Another excerpt from “Maiden In Light”

Laurel has a dream about a fire:
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A shower of sparks burst from her. Fire caught wherever they fell, feeding on the stone,  the dead trees, the rags and flesh of the crowd, and grew rapidly, intertwined, rose together in one tower of flame that spurted heavenward. As this raging spire of red-gold surrounded her, the scene melted and changed—no longer a night valley, but the farms
and homes of a little village caught afire. She watched, horrified, as thatched roofs went up and walls crashed inward. Chimneys toppled. The tall grass about a well on the common green withered and crumbled to ashes. Yet the screams of the crowd continued unceasing
in her ears. And the living darkness spread and spread relentlessly, consuming devastated land and sobbing victims at a touch, smoothing ruin and terror into the peace of oblivion. It would swallow the flame eventually.

Laurel woke. She shrieked and swatted blindly at the bedclothes before she realized that they were not burning. There was no fire.  But her pulse pounded. Her heart blazed. Her nerves thrilled with released energies and magic glowed bright on her skin. A warning keen of immediate danger rang through her head, yet the night was undisturbed by any menace. No smoke. No sparks. The bed linen was not scorched…

Continue reading “Another excerpt from “Maiden In Light””

Film Review: The Call of Cthulhu

HPLHS Logo I’d heard about this film some time ago, but only saw it for the first time recently. It’s a silent movie, made in 2005 but filmed as if it were the 1920s.

I’ve seen a number of Lovecraft-based movies over the years–a few pretty good, others passable, and some dreadful–and this is the most faithful adaptation of one of his stories I’ve seen yet.

The story follows the novella of the same name with only minor changes. The main protagonist reads the notes, newspaper articles, and other information gathered by his late granduncle about certain gruesome cults around the world that worship idols of a crouching figure, with “cuttlefish head, dragon body, scaly wings”. Strange events that culminate in March of 1925 suggest that the creature represented, called “Cthulhu” by its cultists, isn’t mythic but lies dreaming in a sunken city in the Pacific.

Cthulhu statue These events are shown in flashback scenes as the protagonist reads about them: his uncle’s conversation with a young local artist who had fantastic dreams of the sunken city and sculpted his own bas relief of Cthulhu; a police raid on a cult in Louisiana swamps; an attack by another cult group in the Arctic on an explorer; and finally the account of the lone survivor of a Norwegian boat lost in the South Pacific about the island risen from the sea that he and his crewmates discovered… and what they accidentally awakened there.

After years of modernized Lovecraft, sexed-up Lovecraft, and Lovecraft dressed up to look like Poe, this is a welcome relief, and a delight to watch.

The film is obviously a labor of love by its makers. I especially liked the care taken with the look of the film:

  • The fonts on the title cards and even the copyright warnings.
  • The scratches and other artifacts on the film to make it look like a long-lost movie from the 1920s.
  • The twisted Cabinet-of-Dr.-Caligari-esque sets for the dream sequences and the city of R’yleh.
  • The shadowed eye make-up on the actors.
  • The stop-motion model of the dread Cthulhu, which reminds me of the work of Willis O’Brien.

For the moMatt Foyerst part, it looks like the 1920s. Some of the actors don’t look quite “period,” however, which makes me ponder exactly what it is that makes some people appear too modern and out-of-place in period pieces. Is it their hair? Their expressions? It’s not always an obvious quality.

But Matt Foyer, who plays the central protagonist, definitively has a face for silent pictures.

I’ve been taking an interest in this type of film, where the filmmakers–usually a small and independent production–use the techniques, sets, and acting styles of an earlier time. Larry Blamire’s spoof and loving recreation of the Old Dark House movies of the 1930s is another example I’ve recently become enamored with.

Dream sceneA friend has suggested that I get some actors to perform a scene from one of my novels and film it for YouTube; my publisher and I have discussed it and decided it’s far beyond our abilities to put together the sets, costumes, and other aspects of production necessary even to film a short fantasy scene competently. I’m therefore all the more impressed when I consider the amount of work and dedication that must go into making an entire independent film.

