Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Guest Post: Sara-Jayne Townsend



The Role of Myth in Horror
By Sara-Jayne Townsend

Mythical monsters have been used in horror fiction as far back as Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” – and the continuing popularity of vampires and werewolves in contemporary fiction proves just how enduring this trend is.

Human beings have been telling each other scary stories since the beginning of time. Every mythology in every culture involves supernatural immortal beings, both on the side of the gods and their foes, creatures to be feared and respected. The mere mortal cannot win a fight against a god or a demon or a creature with supernatural power, and perhaps it is this that ensures their continued popularity, because it is the thrill of fear that keeps those of us who are fans of horror reading the genre.

When I wrote SUFFER THE CHILDREN, my supernatural foe was inspired by two myths. The first was the story of Lilith. She appears to pop up in various mythologies, but according to Jewish folklore, she was created by God to be Adam’s first wife. But she refused to lie beneath Adam and be subservient to him; she wanted to be an equal. It appears that this went against God’s plan, so she was cast out of the Garden of Eden, and Eve was created to be Adam’s wife instead. Lilith was cursed and became a demon, and the children she had subsequently were the first succubi and incubi. I confess I have a fondness for the succubus – a demon who kills men with sex (the incubus is the male version). Perhaps this is why the story had an impact. Further research on Lilith revealed that her demonic status grew, to the point that a few centuries ago, mothers used to hang talismans on the cradles of their infants to ward of Lilith, who was alleged to come to Earth and steal children from their cradles in the dead of night.

In Greek mythology, the story of Lamia bears some resemblance to that of Lilith. Lamia had an affair with Zeus and bore him children, but Hera became jealous and cursed Lamia so that all of her children would die. This drove Lamia mad with grief, and in some versions of the myth she again becomes a demonic creature, visiting villages at night to kill mortal children.

The monster in SUFFER THE CHILDREN is a variation of both of these myths. Part succubus, part lamia, my creature sucks the life force out of teenagers to retain a youthful human appearance. She also uses sex for a similar, if less powerful, effect.

I’m dipping into Greek myths again for my current WIP (a supernatural crime novel), and Nordic myths are also featuring. The gods and demons of myth and legend have very human flaws in spite of being immortal, and that’s what makes their stories so interesting. I find them a source of inspiration for characters in my writing, and that’s why I keep going back to them.




BIO:

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her husband Chris.

She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person. Her first novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN was published as an e-book by Lyrical Press, Inc. earlier this year, and is available at: (http://www.lyricalpress.com/suffer_the_children)

Her website can be found at http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com, and her blog at http://sayssara.wordpress.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Monday: Angel Profile (Metatron)

According to Jewish lore, Metatron is the greatest of angels. A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels list his roles as being “king of angels, prince of the divine face, chancellor of Heaven, angel of the covenant, chief of the ministering angels, and the lesser YHWH.”

Metatron is the tallest angel in Heaven, although Anafiel is said to be taller. The Zohar describes Metatron’s size and height as “equal to the breadth of the whole world.” He has innumerable eyes and 36 pairs of wings.

The Talmud and Targum describe Metatron as an intermediary between the human and divine. The Cabala depicts Metatron as the one who “led the children of Israel through the wilderness after the Exodus.” Metatron is also called the supreme angel of death “to whom God daily gives orders as to the souls to be ‘taken’ that day. These orders Metatron transmits to his subordinates Gabriel and Sammael.”

While the patriarch Enoch is said to have transformed into Metatron and ascended into Heaven, Talmudic sources do not advocate this information. Metatron is also said to have a twin brother or half-brother, Sandalphon, formerly the prophet Elijah.

Sources:

Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels.
New York: The Free Press, 1971, pp. 192-193

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Angels.
New York: Checkmark Books, 2004, pp. 241

Lewis, James R. and Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy. Angels A to Z.
Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996, pp. 274

####

Metatron’s role in Death Sword is as a Heavenly supervisor. He takes the names of the souls to be collected from Azrael and passes them to Gabriel and Samael who notify their subordinates, including Xariel.

He’s known for fudoshin, an ability to remain calm in stressful situations, and this serves him well when dealing with the Seraphim, particularly the Seraphic trio of Seraphiel, Kemuel, and Jehoel.

Despite Metatron’s high rank, which actually equals that of the Seraphim, he is aware of the dangerous powers they wield. Metatron claims to have no special abilities and relies on diplomacy and tact in his dealings.

