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?

Book Reviews: Haunting Tales

Posted in reviews with tags , , , on October 27, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Halloween/Samhain is a perfect opportunity to drag out the horror tales, the scary clowns, blood and demons. There must be hundreds of great Halloween reads out there.

These two are specially-suited for a nice, chilly Halloween read with a cup of cider, a fire, a warm–living–body and a blanket. Both are specifically spooky, which is not unusual. Both are elegant, populated with rich characters, and chilling. True elegance seems to be rare in Halloween fiction.

Anne Bishop’s Tangled Webs
328 pages

The War of the Blood has been fought, Witch has healed, and the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan has made it clear to his Queens that he will not tolerate threats against his wife. All should be at peace, yes?

Not all threats died with Dorothea and Hekata. An un-jeweled landen has just discovered a secret. But his secret, what he believes should put him on a level with the SaDiablo family and the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, is about to get him laughed out of society. A mystery writer, he is being upstaged by another writer, a woman of all things, a white-jeweled witch!

Jarvis has had enough. And then Jaenelle Angeline, Witch, Dreams Made Flesh, decides to build a spooky house to teach the landen what the Blood are…and are not. It’s meant to be a lesson to Blood and landen alike, a reminder of what they bring to each other. It plays on misunderstandings, superstitions and folktales. It’s a harmless bit of fun, so long as you don’t kick the kindred.

But there’s another spooky house on the block. Jarvis hires Black Widows, witches who weave illusion and poison into webs of lethal beauty. He brings in demon children, Eyrien Warlords, and illusions that do bite. And then he sends invitations to the SaDiablo family.

With Surreal and her escort Ranier stuck inside the spooky house with seven landen children, it’s up to Lucivar, Jaenelle and Lucivar to get them out.

But first, Surreal and Rainier have to figure out how to stay alive in a house that takes every advantage the Blood have and turns it against them…and how to turn the tables on a bitter man who doesn’t plan on anyone getting out alive.

Tangled Webs can be read alone, although it’s better to read it after the Dark Jewels trilogy. It’s a spooky, creative adventure with a very real amount of danger to beloved characters. The ending is satisfying, and the action is fast-paced.

For Halloween? Bishop has witches, demons, haunted houses, skeleton mice, grapes that turn into eyeballs, spiders and just about every other Halloween treat you can imagine. It spooked me for sure…especially because one of the huge Palmetto bugs got into my room while I was reading!

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes
215 pages

But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.

Two boys, a Midwestern town, a carnival that is more than it appears to be. Will and Jim are just boys, boys with a town to explore and lives to live. Standing on that weird boundary between child and adult, they spend a lot of time thinking about dreams, responsibility and the philosophy that seems to come with twilight.

The train comes at midnight, chuffing softly into the town. No one plays the towering calliope while the whistle wails with a thousand lost souls. In the morning, it is all lemon yellow, and grass green, and candy apple red; but when night comes, the carnival shows its true colors. All the delights of a boy’s heart are there, and they may cost him his soul, his family, his freedom.

Can Will and Jim undo what they’ve done in time to defeat the grand schemers? Will they survive?

This was my first Bradbury book, and it was easy to see why his books are such classics. Deep characterization, brilliant settings and strong voice make this book hard hard hard to put down! It’s genuinely chilling in a much deeper way than most Halloween-based fiction. And it will certainly stick with you.

There you have it. I’ve found two books, but what have I missed? What elegant, chilling tales of Samhain are out there, and who wrote them?

(No, I’m not making any money off of these reviews. I bought the damn books. And this disclaimer is annoying the hell out of me. Does the government really feel the need to watch-dog blogs now?)

Why no sir, I didn’t place an ad…

Posted in Personal Life on October 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

A couple of years ago, I had a really stressful day. My cat was dying, so I went into work late, being in no mood to exude ‘customer service’. And then I got a call.

An unknown number, a male voice, a noisy background. I almost hung up, but I’d been expecting a call (can’t remember WHAT call…) and so I stayed on the line until he went outside where it was quiet. And then he said “I’m calling about your personal ad in (such and such newspaper).”

I’ve never placed a personal ad in my life. And I’d never, EVER post my cell phone number, or my real name, even if I did.

Apparently, it was a rather adult personal ad. When I told him I had not placed any such ad, he told me my name again…and my cell phone number.

I said I still didn’t know anything about it. He went quiet for a moment, and his voice was completely different when he talked again. Very quiet, almost a little bit sympathetic.

“Then somebody really hates you.”

And he hung up.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more shaken up. I don’t post my cell number. I don’t let it out on the internet, I only give it to people I know well. I am very careful who I add on Facebook.

I never did figure out what happened. Sure, it could have been a wrong number. But a wrong number and the right name sounds like a little too much coincidence to me.

One top of that, a friend’s girlfriend received a phone call one evening from a very gravelly voice and an odd phone-number. He made threats. My friend asked me to walk his girlfriend to her car at nights and just keep an eye on her. Nothing more happened.

Another coworker received about a dozen threatening messages from a computer-generated-sounding voice. Death threats. By that point, since all the events were around the same time and the same work-place, we chalked it up to an unfunny practical joke, or a disgruntled ex-employee.

Last night, someone called my work and asked if I was at work. Ok, a coworker maybe, right? They also asked what time we closed. Not a coworker. When asked if he wanted to talk to me, he hung up without a word. A friend? Only one friend meets all the criteria of knowing the nickname I use at work, WHERE I work, and doesn’t know what time we close. He said he never called.

