according to the farmer who we bought her from. The Staffie part was dominant, except when it was a case of her habit of herding the poultry we also had at the time.

The first dog I wrote about was Jesse herself, for she was still a pup then, and I just described her and how she fitted into my life at the time.

Jesse lived just on twelve tempestuous years. Human mothers and fathers of dogs will know what I mean when I say that your children grow up but your dogs will always stay two and a half years old. A toddler, needing just as much input and supervision.

The times that the human parents relax their attention will be time when the dog suffers a collision with a moving car; or get a tick on her; or take fright at a Little Athletics starter gun when out walking; or, or, or … All these things happened to Jesse.

She broke her shoulder joint while still little more than a pup and was forever crippled. Mea culpa. She almost died of a tick that I didn’t find until almost too late. Due to the accident with the car she was always frightened of loud noises. The starter gun incident caused me—walking her in the wrong place at the wrong time—to be pulled to the ground and dragged behind her, clutching the lead.

When I finally was able to get to my feet, we returned home along the fastest way possible. Running along a creek bank, away from any activities by human people, in fact. After I had secured her in her beloved old laundry, with her head under her blanket, I had to go find my spectacles, lost from my face while I was on the ground.

She herded chickens, as I said. The little black bantams however were her equal, and would not be scared into running. The white silkies ran, here and there, and sometimes crashing into fences and gates. They hated it. Small children were herded without them realizing.

In 2003, Jesse’s favorite person in the whole world left home. He was eighteen, and needed to find casual work, get trained and then find permanent work. Even if he hadn’t been keen to leave home, our town of five thousand people was too small to support 300 school leavers every year.

Tibby on Jesse’s bed, establishing her dominance

From then on it was Jesse, me and the cat jostling for the top-dog-position. When the cat decided the dog’s bed would be hers, Jesse decided better make friends with the biggest person and we could fight the monster together. Our good times started then.

Jesse’s absolute favorite activity were our walks by the sea, though she mostly ran or swam. The Brunswick Heads Dog Beach was a 400 meters length marked out along the bay, south of the Surf club and ‘Main Beach’.

At times there were a hundred dogs there, playing together, socializing and generally racing around.

Jesse did not socialize—she had no patience for other dogs—and would snarl or snap her teeth at them to warn them away. Her work at the beach was to chase her stick into the waves, bring it out, drop it at my feet, and grin and wag her tail to encourage me to throw it again. I was very fit in those days bending over, picking up the stick, tossing it as far as I could.

We did low tide, high tide, storm tide. Even when the tide was so high that there was barely a beach to walk on, we were there, at our work. While swimming, Jesse’s crippled shoulder did not seem to bother her and she was as good in the water as any other dog. I always thought she must have some water-dog in her. A touch of Labrador genes, maybe.

Her end came more suddenly than I expected. She developed hiccups. They didn’t stop whatever I, or the staff at the vet clinic, tried. After twenty four hours, she was worn out. I let her go. The diagnosis was a brain tumor.

Thirteen years later, I still regret that I couldn’t bury her in our backyard. We lived on a floodplain and we were having a very wet year. The yard was a sea of water and mud. The vet took her away in a body bag.

Favourite Reads: Dog Boy

My favourite novel about dogs

For a long time the novel-version of The Incredible Journey (1963) was my favourite ‘read’ about dogs. Then, 2009 or there abouts, I was at The Writers Festival in Byron Bay. Heard, or heard about Eva Hornung’s then new book, Dog Boy. Bought it after the segment to leaf through it while taking time out, and lunch, in my car.

I’m not a fan of events with 45+/- thousand people … probably not that many … but enough that I didn’t meet any friends or acquaintances] Read about 60 pages, kissed the Festival goodbye, drove home and read the rest.

It’s worth all the accolades. Every hyped up adjective. It’s “confronting”. “Highly descriptive, confident and thought-provoking.” “Completely believable. Unrelenting.” “Meticulous research.” “Pared-down, non-sentimental writing.” “A tour-de-force of imaginative empathy.”

In my opinion, it’s the most moving, frightening, heart-breaking story of how a child, to survive, becomes a dog. It’s writing from the soul.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6667541-dog-boy

Intertwined?

Days 4-7 of Inktober 2021, a cultural practice by Rita de Heer

Just how intertwined are we, with Nature?

Here, in this cultural practice of applying pigments to paper, pasting scraps to paper bound in book-form, and drawing over the top with an ink pen made of petrol-based polymer filled with petrol-based ink?

Not much at all. Because cultural practices are part of what we do in the World, right?

Pigments are powdered clays, lichens and mosses, madders and goldenrods, rust, verdigris, pewter and gold. Some of Nature’s bounty.

Bound with gums, latex, and oils.

En-tubed, slopped into pots, or dried in patties.

[Sold, which is a whole other story.]

Livened with water … the best is straight from the deep ground, unadulterated with unnatural chemicals such as chlorine and fluorides.

Applied to papers linens, canvas, parchments; wood panels, bone, and teeth; applied to stone.

Using brushes made of bunching the tail hairs of a myriad of different furry animals, as well as threads drawn from petroleum products such as nylon, rayon, polyesters: all of them products of the sun’s action on eon-old vegetation when you go right to the origin.

Air drying is preferable but takes a long time, so people who can’t wait use hair-dryers that often use a variation on the theme, electricity stoked with coal.

[If framed, that’s another story]

We are intertwined.

State-of-Being

Back Into the Ooze,
watercolor and black marker pen by Rita de Heer,
what I thought was going to happen to me.
You’ll find me diving down into it mid-painting

Up until September 14 2020 I lived in New South Wales, in Australia. On that day, a friend drove me to the adjoining state Queensland and negotiated with the border police to get me through the Covid 19 barrier between the two states. I was sicker than anyone guessed.

My friend took me to hospital where I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Treatment began right away. Chemo. Six cycles of R-CHOP at three weekly intervals. Then four lumbar punctures with same drugs and a rituximab (monoclonal antibody) chaser. My last treatment and PET scan in February. I’m in remission.

Long time readers will say that I’ve said all that before. I have. I wanted to feel what it felt like now, to look back on it, six months down the track.

At first, being in remission was the most frightening place on Earth. The reality of dealing with the after- and side-effects of both the chemo and the lymphoma on my own was pure anxiety. Luckily there’s a really good support group on FaceBook that we haunt, all of us in the Downunder Lymphoma boat, and I’ve only had to call the ambulance twice. So here I am, six months into the remission journey.

What with Covid lock-downs and a really low immune system … like, no B cells! … I’ve been pretty well housebound except for food shopping, doctors appointments and walks. So I thought I’d get back into writing reading knitting music pretty easily. Lots of time after all.

I’d be lying if I told you yes, really easy.

Early on I spent most of my time sorting through the stuff that came with my decision to stay in Brisbane. I had a lot of books, not all of them fit on the shelves I now have. Clothes, the same. Textile crafts, the same. And I’m still at it, every so often. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

I’ll write that sentence again and even bold it. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

It suggests my new life is smaller. I’m not talking about its length, more what I can do in my days … and so also today, this minute, I need to stop this meandering. More on this as time permits.