Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dark Romance #2 ~ Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour"

***Thar be SPOILERS below!***

Brainstorming ideas for my "Dark Romances" blog series, I remembered an Anne Rice book I'd read back in the 90s, The Witching Hour. The tale was fuzzy in my mind but I recalled feeling a bit of woof from it so I thought I'd give it another read.

Be advised: this dark bit of foxy ghost-story ain't for the faint of heart. First, one might find the very idea of spectral sexing deplorable, in which case I strongly urge you to step away from this blog post, put the book out of your mind, and go read something more lighthearted or wholesome, like, say...hmmm. Actually, I got nothin' for ya, not being a big fan of things "wholesome," although I did adore the "Little House" books, which I'm not sure I'd categorize as altogether "lighthearted."

But I digress.

Still with me? Brave soul; I congratulate you on your open-mindedness (or morbid curiosity - either way, kudos). Now comes the second caution - nightmarish nookie may not turn you off but the incest in this book just might. And I don't mean a singular occurrence but repeated instances of it, over generations, in one particular family. Yuck, right? Yeah, that grossed me out (though not enough to make me quit reading it, apparently). At least it was all between consenting adults (presumably) and the action's not spelled out for the reader, so...Well, it's there, a LOT, in this book, and if that's your deal breaker, there's always Laura.

OK, so the basic premise of The Witching Hour is that this...entity is called into shape (can't rightly say "existence" as, much like constant craving, the thing seems to have always been) by a "simpleton" of a "cunning woman/witch" back in 17th Century Scotland. (God knows how the gal managed it, since she warn't all that bright, but there it is.) Suzanne hollers him into some kinda form and, 'cause she thinks it's so cute how, even though he hasn't a proper body, he can manipulate the weather and make the winds lash the tree branches around and whatnot, she calls him Lasher (which was pretty clever, for her). Well, he sure is grateful to her, and isn't she a doll, and doesn't he just adore her and shower her with gold and jewels and avenge her in the sight of her enemies? Sure he does. Which, unfortunately, brings on the witch accusations and she's burnt at the stake, which bums Lasher out so much that he raises unholy hell, wind-wise. (I reckon that calling down some rain would've proved more helpful to poor Suzanne, but hey, what do I know?) Eventually, Lasher looks on the bright side - he's still got Suzanne's luscious daughter, Deborah. And later, Deb's daughter, Charlotte. Then her daughter, and so on, and so on.

There're heaps more to the story, apart from the aforementioned squicky incest - there's a long-standing secret society, the Talamasca, that studies this family of Mayfair Witches, among other weirdnesses. There's hunky contractor Michael Curry, a San Franciscan transplant from New Orleans who drowns and envisions the call to a quest during the short time he's dead. He's brought back to life and, check it out, he can now "see" things when he touches people, and stuff. And there's Rowan, the dauntingly pretty blonde doc who just happens to be sailing her ship on the Pacific at dusk when poor Michael goes under and, luckily*, just manages to rescue him.

But wait - there's more! There's a Gothic mansion! There's New Orleans! There's Mardi Gras! Though I have to be honest - as rich and engrossing a read as The Witching Hour is, if not for Lasher, I probably wouldn't have gone back to it.

The dark romance of it all: Lasher. Woof! Homespook is tall, dark, and broody, just how I like 'em. Plus, we learn through Rowan that he's got a Scottish accent. (Hawt.) He loves him his Mayfair Witches, and his dedication to bringing them riches, joy, and *ahem* pleasure makes my toes curl. OK, sure, the dude's got an agenda and, unlike Langella's Dracula, he's not forthcoming with the gals as to what he's angling after really. But his readiness - nay, his eagerness to "love" them, his attentiveness, and his unswerving loyalty to them all just makes me melt. Even science-ruled Dr. Rowan (Mayfair, in case you hadn't already guessed) can't resist his creepy comeliness (even after she learns all about his sordid past with all her great-greats!!!!!).

When I finished this second read, as difficult as the ending was to get through (and by difficult I mean heart-breaking, effed-up, and gruesome), I deflated, knowing I'd have to wait till I could get to a bookstore to pick up the next book in the series (it's the 1st of a trilogy, y'all!). And though I do cringe at the possibility of more funky merging of the branches on this family tree, I can't not go back. Lasher awaits.

*Luckily? Yeah, right!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prompts...

A while back, on the message board of an author whose works I heart, I'd posted (under another online persona) some ideas for writing prompts I'd had. Because it was my birthday yesterday (and, apart from mourning the continued loss of my youth, I received a rejection letter from an agent as well - le ouch) I thought I'd leave myself free for drunken revelry by giving myself permission to re-post the prompts here. I call them "writing prompts" but I reckon they could spark the juice flow for just about any type of creative endeavor. Or, you know, maybe they'll just be things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

*       *       *       *       *

I picked up a copy of "The Village Voice" some time ago and scanned the back page ads while I stepped outside for a smoke. The ads defied categorization and ran from "Learn How to Bartend!" to "Penile * Vaginal * Anal Wart Treatment." A number of them arrested my attention and I thought they'd make for interesting writing prompts (in other words - pick an ad and write the story of what happened to warrant the ad or what happens after it's posted, that kinda thing). YMMV, but if you're feeling stuck on a current project it might make for a fun exercise...(or, if these don't grab ya, check out your local papers for ads that do).

(I changed phone numbers and most names, just cuz I felt I ought to).

