White Weather

Now available in the shop: *** Middle Earth New Zealand photo wall calendar LAST COPIES ! -- Now only € 12. Buy Calendar *** Christmas and Greeting cards *** Music CDs *** New Zealand photography *** Sheet music

In this newsletter:
*** Living in the Wairarapa
*** INtroducing Inkibus.com
*** Shop News & Current Projects
*** The Left Hand of Darkness: or, Painting with Music

Living in the Wairarapa

So how has life been treating me since I shifted to rural Featherston? So far, it's been real good. Despite the dire warnings of a couple of my Wellington friends, so far the community here seems friendly and not overly disposed to burn me as a witch.

As a matter of fact, I have already been making friends with a couple of the actual local witches — there's a little Wiccan store right when you enter town — and I didn't have much trouble to talk them into taking my calendars and CD and a couple of my greeting cards into their store. Does that mean that the Christian missionaries who also haunt the streets of Featherston, will write me off as a lost soul? Well, they probably already did that when I declined to have them help me mow my lawns, the other day. Poor fragile old woman that I am. :rolls eyes:

Last weekend, I had a little house warming party with a very few select friends who didn't mind the effort of getting on the train and making the trip to faraway over the hill Featherston (ok, ok, I know it is the Christmas season and several of you really could not make it ... sulk ... ) -- but apart from sulking a wee bit about that, it actually was a really nice party. We went and explored the shops along the high street, and my guests were suitably impressed with the offbeat variety of thrills, which they did no exactly expect Featherston to offer. After breakfast in a decidedly stylish cafe, and browsing the monthly Saturday market which was on that day, we visited the local toys and games store, the secondhand book store, one of the two antique furniture stores, and then bought ourselves new outfits in the pre-loved clothing store. I got me a gorgeous new top made in Indonesia, for all of five dollars, and a new little hand bag for my keys and purse. Incidentally, any and all of these little businesses were run by women in their 40's, 50's and 60's (except for the cafe, she was a bit younger) ... so if I was afraid I would be stuck for likeminded people, I somehow don't think I have to worry all that much.

If I could just enjoy my house and my garden and the laid-back little community and the small country roads to bike on with my new old bike, and the early summer smells, and the birds, and the cows, then all would be peachy. But pure happiness is not to be had in this world, and so now the Enterprise Allowance people have decided that they need to bully me some more, and are giving me a hard time about keeping my grant. Apparently I wasn't supposed to move off to faraway over the hill Featherston, though they didn't think to tell me that beforehand. So this has led to some highly increased stress levels and loss of several good night's sleep in the last few weeks. How that is supposed to be conductive to running a successful business, I really do not know.

If I was living under the naive assumption that these's people's job is to help and support me in finally getting off fhe Dole, then I must correct myself. The sole function of at least half the people I have encountered in the Work and Income system appears to be to tell me, at frequent and regular intervals, how totally inadequate I am. Well, I suppose they have to, as a sort of self defence, because otherwise they might have to turn around and look some ugly facts about their own society squarely in the eye — such as that it is entirely possible for a well educated, smart and hard-working woman like myself to come to settle here on their government's invitation, on account of a skill set that has been identified as scarce in this country, and then find herself without any means whatsoever to earn a living.

Introducing: Inkibus.com

This last week, I've been designing away on my friend and fellow fantasy artist Inkibus - aka Alana Schmitt's - website. Alana is a young illustrator, photographer and costume maker whom I have known for several years through a couple of art websites we both frequent. She lives in a remote rural area in Arkansas (USA), and is entirely self taught. Her parents, back in the day, did the hippie thing and went to live in the woods, to grow their own vegetables, keep chicken and various other beasts, and set up a handcrafted furniture business, in which the entire family (Alana, her twin sister and younger brother) all are employed.

This was an excellent opportunity to test an idea I've had to set up a real simple, low budget type of site that contains some basic information, but mainly functions as a portal to the artist's various online presences - in Alana's case, several online storefronts where she sells her artwork and photos, an equally large number of online galleries where she displays her works, her Facebook page, and a blog and a couple of Deviantart portfolios which I suggested to her she should create.

The purpose of this is to combine the professional image which an own domain and custom designed web page convey, with the networking opportunities that online galleries and social networks offer, and the easy updateability of third party applications such as the rather well thought out DeviantArt portfolio. As a young artist just setting out to establish herself, I figure these features are particularly important, and Alana is someone who certainly knows how to use the networking opportunities on the internet well! The site is not quite completed yet - I am still waiting for Alana to send me the link to her "costumes" portfolio, and might go and do a couple of minor layout fixes - but please do have a look: www.inkibus.com

Further in web design news: Last week I had an email from my friend Julie Comparini, whose website I built a couple of months ago, telling me that she has been shortlisted for a part in an opera in Linz next summer, and that the people making the selection were particularly impressed with her website. What a wonderful piece of feedback to have! See - it really works.

