On New Grumble Art For the New Year

Here’s the latest picture of Grumble. Like I said, he takes his role as guardian very very very seriously… Sometimes a little too seriously because it usually ends up with Petunia being sat on (for her own safety of course). If he could lock Petunia in a chest and sit on it I’m sure he’d attempt it if it would not cause the obvious outcry from everyone else…

security clearance

On Self Doubt Fridays.

Welcome to doubt

I wonder if every writer suffers from what I now call ‘get a hair cut and get a real job’ moments? Those moments of panic when you’re driving, in the supermarket or at your day job, when you think about how you’ve devoted you life to trying to make this writing thing work and you think:

“What on earth am I doing?!!! I should be working in an office somewhere earning actual money!”

For some reason this always seems to happen to me on a Friday…

Except when it happens on a Tuesday…

No, I don’t know why…

This is where I deeply appreciate my fellow artists and the people who believe in me who slap me upside the head whenever I get like that. The people who threaten to mug me in a dark alley if I ever give up writing.

You guys are worth your weight in gold.

Thanks.

 

 

On getting up to date…

Its the last third of winter and that means that sometimes all you want to do is snuggle down by the fire and forget the horrible cold world exists. Normally I like winter. Frosty mornings are my favourite. Foggy days are terrifically mysterious. Rain makes you feel cosy and warm inside. Except when it’s bucketing down for days on end and turning the front lawn into a lake and getting everything soggy!

Which it has.

And as for those grey, chilly can’t-make-up-my-mind-what-I-want-to-be days. Ugh.

I’ve been working hard getting my submission of The House of Petunia for Pitch Wars (more about that later). In a writer’s life there are times when your creativity wells get depleted and you stare at the computer screen and think “I got nuttin”. Or worse, when you look at what you’ve written and think. ‘This is the biggest pile of rubbish ever created. I should delete the whole bally lot!’

Back away. Just back away from the computer…

But after a couple of weeks of mucking around I have found that I’ve gotten dreadfully bored. Now I’m ready to write insulting and silly things about pixies. Plus chip away at my platform, which includes getting a new profile pic up and running.

Bit of a fraught process really. This is my FIRST selfie.

I know, I know. I’m a luddite.

First attempts weren’t so great. Trying to eliminate inevitable double chin and try and tame the fuzzy fringe so that it doesn’t make me look like Donald Trump. And try to take it discretely in Laidlaw Library so that I don’t look like a narcissistic fool.

Must. Avoid. Duckface!

The pic done, I now wrestle with the complexities of trying to get the blasted thing from my phone to my computer. Dunno where Bluetooth has sent the file. End up emailing it to myself after much frustration. It shouldn’t be this hard!

But here’s the end result. Not bad. I don’t look like Donald Trump. Could do with a bit of mascara and lipstick though…

IMG_20170807_120719

On the birth of an author… (aka – finally coming up with a pen name that I actually like).

Hello

I’ve been fiddling with my name for quite some time now…

Andrea Coster just didn’t sound ‘authory’ enough so I embarked on trying to come up with a pen name.Authors do it all the time. J K Rowling used her initials rather than her actual name because she wanted boys to read her stuff. Apparently they wouldn’t if they realised she was a girl. To further fool everyone, when she embarked on a completely new series that wasn’t Harry Potter, she called herself Robert Galbraith. I’m not prepared to go that far. It would cause confusion at book fairs, so I thought I’d just try out the whole initials thing.

I tried that with my own name.

A D Coster…

Nope still not right. The ‘Coster’ bit was still not doing it for me.

Wait a minute! When Dad did some research into our family tree he found out that our family name was originally Costard. Oh, and we owned a pub… but I digress…

So lets try A D Costard…

Nearly there. (Actually I feel a little pretentious about the ‘Costard’. It feels like when Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances pronounces her last name to sound like ‘Bouquet’).

You know I’m not really sold on the whole ‘Andrea’ thing either. However my middle name is Dorothy.

Which I hated growing up because it was my grandmother’s name and sounded so old fashioned. But hey! Old fashioned is ‘in’ right now!

Dorothy it is then. Who’da thunk?

