Reflection of Beauty by Alyne de Winter at The Pandorian

Reflection of Beauty by Alyne deWinter

at The Pandorian

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My short story, Reflection of Beauty is based on film maker Jean Cocteau‘s classic film

Le Belle et la Bette, or Beauty and the Beast. Predrag initially commissioned this story to be included in an art exhibition based on this film to be held in New York City opening October 31st 2011. Funding went the way of the failing economy, but the artwork and this story are still alive.

Based in London, artist, curator, and designer, Predrag Pajdic has illustrated this story with magnificent photographs and published it on his blog

The Pandorian. Her’s the link:

http://thepandorian.com/reflection of beauty

It’s a bit film noir, Southern Gothic, and very mysterious… Please stop over at The Pandorian and enjoy the story.

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This image is not one of the illustrations for Reflection of Beauty, but is still  fitting…


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Cinder Doll: A Gothic Retelling of Cinderella

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Cinder Doll

 

By

Alyne de Winter

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A strange Gentleman came to the village. He took over the decaying mansion on the hill and, in a few short months, restored it to its former glory. He spoke to no one, and those he did see came and went by only night. Once, it was said, he’d entertained the mysterious Count St. Germaine, inspiring rumors of arcane interests; that his library was filled with heretical books and cabinets with hidden springs, of potions, magic wands, scrying mirrors…. Blue orbs sometimes shone about the house, forks of lightening, tongues of flame. Local boys reported that they’d seen the statues in the garden step down from their plinths and walk.

One winter, the Gentleman died. His impoverished relatives flew up the tree-lined drive, their dark cloaks flapping in the cold breeze, to view the body. Golden-haired Helena was among them. At sixteen years old, she was still subjected to her mother’s moods, and her mad obsession with Uncle’s house, especially with his mysterious windfall of fortune.

“How did he do it, Helena? I’m sure he never earned it clerking,” she would say.

Unable to contain herself when Uncle died, Mummy was the first to arrive at his wake.

When Helena burst into tears at the sight of the coffin, Mummy escorted her into the library. There, Helena stood gazing out at the bare trees, at a pumpkin half-buried in the snow, the statue of a princess. She imagined a handsome gentleman riding up in a carriage. Naturally, he would fall in love with her on sight, and rescue her from her overbearing mother and that hovel they called home.

The clock gonged. There was an odd cricking sound as the figure of a girl wearing a cat’s skin came out of the clock, stopped, spun about, and went back inside. The clock was very tall and dark,  carved to look like some monstrous tree from the forest. Helena hoped to see more figures emerge, but the second-hand jerked around the clock’s monotonous face, locking its denizens inside for another hour.

There was a glass cabinet filled with dolls. Two were identical, with red bouffant hair and beauty spots on their faces, dressed in extraordinary wasp-waisted gowns with layers of skirts over panniers. Tiny hats floated like sailboats in the tortuous waves of their hair. Their faces were plain and pinched as if their pointy scarlet shoes were too tight. Oddly, they held knives in their hands. Bloody knives.

A loud gust of wind drew Helena’s attention to the windows. The clock chimed the half hour. Hinges  creaked. She turned around to see an object fly through the air into the fireplace.

A small, gray face looked up through the ashes. Helena bent down and lifted out another doll.  In size and shape it was smaller than the twins, and what remained of its singed-off hair was blonde. The porcelain face was coated with soot as were the arms, hands.  The doll’s dazzling, fur-trimmed ball gown was scorched and besmirched as were her little fur shoes.

I don’t imagine anyone wants it, she thought. I shall rescue it from the fire.

****

As the coach rocked them home, Mummy prattled on as if Helena wasn’t there.

“Oh, he was deep in it. Deep in it. Flasks, potions, coils, that dreadful oven shaped like a bull.  Such wickedness. Wickedness! Telescopes, star maps, pictures of demons. Books written in blood. But what was most alarming were the dolls. All under bell jars. All of their faces well-known. Powerful, wealthy people. People from the Court. Even His Majesty was among them.”

Helena was amazed when Mummy reached into her bag and took out a large bell jar. Indeed, an exact miniature of their handsome, young King was inside of it. The expression on his face was strained as if he were in some terrible distress.

