Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Little Break to Savor the Season

To all my friends who regularly visit this, my humble e-bode, I feel an enormous gratitude to you for being here, for reading and offering advice, for helping me grow as a writer and blogger, for offering your friendship. I know the past few days I fell off the radar unexpectedly but I have a house full of family visiting from Mexico. It has been loads of fun but there's little time to write, thus the radio silence. I will be back full force come January 3rd, but in the mean time I just want to wish you a joyous season. I hope you are having a great time surrounded by those closest to your hearts and may next year bring all kinds of blessings to us all.

Never forget to laugh for laughter is the key to the soul.

Best wishes!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Best Five Horror/Scary Animated Shorts

I love the feeling of being scared, of having my heart missing a bit, of holding my breath and covering my eyes in complete and unashamed cowardice. Not in the real world, of course, but in the fantastical world of my imagination--You may doubt it but I'm not that crazy.--Whenever I want to kick back, relax, and have a fun time, my mind inevitably drifts to the genre. Books, TV shows, movies, short movies, anything and everything good enough to cause any of the things I told you before brings me joy. So, it is no wonder that many of my Friday Fun posts relate to the genre and I hope you enjoy them as much as me.

Today I want to share with you more awesome animated shorts. Most of them were made by small independent filmmakers just trying to reach viewers. In that aspect we, writers, are no different than the hordes of artists fighting to make a living off their art.--Not that I can call what I do "art" but you get my drift.--In an effort to bring what little recognition I can to those unknown artists, I highlight today five of the horror/scary/suspenseful animated shorts that have given me the most joy to watch. Hope they do the same for you and you decide to share their work with someone else.

5. IN SICKNESS - This short has been critically acclaimed for the message of love it conveys. Though not strictly horror, it has a preternatural element and it is indeed scary and sad--being that it talks about sickness and death.


4. THE LADY AND THE RIPPER - Another short that's not really horror but that deals with the theme of death, this time in lighthearted manner that will get more than a chuckle out of you.


3. THE GIRL WHO WAS FORGOTTEN - This one is more into the gothic spectrum and hauntingly beautiful. Not horrific at all and even a little sad.


2. THE PASSENGER - This short is scary and hilarious all at the same time. It made me jump a couple of times and what fun I had!


1. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS - In this case the subject matter gets darker dealing with domestic abuse and monsters--both, imaginary and real.-- It gave me the creeps and I hope it does the same for you. =)


Bonus. THE BLACKWATER GOSPEL - This short is not only scary and disturbing, but gruesome. The pacing is phenomenal, the writing amazing, and the animation a treat, so I couldn't pass it. I think it has a deeper message that is worth repeating but I do have to say it gets bloody towards the end. Totally worth it, still: Viewer be warned.

Have an awesome weekend, everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Black Death of Babylon, A Review

The Black Death of Babylon starts with two death bodies, darkened and decayed a few hours after their deaths by an invisible killer that hasn't seen the light of day in over 5000 years. That's where Don Oberbier fits. He's a seasoned investigator of anomalies, none as frightening as The Black Death of Babylon, now he must run against time to find the person who set free this bacteria before fear runs rampant at Babylon University and the real killer finishes up his horrific work.

A dark mystery/suspense, The Black Death of Babylon is atmospheric, enigmatic, and a thrill. Imagine the lovechild of Fringe, The X-Files, The Masque of the Red Death, and Indiana Jones. Weird? You'll be surprised at how well McFadden manages to pull this one out.

The characters are interesting and the reader is treated not only with the mystery behind the killings, but with the many secrets every character seems to be holding up. However, I must say the main character, Don Oberbier, is a hard sale for the reader. He is rude, arrogant, and a jerk who puts people through hell just for the kicks. Now, this is the guy we will follow through the ordeal and the one for which the reader must root...like I said, a tough sell. The supporting characters are better rounded, though, and they are in fact the ones with whom I connected and for which I rooted, so I still enjoyed the ride.

As much as a mystery, The Black Death of Babylon is a Science Fiction that uses the world of Scientific Investigation to propel us into the fear of technology and knowledge without moral boundaries. The science behind the story is pretty sound and allows the reader a rare insight into the dog-eat-dog world of scientific discovery. A nice treat that will also let you wonder just how scary it is to know that a handful of people are in absolute control of the deathliest viruses/bacterias known to mankind. True story kids. Ask the CDC.

My regular readers know I review horror mostly and when I dare out of the genre the results are a gamble. With McFadden's work I was pleasantly surprised and I'm happy to say to my non-horror-readers that this is a great book for everyone. If you enjoy Fringe, this is a book for you, its mysteries will have you all guessing to the very last page. 

If you are interested in Edward McFadden or wish to buy the book, just follow the links back there.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

And That's a Wrap on 2012 IWSG

I can't believe how fast the year went by. It's already December, the holidays are almost here, and the last of this year's ISWG post is knocking on our doors. Where did the eleven previous months go?

Given the time of year, I guess the most appropriate thing for this post is to analyze how far I went on my endeavors this year, what did I learn, but most of all, where did I fail. It's not that I want to brood but it is only through an honest appraisal of our mistakes that we will grow. So here I go...

I'm happy with the way I'm writing now. I've found my groove through organization of what little time I have to write and now I'm moving faster with my current novel. I wrote down a schedule for the whole week and then broke it down for each day and when I actually follow it, I go to bed feeling like I accomplished something; like it was a happy, productive day. It is a great feeling that inspires me to keep writing every day.

What I learned was that even small, tiny progress needs to be put on a schedule. Because I have few hours to write I thought it wasn't important to actually organize my time into slots. "It's so little, anyway"I kept repeating. That only made me feel like I was failing everyday. So organization is key for my spirits and now that I know, I will carry this lesson into next year.

Where did I fail... Well, I kept excusing myself for my lack of progress in the complicated schedule that I have. I repeated to myself that I was doing everything I could but in my heart I knew I could do better. The thing that paralyzes me is fear. Fear to not meet my own standards. What if I raise the bar only to fall flat on my face? That prevented me from asking myself to do more. And sadly, that fear is something I haven't conquered. I know it's there, I know it cripples me, and I know sometimes it wins. What I want to work on for next year is in winning more than it does.