****************************

Hotel Vigilant

Single Men's Residence
$140 weekly. (212) 555 - 5555

****************************

To Ethel Jane Eden Bellows
Please tell your security to stop their assault.
I thank you very much.

****************************

C Train Thursday 6/24
We both entered at the same station,
I got off at Jay St/Borough Hall.
Please call me (212) 555 - 5555

****************************

A personal message for Leonardo Dicaprio
Your biological father is alive,
living in Queens & loves you very much.
Would like to meet you to have my DNA tested
to give you final proof.
My name is Harry Cain Ingalls.
Please contact 646.555.5555

****************************

SUE - THE - DOCTOR!!!
Law Offices of T. Lark Meyers
55 - 55 Broadway Blvd. Queens, NY 55555

****************************

Your Mileage May Vary

The Vigilant is for realz.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Non sequiturs…

I mentioned in a previous post that my son, the not-so-little-anymore Balthazar, likes to put me through my mental paces with his rapier-like wit (which is patently unkind, as I am aged and worn-down and defeated by life). Over the years I’ve made note of these ninja-like sallies, to serve as evidence of my mental deterioration and the provocation of same when I face a board of nice young men in their clean white coats.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate his sass (well, ok; I often don’t, as he’s yet to learn when to save it for when I’m not soul-crushed after yet another miserable day out in the world). It’s that he comes at me with these bizarre non sequiturs which defy my ability to retaliate in kind. For example, one day, as The Kid and I made our way home from Sunday brunch -

The Kid: Mom, you got any connections in the industry?

Me: Which industry?

The Kid: The music industry.

Me: Not that I know of.

The Kid: Does my dad?

Me: I dunno. Ask him.

The Kid: Don't wanna ask him.

Me: Why not?

The Kid: 'Cause then he'll know my dark secret.

Me (waiting for it): What's your dark secret?

The Kid: Freezer burn.

See what I mean? But do ya see what I mean??? Wait, here's another one -

The Kid: Hey, Mom, who do you think would win in a fight; Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Me (clueless, but playing along): Martin Luther King, Jr.?

The Kid (with a sneer): Why, 'cause he's black?

Or -

The Kid (in a stage whisper and with a mighty glare): I wish you’d just stop doing all those illegal drugs, Mom, they’re tearing our family apart.

And he said the last two things, like, in public! Loudly!!! (For the record, peeps, I totally don't do drugs. Although I'm seriously considering starting...friggin' Kid.)

But possibly the best one, to date, was after we ordered dinner at our favorite local burger joint:

The Kid (leaning forward with a grin): So, Mom…what would you say if I told you I wanted to join the Church of Satan?

What I probably should've said was, "Honey, they can't handle you."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Surviving...

Recently, while I dug through the old folders at the bottom of a closet for my divorce paperwork (who knew Balthazar/The Kid's college applications would ask for the exact month and year in which I broke the ties that bound me? Not I.), I came across an old notebook in which I'd done some fictional scribbling (that is to say, I scribbled some fiction, not that I'm lying about having scribbled in it). I pulled the notebook out from the rubble and leafed through it, sort of smiling as I read my notes, and remembered how dreadful things were at that point in my life.

At the time, Balthazar's dad and I had long since split up and The Kid and I were sharing the bedroom I'd once shared with my sister when we were kids, at my parents' place. Space was tight and money was tighter. I'd completed a gig by mid-June of that year, worked part-time for a while, you know how it is. (I'm reminded by Grandpa's words in the movie The Lost Boys, "Lucy, you're the only woman I ever knew that didn't improve her situation by getting divorced.") (Word.)

Anyway, I'd become involved in a Long Distance Romance (LDR) with a European dude I'd "met" online (we were both avid X-Philes). At some point I got a crappy full-time job, which eased some of my financial concerns but didn't get me any closer to Mr. Wonderful. (And anyway, our romance was doomed, as I couldn't see myself taking little Balthy that far away from his dad, and Mr. Wonderful, it turned out, wasn't prepared to pull up stakes to be with me.)

Our star-crossed LDR dragged on till the following summer/early fall, when it finally imploded in a flurry of pissy e-mails. A month after that, I was laid off from the crappy job. (Oh, snap!) I can sort of grimace about it all now, but at the time, it was le major suck. But damned if I didn't rally - I began writing. Perhaps I did it to escape from the God-awfulness I lived (in fact, I'm sure of it). Thinking back to the ruined-me-of-the-past, I get all onion-eyed for her suffering, but I'm also just so damned proud of her pluck. Wallowing in my misery would've been prodigiously easy (and I definitely did, a bit; I'm a good littler wallower), but I also pushed through the ick and applied myself toward a productive end. Yay, me!

But back to the notebook: along with my scribblings, I'd made a list of songs I'd listened to in heavy rotation as I wrote. At the top of the list was a song I haven't heard in ages - "Good to be Alive" by this groovy She-jay (female deejay) who goes by the moniker DJ Rap. As my mind chugged through its memory cache in search of the lyrics, my eyes misted over again. Chanting along with the song (which frequently made no sense to me) somehow got me through those dark days, and I found myself singing the tune repeatedly in the days following my rediscovery.

In the song, DJ Rap sings, "...sometimes I wonder how I survived..." I wonder that about myself. How do we keep going in the face of adversity, suffering, repeated failure, and heartache? Maybe it's stubbornness. Maybe it's naïveté. And maybe it's just...pluck.

Any of youse guys got a tune that kept you from jumping off your own personal ledge in the Before Times? Tell us about it in the Comments field, yo.

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