Morna: A Novel of Ideas

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Click the name: MORNA: A Celtic Tale of the Selkies

 

One of my fans wrote a review for MORNA saying she liked the book, but not the characters. This gave me food for thought because I like the characters in this book, though they are not the warm and fuzzy kind. They are what I call Elemental. At the mercy of their environment, swept up in the forces of nature so powerful, they may be driven mad, these characters transcend the human and become mythical.

Sometimes a story, though character driven, is not about them being lovable, but about testing their personalities to the limit.

Like many of my stories, MORNA was inspired by a combination of faery tales and folk ballads. There is an English folk song called House Carpenter that tells the story of a woman lured by the promise of material wealth to leave her good but poor husband and join a seductive ship captain that turns out to be the devil. Lady Rowan’s character is based on this ballad while the Selkie seems neither good not evil, but a creature of the elemental sea.

This is my favorite version by Pentangle:

Compelled by this mysterious and  foreboding ballad, I thought it would be fun to take a wealthy, powerful, rather spoiled woman, have her lose everything, and see what she would do. In my mind’s eye, I saw a medieval lady with long auburn hair standing at a tower window looking out to sea. This was Lady Rowan come to visit me and have me tell the story of why she was in the tower looking out, waiting for the ship with the broad red sail. I knew by the energy of the sea and the land that this was Scotland. I knew the ship’s captain was an otherworldly being. But how did a great lady, an aristocrat, end up in a ruined tower at the far edge of the world? Kidnapping was one way she might be there, prisoner of of some thwarted and  jealous  lover. War was another way. I felt this plot was more in keeping with what I wanted Lady Rowan to go through. She must be made to lose, not only her material wealth, her pride, and vanity, but also her dearly loved husband to the ravages of war.

Like the untamed power of the sea that carries the Selkie to her on a dream, or a hallucination, or a fantasy, war is the arena in which Hugh encounters his demons. Rowan is engaged in a struggle against the forces of nature, Hugh against his fellow man.

The children are pawns, as are the two old servants. The young guards, though removed from the fields of battle, nevertheless suffer the onslaught of powers stronger than themselves. Then there come the wizards, the Macloeds, wielding their dark and ruthless magic…

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How much can one woman take before she loses her mind? Or, had she already lost it when she looked out to sea and  saw the Selkie’s ship? So isolated is she, that she has no way of knowing if she is mad or not, because there’s no one to compare herself to.

Was her pride humbled, or not? And Morna…daughter of the sea and two fathers, how does she tilt the scales into the waiting hands of Fate? And what is Fate? How do you know when Reality butts up against the Unseen, and the walls of normalcy give way, what, or whom, could possibly have orchestrated such a descent into darkness? Or why…

 

 

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Mysterious Gothic Books or Books About Books

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I love the use of mysterious books in Gothic novels and films.  One of the greats is El Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Revere on which the film Ninth Gate was based.  The Book of the Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows was written by a Renaissance Mage, Aristide de Torchia, in collaboration with the devil. It is full of engraving as arcane as tarot cards, that present a cosmic riddle.  Whoever figures it out…goes to Hell. 

Be that as it may, its very intriguing, if not captivating, as any good glamour should be.

 

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Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is composed almost entirely of letters and diary entries.

Mina Harker:

24 September.–I hadn’t the heart to write last night, that terrible record of Jonathan’s upset me so. Poor dear! How he must have suffered, whether it be true or only imagination. I wonder if there is any truth in it at all. Did he get his brain fever, and then write all those terrible things, or had he some cause for it all? I suppose I shall never know, for I dare not open the subject to him. And yet that man we saw yesterday! He seemed quite certain of him, poor fellow! I suppose it was the funeral upset him and sent his mind back on some train of thought.

Jonathan Harker

26 September.–I thought never to write in this diary again, but the time has come..

Dr. Seward

26 September.–Truly there is no such thing as finality. Not a week since I said “Finis,” and yet here I am starting fresh again, or rather going on with the record….

In a sense all first person narratives are journals. We easily imagine the hero or heroine writing by firelight, with a quill or fountain pen, the story of their life as the remember it. Taking the analogy further, every author os writing a diary of their imagination. We all begin with the blank page, and inscribe our vision upon it.

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My own novel The Lady in Yellow, has a couple of strange books. The Book of UnHoly Beasts, The Grande and Petite Alberts, and the journal of the governess who taught the de Grimston twins before Veronica took the post.

My Victorian Romance

Following in the footsteps of Mina Harker and her Victorian sisters of the pen, I thought it would be fun to create a book of blank pages sparked with the magical, sensual poetry of the day, so that readers could curl up on a rainy day with a cup of coffee, and  invent their own Romantic tales. I plan to do this myself when I’m either full of ideas. or need to shake some up. You might enjoy it too!