Dorothy Costard… Needs a little extra something…

My other grandmother’s name was Daisy. I really loved her and suspect that I inherited her sense of humour. Now you know who to blame. She should make a decent middle initial.

Righto, so here we go.

Dorothy D Costard!

And there you go. An author is born…

Win!

So when you’re wearing a new name you have to expect it to squeak when you turn around in it too quickly. My main worry is that in public settings when people only know me by my pen name, someone will yell ‘hey Dorothy’ and I’ll either ignore them or go “Who?… Oh Me!”

Could be awkward.

 

 

On What Come From Silly Conversations About Llamas

We had a silly conversation about Llamas today, in the staffroom.

As you do…

Apparently one of the local pet stores had them on display. We speculated how we would get one home. This set off a train of silliness in my brain, which will probably be a scene in the The House of Scathland, the fourth book in The Standingground Chronicles. In The House of Scathland Petunia embarks on her first mission as a Standingground. She is part of a team sent to restore a ecologically ravaged magical kingdom back to its former glory. This means reintroducing extinct species. She gets more than she bargained for when she sends her assistant Feverell, an elf who first appears briefly in The House of Standingground but gets more of a part here, returns back from his visit to the pet depot to get some drakon food.

llamaEnjoy.

I stared in astonishment at the sight that greeted me when I stepped outside the tent. There was a llama all right. It had poked its head out of the sunroof of the SUV and was looking around interestedly. He was chewing in that slow measured pace llama’s have and since he wasn’t anywhere near grass I could only assume that he was chewing on bits of SUV.

Mr. Triptych took one look and collapsed in helpless laughter. He was going to be no help.

“You got a llama,” I said, turning to Feverell who blushed.

“Well yes,” he said. “They were having a sale at the animal depot when I was getting the drakon food and I… well… I thought he’d be useful.”

“A llama.”

“Yes.”

“There aren’t any llamas in Scathland,” I pointed out.

Feverell opened his mouth.

“And I’m pretty sure they’re not a little known extinct species that died out and need reintroducing either,” I continued.

Feverell shuffled his feet.

“He was lonely,” he said. “He gave me a look Miss Petunia. I just couldn’t leave him.”

There was a short pregnant silence. The llama chewed at me.

“He’s called Rama,” offered Feverell.

There was a short pause.

“Rama llama,” I said flatly.

Another pause.

“If you tell me his last name is Ding Dong, it will go hard with you,” I said shaking a finger at the hapless Feverell. Feverell blanched.

I looked back at the chewing hairy mattress thing occupying the SUV. It spat out whatever part of the car it was masticating and honked.

I sighed. This is what happens when I try to do a favour for the elf king. Maybe Rama Llama could be a good diplomatic gift to King Endalon, I thought vengefully. After all Fedalis had plenty of grass.

 

On Forgetting Coffee and its Consequences…

Caffiene

So I woke up this morning with the horrified realisation…

I forgot to buy coffee yesterday and there is none in the coffee jar!

To those who might be concerned about my coffee addiction, let your fears be soothed. I only drink one cup of coffee a day in the morning but its a vital cup of coffee! Of course it’s Sunday, and one of my little rituals is taking a covered cup of coffee with me to church. Yes we are that hip folks…

I arrived at church, groggy and half asleep and remembering that I was on chalice that week (thats giving the communion cup to people during communion for those of you unfamiliar with church speak). So I sit in my usual spot (otherwise it disturbs my shalom)thinking ImustnotforgetI’monchalicImustnotforgetI’monchaliceImustnotforgetI’monchalice.

I forgot… I blame lack of coffee…

“Andrea?” says Andy our Vicar. “Aren’t you meant to be up here?’

I snap out of my dream at the end of the offertory hymn to realise that everyone in the church is staring at me. 

Uh oh…

Quickly scoot up to the front to a chorus of titters as I blame the whole thing on lack of coffee!

Embarrassment! Andy gives me a friendly twinkle.

‘You were deep in prayer weren’t you?’

Yes. Thats exactly what happened. Prayer. Absolutely. Exactly that. Yes.

I have coffee now. All is right with the world.

