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


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


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


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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dark Romance #1 ~ Dracula

Given the premise of this bloggy-blog (that I'm a goth mom who digs the dark and creepy, even in romance), I thought I'd do a series based on some dark romances I have luuuuurved. (Be warned - thar be SPOILERS below, so if you've not yet read the book/seen the film under discussion, but intend to, you may wish to give this post a pass. Just sayin'.)

Still here? Kewl.

I decided to start with Dracula, but not the book, oh no. I recently re-read the Bram Stoker tome and must assert that there just ain't nothin' sexy or romantic about it. Yeah, sure, Jonathan Harker experiences a bit of lusty-lust for Dracula's wives and whatnot, but all that amounts to is his intense desire that they kiss him. Lame. There's no back-story connecting Mina Harker with Drac's supposedly long-dead bride, as the Coppola film tells it (though I must give props to the flick, as it's one of the more faithful adaptations of the novel; moreover, it doesn't drop the one American character Stoker featured, Texan Quincey Morris, who, along with J. Harker, dealt the killing blow to the dastardly Count).

The Dracula I want to focus on today is Frank Langella in the 1979 film of the same name, which was adapted from a play, which was adapted from the book (whew!) and merrily screws around with not only the characters but also their names. Here, it's Mina who first succumbs to Dracula's unholy allure and Lucy upon whom Dracula sets his fangs at for his...uh...Unlife Mate. Another departure from the book is that the end may not really be the end for the Count, 'cause this Dracula's a BAMF.

*Ahem* Anyway.

Langella plays the Count tall, dark, and spookily swoony (woof) and, with his debonair Old World mastery, steals every scene he's in. But what really interests me about this film is the feminist edge of Lucy, who deplores the very idea of woman's subjugation to man. By the time Drac's worked his monstrous mojo on her, however, she can't wait to be under his...thumb. (Frankly, neither could I. Did I mention woof?)

The dark romance of it all: Dracula determinedly preys on Lucy, it's true, but she isn't his victim; she's a ready, willing, and eager participant in his deadly dance. He seduces her but never has to bend her to his will. He charms her with his conversation, his savoir faire, his sex appeal (woof!), and he exerts himself to win her because of her strength, her intelligence, and her beauty - she is his equal, excepting one teeeny, tiny detail. Lucy doesn't so much fall as she leaps into the fire, and not due to deception or coercion, but from her own desire to burn. She never embodies her own ideals as much as when she willingly chooses to join the ranks of the moldy undead. It's the joining of his dark power to her independent spirit which rocks the Casbah for me. And they might have enjoyed a happier end but for the interference of her father, her fiancé, and Van Helsing who, essentially, restored their masculine authority over Lucy when they "saved her" from the Count, her own wishes notwithstanding (and girlfriend wanted to hook up with the bloodsucker, for realz!). To which I say Booo, patriarchal bossiness! and Yay, Girl Pow-ah!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Winding up for the pitch…

I spent my Thanksgiving-food-coma-recovery-period tweaking my query letter for the mythological romance novel I’ve completed and am ready to shop around. I figure I’ll e-mail it to my targets—uh…I mean—carefully selected literary agents next Wednesday. (I’m guessing the many aspiring writers hunting agents will have inundated their Inboxes over the holiday weekend, maybe they’ll be caught up by next Thursday?) (OK, they probably won't be, but I've gotta get them query letters out some time!)

Why try to land an agent? Well, with so many as-yet-unproved writers hawking their wares, publishing companies generally don’t look at unagented work. According to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (and many others) proper literary agents make money only when they sell their clients’ work, so they’re not about to waste their (or publishers’) time with books that aren’t le awesome/commercially viable. Knowing this, it behooves me to seek representation. Plus, agents are experts in the wheeling and dealing and legalese involved in contract negotiations—the very idea of attempting to tackle this on my own makes my stomach wobble unpleasantly (and not in the, “Whoa, who’s *that* god-like specimen of masculine comeliness?” sort of way). Rock on, literary agents!

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of trying the thrilling frontier (as Cheryl Shireman describes it) of independent publishing. I’ve got a short story (creepy romance—it's just so me), an idea for another, and a shorter weird tale that I may compile into a mini-anthology and put up for sale on as an e-book. I can test the waters with it and, if my novel gets no nibbles, may go the e-book route with it as well. On the pro side, authors receive a significantly bigger cut of the profits when they e-publish themselves, rather than go with traditional publishing. On the con side, authors may have to put money up to make any (if they do), they receive no advance in royalties, and they’re completely responsible for all promotional endeavors for their work, as well as all the bureaucratic stuff. (Eeeeek!) I should note that mine is a down and dirty summary of the business; Kristine Kathryn Rusch (and her friend, Lee Allred) go into more detail discussing traditional publishing -vs- indie publishing, and Tracy Marchini gives even more to chew over. But, you know, if what you're doing ain't workin' for ya, ya gotta try something else, dontcha?

A friend suggested I put samples of my writing up on the blog, by way of providing teasers/appetizers for any interested parties, so I may do some scribbling towards that end. Please do check back—and wish me luck!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Kid

Given that I'm still in a sort of introductory phase with this blog I thought I'd take a few moments to tell you about my kid. Let's call him Balthazar. Why? Well, he chose Balthazar for his Confirmation name ("Because it's *sick*, Mom!") and he used it only the one day, so it's still got that new-car-smell, as it were.

