Mirror mirror on the wall…

Everybody turns at the sound of breaking glass. There’s something dramatic about it, irreparable, frightening even. Broken glass is a symbol for the point of no return, a change so drastic it’s impossible to fix; that was why everybody turned at the sound of the fallen picture frame.

“Thank God it’s not a mirror,” somebody exclaimed trying to see the up side, because what’s worse than broken glass? Broken glass with a silver backing…

Superstition is a funny thing. It’s the sum of a random act with negative societal associations multiplied by the person’s fears and added to a number thought to have mystical properties. Superstition is so powerful it would make the person responsible for the break watch their every step and attribute all negative experiences between now and the next seven years to the broken glass, the one with the silver sprayed on the back of it.

People are born not knowing what they look like, which I find extremely poetic. You can form an impression from people’s descriptions, but getting to look into our own eyes is impossible without the help of a reflecting device. When I was four I used to love looking at the little girl inside my closet door so much my parents actually thought I had a narcissistic disorder. No one ever thought to ask if I understood it wasn’t somebody else.

Beyond children, to the unknowing people of the past it is understandable how an object that reflected a person’s image could be captivating. Without knowledge of light waves it’s not difficult to attach magical properties to such a thing. It’s easy for us to forget how the manufacture of plate glass was a relatively late discovery and that in order to turn that glass into a perfect reflecting surface, a currently simple, yet formerly complex chemical process is required. Imagine the excitement and the novelty of seeing your image in a plate of silvered glass as well as the terror experienced when the “magic” that held your face within it shattered to a million pieces.

Mirrors have held mystical attributes ever since antiquity and in fact, the ancient Romans believed that the mirror reflected a part of your soul. A broken mirror, presumably obsidian, signified a break in the person’s wellbeing. Some say seven years was the time it took for the soul to renew itself after the break. To some even now, a mirror’s fall from the wall means a death is imminent and in fairytales they know true beauty. In Jewish tradition mirrors are covered when someone dies in order to avoid their soul getting trapped in them or so that demons are not attracted through them by the void left by the death. And not forgetting my personal favourite of course: Vampires cannot be reflected in mirrors for they have no soul.

In 15th-16th century Venice where the science of mirror making was the most advanced in Europe at the time, mirrors were astronomically expensive. Any servants discovered to have broken a mirror were forced into indentured servitude for seven years in order to pay back the cost of the object. Add that to the centuries of awe caused by the mystical qualities of the reflected image and a powerful superstition takes shape.

What’s the most enduring fact of all? Fear of ill luck can race through the generations, fuelled only by the power of the spoken word, without a shred of proof other than what we interpret as misfortune. We can find bad luck in anything if we search hard enough or if we are looking to confirm what we think we know. As it turns out, the impact of words is more powerful than a thousand broken mirrors…

In the Presence of Blood…

…A Vampire is Born.

Without further ado, here’s the final cover for the third book in the Affliction Series.

With some luck and more hard work, it will be coming out in April provided both my editors are done on time and my ARC reviews don’t take too long. I’ll be sending ARC copies by the end of March so anyone interested comment below or contact me via all other available channels and I’ll put your name on the list.

In other news, Bathory’s Secret print version has been a little delayed, but will also be available in the coming weeks. I’ll send out notifications as soon as that’s nearing completion as well. Vampire Edifice will follow but not before the end of spring.

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Affliction Series gets a facelift!

You’ll be happy to know that after a brief hiatus my cover designer is back to work on my covers. After some thought I decided that though the old look was very beautiful, it didn’t scream Vampire Hist Fic so we decided to tweak the look a little. The cover for Bathory’s Secret has received a face lift and Vampire Edifice has been given a new cover altogether, and one that I was initially going to go with before opting for the current one. Having thought about it however, I came to realise that the initial one was better so we went back to it.

Book three, which will be titled In the Presence of Blood, is in the final stages of editing and with some godspeed and luck will be out by April. I will share the cover as soon as it is finalised but for the moment you may feast your eyes on the first two, which will be going live in the coming week.

Without further ado I present you with the new covers:

Tada!

Merry is a word just for Christmas…

As Slade once said: It’s Christmas! That time of year when the “Western world” gets jolly, celebratory, let their hair down-if those hideous jumpers are anything to go by, and feel all warm and fuzzy. Christmas, as the marketing spiel likes to drum into us, is a time for family, connection, reflection and affection. Awesome! Right? I mean I’ve seen Rudolph horns on cars y’all!

