Monday, September 24, 2018

I Have a Poem in a Newly Released Anthology on Kindle

I have a poem, "Warrior Not Forgotten," included in this Kindle eBook just released and it is free until 11:59 p.m. PST Tuesday the 25th. After that, it's 99 cents. (The poem is not paranormal/horror related but about soldiers/veterans). The Kindle includes 2 poems and 4 stories-all entered in the local Richmond chapter's contest for the statewide Virginia Writers Club's Golden Nibs contest. Only the first place winners went on to the state level (mine is one of those).

The Virginia Writers Club Richmond Chapter Golden Nib Contest 2018 by [Smith, Carol, Beightol, Henrietta, Dixon, Luther, Kinney, Pamela K., Wentzel, Frank]

Friday, September 21, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Ravens on My Mind

In honor of Ravencon that I will be at later today and rest of the weekend, I will blog about myths and legends of the raven.

Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, ravens has long been considered birds of ill omen and of interest to creators of myths and legends.

The raven is the national bird of Bhutan, and it adorns the royal hat, representing the deity Gonpo Jarodonchen (Mahakala with a raven's head; one of the important guardian deities of Bhutanese culture.).  As a carrion bird, ravens became associated with the dead and with lost souls. In Sweden, they are known as the ghosts of murdered persons.

In Irish mythology ravens are associated with warfare and the battleground in the figures of Badb and Morrígan. The goddess An Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn's shoulder in the form of a raven after his death. 
Ravens were also associated with the Welsh god Bran the Blessed (the brother of Branwen), whose name translates to "raven." According to the Mabinogion, Bran's head was buried in the White Hill of London as a talisman against invasion. The name of the god, Lugh, is also derived from a Celtic word for "raven." He is the god of the sun, and the creator of the arts and sciences.  He is depicted as giant and the King of the Britons in tale known as the Second Branch of the Mabinogi. Several other characters in Welsh mythology share his name, and ravens figure prominently in the 12th or 13th-century text The Dream of Rhonabwy, as the army of King Arthur's knight Owain.

According to legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens of the Tower of London are removed. It had been thought that there have been at least six ravens in residence at the tower for centuries. It was said that Charles II ordered their removal following complaints from John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer. However, they were not removed because Charles was then told of the legend. Charles, following the time of the English Civil War, superstition or not, was not prepared to take the chance, and instead had the observatory moved to Greenwich.

The earliest known reference to a Tower raven is a picture in the newspaper The Pictorial World in 1883.[  This and scattered subsequent references, both literary and visual, which appear in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, place them near the monument commemorating those beheaded at the tower, popularly known as the “scaffold.” This strongly suggests that the ravens, which are notorious for gathering at gallows, were originally used to dramatize tales of imprisonment and execution at the tower told to tourists by the Yeomen Warders. There is evidence that the original ravens were donated to the tower by the Earls of Dunraven perhaps because of their association with the Celtic raven-god Bran. However wild ravens, which were once abundant in London and often seen around meat markets (such as nearby Eastcheap) feasting for scraps, could have roosted at the Tower in earlier times. 

During the Second World War, most of the Tower's ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving only a mated pair named "Mabel" and "Grip." Shortly before the Tower reopened to the public, Mabel flew away, leaving Grip despondent. A couple of weeks later, Grip also flew away, probably in search of his mate. The incident was reported in several newspapers, and some of the stories contained the first references in print to the legend that the British Empire would fall if the ravens left the tower. Since the Empire was dismantled shortly afterward, those who are superstitious might interpret events as a confirmation of the legend. Before the tower reopened to the public on 1 January 1946, care was taken to ensure that a new set of ravens was in place.
To the Germanic peoples, Odin was often associated with ravens. Examples include depictions of figures often identified as Odin appear flanked with two birds on a 6th century bracteate and on a 7th-century helmet plate from Vendel, Sweden. In later Norse mythology, Odin is depicted as having two ravens Huginn and Muninn serving as his eyes and ears – Huginn being referred to as thought and Muninn as memory. Each day the ravens fly out from Hliðskjálf and bring Odin news from Midgard.

The Old English word for a raven was hræfn; in Old Norse it was hrafn; the word was frequently used in combinations as a kenning for bloodshed and battle.

The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including the Tsimishian, Haida, Heiltsuk, Tlingit, Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and Inuit. The raven in these indigenous peoples' mythology is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster god.[ For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters which can be identified, although they are not always clearly differentiated. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who is sometimes considered to be the individual who brought light to the darkness. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. When the Great Spirit created all things he kept them separate and stored in cedar boxes. The Great Spirit gifted these boxes to the animals who existed before humans. When the animals opened the boxes all the things that comprise the world came into being. The boxes held such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One such box, which was given to Seagull, contained all the light of the world. Seagull coveted his box and refused to open it, clutching it under his wing. All the people asked Raven to persuade Seagull to open it and release the light. Despite begging, demanding, flattering and trying to trick him into opening the box, Seagull still refused. Finally Raven became angry and frustrated and stuck a thorn in Seagull's foot. Raven pushed the thorn in deeper until the pain caused Seagull to drop the box. Then out of the box came the sun, moon, and stars that brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.