****

Helena washed the ashes off the doll. As the gray crust melted away, a beautiful face appeared, shining and serene; a face of fine porcelain with set-in eyes of hyacinth blue glass. Luckily, the doll had not been badly burned. Only her dress and her hair. Both went into the fie. Helena put the doll’s cleaned petticoat back on, and the fur shoes with their heels and long, pointed toes. Then she set the doll on the dressing table against the mirror.

When she got into her hard bed that night, and pulled the thin blanket up to her chin, Helena could not sleep, but lay awake for hours gazing at the doll.

****

Helena sat in her rocking chair holding the doll, imagining what  kind of dress she should make for it. A plain muslin frock like her own, or something more grand? Her mother had ordered a bolt of  silk the color of blue hydrangeas. Soon, a bolt of lace arrived, and another of creamy white silk. For under-things.

“Helena,” Mummy said barging through the door. “I want a gown fine enough to wear to Court. I’m to have an audience with the His Majesty. “

Helena recalled the poor King in the bell jar and was worried for him.

“Uncle knew what he was about,” Mummy continued. “Mark my words, I shall do the same for us.”

Mummy was almost never home after that. Helena suspected she went to Uncle’s house.  She spent the day sewing her mother’s dress. By night, she used the same fabrics to make a magnificent gown for the doll. It was far lovelier than those of the two red-haired twins in the cabinet.  And the cloudy bouffant wig, made from a lock of Helena’s own hair, was exquisitely adorned with tiny blue flowers. She kept the fur shoes as a reminder of the doll’s rebirth from the ash pile.

“You are now Princess Hyacintha. You shall return to the palace in time for the Grande Ball,” Helena said.

****

The full moon was at the window. So bright it was, that Helena woke inside a dream of flying through a blossoming garden in a magical coach. The rays of the moon shone upon the doll that in turn fell into shadow as its reflection in the mirror began to glow. Chandeliers of silver and crystal sparkled in the depths of the mirror. Lights glimmered there, whirling to the barely audible strains of a waltz. The doll’s reflection suddenly stood up and floated inwards, towards the lights.


He was smiling at her through a haze of moonlight. The music swelled and lifted them off the ground as they waltzed gracefully down the room. The man who held her was strong and handsome, dressed in fine clothes, a man of means. A man of the Court.

“Where did you come from?” he whispered in her ear. “You are the loveliest lady I have ever seen.”

The clock was striking the hour. Long and long it went, gonging out the time. A skeletal figure wrapped in a black cloak emerged, swung its scythe, then turned, and went back inside the clock again. Panic gripped her. She tore away and ran down the stairs, across the lawn, and through the woods to a low house with a sagging roof, where one window burned in the darkness.

****

Helena slept through the cockerel’s alarm. Finally the silence woke her.

The doll was sitting on the dressing table against the mirror. Helena touched the doll’s reflection in the glass, and pulled her hand away as if it burned. Somewhere, a  clock was gonging. Had not Death appeared at the witching hour?  Had she not seen those red-haired twins dancing together and leaving bloody footsteps on the floor? Had she herself, been dancing?

Mummy wasn’t home. The blue dress was gone.

She must have gone to Court today, Helena thought.

She waited all day and into the night, finally falling asleep in her chair.

****

The full moon shone in and struck the doll with its rays, igniting again her reflection in the mirror. Helena stirred in time to see that reflection stand up and float towards the lights, and reflections of those lights, shining deep within the glass.

She saw them through a haze of candlelight, all assembled in the ball room. His Majesty smiled as if he’d been waiting for her. The orchestra struck up a waltz that seemed  especially composed for them. On and on it went,  faster and faster, dizzy  and wonderful. His eyes seemed to feast upon her face. Her heart grew hot.

The clock again. The incessant banging. Death coming out swinging. Oh, God, I must get away from here! As she ran down the stairs a red-haired twin stuck her foot out and tripped her.

****

Helena’s knee was bruised and sore. Mum was still not home. The doll sat on the dressing table. Helena cut a length of white silk and sewed a new gown for the doll. It was very becoming, especially with the veil that covered her from head to toe.

