Sunday, January 18, 2015

Glam Rock Boyfriends and True Love

In my writing room 2015

The film, Birdman prompted me to write a new entry here, hello. A complex, pointed, but also wondrously blurred story in that movie. A reminder of what hyped situations and confusing or emotional inner worlds artists may live with, the demands of our creative lives. How difficult our everyday can feel, as professional creative people, but we're stuck with this odd fate if we've worked hard enough, used, honed our talent, embraced the luck and wish to continue in the same vein. Somehow we must do the best we can like everyone else, but as far as our work goes we're in a specialist league. 

Ages since I've written here too, a few months, but readers have been visiting. Thanks for your support, over 22,000 hits now.

Circus people from around 1955, when my novel begins.

Quite busy, (it keeps me out of trouble, so far anyway). My third novel and fifteenth book Glam Rock Boyfriends, available as a kindle ebook, (saves trees), and also print-on-demand through Amazon, it was launched late last year, 2014. Promoting this publication has taken up some time, along with my lecturing at UNITEC, narrative writing, (individual classes available to adult students who want to be writers, just ask at the School of Communication Studies), and workshopping writing with many writers who attend my sessions at Blue Haven in Grey Lynn, (my Raewyn Alexander Writing facebook page has more). Writing write writer, wordy words wording, the page awaits, the pane is a plate, a pant is a state....

Also, I fell in love with someone quite lovely, quite a match, (after decades of extraordinary and necessary mistakes), an old friend who loves me dearly, too. O be happy for us. We've been enjoying the resulting peace and contentment, amongst other pleasures. Who knew serenity could feel so extreme? 

Xmas lights Franklin Road Tamaki Makaurau Auckland Aotearoa NZ 2014

Luckily they live nearby here in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, so there's no issue with proximity, or culture for that matter. We've both lived here in Grey Lynn the funky multifarious swept up and over suburb near the city for more than 20 years, and originally escaped from small, repressed places in this country. We took off from our home towns as fast as we could, and we've both worked for decades as artists, in various genre. Many of my friends are delighted with this love, and so are we.  Good news, how welcome.

A miracle when true love appears isn't it? Those first few months bonding in a haze, with bells and whistles ring-a-linging and twoo-a-twooing, singing birds swooning, flowers blooming in every frame of every day, the light more vivid, music more intense....

Our advancing age and attendant health issues cause some consternation, however, along with a few minor peculiarities which may appear easily laughed away. Naturally too, some serious difficulties still arise, life is like that, but love assists with the deflation, hopefully. Intriguing to see what happens when we fall in love, with any of us, isn't it? In my case the rather quite a few I told initially who were those people I thought would be happy to hear about it, (the trusted and truly close), told me how happy they were for us. So pleased I'd found someone who suits me so well. (They know us both, and have done for years). 

Loneliness and heartache being two of my great occupations for a long time, (but I gave up those careers after quite a struggle), so I guess it's wonderful for those who know me well to see I've genuinely found joy with this man. Our ebullience gradually added to the certain contentment I'd finally managed alone. 

Then slowly, of course, others caught the news, and many varied opinions opened out. Ah, opinions bloom like so many flowers, don't they? When picking flowers, I usually only choose the ones I like, though, so it means the bouquet pleases me, then. What about you? It's the sorting through what to choose that may be arduous.

Now I see that if you find some friends or family do not support you in some success you've luckily found, then it can prove to be due to their own unhappiness, their lack of positive behaviour. They appear clouded, or weak, cannot find it in their heart to express support. We are all of us struggling with various troubles, too, naturally. It's best then not to think someone else's nay-saying has anything much to do with you, their bitterness, or sadness, or doubts, or apparent, deliberate sabotage. Be as kind as possible without allowing their negativity to grow. This is one of the obstacles to happiness, allowing others to unduly influence you to stop feeling happy, and it is most easily overcome with love. We may also use symbols or other ways to focus our energies, in order to remove or overcome difficulties.

Appealing to an outside agency, a help-line, a friend, a therapist, some religious figure, or using writing or art or music to express what you're going through, this may assist in learning how to move on in good heart. I like to have imaginary conversations with people involved in an issue, as if they are in a play with me, for instance. I also meditate and give thanks every day, or try to, but sometimes I forget. A routine of some kind, even a loose one, does assist us with maintaining good health, however, and it's as well to recall that.

