writing

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Paws for Thought on Finally Writing My Book

Fiji guide dogDate: 2 February 2021

Hi everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

The most exciting thing is happening! After four years of procrastinating, mom and I have finally started writing my book. In fact, we’ve finished writing it and are just busy doing other, clearly less important, stuff like spell checking, editing, proof reading and formatting the book now. Even though mom keeps telling me that these are all very important parts of the writing process, I just can’t see it – surely writing my story is the important bit?

I guess mom and I will just have to disagree about that.

Anyway, while we’re busy with all the stuff that mom has to do on my behalf, we’re also busy with other things. We’re discussing the cover design, and are playing around with a number of different titles and sub-titles for the book.

I don’t exactly know how we’re going to distribute the book. We have a few ideas but nothing has been decided yet. I’m sure we’ll let you know as soon as we have all that in place.

In the meantime, just to whet your appetite, here’s a sneak peek into a bit of the story. Mom told me I ought to warn you that this hasn’t been edited yet, so it might change before the book is published.

“I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 30 August 2014, one of a litter of eight puppies. My mom is a Golden Retriever named Fiesta and my dad is a black Labrador named Jay. My dad lives in America –I still don’t know if I’m eligible for a Green Card because of that fact. I’m a bit confused about the whole process since I don’t think my dad came to South Africa to meet my mom. But I really don’t want to know about the details – there are just some things I don’t need to know.

Actually, I’m a bit confused about the whole mom and dad thing. Because I have had several moms and dads through my life – with my forever mom and dad being the humans I live with now. Especially mom, for whom I work as a guide.

But, if they are my forever mom and dad, does that mean the other people I thought of as mom and dad should have been called something else? Because there have been quite a few of them. First, as I said, there were Fiesta and Jay. And the human who is mom to Fiesta, too. Then I went to stay with Jenny and Mike in Johannesburg and they taught me lots of things, played with me, took me places and also took me to puppy school. They also gave me lots of toys – ropes which I chewed to pieces and a fluffy sheep toy that I didn’t, which was my favouritest toy when I was little.

I have lots of wonderful memories of the time they were my mom and dad – like playing in the garden and chewing my way through the stems of the strelitzia plants, grabbing the garden hose and pulling it through the house to put it in my bed with all my other toys, and going to wake mom up carrying my tennis ball in my mouth. I still do that sometimes, bringing my tennis ball with me when I want attention from my forever mom and dad.

This was also when I first started being called Fiji. Mom-Jenny and dad-Mike called me Fiji because they said my coat was the colour of the sand on the beaches of the volcanic island of Fiji. Though my forever mom also sometimes tells people that she believes it is because I have something of a volcanic personality.

I was very sad to say goodbye to mom-Jenny and dad-Mike and move to Cape Town for the next phase in my life. It all seemed very strange to me at first. But then I was introduced to my new mom and dad – Beata and Piotr, and I soon adjusted to my new place and my new routine.

That was when I started proper training to become a guide dog. I would go to school every day – well, every weekday – and Aunty Cheryl and Aunty Charne would teach me all sorts of exciting lessons I would need if I wanted to become a guide. I was surrounded by lots of other dogs who also wanted to become guides, as well as lots of friendly humans who worked with the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind, getting us ready for our exciting futures.”

So that’s a little of my story – you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more. After we’ve finished with all the bits we’re busy with. I promise either mom or I will let you know when it’s ready to go.
XXX

Shift Online Art Festival 2020

It was such an honour for me to be asked to participate in last month’s Shift Online art festival hosted by the Unmute Dance Co from Artscape Theatre. I’ve been impressed by the online performances shown on the YouTube channel throughout November. They have featured some talented artists from across Africa and the world and, of course, from here in South Africa. So it was really special for me to be asked to contribute to the festival.

There were two segments focusing on my work. The first was a mini-documentary that was premiered on Sunday, 29 November, which featured videos of me talking about my work as a singer/songwriter, author and motivational speaker.

Themba Mbuli, Creative Director of Unmute Dance Co, was responsible for putting the content together into a mini-documentary, and he did a really great job.

Here’s the link to the mini-documentary: https://youtu.be/l50KD6d8f5o

A second segment was released on the penultimate day of the festival, Wednesday, 2 December and featured me talking about how I wrote one of my songs – Here Be Dragons – and a little about how I play keyboard. Also featured in that segment was a solo performance from Lone Loh.