The full moon cast its last and brightest beams over the doll. She vanished into its light.

Helena floated into the mirror. A stiff wind blew her through the jeweled palace doors  into the ballroom that sparkled with crystal and firelight. His Highness held her close, whirled her round and round. She could not look at him for fear her eyes would betray her heart.

“Where do you flee at midnight? You must stay,” he whispered. “For I love you.”

The clock gonged again. It was still gonging when she felt two sharp hands grip her shoulders. Torn from her lover’s arms, she screamed. Someone threw her hard down the stairs. There was a terrible crash. The red haired twins looked down at her, with their hands on their hips, laughing. Death looked down from the clock. His Majesty’s brow darkened and the palace filled with shadows.

****

“What are you doing all crumpled on the hearth, you lazy girl?”

Mummy was home.

“I don’t know,” Helena said.

“What is that shoe on your foot? It looks like cat skin.”

Helena looked at her right foot and indeed, she was wearing one of the doll’s fur shoes. The long toe curled up like a tail. Where was the other one?

“And that dress. Why are you all got up like a bride? It’ll do you no good to dream, Helena. Slavery is our lot in life. I have failed to crack Uncle’s secret. He’s taken it to his grave, and there’s nothing more I can do.”

“What of His Majesty?” Helena asked.

“When I offered to release him from the bell jar in exchange for a few gold coins, he had me arrested. That is why I’ve been gone for so long. Lucky for me, I’ve always had a quick wit and presented His Majesty to himself as a gift.  He sent me home empty-handed as if allowing me to leave with my life was payment enough.” Mummy shook her head. “If only I’d known the secret, I would’ve made our fortune.”

Helena was pleased for the King.

“Well, get up and make us some dinner. I’ve had a long journey. Come on, get to work. And please, don’t put on airs.”

****

Mummy was unbearable after that. Helena was forced work harder as if everything was her fault.

“I shall go to the graveyard,” Mummy said. “And use necromancy to make him speak.”

Helena wished her mother would do just that and leave her alone. Soon Mummy was gone every night. Helena went out into the garden where the cat played and watched the moon.

****

The full moon was at the window shining into the mirror. Its brightness woke Helena from a dream of waltzing with the King. There was a knock on the door. At first. Helena thought it was a dream knock upon a dream door, but the knock came again and a shout in the wind, outside.

Helena got up and opened the door. Before her was a glittering entourage. Ladies and gentleman in jeweled robes were gathered on the doorstep.

A trumpet blared. The herald cried:

“His Majesty, King Orfeo, wishes for you to try this shoe.”

A page walked forward bearing a pillow and upon it was a tiny shoe made of fur.

His Majesty strode in through the door and looked Helena up and down as if he thought he recognized her but wasn’t sure.

“Miss, will you please try on this shoe?”

Helena dropped a curtsey, then shook her head. “It is a doll’s shoe, Your Highness. It will never fit on my big old foot.”

“Please,” said the King. “Try, for me.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

Helena sat down. Astonishingly, the King fell on one knee before her. The shoe hung on her big toe for a second, then suddenly grew until it fit her foot exactly. Helena cried out in amazement. His Majesty rose joyfully and shouted.

“I have found my Queen!”

He kissed her foot then held out his hand for Helena to rise. “You do have the other one don’t you?”

“Indeed I do. Shall I fetch it?”

“If you please.”

When Helena put on the other shoe, her nightdress was instantly changed into a magnificent  green gown trimmed with bright jewels. A dark fur-lined mantle rested on her shoulders, held with a clasp the shape of a cat’s head.

One by one the courtiers filed into Helena’s bedroom and, at her suggestion, stepped into the mirror. Grasping her hand, the King led her in towards the lights that were reflected in the hundred mirrors of the palace, there to make her his bride.

****

Helena’s mother sat on a sarcophagus besmirched with the dust of Uncle’s tomb. Two strange ladies came along the lane, leaving a trail of bloody footprints behind. Identical twins they were, with red bouffant hair and peculiar, elaborate gowns.

“What are you seeking?” asked one.

“That you disturb the eternal rest of the Magus?” said the other.

