Bride of Darkness: Tales of Opulent Darkness
Available September 5th, 2013! At Amazon Kindle Books
Cover: Davi Panzera
“Let’s get out of here,” said Amylie. “I sure hope those kids know what they’re getting into.”
“I don’t think they do,” said Jenny. “No one ever does.”
—-Alyne de Winter, Portrait of a Vampire
As one who likes to read about the inspirations behind other authors’ stories, I thought it might be fun to share mine. The tales in the Brides of Darkness collection are actually arranged in the reverse order to when they were written. I was surprised when I noticed this, as it was not my intention, but I suppose my love of mirror imagery has snuck in on the sly.
What ties these stories together are the Innocents, or the willfully ignorant, who engage, or are engaged by the dark side, and have no idea what they have gotten into. Unaware of what they are facing, unprepared to face the shadow side of their desires, they move into realms they cannot control. Like a virgin who, with stars in her eyes and hope in her heart, marries the bad boy, these characters cannot fathom that the beautiful fantasy that they perceive is but the veil over a nightmare. By the time they, or their protectors, realize what is happening, it is too late: they are wed and cannot disentangle themselves from their bond.
These may be pessimistic stories, but they explore a truth that I feel our culture has too long disregarded. I like to think of them as cautionary tales. They say that Satan gains his greatest power by convincing us he does not exist. He has, and it seems that the history of popular culture is sadly littered with people seduced to their graves like the Brides in these six stories.
The Red Masque
This story is meant to be part of a longer work, The Secret Paradise, a family saga beginning in medieval times and ending in the present. The first part, called The Green Fountain, tells of two witches who, before their birth in the 11th century, were faeries. The next part is The White Robe, then The Red Masque, and finally The Black Boat.
I was challenged to write a story based on Poe and since I had already outlined this one based on Mask of the Red Death, I wrote it up. It is the first story I’ve had published since the 1980s. Though it did not win the Poe contest, Danse Macabre magazine picked it up days after I submitted it. Touche!
The Vampire’s Mirror
It’s not difficult to detect the influences that went into this story: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, both book and film, but the old nineteen-sixties Italian Gothic movie, Crypt of the Vampire, inspired much the atmosphere as well as the character of Analise. Still, the story would never have been written if not for the title. Once it came to me, the story almost wrote itself.
The House Witch
I love old films and one of my favorites is The Queen of Spades, a 1948 film starring Anton Walbrook, based on a story by Alexander Pushkin. Challenged to write a story inspired by the fairy tale The Tinder Box, and The Huntsman by Anton Chekov for a contest put on by Literary Lab, I came up with this very short piece about a soldier who loses at cards only to discover he has lost his soul.
The House Witch is an old name for the Queen of Spades and the Queen of Swords in the tarot cards.
This story began with an image of the High Priestess of the tarot. Mixed with the Medusa myth, which has always fascinated me, themes of love and treachery emerged. Priestess explores a crisis of conscience that forces a high priestess of Diana to break her vows, only to discover that society will not allow her to go free.
Portrait of a Vampire
My only contemporary story so far, Portrait of a Vampire is based on a true story given to me when the Anne Rice Gothic craze was just fading out. I think of it as an elegiac tale for the passing of an era of romantic Gothicism, more sensual and poetic than gory and gross. The vampire was still monstrous in his intent, still an outsider in the shadows to be feared. Even though he carved love, he was no lover boy.
The person who gave me the story put it this way:
“I lost touch with this artist friend of mine. When I finally called her, she didn’t want to see me. I heard she wasn’t seeing anyone. Something was wrong, so I went to her house and insisted she let me in. Her apartment was full of paintings of this guy she was obsessed with, a gay guy who died of AIDS. The paintings started out looking normal, but gradually they started looking like vampires. I think she was crazy.”
This story hung around in my head for a long time, the finally emerged fully formed.
The Strange Marriage of Lady Crawford
The spooky photos of Sir Simon Marsden have inspired many stories for me. I found this one on a wall calendar. The ruin of Crawford Priory is truly Gothic, beautiful and sad. The story in the margin told the history of its owner, Lady Mary Lindsay Crawford who never married but had a great love for animals. She was known to ride around the village on a black charger and, I’m sure, cut quite a romantic figure in her Regency riding habit.
I have used the names but the story is a complete fabrication. If any of what I have written is true beyond what I read on the wall calendar, it is pure coincidence. But I do hope that if any living relatives of Lady Crawford read it, they will not be too scandalized.