Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reindeer and Chimneysweeps and Fairy Toadstools

The reindeer is a source of life for the nomadic Laplander tribes of the arctic. Because the reindeer sometimes eat the psychotropic toadstools known as amanita muscaria (fly agaric, which is also poisonous--flying reindeer?), these animals are also valued by Saami shamans who, in visions, soul-journey on the backs of reindeer, or through the chimneys of their homes. In Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, little Gerda sets out on an almost shamanic journey, on the back of a reindeer, to rescue her friend Kay.
In some areas of Europe, chimneysweeps, associated with the Yule season, were considered good luck and portrayed as distributing gold coins, red and white toadstools (fly agaric again), and four-leafed clovers. They were also identified with coal, which wasn't negative, but a source of light and heat.

As for Santa Claus, he may have originated from fertility deities such as Holland's Black Peter, who carried a sack full of babies to deliver, in the new year, or the Nordic fertility god Freyr, who was king of the elves.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Writing: Paper or Plastic?

As old-fashioned as it seems, some writers prefer the simple comfort of writing with pen and paper and inspiration seems to strike me best this way. (You have to be a fast writer though.) It also gives me an excuse to purchase some really pretty journals -- I like the freedom of keeping the world I'm working on in a journal I can carry around like a grimoire. (It's also wise to have a water and fire proof document safe.) And there's always pressure when I'm hunched in front of a computer screen, hoping no technical oddities will occur because of faulty software or hardware or because Mercury's in retrograde or whatever.
I write the first draft by hand within a few months, then complete the final drafts on the computer for the expediency and clarity of revisions. The world of my book, its rules and characters and locations, may be contained within a physical journal, but the information is also on computer file. I definitely appreciate the convenience of technology, but, as far as dreaming up the films inside my head, being away from it, surrounded by books, is how I prefer to work.
(Illustration: Adelaide Claxton)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Magic of Keys


   Unchanged in shape since the fall of the Roman Empire, the key has a number of meanings -- trust, secrets, temptation, knowledge, protection, initiation, opening and binding. A key hung upside down near the bed will keep away bad dreams. A silver key means temporal power, while a gold key represents spiritual power. Skeleton keys have the ability to unlock all doors in a building. Hecate, the Greek goddess of witches, is known as a keeper of keys. The two-faced Roman god Janus is picutured with keys, as a god of gates and doorways. The Keys of Solomon are grimoires supposedly relating the spells and rituals King Solomon was taught by the mysterious Queen of Sheba.
   In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice finds a gold key that fits into a tiny door for which she must drink an elixir to shrink and enter another world. In the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, another gold key opens a door which leads to an evil fairy who sends Sleeping Beauty into her enchanted slumber. In the fairy tale, Bluebeard, an innocent girl marries a nobleman who gives his bride the keys to the house and warns her not to open a certain door -- behind which are the bodies of his former wives. In Alice, the gold key represents initiation into the world of spirit. In Sleeping Beauty, the gold key reveals a secret, the spirit enemy of Beauty's family. In Bluebeard, the key is temptation.
   In Thorn Jack, the moth key plays an important role, opening doors for the heroine that represent initiation into a hidden world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Celtic Halloween

Halloween plays an important role at the end of my book Thorn Jack. It is traditionally the night when the spirits of the dead revisit the world and make themselves known. In Celtic lore, this is when the faery folk, who intermingled with the dead as if existing in the same space, are also visible. In Celtic culture, Halloween was called Samhain, Summer's End, the end of the light part of the year and the beginning of the dark half. It is the night when the Wild Hunt, a procession of spirits, rides, led by any one of the following: Herne the Hunter, the Greek goddess Diana, the Norse deity Odin, Harlequin, King Arthur, St. Lucy (who, in Scandinavia, is believed to be the goddess Freya).

Masks, used in primitive cultures for a variety of reasons, were also a shield against malicious spirits, or used to frighten them away. And the famous 'Trick or Treat' could be a reference to the faery folk, when failure to leave milk or bread for the faeries resulted in some sort of mischief.

In the Scottish ballad 'Tam Lin', a young woman must rescue the mysterious young man she loves from being sacrificed by the queen of the faeries on Halloween.
                      'And pleasant is the fairyland,
                       But, an eerie tale to tell,
                       For, at the end of seven years,
                       We pay a teind to hell.
                       I am so fair and full of flesh,
                       I'm fear'd it be myself.'
Some great books inspired by 'Tam Lin':
                       The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope (set in Elizabethan times)
                       Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (set in a Minnesota college)
                       Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (set in a town in England)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Although I've been writing for a long time, I'm no expert. In this blog, I hope to just talk about writing stories and all the ways it can be done, and about stories by other authors, movies, etc; Since I write fantasy, it'll probably be along those lines, but, no matter what you write, there's one common goal...to connect with your reader.

And, big announcement, Thorn Jack is now available for pre-order on amazon.com!