Of Things Gone Astray – book review

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‘Of Things Gone Astray’ by Janina Matthewson is a quirky, engaging read, with an almost mystical, fairy tale quality, which cleverly links a diverse set of characters, events and objects with a subtlety that had me going back to check my previous understanding of the narratives.

There are hints of past and future connections unfolding in the stories, and the characters, paradoxically, are depicted briefly, almost as sketches, yet with depth – quite an accomplished balancing act, to offer enough to satisfy without revealing too much too soon.

‘Of Things Gone Astray’ offers a glimpse of how people respond and react to loss, to change, to transformation in very different ways, from the innocence of childhood to the malaise of middle age, demonstrating how we can easily become lost to each other if we fail to observe what’s in front of us, and become too self-absorbed or fearful.

An accomplished first novel, which left me looking forward to the author’s next work.

 

Christine Miller

Janina Matthewson

Janina Matthewson is a writer and trained actress from Christchurch, New Zealand. She now lives in London. Of Things Gone Astray is her first full-length novel.

Find ‘Of Things Gone Astray’ Here

HarperCollins UK, HarperPress/4th Estate/The Friday Project

Mental Health Special: Seeing the Light Through Schizoaffective Disorder

What happens when you can’t work out what’s real?

 

Today, I have the great pleasure of being the host on DAY 6 of the Virtual Blog Tour for Richard David Price, author of the brand new book Beating the Adversary: A True Story of Schizoaffective Disorder, officially released on 1st December, 2014.  On its début, it became Amazon’s #1 best-selling new release in ‘schizophrenia’.

Richard David Price

Richard David Price

RICHARD DAVID PRICE was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder as a teenager, as a result of a childhood accident.

Despite his difficult adolescence, he went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Business and has two children to whom he is devoted.

He is a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and feels his mission in life is to help spread hope that we all can overcome our personal challenges.

Yesterday, Richard visited Conditional Publications at http://conditionalpublications.com/category/messages-from-the-editor/, where they spoke about how to gain something positive from schizoaffective disorder.

 

Today, I’d like to share with you a recent interview I had with Richard on hallucinations, therapies and other elements he encounters in dealing with his condition.

 

***INTERVIEW***

CHRISTINE: When you first began having hallucinations and visions, what feelings did this provoke in you?

RICHARD: That is a good question.  Oddly enough, the hallucinations really didn’t provoke me as much as the first time I heard a voice out of place. It put my guard up, so when the hallucinations started to happen, they weren’t as surprising as they could have been.

CHRISTINE: How did you try to disguise what was happening from your family, your friends, and yourself, and how did this affect your relationships and self-worth?

RICHARD: Well, I really didn’t think badly of myself.  To my mind, I was under attack and felt I could be killed at any time.  Why would I feel badly about myself?  How was any of that my fault?

My decline went from really slow, to very, very fast. When my friends left, that was the least of my worries.  I grew up with a big family, so I could come and go as I pleased.  I kept to myself, usually in my room or someplace working out.  My senior year, I got a gym pass and spent all my free time there getting ready for the next day. There wasn’t a lot of feeling sorry for myself. It was more about figuring out the next clue to solve the puzzle of what was going on with me.

I once had a dream that was very real, before I got too sick.  In this dream, I had to overcome a series of obstacles, each one harder than the last. I found that by being quiet and never lying, I could beat all the obstacles. But in the beginning there were lots of people fighting to beat the path; in the end, there was only me.

CHRISTINE: How were you able to share what was happening with your family and gain support?

RICHARD: I did not share a single word of it unless pinned down, like the time I burst into tears while talking to my Mom. I told her I didn’t know why I was crying, and it was true.  It was very hard to reach out to people.

CHRISTINE: How were you able to distinguish between what was real and what was a hallucination, and what therapies or interventions most supported your ability to eventually emerge from and manage these experiences?

RICHARD: I couldn’t make that distinction.  The hallucinations were too powerful.  Eventually, I shaved my head for no good reason, and my mom (the real hero of my story) decided to take me to the hospital. There I started medication, and then started to wake up – to see the light.

 

***END OF INTERVIEW***

Cover for Promotion

 

I hope you enjoyed this brief interview with author Richard Price and that you’ll check out his new book Beating the Adversary: A True Story of Schizoaffective Disorder.

When you buy Beating the Adversary during its official Amazon launch, you’ll also receive a free novel entitled The Ladder from Conditional Publications – an independent publisher dedicated to writers with neurological conditions.