And talking about fear, I would greatly appreciate your ideas and opinions in another matter that has been troubling me for some time now. A few months ago I was talking to my husband about how I wanted to be of more help in the financial aspect of the house, maybe not a big thing but just to buy my books and stuff, you know? He then suggested me to look for a job as a writer, either writing reviews or articles in general for a magazine. The idea to work as a freelance writer implies in my mind a lot of work. It is not something you do in your odd hours, I think. But writing for a specific magazine with an expected number of articles/reviews per month might be doable. I mean, I've been reviewing for free all this time, right? Thing is, I don't have ample experience--only half a year with Dark River Press and a year and a half in this blog--and my only credentials are my published works (only two, so far). My university background is not related to the field AT ALL, not even a Creative Writing curse... so should I do it? Will it take too much out of my time? Will someone give me work? And are there even magazines that pay its reviewers? I don't know... This one is giving me cramps. Any help, please?

I hope your year was, all in all, good and productive. That you learned a lot and are looking forward for more. I wish your holidays are full of love and great memories, and that next year will be even better, grander, and happier for all of us. Cheers IWSG!

Friday, November 30, 2012

About Hospitals and Ghosts

Many of you know I was Physician back in Mexico and that I stopped because I didn't want to miss my kids' childhood. I dedicated my time solely to my two girls for four years and once they were a bit more independent, I started this trip of becoming an author three years ago. Still, I spent most of my youth between the white walls of hospitals and I remember those years fondly. It all felt like an adventure to me. I mean, learning insurmountably big books was not, as it wasn't dealing with somebody else's pain. But there was a lot of fooling around, too, because when you are twenty and sleep-deprived, trapping your friends inside the morgue's freezer sounds like a great idea.

Anyway, when we weren't hiding around to scare one another, we were talking. Most of it was about boys, girls, or sex, but sometimes we would tell ghost stories we had heard. And sometimes ghost stories happened to us.

The way it worked in my school, every six months or so the university would put us in a different hospital. In each one, we would do a rotation through every service during the day, but we would only work the night shift in the services that were the period's main subject like OBGYN, Surgery, ER. You get my drift. This story happened when I was about half-way through my surgery rotation.

Now, hospitals are inherently creepy. People suffer and die in them, so there's never a shortage of scary stories among the staff. Besides, what can be more fun that scare the crap out of the new student, right? So, anyway. In this particular hospital rumor said Basement 1, where all the surgery rooms were located, was haunted. The identity of the ghost varied greatly from a patient who had died thanks to the incompetence of his doctor, to Death itself who came looking for the souls of the recently deceased patients (the morgue was in Basement 2, beneath the surgery floor).

And like idiots that we were, we wanted to see. So, one night that work was low we decided to go into one of the surgery rooms, sit there, and chat until something happened or morning came. Something happened alright, and it wasn't the morning.

I was sitting on a chair, my boyfriend at the time next to me, and on top of the surgical table were my best friend and her boyfriend. We had been sitting there for quite a while and the conversation drifted to the plans for a weekend getaway, so no ghosts were in our mind at this particular hour. My friends sitting on the table were facing the only entrance which was closed (it's impossible to keep a surgery room open because the swinging doors are designed to always close). Each of the folding doors had a square window on top through which they could see the empty hall. It was then that, out of the blue, a person passed by. He did not walk along the hallway toward our room but side to side. Only problem was, our room was the last one of the hall. To our sides were only walls.

Needless to say, my friends cried bloody murder and we all jumped to our feet, confused and scared. Then, to my left, the Mayo Table (an aluminum table used to set the surgical instruments) spun on its little plastic wheels with force.

We all yelled and I didn't stop running until I saw the night sky out of the ER. We talked about it many times, trying to find a logical explanation but there wasn't one. It couldn't have been a joke because no one could get to our room without being seen walking down the hall, because no one--living, that is--can walk through walls, and because none of us moved that table. It was one of the scariest things ever and the following three months I spent in that hospital, I avoided the surgical floor like the plague.

Funnily enough, two years ago I found a video taken in the same hospital where something similar happened a couple of students. In the video they are on the hallway, talking and making jokes. The boy filming with his phone is facing the doors to the last surgery room, where we were that night. I don't know the people in the video and I don't know if they faked it, but it resounds so much with my own experience that I decided to add it to the post. Hope you enjoy being scared =)

Have an awesome weekend!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Is Katniss Really Better Than Bella? Feminism in Present Day Literature


In order to know what is considered hip these days all you have to do is take a look at what the social media is blabbing about. There will be haters and lovers to everything under the sun but when a fad sweeps by, the loudest side will be the one to direct the sea of opinion. With the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, setting box office record, the fad sweeping the entire country is hating the Twilight brand. All of it. Movies, books, author, actors, not a soul gets out unscathed by the masses brought together in their common disdain.

There are pictures in Facebook, reviews in Goodreads, and punch lines with pictures in Pinterest (some of them are quite funny, really). And though Twilight seems to be at the butt of every joke, a few would argue that the joke's really on the haters, since none of Meyer's, Lautner's, Patinson's, or Stewart's checks seem to be bouncing. All part of the Hollywood game. 

I tend to agree. You see, I'm a Twilight lover (the books, not the movies AT ALL) but, as a long time horror fanatic, I see why Edward Cullen’s sparkling, lean, lovin' machine has made every hardcore vampire lover retort in disgust. Then, there's Bella. The pathetically insecure teenager that can't help but fall for the broody vampire has faired even worse in the court of public opinion, taken the blunt of the hatred. And what is it about this character, you may ask, that has offended the delicate taste of the crowds? Well, Kristen Steward's uninspired acting (let's call it that) hasn't helped, and her clearly uncomfortable stance against the media does nothing for her either, but it goes deeper. In fact, the character--even the actress herself--has come to equate everything the Feminist Movement fights against.

