HAPPY HOLIDAYS

After today, I won’t be online much until after the New Year as I’m really trying to finish my latest WIP.

So before I banish myself from the internet for a couple of weeks, following suit of my lovely blog friends who have already done so- I too would like to wish everyone a lovely holiday season.

here’s some beautiful music from Loreena McKennitt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kjXmZvVTh0

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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Book Review: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

translation from the Swedish to English by Ebba Segerberg

“Can I come in?”

Oskar whispered, “Ye-es…”

“Say that I can come in.”

“You can come in.”

Set in 1981 in  a lower working-class town called Vällingsby, Let The Right One In centers on twelve-year-old Oskar who lives with his loving and over-protective mother.   Away from school he listens to Kiss and collects articles about murders for his scrapbook.  During school, he is mercilessly tormented by a group of bullies.   The emotional and physical abuse he suffers at their hands is described in realistic and heartbreaking fashion.  It is little wonder he jumps at the chance of befriending a solitary girl he meets in the park. 

Trouble is, her arrival coincides with a string of recent murders.

Oskar quickly grows close to Eli, who encourages him to stand up to his bullies.

His friendship with her is set parallel to the relationship between the fifty something year-olds Lacke and Virginia.  Lacke just wants to stay sober and save enough money to buy a little retirement cottage for the two of them.

Unfortunately, their paths cross with Eli and Oskar.

Lacke suspects the young girl of being responsible for murdering a friend of his though most people won’t listen to him.   And Virginia comes into direct contact with the Eli…

One of the major pluses of this coming-of-age novel is the characters.  There are no stereotypes here.  No one-dimensionl cliches.  They’re all incredibly real people- most of them are basically good folks who just want to live their lives the best they can.

The negative side of the novel, sadly- is again, the characters.  Or, more specifically, that there are too many of them.  While Lacke’s and Virginia’s relationship was a beautiful contrast to the one between Oskar and Eli,  there was another subplot revolving  another  young boy which, while also well-written, seemed entirely unnecessary.  And with less time spent on Oskar, I found my interest in his outcome waning by the end.    The fact that the book was at least 100 pages longer than it should have been, didn’t help in that matter.

Regardless of those few negative aspects, the novel is a gripping and richly told story.  Not quite horror in the truest sense of the word, it is more of a  look into the lives of a group of people trying to survive in their gritty town.    And of a young girl who needs their blood if she is to survive.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm  Comments (26)  
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Death and Halloween

A few days away till the best holiday of all… Halloween!

Spirits, witches, pumpkins, and candy (LOTS of candy)… what is there not to love?

For some, Oct 31st is a secular holiday dedicated to trick or treating, parties, and telling ghostly tales whilst sitting round the parlor.

For others, it is a spiritual time. A night to contact one’s departed, as well as marking the end of the harvest as the dark half of the year begins. A time of endings, and beginnings.

For all who celebrate All Hallows, it is the symbol of Death which is most prominent. Not the scary Death of Hollywood, but the mysterious comforter. For all are equal in Her embrace.

“-I’m not blessed, or merciful. I’m just me. I’ve got a job to do, and I do it. Listen: even as we’re talking, I’m there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone. I’m in cars and boats and planes; in hospitals and forests and abbatoirs. For some folks death is a release, and for others death is an abomination, a terrible thing. But in the end, I’m there for all of them.”- Death from Gaiman’s, Sandman

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm  Comments (23)  
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Percy Shelley and the Not-So Dead Margaret Nicholson

“Soft, my dearest angel, stay
Oh! You suck my soul away:
Suck on, suck on, I glow, I glow!
Tides of maddening passion roll,
And streams of rapture drown my soul.
Now give me one more billing kiss,
Let your lips now repeat the bliss,
Endless kisses steal my breath,
No life can equal such a death.”

-Percy Shelley

Well, I do believe the meaning of that poem is quite clear! 😉

This piece appears in The Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, a collection of poetry written by Percy Shelley and Jefferson Hogg, and published in 1810.

As a lighthearted hoax, the two men pretended the book had actually been written by Margaret Nicholson, herself, and discovered after her death.

