Let’s Have a Kiki

SATURDAY!!!!!

I’m not quite sure why I always am so excited about Saturdays rolling around; left over from childhood and not having to go to school most likely…which now has adapted into my adult life into I don’t have to work today! Of course, I do have to work today–writing and editing and revising, oh my–but I don’t have to be anywhere, nor do I have to do anything I don’t want to do. I am going to spend some time cleaning today (what else is new, it’s an on-going battle here in the Lost Apartment) and I am going to try to get slightly better organized as well (one can dream) and I am definitely spending some time with Razorblade Tears today. But I am feeling well rested this morning (hurray for better living through chemistry), and honestly think I can get everything I need to get done completed. Hope does spring eternal, does it not?

Last night we watched the final installment of the Fear Street trilogy, 1666, which was quite fun. I couldn’t help but love that a lesbian romance through the centuries was at the heart of the story; I am a sucker for those kinds of stories (I was thinking of Anya Seton’s terrific Green Darkness the entire time the movie was back in colonial times; that book has been an enormous influence on me and my writing, and one I don’t often think about)–where reincarnation and lives play themselves out in different times, with the souls going back to try again to get it right. I also remembered a wonderful old ABC Movie of the Week called Crowhaven Farm, with Hope Lange, that was also rooted in that reincarnation/different times trope–it terrified me as a child and I rewatched it a few years ago when it was up on Youtube–it doesn’t hold up as well as I might have hoped, but it’s still quite interesting…I’ve always loved both ghost stories and reincarnation stories, obviously.

Last night after we finished watching the movie (and now we have to decide what new to watch, as Happy Endings played out to its truly tragic end the other night), I transcribed “Wash Away Sins” into my desktop, making changes for the better as I went. It’s an interesting story, of course, but I also need to go back and read some of my old Alabama 1970’s stories to get a better feel for it, and to, of course, name the characters properly; I can’t remember the names of the characters from this time period in my Alabama tales, and there are getting to be enough of them now that I need to keep better track of them and keep my continuity going so there aren’t mistakes. (I really need to do an overall Scotty Bible, as well as one for Chanse; you never know when I might write another Chanse something, at any rate.)

I also remembered that I have an unpublished novella in my files somewhere; years ago I had written a lengthy sequel to Sorceress, but the small press that published Sorceress went out of business or something (the ebook of Sorceress is still up, but I don’t paid anything for sales, if there are any, and I don’t care enough to do anything about it–which is yet another reason why I always say it’s a wonder I have a career) but Spellcaster is just sitting there in my files, doing nothing….obviously Fear Street triggered my thinking about it because it was part of the linked y/a books I was doing along the lines of Stine’s series; set in Woodbridge, California (also where Sleeping Angel was set) and it wasn’t bad, I don’t think; the ending didn’t work and the characters were all straight kids, but I always thought I could go back and change the main character from a girl to a gay boy–he could be a cheerleader, just as she was–and maybe expand it out another twenty to thirty thousand words and voila–another novel finished.

I guess I’ll add that to my list of “books to get finished this year or next.”

I have to say, I really love my new phone, too. The sound quality when listening to Spotify is so much better than my old one, and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous and sharp and so forth; I may go take a walk around my neighborhood later this morning (and before I shower–no point in showering before going out into the heat and humidity of a July New Orleans Saturday; hey maybe I can get phô today!) and take some more pictures. I need to take full advantage of these last weekends before football season begins again, which is when I inevitably spend my weekends almost entirely in front of the television with games on all day–well, Saturday at any rate; I only watch the Saints on Sundays–and so the window of opportunities for working on the weekends is inevitably closing.

And on that note, I am going to close this and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader–no matter how you choose to spend it.

Walk Like an Egyptian

Monday!

Hilariously, when I was writing my blog entry yesterday, I couldn’t remember what I’d watched on Saturday before moving on to Batman v. Superman, and I actually was thinking, I couldn’t have been streaming music videos all that time, could I? And then I remembered, last night while we were getting caught up on Animal Kingdom (which is awesome), that I’d discovered some of the old ABC Movies of the Week on Youtube, and watched two of them, back to back: The Cat Creature and Crowhaven Farm.

When I was a kid, I loved the ABC Movie of the Week. Some of them were good, some of them were awful, and it was interesting to see whether two of the ones I remembered so vividly held up; a while back, I’d discovered The House That Wouldn’t Die on Youtube; it starred Barbara Stanwyck and was based on my favorite ghost story of all time, Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home. I saw the movie before I read the book–and I’ve reread the book any number of times over the years because I love it so much. I was very excited to watch the movie again..and it holds up pretty well (and BARBARA STANWYCK, for God’s sake), but it made significant changes from the book, obviously, and wasn’t quite as good. But it did hold up, and I am sure, were I not such a fan of the novel, I wouldn’t have had those issues with it.