What struck me, in any case, was that in the book Glam Rock Boyfriends the main character eventually finds true love, too. It feels like I've written myself into this new reality, kind of, like the character of Patricia, (who becomes Athena) - a better standpoint, a healthier way to behave, think, feel, and trust. I'm hoping this is a good sign, because the book is, in fact, intended as a magical document to assist readers to find ways to better relationships. As Dr. Rene Harrison who launched the book says, writing is a magical act. Literature makes what is written, true. This novel is not just an invention, a mere entertainment, and never was meant to be so, hence its genre - an imaginary memoir, which I invented, especially. The expression of truth is supposed to appear more real, then. It is framed as a personal story. 

This imaginary memoir is based in part on a book I was also involved with called, The Butterfly Diaries about suicide survivors. Inspiring people to live more fulfilling, safer lives, using true life stories, and various genre to tell those. I wrote an essay in that book, which has proven to be a highly successful publication.

Glam Rock Boyfriends is based, as well, on researching a series of self-help books read years ago, when seeking to never again be in a destructive intimate relationship, with anyone. These kinds of publications often take people through various difficult scenarios, before presenting the more rewarding case studies, I noticed. This way a reader "lives" through destructive love affairs vicariously, then later "lives" the rewarding way, until they've learnt what to look for in order to have true love, self-respect, and dignity, without being idealistic. I read about twelve such books for my own good, and gathered much material from them, discarding what I did not think suited me.

Various therapists were also consulted, psycho-therapists and a cognitive behavioural therapist. Then my own training as a phone counsellor did provide some useful background as well. To improve relationships, to feel more secure, these are reasons to visit a therapist, we need not be mentally ill to go there. It is better to go along for maintenance and insights once a month, or once every six months, than to wait until things get really bad, anyway, just like we may go to a GP for a yearly physical health check-up. It was once common to see someone about such things, only 100 years ago. But the industrial revolution produced various social changes like making people think they no longer needed "outsiders" to help them, and so-called nuclear families appeared as easily moveable economic units, with all the attendant troubles that has caused.

In order to realise ourselves to our fullest potential and stay happy, we do need secure communities, good advice, and some outside viewpoints. We may create these ourselves, with our choices, reach out to others, see what eventuates.

My degree is in social science, International Communication, UNITEC. That training assisted me to present a novel with a communication background, conducive to assisting people to lead better lives.

Glam Rock Boyfriends is not a novel for everyone. It's not an airport book, nor easy-to-digest fiction, not a fun read with jokes about modern life to make the everyday seem easily thrown away for the next best thing promoted, there's no froth and easy flow with a bit of a punch like a good cappuccino. It's presented as a true story and scary at times, confusing at others, it drags you down to the awful depths of despair too, even if the highs are as thrilling as a drug-induced trip-a-loola-whooo, or you're in the most fabulous places luuurrrve may take you, occasionally. Patricia tells her story a little clumsily too, of course, slightly, to be authentic, she's only a beginning writer with one book published so far, this character.

This third novel took nine years to write, (and I wrote a few others beforehand which have not been published, too), it took much research, and is put together from about fifteen stories told to me by, or about, survivors of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and related mental or drug-addiction-related illnesses. It took a great deal out of me to write it, and it felt frightening at times, but in the end I was released, freer, more hopeful than I've ever been. I too have had my trials, and had to change to adapt and grow.

Literary writers, we write to learn something, I believe. My work is about me exploring what I think I need to know, places I want to see, human conditions which require development in myself and better understanding. If I come to some change for the better, then surely some readers could too? I also love what I write, as Ray Bradbury said, you must love what you're writing, so the reader also loves the story. Not everyone wants to learn, however, and some will already know what I've shown, sure.

Glam Rock Boyfriends is positive about love, the genuine article, and some great sex is described, and fantastic fashion for each decade, some over-the-top passages are also extremely indulgent about how fabulous and exotic some people looked but hey, the 60s, 70s, 80s were insane, for the daring few.... Don't the scattering of extraverts and stylistas and show-offs make the world just so much more varied and exciting, that little bit more pizazzy on occasion?

