Category Archives: Blog

Deathmatch: News from the Underworld

Deathmatch, a competition for the best short story, is on at the Broken Pencil, Canada’s long running magazine for “zine culture and the independent arts.”

Deathmatch pits two stories against each other and invites readers to vote for their favourite one. The winner of the round goes forward to semi-finals and so on. It is a bit like the world cup games, only with short stories instead of football! In addition, there is interesting discussion about the merits and problems of the stories, which help the readers and writers reflect and consider them from different perspectives (Not easy to find: you need to scroll to the end of the second story).

So now you know, please go over to Broken Pencil and read the stories: Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism, by Braydon Beaulieu and Floppy Discs, by Madeline Masters. And vote! I did, I voted for Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism. Why? Because it is an excellent story, well written, and with rich layers of meaning.

I will not attempt an analysis of the story here. Only a point that resonated with me. I liked the creation of the main character; Tony; to me a product of a marriage between Kafka’s Metamorphosis with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I like the nod to these writers, as I believe in literary genealogy and influence. We are nothing without parents!

While in both books there is a conscience and moral compass somewhere, in the Field Guide the character is skilfully pushed to a moral abyss, with no attempts at redemption.

“…The compound eyes or mandibles”, the predominance of the olfactory sense and consistent use of other animal features in the character’s make-up, not visible to others, such as his neighbour, suggest “animal” morality. Tony does not know better. He has reached the depths of the true heart of darkness. He exploits every single opportunity to his ends and so in the end, the reader is left with an ‘insect.’  Breathtaking!

The development is clear and linear. To me, Tony embodies modern man and woman at their worst: insatiable greed, contempt for others, random acts of envious and mindless destruction. We see flashes of this aspect of humanity in our newspapers every day. A  Field Guide is a complex and memorable story, not drawing back from the abyss. For a better understanding of ourselves, we do need stories that illuminate and explore the underworld of the human mind, “the social patterns of ants.”

I also liked Madeline Masters’ Floppy Disks. A very good story, exploring issues of personal boundaries, privacy and gender. The idea of making artworks of disks containing personal information is interesting, especially at a time of real concerns about personal privacy. Where Floppy Discs fails for me is in the character of Mridula not being fully explored; and in the changes of perspective in the story: jarring.

Visit Broken Pencil’s Deathmatch, read, comment and vote! And enjoy!

Must see

Maria Pierides
Ithaca

While working on my second novel, When the Colours Sing, I have been thinking about colour in painting and especially the use of colour by the Blue Rider painters. So it is with a lot of interest and pride that I visited my own daughter’s exhibition in the Deaf Cat Gallery in Rochester, Kent, and had the opportunity to start reflecting on her work.

Painting mainly abstract landscapes, Maria Pierides (http://www.mariapierides.co.uk) makes her paintings sing. They also draw the eye to areas, washes and masses of colour that suggest landscapes emerging from history, from maps, from physical and emotional references to the world.

Using “mixed media, building up and scraping back areas of paint to capture the atmosphere, mass, and light of the landscapes,” she is creating landscapes of the mind. Exploring aspects of the search for “home,” for “rootedness” in the moment, she works on the most basic and important areas of being.

Drawing on Kavafis’ poem ‘Ithaca,’ Maria investigates her own versions of Ithaca. If you can visit this exhibition do; let yourself experience her paintings by allowing the levels of beauty, meaning and lyricism in the pictures emerge in yourself. Don’t take my word for it: see for yourself!

The Deaf Cat is a spacious, warm and trendy exhibition space, with an excellent atmosphere, providing a much needed meeting platform for Kent artists and those interested in their work.

With both a real as well as a virtual space for local artists and art lovers to meet, it is fast becoming the place to be in Rochester and Kent.

The Deaf Cat was the winner in the category of Best Newcomer in the culture and Design Awards 2010, and received nominations in three other categories.

Maria’s work can be viewed in the The Deaf Cat daily, Monday to Sunday from 9.30 am to 5 pm.

Some of her work can also be viewed on her website here

NaHaiWriMo February 2011

The River of Stones project, organized by Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita, has now come to an end. In January, for a whole month, people from all over the world wrote a ‘stone,’ a polished thought/moment of experience. I wrote and posted mine in this blog, on my twitter stream and on my separate tumblr blog Stella’s Stones. Now that January (2011) is over, you can find more of my very short work in Stella’s Stones: on the right hand side of the front page, just below my twitter feed. A big thank you to Fiona and Kaspalita!

February (2011) is also a special month. Michael Dylan Welch of Graceguts organizes the NaHaiWriMo challenging haiku poets and others to write a haiku a day for the month of February. Can you do it? Can I do it? I will certainly try. You can follow my haiku progress in Stella’s Stones.

For well-writen essays on Haiku and other genres click  Graceguts

Edition #3 of > Language > Place is out

The new edition #3 of > Language > Place blog carnival is out!

Hosted by Michael Solender, of “Not From Here, Are You?” it is a feast of stories, personal accounts, poems, photographs. In a number of excellent contributions, several bloggers explore what it means to feel at home, be at home, or indeed, where home is: the theme of belonging.

For information on what the blog carnival is all about, how it came into being and instructions on how to join, please visit Dorothee Lang at Blue Print Review and she will tell you all about it.

In addition, there is a special place to go to for information on the contributors and what they are blogging about http://languageplace.blogspot.com/  

The next edition, issue #4, will be hosted and edited by Jean Morris of “tasting rhubarb.” Jean is inviting submissions during the period from the 5th to the 20th of February 2011. For details and also the specific theme of the edition see here

I am happy to report that links to two of my stories are included in edition  #3: “Ariadne’s Thread” and “Where Home is.” Both stories first appeared on 52|250 A Year of Flash here; they can also be found in my blog here

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Diamond doves are small, beautiful birds, which can be kept as pets, ‘Wiki-Marion’ told me once. Since I knew she enjoys dispensing information, I did not think more about it, until she invited me to see her new pet, “Love”.

A bird of beauty! Light blue-grey head, neck, and breast; dark bill, spotted wings fringed in black; orange eyes. I fell in love with Love. He kept bow-cooing, fluffing his wings, strutting, kissing Marion’s hand. I felt jealous, knowing I could not compete with my friend for the bird’s affections.

Walking back home, I stopped at the park, looking for doves, ducks and this winter’s migratory birds. None had the exquisite and delicate beauty of the diamond dove. I was heartbroken by the time I arrived home, vowing to stop visiting Marion to avoid the pain.

A few weeks later, she phoned me. “Love died,” she announced.

“What?”

“These birds seem to fall in love with their owner if they don’t have a bird partner. I encouraged his bonding to me. But that was all I could do – I could not let him mate with my hand as if it were a female! He felt rejected and died of love.”

“It was only an animal. Animals behave differently,” I said, breaking into hysterical laughter.

I put the phone down struck by an acute pang of unease. Who are the animals here, I asked myself, my face burning with shame.

.

This short story was first published on 52|250 A Year of Flash, January 2011. It can be found here.

For information about the diamond dove, including the dangers of it becoming over-dependent on its owner see here.