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/f0CUpXmC0J0

I can’t even begin to think of how challenging it must have been to produce a month-long art festival online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full respect to Themba Mbuli and his team at Unmute Dance Co for such an amazing show! And congratulations to all the artists for their creativity in adapting their art to an online space.
PS: Don’t think that the festival is aimed solely at persons with disabilities – we are artists first, sharing our art with you. Our disabilities are just a minor part of who we are.

PPS You can also hear the first paragraph of my audio book on the mini-documentary.

What I’d Like You to Know about My Blindness07 – Sight-related Words

The image shows Lois speaking in front of an audience

A few days after I was declared blind, I chatted on the phone with my grandmother. During the conversation she asked me if I’d seen an article in the newspaper. Then her voice tailed off into silence. I waited for her next words, wondering why she had suddenly gone quiet.

When she next spoke it was to apologise profusely for her thoughtlessness in using the word “seen”.

This has happened to me regularly since losing my sight. when talking to me, people try desperately to avoid any word that is related to sight. Because they feel it might be insensitive for them to use those terms considering my blindness.

In some ways it’s sweet of them to try so hard. But it often makes a conversation a lot more stilted than it would otherwise be.

And, in truth, I have absolutely no problem with words relating to sight. Few of the blind and visually-impaired people I know do. We use them all the time. And most of us are totally okay with others doing the same.

Most recently a few people who have read my book have mentioned they initially felt a little uncomfortable with how often I use terms relating to sight. And people occasionally also mention it when they hear me speaking at conferences and events. But gradually, as they become more familiar with my style, they come to understand that my view of sight is simply a little different from what they are used to.

For me sight includes insights I gain from my remaining senses. Which is the reason my book is titled Ä Different Way of Seeing”

Because in a way I do still see… just a little differently from how I used to.

To get hold of a copy of my book, hop onto Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9
XXXXX

Final Warning and Another Song

the image shows a book cover, with Lois hugging Fiji and the text A Different Way of Seeing (second edition): A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way

Today is the start of my birthday month – my birthday is actually 14 November and I’ll be turning… well, a year older than I am right now. This month I want to share a very special song with you, from out of the archives of songs I’ve written over the years.

But, before I do, I just want to give you a warning that today is the final day you can get hold of the Kindle version of my book, A Different Way of Seeing (second edition) at the special introductory price of US$1.14 – from tomorrow the cost will go up!

Here’s where to buy it: https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

Now, back to the song lyrics…

the image shows Lois singing into a microphone

This song isn’t finished. It doesn’t have a tune. I’m not even sure if I hear it as a guitar or keyboard song. But, nonetheless, it has always been a song that I’ve really liked the feel of.

Hope you enjoy reading it – if you have any ideas of where the song might go next, please feel free to share them with me…

TUESDAY’S CHILD

Cross my palms with silver
Cross my palms with gold
Cross my path, my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

She moves through her history, leaves the past behind
She’s impulsive, vivacious, and quick with her smile
Gypsy woman, born wild and free
She answers to no-one

Temperamental and daring, she speaks her mind
She lives for the present, cares nothing for time
She puts all the might-have-been’s out of her mind
Leaves all the Could-have’s and should-have’s behind

Cross my palms with silver
Cross my palms with gold
Cross my path, my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

Verse 2???

Cross my palm with silver
Cross my palm with gold
Cross my path my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

Bridge:
Could I be like her?
Radiant as the fire
Could I be like her?
Could I be a Tuesday’s child

Could I be like her?
Dancing in the light
Could I be like her?
Could I be a Tuesday’s child

Chorus

Third verse???

My Book is Finally Available! My Book is Finally Available!

the image shows a book cover, with Lois hugging Fiji and the text A Different Way of Seeing (second edition): A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am! I am practically jumping up and down with glee!

The second edition of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing, is finally available on Amazon.com

The Kindle version can be pre-ordered at
https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

For now, it’s available at an introductory price of US$1.14.

The actual publication date is Wednesday, 28 October, where all those who have pre-ordered the book will be able to access it on their Kindle device or in their Kindle library.

But,

If you want to take advantage of the $1.14 special price, you only have until 1 November to do so. From 1 November the price will go up.

