April Allure: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar

A birthday, a new book, a new online store, and a place and time to meet up! Then contemplating wisdom itself ...

April Allure: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
Sunrise over Lake Ontario

Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar turns 2 years old today! 🥳

The very first edition, April Alchemy, went out two years ago. Since then, composing this note to you every month has become a sacred ritual for me, filling my days with much joy and beauty.

And I have you to thank for it.

How lucky I am that our paths crossed! How lucky for me indeed that you're still here, lending a patient ear, writing back to me your thoughts and words, and keeping this conversation going!

I hope you too continue to find much joy and delight in receiving these letters every month.

On a slight aside, if you'd love to have these heartfelt conversations in person, I'm attending the Toronto Indie Authors Conference on 4—5 May!

I'm volunteering both mornings, so I should be quite easy to spot. If you're in/near Toronto, come on over and let's grab a cuppa and talk about all things books and writing and life!

To celebrate this milestone of Monthly Missives, I have a big announcement to make and a heartfelt gift for you.

The big news is that Dream Pedlar Books now has its own online store for all my ebooks! Yippee!

watercolour illustration featuring silhouette of a woman sitting at a desk with a laptop, typewriter and books surrounded by images of ideas

A lot of work went behind the scenes to get this up and running, and I'm thrilled I could share this with you in today's missive.

Take a look and tell me what you think!

I feel so proud when I see all my works up there. In the last six years, I've written and published 2 novels, 2 novellas, 2 short stories, 1 collection of short stories, and 1 book of poems.

Incidentally, I intend to publish another collection of short stories and another book of poems in the coming months, so that should make it a-mathematically-appealing 2 eggs in each of the above baskets!

Here's a gift for you: Use the coupon code DREAMPEDLAR30 to get 30% off any ebook on my store. The sale will last until May 31.

(Print copies of my books are not available on my store, but you can find them on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

Also, I have a new book out!

Your Mother's Nightmares: Six Troubling Tales
The worst is not what happens.
The worst is what every mother fears could happen.
Imagination collides with maternal fear in this bold collection of troubling, twisted tales from a fiction writer who isn’t afraid to plumb the often terrifying emotional depths of the motherhood experience.
A party across the street lures a trusting three-year-old into an adventure, but thrusts his mother into a nightmare.
A mirror offers the gift of more time, something every parent longs for, but what will it take in return?
A mother erases her seven-year-old’s painful memories to leave him with the impression of a perfect childhood. Only, it leads to imperfect consequences.
Teeming with the unthinkable, this collection of six never-before-seen short stories tugs at every mother’s helpless heartstrings, coaxes out her deepest and darkest fears for her children, and presents them in the guise of fantasy fiction so that her nightmares won’t come true.
Stories included are The Party across the Street, A Suitable Colour for a Ghost, Memory Games, The Goldilocks Zone, Hide-and-Seek*, and The Gift of Time.

The ebook is available from Dream Pedlar Books (remember to use the code DREAMPEDLAR30 for a 30% off) as well as on all the usual retailer platforms.

Paperbacks are available from Amazon, and will soon be available at more stores.

(*As a subscriber, you already have Hide-and-Seek available to read for free on this website.)

Coming to this month's contemplation, I had been feeling like quite the imposter in attempting to share my thoughts with you. I've waded through this month feeling mostly annoyed and triggered, snappy and dysfunctional at times.

All the books I've read, the meditation and journaling I've done, the blog posts I've written — none of those could help ground me emotionally in those difficult moments.

Turns out that intellectual knowledge doesn't always translate into practical wisdom when most needed in the face of a difficult moment.

The only way I could cope was by reading. Disappearing into an entirely different world altogether. Which is how I stumbled upon Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha.

Sometimes, when I'm very lucky, I read a book that reminds me of how and why I fell in love with writing in the first place. Siddhartha was that book for me this month.

