Daydreaming “In Calabria”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeter S. Beagle published “The Last Unicorn” in 1968.  He was twenty-nine.  I was born the same year, so that book was not immediately on my reading list.

In fact, I did not discover the story until the 1982 animated film.  It would not be an exaggeration to say it helped shape my life.  It was one of many films and books that molded my view of the world, including my fascination and love for animation, movies, storytelling, myths, and fairy tales.  I never grew out of those first loves, and over time I learned that was a fine thing.  I still dream of the Red Bull, waves of unicorns coming in on the tide, human folly, and a unicorn’s regret.

I was in my twenties before I got a hold of a copy of the book he had written.  It was sublime.  I found more of Mr. Beagle’s books in my thirties and forties, but not all, to my current embarrassment.  The books I read were all very fine things.  He’s not a rock-star author, nor a household name, but I adore his command of language.  His prose weaves a subtle spell created from ethereal mists and hard labor.

I was shocked to find his latest work, “In Calabria,” in my local library’s new arrivals, but in a pleasant way.  I honestly didn’t realize he was still writing at 78.  This is a new goal for me, to be still publishable at that age, even if it’s too late to match being published in my twenties.

So, I’m currently in book-dream-land.  It’s a timely vacation, since I am at a point in my life where I need help believing in the intangible magics, like love, justice, and hope.  Writer whining, unhelpful suggestions, and ridiculous posturing will be lacking this week, and maybe, that is a fine thing, too.

Happy writing, and please support your local library!

How Do I Avoid ALL of the Vampire Tropes and Clichés When Writing About Vampires?

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How do you avoid ALL of the Vampire tropes and clichés when writing about Vampires?

You can’t.

Seriously, you can’t.  If you have a story idea, just write it.  Yes, it has all been done and said before, especially if it involves vampires.  Or dystopian futures.  Or romance.  Or aliens. Or magic.  Or pretty much everything you can think of.

Who cares?  Do you have an idea?  A twist?  Are you mixing in science?  Or back to gothic supernatural?  Horror?  Something lighter?  Does it sound like it would be fun to write?  Then write it.  Later you can decide if it is useable or publishable.  People love this stuff for a reason, and a good story is always a good story.  Just don’t tell the same old story in the same old way.  Tell YOUR version.  Don’t you realize that EVERYBODY ELSE GOT IT WRONG!

I follow a couple of writer’s  Facebook pages, and I keep seeing questions like the title of this blog (or similar questions), over and over.  I used to comment, but I was one of many voices, and lost in the landslide of opinion.  Now, I just shake my head and scroll past.

Your choices are to not write about vampires at all, or just get in there and mix things up.  Play with the tropes.  Joke about them, and laugh with the reader.  Or make them scary, again.  Turn ideas on their head, inside out and upside down.  Build a world with hard and fast rules, or merely guidelines.  Find the source material and mine out the purest elements.  Take the mythology apart for the parts you want, and ignore what doesn’t work for you.

It doesn’t matter who or how many have written about vampires before.  Nobody else in the world has the exact personal mythology as you.  It is made up of all of the stories you have come across, real and fictional, liked or not, and the order they arrived in your life.  You are different from everyone else. Books, movies, family secrets, TV, conversations, cultural traditions, arguments, lucky happenings, personal tragedies; they all affect how YOU see the world.

Tropes and clichés–as annoying as they can be–are our shared mythology.  Don’t fear them.  They are your friends.  They show us that we are similar enough to understand each other, but different enough to learn from each other’s point of view.  They link us to people we have never met.

Don’t let writing what you love make you afraid of being repetitive.  Write the story you want to read.  If you decide you want to be published, then revise and edit to current standards.  It’s hard work, so decide if it’s worth it.

Just remember lots of people won’t like it , no matter what it is.  Make peace with that, or tell them to feck off, whichever is your style.  Hopefully, you will find an audience that loves the world and characters you created, and beg you for more.

Most importantly, and in the words of Noah Lukeman, “Don’t bore the reader.”

That’s How We Roll…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a very important thing I have taken away from all of my hours researching writing and writers–especially published writers–is that writers keep on writing.  Yes, there are pauses, breaks, blocks, family obligations, day jobs and all kinds of things that take time away from writing.  But, if you are a writer, you keep on writing.