To buy Beating the Adversary
and get your free novel, go to:

http://www.conditionalpublications.com/pages/beating-the-adversary.html

 

Thanks for reading! Please do share your comments and thoughts below. I love reading your feedback.

Be sure to follow Richard’s book tomorrow on the next stop of his Virtual Blog Tour, when Beating the Adversary editor Vrinda Pendred will be talking to Lynn Serafinn on the Spirit Authors blog at http://spiritauthors.com/category/new-books/

Tina Seskis – words from the heart

Tina Seskisw book

Launch of Tina Seskis book

Christine Miller

It was an honour and a delight to finally meet Tina Seskis – best-selling author of the tautly engrossing psychological thriller ‘One Step Too Far’ – in person at the launch of the paperback version of her book, published by Michael Joseph.

Apart from being a great writer, Tina is a very enterprising and able marketer. She initially self-published One Step Too Far in 2013, when I had the pleasure of being one of the first readers and reviewers through NetGalley. The link to that review is here.

I was completely hooked right from the beginning, and delighted to help Tina garner reviews, readers and sales for the book, because it genuinely is one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read.

And believe me,  I’ve read a large number of  books …

Christine Miller LondonfromStrand802The launch was generously hosted at Penguin’s beautifully sited headquarters in The Strand.
We were on the 10th floor with magnificent panoramic views of a sunlit London from the terrace.

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Christine Miller LondonFrmStrand804

As the wine flowed, the conversation buzzed and there was a wonderful atmosphere of celebration and success as the crowd of family, friends and supporters gathered to congratulate Tina on her triumphs.

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What also emerged last night was the poignant ‘story behind the story’ of what prompted Tina to write in the first place. Her mother was unwell, and Tina used the book as a means of engaging her mother’s attention and interest – in her own words, “to keep her going”.  The guidance and insights from her mother helped Tina keep the book’s characters and their actions real and thereby remain sympathetic and appealing to readers, thus sculpting the storyline as credible yet compelling.

When we spoke, Tina told me that the words had come straight from her heart, directed by her mission to keep her mother occupied, as she wove ‘One Step Too Far’ into the fascinating story with the terrific plot twist that led Penguin to pick it up and offer her a completely well-deserved 3-book deal rumoured to be worth a substantial 6-figure sum.

Tina’s humble and heartfelt tribute in her speech to her (sadly now deceased) mother, who she described as the one person who really should have been there, to her husband, her son and all her family, and to everyone who supported her, was beautiful. Also moving were the brief, entertaining and powerful words from Louise Moore, one of Penguin’s managing directors, who justly praised Tina for her creativity and writing skills, her persistence and determination, and her refreshingly open approach.

This is a success story which carries great hope for talented writers wanting to get noticed, a lesson in determination, perseverance and guts.

And I have a strong sense that we haven’t even seen the very best of Tina Seskis yet – definitely one to watch – and read and enjoy.

Thanks to all for a wonderful evening,  and if you haven’t already, go get your copy of ‘One Step Too Far’ HERE.

Christine Miller

Living Wholeheartedly – A Retreat for People Affected by Cancer

Benn Abdy Collins

Guest Post by Benn Abdy Collins

Anyone whose life is affected by an incident or trauma has something in common with anyone else who’s going through the same thing.

My mum had cancer. I saw what she went through and I wanted to both understand how that affected both her and me and, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people affected by cancer.

As a result, I’ve worked as a volunteer in a hospice and I’ve worked driving ambulance patients to and from cancer treatments. Now I help design and deliver inside-out activities, either as one-day events or three-day retreats, for people affected by cancer, so they may explore the benefit of spiritual tools in their lives.

Living Wholeheartedly is our next retreat being held over the weekend of 1st to 3rd November 2013.

I include the invitation and informational flyer for the retreat, below.

With blessings,
Benn

Please pass on details of this empowering retreat to anyone who has cancer, or is caring for a relative or friend who has cancer, and is interested in exploring meditation and other ‘inside- out’ approaches to support them in the challenges they face.

For more information and an application form please contact:

John McConnel at lwc@uk.bkwsu.org by Friday 11 October 2013, if possible.
(Registration extended until October 18th) 

There is no charge for the weekend but donations are welcome.

Thank you.

Living Wholeheartedly

 

Portraying Life – Manet, Bellows & Unexpected Joy


Lunch on the Grass

Manet, Bellows and the surprising pleasure of the unknown

We were thrilled to attend a ‘friends and family’ private showing event at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last week.  It’s a superb building, Burlington House, close to Piccadilly Circus and Green Park, and the RA brings together some wonderful exhibitions.