Helena’s mother rose to her feet in eager bewilderment. “The secret of his fortune,” she said. “Has he sent you to tell me?”

“He has sent us to fetch you,” said one.

The gong of a clock echoed eerily through the mist.

“It is time,”  said the other. “To share a secret or two.”

“Give us your hand,” they said in one voice.

Helena’s mother gave one of her hands into each of their very cold ones.

They guided her through the door of Uncle’s tomb onto the tree-lined lane that led to the door of his mansion. There they left her to sit on the shelf of a glass cabinet.

In the dusty, old library a monstrous clock struck the last bell of midnight.

The End

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Dans Macabre Magazine: The Red Masque by Alyne de Winter

The Red Masque

by Alyne de Winter

The chateau stands empty. Moss covers its stones; ivy reclaims it. Without the attention of its Lord, the land begins to fail. The meager grape harvest is testament to barrenness.
Autumn blazed up like a flame, and then died.
Odile appears in a flash of sunlight, cloaked in scarlet. She watches the horizon. He must come. He must come. She circles the fields. The train of her cloak flows behind her like a stream of blood. At dawn she walks, and at twilight…

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To read the complete story press this link:  Danse Macabre Magazine and enter Deleria. Scroll down to The Red Masque and immerse yourself in a tale of true terror.

As you may have noticed I have not blogged for a while. This is because I write fiction and poetry and was publishing my first drafts on this blog. When I began to want to submit work to other magazines with an eye to furthering my writing career, there was a snag. Editors would want first rights and well they should. If my work, even in first draft form was published on the blog, would that count as proper publication? Make my work unacceptable to publishers? After studying this not uncommon dilemma—-I was not alone in this—-I decided it was best to save my fiction for other venues. I enjoy publishing old stories from the public domain so those will continue. I may have to get used to writing posts about the writing process which I currently hate doing. One must have platform in this technocracy today.

I wrote several short stories while I was away and submitted them over the summer. Today I am happy to say that I have had my first one accepted by the fabulous Danse Macabre Magazine. Here’s the link:

Danse Macabre Magazine: Deleria

Please go there right now! Not only will you enjoy the story I wrote, The Red Masque – based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Mask of the Red Death and very grimly set during the French Revolution —  You will love the many other stories and poems, the musical notations, the images that Mr Adam Henry Carriere uses to give his magazine a true feel of magic and Old Europe.


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Melancholia

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The cards lay on the table: Lovers entwined under the Reaper’s scythe.

Not again.

The long fingers with their black nails drummed on the table.

La Morte.

Next of course (what else) the rose blew from side to side in the window, summoning her to look out.

There was, below in the garden, a strange animal known only in tales. The body of a man it had, feet of a griffin, tail of a monkey, head of a lion, and very well-dressed.

Chimera!

She flicked back a strand of her black sheet of hair. When had she conjured this?

Deep in the house, a cello.

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Review: The Little Devil

Review:  The Little Devil

By Simone Solon

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www.glimmerbooks.com

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There is a little Devil in all of us.

This brilliant children’s book is based on the idea that we all have our mischievous side. While it leads to adventures outside of the norm, while a certain amount of hi-jinks keeps one creative, this trickster spirit can go too far. Childhood is a time to live and learn, to discover through experience where the boundaries are and what the difference is between having fun and causing harm or distress to others.

The idle brain is the Devil’s playground.

The story opens with three children being naughty.  five-year-old Elizabeth, inspired by the Muse of boredom, is drawing colorful fishes all over her bedroom wallpaper. Her older brother, Jason, is supposed to be minding her, but has sealed himself into his room to play video games. Their teenage cousin, Jasmine, is also shirking her duty writing postcards to her family and friends.  Suddenly, Elizabeth sees a monkey swinging in a tree in the garden and runs to tell the others.  But this is no monkey. It is the Little Devil come to tempt them. The vice of this particular little devil, with his red skin and horns and long, pointy tail, is that he loves to eat human food, stuffing himself so full that he can hardly walk.