Fast forward to the release of The Hunger Games movie. As always, the books were widely popular way before the movie broke out, but the simple knowledge that a movie was about to be made drove thousands of new fans to the saga and soon the inevitable happened. Katniss Everdeen and Bella Swan were at forefront of every discussion, not jokes anymore, but true symbols of what our youth is and admires. Katniss, whose prowess with a bow was a long shot from the whiny starstruck Bella, became her the antithesis and, therefore, the image that defines Feminism for the present generation.

Now, I have a bone to pick with this. I get why Bella is such a nightmare for many women. She is whinny, insecure, and unable to stand for herself. I’m an unapologetic fan of Meyer's books and even I wanted to choke her sometimes.

But let’s check Katniss’ character through The Hunger Games Saga: 

KATNISS
BELLA
SCORE
The sole provider of her family in a post-apocalyptic world where you need to fight for every morsel of food.
Regular teenager trying to find her place in the lives of her divorced parents.
Katniss starts strong and, though Bella’s problems are much more relatable for our teens, I’ll give this to Katniss.
Knows how to handle a weapon and isn’t afraid to do so.
Irremediably clumsy. She can’t play ball to safe her live and constantly injures herself.
Once more, point to Katniss.
Unknowingly, becomes the symbol of rebellion; yet, she fights hard to show the world she is, in fact, in favor of keeping the status quo.
She falls in love with a vampire and fights hard to become one herself.
Here Katniss’ character starts to fall through. When the stakes are raised, she proves to be a run-of-the-mill, insecure, scared teenager. Bella is improving, though very slowly, she has made clear she will get what she want, even if those closest to her don’t approve.
Completely uninterested in having a boyfriend, first because she doesn’t want to have a family in that messed up world, and second because she isn’t sure if she would pick her best friend or the boy who saved her life.
Bella, too, is torn between the love of two boys. Oh, but she’s into it. Even though she says she isn’t.
Teenage drama, plain and simple. Both the same, neither comes above.
When it becomes clear no one’s stopping the rebellion, she not only doesn’t embrace the movement, but lets everyone use her image the way they please and becomes a puppet in the power struggle that ensues.
When the powers that be threaten the safety of her family, she decides to fight against them, even if it means her life. In fact, she and her immortal family lead a rebellion against the oldest, more powerful vampire clan.
Katniss becomes a sad figure, broken and damaged beyond repair by the third book while Bella has found herself. I will give it to the Twilight haters, it is merely a few thousand words in a four book saga and hardly the theme. Then again, Twilight is a Paranormal Romance, THG is a Dystopian Adventure. So I say point for Bella…

Fact of the matter is Katniss spends half of the saga breaking to pieces and most of the third book literally hiding in a closet. I fail to see how this is any better than Bella’s obsession with her boyfriend.

The problem when talking about Feminism is that getting married and tending a home was the only career path available to us back in the days, hence its present bad rep. We look for specific traits in our females in order to select them as our new standard of ‘Girl Power’ like physical strength and open disdain (or disinterest) for men. Katniss is both, lethal and uninterested in boys, but is she truly the incarnation of empowerment? I don’t think so.

Let me tell you it was hard to come across a female character in modern literature that met my idea of Feminism, which is very sad and goes to show you why it is that our teen girls hold so hard to the few outstanding female characters they have available, however faulted these might be. But I finally found it: Hermione Granger.

Think for a moment. She is intelligent, determined, strong, and she might not be able to take a life with her magic wand, but she is powerful nonetheless. Her power comes not from magic, but from within. She is strong because she knows what she wants, what is good for her, where her weaknesses are, and she has a great moral compass. All these traits make her, in fact, a much better symbol of Feminism. A role model for our youth they can actually hope to become.

When we decide to bash a fictional character such as Bella Swan because of its interest in having a boyfriend, we are sending the message that worrying about boys is a sign of times past and a weakness. When we sing praises to characters like Katniss Everdeen for her physical strength we tell our teen girls that this one trait is so positive, it actually compensates the clear shortcomings the character shows in other areas.

Do you think I am being ridiculous? Giving way too much importance to fake and clearly fantastic novels? Well, yes! And therein lies our main trouble. We read too much between the lines. Teenage girls will worry about boys, that’s just how it is, very few of them are the actual providers of their household, and even fewer know how to shoot a gun, forget about a bow. Let’s not make the mistake of confusing physical prowess with strength of character. They like Bella? Sure, why not. Then, show them a book where the female character is worthy of being emulated and talk about it. That will take you a lot farther that trashing the latest fad. Communication is the ultimate way to empower our youth and help them travel the murky waters of adolescence and external influences. It is the final weapon that trumps even books and that’ll make of our kids true Feminists.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Ring Series. Spiral Book Review

Some time ago I reviewed Koji Suzuki's novel The Ring, the first of a four book series immortalized by the movies. I won't go into much detail about the first book, so you may want to follow that link if you're interested in the whole series. I'll just say I loved the book and reading it was a much more fulfilling experience than watching the movies. And that the ending has a twist you will never see coming. I double dare you. If you manage to tell me Sadako's secret, say, by page 220--out of 286 because I'm generous like that--I'm buying you any book you want. And that's a deal.

Now, back to the review. The Ring Series are different from most series in that they don't have many of the same characters from book to book; it also moves between genres, slowly going from horror in book one, to Sci-fi in book three.

In SPIRAL, book two in the series, Sadako is an important piece of the story, of course, but that's pretty much it. The rest of the characters are new. Time-wise, SPIRAL starts right after RING finished. It follows Mitsuo Ando, a man who lost his kid in a drowning accident and whose life has become unhinged as a consequence. Unable to cope with his loss, he hides behind his work as a Coroner. That's when he's faced with the corpse of his previous nemesis Ryuji Takayama, the professor who helped solve the mystery of the tape in book one. The mysterious circumstances of the professor's death intrigue him, and guided by what seems to be Ryuji's ghostly presence, Ando will find himself facing a horrific reality that threatens the future of mankind.