It was first published more than 100 years ago! You've probably already read it. Many times over. I had no idea it existed until earlier this week. And I had to read it immediately.

statue of a Buddha resting his head on his knee against a blurred backdrop of a window overlooking a garden
Photo by wilsan u on Unsplash

Hesse was a German-Swiss writer, but Siddhartha is a novel set in ancient India and Nepal. A young Siddhartha and his friend Govinda leave home to become samanas (ascetics) in search of spiritual enlightenment. In their wanderings, they meet the Enlightened One, Gautam Buddha.

(Siddhartha and the Buddha are two different characters in this tale; it can be confusing at first for those who know that Siddhartha was also the name of the Buddha.)

While Govinda immediately seeks to join the Buddha's fellowship, Siddhartha is not entirely convinced he'd learn much from the Buddha's teachings.

In fact, Siddhartha claims that the Buddha's 'Teaching about the overcoming of the world, about deliverance' is itself creating a small gap that 'shatters and abolishes the whole eternal and unified law of the world' which forms the crux of the Buddha's teachings.

In response, the Buddha says:

"You have heard the Teaching, O Brahmin son, and good for you for pondering it so deeply. You have found a gap in it, a failing. May you continue pondering it.
But be warned, you who thirst for knowledge, be warned about the thicket of opinions and the fight over words. Whether beautiful or ugly, wise or foolish, opinions are unimportant, anyone can follow them or reject them.
But the Teaching that you have heard from me is not my opinion, and its goal is not to explain the world to people who thirst for knowledge.
Its goal is different: its goal is deliverance from suffering. That is what Gautama teaches, and nothing else."

In response to which Siddhartha says:

"Please, O Sublime One, do not be angry with me. I have not spoken with you to fight with you or to fight over words. You are truly right: opinions are unimportant.
But may I say one thing more? I have never doubted you for a moment, I have never doubted for a moment that you are the Buddha, that you have attained the goal, the highest, which so many thousands of Brahmins and sons of Brahmins are journeying to reach. You have found the deliverance from death.
It came to you from your own seeking, on your one path, through thinking, through meditation, through knowledge, through illumination. It did not come through a teaching!
And — this is my thought, O Sublime One — no one is granted deliverance through a teaching! You cannot, O Venerable One, impart to anyone, tell anyone in words and through teachings what happened to you in the hour of your illumination.
The Teaching of the illuminated Buddha contains a great deal, it teaches many how to live righteously, avoid evil. But there is one thing that the so clear, so venerable Teaching does not contain: it does not contain the secret of what the Sublime One himself has experienced, he alone among the hundreds of thousands.
That is why I am resuming my wandering — not to seek a different, a better teaching, for I know that there is none; but to leave all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal alone or die."
ascetic sitting by the banks of a river in India
Photo by Hardik Sharma on Unsplash

I wept when I read these lines. And I've read them over and over again in the last couple of days.

Both in my parenting and writing journeys, I've more often than not looked to the opinions and insights of others for guidance, only to turn away in disagreement. More often than not, I've followed my own inner voice, but that has often brought along a truckload of self-doubt and a nagging worry that I must be doing something wrong.

This past year, however, I've been feeling a very strong aversion to looking outwards.

For you see, even the so-called experts seem to contradict themselves. Or their actions are not in sync with their words. Or they adopt a 'my way or the highway' approach. Or it appears as if they're doling out the same advice they've been regurgitating for years, almost as though to convince themselves of its validity.

I hadn't yet found the confidence to walk away and focus on my path. Not for lack of trying. I'd go away for a while, then come back to the same circles—especially when I stumbled or encountered an obstacle—worried that I may have missed out on some crucial nugget of life-changing wisdom while I was gone.

Siddhartha seems to have given me the permission to move on. We outgrow teachings. We wander from our paths. But coming back, over and over again, is what makes all the difference.

In the novel, Siddhartha walks away from the Buddha and leads a life of materialistic pleasure for several years.

At first, he's able to navigate the material world without being too affected by it. It's only a matter of time before he gets used to the luxuries and comforts and falls into the same traps of desires and longings that have lured much of humankind for ages. Eventually, he grows disillusioned with that too.

There's much more to the story than I'm letting on here, but in the end, Siddhartha once more encounters his childhood friend, Govinda.