So, again, here’s where to grab a copy of the Kindle book
https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

And, happy reading!

Paws for Thought on Mom’s New Book

the image shows Fiji

Hello everyone! It’s me – Fiji!

Some of you already know that mom’s releasing her new book later this month. It’s full of stories about me and my doggy sisters… Well, it’s full of stories about mom and her life as a blind person as well. But I know the stories about me and all my doggy sisters are the best ones!

When mom’s back was turned I sneaked a look at the book and thought I’d share an extract with you – about me, of course. So, here it is…

“When my previous guide dog, Eccles, retired, I hesitated about applying for a new dog. I had just started working from home and wasn’t sure how much I’d be out and about or, in other words, how much I would need a guide dog.

When I was asked if I wanted my name to be added to the application list, I said no. The next few months proved what a bad decision that had been. So I added my name to the list. Or so I thought.

Then my niece Megan started raising funds for a guide dog as a school project. And when she and my sister-in-law, Sally, went to the training centre to meet some dogs in training, they asked how my application was going. The trainer was confused. Which resulted in a panicked phone call from me to the training centre.

Then Craig and I went to Greece and visited the ancient site of Delphi, where the Delphic oracle foretold the futures of many legendary ancient Greeks. As we wandered around the ruins, a stray dog ran up and started tugging at my white cane as if trying to steal it. I jokingly told Craig that maybe the Delphic Oracle was trying to tell me it was time to pack in my white cane because my new dog was on the way. We both laughed.

Imagine our surprise when I got a phone call shortly after we returned from Greece asking if I was available to train with my new dog?””

I especially love this story, because it sets the stage for the first meeting between me and mom. As you can imagine, I’m just about to enter the story – but you’ll need to buy the book to find out what happens next!

Digging in the Musical Archives – The Girl in the Mirror

The images shows Lois singing into a microphone

It may sound odd, but sometimes I don’t know what my song lyrics are about. I find myself studying the words and shaking my head in bewilderment. Girl in the Mirror is one of those songs.

At a best guess, I can see that I may have been questioning my identity after losing my sight – to me it is hard to know who is the reflection in the mirror by the end of the song. And it leads to the question of whether I am still myself or just a reflection of who I was when I was sighted?

Perhaps you see something completely different in the lyrics. That is totally fine with me – songs, like poems and metaphors should mean something different to each of us. That is why we connect with some lyrics more than others.

Listen to Girl in the Mirror, played by my band, tuesday’s child, here – with two additional songs thrown in for good measure: https://www.loisstrachan.com/music/

The Girl in the Mirror

There’s a girl in the mirror every time I pass
Held captive there behind the glass
Who is she? Why is she there?
And I wonder

There’s a girl in the mirror; she looks like me
If I saw through her eyes, what would I see?
Who is she? Why is she there?
And I wonder

Chorus:
Mirror, mirror upon the wall
Is there anybody there at all?
Mirror, mirror upon the wall
Or is my mind simply creating it all?

There’s a girl in the mirror she’s smiling at me
Trancelike, hypnotic I can’t turn away
Who is she; why is she there?
And I wonder

Chorus

Am I creating it all?
Simply creating it all?
Am I creating it all?
There’s nothing real there at all.

Chorus

There’s a girl in the mirror she’s there every day
And as I watch her, she’s turning away
The girl in the mirror turns and slowly walks away.

Digging into the Archives Again: Seas of Time

the image shows Lois on stage singing into a microphone

Here’s another song from my archives – this one is complete but I can’t remember if I ever put it to music. If I did, it’s probably a keyboard song… it just feels that way to me.

It’s a song about the way I experience the process of writing. though it may appear a little whimsical. Especially when I think of the times I sit at a blank computer screen waiting – sometimes for what feels like an eternity – to find words to express what I want to say.

Anyway, here it is:

Seas of Time.

Waves of Words spiral round
A blank page lying on the ground.
Unwritten thoughts catch at my mind,
Washed ashore on seas of time.

Thoughts are tossed through time and space.
Trapped in the mists of this ancient place.
Pictures form as words collide,
And then are lost as waves subside.
As rhythm, structure, form and rhyme
Come sailing in on seas of time.

My ship lies at the harbour wall.
A refugee from the rising storm.
The page lies anchored line by line,
A product of the seas of time.