 

Excerpts from “The Wizard’s Son”

Orlan’s first night at his father’s castle:
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That night, Orlan was put to bed in a small chamber near his father’s apartment. He woke later in strange darkness. Nothing was as it ought to be. The bed was too large and when he reached out he found nothing but cold sheets around him. He was used to sleeping at someone’s side. Where was Ellan? Where was Mama? Tonight, for the first time, he was alone. “Mama?”

With a sudden throb of renewed grief, he realized that his mother was gone. She was not here; he had left her at Lammouthe, a hundred miles away, and he would never see her again. Vividly, he saw her face again, eyes shut, blonde curls limp on the pillow, lips faintly blue.

Dead. His mother was dead.
Continue reading “Excerpts from “The Wizard’s Son””

This book is dedicated to Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft

Both are authors I discovered in my late teens and who have had an influence on my writing, but it’s an odd match-up. The two are radically different in tone as well as scope.

Austen focused her literary attention on personal and domestic scenes–what she called her “two inches of ivory,” portraits in miniature of families and social circles in country villages. Lovecraft’s vision, on the other hand, was of the incomprehensibly vast gulfs of time and space and things that lurked beyond the perceptions of the limited human sphere. So how does one reflect the influence of both at once?

In Maiden in Light, I’ve tried to do it via the experiences of my heroine Laurel. As a budding magician, Laurel has perceptions beyond the human norm and in the course of her apprenticeship with her wizard-uncle, gains a terrible knowledge of dark cosmic forces outside the cozy little world she has grown up in. When she returns to her old home in the city of New York* burdened by the responsibilities attendant on her knowledge, she lives among ordinary people who remain ignorant: her young cousins, her match-making aunt and Mr. Bennet-like uncle. The juxtaposition between Laurel’s duties as a magician and the petty social concerns of her family make up the second half of the novel.

New York is a medieval merchants’ city rather than a country village, but it does have gambrel-roofed houses with eaves nearly meeting across narrow and twisted streets, which Lovecraft so admired in Providence, RI.

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*Not to be confused with any reality-based New Yorks the reader may be familiar with.

 

 

Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (continued)

One of the wizard’s apprentices shows Laurel how to cast a spell:
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“Olyr, will you show me a spell?”

“Very well.” Olyr felt at his pockets for a bit of charcoal, then knelt on the chalk-scarred wooden floor, which was regularly used by the apprentices for such exercises.

Laurel watched as he drew a great circle about himself. “Is that a pentacle or pentagram?” She had discovered both in her readings, but had not yet learned to distinguish between them.

“Pentacle,” he answered, proud to display his education. “A pentacle is a star within a circle. A pentagram is a pentagon. Either can be used to fix the elements of a spell. The five-pointed star represents the history of Mankind. God creates the earth.” He drew a
line down from the top of the circle to the bottom. “We rise from the dust to our mortal state.” An upward stroke, to a point midway on the circle’s rim. “We live our mortal lives.” A third line crossed the circle. “We die and descend to dust.” The next line went down. “But
we are redeemed and the immortal soul rises again into Heaven.” A final stroke joined the starting point at the top.

“I thought that the pentacle was diabolical.”

The apprentice laughed. “Laurel, I know no such crafts! My Lord says that necromancy is the corruption of a right magician and `tis a danger to study such evil. The black arts destroy and pervert. A sorcerer of such arts would draw his star upside-down, pointing
hellward. `Tis all the difference in the world! As we are God’s creation, we are protected within this sign. No evil may pass.” He pulled Laurel into the circle with him, wrote about the rim and placed a gyre—“to set motion”—at the top. In tones which rang loud in Laurel’s ears, he pronounced the words he had written.

Continue reading “Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (continued)”

Excerpts from “The Wizard’s Son”

Since I’ve been posting excerpts from the upcoming sequel at http://www.minl.wapshottpress.com, it seemed like a good time to start posting a few excerpts here as well.