Metatron cares deeply for his charges, especially Xariel. The younger angel of death calls Metatron “Boss” and pretends annoyance at what he considers the archangel’s meddlesome nature. Nevertheless, Xariel respects Metatron and is grateful to him for going before the Seraphim on his behalf, an action that could cost Metatron his rank if not his life.

The king of angels appears to be in his early 40s, with blue eyes and short blond hair. He stands seven feet tall and his wings are light blue. Unlike the other angels of death, he carries no weapon.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Congratulations to L. K. Below

Hi everyone,

Behind on the reviews, but I wanted to congratulate L. K. Below, who is the winner of Maeve Alpin's As Timeless as Stone.

See you next Friday with a new review!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Open Topic Thursday: A Book Trailer




Sorry I'm running late. I'm taking a class through RWA PRO on making book trailers and I just finished this one for Death Sword.

No doubt I'll continue to work on it. Meantime, enjoy!




Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Photo: Cover Art


I have cover art! Thanks to Renee Rocco, here is the cover of Death Sword. (Yep, I'm excited.) LOL

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Guest Post: Maeve Alpin

Victorian Sex Trivia & Steampunk with Maeve Alpin

Like most steampunk/romances As Timeless As Stone takes place in the 19th century. It’s an era of contradictions when it comes to romance. Though women’s sexual desires were suppressed in the Victorian era here’s some titillating trivia which calls for a second look at that theory, like looking for sexy corsets, stockings, and garters hidden under layers of petticoats.

One of the most amazing finds is a survey on Victorian women's sexual habits which began in 1892, compiled by Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher, who held an MD from John Hopkins and a master's in physiology from Stanford, and indicates many Victorian women admitted to experiencing sexual desires, pleasures, and orgasms, they even used available forms of birth control. A German doctor, Wilhelm Peter Mensinga, is credited with the invention of the diaphragm in 1882 and in the 1850’s the development of Vulcanized rubber lowered the cost of condemns, they’d been very expensive previously when made from animal skins. The next bit of trivia seems a bit strange but it was popular in the Victorian era for lovers to exchange pubic hair as tokens of affection and they kept these curls in lockets and snuff boxes. If I ever go into an antique store, open up a locket or snuff box and find a whorl of hair in it, I’m going to scream.

As Timeless As Stone is set in Paris in 1830, but the heroine, Seshat, is an ancient Egyptian priestess, and, unlike Victorian Society, the ancient Egyptians valued sex and considered it an important part of life. One fun fact is the symbol of the ankh actually represents the male and female sex organs. One of the most amazing pieces of trivia regarding the ancient Egyptians’ belief in sex after death was that they attached false penises to the mummified bodies of men and added artificial nipples to the mummies of women. Another quaint custom was that of sacred prostitutes, who weren’t really prostitutes, they were linked with the divine and held in high regard and honored for the fertility rites they performed with their sexual activity, and their clothes were fascinating. They wore blue beaded fishnet dresses, and tattooed their breasts or thighs. They would fit in so well, dancing in a modern rap video.

Along with the differences in views on sex there was a tremendous difference in fashion between the Victorians and the ancient Egyptians. In the Victorian era one of the most confining things for women were the clothes, layers of them from head to toe, including hats and gloves but also one of the sexiest things were the clothes, all those lacy corsets. Since my heroine in As Timeless As Stone, Seshat, is an ancient Egyptian priestess, she’s not impressed with layers of confining garments. As an Egyptian priestess it is a taboo for her to wear anything made from animals, such as wool, and this comes into play when the couturier is garbing her in the latest Paris fashions. Here is an excerpt:

“Why are the sleeves shaped so oddly? No one’s arms are like this. They look bigger than a falcon's wings.” She flapped her arms in front of the couturier.
Mademoiselle swept her hands dramatically through the air “Oui.” She pointed at the large sleeves then the tight waistline and flashed a broad smile.
Seshat had never felt so frightened in her life. She’d rather face Hyksos warriors than this woman babbling in that foreign language with her never-ending garments. A voice inside her head screamed at her to escape while she still could. No, she promised Ricard she’d wear the dresses he bought her. Though she wanted to return to the temple and her life, she didn’t want to leave Ricard. Seshat needed to look at and be with Ricard for now.
As mademoiselle gestured to her to remove the gown, she slipped it off and laid it on the chest they called a dresser, on top of the pile of clothing there. Seshat wished she stood bare before Ricard instead of the couturier, to have his shimmering gaze rake boldly over her body. She imagined he’d step up to her, cup her breasts, mold and squeeze them. Her body throbbed with need at just the thought of what the touch of his warm, firm hands would feel like.
The loud sound of the couturier clearing her throat pulled Seshat from her musings. Mademoiselle held up a pale green floral print dress with a pleated bodice and puffy sleeves. She pulled up the skirt to reveal the white cotton lining.
The moment the couturier pulled the dress over Seshat’s head, she recognized the fabric—wool, from sheep. Jerking her hands, she pushed the dress off her skin. She jumped back as if the gown was a venomous cobra. “Unclean.” Seshat pointed at the dress she’d thrown on the floor. “I am a priestess. I must stay pure for the gods. I cannot wear anything made from the flesh of animals. Wool is taboo.”
The couturier looked at her askance.
“No, I cannot wear that. Now I must take a bath to purify myself.” With her arms crossed, she clutched her shoulders, and shook her head violently. “My flesh came into contact with unclean fabric.”
Mademoiselle’s face grew as red as rouge and she huffed. She laid the offending gown on the bed and picked up a dainty dress in a floral print of blue-and-yellow pastel ferns against white with a bell skirt and sleeves shaped like a leg of mutton.
Seshat reached out to touch the fabric. It was cotton, therefore wearable. Once she pulled on the dress, Seshat spun and nodded her head in agreement. Maybe the woman would stop now that she had two of these huge, confining gowns and her Egyptian shift. These were more than enough garments, and she had to take a bath to wash the touch of wool off her skin.
Mademoiselle put her hands on her hips as her gaze roamed up and down Seshat’s body. “Oui.” She picked up a shawl off the bed and held it up.
Though she had no idea what the couturier was babbling about, Seshat admired the square shawl with its gold background, centered with a black star design, and large motifs lined in turquoise, filled in with hues of red, green, purple and orange. “This design reminds me of the shoot of a date palm, it is a sign of fertility.” Seshat drank in the beautiful colors. “It looks like silk.” She reached out her fingers, took the shawl in her hands, and wrapped it around her shoulders. Suddenly, she felt uncomfortable, the beautiful cloth felt strange beneath her skin. “Mademoiselle, what is this weave?” But she knew, she could tell now, it was a blend of silk and wool. Seshat screamed. “It is unclean! I am a priestess! I cannot wear clothes made from a living creature.” She threw the shawl down. “No! I have to escape the taint of these cursed clothes.” She whirled around toward the front door and pushed past a startled Ricard.
Mademoiselle chased her all the way.
Ricard ran behind the couturier, yelling to Seshat, “What happened?”
Seshat flew out the door. She shed the floral pastel day dress, leaving it lying on the street. Pulling down the petticoat, she stepped out of it. In naught but a chemise with her arms and legs, from knees to ankles, as bare as her feet, she sprinted down the hard, narrow lane, lined with tall, straight homes of timber and stone.

Blogging Contest: Enter a comment or question, one winner will be selected for a free pdf download of my Steampunk/Erotica/Romance, As Timeless As Stone
For more on As Timeless As Stone, please visit my website http://MaeveAlpin.com and
http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=3_79&products_id=220

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday: Angel Profile (Gabriel)

Although Gabriel is primarily known as the angel of the Annunciation, his roles also include angel of resurrection, mercy, vengeance, death and revelation.

Gabriel’s name means “God is my strength,” and is of Chaldean origin. He is one of the two highest-ranking angels mentioned in both Judeo-Christian and Mohammedan holy texts, the other being Michael. If one counts the apocryphal Book of Tobit, then Raphael is the third angel mentioned in the Old Testament. Gabriel is said to have dictated the Koran to Mohammed.

He is the ruler of Cherubim, governor of Eden and said to possess 140 pairs of wings. Some sources claim he is actually a female angel. He is an intermediary between humans and Heaven and is credited with inspiring Jeanne d’Arc.

According to Talmud Sanhedrin 95b, Gabriel carries “...a sharpened scythe which had been ready since creation.” This same weapon may have been used to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The Book of Angels mentions the scythe as having a seven-foot ash wood handle and a five-foot long blade. Gabriel is also said to have killed the Nephilim, a race of giants created when the Grigori, or Watchers, a group of angels, slept with human women.

He is the angel of January, the moon, Mars, winter, and Aquarius.

Sources:

Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels.
New York: The Free Press, 1971, pp. 117, 119

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Angels.
New York: Checkmark Books, 2004, pp. 138

Lewis, James R. and Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy. Angels A to Z.
Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996, pp. 169

Thompson, Ruth et al. The Book of Angels.
New York: Sterling Publishing Co. , Inc., 2006, pp. 58, 61, 62, 64, 68

###

In Death Sword, Gabriel is Xariel's former boss. A misunderstanding alienates the two angels for centuries. It is only when Metatron requests Gabriel work with Xariel and Karla, the two angels of death realize they were manipulated.