 

On Downright Disturbing Ad’s…

Since I am on holiday at the moment I resolved that I was actually going to rest (see Sabbath as Resistance on my book page) and not try and write. Once I made that decision I felt a whole lot better and could really relax. Even though you want to be disciplined about your craft sometimes it pays to step back and let the creativity wells fill up again.

This means a good cartoon binge watch…

I have settled on Sofia the First which, for those of you not familiar with the cartoon universe and who despair of me being a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is a Disney Junior cartoon about a little girl who finds herself a princess in an enchanted kingdom when her mum marries the king. Its full of flying horses, fairies, disappearing orchards and all the magicky goodness that I love.

Sofia the First

Okay okay, its obviously for children but I just don’t care.

The site I am streaming it on however makes watching it a little weird…

All the ads imbedded in the video, which you are forced to see before you click the video on, are for Hot Asian Ladies or video games which claim, ‘your girlfriend won’t like you playing this game’ accompanied by a computerised picture of ladies with improbable chests and very little clothing.

What the hey

What the freakin’ hey!!!!!

Have the site builders not realised that children will be watching these cartoons?!?

Hey, I’m an adult and I don’t want to be bombarded with this rubbish. The ads seemed to have changed to ‘How to make obscene amounts of money by doing practically nothing‘ which is fractionally better but not by much.

Oh look we’re back to improbable ladies again…

Wonder if I can switch these off? Any tech savvy reader please let me know.

On Wearing a Jesus Suit

For your next costume party...

For your next costume party or audience with the Father…

The use of strange Christian sounding phrases often get me pondering…and sometimes generate more confusion than not.

For example: ‘We’re washed in the blood brother’!! (Okay so I’m red, wet and sticky which is more than a little gross… now what do I do…?)

On this occasion the preacher in question is trying to reassure people about the security of our salvation and our position before God the Father.  This illustration states that when God the Father sees us, He sees Jesus.

Hold on…

What does that even mean!!!??

Does it mean that I wear a Jesus Suit?

Now I’ve heard this particular teaching before many times and it was beginning to irritate me. This particular way of explaining things didn’t bring me comfort or reassurance. Instead it struck me as profoundly disturbing.

In order to mask my foul sinful self from God I had been mysteriously provided with a ‘Jesus Suit’ so that He didn’t recognise me and allowed me sneak under the ‘smite’ radar. Did God find the idea of me being in His presence so unacceptable that I needed to wear the spiritual equivalent of an enormous fake moustache? God looks up in the throne room he sees me and thinks to himself ‘Oh… that’s alright. Its not one of those dirty sinners from earth, it’s just my son Jesus. Hmmm, I’ve seen him quite a lot today?

This caricature of God is a grumpy old man (getoffamaporch!!) who is also a little short sighted and kinda dumb. You can imagine this God looking up as Jesus arrives in the throne room fresh from the Resurrection with all the people he’s just rescued from eternal torment.

God (irritably): who are all these people!

Jesus (defensively): just a few friends Dad…

God (breathing heavily and disgustedly into his beard): They’re all untidy!! Oh well I suppose I’ll have to put up with them seeing as you brought them home Son. But you make sure they clean up after themselves and keep the TV down!! I have important work to do! (God then retreats to his shed where He is currently tinkering with Australia…).

Jesus (turning sheepishly to the reward of his suffering): OK guys… Guess the Old Man’s a little cranky. Here’s how we’re going to get around this…

Maybe it’s me but I disliked the idea of having to put on a Jesus Suit in order for God to like me. It felt like the equivalent of putting cheese sauce on Broccoli. I wanted God to like me for ME, not because I was wearing a Jesus suit and he had been fooled into accepting me.

That is NOT what John or Paul was talking about when they talked about being conformed into the image of Jesus or putting on Christ.

Now don’t get me wrong and flood my email with explanations of the atonement! I’ve done PAPERS on the atonement and if they’ve taught me anything it is how much God values, loves and longs for the hurting, stubborn, blind and helpless things we’ve become and how frighteningly relentless He is about restoring his stolen Creation back to where it belongs:  with Him… whole and holy before him the way it was meant to be before it all went so terribly wrong

Jesus took on this commando mission to bring us home and restore us, not disguise us. He went because Father wanted His children back*.