Suzuki's talent for setting the mood, creep you out of your sleep, and crazy-imaginative storytelling are evident once more. The characters grab you from the first page and make you feel their pain, flaws, and their terror as it becomes clear to them that the monster has just begun exerting her vengeance. Once you finish the book and think about it, you realize just how far the author has gone from the original premise and how deep he is getting into craziness. You can also call it Sci-fi, if you want to legitimize it. Truth is, many will find the story in this second book too far fetched and might hate it, but if you are tired of vampires, zombies, werewolves, and witches; if you are looking for out of the ordinary stories, then you can't miss SPIRAL.

If you ask me, I did like it. I thought Suzuki did an amazing job changing everything he made classic with RING and spinning a new different tale from it. I can't stress enough how neither of the subsequent books to Ring have anything in common with the movies. Not even with the japanese ones. SPIRAL will shock you once more and leave you with a very uneasy feeling under your skin.

Soon to come to this blog, a review of LOOP, book three of The Ring Series.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On Wishing a Dream and Baring my Soul

I'm a very nostalgic person and tend to fall into daydreams of things that will never be. When I was younger, I wrote many poems and stories under these sad spells; now that I'm a bit--just a tiny bit--older and have kids, thinking about them growing so fast will make me cry, happy and sad at the same time. I'm also an irremediable insomniac, and it is during these sleepless hours that I give up to my nostalgic side and shed a tear or two, content that everybody is asleep and I don't have to explain my foolish state of mind. 

So, back a few weeks ago, my little one lost her fist tooth. She was ecstatic and I was so sad, realizing I no longer have babies in my house. That night I gave free reign to the feelings inside me and I came up with this little poem. I think many of you will understand what was going through my mind. Hope you like it. By the way, it still doesn't have a name, so any ideas are welcome.

This summer. Little One to the left, Big Sis to the right. But I bet that t-shirt gave her up.

I've got a pair of treasures I've taken care of for many moons now.    
These treasures I envelop between cotton layers every night.            
Tonight I remember the sleepless nights that will never be back,        
I toss and turn with memories of happiness and sadness long past,     
And I give thanks for the time spent--May it never end, I ask my stars.              
Time, the eternal equalizer, I can never stop it in its path                                    
if at least you could promise me my treasures will never wither and die.            
Take my soul, paint my hair all white, mark my skin with your steady hand,      
but never, oh, never take my treasures away from my hands.                              
Weeks turn into months and years inevitably pass by,                      
one day after another, relentless like the tide.                                      
When winter turns to spring in a never-ending cycle of life,               
Promise me one day I'll hear the echo of small new treasures' laughs.                
I have a pair of treasures I know one day will no longer be mine,                       
when the time comes for their happiness to lay in some one else's path,              
I hope they remember the worth inside their minds,                            
I hope they remember I can live forever in their hearts.                       

Just a couple of years ago, the offending tooth still in place.

My husband will kill me, but the three of them were snoring. 
Now you know why I can't sleep.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Did it! Check Out my New Look

Just a few posts ago I shared with you my plans to change the look of this site to reflect the new place I am in this road to become a successful writer. Well, this is the look I came up with and let me tell you: I'm damn proud of it! I know it won't fool anyone to think it is a web, but I think it does look more professional and I did it all by myself.

Now, allow me to tell you I'm not computer savvy at all. I remember how it all started in 2010, I didn't even know what a URL was! This time around I did my banner on Photoshop, added custom media icons, a favicon (that you may not see yet, but trust me, it'll be there when Blogger gets its s**t together), and opened a contact page. Hey, it may seem like much ado about nothing for some, but I could design electronic circles around the old me, and that's reason enough to make me happy.

The new look is as far as I can go without extensively tweaking the HTLM code--which I'm considering taking classes, by the way. So please, let me know what you think about it. Do you love it or hate it? Do you wish I went back to the previous look? Any suggestion, tip, or commentary is welcome, as always.

I'm also considering writing a tutorial on how to design your own banner, designing your blog (with the aforementioned limitations), and adding custom media icons to your site. If it is something you might be interested on, please let me know and I'll be happy to put that up first.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mina's Resurrection Blogfest. Crossroads


Well, today is Mina's Resurrection Blogfest where we celebrate her blog's anniversary, by reviving one old post we think was kinda lost because our, may I say null, readership. Partaking in the spirit, I went ahead and looked through my first year posts. Let me tell you, there wasn't much to be re-shared... I realize now how much more I know about blogging and why on earth no one was reading me back then. I have a much better appreciation for those who stuck with me and for the new followers that have found something half interesting to read here. Thanks to you all, really. You are the best!

Ok, so back to the celebration. Here I repost, as I wrote it in late 2010, my first post about my writing. A strange little piece that fits nowhere but in a blog. And it is so unlike my present writing... Whoo! Talk about changes!

Cograts Mina!

PS. For those looking for my IWSG post, I didn't forget. Please, scroll down. =)


* * * *

A few months ago I was writing what was supposed to be a short monologue from one of the older characters in my novel who was sharing some words of wisdom with the younger generation. Somehow that little monologue grew out of proportion and I had to cut it out, but I just couldn't part with it. I kept it, floating around without a place to be. It doesn't really reflect the story of the novel, since it is kind of a little essay in its own right. However, I share it with you today. I titled it 


CROSSROADS

Life is a crazy ride. Most of the time it's full of uneventful days, sometimes even boring. One day after another of the same occurrences and hard as you may try you end up sucked into the enormous momentum that is “routine”. Life goes on with its ups and downs and at some point we’re bound to find ourselves in a crossroad where we’ll have to make a choice that we know will affect the rest of our life. Usually we come across this kind of decisions maybe once a year every odd number of years, but certainly no more than 10 or 12 in a lifespan.

It's kind of astounding when you think about it: These are the moments that shape a life. When you are 70 and look back, everything you are and have is a direct consequence of merely a dozen crucial moments and most of the times you don’t feel as old as your body tells you.  

You don't think one decision a year every now and then would be hard to keep up with? Well, think again: College or no College? Get married or keep single? Take this job or that one? We don’t come across these questions that often but when they come, boy, they’re hard.