A warrior angel, Gabriel's nature borders on bellicose and he's not above punching Xariel unconscious if he believes the younger angel deserves it. Because Gabriel and Karla share a similar temperament, their personalities often clash. Nevertheless, Gabriel is loyal to both Xariel and Karla, even joining Xariel to rescue Karla and fight Samael.

His greatest passion is chess and Xariel considers him to be an unofficial grandmaster. Gabriel tries, often unsuccessfully, to teach Xariel the game.

When fighting, Gabriel wields a large scythe. He stands 6'9" with shoulder-length brown hair and green eyes. His wings are white and span nearly 14 feet. In the battle with Samael, he is wounded, leaving Xariel to fight his former lover by himself. While Gabriel recuperates, Xariel takes his place as Metatron's subordinate.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Review Fridays

Vampire Princess Miyu Vol. 1 OVA:
Unearthly Kyoto and Banquet of Marionettes


Blurb from the AnimEigo DVD:

As the demonic forces of the Shinma strive to obtain a foothold upon the mortal plane, spiritualist Himiko seeks the truth. Join us now for two elegantly chilling journeys into the Occult - Japanese style!

In "Unearthly Kyoto" Himiko travels to the ancient capital of Japan to exorcise a slumbering child, only to confronted with a wave of vampire attacks. Here she meets the mysterious, childlike Miyu and her silent, enigmatic companion. Is Miyu behind the attacks? Or does she, too, seek the real culprit? And if so, why?

In "A Banquet of Marionettes," Himiko is hired to investigate several mysterious disappearances at a school. At the site of each , a strange doll has been found. Here she again meets Miyu, now apparently a student. Miyu has designs on the body, and perhaps the soul, of the school hero, Kei. But so, it seems, does another...

Vampire Princess Miyu holds a special place in my heart. Along with Ranma 1/2, it was one of the first anime I saw. And I like creator Narumi Kakinouchi's approach to the vampire legend. Miyu is not your stereotypical vampire. She has no qualms about drinking human blood, explaining to Himiko that it's part of her nature. Crosses, holy water, and other vampiric deterrents have no effect on Miyu, which makes sense when you understand her mission is to hunt Shinma (translated as god-demons). Shinma are beings who prey on strong human emotions: jealousy, fear, anger, etc.

Although Himiko is not part of the manga or the TV series, she links the four-episode OVA series (which continues in Vol. 2). The story is told from her point of view. At first, she is repulsed by Miyu's apparent disregard for human life, even challenging her when Miyu insists she is giving her victims eternal happiness. This "happiness," however, comes with a chilling price. Miyu does not turn her prey into vampires, although she could. Instead, they basically lose their minds and live forever in the fantasy world of their choosing. As Himiko points out, she'd rather live in the real world, with all its problems, than fall victim to a dream world of which there is no escape.

The animation has aged well two decades after its release. It's traditional cel animation with beautiful, stylized artwork. The music by Kenji Kawai evokes the mysterious, supernatural feel of the series. If you're looking for a unique vampire story with a non-stereotypical heroine, Vampire Princess Miyu might be worth a look.

Vampire Princess Miyu is available from AnimEigo.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Open Topic Thursday: Writing with the Tarot

One day at Barnes and Noble, I happened to pass the section on writing when a book caught my attention. Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner piqued my interest for two reasons: 1) I'm a Tarot reader and 2) I'm a writer. Granted, I don't consider myself an expert in either field (the Tarot much less so), but Kenner's book made it clear that wasn't an issue.

For those of you thinking this is a book review, it isn't. I bought Tarot for Writers and tried the exercises, using characters and situations from my forthcoming short novel, Death Sword. Since I have two decks, the Rider-Waite and the Celtic Tarot, I used both at different times. The decks are vastly different so some familiarity with both was necessary.

What did I learn? Well, perhaps the most important lesson was tapping into my subconscious. It amazes me how the analytical part of our mind interferes with our subconscious, restricting our innate natures.

So how does the Tarot apply to writing? Because the Major Arcana is based on Archetypes, it allows one to explore one's characters through the symbolism associated with the Archetypes. (I have a copy of Jung and Tarot but haven't read it yet.) The Minor Arcana is a journey, some say of the Fool and others of Campbell's Hero. Either way, our protagonists are always on a quest which, in the end, will change them, hopefully for the better.