Besides Christmas, it’s my understanding that most cultures make an approximate three-month habit of celebrating something whether it’s New Year’s, Easter, Diwali, Hanukah, Holi, Day of the Dead, I could go on… My point is that people feel the need to celebrate something grander than their boring old mundaneness every few weeks and aspire to something loftier, holier and connect, both to each other and whatever sense of the divine each community has.

So my wish for Christmas, (make it real sparkly tree) is that people learn to connect to whatever natural desire is within us for divine expression and have those cutesy thoughts in mind every day and not just because a stupid day on the calendar is approaching. He wasn’t even born in December, ok? How cool would it be if people baked for old people’s homes every month for example, instead of just because they’re reminded it’s JC’s b-day? (No more than that though, old folks have diabetes and shit.)

As for the bidness at hand, i.e. book news, and on account of the fact that I have to live in society, I too shall become engrossed (though begrudgingly) in the baby Jee festivities and be back in a couple of weeks with more updates. (See what I did there?) Anyhoo, I’m currently feverishly working on preparing the paperback version of Bathory’s Secret and finishing the edits for book 3. I’m also seriously considering changing covers ‘cause my graphic artist has disappeared and I need stability in my life right now; you don’t dump me, I dump you alright?!

Despite the fact that I’m much enamored with my existing cover, perhars it’s time to look at it afresh; so, unless a Xmas miracle ensues and she decides to make an appearance, I’ll probably be entertaining you with new visuals, though I do resent the additional spend-xmas stole all my money already!

So, Happy, Merry (who says that anymore unless it’s xmas?), Holi Christmukah y’all and I shall catch you in the new year.

Peace! And I mean that literally. I’m off to write to Santa for some moola!

 

What did you just say about English?

My blog post for this week isn’t ready yet, so instead I thought I’d share a cool little article on English I stumbled upon yesterday. I don’t know how many languages this author speaks fluently to be using them as points of contrast or reference but from my perspective of five (at various levels of fluency) I can guarantee that English spelling is child’s play compared to Greek or Russian; his argument about the popularity of spelling bees on this premise alone almost lost me, but I’m glad I kept reading ’cause he makes some interesting points about other aspects of the tongue. I also take umbrage at the whole “English is weird” tag because language shouldn’t be called weird-language is a living narrative of the perceptions and experiences of those that have come before us. Calling it weird is like taking all that at face value and nothing more.

Anyhoo, despite my little rant, this article is really quite fun. Enjoy!

English is not normal!

 

The Night Circus-Review

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two children are bound by magic in a game where they are destined to face each other in a distant future. Neither knows who their opponent is at first, nor what the game is all about. This only becomes clear to them as the years progress and their magical skills mature. Other than knowing who the two opponents are, we as the audience, are also unaware of the nature of the game.

I read this book purely out of sheer blurb curiosity. The description was so deliciously vague and the reviews so enthusiastic it was begging to be read. From what I could surmise it was about a circus with supernatural elements which I liked the idea of.

What I was not aware of, and about which I am pleased in hindsight, is the fact that it was part love story. I say I’m pleased because had I known there was a love story at the heart of this I would most likely not have read it. Having read it however, I am happy to say that it’s one of the sweetest love stories I’ve ever read-mind you, I don’t really read love stories so don’t have a lot of experience to speak of-paradox?

“The Night Circus” is a truly unusual book; not because it tells the story of the aforementioned magical circus but because it is mostly narrated in the present tense, though it keeps jumping backwards and forwards a few years depending on the chapter, something I only realised a few chapters in. It’s not imperative that you keep a close eye on the timeline but it helps to be aware of it. It is linear for the most part and there isn’t much of a back story as much as a present story which continues uninterrupted for about thirty years.

“The Night Circus” is also somewhat of a formal book. Much like the Victorian aesthetic it adopts, the language keeps the reader a little at arm’s length with a sense of linguistic formality that is subtle enough to position you in the mind set of the period but also present enough to keep you squarely in the position of the audience; both the book’s conscious audience but also a member of the circus’ audience which watches enthralled as the magic takes place. This is where this book’s skill hides in my opinion. Each word in there feels carefully selected to convey the complex imagery and emotion required. This careful wording manages to create a beautifully decorated, rich and flamboyant world. I could literally sense the clutter in the rooms, the texture of the fabrics, the effect of the magic and the stakes involved. Rarely has a book been so successful at conveying a three dimensional experience with the ability of alerting all my senses.