In the Talmud, the raven is described as having been only one of three beings on Noah's Ark that copulated during the flood and so was punished. The Rabbis believed that the male raven was forced to ejaculate his seed into the female raven's mouth as a means of reproduction. Interestingly according to the Icelandic Landnámabók – a story similar to Noah and the Ark, Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson used ravens to guide his ship from the Faroe Islands to Iceland.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Binging on Horror: 13 Scary Films, Plus One More

Image result for ghost watching a scary movie on TV

I know there are many more good horror films, but here are thirteen, plus one more to get you started on binging for Halloween, beginning in September.

1. The Haunting (1963). Based on the novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Don’t rent the 90s stinkero remake. Get this one. But with Netflix to have The Haunting of Hill House as a TV series to binge watch beginning October 12, 2018, I think going back to watching the black and white film is perfect now. Premise: Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion. As time goes by it becomes obvious that they have gotten more than they bargained for as the ghostly presence in the house manifests itself in horrific and deadly ways. The film doesn’t need special effects to scare you. So grab this film, turn off the lights, huddle on the couch or your favorite chair, and be prepared to be frightened.

2. Dog Soldiers (2002). No this is not a military film, though there are English soldiers in it. Plus a pack of werewolves they end up battling for their lives. And all set in the Scottish wilderness. Intense, this is one of the best werewolf horror films I have seen in a while. 

3.  An American Werewolf in London (1981). A horror film with werewolves that will make you think twice about traveling to English and hiking through it with your buddy at night and during a full moon.

4. Cabin the Woods (2011): The premise sounds old hat in horror films: “Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.” But honestly, it takes a surprising about-face, added with a dash of Lovecraft. I loved it. 

5.  30 Days of Night (2007). This is a vampire film that is intense from beginning to end. If you are looking for those breaks in humor, forget it, this movie won’t give it to you. If you’re looking for vampires that sparkle, forget it. These vamps are vicious and out for one thing you can give them, and it is not to love, but blood.

6.   Psycho (1960). Premise: a young woman steals $40,000 from her employer's client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor too long under the domination of his mother. Though black and white, this Alfred Hitchcock film will scare you as only Hitchcock can. Famous for the shower scene.

7.  Evil Dead and Evil Dead II (1981 and 1987–both by Sam Raimi). First one is more grade-B horror, while the second one, a kind of remake has humor in it. The second one is the movie that made Bruce Campbell a B-movie icon and won Sam Raimi a whole lot more directing gigs. This film has equal parts humor and gore, but when the scares happen, they happen on a grand scale. Ever wondered what it would be like to fight your own hand? You won't have to wonder anymore after watching this movie. But still, I thought I point out the first one, too.

8.  28 Days Later (2002). Undead, or zombies as they are calling the ghouls of these films these days, this is a good one. Many movies have tried to recreate what a major city could look like after an apocalypse, but not many do it as hauntingly well as Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later." The terrifyingly fast zombie-like creatures roaming the landscape proved to be so effectively scary that the movie spawned a wave of movies featuring fast-paced zombies. And the zombies don’t have to die to change and are logical in why they act the way they do.

9.   The Descent (2005). This movie will terrify you if:  1) You’re claustrophobic. 2) You’re scared of the dark. 3) You have a fear of being trapped under the earth.  4) You have a fear of being trapped under the earth with vampire-like creatures that can see you but you can’t see them. netflix has the sequel that you can watch too.

10. Trick 'r Treat (2007): Now it's after Labor Day, we can go full blown Halloween crazy. Premise: Four interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the one guy for her; a group of teenagers pulls a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband. Perfect Halloween horror tales that will make you nervous about answering the door to trick-or-treaters.

11.  Alien (1979): “No one can hear you scream,” as the crew is stuck on a mining spaceship nowhere near Earth, where they run across something on a planet, what remains of a giant alien and what appears to be eggs or weirdly shaped rocks. One of the objects opens and something leaps from it to clasp onto the helmet of the crewmembers. Nostromo battle something that proves ET is not so friendly.  

12. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982): This science fiction body horror movie is based on the short story, “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell that I had read back in college in an anthology, and John Carpenter's version is a more faithful adaptation than the 50s version with James Arness. It will make you question if your friend is really your friend or something that may want to take over the Earth.

13. A Quiet Place (2018):  Another science fiction horror movie with monstrous killing aliens. Premise: On a devastated Earth overrun by lethal and ever-hearing predators of a possible extraterrestrial origin, the Abbotts and their children struggles to survive in a desolate world in a new era of utter silence. As this new type of invader is attracted to noise, even the slightest of sounds can be deadly; however, it's been already twelve months since the powerful monsters' first sightings, and this resilient family still stands strong. To learn the rules of survival in this muted dystopia is essential; nevertheless, an otherwise joyous event is threatening an already frail stability. Now, more than ever, don't make a sound.

I am adding a 14th movie: Halloween (1978): with the new film by John Carpenter that says all but the first film never happened, where Jaime Lee Curtis returns and ready to battle Michael,  and releasing close to Halloween this October, this is a good time to watch the original film. Premise: This American slasher film directed and scored by John Carpenter, starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. The film tells the story of Michael Myers, who was committed to a sanitarium as a child for the murder of his older sister Judith Myers but escapes back the house he grew up in on Halloween.