The rich symbolism of the Tarot also enhances one's writing. Symbols from alchemy to the Kabbalah to angels are explored in the Rider-Waite Tarot. Of course, since Tarot decks differ, the symbolism will be unique for each one.

Do I believe using the Tarot has helped me improve my characterizations and plots? Yes. Not only that, but it's helped me "see" my characters in ways I might not have considered. And sometimes a second opinion isn't a bad idea.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Photo: Flash Fiction Challenge

This is a family photo taken at a time when the wake was held in the home and not at a funeral parlor/chapel.

For fun, I'm issuing a challenge. Write a flash fiction piece of 250 words or less based on the above photo and post it in the comments.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Guest Post: Sonya Clark


Bring On The Night, my debut urban fantasy novella, is a look into the life of a vampire who lives by a strong moral code but at the same time isn’t afraid of letting her inner monster out. You can see a glimpse of both aspects of Jessie in this brief excerpt:

“Or are you one of those guys who want to take what you want, but you don’t want to put
the hurt on? Huh? You too tender-hearted to listen to some poor girl scream and cry and beg for mercy?”

“But that’s not how I roll.” She laced the fingers of one hand in his hair and pulled his head back sharply, black eyes boring into his. “I like to put the hurt on, and I want you to remember every second of it when you wake up.” She leaned closer, close enough he should have been able to feel her breath on his face. “If you wake up and you go looking for more girls to drug, you might want to think of tonight as a cautionary tale.”

She opened her mouth. He watched in horror as two teeth began to elongate into sharp, curved fangs. He began to scream as she lowered her mouth to his neck, struggling in vain to free himself. Her fangs sank into his flesh like hot knives, ripping and tearing as she jerked her head. The blood began to flow, followed by the echo of his screams.


If you didn’t know better you might think all vampires know how to do is brood and fall in love. I was more interested in writing about one that did neither. Jessie – short for Jessamine, a type of night-blooming flower – works as something of an enforcer for the vampire leader to whom she is fiercely loyal. She doesn’t believe in killing innocents but she has no trouble turning murderers and rapists into meals. It’s not her favorite thing to do, but she’ll also go after other supernatural creatures if they wreak too much havoc and attract too much attention from the mortal world. Writing a vampire that had a specific purpose, both in the story and their life in general, held a lot of appeal. Even more appealing was writing one that accepted their vampire nature. I suppose it’s possible that Jessie once spent a lot of brooding nights and sleepless days pondering her existence, but I had no real interest in exploring that. I didn’t want to write an origin story, I wanted to take a look at a vampire who is past all that angst and secure enough in their own monstrosity to not, well, get all emo about it. Jessie’s a full grown monster, completely at home in the night.

Bring on the Night is available for purchase at Lyrical Press and other vendors ebooks are sold. You can learn more about Sonya Clark at her blog.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday: Angel Profile (Samael)

(Samael, Sammael, Satanil, Samil, Satan, Seir, Salmael)

Samael’s name means poison angel from sam “poison” and el “angel.” However, according to The Encyclopedia of Angels, Samael means “blind god.” Either way, he’s considered to be both a holy angel and a fallen one.

Samael’s name is synonymous with Satan. He is considered by rabbinic literature as chief of the Satans and as an angel of death. The Secrets of Enoch also call him a prince of demons and a magician.

In his role as a holy angel, Samael is chief ruler of the 5th Heaven or sometimes the 7th Heaven. According to Gustav Davidson’s A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels, Samael is “one of the seven regents of the world served by two million angels.” However, Revelations 12 describes Samael as “that great serpent with twelve wings that draws after him, in his fall, the solar system.”

His roles have been many. The Encyclopedia of Angels notes a connection between Samael and Lucifer, in that his rank was higher than the Seraphim and he had twelve pairs of wings. In The Zohar (Vayishlah 170b), he is “the dark angel who wrestled with Jacob at Peniel, although Michael, Uriel, Metatron and others have been identified as this antagonist.”

Samael is also credited with the temptation of Eve in the Sayings of Rabbi Eliezer.

Sources:

Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels.
New York: The Free Press, 1971, pp. 255

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Angels.
New York: Checkmark Books, 2004, pp. 317

Lewis, James R. and Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy. Angels A to Z.
Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996, pp. 352

* * *

(Disclaimer: Death Sword and the characters described therein is a work of fiction and no actual resemblance to persons living or dead is intended or implied.)

Samael is the antagonist in Death Sword. Xariel’s former lover and current boss, he’s an angel of death restricted to desk duty because of his propensity to transform into a berserker if he kills too many people. His weapon is a swept-hilt rapier dipped in poison that can kill human and angel alike.