The only place I feel it lacked a bit was in the cohesion. At times it felt like less important characters got more screen time than they deserved considering their overall contribution to the work. For example, the love story only really takes off a little over half way, and considering how pivotal it was to the conclusion of the book I was left feeling like it needed to be a little more centre stage.

View all my reviews

Brief update-Affliction book #3

It’s officially been a year since the release of Bathory’s Secret and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d be sitting at my desk putting the finishing touches not on book #2 but book #3 by now! Say it with me: “Whoop whoop!”

I have almost completed the first edit and taken out as much of the roughness as I can at this point. After that I will let it sit for a week or so before going in again for more fine tuning and corrections. I hope to have it with my editor by December, preferably earlier December rather than later December but sadly that’s more up to him than me. Fingers crossed!

I’m pretty sure I’ve settled on the title too, but will reveal it when I’m 100% sure it’s right. The cover is also in the works.

In other news, the paperback versions of the other two books are getting finishing touches and I hope to have Bathory’s Secret, at least, available by January. Someone please send me a little additional time in the post… There’s so much to do!

Final bit of news is the inception of book #4 in the Affliction series and hopefully a little surprise story. We’ll see how I get on with time and will update accordingly.

Mozart is delicious!

A couple of posts ago I got to talking about Jake Gyllenhaal and relatabilty in a fictional character, which then led me to thinking about heroes and inspirational personalities. Ok, it was both that and the bottle of Mozart liqueur I found in my fridge today from visiting Vienna a couple of years ago. That train of thought led me to realizing how important Mozart was and still is to Vienna, besides  the financial benefits he brings.

I then ruminated on other important personalities and their adopted or native towns. For example Florence has the Medici and a host of renaissance artists, Lisbon has Pessoa, London has Shakespeare, Dickens and multiple monarchs, Rome has the Romans, Da Vinci and the Pope (whatevs, not casting any aspersions this time, each to their own.) My point is that we all like having someone to aspire to. One glimpse at a comic con and it is made obvious how people’s ultimate aspirations and fantasies are literally worn on the sleeves of the different guises they choose to adopt, except in the case of Vampirella of course, who has no sleeves.

Vampirella

For many, the ultimate ideals come in the form of historical figures, for others it’s fictional figures-heck I bet even Hitler had a hero, and by his strategic boo-boos something tells me Napoleon was a poor choice. For the unimaginative or emotional amongst us it’s our parents but whatever the case, the fact remains that we all aim towards something greater, something bigger than us, an archetype that gives us a greater purpose, a nobility, a worth.

I don’t know to what extent the touristy propaganda works on residents of the towns of the greats but I imagine there is some awe inspired in the Viennese by the fact that Mozart lived and worked in their city, in the same way that the scores of tourists get when they visit the sanitized remains of the house he once occupied. As if walking the halls will make you absorb the lingering molecules of his genius that are suspended in the ether (hoping that the guy in front of you didn’t get the last one) or that looking at copies of the scores he wrote will somehow make you understand what made the man great.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, it feels as if I’m flogging a moot horse. We know what heroes are all about, it’s an old trope: Homer, Virgil, Dante (definitely do not go to see his house in Florence incidentally), Shakespeare and a few others besides have made us ponder the issue of what makes a hero and from old poet to new a few gold standards remain: bravery, integrity, intelligence, sacrifice, love, fearlessness etc; what interests me however is the motive behind all that. Not the motive behind the writer or the hero, but the motive behind the reader, the thoughts that the hero invokes in them, the memories it triggers, the emotions it sparks.