Vivienne Westwood - who inspired so much local fashion in Aotearoa NZ

Annie Bonza design

Yes, I recall those eras, no, I did not indulge in much terrible behaviour - even if some people certainly think I did, they seem to get me muddled up with themselves when I hear their explanations, or they 'heard stories' about me. Mainly I moved on and learnt better, as far as I am concerned. Seems best.

My memory was not impaired. 

I was and am what I now call a safety officer. I spent a lot of time observing others behaving badly, discussing earnestly with them why they did that, and how they could take better care of themselves. I guess taking care comes from being the oldest in my family, having to be responsible for a gaggle of neighbourhood children besides, and smart enough as a teen to realise a quick fix, or a wild, unprotected sex life, is not any remedy for changing unhappiness. 

I wasn't a saint either, sure, some of my own memories did assist with the details in this novel, all fictionalised and changed to suit Patricia, you understand. It is by making a story fiction that we best understand ourselves, Jeanette Winterson said, more or less, and it seems to me she's correct. The freedom and artistic license allows far more in-depth explorations and satisfying outcomes, in fiction.

So, the book worked for me on a psychological level, after all the writing and work and research, and editing for nine years, and I learnt how to improve my life, besides, along with Patricia, (later Athena). I went through the agonies of more editing with a fine young editor, Jamie Higgins, who also loved the book. We wrestled with the text and made it behave itself, without losing heart, muscle, shazoom, and originality. 

Now Glam Rock Boyfriends is out there in the world, getting attention, like the real boyfriends of so many girls and boys did. The story mentions some genuine rock stars too, it's historical fiction and set in Aotearoa New Zealand with various musical heroes included for authenticity, Hello Sailor, Dragon, The Scavengers, The Suburban Reptiles.... I knew some of them.

Musicians are a wonder to me, what they give us for our lives, we're so lucky to have them play and sing for us.

Glam Rock Boyfriends is written in the voice of a character who's an anti-heroine. Patricia behaves in such an irresponsible way, as so many with shellshock or PTSD do, she's unwittingly mentally ill, doesn't realise initially that not everyone lives a hell life, (like so many sufferers do not realise). She's covertly abused. This girl, then woman, struggles, finds life tough, and simply tells her story later after recovery, without looking for sympathy. She wants to write it down to understand herself, that's all, at times horribly honest about her own stupidity and failings. Then also she does not dwell on terrible details. 

Many people who change their lives so drastically for the better are barely able to tell their story later, they want to forget it. If they've done their therapy properly they do forget, thankfully. Patricia, who becomes Athena, is not about to drag up the dire, painful details for some readers' momentary entertainment, and awful incidents are not necessary for this tale to work as intended.

Patricia/Athena feels glad to still be alive, but it's been an ordeal. In the book, this woman eventually realises she needs therapy. It's not detailed because therapy is different for everyone, and private. The abuse is also not described precisely due to this being a possible trigger for people who suffer from PTSD, or depression, and really, if anyone wants to know what three cruel brothers could do to a small girl to make her get shellshock, I think that person needs therapy themselves, and pronto. One reviewer, (or two reviewers if the other review oddly like the first - seems plagiarised), wanted details of the abuse apparently in order to believe this character went through something terrible. It's difficult not to see that wish as creepy. I realise the modern age perhaps tends to stunt imagination, and some people simply have none to speak of, as well. Perhaps then this book is not for such people, nor for the countless others who care nothing for anyone who has suffered so horribly they do not want to relive the dreadful stories, but instead want to share how they survived, how they learnt what love meant, how they lived a full and happy life at last. 

It's worth noting here, however, that part of the problem re abuse in this country Aotearoa NZ, and world-wide, is that too many abused people are not believed. The lucky people who have escaped trauma could be kinder - that could help assist many troubled folk to recovery.

Anyway, this blog, (which takes about seven to nine hours for each entry as long as this one, including editing, and adding the images), is partly to set the record straight about the structure of the novel, and how it works. No review considers that so far, none I have seen. 