So Much Time on Our Hands

the image shows Lois and her guide dog.Over the past month or so, it feels like every time I hop onto social media or download my e-mail, I’m overwhelmed by the most amazing offers, urging me to sign up for an online event (now discounted), a webinar (also discounted), or an online course (ditto).

And I’ll admit I’ve been sorely tempted to take advantage of more than one of these fantastic offers.

But here’s the thing. Even though, like much of the world, I’m working from home, I’m struggling to find all this free time that the mails and posts tell me I ought to have. Because I can’t seem to find it.

I’m spending as much time at my computer as I was before the lockdowns came into place. And regularly find myself standing up at the end of the day wondering where the time went.

Admittedly, I’ve been taking advantage of the time to finish things that have been languishing on my “to do list” forever – things I really want to get round to but never seem to have the time. I’ve also picked up playing music again and am having vast amounts of fun sharing songs with friends and family on Facebook Live every week or so. And I’m finally starting to catch up on all the podcasts that have slowly been accumulating on my feed. Apart from the French language tutorial podcasts, which seem to have fallen by the wayside a little since lockdown started.

And then, of course, there’s my usual work developing my writing and speaking businesses – radio interviews, my regular blog articles, the international magazine I write for every second month, the travel podcast I host, and the ongoing work to update my book and convert it into an audio format.

Not to mention housework. And being a captive slave to the whims of my dogs, who are overly full of vim and vigour because they aren’t able to go for walks and runs like they usually would. I know Fiji’s frustrated that we haven’t been out and about as usual, though she’s hiding it well.

So, I’m perplexed about where to find all this spare time I keep hearing about. Any idea where I should look? I’ve searched around the house, checked in case it’s hiding in the back of a little used closet, and even looked under the bed (much to the confusion of Fiji, who was sleeping there at the time, but to no avail.

But I’m going to keep hunting, because I’d really love to take up some of those (very discounted) offers that keep coming my way!
XXX

Another Foray into the Archives – A Fragment of a Story.

Cds IMG 6790

In my archives I have a stack of files with fragments of stories, poems and songs. No-one else has had the chance of digging through those fragments, but I decided to share one with you today.

It’s the opening paragraphs of a fiction story. And, interestingly, it’s the only one that has a basic plot outline. I had the idea for this story back in June 2014 and wrote the opening paragraphs. Then I drew up a very basic outline for most of the story… except for the very end.

My question for you is this – what do you think is going to happen next, and what genre of book do you think this will land up being?

PS Please remember this is a first draft… and first drafts always need lots of work. At least, mine do.

****
“Hey, Laura! Aren’t you supposed to be meeting people for lunch?”

Laura Michaels looked up from her computer where she was frantically trying to get the month end figures to balance.

Most people, on meeting Laura for the first time, would dismiss her as being “average”. Laura was 28, though she looked younger than her age. Her youthful looks were accentuated by her diminutive size- at five foot, four inches she was the shortest of her female friends, a fact which she had never reconciled herself to. She had a serious face that was quietly attractive until she smiled, when people around her would be amazed that they had not seen her beauty before. Her short ash-blonde hair was at present tucked behind her ears, a habit which she had tried for years to break, but which she always resorted to when she was stressed.

The slight frown that was another mark of her current tension softened into a quick smile as Laura looked across the partition at her colleague.

“Sorry Kathrine, I didn’t quite get that. What did you say?”

“I was just reminding you about your lunch date today, Laura. You are going out to lunch today, aren’t you?”

“Yup, I’m meeting some old friends in town at 12:30. Why?”

“Because it’s getting pretty late. It’s almost quarter past already.”

Laura glanced up at the clock on the office wall, and her smile faded. Briefly her face reflected shock as she registered that it was already 12:15. The shock turned to dismay as she quickly calculated the logistics of time and travel.

“Shit!” she said with feeling, “I’m going to be late!”

It was almost one o’clock before Laura got to the neighbourhood of the restaurant where she was due to meet her friends. She turned off the main road into the sheltered street where the restaurant was, and started looking for parking. For once Laura’s luck seemed to be with her and she found a parking space almost immediately. Sighing with relief, Laura parked and climbed out of her Golf GTi. Locking the car, she slammed the door and set the alarm before tossing her keys into her oversized bag and setting off down the alley towards the restaurant.

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