Govinda asks:

"... I know you have not followed any teacher. But have you not found, if not a teaching, then certain thoughts, certain insights that are your own and that help you live?"

Siddhartha replies:

I have had thoughts, yes, and insights, now and then. Sometimes, for an hour or for a day, I have felt knowledge in me the way we feel life in our hearts. There were a number of thoughts, but it would be hard for me to communicate them to you.
Listen, my Govinda, this is one of my thoughts that I have found: Wisdom cannot be communicated. Wisdom that a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish."
"Are you joking?" asked Govinda.
"I am not joking. I am telling you what I have found. Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. We can find it, we can live it, we can be carried by it, we can work wonders with it, but we cannot utter it or teach it."
white statue of Buddha against a dark background
Photo by Mattia Faloretti on Unsplash

Isn't this reminiscent of Rumi's verse "What you seek is seeking you"?

So, dear one, what is it that you're always looking outwards for?

Whatever it is, it is not out there. Not in the books. Not in the words of saints. Not in those getaways and escapades that culture so carefully and convincingly curates for us.

It lies buried deep within the shadows we all carry within ourselves. Can we plumb those depths, no matter how terrifying it may be?

Tales for Dreamers

when dragons forget they can fly

I wrote this tale back when we were living in Singapore. After the grand Chinese New Year celebrations one year, we found a dragon prop tucked under a bridge alongside some construction debris behind a netted fence.

The sight of that seemingly forsaken dragon sparked this tale. I thought it went well with todays' missive: what happens when we forget that what we seek is already within us?

The original image was too blurry to be used, so Microsoft Copilot in Bing came to the rescue once more. Enjoy this little tale!

tales for dreamers: when dragons forget they can fly
The dragon does not wish to fly. She doesn’t say so but we know who’s to blame for her affliction.

Books You May Love

After reading Siddhartha, I almost didn't feel like mentioning any other books this month. But then that completely belies the fact that I did enjoy reading these books tremendously.

A Killing of Innocents is the latest in Deborah Crombie's beloved mystery/police procedural series featuring Scotland Yard detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, and a vast range of recurring characters whose personal lives play out in the background.

It was an excellent read, and I've loved all of Crombie's books in this series so far. The one thing that really made this book special to me was that Crombie dedicated this work to the late Caroline Todd (of the Charles Todd duo). It was like seeing two of my favourite people meeting each other in some distant part of the world, and that made my heart sing a happy song!

Nora Roberts' books are wildly entertaining, so I picked up another one in her In Death series, which is a futuristic police procedural that now has well over 50 books!

After that, I looked up one of her (countless) standalone books and got my hands on Identity, in which a young woman, Morgan Albright, becomes a victim of an identity theft and narrowly escapes being murdered. Her best friend and housemate is killed instead.

Morgan moves back to her family home to live with her mother and grandmother and looks to rebuild her life. But the swindler/killer is still after her and only just biding his time until he can finish the work he had started, but couldn't complete, because she was the one who got away.

Alas, it's time to bid goodbye, dear Dreamer!

But before I do so, I do have one more little jewel to share with you.

You remember the eclipse that was all the rave until just a few weeks ago? And now the world has moved on from it as though it never happened?

Well, we happened to be on the path of totality! And we watched the entire spectacle right from our backyards. Well, our friend's backyard about a block away for a shared experience.

It was definitely one of the most surreal things I've ever seen. The sky was an indescribably cool blue. The chill in the air was unearthly. Everything fell silent when the moon blotted out the sun for a little over a minute.

diamond ring during total solar eclipse

And then the moment passed. The air grew warmer, the sky brighter, and the birds began to chirp once more.

Perhaps with great relief, as though something unpredictably terrible had happened, and they couldn't be happier to leave it all behind and carry on.

Perhaps with great sadness, that something so beautiful was also so ephemeral, and had gotten over far too quickly.

Perhaps with great wonder even, a sense of being gobsmacked, a "What just happened?" moment, knowing that it cannot be fully captured and conveyed using words or images. Like wisdom itself.

~ Anitha