To begin at the very beginning…
_______________________________________________________

The little boy looked up in amazement as hooves clattered on the loose cobbles of the alley and a man in brilliant red rode into the yard. He had never seen such a colorful being before, wrapped from hood to polished heels in a crimson cloak and most wondrous scarlet mantle. A gold talisman glittered upon his brow in the early-morning sunlight. All about the little yard, common folk in home-dyed garb of brown and butternut were out to lift their storefronts and throw rubbish to the gutters, but the boy had forgotten them. He was transfixed by this stranger, who seemed larger to him than all of this small, dirty patch of Lammouthe.

Lammouthe was made up of narrow, tangled streets, mud-daubed buildings around little stone yards, a busy marketplace and a busier port. The boy had never been out of this maze, but at times he would venture to the docks to gape at the tall ships, the mariners who spoke in odd tongues, and the great, greenish-gray ocean, and wonder what was beyond: where did the ships and sea-folk sail to? He heard the names of faraway lands—Persia, Napoli, Arabia, Cathay—and he tried to imagine what they were like, but his imagination would not take him out of the only place he knew. He thought all the world must be like Lammouthe: an endless town by the endless sea.

But as he stared up at this stranger—so tall and handsome, radiant with light and strength—the boy began to believe that there might be other things than brown-garbed shopkeepers and the ever-present stink of fish, things more strange than foreign mariners, more beautiful than the ocean, more wonderful than the tallest ships. Surely this red-robed man must be from the most marvelous place in the world!
Continue reading “Excerpts from “The Wizard’s Son””

Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (continued)

Laurel meets her famous wizard-uncle, Lord Redmantyl:
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The wizard smiled gently…. “Are you glad to come with me now, Laurel?”

“Oh, yes!” she answered sincerely. “I- I felt you and I wanted so much to be with you. I wondered what you must be like. They tell such tales.”

Redmantyl listened with amusement. “What do they say?”

“They speak of your powers,” Laurel replied with unabashed enthusiasm. “They say you have marvelous magic as no other wizard before.” She hesitated, then boldly ventured: “Will you show me, Uncle?”

Continue reading “Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (continued)”

Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (Part 1)

From the beginning of the first chapter:
____________________________

Were there such creatures as the Faerye?

Ambris, called Just, was a gentle soul who would have paused to notice the first spring flowers at the roadside or a glorious sunset or the sparkles of dew on a spider’s web—but he did not believe. Occupied by his business in the bustling port of New York, he had no time to dwell upon such fanciful ideas. Yet, this day, he must hesitate and wonder.

A carriage accident draws attention, especially within town walls: the splintering crackle of a broken wheel, the crash, the spew of dust, the horse squeals and human cries. The coach had barely cleared the gates of the Dolphin Inn stable yard, closed from the market square by a tall wooden wall tacked with advertising banners and official proclamations, when one of the forewheels collapsed, its spokes snapped, and one side of the carriage suddenly sagged low. A crowd gathered swiftly about the small disaster, laughing, shouting hearty jests and advice to the coachman in his precarious seat above, offering useless encouragements to the woman shut within. A cheer rose as the axle snapped under the weight of the sagging coach and the entire front end landed with a thud. The woman within howled her outrage. The spectators hooted.

Ambris watched the riotous scene with distaste; it was not his idea of sport. New York was not his home, but he was a nobleman and therefore obliged by long-standing tradition to aid any maid or child or commoner, subject or no, whom he found in distress. Duty compelled him.
Continue reading “Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (Part 1)”

aethercowboy’s review of The Wizard’s Son

“To put it bluntly: this book was surprisingly good. It wasn’t GREAT, but it was still good. Set in an alternate history, between the 1930s and 1950s, we are introduced to the child Orlan, recently orphaned, or so he thinks, until he meets his long-lost Wizard dad. And not just any wizard! This guy’s the top wizard. Orlan lives with him and becomes his apprentice, but feels that he is not fit for wizardry, as it is a cruel life devoid of human emotions and sympathies, full of war and aggression, and all that rot. So he rebels. While the story could be considered fantasy, magic plays a very small role in this book. It reads more like a coming of age, or a Bildungsroman, than it does a book about wizards.”
The Wizard’s Son by Kathryn L. Ramage, by aethercowboy, Jacob’s Conjoined Feed, October 21, 2010 (use Ctrl A to see the text)