Keep writing!  Even if it’s in the nooks and crannies of your life, you keep writing.  Maybe you have a place to write it down, or maybe it’s just an ongoing story writhing around in your head, but you keep writing.  Because it’s what you ARE, not what you DO.

It is both a tremendously liberating concept, and an incredibly restrictive one.

The reason I’m on the subject is I missed a deadline for an anthology I wanted.  I found out last Friday that the slots were full, and the pre-promotion had begun.  Ouch.  Saturday was busy with family, and Sunday I just read most of the day.  There was some internal whining about writing too slow, and generally sucking.  Whatever.

But this morning I wrote another six hundred plus words on that short story.  I like it.  I think I’m getting better, and I want to finish it.  I don’t plan on pulling a Bradbury, and writing several short stories a week, and using that to pay my bills, because he was an amazingly prolific writer.  But I do want to write more than one kind of story.

So, I’m going to finish it.  I’ll take out the bit that it needed to be in the anthology, send it to a beta or two, revise and edit, then start submitting it out to magazines or anthologies as I start the next writing project.

Because, that’s how writers roll.  You are right, Fortune Cookie fortune, and Mamma didn’t raise no fools.

Happy writing, y’all!

Today, I Will Nap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I got through the Beautiful Freaks Fest with most of my brain intact.  I don’t feel it was my best writing, and the fiber arts/artifact creation/photography caused lots of insomnia, and nearly gave me a panic attack by Sunday.  Sooooo many things got cut out of the posts because my imagination far exceeds my time and abilities.  I had to be vague with specific details, like dates, names, and locations, because the second I commit, I HAVE to make sure everything is 100% historically accurate, and I would have never pushed the “publish” button, AND that would have been its own kind of failure.  Also, I was so busy trying to get my own posts out, I couldn’t get to the other writers/artists to look/like/share their work, too.

I also ignored a lot of weekend chores to get anything posted, and there is a vague sense I was only half aware during the conversations I had with my family.  Writer’s fog, I call it, although it affects all creative types.  I will hope for their forgiveness, and try to do better in the future.

BUT, I did it!  Three fiction posts in three days!  The links to the fest are still open, so I will spend the week visiting my co-conspirators.  Please, visit them, too.

I didn’t realize how comfy I had become with the “publish” button while running a blog.  All the old anxieties came roaring back when it was a work of fiction.  This does not bode well for future self-publishing, and puts another tick mark in the traditional publishing column.  Hmmm…

When I wrote the original short story six months ago, a letter from a man to his sister, begging her to come home and help him deal with the aftermath of the Fae touching his life, I had no idea it would go in this direction.  Now, I have the beginnings of a blog serial, and perhaps I’ll collect it into a novella.  (Although pic heavy e-books are difficult to format, from what I have heard.)  There is so much more to that short story than I thought.  Time to dig deeper into the research.  Yay!  Research!

What else is in my future?  Finishing the other short story, catching up on beta reading for friends, overdue reviews for other friends, revising and editing my novels, more blogging with my creative brain exposed, and hopefully–somehow–getting my work out into the world and published.

But first, I’m going to take a nap.

Happy writing!

Strange Tales Case No. 748: Second Update

To the offices of Strange Tales Magazine for case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Second Update

Another item has been found, along with some additional information.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHonestly, I’m not sure what to think of the latest find.  On the advice of a former housekeeper, we searched an unused series of storage rooms deep in the recesses of the attic.  There we found what seems to be a hat box belonging to the daughter, Elisabeth Fair Darling.  That is where we found the shadow box of items.

I cleaned the glass to make it easier to photograph the items, since I can’t remove it without disassembling the box.  Pinned in place is another doll and some paper insects, much like a entomological display.  We are assuming that Elisabeth is the maker of the series of dolls at this point.  We are debating whether to pull the pieces out to inspect them more closely, or to leave it untouched in respect, as this is obviously an artifact of Memento Mori.  (Remember Death.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no new poem.  It is unfortunate, but not surprising, since the previous duo seem to be from the point-of-view of her father.  I know it is every Englishman’s duty to secretly write bad poetry, but what madness causes a man to create such fiction about his dead wife?

This object is by far the most disturbing of the three, in my opinion.  However, the Lady of the house and the housekeeper disagree.  They think the nesting pair are worse.  I wonder what our readers would think if polled.

What kind of father tells such tales to his daughter about her mother?  What child pins an effigy of their mother in a shadow box of insects?  What sort of man writes such poetry about a short marriage?