Even if the thoughts are not conscious, the desire is still there. For someone it might be H.G Wells for the politics or D.H. Lawrence for his grit, it might be Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, the inventor of the locomotive or the dude who sang Gangnam style. Whatever it might be, we all appreciate people who are good at something, who are better than us, who have something to teach us whether they intended it or not. People who might reach into us and compel us to do something new and brave or something we might never have done in different circumstances like take up arms and fight in a war just because our ideals have been galvanized…

What does that say about the human condition? What does it teach us about greatness and aspiration, inspiration and respect and what does it say about divinity? If we all aspire to some form of greatness, what is the bigger message other than the fact that I need to clean my fridge out of old liqueurs more often?

salzburgs-mozart-distillerie-refines-mozart-chocolate-cream-for-60th-anniversary

So what if there’s no title yet? Elementary my dear Watson…

I wrote them today, I wrote those two awesome little words that every author covets with every fibre of their being and I did it! I did it! I did it! After a 3500 word marathon yesterday and 4500 word marathon today, I managed to get to that lovely place where I could joyfully say “THE END” and mean it, Truly, Madly Deeply! Yes, yes, yes, the deed is done, book three is officially over!

Ok, maybe it’s full of typos, anachronisms and inaccuracies but let’s not stray away from the point here folks; it’s time to stick a fork in it cos it’s done, done, doned! (yes I said doned, that’s how much I want to stress that this f&cker is in the past!

Don’t get me wrong now, I loved every minute of it, and I will go in (at a date that is not today) and clean up that shit like it’s grime under the rim of the toilet bowl, but I will stop here to emphasize just how very done it is! Beginning, middle and end, done! In the famous words of the venerable Ali G, booyakasha! Kati can chill for a few days before I find new ways to ruin her life!

Anyhoo, I shall now proceed to curb my enthusiasm by doing something else and get back to work in the morrow for my eyes have bled copiously today. I even wondered whether I should’ve taken more screen time to write this post, but it had to be done! Now I’m going to grope around in the dark for the shower and not look at a screen for maybe… twenty minutes!

Ciao folks!

“Southpaw” vs “Hitman: Agent 47” and the power of relatability

Spoilers at no extra charge!

In the last few weeks I’ve been very focused on why stories are so important to us. It’s not news, granted, but the fact remains that humans really like stories, be that real stories, fake stories, real mixed with fake, regular, political, fantastical, you name it and there’ll be an audience for it.

This was very much on my mind when I went to the movies to watch Southpaw. As a story lover, sports themes are beyond last on my spectrum of interest. I have no time for the struggle, the strife or the pain that goes into becoming a first class athlete. We all know that reaching the top at a physical profession is hard, there’s no story there as far as I’m concerned. All the same I sat down to watch it, knowing very little about it besides the fact that it was a movie about a boxer. Ok, I’m not going to lie, Jake Gyllenhaal was the clincher in that I, ahem… “admire” his acting abilities, *cough cough.* Ok, so the dude’s hot!

To the point though: Southpaw starts at the top of the main character’s athletic career. Billy Hope has got it all; he’s beautiful, talented, rich, famous, rose from nothing to the pinnacle of his profession and all without losing a single fight. The viewer is thrown into this perfect life and finds himself rooting for this guy, because he’s tough but gentle and loving too and who through hard work and talent has managed to build himself a great career, a beautiful home and a family. His wife is his childhood sweetheart and together they have a little girl who adores them and who is adored in return. Pretty idyllic right?

Identifiability is at the core of any story. It’s seeing that character, or part of them, in yourself, or the opposite, putting yourself in their shoes and wondering what would I do in that situation? Southpaw gives sight at a lifestyle that most of us would sell our right kidney to achieve, so we know the stakes involved. However, just as all good stories should, it takes a turn; by way of selfish miscalculation and obedience to his ego, rather than the reasonable voice of his wife, he is embroiled in an altercation and the wife is killed, leaving him with two sets of immeasurable grief, his own and his kid’s. The snow globe has ruptured and it is losing pressure fast.

It is at this point that Southpaw’s life unravels and he slips into self-destruct mode from where he loses his money, his house and is on the verge of losing his daughter both by her being taken into the welfare system and, worse of all, by the force of her blame over the loss of her mother. Now Southpaw is forced to find the strength to start from scratch, retrain, gain focus, control his spiralling emotions and put the pieces of his life back together, senza wife and kid.

Though I don’t wish to spoil it entirely for those of you that have yet to see it, the end is pretty predictable; of course he gets his shit together and wins both his family and his career back by way of some rigorous body and mind training and all’s well and all that jazz.