Seven Deadly Sins

And tempt them he does, leading them deeper and deeper into trouble. Like most devilish pursuits, at first its relatively harmless fun. Like ransacking the food cupboard to feed the Little Devil. But things gradually escalate.  Soon the Little Devil has the children jumping off rooftops and, luckily, flying, convincing Jasmine to starve herself to get thin, trespassing on a man-eating troll, creating magical mayhem at a party, until they are finally flying through the night like bombers, trashing the village, destroying homes, all in the name of fun.

Solon’s Little Devil is a master of manipulation and situational morality. She understands how wickedness sneaks up and gradually takes over. Beginning with a breakdown in social values such as good manner sand consideration for others in order to maximize fun, each boundary is breached until conscience is corrupted. Luckily for the children, an elderly  neighbor, Mrs. Bevan, knows that Little Devil and is able to help the children turn the tables on him and, in so doing, set him free.

This very well-written chapter book and is fairly long, but Solon’s adventures and magical touches, like the well in the woods that leads to the Otherworld, keep the pages turning. The illustrations by Katriona Chapman are delightful. This is a great story for teaching children the basic difference between right and wrong, a truth that has gone by the wayside in the last few decades. The story illustrates, through the spirit of play, how things can go wrong, and the sometimes painful consequences for others when one gives full reign to selfishness.  The surprise ending is transformational.

Highly recommended

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Find the book at: www.glimmerbooks.com

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The Mysterious Dreamworld of Leonor Fini

I am cannibalizing an old website of mine; The Mysterious Domain. It was a blog of my inspirations. Now I put all of those on here at Gothic Faery Tales. Leonore Fini was a magical artist that has inspired me for ages. Please enjoy her work!

The Mysterious Dreamworld of Leonor Fini

I first came across this picture in a book about woman’s mysteries published in the mid 1970’s. The minute I saw it, I wanted a Moon Goddess costume too. I have since had few.

When I saw this image the flanking skeleton women were not there. Whoever placed them in the frame has identified Fini’s Moon Goddess as Hekate, of the dark side of the moon. Or perhaps it is a pun on her name, Fini, meaning The End.

Leonor Fini paints dreams. Her elegant canvases are filled with sleepwalkers, ghosts, mostly women and girls with deep secrets. Their eyes filled with wonder, they gaze out at you as if daring you to enter their Mysterious Domain. The atmosphere is feminine, fashionable, laden with  erotic undercurrents, magical glamor, presented in soft, alluring colors that cloak her disturbing visions of the unconscious with innocence.

Cat Woman

It has been said about her that Leonor Fini is the only artist to paint women without apology. Many of her paintings feature strong, beautiful women (many times resembling herself) in ceremonial or provocative situations. Men are often portrayed as lithe figures who are under the protection of her females. The sphinx and cats play major parts in her paintings, as does the theme of ‘the double’. She was equally adept at etching, drawing, watercolor and oil painting. She lived with many cats; up to a total of 23 at one time. The illness of one of her cats could send her into a deep depression.

A Portrait with her cat.

Mysteries

Womens Alchemy

Fini often plays with the triune nature of womens’ mysteries. Women are the holders of hidden knowledge. Close to nature, the realm of the subconscious is familiar. It has no need for explanation; signs are potent and say it all.

Women are vessels, are the openers of locked doors. Sensing already that what is inside is potent, creative, magnetic, she is entitled to the key. It is part of a what a woman is to be deeply effected by what is hidden away and that, being seen, retains its mystery.

The silence of the visual art is the perfect expression for these mysteries.

Biography: What is Allowed to be Told

I stole from Wikipedia again…..bad! Very bad! But you get  references to all these famous artists and places of interest and stuff. I will have more of my own to say further on.

Leonor Fini (August 30, 1908, Buenos Aires, Argentina – January 18, 1996, Paris, France)

She was born in Buenos Aires to an Italian mother and an Argentine father. Her mother left her father before Leonor’s first birthday and returned to Triest, Italy with her child. In an effort to foil kidnap attempts by her father, Fini was disguised as a boy whenever she left her house until the age of five.

lready a dramatic life. The stuff of Opera! And then off to Paris in the 1930’s. How exciting!