As you may have noticed before, life has a way of confounding us even more so when men in our usual arrogance think we have it all figured it out. “Lets send them a curve ball to spice it up!” And so it happens that one of those 'one-decision-year' turns out to be a 'several-decisions-year'; or even no decisions whatsoever but a series of events that are completely out of your hands and that end up not only defining the future but changing the whole ballgame. Then, at the end of those 12 months you find yourself looking in the mirror with a few more crowfeet and a bunch of new white in your hair but felling like a thousand years older. Those eyes looking back at you in the mirror look somehow wiser and you’re not yourself anymore but, if God was good to you, a new improved you. And you wonder, how is it possible that you suddenly caught up with your age when only 12 months ago you felt so much younger?

So here’s what I think. Had it not been for those “curve balls” we'd wound up at 70 feeling like a 5 year-old (which most 70 year-old men are, anyway). We need the uneventful years to help us process those life-changing years where we find ourselves growing wiser and older; then we use some of the boring times to carve a comfortable place in the new life that was thrust upon us to rediscover ourselves in a wiser state, so we are able to keep moving forward when life knocks on our door again.

After all the things you’ve gone through, when you turn 70 and look back to your life thinking: How the hell did it all go so fast? When the reflection in the mirror is that of an old man that somehow doesn’t seem to reflect who you really feel you are, look real close to those eyes looking back at you and you’ll recognize the wisdom in his eyes even though you don’t feel the years in your skin.
* * * *

There you go. Share your thoughts, any criticism is welcome and I can't wait to hear what you think of my little piece. I hope you liked it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Growing up, Moving on, And Believing in Myself

A new IWSG is here and it catches me as I've decided to get to the next phase of my life as a writer. When I started this blog, almost two years ago, I was unsure about my talent as a writer or blogger. It was after many years of my husband's and father's insistence to give it a try, that I finally decided to toss the coin for my future.

A lot has changed since. Today, I believe I'm a writer. Heck, I even introduce myself as such! I know there is a lot of space for improvement and I can't hardly say I'm as good as I will ever be--certainly, I hope not, 'cause that would suck--but I'm sure I'm on the right track. Writing makes me happy. I've even found out I'm a decent reviewer, who would've thunk it?! I now have published a couple of my works and have many more looking for a house. You could say I'm growing up; maturing.

Now I feel it's time to take those experiences, that self-assurance I didn't have before, and project it on to all of my endeavors, like this blog. As a celebration of my new-found certitude, I've decided to change the appearance, and even the title, of this blog. The IP address will remain the same, since I do not wish to loose all of you, as the posts and vein in which I write. Think about it more like a facelift in an attempt to look more professional and attract more readers to my books. Isn't, after all, that what we all want?

I'm no designer or programmer, though, and my knowledge of computers and programs is very limited, so it might take a few weeks. But rest assured, next month you will find same old me under a newer, hopefully improved, facade. Do not miss the grand unveiling!

Belated Happy Halloween to all, and I hope you are having an excellent NaNoWriMo for those of you with a taste for torture. ;)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Goodbye Halloween and Coffin Hop Winners

I had originally planned for four posts in this Coffin Hop but as my mother used to say: "Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." Hurricane Sandy made a quick visit to the East Coast and my plans were thwarted. I missed half of my posts but I won't just let it go. With the announcement of the winners, I will share with you the last piece of Halloween Monsters and Urban Legends. I hope you  enjoy it enough to keep stopping by my humble electronic abode.

DOPPELGÄNGERS

Doppelgängers are an uncommon image of literature, yet a very grim one. It is the double image of one self, usually not witnessed by others, and believed to be the harbinger of death. The word is German for "double walker" and the portent can be found in Norse, German, Finnish, and even Egyptian folklore. Though it can be defined as a darker form of bilocation, based on reliable accounts of both events, there are clear and marked differences. In bilocation both images of the same person are exactly alike and seem to be located in the same space-time continuum, there are several witnesses to both images, and usually one of them seem to be drained of energy or catatonic. There are no deaths related to bilocation and it tends to be seen with religious undertones. Doppelgängers are commonly reported by the only witness: The original self, they can be a future image of the person, and most frequently will silently point to the form of death the person will experience in a somewhat close future.

Famous reports:


  • Guy de Maupassant, french novelist and short story writer, reported to have seen his double image several times towards the end of his life. On one occasion, while writing, this 'second self' took a seat opposite him and began to dictate what de Maupassant was writing. The experience served as inspiration for his short story "Lui."
  • Percy B. Shelley, the famous poet, saw a ghostly image of himself in Italy. The doppelgänger pointed quietly to the Mediterranean Sea. Shortly before his 30th birthday, the poet suffered a deathly sailing accident, drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Queen Elizabeth I of England encountered her Doppelgänger laying out on her bed. She passed away a short time after the event.
  • Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, the German poet, was confronted by his Doppelgänger while riding out of Drusenheim. His double was riding toward him and wearing a gray suit trimmed with gold. Eight years later, Goethe found himself traveling the same road but in the opposite direction. He realized then he was wearing the very gray suit he'd seen on his double eight years before.
BURIED ALIVE

I had a friend whose great-grandparents were so in-love; after a little over fifty years together they still looked at each other with sweet, loving eyes, and sometimes they could finish each other sentences. One day, as they were driving to visit their son in another state, they got in an accident with a drunk driver. As fate would have it, the lady suffered massive damage and ended up in a coma, while the old man came out with just a few scratches. Weeks later, her state deteriorated and one sad afternoon the doctor declared her dead. As soon as the husband was informed, he became very agitated and claimed it was impossible. He yelled at the doctor saying he was wrong and refused to calm down, so he had to be sedated. On the very day of the funeral, such scene was repeated and, once more, the poor, grieving man was sedated again.

Days passed and the husband's conviction never faltered. He pestered the family to force the doctor to ok an exhumation and make sure the woman was death. He claimed nightmares plagued him of his wife clawing at the insides of the coffin, fighting to be freed. The family feared for the man's state of mind and decided to go forth with the exhumation in the hopes that it would bring him resignation. Finally, the doctor agreed and the coffin was opened one gray morning. To everyone's surprise, the woman had her nails turned backwards and the linen inside the coffin was shredded to pieces, covered in blood just as the man had claimed.