Augustine once wrote that the glory of God is a man (or woman) fully alive. Righteousness isn’t like trying to cram a foreign entity into our sinful nature or disguising it in a Jesus Suit. It is our fallen nature awakening to the fact that we were originally created to embrace the righteousness of God. Through the work of Jesus on the Cross and by the power of His Resurrection it is now possible to be who we truly are without a disguise… Thats a good thought to have heading into Easter…

So time to dig out better metaphor… Jesus-suit theology just ain’t cutting it. I know I couldn’t carry off wearing a beard anyway… too tickly…

*All of this brings us to a need to properly understand the nature of the Trinity which I’m not going to undertake here because I don’t want my head to explode…

On Numbering Our Days aka Psalm 90 according to the Count off Sesame Street…..

 

I was studying for my Psalm’s exam today (one of the reasons that I haven’t blogged for a while). It was the first chance I’ve had in the middle of a flurry of illness (schuff), extra hours at work, college work and just the usual bevy of low level frippery that can keep one in a permanent state of distraction. Exam study is usually a cause of stress but today it served as a tiny epiphany. One of the exam questions is an exegetical essay on Psalm 90. In the middle of the mumbling and worrying and distraction I had a wake up call to PAY ATTENTION!!

Psalm 90 is a candid reminder of how God is eternal and we are not… in fact we’re downright flimsy…

 All our days pass under your wrath;

We finish our years with a moan.

Our days may come to seventy years,

Or eighty, if our strength endures;

Yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow

For they quickly pass, and we fly away… (vs 9,10)

Not exactly cheerful reading but then psalm 90 is a Communal Lament. I don’t recommend it for weddings… However before everyone heads away to drown their sorrows in peanut butter and watching Futurama re-runs the crux of the psalm comes when we get to vs 12

Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom (vs 12)

The psalmist urges his hearers not to despair but rather to PAY ATTENTION!!!

Our lecturer, Richard Neville put it like this:

70 years = 25,497.5 days

10 = 3, 642 days (21,855 to go)

20 = 7, 285 days (20,033 to go)

30 = 10,927 days (18,212 to go)

40 = 14,570 days (10,927 to go)

50 = 18, 212 days (7,285 to go)

60 = 21,855 days (3,642 to go)

65 = 23,676 days (1,821 to go)

I am turning double 20 (I still can’t say it) in 10 days time. This means I will have 10, 927 days left (mind you, my family are notoriously long livers but that’s beside the point…) Numbering our days is not morbid introspection but wisdom. Our days are brief. Use them wisely.  I don’t mean that we need to be climb Everest, wrestle anacondas or record Platinum albums in a frenzy of Carpe Diem in order to make life meaningful . What I do mean is that we really need to see our lives and number our days without being constantly lulled into a distracted stupor… Kind of like the Count off Sesame Street.

one day (ah ah ah ah) Two days (ah ah ah ah) THREE days (ah ah ah ah) FOUR DAYS!!! (ah ah ah ah!!!!)

Well maybe not… but you get the idea…

This day is unique…

For example…

  • Today it is snowing. Now this may be slim pickin’s for those of you who come from countries where snow is a regular feature but for us  in Christchurch ,New Zealand, it is quite an event. Humour me…
  • I’ve looked out the window and watched fat fluffy package filling pile up on everything and effectively turn the whole garden and street into a frosted cupcake. However much annoying snow is it is also very beautiful…
  • …until you have to shovel it…
  • …Or have it dump down your neck from a vindictive tree branch…
  • Today I’ve been enjoying everybody’s snow excitement on Facebook. Pictures of snow abound which will no doubt be followed by pictures of snow men… ducks… daleks… wombats and anything else anyone can conceivably make from snow.
  • Today I can enjoy the sensation of breathing through my nose because my cold is relenting. You never really appreciate the joy of breathing until you can’t…
  • Today a friend announced that he and his wife were having a baby…
  • Today I watched Kung Fu Panda 2 because I love it…
  • Today the cat was forced to stay inside and break her mercenary cycle of eat, leave, come back and eat some more and then leave again. She was forced to sit and purr and fulfill her feline duties for a change.
  • Today I continued the comfort reading of Anne of Green Gables series which I started yesterday (there is nothing like comfort reading when you’re sick…). It always puts me in a very domestic mood and I feel the urge to crochet something or make preserves. Those of you who are my friends… beware… crocheted things may turn up in your pockets overnight…
  • Today I studied Psalm 90 which led to this piece of writing
  • Above all I was reminded to remember my God at every moment.
  • Today I think I’ll finish writing this post and go out and look at the snow falling again.