When the Seraphim learned of Samael and Xariel’s relationship, they separated the two, sending Xariel to earth and Samael to a thousand years in the Void. When Samael returns to his post as an angel of death and Chief of Satans, he finds that Xariel is cursed and can no longer be with another male at risk of losing his powers. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop Samael from pursuing Xariel whenever he wants, with no thought of the younger angel’s feelings.

When Samael’s boss, Metatron, brings the half-human angel, Karla Black, into their lives, Samael is incensed. He sees her as a threat, not only to his relationship with Xariel but also his intent to take over Azrael’s role as the archangel of death.

He appears 36 years old. His build is wiry and he stands 6’10”. His eyes are amber and his hair and wings the color of dried blood. His wing span is about 14 feet.

Samael's story continues in the short novel Serpent Fire.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review Friday


Orgy of Souls

by Wrath James White and Maurice Broaddus

Direct Link: Orgy of Souls

Blurb from Apex Book Company
:

Twenty for one.

Twenty souls for his brother's life is a price that seductively beautiful Samson is willing to pay. Twenty souls drenched in blood, powdered with cocaine and more than one kind of ecstasy. A fair trade for the life of a brother. A fair trade for the life of a priest. And everyone he meets seems so willing to give theirs away.

Samuel's faith often wavers. Diagnosed with HIV and in rapid decline, he hides his disillusionment in the rituals of the priesthood. But when Samson brings him the first blood-signed contract for a young woman's immortal soul, the steamy world of high fashion male models and the quiet decay of a sickly priest begin to writhe against the realities of life, death, and otherworldly power.

Brotherly love is a deadly seduction, beauty a dangerous game. Come worship in the brutal temple of Orgy of Souls. Your faith will never be the same again.

There are books that make an indelible impression upon us long after we've finished them. These stories haunt our waking moments, creep into our subconscious and tug at preconceived notions of what defines good and what constitutes evil. Orgy of Souls is such a book.

The problem with believing such rigid definitions is sooner or later that belief will be challenged, shattered by experience, only to be pieced together into something that's perhaps a little worse for wear, its recipient a bit sadder and possibly wiser. What is it said about experience as a teacher?

Is Samson the villain for wanting to take souls in exchange for his brother's life? Who of us might not be tempted to make the same bargain, especially if we see our loved one's prayers seemingly ignored despite his or her faith and devotion.

Some Christians will tell you God works in mysterious ways and everything He does is for a purpose. Depending on whether you're an atheist or devout Christian, you could either take that to mean God is capricious and uncaring or that God is testing your faith, making you stronger. But at whose expense?

For Samuel, faith is the driving force that keeps him going, despite the pain, the fear, and the desperation to appear one way to his parishioners while struggling to deal with a body that's betrayed him. The only ones he can talk to are his brother, Samson, and Nkosi, a young woman from South Africa, herself in the advanced stages of AIDS.

In some ways, Nkosi may be Samuel's voice of reason, the one who keeps him grounded in his faith as he questions God's plan for him. Levelheaded, with a sense of humor, Nkosi helps Samuel deal with his disease as he helps her get ready to face her impending death. But Samuel even admits she is better at comforting him than he is her.

Whereas Nkosi knows Samuel must eventually embrace death, Samson refuses to acknowledge such a possibility. He is driven to save his brother's life, no matter what the cost to others. For him, this is a personal war with a God he no longer believes in but feels compelled to challenge for Samuel's life.

Orgy of Souls is a look into the deep recesses of a self-made hell where the human soul can fall when it's fed on blood, violence, sex, and madness. The question is, can a soul find its way back when consumed by darkness or is it compelled to remain lost forever?

No spoilers here. Suffice it to say, this book is poignant, even in its violence, and heart-wrenching in its tale of brotherly love that becomes twisted by the very nature of its intent.

Highly recommended.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Open Topic Thursday: Writing Influences

I'd like to talk about the authors who influenced me when I first started writing at age 11. In middle school, I wrote three mystery novellas and a collection of horror stories called "Tales of Terror." My novellas were hand-written in spiral notebooks and "Tales of Terror" consisted of notebook paper stapled together. I even had room for readers' comments. Yes, I was seeking feedback even then. (Hey, this was before the Internet and digital publishing. Imagine what I could have done if I had a computer.) :-)

The aforementioned stories were heavily influenced by my love of mystery, fantasy, and horror. And so it was primarily these authors I read. Here are a few, listed with a particular book, and why they had such an impact on me.

