Archive for October, 2009

A funny moment…

Posted in Personal Life on October 31, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I have a habit of picking up nicknames, right? I’ve got more than I remember. (Oddly, ‘bitch’ figures into a lot of those…hey, I’m just bein’ honest!)

Most of my friends also pick up nicknames pretty easily. So I’m used to the oddities.

That being said, it’s mildly disturbing to realize that ‘Morrigan’ (me) is talking to ‘Ares’ (my friend) about ‘Athena’ (her friend). Some things just don’t mix, and that many war-gods on Samhain eve?

Well now, if the world suddenly suffers a plague of Carebears and My Little Pony in the next few weeks, it isn’t entirely my fault.

October Music Roundup

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Have to admit, I’ve been pretty stuck on Faith and the Muse, Bella Morte and soundtracks this month. The first two are great for driving to work. The soundtracks fit right in with my subconscious attempt to go back to being a night-dwelling being, because I always used to write at night while listening to LOTR, Pirates and X-Men.

So, today is Soundtracks of Note.

Pirates of the Caribbean: No matter what you think of the movies themselves, the music is awesome writing music. Hey, it combines two of my favorite modern composers: Badelt and Zimmer. While we may never reach the genius of classical music, there’s a lot to be offered by some of the Hollywood score writers.

Sad, but true.

Kill Bill is a collection of composers. Lonely Shepherd is stunning.

Chronicles of Narnia is a nice blend of softer music and good cinematic theme music.

The Matrix. C’mon. Again, regardless of what you thought of the movies, the music rocks. I’ve been listening to In My head for at least 5 years, and never gotten tired of it. Don Davis, Juno Reactor, James Newton Howard, Enya, Rob Dougan, there’s a great mix in here!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has one of those songs that I NEVER heard it…heard it and fell in love…and now I hear it at least once a week. This happened with Killing Moon from Donnie Darko too. But the theme for this is great. Cheerful, bouncy and quirky!

A Clockwork Orange is mostly remixed classical music. The score is every bit as wacky as the movie.

Lord of the Rings: Howard Shore. Enough said, yes? The man is a genius. I have been listening to this music since I was 14, and listened to it three days this week while writing.

Blackhawk Down is another Hans Zimmer. I put him right up there with Shore, Badelt and Howard.

Pink Panther is just insane. Great for a not-serious scene.

Southland Tales has some nice instrumental music.

The Piano: the score is absolutely beautiful and gentle.

The Watchmen: yes yes, it’s 80’s remixes. But it’s FUN 80’s remixes.

Natural-Born Killers is Nine Inch Nails, Cohen, Cowboy Junkies and others that I love. This is where I started listening to Cohen.

Anything Bollywood. Bollywood is usually a love-or-hate thing. But if you want some prime examples of good Bollywood writing music, email me. I’ll send you Kabhi, Fanaa and Dil Chahta Hai.

Donnie Darko is dark, quiet and quirky. Perfection.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of a Thousand Daggers.

Last of the Mohicans is one of those that I tend to forget about. But I Will Find You by Enya is a great song, and it’s surrounded by equally strong offerings.

There’s a great song, Cells, by The Servant. I can’t find the music online to listen to, so I don’t know if the rest of the band is so good, but I love love LOVE this one song. It’s a bit techno, a bit cinematic. If anyone has heard other music by the Servant, please let me know!

So there you go. Some new things to listen to, hopefully.

Also, if anyone knows of other good soundtracks, please comment and let me know!

Samhain: Myth and Tradition

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

There’s a Western tradition of taking pagan holidays and sanitizing them, making them cute and child-friendly. Hell, it’s the same thing we did with fairy tales. For a culture that is now obsessed with horror, the supernatural and the twisted macabre, we have a strong tradition of white-washing the scary and handing out candy in some strange parody of observance.

I don’t think any holiday has been so affected as Samhain/Halloween. The sacred, dangerous memorial of the dead has become a kiddie-fest, a laughter at a tradition we would do well to respect.

Myth and Tradition

Growing up, with grandparents that avidly listened to Rush Limbaugh and believed that the Freemasons were working with the Catholic Church to make the world worship Satan, Samhain was presented as a particularly gruesome holiday. I will never forget the Chick tracts–a particularly weird and noxious idealogy–that graphically depicted* Druids dragging virgins from houses to rape and sacrifice them, or modern-day ‘Satanists’ drugging and abducting children to kill in honor of the devil.