COFFIN HOP

So, the time has come for me to announce the winners. Thanks to all who visited and commented, it was a blast to read all your ideas and now I have a few more monsters to write stories! Without further ado...

  • Third prize and winner of a copy of Perpetual Night and a set of Tim Burton playing cards: Heather Powers, who presented me with the idea of the Ozark Howler. Quite a scary one!
  • Second prize and winner of a copy of Perpetual Night and The Halloween Tree paperback: Milo James Fowler, who brought to my attention the African version of the Chupacabra, the Popobawa. 
  • And the first prize goes to: Kim. For sharing with me the South African Mamlambo. This one is so utterly cool and bewildering... yay!
I hope I will keep seeing you and hasta la proxima! Hail to Samhain!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Monsters and Urban Legends II


This second installment of Halloween Monsters and Urban Legends is brought to you by the letter W, and the number 100. As in 100 blogs for you to hop, here. But first, check out what I have for you and don't forget to comment with your own Monster or Urban Legend. It can be a little known one, or one of your own manufacture. There are prizes for the best three, as selected by the judges. The winners will be announced on November 2nd.

WEREWOLVES

Much of what we know about werewolf mythology was actually added to the traditional tales after the 19th century, like its vulnerability to silver, its supernatural strength, size and speed, and even its famous nemesis: The Vampire. Lycanthropic tales are common to most European countries, from Greece to Slovakia. Since, across the world, the only cultures that seem to lack a lycanthrope are those where wolves didn't roam the lands, modern studious of the phenomenon rationalize the stories as the inevitable result of a world where deathly wolf attacks where a common occurrence. There are also those who argue the myth surged as a way to justify the horrific acts of serial killers like Peter Stumpp, a German farmer and alleged killer and cannibal, also known as the Werewolf of Berger, that was executed in 1589.

In any case, early tales of lycanthropy describe the affected as impossible to differentiate from regular wolves, when in that form, but for the fact that they had no tail and retained their human voice. As humans, there were a few signs that could out the creature like a unibrow, but were otherwise utterly regular folks. The curse was brought about as a consequence of committing despicable acts, like killing children or cannibalism, and could be lifted if no other act of violence against humans was committed for ten years. It was also said that if the corpse of a werewolf wasn't burn upon death, it would come back to live and feed on human blood, effectively turning into a vampire!

THE CLOWN STATUE

The friend of a friend who used to babysit as a teenager once told me a pretty freaky story that happened to her. Her clients were a wealthy couple that lived in a huge house in the outskirts of town, a very peaceful place but quite out of the way. Anyway, on this night the parents had some posh dinner in the town and they called the girl to take care of their two kids while they were out. Since the house was pretty large and adorned with many expensive heirlooms, the couple had strict rules about her wandering in the house.  She was supposed to stay in the family room, which was right next to the kitchen, had an awesome flatscreen TV, and everything she needed to pass off the hours quite comfortably.

The kids were very nice and, after a full day of activities and school, soon they were tired enough to go to bed. She then took residence on the room designated by the parents and proceeded to watch TV. After an hour or so, she started feeling really uncomfortable and there, in the corner, she discovered an ugly, bulky clown statue. It looked like a grotesque antique piece from the 20's, all grimy and covered in what looked like oil.

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end and she couldn't shake the feeling that the thing was looking at her. She tried to ignore it, just concentrating on her TV show, but to no avail. Finally she gave in. She hid in the kid's bathroom, telling herself she was insane for thinking the statue could hear her, but she did it nonetheless. When the call went through, the father answered on the other side of the line.

"Hey, it's Sarah. Look, I'm sorry to call you up like this but that clown statue you have in the family room is giving me the creeps. Would it be okay if I move it to another room or just stick a blanket over it?"

After a long pause, he replies, "Okay, Sarah. I need you to get the children, put them into your car, and take them to the nearest house. When you're there, call the police. We're on our way."

"Wait--why?" She asked all worried.

"We don't have a clown statue."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Monsters, Urban Legends, and the Coffin Hop Kick Off!


It is that time of the year again, the magnificent time when writers and lovers of horror get together around the bonfire to rejoice in the telling of a good scary tale. To add one more layer to the festiveness, we at the Coffin Hop love to give stuff away. There are 100+ blogs conducting their own giveaways, so the more you hop, the better chances you have to win big time! There will be free embellished cellphone cases, t-shirts, books, ebooks, art, and many, many more things. Besides, you'll get to meet new like-minded fun people!


Now for my part, I decided to go back to basic Halloween monsters and urban legends. I'll be covering old school staples of the season like the Headless Horseman, Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, and maybe even Witches, along with the most retold scary stories. I'll be posting on the 24th, 26th, 29th, and, of course, the 31st. For my giveaway, I'll be asking you to bring to the light the best unknown monsters and urban legends. You can choose a real little known gem, or go full out with your crazy imagination. Two of my fellow Coffin Hoppers will select the best three comments and on Friday November 2nd I'll announce the happy winners.

  • 1st place: A PDF copy of "Perpetual Night" by yours truly, a digital copy in the format of your preference of the "Coffin Hop Anthology Sampler",  and a paperback copy of "House of Reckoning" by John Saul.
  • 2nd place: A PDF copy of "Perpetual Night" and a paperback copy of "The Halloween Tree" by Ray Bradbury.
  • 3rd place: A PDF copy of "Perpetual Night" and a super cool set of Tim Burton playing cards.

'K, so drum roll please! Here we go!!

HEADLESS HORSEMAN 

The Headless Horseman has captivated our imagination from the moment Washington Irving hit the "publish" button in 1819. But did you know he most probably based his legend on actual Northern European folklore? The iconic apparition can be found in at least German, Irish, and Scottish tales, though its oldest form may very well be in the Celtic legend of Dullahan. This headless fairy rides a black horse with his head under one arm and wielding a whip made from human corpse's spines.

Scary enough for ya? It gets better...