In truth, the former maid to nobility was still quite alive, residing in Bethlem Hospital after attempting to assassinate King George III with a dessert knife.

Ms. Nicholson insisted she was a virgin, and the mother of Lords Mansfield and Loughborough who both happened to be older than herself.

The failed murder attempt caught the attention of the young Shelley who was beginning to espouse his antiwar and antimonarchical views.

“Monarchs of earth ! thine is the baleful deed.
Thine are the crimes for which thy subjects bleed.
Ah ! when will come the sacred fated time,
When man unsullied by his leaders’ crime.
Despising wealth, ambition, pomp, and pride,
Will stretch him fearless by his foemen’s side ?
Ah! when Avill come the time, when o’er the plain
No more shall death and desolation reign ?
When will the sun smile on the bloodless field,
And the stern warrior’s arm the sickle wield ?
Not whilst some King, in cold ambition’s dreams,
Plans for the field of death his plodding schemes ;
Not whilst for private pique the public fall,
And one frail mortal’s mandate governs all.”

The first printing of the book was only 250 copies. While it did sell out, it was not reprinted until 1877.

Percy Shelley drowned on July 8, 1822

Victorians and Their Not So Subtle Bustle

One of the things I enjoy doing is dispelling the myth that the Victorians were prudes. Oh, they might try to fool you with their dress rules (an ankle is showing! horrors!), but even there they often failed.

Let’s face it. The bustle was created for one reason, and one reason only.


The Colorful Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema
1836-1912

– Dutch painter of classical subjects. Renowned for his dazzling blue skies and seas. Nicknamed the “marbelous painter” for his realistic depiction of the stone. Highly regarded during his lifetime, his work fell out of favor until it was rediscovered in the 1960s.

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Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm  Comments (26)  
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Henrik Ibsen and the Real Lady of the Dollhouse

from A Doll’s House (original title: Et dukkehjem) by Henrik Ibsen:

“Nora [shaking her head]. You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.

Helmer. Nora, what do I hear you saying?

Nora. It is perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you–

Helmer. What sort of an expression is that to use about our marriage?

Nora [undisturbed]. I mean that I was simply transferred from papa’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as your else I pretended to, I am really not quite sure which–I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman–just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life.

Helmer. How unreasonable and how ungrateful you are, Nora! Have you not been happy here?

Nora. No, I have never been happy. I thought I was, but it has never really been so.

Helmer. Not–not happy!

Nora. No, only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.

Nora. I don’t believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are–or, at all events, that I must try and become one. I know quite well, Torvald, that most people would think you right, and that views of that kind are to be found in books; but I can no longer content myself with what most people say, or with what is found in books. I must think over things for myself and get to understand them.” Nora.

When Nora walked out of her house at the conclusion of Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House it caused an uproar at its premiere at the Royal Theatre in Denmark. Depression due to the inequalites in marriage had long been a subject in literature, but the problem (except in rare cases such as Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall) had been “solved” by plunges off cliffs or glasses of arsonic.

One of the many things that stands out is that Ibsen has the guts to make Nora unsympathetic at times. This is most evident when she talks endlessly about herself to her friends, Mrs. Linde and Doctor Rank. (the former, a widow looking for employment at the bank. the latter, dying). It would have been all too easy to make Nora simply a poor, put-upon woman. Controversy remains to this day regarding the fact that she abandons her role as a mother. But as Nora makes clear, she is hardly suitable for that role, being nothing more than a child, or doll, herself.

It is this self-realization that sets Nora apart from the Madam Bovaries. She can acknowledge her flaws and she sees a way to solve them. Perhaps her solution is not ideal, but she is taking active measures. If she is given this chance to be by herself for the very first time in her life, then perhaps one day she can return home, “changed”. And if in the interim, her husband is able/willing to do the same, then perhaps, “the most wonderful thing of all could happen.”

Henrik Ibsen first saw his Nora coming to him in a blue woolen dress. He wrote on October 17, 1878 that, “A woman cannot be herself in modern society since it is an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.”

It should be noted here that later on Ibsen declined an award from the Norwegian Women’s Rights League, claiming he had not consciously written the play thinking about women’s rights, but about all humanity.