If you want to read further on the theme of Paying Attention especially to God I recommend ‘Present Perfect’ by Greg Boyd and ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence.

Overcoming Pink

aka: On getting a second opinion

I have a secret confession to make. I once had a problem with pink.

All my life I had avoided wearing pink. I regarded pink as a colour that happened to other people. Maybe it was a latent feminist gene, or the effects of growing up in rural New  Zealand where some farmers drove their tractors into town to see the bank manager.

Something rankled about wearing pink.

Real men may wear pink,the Queen may wear pink but this girl certainly didn’t. What do I look like, an extra on the latest Barbie DVD? Next I’ll start giggling and start carrying a small nervous dog around in my purse.

Yes I was utterly convinced that wearing pink would lower my IQ by at least 50 points but when I went shopping one day I was ambushed. I was looking for a definite style of top and I had finally found it. It was in my size and flattered my figure. However there was one definite flaw.  It only came in…..Pink.

Oh dear.

Much searching for another less ‘prissy’ colour proved fruitless. I looked at the top again…. and gave in.

And so there I stood in front of the mirror wearing a top that could only be described as pink to the fullest extent of the italics. I couldn’t pass it off as magenta or red or crimson. It was PINK!

I was anxious. Years of pink prejudice die hard. Did this colour actually suit me? Did it make me look like a piggy bank or a large inflatable device suitable for teaching children to swim? Had I been transformed into instant Bimbo?  Nervous I resorted to prayer. I don’t normally consult the Almighty about my wardrobe, but this was a special circumstance.

“Lord,” I ventured, “I’m not sure about this. You’re going to have me some indication as to whether this is my colour.”

Anxiously and very pinkly I ventured to work where I was Music and Services Coordinator for a large Anglican Church. On walking through the door our receptionist Lou looked up.

That top looks fantastic Andrea! Where did you get it?” This seemed encouraging. Feeling pleased we launched into a detailed feminine conversation where Lou proceeded to flagrantly break the 10th commandment. I reflected however that Lou was a self confessed lover of all things pink. She was sitting there looking at me with dyed pink streaks in her hair. Her opinion was surely biased. However at that point Jan the Vicar’s PA walked in.

“That’s a lovely top Andrea”. This was followed up by Julie our other receptionist and Julie 2 the Children & Families worker. The Youth Pastor and the Vicar entered no opinion but they lacked the sufficient genetic material to view clothes as little more than convenient items that prevent one being arrested for indecent exposure.  Every person with a XX chromosome had something positive to say about my pinkness that day and all of it was delighted raptures. I was converted to pink and it wasn’t even at gun point. I remembered my prayer and uncertainty that morning and concluded that God is truly nice.

Now I wear pink and I haven’t even developed a giggling habit.

The reason for me sharing my pink conversion is to point out the value of a second opinion. We grow up seeing things a certain way. We think it is the way things are until someone else comes along with a second opinion. Congratulations if you grew up seeing the world as a loving, secure place to be.

However a lot of us grew up with ‘pink problems’.

You know what they are…. I won’t expand on them…

And the horrible thing is, our ‘pink problems’ actually feel like the truth. But they are not. We really need Jesus to tell us what the truth about pink so that His second opinion becomes the only opinion that counts.

You do realise that I’ve actually stopped talking about pink don’t you…?

Jesus likes pink, it is the colour of piglets.

 

Endnote: I want to keep this blog light-hearted so I can’t really expand on the hard journey it can be when God confronts  ‘pink problems’ (more serious work may be the subject of a different blog). A couple of books that have helped me along with really good counselling are ‘Seeing is Believing’ and ‘Escaping the Matrix’ by Gregory A Boyd and Al Larson. They’re both available at Book Depository.There are plenty of others out there. Always pay attention to the books God places in your hands.