It is said that the Dullahan only stops riding when it is time for someone to die. The moment he stops, he calls out a name and that person perishes instantly. In a different version, he is the headless driver of a black carriage that can be scared away by casting a golden object on his path. This black carriage is said to be collecting souls as it rides along the Wild Hunt, a spectral group of huntsmen whose sight foretells great catastrophe upon the seer.

In movies (Wild Hunt, Headless Horseman): The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980), The Wild Hunt (2009), Sleepy Hollow (1999).

In books (Wild Hunt references): John Masefield's "The Hounds of Hell", "Perpetual Night" by yours truly.

Ever since 1996 the Historic Hudson Valley organization holds a Legend Celebration on Philipsburg Manor in the real town of Sleepy Hollow, NY, where Irving lived and his story took place. It features a rider portraying the Headless Horseman and is attended by thousands every year. I've been there and it's so much fun, you're missing out...

HUMANS CAN LICK TOO 

A 16 year-old girl is home alone after her parents have decided to celebrate their anniversary and trust her to the sole companionship of her loving golden retriever dog. This is a small town where crime is rare and they would be back in a few hours, so each went their merry way. The girl kissed goodbye to her parents and watched TV until 11pm, when she decided to go to sleep. Her beautiful dog followed her upstairs and, like every night, he got under her bed and licked her hand goodnight. 

A few hours later the sound of something dripping woke her up. It was late and the girl wondered why she hadn't heard her parents get home. With a certain uneasiness, she reached out to her dog under the bed and feeling the reassuring lick, she fell fast asleep.

Once more, a persisting dripping sound awoke her. Much too afraid to get out of bed, she looked for the comforting gesture of her pet licking her hand. Seconds later, she hid her head under the covers and fell asleep. 

Morning came and the silence in the house felt eerie. Not a sound from her parents that she could hear but the annoying dripping sound echoing through her room. This time, encouraged by the rising sun, she went on to track the source of the noise, though strangely, her loyal dog was nowhere to be found... She walked into her bathroom, where the horrific sight of her dog's mutilated corpse hanging from the curtain rod greeted her. The dripping sound came from blood droplets hitting the growing pool on the tile floor. Screaming in terror, she ran to the phone in the living room. There, laying on the soiled carpet, her parent's mangled bodies looked at her with empty eyes. Next to the phone was a bloody note that read: "Humans can lick, too."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Most Famous Haunted Houses

As a great introduction to wednesday's official kick off of the Coffin Hop 2012, I decided to set the mood with ghost stories of the real kind. Is there anything better than a real haunted house for Halloween? Well, here I put together a few of the most famous, but you have to promise to be back and check out my Coffin Hop giveaway! There are books to be given and plenty scary stories to be told. Don't miss it!! Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...


The world of the death is truly one that intrigues us. Through time, there is no other question that has bothered us more than what happens after we're gone. Generation after generation, fear of the unknown, curiosity, and grieve have tangled a convoluted web resulting in ghost sightings and haunted houses that plague us to this date. Of course no one can absolutely refute every sighting, every picture, every story, and that's how the afterworld has engrained itself on our brains with the most tantalizing stories.

It is in this spirit that I present here a list of ten of the most haunted houses in the US. Weather you believe their stories or not is entirely up to you. As for me, I always found Marquise du Deffand's posture to be an intelligent one. As she famously said, "Do I believe in ghosts? No, but I'm still afraid of them."

The Sorrel-Weed House

Located in Savannah, Georgia, the Sorrel-Weed House was formerly owned by G. Moxley Sorrel, a brigadier general for the Confederacy during the Civil War. After Sorrel left for Virginia, the house was bought by Henry D. Weed, hence the peculiar name the house bears today. The present owners of the house report hearing voices, clinking of glassware, music, and many others sounds associated to a party that can never be found when investigated. There are also reports of war sounds, like soldiers marching and guns being fired, but the most famous resident ghosts are those of two women who died in the property under very distressing circumstances. Mr. Sorrel was found having an affair with one of the slaves, Molly, upsetting Mrs. Sorrel so much that she jumped to her death from the second floor porch. Just two weeks later, Molly's body was found hanging from the neck in the carriage house. Suicide or murder? The jury is still out there, as are the tortured souls of both women.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorrel_Weed_House

The Moore House

In 1912, the quaint and booming town of Villisca, Iowa was shook to its core when the brutal murder of eight people occurred during the night without attracting the attention of any of the neighbors. On the morning of June 10, 1912, Mary Peckham realized his neighbors, the well-respected Moore Family, hadn't started their day as usual. Worried, Mrs. Peckham decided to go check on them. When no one answered the door, she tried peaking through the windows, but it was too dark. She then tried opening the door but found it to be closed from the inside. Finally, a few hours later Mrs. Peckham decided to call Mr. Moore's brother, who came in and opened the door with his own set of keys, finding everyone in the house dead. J.B. and Sarah Moore, along with their four kids and the two daughters of a friend who had been invited to spend the night there, had been slaughter beyond recognition with an axe. The murders were never solved and remain surrounded by mystery to this day. The sounds of children voices, objects moving without reason, and sightings of a dark, menacing shadow said to be that of the killer are a common occurrence in the residence.

http://www.prairieghosts.com/villisca.html

The Landon House 

Originally constructed in 1754 on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia, the Landon house was dismantled in 1840 and moved to its present location in Urbana, Maryland. Its rich history tells us of the many roles it has served through time. First used as an academy for girls, transformed into a military school short time afterward, and finally serving as a military hospital during the civil war, it is its present reputation that brings it to this list. There have been reports of all kinds of paranormal activity in the house, from heavy feelings to apparitions of dead Civil War soldiers. Care to stop by for tea?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landon_House

The McRaven House

Located in Vicksburg, Mississipi, it was originally built in 1797 and changed hands a few times in ordinary circumstances. However, it is in 1849 under John H. Bobb's ownership that the McRaven House is at the center of a tragic situation that would determine its fate as a haunted location. The house served as a Civil War Hospital during the siege of Vicksburg and withstood severe damage by gun and cannon fire. Bobb was so angry that he attacked a sergeant with a brink, who ordered him arrested, taken to the back of the house, and shot. His ghost, as those of fallen soldiers are said to roam the house.