After leaving Trieste for Milan at the age of 17, she relocated to Paris in either 1931 or 1932. There, she became acquainted with, among many others, Paul Eluard,   Max Ernst. Georges Battail, Henry Cartier-Bresson, Picasso, Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues, and Salvador Dalí. She traveled Europe by car with Mandiargues and Cartier-Bresson where she was photographed nude in a swimming pool by Cartier-Bresson. The photograph of Fini sold in 2007 for $305,000 – the highest price paid at auction for one of his works to that date.

She painted portraits of Jean Genet, Anna Magnani, Jacques Audiberti, Alida Valli, Jean Schlumberger (jewelry designer) and Suzanne Flon as well as many other celebrities and wealthy visitors to Paris. While working for Elsa Schiaparelli she designed the flacon for the perfume, “Shocking”, which became the top selling perfume for the House of Schiaparelli. She designed costumes and decorations for theater, ballet and opera, including the first ballet performed by Roland Petit’s Ballet de Paris, “Les Demoiselles de la nuit”, featuring a young Margot Fonteyn. This was a payment of gratitude for Fini’s having been instrumental in finding the funding for the new ballet company. She also designed the costumes for two films, Renato Castellani’s Romeo and Juliet (1954) and John Huston’s A Walk with Love and Death (1968), which starred 18 year old Anjelica Huston and Moshe Dayan’s son, Assaf.

She once said, “A woman should live with two men; one more a lover and the other more a friend.” She then proceeded to do so. Stanislao Lepri, an Italian diplomat when she met him, left the diplomatic corp to live with her and painted. Approximately five years later Konstanty Jele?ski, a Polish writer and journalist (i.a. from Kultura) joined them.

In the 1970s, she wrote three novels, Rogomelec, Moumour, Contes pour enfants velu and Oneiropompe. Her friends included Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, and Alberto Moravia, Fabrizio Clerci and most of the other artists and writers inhabiting or visiting Paris. She illustrated many works by the great authors and poets, including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Shakespeare, as well as texts by new writers. She was very generous with her illustrations and donated many drawings to writers to help them get published. She is, perhaps, best known for her graphic illustrations for Histoire d’O.

A biographical song about Leonor Fini’s life is featured on Welsh artist Katell Keineg’s    1997 second album, Jet.

Fallen Angels

Is the Angel in awe of the woman? Does it envy her mortal beauty? Or is the angel that fell for mortal woman and seeded the Divine Spark in the human race?

Strange Magics

There is something of the grave about these images. Fate playing at Cat’s Cradle. Pulling the strings. And then, the empty winding sheet. By their looks on their faces, perhaps someone has risen from the dead.

What is the Mystery? Red Vision

Fear

Virginity

Fini

The Veil is Parted .

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Timeless Realms: Son of Ereubus by J.S. Chancellor

Son of Ereubus (Guardians of Legend, #1)Son of Ereubus by J.S. Chancellor

Through timeless realms and parallel realities, Ariana journeys to discover her true self. J.S. Chancellor has created realms out of old mythologies: Middengard, the land of mortals whose last city Palingard is slated to fall to the soul-devouring Laionai, of Eidolon. Once human, the Laionai evolved into a hive consciousness, gifted by the shape-shifting Dark Goddess, Ciara, with the ability to steal souls. The only salvation for the remaining mortals is belief in the myth of the lost land of Adoria, itself doomed to fall.

Readers come to fantasy seeking the Otherworld. The unfolding intricacies of strange realms are like the unraveling of a great mystery. Perhaps we all guard a legend deep inside our souls, a sanctuary that we keep safe from the corruption of the world. Chancellor builds on this fine resonance to keep us reading. She is particularly adept at conjuring up strange creatures like the ”not quite horse or dragon” Dragee, and the Laionai, like a cluster of ancient Chinese sages.

The story opens with Garren’s brutal execution of a rival warlord. He is utterly ruthless, seemingly without heart or conscience. At the same time an agile, gritty red-haired girl, Ariana, embarks on a mysterious journey, only to be attacked and wounded by Garren. Something about Ariana stirs feeling in Garren that he isn’t supposed to have and he spares her life. She is rescued by a powerful winged warrior who forces to accept an alternative reality. By doing so, Ariana discovers her true identity and the role she is destined to play.