Manet (1832–1883)

Somewhere along the line, many people will have heard of and seen French artist Édouard Manet’s famous painting ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’, or Luncheon on the Grass, even if you’re not an art afficionado. It’s a large oil painting which resides in a museum in Paris, with a smaller version in the Courtauld gallery in London, currently on show at the RA. It created a scandal when it was first aired in 1862, largely because of the female nude and the scantily clad bather, alongside two fully clad gentlemen, and a subtext which implied all kinds of (at the time) illegal, immoral and impossible things going on, but also because of Manet’s style of painting which led to him being described as ‘The Man Who Invented Modern Art’.

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The Luncheon on the Grass 1862-63

Manet once said, he ‘felt like a man who knows his surest plan to learn to swim safely is, dangerous as it may seem, to throw himself into the water’.

Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets 1872

Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets 1872

It was fascinating to see these famous and important works on display, to get up close and examine the way the paint had been applied, the ‘unfinished’ look of some, with evident brushstrokes,  the colours, the talent and flair, and also the expression of Manet’s life unfolding through his paintings. Because Manet often painted his friends and family, not only models and sitters, and he included contemporary figures such as novelist Emile Zola, poets Baudelaire and Mallarmé, Antonin Proust, and fellow artist Berthe Morisot, whose face is perhaps one of the most well-known amongst his many portraits, so there is a relevance, involvement and intimacy which is charming.

Manet’s artistic development straddled the time between the formal painted portrait as the main form of rendering one’s likeness in a lasting form, and the rapidly developing age of photography and daguerreotypes and their more immediate and realistic representation.

My sense of Manet’s work is that he brought an informality and naturalness to his portraits of people and their lives, and their interweaving with his own life, with a casualness that was daring for its time, yet retained startling realism and depiction of his subjects.

The Railway 1873

The Railway 1873

Some of the perspectives and uses of light and shade, and of so many hues of black, especially those I observed in ‘The Railway’, are stunning, and Manet rightly deserves his accolades as an inventor, if not The Inventor of Modern Art.

Some have said these paintings are not the best of his work, and there may be some gems missing from this exhibit; however for me it demonstrates his acute observations and his sympathetic and daring statements capturing life through his eyes and hands.

George Bellows (1882 – 1925)

In contrast, I had not previously encountered artist George Bellows. My loss, as I found his work most engaging and exciting. Bellows was a gifted artist who found success and fame early in life. He has been described as “one of the most innovative and versatile artists of his time”.  In 1913, at the age of 30, he became the youngest ever artist to be elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design.

His exhibit depicts Modern American Life, and as his career coincided with the industrialisation of the USA, he witnessed the rapid growth of New York, which became a frequent subject for his work.

George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey's, 1909

George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey’s, 1909
Photograph: George Bellows/The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B Hurlbut Collection

His early work concentrates on boxing matches, some very gritty and earthy scenes which exude a raw power and the almost animalistic movements and postures of the boxers are visceral, you can almost smell them.

There is a vigour and life in his work which captures early 20th century America with great precision and power, the scenes of New York very much reminding me of films about gang life, and there are also many touching works illustrating the poverty and grim hardships encountered by immigrants and the underprivileged.

Bellows’ war paintings are also powerful, showing scenes from the First World War in varying forms from huge oil paintings to lithographs. They are quite disturbing in their violence and stark reality. As Bellows did not witness WWI at first hand, they were interpreted from The Bryce Report which had recounted eye witness accounts of atrocities perpetrated by the German army on Belgian citizens.

In contrast, in terms of subjects, his later works have many vibrant and invigorating cityscapes, seascapes and landscapes and scenes of winter revelry and snow which are exquisite. I was very taken with ‘Easter Snow’ and also ‘Love of Winter’, so full of life and exuberance and colour.

George Bellows, Love of Winter, 1914 Photograph: George Bellows/The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection

George Bellows, Love of Winter, 1914
Photograph: George Bellows/The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection

George Bellows, Easter Snow, 1915

George Bellows, Easter Snow, 1915
Photograph: Private Collection

Together with the numerous portraits of women, many of his wife, Emma, and his family, which are very tender and beautifully rendered, there is a wide scope and huge talent on display, and it was an unexpected, unanticipated joy to discover George Bellows and his thought-provoking work.

Highly recommended ****

The Manet Exhibit continues until 14th April, George Bellows until 9th June 2013.

Discover more at  Royal Academy of Arts