Plus, there are a number of interesting connotations to the name, both good and bad. Traditionally (though not Biblically), one of the three wise men/kings who trekked way out west to give props to the Baby Jesus was a Balthazar (which rendered the name acceptable for The Kid's Confirmation). On the dark side (my favorite side, of course), the name Balthazar has been applied to several miscreants, among them an angel with conflicted loyalties in the TV series Supernatural, and a half-demon seeking to overthrow Satan for a bigger share in bad-guy glory in the film Constantine.

So that's The Kid in a nutshell, really: he's a wiseguy and an unholy terror. OK, that last bit may be a slight exaggeration, but here's an example of the smart-assery he throws my way on a daily basis:

One year, when The Kid played football, he posted as his Facebook status some encouragement to his JV team, as they had a game the next day. That night, he pored over photocopies of plays he was supposed to memorize and finally threw them on the coffee table in frustration.

Me: What's the matter?

The Kid: I'll NEVER memorize all of these.

Me: Well, you won't if you don't go over them. (I watched him not go over his plays for a couple of minutes.) Hey, explain that play to me.

The Kid (rolling his eyes): You'll never understand it, Mom.

Me (gritting my teeth and reminding myself that love is patient and kind and, almost certainly, not murderous): Try me. (I pretended to pay attention as he pointed at Xs and Os and lines and so forth. I interrupted him as he pointed to a prominently featured "O.") What's that, there?

The Kid (in that teenage sage-smug tone): That's the quarterback, Mom.

Me: What's his name?

The Kid (dopey grin lighting his face): "Circle."

True story, folks.

There are other truths I can share about The Kid: he pursues his goals full-throttle, regardless of any obstacles he may encounter along the way. He's smart, creative, witty, fearless, compassionate, discerning, principled, and charismatic. He's a story-teller, a comedian, a guitarist, a lover of art, heavy-metal, and teh kittehs. He's my pride and joy, my inspiration (and exasperation!), my hero and my hope.

And forever, he's my baby.

Monday, November 14, 2011

OMG, Now what???*, I created this bloggy-blog in an effort to build an author's platform because I've got: one complete romance novel, one novel I need to romancify a bit more (really, I need to completely revise it to show the romance between the protagonist and her main squeeze), a coupla short stories, and a coupla projects on the back-burner - all of which, I fervently hope, will achieve a respectable measure of commercial success. (Or a disreputable measure of commercial success - I got a kid to put through college next year, I can't be choosy.) (It hurts my brain that I'm old enough to have a kid to put through college.) (Luckily, there's wine.)

Starting this blog freaked me out a bit, and knowing I have to maintain it ravages any remaining peace of mind because:

...OMG, what to write about?...
...OMG, when do I have time to write this thing??
...OMG, who the hell's gonna read this???

As to content, I reckon I'll write about quirky life stuff, my quirky kid (aka, The Kid), and my quirky experiences as a single mom who works full time and writes...well, who sometimes writes (I suppose I wouldn't have stuff burning on the back of the stove if I wrote more regular-like). I believe I'll figure it all out as I go along, but I've learned one definite rule of thumb: I can't wait to find time for important things, I have to make it.

With regard to the "who" aspect - I thank you, Dear Readers, for popping by to check my stuff out. Your interest and support mean a lot to me. Please keep checking back and, if you have any suggestions for content, I'd love to know about 'em!

*I realize this isn't a very exciting blog, so I peppered the text with links to random sexiness. See if you can find all 8. NB: My idea of sexy's a bit twisted, so be warned.  ;-)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blog, the First



I first became aware of mortality, generally, and of my own in particular, when I was about five. I was in kindergarten at a Catholic school and, as my classmates speculated about that spring's Easter Bunny haul, I was haunted by the "Davey and Goliath" Easter special, in which Davey's grandmother dies, which I seem to recall thinking was pretty messed up. (GAH, just watching this clip tied my stomach in knots.)

Anyway, my mind's traveled a gloomy trajectory ever since, though I prefer my doom with a liberal dose of L.O.L. (I adore "Shaun of the Dead"). Also, I prefer supernatural monsters to psycho-killers (though the Talking Heads tune is groovalicious), 'cause they're, like, totally not real. Probably. Anyway, as time goes by and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune perforate my poor, tortured psyche, I find I gravitate even more closely toward that which is...well, dark.


I gravitated toward books at an early age too - possibly, my first literary obsession was the Nancy Drew series. Sure, I enjoyed a good, neatly resolved mystery, and how could I fail to love that it was the chicks who figured everything out??? But, being completely honest, the thing that absolutely drove me to read more, more, MORE was the hope that something...special would happen between Nancy and her boyfriend Ned. I wanted their love to blossom. At the tender age of 9 or 10, my sweet, school-uniformed, unquestioning-obedience-to-authority, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth self wanted Nancy and Ned to...put on some Marvin Gaye. (I had no idea what this meant back then, and yet somehow, I kinda did.) And beneath what I sensed was a physical event I believed should lie a grand, passionate, everlasting love...and since Nancy had it all, I wanted it for myself, with one whose heart could match the nobility of my own.

So, as dark and somewhat twisted as I am, the romantic in me allows hope to dance her dangerous way through my heart...which brings me here to pollute the world with my nonsense, 'cause, you know, all the other kids are doing it.