Fortunately, even as a kid with a somewhat warped concept of other religions, this appeared mildly sensationalized. But, how many people actually believe that? Too many.

When I was researching folklore for vampires, I stumbled across some interesting correlations. In many beliefs, someone born** over the Samhain/Day of the Dead holidays (whatever time of year that culture celebrates it) is fated to be a Vampire, or unusually clairvoyant.

It is also interesting to note that this was the ‘New Year’s’ day for the Celts. It was a time to remember the dead, to put the grief and memories to rest and move on into a new year. Farmers figured out which animals to slaughter for meat for the year, and the winter began.

Yes, this is also believed to be the day where the veils are thinnest between the spirits and mortals. Spirits of the dead are more likely to talk, things go bump in the night, etc. It can be scary. Maybe it’s the scariest thing for a nation, a culture that doesn’t want to believe in the supernatural, in the reality of things other than steel and concrete.

*I have always had the sneaking suspicion that Chick tracts were horror-porn given morals so that a certain brand of people wouldn’t feel guilty indulging in interests that make even me cringe. Seriously, go look at those things sometime, but take a bucket of bleach to clean your eyes, hands and brain. It’s all the more disturbing because this is supposed to be ‘holy’. I’m sorry, but I’ve read horror that isn’t as perverted and disgusting as Chick’s stuff.

**Yes, I was born on Samhain/Day of the Dead, which lends unusual irony to my early nicknames of ‘witch’ and ‘vampire’. My ‘New Year’ seems to naturally fall on my birthday anyways, so this festival always takes on special meaning. Also, it SUCKS as a kid in a conservative family, because not only do you not get to go have fun, you can’t have sleep-overs for your birthday, because everyone else is out having fun without you! Yes, this is a very, very long-standing grudge. To this day, I have NEVER been trick-or-treating.

Excerpt: Untitled 10/30

Posted in Excerpts on October 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

There’s a saying that, if you walk up the side of Harmony Mountain, you will hear the angels sing.
If that’s what Heaven sounds like, then something’s gone wrong with this world. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe my head’s so fucked up, maybe my ears are so twisted and my heart so black that even Heaven sounds like Hell.
I wouldn’t be surprised.
After all, I’ve been to Hell. Doesn’t really scare me, y’know? It’s like going to a haunted house. You know there’s got to be ghosts and shit there, so it’s just a trick of the mind, a primal weakness when you scream because some guy in a crappy costume jumps out at you.
You should come to my haunted house sometime. Just sayin’. I’ll show you some crap that will turn you inside out.
Horror ain’t all in Hell. It ain’t all what you see. Sometimes it’s what you are.

Choctaw Mythology

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2009 by Jaym Gates

A while back, my family traced some genealogy. Apparently, I have ties to four Native American tribes, two from my grandmother, two from my grandfather.

Amusingly, my grandfather’s side was Lakota and Cheyenne. I say amusingly because I’ve been fascinated by the Plains cultures from a very young age. So I’ve done a decent amount of reading and research on Plain’s cultures.

From my grandmother’s side though, we get the Choctaw and…something else. Damned if I can remember what at the moment. Never really researched that much.

But, I needed some beasties for a horror story today. So…I decided to check out Choctaw myth, since I was planning to set this story in the South.

Oh my.

Wikipedia: The Choctaws have stories about Shadow beings. “Nalusa chito”, also known as an “Impa shilup,” was the soul eater, great black being, or devil.[1] If you allowed evil thoughts or depression to enter your mind, it would creep inside you and eat your soul.

“Nalusa Falaya” (long black being) resembled a man, but with very small eyes and long, pointed ears. He sometimes frightened hunters or transferred his power of doing harm. Some believed that “Nalusa Falaya” preferred to approach men by sliding on his stomach like a snake.

That’s…pleasant. Some perfect stories there, but I’ll pass on meeting those critters. But that brought something to mind that I’d never really thought of before.

Plains myths tend to be fairly open and optimistic. There aren’t really all that many nasties in them, and if there are, they get killed by some hero. It’s a very sun-lit sort of mythology.

The Eastern/Southern myths have much nastier creatures in them. Shadow beings, things that actively work to destroy a human’s heart or soul. They are often filled with horror stories, but the hero usually does overcome the evil.

