An Haiku for You

Remember a typical English summer? No, neither do I. These days we seem to follow the pattern of a few hot days followed by a storm, a few drab days, rain, sun, rain, drab, maybe some sun, and expect another storm. Nevertheless, people are taking breaks and flowers have struggled into bloom. I don’t write much poetry but while I step back for a few days and until I post again I thought I’d leave you with a Haiku.

Dragon #1

I make no secret about the fact I love dragons and own a few. Some would say more than few but they fill only one cabinet so it’s far less than I could own if I let myself buy every one that caught my eye. Buying dragons began a while back. If I saw one that ‘spoke to me’, as such objects do, while on holiday in the UK I would bring take it home with me. In that respect my dragon collection has taken many years and hasn’t grown all that fast. I bought another the other day, people cried out to see it, and so I decided to share the occasional post featuring my dragons.

There isn’t much of a story to go with this one except it’s a garden ornament I have no intention of putting in the garden. It’s metal and no matter how many years it’s designed to last, invariably the elements will wear it down. I’ll set him by a window in the hope the light will work but, if it doesn’t, I didn’t buy it for the light. I loved the colours. When my other half first saw this his words were, “Is that a garden ornament?” to which I replied yes. “I wouldn’t put that in the garden,” he said so there is some method to my madness.

Watch out, he’s behind you!

It’s just as well only my husband is present during our recent binge ‘catch-up’ watch of The Walking Dead. Like a participant in Gogglebox — a show that invites the audience to watch people watching television (though I’ve only seen adverts for it, some reactions can be to great comic effect) — I’m not a silent viewer.

This is a trait that once drove my relatives to gritting their teeth with irritation, much as I do when an inconsiderate cinema-goer persists on talking during a film, or won’t put their phone away. I appreciate the frustration; however, in the cinema I restrict myself to a few gasps or loud laughter when appropriate. It’s an entirely different experience with an unspoken rule of no talking. I’ve paid a ticket and want to be submersed. I have never, unlike when a grandmother of mine went to the cinema, made not only a public faux pas, but done so twice in the time it took to run through a single showing.

The film was The Time Machine, the classic version starring Rod Taylor made in 1960. She went with her husband and her adult children, and they arrived just as the film started. Although only the opening credits were rolling, my nan, intent on not missing a minute, gaze glued to the screen, fumbled her way along a line of people already seated. I heard the story of how she stopped one seat short of her own chair and plopped herself down on a bald man’s lap. I’m unsure as to the significance of his being bald other than that being the way she forever thereafter described him amidst general hilarity, but I am confident he was as surprised as she. My nan made everyone switch seats so she could sit as far away from him as possible and then sat hidden and, she hoped, forgotten in the darkness…

Until the moment when ‘George’ makes his way into the Morlock cave and we see their gleaming eyes. While the hero tries to creep around and the Morlocks brace to launch an attack, my grandmother gasped, put her hands to her face and shouted out, “Watch out, he’s behind you!” The cinema audience on this occasion met my nan’s outburst with a round of laughter adding to the collective enjoyment.

I once worked with a woman who never understood this. When I referred to laughing or crying over stories — viewed or read — she always shook her head. Strange from someone who read all the time and professed to be a bookworm.

“But…but…but…” I stuttered, “how can you not cry over a sad scene?”

“But it’s not real,” she said.

As one who understands that stories are our way of examining and learning how to deal with reality, I beg to differ. As someone who has had to put a book down in a crowded train carriage owing to the risk of a tear or two escaping among strangers with no easy-to-explain reason, I fail to understand this lack of emotional attachment. Thrill seekers get on roller coasters looking for that up and down ride of a lifetime; book lovers take more tight turns and steep slopes lasting far longer than your average amusement park ride. Our pulses speed up, our stomachs grow tight, our throats close, we cry, and scream, and shout…with anger, with pain, with frustration, and with joy. Even when it hurts, we consider ourselves lucky.

Watching a beloved character’s harrowing death the other night (even though through reading the graphic novel I had a sense of what was coming), make no mistake, I was vocal about it. Feel free to share whether you experience a story without emotion or find it next to impossible not to laugh when something is funny, cheer when the outcome is good, or scream when it’s the end you were dreading.

Pityriasis Rosea

I’m going to talk about a personal topic in the hope it may come up in a search and help another sufferer. About this time last year I was suffering with a rash; one I’d diagnosed before I saw a doctor because it began with what they call an ‘herald patch’. This is a single oval patch of pink to red scaly skin that will appear a couple of days or more before the full rash breaks out.

Mine was tender, a little itchy because it was where clothes tend to rub and I thought that was all it was — I thought it would go away. Within a week I had a widespread rash all over my chest, neck, back, and it kept spreading (I was dreading in case it went to my face and scarred), reaching to my arms and the back of my hands. NHS advice was if went to the back of my hands it was imperative I saw a doctor. The doctor didn’t see it this way — said ‘that’s nothing’ with a dismissive attitude. I love contradictory information.

After much consideration and a blood test that revealed nothing, the doctor decided I had what I said I had: Pityriasis Rosea. Emphasis on the ‘pity’ with good reason. I haven’t included photos here because of possible copyright problems, but also because I don’t want a visual reminder. Do a search — photos will readily appear.

Doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes this rash though stress can induce a breakout, and I was, indeed, going through a lot of stress. Though not painful, it can itch…and boy, did it itch! It got so bad I would wake up realising I’d been scratching in my sleep. I was prescribed a small tube of cream I forget the name of now but some patches did start to dry. Trouble was, I still itched, and I wasn’t meant to use this cream for more than a few days; the tube was so tiny I didn’t think it would even last that long. I was also advised that the rash, even when/if it stopped itching, could last 6 months before it completely disappeared.

Second doctor gave me a prescription for antihistamines, which were cheaper over the counter. I was also given a huge bottle of E45 anti-itch cream, cheaper on prescription as it would have cost me over £30. By then I’d tried most creams I could find and, desperate for relief of any kind, I slathered the damn stuff on. The doctor had told me I really couldn’t use enough of this stuff. I went to bed, hoping and looking forward to some rest after too many sleepless nights. I was up within the hour wanting to rip off my skin.  Unable to bear it for another second, I jumped in the shower frantic to wash away the cream. Said cream later went in the bin. I’d followed Doctor’s advice only to make the rash ten times worse. When removing skin starts to seem a good idea, there’s a real problem.

I’d done lots of online reading, of course, and I know they say don’t play internet doctor but when there’s no help and advice makes the situation worse, there’s little alternative. I’d found some things to wash in that were helping but none were killing the itch for more than an hour. I was so miserable I moaned on Facebook and ‘friends’, close and not so close, chimed in. I have to thank my friend, Cheryl, for telling me to try washing in Bicarbonate of Soda.

After the debacle with E45 I decided to patch test first and, after my experience, would advise this with anything prescribed or otherwise anyone uses to ease a rash. I used the Bicarbonate as a sort of salt scrub (I’d tried one of those too but it hadn’t worked), lightly rubbing it on and showering off, but you can put a cupful in the bath and soak. Note: anyone with diabetes or other medical issues may need to check whether this is safe.

I started to see an improvement almost immediately. I used it a couple of times a day for about a week and also bathed in Aveeno bath and shower wash and used Aveeno cream. While it took a few weeks for all the marks to fade, the itch eased within hours. So that’s my advice. Check it’s safe to use medically, and do a patch test, but try Bicarbonate of Soda and Aveeno, though I hope you never need to; this rash may not be serious but it makes a person miserable.

To the Moon and Back

I’d like to introduce you to an artist.

Last summer friends took us on a long drive out for the day along the top of the North Devon coast. Our main destination was Dunster Castle, but we wandered and meandered for a long stretch of the coastal highway. One of our stop off points was Lynmouth, a place I hadn’t visited for more years than I can remember. There I discovered Maurice Bishop and wanted one of his paintings at first glance. Not until several weeks later did I return to buy one, my most difficult decision, which one to choose.

Maurice speaks of being in a perfect location for a creative environment and he’s not wrong. The wild and rugged terrain of Exmoor with deep valleys of wood and moorland skirted by the sea is a walker’s paradise.

There’s no need to travel to enjoy Maurice’s work as he has an online gallery, though it’s not a delightful as wandering around his labyrinth of a shop with new delights at every turn. With our grey/blue themed living room and my favourite colour being red I had to choose one from his Red Trees in the Moonlight Collection. After a long deliberation we chose To the Moon and Back and it is now looking fine on our wall.

As much as I love his more contemporary paintings, the traditional works were difficult to pass by and I have my eye on at least one. I wouldn’t refuse this one of Clovelly but I’m undecided.. I’ll happily pop into his shop when that way again to buy some of his wonderful scenes on cards to send to friends, if nothing else. It’s a good thing I have only so much wall space.

Will Snow Angel ever see print?

Two announcements this week. First, I’ve signed a contract with JMS books for a brand new work entitled Flowers for the Gardener. It should be out in April. Also, Christmas Angel makes it to print.

One question I heard numerous times over what had to be ten years was would Snow Angel ever see print but I had no satisfactory answer to give. At this time of writing, it has. With Snow Angel, the sequel Angel Heart, and the new Christmas Angel (the last book completing a trilogy), now out in print, I can at last say a big thank you to those who requested print copies. Before now the only reply I had to give was…maybe. A simpler answer was yes because if all else had failed ‘one day’ I would have self-published. The trouble with that (discounting the fact I’m not currently of a mind to take the self-publishing route), I couldn’t state how far away ‘one day’ would be.

It’s official and Snow Angel became a best-selling book, doing better than many conventional printed paperbacks, with its sequel closely following in the rear. So why didn’t the first publisher take the initial titles to print? The reason a predominantly ebook publisher produces a print book is long and convoluted, and as easy to answer as the length of a piece of string. There is one answer I could give, and that was because both books fell out of the range of that publisher’s ‘accepted length’ for a printed book — one too long, the other too short, and together being impossible. So I knew the first publisher would never print the book.

The print option in the contract had long since run out and there was nothing to stop me trying to find a publisher that would print the book separately, but this was difficult and unlikely. The markets most willing to print the book would no doubt want electronic rights, too. Fine, if I could find someone to take it on as a whole package, but then I would have had to negotiate with the then current publisher to remove the book — a thing I could only do when the original contract came up for renewal. When a title is still selling, it’s a fine balance to know when to pull a book from the existing market. Once upon a time books were forever, but nowadays many have a more immediate shelf life — a commodity just like a loaf of bread.

The right moment came when I decided to add a third title. I asked fans of the book what they wanted and should put out as is or whether to re-edit the original titles. I was told my style had improved and the new book would jar with the older titles so the votes came in for re-edit. I did so with success. My trilogy has a home now with JMS books and with everyone who took an anti-hero to heart.