 

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Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind…

The works of mid-Victorian artists were soaked in Romance. The Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets, the lush productions of Shakespeare’s plays, the epic poems inspired by the Arthurian Legends, the perception of women as goddesses to be adored, all coalesced to create a rich, erotic culture of torrid love stories acted out in real life. The pages of this journal are sparked with lines of Romantic poetry popular at the time, interspersed with writing prompts to inspire you to explore your own Romantic Fantasies. Remember: This is your book of secrets…

http://amzn.to/24CpE1w

 

Can you think of any Gothic novels in which books are a central theme? There are quite a few, but I am curious about what you might want to share. If you would like to explore your own Victorian Romance, I have put together a journal that is designed to inspire you. Its comes in paperback, print on demand, through Amazon’s Create Space. Here is the first. I am also putting together a  Gothic one called Dark Dreams that should be available soon.

 

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Gothic Tarot Cards

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Arcana

 

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Never was there anything more mysterious than the Tarot cards. Their air of magic tinged with the apprehension of what fate has in store, their storytelling capacity, are some of the qualities that lend themselves to our dark, dramatic themes.

I am revisiting the stories of Angela Carter these days. She was the first author I read who inspired met o get serious about writing. her use of language lavished on themes of werwolves and vampires gave me permission to compose the kind of  Gothic tales I enjoyed reading while indulging in the lush, poetic writing style we call “literary”. These were the first Gothic tales since Poe, that really moved me and took my imagination to new heights and depths.

The Visconti Tarot, shown above, is the oldest complete Tarot in existence. It red-brown and gold hues suggest royalty, spell casting and dried blood. These are the cards of the vampires.

Carter uses the Tarot cards in full force in her short story, The Lady of the House of Love.

 

Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors. each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful, posthumous existence, she she counts out the Tarot cards, ceaselessly construing a constellation of possibilities as if the random fall of the cards on the red plush tablecloth before her, could precipitate her from her chill, shuttered room into the country of perpetual summer and obliterate the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and maiden.

 

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Love and Death

Of course the Death card always puts in an appearance in these tales. This is the fate we all fear, especially combined with The Lovers, for who can bear the death of love?  Of course  the Grim Reaper always smiled up from her blood red tablecloth. When, at last, the Lovers appear, this is not a cause for joy.

The bride is also a powerful Gothic persona, for marriage is a kind of death for woman. In the days of arranged marriages, when love had nothing to do with it, when a girl could be sold to the wealthy old man, or the cruel aristocrat, when she never knew how the beast would treat her, appearing in ghostly white veils was the most resonant attire. She grips the cards, desperate to know: is she safe, or not? Is this love, or not?

Her great Aunt is Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, a figure who seems to haunt us all. How many actresses have played the role? This lost bride, this ghost, sitting alone in the dark, high house with the long table gone to rot, is a kind of vampire who feeds on her ward,  Isabelle,draining the girl’s emotions, killing her love, cosigning her to s symbiotic death in life.

I don;t think most people think of Charles Dickins as a Gothic author, but he’s one of the best. Like Shakespeare.

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Stories with Tarot

When I found the Angela Carter book, Tarot Readers were few. I was one, so I was drawn in to this story of the lady in the House of Love. I also have incorporated the cards into stories.

Now there are many authors employing the Arcana!

Here is a Goodreads list of novels that use Tarot as a theme. As you can see, they all have a dark, Gothic feel to them.

Out of 530 books, I am sure you will find something to enjoy.

http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/5230.Stories_Where_Tarot_Reading_Plays_A_Role

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Mark of the Beast Anthology

A bit of news!

 

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I sold my short story, Thirteen,  to an editor in 2012. Its a Red Riding Hood inspired werewolf story that I have since published on my Gothic Faery Tales blog.

http://gothicfaerytales.com/2013/02/16/thirteen-a-gothic-re-telling-of-red-riding-hood/

I was supposed to be paid, but it didn’t seem to be happening, so I wrote it off. Well, lo and behold! I got a check in the mail for $77!!! The anthology came out in 2015. It takes a while for creative projects to come together.

If you like werewolf stories, (and obviously the editor,Scott David Aniolowski, has great taste) then check this out:

http://www.chaosium.com/mark-of-the-beast/

 

MARK OF THE BEAST

A COLLECTION OF WEREWOLF STORIES

Every civilization has some story or legend of creatures half man and half beast. Indigenous native peoples around the world held beliefs about shamans and witch doctors who could transform themselves into animals. The ancient Egyptians worshiped a whole pantheon of animal-headed gods. The superstitious folk of medieval Europe believed that a witch or a gypsy could curse a man to become a werewolf by night. Pacific islanders told tales of men changing into sharks. Certain African peoples feared leopard men.