Ida Chittum (Tales of Terror) Yes, I know, my anthology shared the same title, but titles aren't copyrighted. And her book is much better than mine. (All my early work was subsequently destroyed.) There are several stories that stand out, including "The House the Dovers Didn't Move Into," "The Haunted Well," "The Woman Who Turned to Paper," etc.

"The Haunted Well" is particularly moving in that it's about a family tragedy that is triggered by a simple (and seemingly innocuous) act that has horrifying consequences for all involved.

What I remember about Ida Chittum's book is her use of visual imagery that made her stories all the more striking: a child scattering geese, a girl scrubbing at a spot on a window, curtains blowing in the breeze... These images still stay in my mind even years later, proof that strong imagery can make one's work even more compelling.

Phyllis A. Whitney (Secret of the Emerald Star) I checked out this book so many times in my school library, they finally banned me from checking it out. Don't know why; I was the only one reading it. Anyway, I never read Ms. Whitney's Gothic romances, but read several of her young adult mysteries, including Mystery of the Haunted Pool, Mystery on the Isle of Skye, Secret of the Tiger's Eye, and Mystery of the Strange Traveler.

Ms. Whitney's work has had an indirect influence on me in that she was the first mystery writer I read and the genre is one of my favorites. (Someday I'd like to write a mystery. The closest I've come is a crime/thriller screenplay, but that's another story.)

Madeleine L'Engle (The Young Unicorns, A Wrinkle in Time) When I was in the 8th grade, my choir teacher introduced me to Madeleine L'Engle and A Wrinkle in Time. That teacher had good taste. What I love about Ms. L'Engle's writing is she didn't talk down to young people and she made her stories accessible to adults. Intelligent, well-written, thoughtful, she explored the themes of love, family, and perseverance in a way that's realistic (even with the fantasy elements) and not sugar-coated.

Do I need any other reasons?

Stephen King (The Shining, Firestarter) Perhaps it's a cliche to list Stephen King, but I can't deny his influence. I read all of his earlier novels: Carrie, The Shining, 'Salem's Lot, Night Shift, The Stand, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, and Danse Macabre. The last novel I read was Christine. Yes, I'm behind in reading his other books, although I've read On Writing twice and a copy sits on my shelf.

King is a master of detail, no doubt about it. I'm not even sure I can achieve the level of imagery he incorporates. In the August 2010 edition of The Writer magazine, there's an article on which he talks about this very subject. What struck me is when he said, "Imagery does not occur on the writer's page; it occurs in the reader's mind."

I had never thought of it that way, but yeah, it makes sense to me. If you get a chance, read the article. Very insightful.

So there you have it, the authors who influenced me when I first decided to become a writer. Who were some of your influences?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Photo: Eastern Cemetery



Eastern Cemetery
Louisville, KY

Eastern Cemetery has held a special place in my heart for years. In 2004, I wrote an article for Speak Out!! Magazine, a now-defunct publication. I'm posting it here not because I plan to include articles with all Wednesday photo postings, but because Eastern is a part of Louisville's history and should not be forgotten.

"Requiem for a Cemetery"
by Pamela Turner
(Originally appeared in Speak Out!! Magazine, November 2004)

If Eastern Cemetery is haunted, its ghosts have every right to be angry at the wretched conditions in which their remains are interred. Several headstones appear as if a giant's sharp-toothed mouth crunched them in half, leaving only chunks of granite and marble. Other tombstones are toppled, lying beside their foundations in various askew positions. One grave marker sinks into a hole. Still others are overgrown with grass and unnoticed until one trips over them. One statue stands atop a burial site, its head missing. Whether taken by trophy hunters or vandals, no one knows.

Much has been made about the deplorable conditions of Eastern Cemetery, but even today it remains sans ownership, its fate to be decided by the Jefferson County Court system and the state attorney's office. Once owned by the Louisville Crematory and Cemetery Company, Inc., Eastern Cemetery was established as the Eastern Cemetery Corporation by the Kentucky General Assembly on March 4, 1854. At 30+/- acres, it is dwarfed by its neighbor, the renowned 296-acre Cave Hill Cemetery, which counts as among its famous dead Colonel Harland Sanders, James Graham Brown and Louis Seelbach. Not that famous people aren't buried at Eastern. They include Methodist Bishop Henry Bidleman Bascom and former Kentucky State Congressman Charles W. Anderson, Jr.