http://www.mcraventourhome.com/Ghosts.asp

The Amitiville Horror House 

This one, we all know. The infamous house on 112 Ocean Ave. in Amitiville, NY is undoubtedly one of the most famous and controversial haunted houses in America. It all began when in 1974 Ronald DeFeo slaughtered his whole family, consisting of both parents and four siblings. After a year of abandonment, the Lutz's bought the house and lived in it for twenty-eight days. Windows opening and closing, telephones ringing in the middle of the night, black goo coming out of facets and walls, and the sightings of a pig with red eyes are among the many experiences reported by the Lutz's. The also infamous couple, Lorraine and Ed Warren were involved in the following investigation and supposedly got rid of the ghosts, reason why the current family lives there happily. Except for the hordes of morbid tourists showing at their doors, that is.

http://www.amityvillefiles.com/haunting/

The Riddle House

West Palm Beach, Florida may not be the first location to come to mind when you think about ghosts, but it has a thing or two to scare the pants out of you. Take The Riddle House for example. Built as a gatekeeper's cottage for cemetery workers keeping an eye out for grave-robbers, the paranormal activity surrounding this house scared its former resident, Karl Riddle, out of the house. It all seems to be centered around the death of a previous worker who killed himself in the attic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddle_House

The Hanna House 

Built in 1858, this Indianapolis, Indiana mansion was utilized as a passage for the Underground Railroad. One eventful evening, a group of slaves fell asleep on the straw-covered basement never to wake up again. While the group slept, an oil lantern was accidentally turned over, setting the basement ablaze. After the fact, and in order to keep his involvement in the Underground Railroad a secret, Alexander Hanna buried the human remains in the basement. There have sightings of ghostly black males, the sounds of hushed up conversations in the basement, chandeliers swinging with no apparent reason, and sad laments that echo through the house.

http://thehannahmansion.org

Ashmore State

Is there anything creepier than an abandoned insane asylum? Ashmore State in Illinois is a 'living' prove that our fascination for the macabre can never be quenched. The fact that the decaying building isn't open to the public hasn't stopped paranormal investigators from documenting the hordes of ghosts reputedly residing there. From 1916 to 1956, the building housed indigents and people with mental disabilities. More that two hundred death were reported and from 1956 to 1976 it housed the "mentally impaired." The building remained in use until 1987 when it closed due to lack of funding. Many stories about residents that refuse to move out of the building circulate, but there have also been exposés where a group claims to have invented a ghost with a story to go and afterwards read claims of people seeing said ghost. Still, real or not, abandoned insane asylums have number one of my list of scariest places to ever be trapped...

http://www.ashmoreestates.net/history.html

LaLaurie House 

Known as the most haunted house of the French Quarter in New Orleans, the LaLaurie horror history is not one for the faint of heart. In 1832 Delphine LaLaurie, a woman of high prominence in European society, decided to buy a second house in New Orleans that she managed herself. Soon the family gained fame as one of great wealth and education, and it was considered an honor to be invited to one of the lavish parties the LaLaurie's gave. Though rumors ran rampant of the mistreatment of saves by Madame LaLaurie, it all came to a head on April 10, 1984 when firefighters attending a call on the residence uncovered a grisly family secret. Inside a secret room in the attic, many bodies in different state of mutilation but still alive were discovered. Nobody knows for sure just how many slaves died at the hands of the cruel Madame, but the bones of at least two more bodies, one of them a child, were found centuries later during a renovation, and a neighbor witnessed a fourteen-year-old girl jump to her death from the ceiling with Delphine, whip in hand, in hot pursue. Apparitions of black males with chains on their necks that become violent, cries and screams of pain breaking the silence of night, unseeing hands pushing people off balconies or stairs are all common occurrences.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphine_LaLaurie


Well, there you have. Hope you've come across a couple of stories that you didn't know before and that will keep you awake tonight. Happy Halloween y'all!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hostage of the Devil, A Review

I read this book quite a while ago but it left a strong mark on my innocent mind; so strong indeed that I remember passages of the stories within this book almost literally, as if I'd read them yesterday. And they are just as powerful today, though my mind is slightly less innocent.

Let me start by saying that this is not light reading. Malachi Martin was an Irish Catholic Priest, studious of Theology, and professor at the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Institute, among many other things. He received two Guggenheim fellowships and was highly critical of the Church throughout his life, which made him a controversial figure supported by its most orthodox factions, and regarded with disdain by those in favor of a laxer Church.

If you want a clearer picture of just how high up the ladder he was, it is alleged that he was outside the door of the papal living quarters while Pope John XXIII opened the Third Secret of Fatima. Now, weather you are with him or you think he was nuts, I wouldn't just take lightly what such an informed men had to say about what happened during real exorcisms. And that in itself is scarier than any movie shown in theaters this Halloween.

Hostage of the Devil is a far cry from those stories we've grown so used to these days. There is little said about speaking in tongues, arching backs, cold rooms, or any special effects Hollywood has fed us up. He relates five cases of possession dating from the modern era in which he aided, but wasn't the priest in charge.

There is a lot of philosophy in this book regarding the question of what opens a soul to become possessed, but it is never preachy or difficult to read--remember, I was a teenager at the peak of my religious rebellion when I read it for the first time, and I wasn't bored or annoyed at all.--Martin then, proceeds to relate how the ordeal began for each of the five subjects, how it grew from a thought, to seeing things, to the actual feeling of someone else in your body. And, of course, how it got resolved, how long it took, and what was the price for everyone involved.

Martin makes it a point to show that an exorcism is a war fought in the minds and hearts of those involved, that there are no objects moving by themselves or bleeding walls, and just how high the stakes can be for the participants. A riveting book which intention is to inform rather than to scare, but that scares just the same because of its realism. I could see myself in each of the stories because the characters depicted are regular Joe's, and it left me wondering if I could be next.

This is a book for those interested in knowing what really happens behind closed doors; for those who wonder if the darkness outside their window can creep in; for those who want serious talk about serious evil without any props. If you think you can take it, what better time to do it than during Samhain, then.