The Russian Doll


Its time to get back to work. Soooo…

I am working on a short story to get myself back in the game. I wonder if my writing has changed after all this time. I know I have.

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The Russian Doll

This story, The Russian Doll, was conceived as part of a larger work called Vampires on the Orient Express. But I decided to focus on it as a short story or novella. I find these Russian nesting dolls intriguing. We all think we now what is inside—and that’s just the point. What if the doll was used to to hide, or mask something else? Something illicit or fearful, or otherworldly?

I found in my research that there were all sorts of nesting dolls. The Babushka, or mother type, the Fairy Tales type, but there are also religious icons and perhaps other things…

Put together: bram Stoker’s friend, a, English newsman on the Orient Express going into part mysterious and unknown, a strange bookshop and a group of Russian dolls, Not far away, in the middle of a lake, is an island monastery called Snagov, that holds the grave of Vlad Tepes.

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My protagonist, Alex, is a reporter for the London Illustrated News  and good friend of Bran Stoker whose novel Dracula., has just take the world by a storm. Stoker has confided in Alex that his evil hero, Count Dracula, was not based on the actor Henry Irving, Stoker’s employer at the Lyceum Theatre in London and spitting image of Vlad, but in a actual prince of Wallachia. He sets out on the Orient Express into the wilds of central Europe, to find out the true story of Dracula and bring it back to London and the news.

He gets no leads until he arrives in Bucharest and finds an antiquarian bookshop that sells much more than books.



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I’d spoil the story if I said any more about it. research hasn’t been too heavy or difficult. But i always learn interesting things along the way. Enjoy these postcard images on Bucharest in the 1890’s..

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Remote and mysterious…

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Babushkas

 

I hope you will like this spooky story. I’m hoping it will finished quickly and well.

Fangs to all of you!

Alyne

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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…

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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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