Son of Ereubus is a fun read, fast paced and exciting. As the plot darkens, more secrets come to light. Ariana grows and Garren finds out he has a heart.

I would love to see deeper development of the Dark Goddess, Ciara and her worship. Chancellor gives us a tantalizing glimpse  that will hopefully by more fully exploited in the next two books of this epic trilogy.

This book made me think of Anne Bishops’ Dark Jewel series in its pacing and atmosphere. If you like those, and the genre of dark heroic fantasy in general, you would no doubt enjoy Son of Ereubus.

View all my reviews

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On Taking Your Time

Jack Torrence--one sentence fiction

I don’t usually rant about writing, especially on the blog. I’m too grateful to be able to do it. But today,  I am inspired.
I love short stories. I have numerous collections of these gems of the literary world. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to curl up with a story that I can read in anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours. If I really like a short story I can read it again without having to make a long-term commitment.  Some authors are at their best in the short form, giving you just enough brilliance to satisfy.

I struggle with the short form. Part of this is genre based. Gothic audiences love dense description, evocative atmospheres, descriptions of clothing and furnishings, the more opulent the imagery the better. We are the Baroque artists of fiction. The  last Romantics. I would be disappointed to pick up a Gothic Romance or Gothic Faery Tale and be denied entry into a seductive setting, rich, decadent, emotional, and loaded with mystery. One of the first expectations of a speculative writer its to create alternate realities. All of this imagery requires WORDS.

I have listened at open mics to writers who can  finish a story  in around 5 minutes.  I have noticed that they are by and large “literary” or “mainstream” stories that describe an emotional situation  that reaches a climax quickly and is resolved. No lush settings, no atmospheres, no passages of description that carry the reader away on the sheer power of their imaginative sensitivity to the outer world. They are inner monologues of sorts—-some of them very powerful and even great—-but NOT Gothic Fantasy, and NOT speculative fiction which what I am about. In fact, I am usually the only genre writer in the room.

Part of the problem is because of usual suspect—-the internet. Lots of people read online. I for one cannot read fiction online. Computers = work for me and aside from research, I want to get on and off fast. (You wouldn’t know it by my blog articles, but then I am writing and can’t keep it short.) If I find a story that I like, I cut and paste it and the print it out so I can read it on paper and really enjoy it. Flash fiction online, I skim and forget it. If its really powerful, I might not forget it, I might even print it out. But my tendency is to skim and not really READ, so much is lost in that process.  Some ezines stack these flashy pieces on top of each other in great numbers. More is better I guess. More skimming and skipping for me.

I used to be a poet. I’ve won prizes for my poems. But I am mainly a novelist. This is because I love to create a world an inhabit it for some time. In the same way, I love to inhabit the worlds of other authors that I like. I want to write short, but sometimes characters get in the way of that. They are like zip files. You open them and they keep opening and you hate to lose all that great material.

The normal length of a short story is anywhere up to 10,000 words. Some of my favorites are that long.  I don’t know why anyone is expected to produce abridged works to fit a 3500 word limit. Cutting can tighten and enhance, but after a certain point, it is sheer butchery. Writers don’t write because the King orders us to do it. We write because I want to, and the orders come from the Muse, who inspired us with visions that we are driven to bring to life. Why would anyone work so hard for so long for nothing unless they wanted to do it? So why should one be expected to butcher their work so someone raised on Sesame Street who has the attentions span of a flea can skim it over? Why not teach children how to read for pleasure again? I didn’t grow up and just pick up a book and start reading it. In fact I used to cut them with scissors. My dad TAUGHT me to love literature by giving me great books like he was bestowing a blessing.

I don’t remember who it was, but some successful author said: “Stories will be as long as they are meant to be. It takes as many words as it takes.” Something like that. But its true. Its like when I was in the theater. This director told us before rehearsal: “Take your time.” Which means “TAKE YOUR time.”

If we can’t create work we love, than why bother doing it at all? There are readers for long short stories. One only has to look through the newest anthologies, Best Fantasy, Best Horror, Best Science Fiction to find tales of all shapes and sizes . Even some novellas—-a form I am especially fond of.