Coming from all over the world and from every culture, werebeast legends naturally vary. Among the ways said to become a werewolf include being bitten by a werewolf, being bitten by a normal wolf, a potion or curse from a gypsy or a witch, a family curse, a genetic disorder, drinking rainwater from the paw print of a wolf, wearing an enchanted pelt made from wolfskin, through a pact with Satan or a demon, through the act of cannibalism, etc. Some werewolves have no memory or control over their change while others do. Some change only by the light of a full moon while others can change at any time. Some werewolves look like normal wolves, some look like giant wolves, and still others are mutant man-beasts. Some are solitary and some live and hunt in packs or clans.

Herein are gathered a number of tales portraying the glorious and bestial nature of the werewolf. There are horror, sci-fi, Gothic, cyber, fairy tale and fantasy stories and poems that embrace the essence of the beast, told by an assortment of scribes with diverse styles and voices.

Now the Full Harvest Moon is rising and the soft wail of the autumnal wind begins…

Edited by Scott David Aniolowski

288 pages Trade Paperback.

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I owe you guys a proper blog post, but life has been getting in the way of writing these days, even to the blog. I do have plans though. Once things settle down I’ll be back on it. In the meantime, I will be doing the mundane tasks of formatting my novels, The Shadows, The Haunted Garden, and Roses of the Moon for print.

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Gothic Marionettes

 

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Cheers!

First I want to wish you all a Happy New Year! I know I’m not alone being glad to see the backside of 2015. As the little kid said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

Chip off the old block, I’m sure….

I have been getting back to work on the pending books. A great help has been The Nine Day Novel by Steve Windsor. I figured I owed my readers at least an attempt to get a book done in nine days. Alas, life kept intervening. As it does. But I do have two very solid and detailed outlines to work from now, and that is half the battle won! These tales should be out in the Spring if not earlier.

i have three other first drafts, so I’m in good shape. Still behind on the 5 Year Plan, but that can happen to anyone, right?

Thank you for your patience….

Gothic Theme of the Month: Puppets

At the top of this post you see fireworks. These are not only part of the New Year celebrations, they also evoke the work of one of my favorite authors, Angela Carter. Her book of short stories, The Bloody Chamber, is one that inspired me to want to write fiction, ages ago! It took living in London to find my stories, though. One of her short story collections is called Fireworks and there is a story in there called :The Loves of Lady Purple about a very erotic and sinister marionette. She also wrote an award winning novelThe Magic Toyshop, which is extremely weird and deals with this puppet theme. I found a filmed version on youtube which I post for you below, in case you are not quite ready to give up the gloom.

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Something about London seems to bring out this murk of the soul. My other inspirational author, Tanith Lee, was also British and wrote in this poetic and macabre vein. In my case, I was sent toward these Gothic themes for the sake of what Carl Jung used to call: Shadow Work.

This Shadow Work began for me in the early 2000′s when my imagination was invaded by the ghosts and demons that lurk in the London ethers. As you know, my books are dark, dealing with themes of good vs evil and the moral struggles of the protagonists. I do believe that our moral choices can make or break our character, and that good and evil are absolute.

Now that I know these things to be true, the black veil has lifted and I feel redeemed…. I will continue the current projects until they are complete I will probably write Romance on the side–to vary the metal/ emotional diet as it were…. That’s how I feel now as the light at the end of the tunnel washes over me.

I also want to share this old movie from 1944. It ties together Angela Carter with the Bluebeard theme, and has some wonderful marionettes. Its called Bluebeard and has a very nice plot and a very young John Carradine who looks pretty striking.

My own Bluebeard story, The Keys, has not marionettes, but automatons, which are their kissing cousins. This tale was directly inspired by Angela carter’s Bluebeard re-telling, The Bloody Chamber.

If somebody wants to make a film out of The Keys, let me know and I will add it to the Gothic Library. It has zombies….

I like this puppet theme. Ever since I was a child i loved puppets and dolls. But not all children love them. I did a brief stint as a puppeteer in a marionette house. We had to make the marionettes ourselves, so we really bonded with them. There was always a part of the show where we took the marionettes into the audience, to meet the patrons. Some of the children left screaming….

I think their instincts were actually pretty good.

And what are all these puppets and marionettes, you may ask? Masks, perhaps. Or animated beings without souls, certainly.

My automatons were a bit like Stepford wives…women reduced to robots, a kind of living dead. What makes them Gothic is the relationship to the subconscious, our fears, perhaps, of what we might be if there were no God.

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Looks like poor Angela Carter ended her days in a wax museum…

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