the cat creature

The Cat Creature holds up fairly well, for a television movie made in the 1970’s. For one thing, the story was developed by Robert Bloch (if you don’t know who Bloch was, shame on you–but he wrote the novel Psycho, which became the film, and was one of the great horror writers of the 50’s-80’s) and he also wrote the screenplay. I think part of the reason I loved this movie so much was because it was based in Egyptian mythology (I suspect the ‘history’ was invented for the purpose of the film; you’ll see why as I move along). The movie opens with an appraiser arriving at the estate of a now dead, wealthy collector, and he has been brought in to appraise the ‘secret collection’ of the collector–which includes a lot of Egyptian antiquities (which, obviously, must have been purchased on the black market). There’s a mummy case, which he opens, and the mummy is wearing a strange amulet around its neck, a cat’s head with heiroglyphs on the back. A burglar breaks in, takes the amulet, and then the appraiser is murdered off-camera–but you hear a lot of screaming and animalistic growling, and of course, the shadow of a cat on the wall. The long and short of it is, the cult of the Egyptian goddess Bast, based in the city of Bubastis in Egypt, was supposedly suppressed and all of its priests killed–the mummy is one of them–and there are legends and stories that Bast’s followers could turn themselves into cats that drank human blood for eternal life; kind of like shapeshifting cat vampires (I am certain this is all fiction without having to look it up). Eventually the ‘cat creature’ is captured, the amulet put back around its neck, and the strange murders all solved. Meredith Baxter (before she added, then subtracted, Birney from her professional name, and before she was a lesbian) starred; it also featured Gale Sondergaard, who won the very first Oscar for best supporting actress, as a shady magic shop owner. It was kind of cheesy on a rewatch as an adult, but it could be remade easily enough and could be quite chilling.

cat shadow

The sad thing about rewatching, though, was realizing that an idea I have for a book was liberally borrowed from this story. Heavy sigh; guess it’s a good thing I never wrote that book.

movie of the week

Crowhaven Farm also holds up for the most part. The movie terrified me when I was a kid, and I watched it whenever it re-aired. It’s also a supernatural story, about reincarnation, ghosts, and revenge from beyond the grave. It starred Hope Lange, who inherits Crowhaven Farm when a distant cousin dies, and the original inheritor is killed in a fiery car crash caused by a mysterious young girl. Lange and her husband, an artist, move to the farm, and on her very first day there she remembers things she couldn’t possible know; how to open secret doors to hidden rooms, where the old well is, etc. She continues getting flashes from a previous life, and begins to fear that not only is she the reincarnation of Margaret Carey, who lived there in the seventeenth century, but was someone who was accused of  witchcraft but turned in a coven of witches, who were either hanged or pressed to death. After she finally has the baby she had been longing for, the past and the present collide and she is confronted by the reincarnations of the coven she betrayed, who want her soul for Satan and vengeance. Instead, she turns over her husband to save herself–much as she betrayed the coven in a previous life–and runs away from Crowhaven Farm with her baby. In the final scene, she is in Central Park with her baby when a mounted cop stops to check on her and the baby, and then he reties a baby ribbon in the strange way her now dead husband used to tie bows. She remarks on it, and he just smiles at her and says, “Well, I’ll be keeping an eye on you now” and rides off…and terrified, Maggie quickly pushes her baby carriage down the path, looking back over her shoulder as the credits roll.

crowhaven farm

Not as scary as it was when I was a kid, but still, not bad; and it, too, could use a reboot.

I started rereading The Great Gatsby again yesterday, and am starting to remember why I didn’t care for it so much; none of the characters in it are particularly appealing. Tom Buchanan is kind of a dick, Daisy’s not much better, and Jordan is kind of a snob…and Nick himself isn’t particularly interesting. The writing is good enough, though–but I rolled my eyes when I got to the end of the first chapter, when Nick sees the green light on the dock on the other side of the bay and witnesses Gatsby standing in his yard, his arms outstretched in the direction of the light, and remembered how my American Lit teacher went on and on and on about the symbolism of the green light.

Christ.

It’s also kind  of weird to be reading a book about rich white people in the 1920’s so soon after reading about poor white people in the present day in Tomato Red.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Bad Blood

Lois Duncan was probably,one of the most influential y/a writers of the twentieth century. I know of several women crime writers today who consider her an influence; and there are probably dozens more than I don’t know about. I didn’t read Duncan when I was a teenager, but discovered her, ironically, when her novel I Know What You Did Last Summer was turned into a film in the 1990’s. (I say “ironically” because Duncan hated the film; they turned her mystery novel into a slasher picture, and she was unequivocal in her disdain for the film. One of the things I liked about Duncan was she didn’t mince words and was rather salty.) I got to meet her when she was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and her on-stage interview by the incomparable Laura Lippman was a highlight of that Edgar Week for me.

I read another one of her books this weekend, for Halloween Horror Month: Gallows Hill.

gallows-hill

The first time Sarah Zoltanne saw Eric Garrett, he was standing out by the flagpole in front of the school talking with a group of friends. Backlit as he was by the afternoon sunlight, everything about him seemed painted in gold–his hair, his skin, and, as far as she could tell from where she stood some distance away at the top of the cement steps,it even appeared that he might have golden eyes. In her literature class back in California she had done a unit on mythology, and the image that immediately leaped into her mind was Apollo.