So why is Eastern Cemetery in such a horrid state while Cave Hill, divided only by a ten-foot brick wall, thrives and flourishes? The first answer is that the Louisville Crematory and Cemetery Company, Inc., which owned Eastern as well as Greenwood and Schardein cemeteries, went bankrupt and defunct in the early 1990's. According to the Task Force on the Preservation of Kentucky Cemeteries' Final Report, "the cemetery (Eastern) had over a number of years engaged in a pattern of multiple burials and grave desecrations."

And the situation worsened. Maurice Phillips, appointed by the Jefferson County courts as a receiver from January 1, 1999 to February 2001, was ultimately removed from his post by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom McDonald. According to the Courier-Journal (May 26, 2001), assistant attorney general Harold Turner stated that "he thinks Maurice Phillips, the receiver, either misspent or improperly accounted for $98,541" out of a $500,000 operating account meant for the care of the three cemeteries.

The Courier-Journal article continues that in April 2001, the "Louisville Board of Aldermen allotted $20,000 last month to Dismas Charities to buy equipment to maintain the cemeteries. At the court's request, Dismas has begun regular maintenance, using free inmate labor and $2,000 in monthly interest income from the perpetual-care fund for a supervisor, fuel and other expenses."

Robert Lanning of Dismas Charities admits in a recent phone interview that the task of maintaining the cemeteries is difficult. "We don't make money," he points out, "we turn in receipts and get reimbursed." The last reimbursement was for May 2004 and included money for gas, repairs to equipment, goggles, weed eaters, etc. Only the supervisor is paid. Lanning adds the inmate laborers aren't always motivated, the money is less each year, and the equipment is aging.

And then there are the vandals who broke into the chapel and spray painted it and also stole ashes from the storage building. The chapel has since been boarded up and secured. Lanning points out there hasn't been much vandalism lately, although the police have been to Eastern several times and caught young people drinking. Because there is an apartment complex on the property, there is no way to lock the cemetery gates.

Robert Lanning insists that Eastern Cemetery needs volunteers to take care of it, not only to trim and mow but to help supervise the workers on the weekends and take up special projects.

Perhaps one statue best expresses the feelings of those buried here and their families. It's the figure of a young woman sitting atop a monument, head tilted, her cheek resting against the back of her hand. Her expression is sad and reflective, perhaps mourning not only the death of her loved ones but also the deterioration of a historically significant cemetery.

###

Although years have passed since this article, I still plan to follow up on what happened to Eastern as well as Schardein and Greenwood. When I do, I'll keep you posted.

You can see more photos of Eastern at my Flickr page:
http://bit.ly/cylBIv




Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest Post: Interview with Xariel

Hello!

Next Tuesday, I hope to post the first of several guest blogs. Tonight, however, I'm uploading an interview with my character, Xariel, angel of death and hero of
Death Sword. Enjoy!

Interviewer: Welcome, Xariel. Thank you for letting our readers know a little more about you.


Xariel: Thank you for having me.


Interviewer: Please tell our readers who you are and what you do.


Xariel: I’m an angel of death and an angelic parole officer as needed.


Interviewer: What rank are you?


Xariel: Ophanim. Also known as Thrones.


Interviewer: How did you and Karla Black meet?


Xariel: Metatron sent me to retrieve her. At first I didn’t know why, but later found out he wanted me to train Karla as an angel of death.


Interviewer: How is Metatron to work for?


Xariel: Actually, I report to Samael and he reports to Metatron. But yeah, lately I’ve been called into Metatron’s office on a regular basis. He’s cool. Loves to mess with us, but otherwise a good boss.


Interviewer: How did Karla react when she found out she had angelic blood?


Xariel: She wasn’t happy about it, to be honest. Not that I blame her. Here she thought she was human and then Metatron tells her she’s the daughter of Azazel.


Interviewer: I imagine it would be a shock. How do the other angels feel about her?


Xariel: Samael hates her, Metatron adores her, and Gabriel probably thinks she's the most annoying person he's ever met, human or angel. (Laughs) In other words, she fits right in.


Interviewer: What’s it like being an angel?


Xariel: Hard to explain. We have certain powers: telepathy, teleportation, rapid healing, immortality, but we’re also of a different race from humans. It's more than flying around with harps and halos. Those are myths by the way.


Interviewer: You mentioned teleporting. Don’t angels fly?


Xariel: Of course. Teleporting is easier and more efficient.


Interviewer: It seems we have a lot to learn about you and angels in general. We’d love to have you back for another interview.


Xariel: Thank you. I’d love to come back.


Interviewer: We’ll make it happen. Tell us where we can find more information about you.


Xariel: I have a blog at Of the Moon, Curses, and Death.