The skill in this story wasn’t in the plot-we’ve seen all that before. The power was in the telling. The narration of the story showed his humanity, his vulnerability and his weakness in the face of this disaster, for which he was essentially to blame, which made you identify with Southpaw and his struggle. I’ll take a guess at saying that most of the viewers will not be boxers but we all know the stakes involved in one form or another. There’s the rigorous training, the pain, the focus, even the hint at the deep psychological warpage that makes someone choose a profession where they agree to get the shit kicked out of them for money. If that’s not Freudian I don’t know what is.

The beauty about this movie was how well it was orchestrated. It was a story wonderfully told from every angle, be that acting, scriptwriting or direction, each aspect was carefully worked, so much so that I was left wondering if it was based on a true story. From what I can tell it was not, but it had enough realistic elements to make you think so. And by realistic I don’t mean “real world,” I mean that it stayed true to its narrative much like GOT can be realistic provided it stays true to its narrative. In this case the anguish was convincing, and the connection with the character was there because you could feel the conflict between his immense pain vs the urgent need to put it aside and pull his pants up.

The beauty hid in the fact that this strong talented boxer was physically fierce but lacked the emotional means to keep his life together in the absence of his wife. Modern and poetic. By the end not only did he get his life and his kid back but also the emotional maturity to see where he had gone wrong the first time. Whoop Whoop Billy Hope says I!

The trope of making dreams come true and vanquishing adversity resonates with most people and was the key to the relatability of this film despite the out there nature of his profession. It was certainly more powerful to have the juxtaposition of the big strong boxer with the emotional strength of a child grow into his own than it would have been a corporate world worker who for many might be a more familiar sight but maybe not as strong a message.

Southpaw should totally be up for an Oscar this year.

In contrast to this Hitman: Agent 47 was, on paper at least, more of the kind of movie I would purposely go to watch. Spy/Sci-fi in nature and with some cool genetic tweaking thrown into the mix, it had the potential for good movie watching and yet it fell flatter than an A4.

Perhaps it marks the difference of a script written purely with the goal of commercial success as opposed to one that has all the signs of a decent creative venture.

The main character, a highly sensitive, genetically mutated girl who is on the run from something called the Syndicate is being hunted down for her skills which will be used to locate her father, the only man who knows how to make more of her. At first she appears scared, vulnerable, down to earth and bohemian; she is also a technophobe and a map using (yes real paper), archive digging polymath who, in theory, I should have been much more able to identify with. Yet I was left completely cold. The script was poor, full of holes and lacked conviction. One minute she can sense people coming for her in her sleep and the next she is fully awake and alert and doesn’t sense jack shit. What the fuck is that all about? Poor script that’s what.

At no point did I relate to her plight, which is closer to my field of interest than a male boxing champion ever would be; neither did I connect with her emerging bad assery, which felt rushed and out of character. She was as delicate, damaged and vulnerable as they come yet at no point did I feel concerned that she might die. Neither did I wonder how or whether she was going to get out of all of it alive, despite attempts to make her appear charitable, humble and chosen. Her own attachment to the male characters was cold and weak (nothing like Southpaw’s connection to his wife) even though one of the male leads turns out to be her brother who wakes her long suppressed childhood memories of abandonment. Blah!

Katia starts off as a frightened, feeble semblance of a human being but through the help of 47 she is given the space to grow and mature as the movie progresses so that she can come into her own, an improved version of the genetically enhanced human being that we know her to be by way of the film’s messages. In her universe her struggle is also very real; she fights to prove that both she and the automaton that she is travelling with are responsible for their choices and that they are not simply action figures made up by the sum of their parts, or that their mutated powers and lack of emotion, as in the case of 47, are affecting their humanity. Great in theory but it all fails to transfer out of the glossy look on the screen. Her pain simply does not contaminate the viewer.

I don’t know if you need to see both these films to recognize the similarities other than read about them here, but I thought there were enough common points in the search for personal growth at high stakes to make me wonder about weak and strong story telling. One failed miserably whereas the other was a major success. The power is always in the telling of the story.

Everyone struggles, everyone knows fear and loss and sometimes even bravery but it’s worth nothing at all if by the end of it the character leaves you cold. Blockbuster shootemups might be great for the adrenaline rush you get from watching them but I know that its Southpaw’s maturation and growth that will stay with me for the longer term.

So I ask, what is it that makes a viewer/reader empathize with the character?