Friday, December 2, 2016

Writing Disorder

2nd December 2016

Time passes.
For the writers and readers of my book out there, I feel I should get back on topic and share a little about what is going on with my book series. As we all know, movement in the publishing industry is glacial, but I finally heard back from my agent to whom I had submitted my last book in the Veil Of Time series. The good news is that he liked the book very much. I believe he used the word "fantastic." Yeah!

The bad news is that he is asking for a re-write.

Between these two pictures is where most of my life resides. You'd think over the years I would have learned, but, no, once I have submitted my work, I sort of go off the reality radar into the belief that the UPS man is going to arrive on my doorstep soon with an enormous bunch of flowers with balloons and a note saying CONGRATULATIONS!! So, when I get my work back and the line, "I love it" is followed by the word "but," I end up for the next week, as I did over Thanksgiving, down in the dumps.

But a new day inevitably dawns. You go back to the lines from your agent after the "but" and you read more carefully. Well, those changes won't take so much time, after all. It's just a matter of a little tweaking. You open up your file and start making the changes. Hey, what do you know? This revision makes my book even better! You write to your agent and thank him for pushing you. Life is good. Yeah!

People might be forgiven for thinking these swings between mania and depression look awfully like  bi-polar disorder. It is an affliction, I'll agree to that. But its name is simply The Writing Life.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Man's Woman

During the recent presidential race, when it seemed to be apparent that women were going to be voting Trump out of the equation, some female Trump supporters were petitioning to have women's  voting rights rescinded. Susan B. Anthony and Mrs. Pankhurst must have been rolling in their graves.

Stockholm Syndrome describes a phenomenon where captives begin to identify with their captors, what must be an inbuilt survival technique. Something close to this syndrome kept the lower classes of Britain for centuries voting in the very right-wing feudal governments that kept the masses low and lowly. Something close to this is how the Old Boys' hierarchy operates, designed as it is to keep those below it thinking of themselves as inept and dependent.  Any defectors are regarded as  treasonous rabble rousers. The Pankhursts and the Steinems and the Traisters were and are seen as aberrations, treasonous to the system and patently unfeminine.
It is no wonder so many female authors have over the years felt obliged to take on men's names: Charlotte Bronte (Currer Bell), Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell), Anne Bronte (Acton Bell), Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), Louisa May Alcott (A.M. Bernard), Amantine Dupin (George Sand), Violet Paget (Vernon Lee). Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen.) More recently, think JK Rowling (she doesn't actually have a "K" initial in her name,  AL Kennedy.

The Old Boy's Club house rules say that if by some rough chance a woman does end up in a position of power, she had better look and act like a man. Pant suits, asexual clothing, thank you very much. Either get back in your box, or if you can't do that, then be as much like a box-keeper as you can.  Imagine if during the campaign Hillary Clinton had taken to wearing clothing that expressed her femininity, her sense of who she is.  But then, she learned early on how to play the man game: many historians attribute her husband's loss of the governorship of Arkansas in 1980 to the fact that she hadn't change her name from Rodham to Clinton.

I think what felt to so many women like a kick in the gut when Trump won the election, the reason that within days a million-woman march on Washington had been arranged, is that we thought that the wave of history should have taken us past all that. Donald Trump personifies in his very orange body the disenfranchisement of women, the blatant reduction of their humanity to a paltry sex-appeal scale of 1-10. The women he surrounds himself with are almost uniformly blond, trying in their Stockholm derangement to conform to his captor view of how a woman should be.
In 2016, I thought we could do better than that. Many, many women thought so, too. I suppose that is what hurts the most.

Friday, November 18, 2016

First Peoples

November 11th 2016

There's a strange irony here, an odd juxtaposition of events, as the debacle of the American general election plays out against the backdrop of the Standing Rock protests. In the general election, big business won out "bigly" as our president-to-be ungrammatically intones. Let's hope things go differently for the Native Americans at Standing Rock.
When the white man came to this continent, he brought untold chaos. If you don't believe me, then know that only 5% of the native population survived this holocaust. In spite of the head-in-the-sand Thanksgiving mythology that grew up around the pilgrims and their Native American "hosts," the net contribution of western culture to this continent has not been favourable.  But this is the story of imperialism in general - shock and awe is the methodand the white man is still doing just that: push that oil pipeline through Indian territory and under their river. Who cares? It wasn't until 1948  that all Native Americans were given the right to vote. If the black population was thought of until very recently (and still by some on their way to the White House cabinet) as 3/5th human, Native Americans were counted as even less.  They were heathens in need of gentrifying.

Nothing has really changed. Native Americans are still not entitled to own land, which is why white man's oil companies can run roughshod through their sacred sites and claim it all for "progress." God save us from the white man's progress. The clown soon to occupy the white house is the logical conclusion of generations of bigotry, suppressed for a little while perhaps, but not very deeply, because the profoundly unhappy human being that the white man embodies always needs someone to blame.

All we can do is hope history is on our side. All we can do is believe in the Gia principle which says that the earth, a living organism in itself, will rally its own forces. I hold onto the thought that the Trump administration is up against holy Gaia, a woman if ever there was one. 

Friday, November 11, 2016


11th November 2016

Auuummmm. Here's my go-to mantra: Everything at this moment is exactly as it should be. I have been up nights refining my conspiracy theory about Russian involvement in Tuesday's election. I still think it might be true, if unprovable, but the high ground here is a place of trust. Some may call it denial, and perhaps they're right. I am not going to be militant on this. Tuesday sort of sucker-punched all that out of me. But it's a clump of grass to get hold off on our way out of this mire. Here it is: chaos comes before creation. Sometimes everything has to dissolve into a state of Nothingness before it can coalesce and become Something.