Shop News and Current Projects

The pre-Christmas season is upon us and I have been busy selling my calendars and CDs! Oh yes, and even a handful of my new greeting cards. A few weeks ago I started listing some of my shop items on Ebay and Trademe, to take full advantage of the season, and I now also have an Etsy shop. With remarkable results! Just tonight, I sold two CDs and one calendar on Etsy, which, I can tell you, is more than I usually sell in a day.

Still, I do have a very few copies of my calendar left, and since the new year is approaching fast, I have reduced the price a wee bit and am now selling them for € 12, - instead of € 14,-. So what are you waiting for? Please visit my shop and check out my range of products. Calendars, CDs, sheet music, unique greeting cards and gorgeous New Zealand photography: what's not to love!

Creatively, it has been an extremely productive month. I completed a website project, finished another painting in my Earthsea series, did a couple of watercolours for Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, and even wrote a song! More of that below. Here are this month's new paintings:

The Farthest Shore: The Dragon's Run The Left Hand of Darkness: On the Ice The Left Hand of Darkness: Parade in Erhenrang (work in progress) Space clown flamingo worms (oh... never mind)

Ursula Le Guin: illustrations for The Farthest Shoreand The Left Hand of Darkness:: and some space bird worms

The Left Hand of Darkness: or, painting with music

Some while ago I found an intriguing email in my inbox, sent by Maison d'Ailleurs in Switzerland — a "museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys". "Music and Science Fiction contest" it said, and it invited submissions, to be published on a sampler CD and distributed in Switzerland. They even offered to pay for the selected tracks! So I thought to myself, I really must submit something. Here I go declaring that fantasy music is a genre — and there's this dude stating that science fiction music should be a genre! Sweet!

Of course, having decided to abandon my performing career a couple of years ago, I am quite out of the loop with the music thing, but it was an interesting challenge - and perhaps also a nudge, if not a kick in the butt, to find out if there's still something in me that wants to make music?

Besides, ever since I read The Left Hand of Darkness last summer on a very rainy day at the Mavora Lakes, I've been wanting to do something with that fantastic text, so it was an obvious choice. I've been re-reading the book (twice) to get myself in the mood, and find it better and better on every reading. And have you ever tried to read it out loud? You should. Otherwise you miss something! I mean, try this: "Probe for the invisible cracks through which one might fall out of the white glass ball, and fall, and fall, and fall". Not surprisingly, the author also has an interest in performance poetry, at least judging from some of her essays I've read.

So I procrastinated and procrastinated — moved house, dug up my garden, procrastinated some more — until it was, do it right now or miss the deadline. Then I sat down with my little stereo mike in my new studio cum office and recorded myself. Doing some harping, and some, well, vocal performance. Seeing that my voice is not nearly pretty enough to sing with, I decided on some sort of rap - then I chased the whole bunch of raw recordings through various audio filters. Have a listen to it on my Myspace or my Reverbnation profile - the song is called "White Weather". Yup, that's all just my voice that you hear there. God bless computers.

Inside the Blizzard by Ekaterina Shemyak Stokven by Ekaterina Shemyak Meshe and the Tree by Ekaterina Shemyak Nineteenth Day by Ekaterina Shemyak

Illustrations for The Left Hand of Darknessby fellow DeviantArtist Ekaterina Shemyak

The story, I should explain, is about Genly Ai, an Envoy from the Ekumen (a sort of pan-galactic government somewhat similar to the United Nations) who comes alone to the planet Gethen. aka Winter — a cold world covered in perpetual ice and snow — to convince the people there, who have had no previous contact with other human races, to join the Ekumen. The thing that is special about Gethenians is that they are ambisexual: that is, they are neuters most of the time, except for a period of some five days every month when they enter "kemmer" and are able to — indeed strongly driven to — have sex. On those occasions any person can turn either into a male or a female, and anyone can get pregnant. Genly, as a regular human male, is absolutely an oddity in that world, and they call him "pervert". He meets with disbelief, distrust, and hostility, but he does meet one person who supports his mission wholeheartedly: Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, prime minister of the nation of Karhide at the time Genly arrives.

Well, I don't want to give away the whole story, but it ends with Genly and Estraven trecking across the polar ice cape of Gethen in the middle of winter. The true focus of the book is the fragile, ambivalent but passionately emotional relationship that develops between them — each an alien to the other's world, but each also an exile from their own, and sharing a tent in the middle of the icy desolation of the hostile planet. So that's what I've tried to put into music. "White Weather", the title of the track, refers to a weather condition they encounter on the ice, when the light is so intense and so diffuse that there aren't any shadows, which in effect means they are blind: there are no shadows defining the contours of their surroundings. They can't see, because there is too much light.

I am still waiting to hear about their selection — or actually, seeing that the selectees were supposed to be contacted last Thursday, and I wasn't, I assume I didn't make the cut. Not that I really expected to, given that they had some 175 submissions, of which 12 or 14 will make it onto the CD. But that is not what it is about. What it is about is, I've got my butt up and written a song, and posted it on the internet, and I had fun doing it, and some people seem to have fun listening to it. So there.

Listen to the new song "White Weather" on Myspace *** or on Reverbnation

Arohanui, from Asni