I spent the entire evening looking over my shoulder. We had a robbery at gunpoint, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, last week. We have people who occasionally lurk around the store. I’ve always been careful, always watch my back.

It wasn’t just phone calls last year. It was a $4000 dollar charge on my credit card that I didn’t make. It was an absolutely nerve-wracking premonition, and little things that didn’t add up. And when my premonition tells me something, I’m learning to listen.

I’ve had stalkers before. I had a 50-ish year old married guy come into my CA store a couple of times a week. He went out of his way to interact with me, to keep asking me out. Two ‘friends’ turned into psychotically possessive people because they wanted something from the relationship that I wouldn’t give. There’s a reason I go by as many as six different names and online handles, and don’t let them interact.

So who called me last night? I don’t know, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as amused to see just how protective my friends are. So far, if this anonymous caller means anything bad, he’s got plenty of people to go through. Navy, Army, Special Forces, my coworkers (and I work with some BIG guys!), a couple of guys who just might be the meanest fighters I’ve come across, and some lovely women who would be happy to destroy first and ask questions later. Plus, hell. Half of my customers love the hell out of me and would be happy to take anyone to task. Most of the above-mentioned people have already asked if I needed them to kick someone’s ass.

Yeah, I feel safe.

It’s good to be loved, and it’s good to keep your name, phone-number, credit card info and address off the internet.

It’s a dangerous world out there kids, and I seem to keep getting reminders of the psychotic jokers in it.

What’s Up, Doc?

Posted in Personal Life on October 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Ahhh, the pleasures of sleeping in. Late start to the morning, but hey. I needed it.

Anyways, here’s what I’ve got on my plate coming up. (Judging by my difficulty typing right now, I should probably add “typing classes” to my list.)

Anyways…

Travel. I’m supposed to go to CA for Thanksgiving, and Denver, Colorado, for New Year’s. My grandparents should be coming out here for Christmas, which means I have to find a Christmas tree…and yank all masks, ‘occult’ books, alcohol and reference charts so that their delicate sensibilities aren’t offended. What constitutes ‘occult’? American Indian Myths and Legends, the yin-yang panel I did for my mother’s wall, a symbol of power I created for Shadow and Soul. No. Really. This is also the first time they know about the tattoos. Oh yay.

Work and Volunteering. I’ve submitted my paperwork to volunteer with the Charlotte Police Department. Judging from the statements made by the wonderful volunteer coordinator, I see another newsletter in my future. On the upside, working on that means volunteering in the comfort of slippers. Now THAT, I can get behind.

But mostly, I’ll be working with Animal Control. I’ve already asked to be told if they have horses coming in, and otherwise, I’ll probably be doing mostly public events, writing flyers or hand-outs, etc. Anything that builds my writing resume is GREAT.

Work is picking up too, so I fully expect to be back to my 40+ hours a week schedule. Glory be. No more money worries. HA!

Writing. Since hiding Inherent from myself, I’m a little adrift right now. However, Nov/Dec are perfect plotting months, because I can’t actually maintain a writing schedule. I’ve already pulled a possible concept. It will be set a little before Inherent, and farther to the East in that world.

I’ll also be continuing to write the Hell pieces. On Aralu’s Breast is completed, Rattling House is in progress, so I have 11 more to write. That should be my short stories for the winter! But, if anyone knows of a really cool Hell/Underworld, let me know!

For Fantasy Magazine, I have two articles that need to be written, and two that need to be updated/checked on. The big project is writing a piece on genre-specific charities/activism groups. My focus will be on the Kids Need to Read charity and Outer Alliance, an activism group started by Natania Barron. I’ll also be pitching an article on LGBTQ representation/issues in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres.

Three reviews put together for them though: Guillermo Bosch’s Rain, Rogue Blade Press’s Rage of the Behemoth, and the web-comic Gunnerkrigg Court.

With The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and Sherlock Holmes coming out soon-ish, I will try to do something on them too. Already have some ideas for the Sherlock Holmes stuff, but I have to get those plotted out. I’d also like to find a copy of Besauro to watch and review.

For here, there’s a lot of organizing I need to do. I got lazy about tagging posts, and putting them in categories. I also need to get some serious writing discussions/thoughts up here. I’ve been rambling an AWFUL lot lately…

Forum. Fifthwind Forums will soon be subject to a fit of cleaning. Members who have never posted will be deleted after warnings. I’ll also be updating links, starting new topics, etc. I’ll also try to set up more blogs here that I can just schedule so that I’m more consistent about updating.

Other. Blind Man’s training has been sidelined for a strained back (Monica), a broken-down truck (me), a slipped halter (him), and rain (weather gods, I’m lookin’ at you here…). So, hopefully I can make it out there tomorrow.

Next week is my birthday, and I plan to continue a grand tradition of doing NOTHING. I will, however, do some dressing up for Halloween, since I have to work that night. The birthday treat is a nice trip to the dirt track for World of Outlaws World Finals. 360 Sprints, stock cars, etc.

Hopefully, I’ll also finish the outline of my tattoo this year. Money-dependent for that though… I’m working on painting some wooden panels for my mother’s room, two side-panels with I-Ching and symbols of balance, and a center panel with lotus and chrysanthemum (hey, I spelled that right without checking!). So far, the yin-yang turned out lovely!

And my biggest goal? Not getting sick again. Yes. I’ve had my crud for the year. Actually, given my suffering before Dragon*Con, I’ve had my crud for at least 3 years. Aaaand, there you have it folks. I’m going to be a busy little cookie, aren’t I?

Yes. I like being busy. Yay!