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Review: Forests of the Night by Tanith Lee

Forests of the NightForests of the Night by Tanith Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am currently reading this superb collection of short stories by my favorite, Tanith Lee for the second time. She is the Goddess of short fiction as far as I am concerned. And just like extras you get on DVD, Lee prefaces each story with how she was inspired to write it, giving us emerging writers a valuable peek into the mind of a master.

The first paragraph of the first story, Bloodmantle,encapsulates the evocative power of Tanith Lee’s writing:

“February, the wolf month, is also the color of wolves. And through the pale browns and whites of it, something so very red can be seen from a long way off.”

The next story, The Gorgon won the World Fantasy Award. J’adore the Fin de Siecle Elle est trois (La Morte).
Her twist on Snow White, Red as Blood, was my initiation into the magical Lee-world and, combined with Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, made me want to write fiction. The Hunting of Death: The Unicorn is also rich with poetry. All these stories are wonderful.

This book is rare and out of print. I was willing to pay handsomely for it—that should tell you how much I love Lee’s stories—for what my opinion is worth. If you have a chance to read it, don’t miss out.

View all my reviews

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The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat Pt.9

The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains

by Frederick Marryat

Click  here to begin at Part One

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Or scroll to the bottom to Older Entries for Pts One – Eight

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“I remained some time by his side before he recovered. ‘Where am I?’ said he, ‘what has happened? Oh! —yes, yes! I recollect now. Heaven forgive me!’

“He rose and we walked up to the grave; what again was our astonishment and horror to find that, instead of the dead body of my mother-in-law, as we expected, there was lying over the remains of my poor sister, a large white she-wolf.

“‘The white wolf!’ exclaimed my father, ‘the white wolf which decoyed me into the forest —I see it all now —I have dealt with the spirits of the Hartz Mountains.’

“For some time my father remained in silence and deep thought. He then carefully lifted up the body of my sister, replaced it in the grave, an covered it over as before, having struck the head of the dead animal with the heel of his boot, and raving like a madman. He walked back to the cottage, shut the door, and threw himself on the bed; I did the same, for I was in a stupor of amazement.

“Early in the morning we were both roused by a loud knocking at the door, and in rushed the hunter Wilfred.

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“‘My daughter —man —my daughter! —where is my daughter?’ cried he in a rage.

“‘Where the wretch, the fiend, should be, I trust,’ replied my father, starting up, and displaying equal choler; ‘where she should be —in hell! Leave this cottage, or you may fare worse.’

“‘Ha —ha!’ replied the hunter, ‘would you harm a potent spirit of the Hartz Mountains. Poor mortal, who must needs wed a werewolf.’

“‘Out, demon! I defy thee and thy power.’

“‘Yet shall you feel it; remember your oath —your solemn oath —never to raise your hand against her to harm her.’

“‘I made no compact with evil spirits.’

“‘You did, and if you failed in your vow, you were to meet the vengeance of the spirits. Your children were to perish by the vulture, the wolf—’

“‘Out, out, demon!’

“‘And their bones blanch in the wilderness. Ha! —ha!’

“My father, frantic with rage, seized his axe, and raised it over Wilfred’s head to strike.

“‘All this I swear,’ continued the huntsman, mockingly.

“The axe descended; but it passed through the form of the hunter, and my father lost his balance, and tell heavily on the floor.

“‘Mortal!’ said the hunter, striding over my father’s body, ‘we have power over those only who have committed murder. You have been guilty of a double murder: you shall pay the penalty attached to your marriage vow. Two of your children are gone, the third is yet to follow —and follow them he will, for your oath is registered. Go —it were kindness to kill thee —your punishment is, that you live!’

“With these words the spirit disappeared. My father rose from the floor, embraced me tenderly, and knelt down in prayer.

“The next morning he quitted the cottage for ever. He took me with him, and bent his steps to Holland, where we safely arrived. He had some little money with him; but he had not been many days in Amsterdam before he was seized with a brain fever, and died raving mad. I was put into the asylum, and afterwards was sent to sea before the mast. You now know all my history. The question is, whether I am to pay the penalty of my father’s oath? I am myself perfectly convinced that, in some way or another, I shall.”

>The End

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