Yet, the question remained, who was this woman who came to him in a blue woolen dress?

Laura Kieler was a friend of Ibsen’s. Their relationship had begun in 1870 when she’d sent him a novel she’d written entitled, Brand’s Daughters. Stricken, Ibsen nicknamed her, “lark”, as Helmer would later affectionately call Nora in the play.

In 1876, after discovering that Laura had secretly taken out a loan, her husband demanded a separation and had her committed to an asylum. Shaken by his friend’s ordeal and feeling powerless to help- Ibsen poured his frustrastions onto paper. His woman could and would, choose life and freedom.

Laura was released after a month and returned to her husband. She resumed her writing career and tried (unsuccessfully) to distance herself from being associated as the model for Ibsen’s, “Doll”.

The fate of Nora resides in readers’ imaginations.

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm  Comments (22)  
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On this Full Moon

“>“When I shall have departed from this world,
Whenever ye have need of anything,
Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
My mother, great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, then my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown
. And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also.”

-from “Aradia, or Gospel of the Witches” by Charles Leland. 1899

Autumn Night
“The moon is as complacent as a frog.
She sits in the sky like a blind white stone,
And does not even see Love
As she caresses his face with her contemptuous light.
She reaches her long white shivering fingers
Into the bowels of men.
Her tender superfluous probing into all that pollutes
Is like the immodesty of the mad.
She is a mad woman holding up her dress
So that her white belly shines.
Haughty,
Impregnable,
Ridiculous,
Silent and white as a debauched queen,
Her ecstasy is that of a cold and sensual child.

She is Death enjoying Life,
Innocently,
Lasciviously.”

-Evelyn Scott. published 1919

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The Night – Wind by Emily Bronte

In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
'How dark the woods would be!

'The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem.'

I said, 'Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

'Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supply bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow.'

The wanderer would not heed me:
Its kiss grew warmer still:
'Oh Come!' it sighed so sweetly;
'I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

'Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

'And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And thou for being alone.'

Witches, artists, and writers have always held an affinity for the moon. On this esbat, as you struggle along with first drafts, revisions, and edits- allow yourself to go free. And if you start to worry, remember this from Shakespeare:

“Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;

Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,

And loathsome canker lies in sweetest bud.

All men make faults.”

Ambrose Bierce and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

“A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.”

Thus begins Ambrose Bierce’s short story about a Southern civilian about to be hung by two soldiers of the Federal army. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge first appeared in Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891).

“He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children.”

“…now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by–it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer, the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.”

The man stares at the water and considers that if he were able to free his hands he might be able to jump into the creek and swim to shore.

What follows can be read in full here: http://fiction.eserver.org/short/occurrence_at_owl_creek.html

Ambrose Bierce, himself, served in the Civil War, enlisting in the Union Army’s 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. His experience during the Battle of Shiloh would haunt him for the rest of his life, and inspire several of his stories.

Noted for his economy of style, dark imagery, and fabulism, he despised the Realistic School. Upon the publication of Stephen Crane’s, Red Badge of Courage, he stated, “”I had thought there could be only two worse writers than Stephen Crane, namely, two Stephen Cranes.”

In 1913, the sardonic, disillusioned idealist took off for Mexico. On September 10th, he penned a letter to Samuel Loveman. This letter, posted from Chihuahua was the last time anyone saw or heard from Ambrose Bierce ever again.

In 1963, the French short film version of Owl Creek won the oscar. One year later it aired as an episode of The Twilight Zone.

quotes by Bierce:

“A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms agains himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”

“Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.”

“Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming hdenial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth.”

“Dog – a kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship.”

“Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.”

Horror Novel Soundtrack

While writing, my internet is usually turned to the wonderful allclassical.org (thank you DD!)

But then there is the specific music I seek out, or discover, that is divinely perfect for the story.

The soundtrack for my latest horror novel includes:

1. Swan Lake
2. music from the film version of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
3. lots of opera, including arias from La Pique Dame, Lulu, Elektra, and Lucia di Lammermoor

What music is inspiring your story?