Great opening, right?

Lois Duncan saw herself as more of a suspense writer than a horror writer; and it was only in a few of her novels for young adults that she crossed the line into the supernatural. Gallows Hill, despite it’s cover, doesn’t have anything to do with witches and/or withcraft in any way other than it’s kind of tied to the Salem witch trials, and that makes it a reincarnation novel; a book about karmic retribution and karmic debt than witchcraft; it’s kind of like Crowhaven Farm that way. Sarah herself has a bit of psychic ability; to look into a paperweight that had belonged to her grandmother (who may have been eastern European; Sarah is often described as looking like a Gypsy) and see things she shouldn’t be able to see. She also has troubling dreams about the past–not her own past, but centuries ago past.

The reincarnation theme tied to Salem and its witch trials has been used before, not only in Crowhaven Farm but in a really terrific novel I read in either the 1980’s or 1990’s called Salem’s Children by Mary Leader (who also wrote a terrific novel called Triad that I read in the 1970’s and loved), which was about the descendants of the people involved in the Salem witch trials and reincarnation (great, now I want to read both of those novels again); I remember the main character’s name was Submit, which struck me as odd at the time.

I really enjoyed Gallows Hill, but I wish it would have been longer, and gone into some of the plot points and the characters, as well as the theme of reincarnation, a little more.

Interesting that I am always drawn to reincarnation stories.

Love Will Keep Us Together

Yesterday, since there wasn’t an LSU game to stress over, I simply did chores and idly watched (had the television on while I read or did chores) some games–Texas A&M vs. Tennessee; Alabama vs Arkansas, Florida State vs Miami–until we started watching some of our shows. I have to say, given what has been going on in the country over the last few years, and particularly since Friday; Friday night’s episode of  The Exorcist was especially powerful. What I really enjoyed about it was it showed how seductive evil can be…and the scene on the el, when Casey was basically being groped and assaulted by the drunk bro in front of everyone who watched and did nothing? Absolutely horrifying, and yes, while not wanting to provide spoilers, I had no sympathy for the dude bro.

Kind of how like in Carrie, I didn’t have much sympathy when the bullies started getting theirs.

But while I was watching football games yesterday, I was also rereading Danse Macabre by Stephen King. It’s really quite exceptional, even better than I remembered; it’s an examination of the horror genre from a personal perspective, but it’s incredibly smart. It could, quite seriously, be a text for a Genre Fiction class. It’s written in, as I mentioned, an incredibly accessible style, yet it also delves into serious scholarship and examination of the primary themes in the genre. It really, really is quite brilliant.

I overslept this morning, of course, as I am wont to do on Sundays, but the great thing about it is that I feel completely rested for the first time in days. I’ve already done the dishes, intend to clean up around here, and then I am going to write for a while. Then in the later afternoon, I am going to take my camera out into the neighborhood and take some pictures. There are some interesting changes going on down on Magazine Street.

Oh, yes, horror; I am supposed to be talking about horror, aren’t I?

When I was a kid, ABC used to made-for-TV movies and aired them on Tuesdays as the ABC Movie of the Week. Some of them were ‘important dramas’; like Go Ask Alice; some were bad comedies, some were mysteries, and some were horror. Many of them were quite terrible, but some of them were memorable; they often used film stars past their prime, and while I admit I’ve not seen any of them in years, the first one I remember–one that terrified the crap out of me–was Crowhaven Farm; which is on Youtube, and I have it on my watchlist, but haven’t gotten to it yet–partly because I fear it won’t hold up, and what scared a ten year old might seem silly to an adult.

url

I don’t remember the entire plot, but it had to do with a city couple either inheriting or buying Crowhaven Farm, and moving out to the country because their marriage was struggling; partly because they hadn’t been able to conceive a child. Once they reach the farm, though, the wife–Wikipedia tells me her name was Maggie–starts remembering things about the farm that she couldn’t possibly know; she walks over to a wall and touches a secret latch that opens a panel to a secret room, for example. She starts having flashes of a past in Colonial times; and there are ghosts walking around Crowhaven Farm–that apparently have it in for her. They take in a foster child but then Maggie learns she is pregnant…and some of the memories have to do with her being ‘pressed’–a punishment where suspected witches were placed beneath a wooden panel and stones piled on it until she is crushed to death (it always seemed like an unpleasant way to die to me). Back in Colonial times, the area had it’s own Salem-like witch issues, and it turns out that Maggie, back then, escaped death by pressing by ratting out some other witches who now want to get even with her in THIS life.

The ending was especially scary to me.

I used to watch the movie every time it aired, because I enjoyed it so much…and I’ve never forgotten about it, either. It popped back into my memory when I remembered that Barbara Michaels’ superb ghost story Ammie Come Home had been made into a Movie of the Week called The House That Would Not Die, starring Barbara Stanwyck, and went looking for it. I found it on Youtube…which suggested Crowhaven Farm to me.

Good stuff.

I also hope to start reading Bracken MacLeod’s Stranded tonight.

And now back to the spice mines.