The fastest way to accepting this is to try prying your hands off the wheel. Just for a moment, step back and let the vehicle drive itself. It might seem like a scary thing to do, but my image for this is a car on a track: we think we're directing it by keeping our white-knuckled hands on that wheel, but in actual fact, the car is going to go where the track takes it, so you might as well sit back and enjoy the scenery.

I know that sounds rather deterministic, as though we have no power to direct ourselves. But life just is this tight-rope walk between destiny and choice. We have to put it down to paradox, as so much of life seems to be. We just might be living through one of the greatest paradoxes of all time. Have faith. It's all that's left us. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Flailing Tail

4th November 2016

Four days out from the election of the century, and I am closing my eyes, curling into a fetal position and just like the rest of America, praying for it to be over. I have always thought of the American political system as a circus, and this election cycle has left no doubt about that. We've had the high flyers, the bullshit ringmasters, the poodles dancing on their hind legs, the blond contortionists, the elephants in ballet tutus - and that's just the Republican side of the equation. 

So, moving right along... A long, long time ago, I was born at the time on the pagan calendar of  Samhain (pronounced Sa-vhoon.)  This is the start of the dark half of the year which ends on another pagan festival, Mayday (or Beltaine.) I am she who ushers in the dark days. 
And dark days we are in, not because, as Trump forecasts, everything is going down the tubes, but because we are in the last days and hours of what Michael Moore refers to as a ten-thousand year run of the male hierarchy. Women are voting for Hillary, men are voting for Trump. I grew up in a country where the overlords put down the lifeblood of the people by making everything to do with them illegal - in the old days, uprisings in Scotland were punishable by death, in the not-so-old days, speaking the indigenous language was punishable by your classroom teacher. Well, the classroom teacher, in the shape of Comey, just put Hillary Clinton in the corner for having the audacity to think she could become the leader of the "free world." It is the last flail of the male tail.

For the astrologists among us, the dark era of Pices is on its way out, the fish has outstayed its welcome. The new age of Aquarius is being ushered in by whatever winds of history are made of,  and I have to believe they have at least something to do with balance and the urge towards the light.  

Whether or not Hillary wins the presidency, the days of the old boys club are over. No wonder they're running around, brandishing their sticks and singing their laments of the sinking ship. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Digging Down the Runes

28th October 2016

I recently did a DNA test which came back with the surprising result that I am only 73% European. Eeeks. I thought I would be one of those 99 percenters. I often watch a program called "Finding Your Roots," which takes celebrities on a trip down their ancestral lines. It seems that if they have blond hair, and even if they don't, they often turn out to be 99% European. This twist in my DNA narrative is apparently due to my mother, whose blood group, and consequently mine, is one that is quite common in the Middle East. I even have 5% Ashkenazi Jew, and about three times that much Basque in there! I always suspected something, since my mother's family are all quite dark of skin, hair and eyes. My sister, too. But here I am with a red sheen to my brown hair, green eyes and fair skin. 73%, they say, and I can only conclude that not too far back a female slave or just a random traveller from warmer climes crossed the sea and copulated with some ancestral Brit.

On the McDougall side, the family line originated in exactly the area of Scotland I grew up - Argyll and specifically Oban, where the clan seat is and where I went to school. All McDougalls go back to Dugald, son of Somerled, Lord of The Isles. My branch came not so long ago from the Gaelic-speaking island of Islay, where all the famous single malt whisky also hails from. I think this is the approach the powers-that-be have taken to my writing career - keep it in a vat in a cold dark cellar for decades and then uncork the barrel and pass it around. That's what I am waiting for  - a good connoisseur of spirits to slap a "Grade A, Single Cask" label on my forehead and send me off for general consumption.

Never mind the Celtic cross on that label - that was something that came and then left in my particular distillation. There were lines and lines of Christians for a while in there, including myself for many a youthful year. But it is the heathen that has won out in the end, the dark, peaty, runic drone of my ancestors that hums in my brain and rattles down these tattered bones. What I am trying to do in my writing is lend them a voice.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nasty Women

21st October 2016

British actor Hugh Laurie said recently about the presidential election that, for an outsider, it's like coming into a movie half an hour late and not being able to really get what's going on. Everyone is so angry at Hillary Clinton. Why? She's not perfect by any means, but, compared to Donald Trump, why would you even give it a second thought?
Donald Trump says Hillary is a nasty woman, and I think he is on to something there, not because he's right, but because this is the modern myth that has grown up around her.

What he is trying to appeal to by his term "nasty," has to do with an ingrained suspicion, particularly in America, and most particularly among men, about any woman in a position of power. In fact, if you follow Trump's ranking of women on a 1-10 scale, the "10's" of his world are the least threatening.
Let's take a look at a very few of history's "nasty" women. But I should warn you, some of them have been downright rabble rousers:

Cleopatra (69-30 BC) who inspired her fellow Egyptians to rise up against the Roman invasion.
Boudicca (1st C AD)  who led Britons in revolt against the Romans.
Joan of Arc (1412-1431) who roused her countrymen against the British invasion
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who was an advocate for women's rights in an age when they were still burning such women at the stake.
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), another advocate for women's rights.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), campaigner against slavery.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), British suffragette.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005), civil rights activist.
Oprah Winfrey (1954-  ),  rights activist, named most influential woman in the world
Malala Yousafzai (1997-   ) women's rights activist.

Nasty women, all.
But women are beginning to catch on. Below is an electoral map drawn up by FiveThirtyEight that shows how the election would look if only women voted.

The same site shows that if only men voted, the map would be overwhelmingly red. Women are defeating Donald Trump, and about time. My dearest hope is that Melania Trump will seize her right as a nasty woman to go into the voting booth and place her X next to Hillary's name. I am hoping that women under the thumbs of their husbands all over this country will secretly seize the day and vote like nasty women.