Mentioned in one of Elisabeth’s letters is her father’s secret hiding place for papers behind a false panel of the library.  We are trying to ascertain where it is before randomly destroying the woodwork.  I hope they are found, and not already lost to accident or madness.  Was he simply trying to ease a child from the reality of death by filling her head with fairy tales, or was he deluding himself as well?

In the trunk was also some correspondence from a Mary Darling, the elder sister of Edward.  This gives us another source of information, once she can be tracked down.  I will send updates as I can.

 

For more information, see;
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride (first part)
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Update

Strange Tales Case No. 748: Update

To the offices of Strange Tales Magazine regarding case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Update.

A second toy has been found, along with another poem, in the trunk of a Lord Earnest William Darling of the Denbighshire Darlings from the late 1800’s.  Lord Darling is on record with a brief, one year marriage, to a Lumia Fair, resulting in a daughter, named Elisabeth Fair Darling.  The church records also indicate the mother’s burial soon after the birth.  The daughter’s marriage, at nineteen, is recorded in the family bible.  The groom is a Kieran Mac Dhuibh.

Inquiries are continuing of all named persons, in both the church and community records, but this takes some time.  The lady of the house has become personally involved, and is now searching the household papers.

There is no doubt that the second set of dolls was made by the same hand.  We are wondering if they could be made by the child, Elisabeth, which is a disturbing thought.  I have photographed the toys in the bird’s nest it was found in, all wrapped in cloth.  (Possibly a swaddling cloth.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe color of the green fabric is much brighter than the previous nursery toy, possibly due to the protection of the trunk.  There is little staining, despite the organic nature of the nest.  The less said of the adult doll, the better.  It took some effort to lay it flat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe poem found curled up under the dolls is brief, disturbing, and offers no additional insights.

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My Mayfly Bride
Curled-up and Dried

Having a name and an era should help our inquiries.  There is also a lead on a former housekeeper that may provide us a better direction for our search.  I will send updates as I can.

 

 

For additional information, see:
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride (part one)
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Second Update (6/25/17)

Strange Tales Case No. 748

To the offices of Strange Tales Magazine regarding case no. 748:

I have arrived and spent three weeks interviewing the residents and staff of Riverbend Manor on the subject of The Mayfly Bride fairy tale.  It seems to have originated from here, so I am on the right track.  The tale also seems to be a genuine family story, and not a fabrication in response to our call for new, unheard stories of the Fae Folk in the last issue.

The most complete version, compiled from the interviews, is as follows:

There once was a man, vain, foolish, and careless of those he hurt, who was tricked by the Fae.  He was be-spelled at a party to wed a Fairy, a most mesmerizing creature of air and light.  The entire courtship was a few hours of dancing, eating, and laughing.  He took her home from the party, to his house and bed, and they slept in each others arms.  When the man woke in the morning to an unfamiliar sound, he found his bride, a Mayfly Fairy, was no more than a dried husk, as if she had died from great age, and there was a babe nestled between them.

The moral of the story seems to change depending on the speaker.  Some say his punishment of raising a half Fae child–alone–was because of his careless life.  Others maintain that loosing his true love was the punishment, and the child a love token from a regretful bride.  I, personally, think raising a child that could have a vastly different lifespan than my own would be the true punishment, but then I remind myself that it is just a fairy tale.

Here are photographs of the original toy and poem that prompted the family to contact us.  I have arraigned it artfully with other items of the manor nursery, mostly of indeterminate age and origin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe composition of the doll is cotton fabric over sticks, with no padding.  The construction gives it an oddly empty, disjointed feel in the hand.  The dress and details are of silks, cottons and a few pearls.  The wings are inked designs on hot pressed paper.  There is some damage and staining due to handling, probably by small children, but not as much as you would expect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are pictures and a typed version of the poem.  The penmanship is remarkable.  It seems the English tradition of bad poetry written in secret is well upheld.

My Mayfly Bride

We danced
A ball became a wedding
Petite-fours our cake
Fairy lights lit our way to my door
Why did I not question the spell?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe have searched the first of the manor storage rooms for any more physical evidence for the Mayfly Bride stories, but have found nothing.  The housekeeper has been helpful, but she is too new to know where anything is, or how the family organizes things.

I will send an update when we find something of note.

 

For more information, see;
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Update (6/24/17)
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Second Update (6/25/17)