Any piece of literary writing is a machine of words designed to do certain things, to work, to operate in the world of the mind and heart and memory. A novel is not designed to do what you wish it did, nor what most other novels you may like do, a novel is designed to do what the author makes it do, and sometimes such writings are difficult to take. That is also like plays and films and songs which transform or affect us in unusual ways. Writing which seeks to alter people's lives and take them on a genuine journey at the end of which they will never be the same again, can be quite a trip, like a real one in space and time. Such writing may also take longer to read than many other books. It was however common in the past for people to take a year or more to read a novel. Sometimes too you may find a little of this book is enough to affect you in ways that help you think about what would be best for yourself, in future. Art gives us a personal experience.

Meanwhile true love in my actual life appeared. Yes. At first there were various unsuitable people, who I managed to discourage. Then there was one stupendous experience in the guise of an impossible love, a distant love, a fantasy, an alarming affair started in real time, then in texts, then within over 1,000 emails with someone who I am unable to describe, in order to respect their privacy. In any case, it was like a practise run, possibly, co-incidentally also taking me to amrka where I learnt generally what continuous happiness felt like. 

I think I can truly say I was never truly happy for so long, until that first journey to amrka to see my writer friends there, writers who I'd known online for twelve years. That trip is documented here and it starts at the beginning of this blog. It was a dream come true.

Meanwhile, I learnt that love never goes away if you're willing to let it stay, a valuable lesson. Once we part from a lover, there is no need to stop loving them and succumb to hatred or indifference, nor even sadness that things have changed between us, eventually, after the grief is over. So I could love then all those I've loved before, and the capacity for loving recognised gave me calm, peace, a kind of knowingness in what I call the realm of nowhere and nothing, where time does not exist, only love does.

Franklin Rd Xmas Lights 2014 by Raewyn Alexander

This all came about while finishing my novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends, and partly from the extraordinary amount of work I did to get it written. Older, I also learnt to forget what I could do nothing much to change, and I decided consciously to get assistance with relationships from professionals.

Some of the chapters, by the way, have also been printed as stories, already in literary magazines like Takahe, or broadcast on Radio NZ.

Then, just as they say, and just as Patricia, who changes her name to Athena in the book discovers too, when I least expected it, love truly did appear and it grew into something fine, good, mutual, and o yes, of course, difficult. Obstacles always appear with true love, (romance is the scenario where things go rather more smoothly). 

Every time we overcome one issue, in love, we grow a little more together, and our love strengthens; I think that's what true love is for. Yes, love makes us feel good, but also, when those obstacles appear we want the feeling good to return, so we may then struggle in good spirits, or at least strongly, to find a way to diminish, sideline, or remove the obstacle, or climb over or through it, together. Good company appears to make this arduous exercise more possible and effective, somehow.

  My true love in my everyday life is not like Athena's man in my book however, and I do not live in a small place by the sea as she does. We individually make our own world, our own lives, we live each of us uniquely, and so it is we're quite human. 

Oddly enough, given the title of my novel, the man I now love is a musician, however, and quite well known - a rather amusing, even stunning, twist in this story of real life intertwined with fiction, and the work of writing a book.

So hmmm, a novel soon to be in a bookstore or library near you if you order it, do go ahead. The ISBN number is all you need. Take this to your local bookstore, or library, or order Glam Rock Boyfriends from Amazon.

Glam Rock Boyfriends ISBN: 9780473266646

A review of Glam Rock Boyfriends is here, more shall appear in time. There is also a review in NZ Books a month or so back but you need to subscribe to read it. That link is also below -

Buy on Amazon here - 
To wind this up, I'd like to mention the novel is also about fashion, and music, mostly rock music, and brave, hard-working, talented musicians and those who love them, who support their work. Those who make the sounds, lights, costumes, crowds, and shows happen. Music that rips open the sides as Iggy Pop kind of sang, allowing so many disaffected or simply adventurous music lovers to find some meaning and glorious feeling in a world that's too often hostile, or empty of vitality. Glam Rock Boyfriends is about a search for true love and what a good friend music may be within that possibly long journey. 

I'm going to leave you with this excellent video and song (the red link below), by Toy Love, of whom it was said by, 'Terence Hogan, the group's short-lived A&R man, also remember[ing] the excitement of this one-of-a-kind band.'

"In among the smashed watermelon and broken glass, drenched in sweat and flecked with blood, the laughs, confusion, exhilaration, there was a complexity in the experience that's all about the priceless, messy human-ness that drives great rock'n'roll."

A still from the Toy Love video


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