There’s not much point to that ramble, just that it’s interesting to see the difference in mood between cultures who are distantly related.

And I think I’ll stick to the Plains and West Coast myths, thank you.

Places to Write About

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Any time you write fantasy or science fiction, the question of setting comes up. It’s pretty easy to make purple trees and pink people, but there are times when a little reality is nice. And there are places on earth that are more weird and fantastic than any fantasy world.

I’ll do a couple of posts, and get some guest posts in here, but for now… Some from a trip I took a long time ago, a cluster of parks that simply overwhelm the senses.

Zion National Park is where I want to die, so I can haunt it for eternity. No, seriously. It is that breathtaking. I went here about six years ago, and I’ll love this place till the day I die. Maybe beyond.

This is the place that most directly influences Inherent’s Jastu. The paga and baltza are lifted straight from Zion’s peaks and valleys.

Places of note: Angel’s Landing. 4000 feet high, Angel’s Crest is a monolith that you can climb. But it’s not for the faint of heart, because part of the trail is so narrow that you can look down on either side of you to see the valley, 4000 feet below. angels-landing-p_jpg

There really isn’t a picture that does Bryce National Park justice. I went there during the early spring, when there was still a lot of snow on the ground. The white against the sunset-red rocks, the evergreens, the sky…the colors are almost painful. The natural formations are dizzying, and on such a grand scale that it’s impossible not to feel tiny.

Places of Note: Sunset Point is one of the places we went, a natural outlook over the canyon. Show up in time to catch sunrise or sunset, but be sure to bring a coat: it’s cold even in June. BRYCE-NP-SUNRISE-H.

Speaking of stone and color, Arches National Park is as spectacular as anywhere you can find. It’s much more open than Bryce or Zion, vast distances broken by the most unearthly of natural sculptures. Arches National Park

Anywhere in Moab, Utah. My uncle is an avid mountain biker, so I got exposed to lots of places from the viewpoint of someone who knows them well. Moab is a beautiful, lonely, desolate drive. utah-moab

Speaking of Utah… I’ll probably never find images of it. But there’s a point where you leave the highlands of the western part of the state and descend down onto the flat lands. It’s absolutely breathtaking: an absolutely flat plain hundreds of feet beneath you, broken with little towers of eroded rock here and there. And the only way down is on a dirt switch-back. Never, EVER, do this in a motorhome. There’s a reason I have gray hair… Utah friends, help me out here with where this would be?

Brainstorming: Nameless

Posted in novels, writing on October 27, 2009 by Jaym Gates

As mentioned before, names and their power are a recurring theme in my writing. Maybe this is the influence of the more Aboriginal belief system I seem to have landed in? Anyways, I attach a huge amount of significance to the names I give my characters.

And as I plot a new novel while Inherent sits at rest, I realize that I want a name to be a central point to the story.

A creature who changes with every name he is given. If he is called ‘demon’, he becomes some form of demon. If he is called ‘fool’, he will be a fool. Whether this is a literally physical transformation or merely a psychological one, I’m not sure yet.

He would be a dangerous man. He could literally be anything. He could be Mouse or Elephant, King or Slave. Originally, I thought I might make him immortal. But where is the fun in that? I’m determined to write good mortal characters, and he offers the perfect vehicle. There is also the possibility that the right name could make him immortal, or mortal, dead or alive. Names are very literal for him, you could name him ‘Richard’ and he would be a ‘Valiant Leader’ because that’s (I think…) what the name means.

But when do you forget yourself? What would remain after years of what would surely be a horrible psychological terror? For the spell to work, he would have to have forgotten his ‘core’, his real name. He is nothing without a name, and so he seeks names, hoping that he might some day find his own again.

His only ‘safety’ is that a name has to be accepted into the heart to be effective. He could, theoretically, deny a name and therefore a change. But would he remember that he could do that? Would he have memories from previous names? It might be more powerful if he remembers just three memories from each name: One good, one bad, and one piece of wisdom.

He will also be one hell of a wild card. If he’s not the main character, then no one knows what he’s going to do. So he would be an outcast at best, a slave at worst.

If he is the main character…can you, as a reader, handle following half a dozen incarnations that might take place within moments of each other? Or would that be too hard to read?