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Audrey and her grandmother would have gotten on

Today was one of those days that I thought a little about unfairness.

Basically, I spend a lot of time reminding myself that even though I don’t really believe that everything happens for a reason (I used to) or that after a really terrible thing comes a good thing (I used to), I do believe that you have to get on and make the best of what you have. Call it the stiff British upper lip, if you will, I tend to sway on the side of the overwhelming realisations that life is so fleeting and so fragile that if you don’t get on with it you’re a bit of a fool.

Anyway, today was a day where I felt an ache that my mother never met any of my three children but especially Audrey.

We were in town doing some errands and I asked her if she wanted to come for a coffee break with her daddy. A double cappuccino and a chocolate biscotti for me and a glass of water and a coconut ball for Audrey and we were set. As we sat and chatted I became aware of just how much a people watcher Audrey is before her comments started about how nice that girl’s plaits were and how much she liked that woman’s jumper and how that other woman looked like her auntie Vivianne.

And the more I sat and listened, the more I realised that had my mother been sat there with her, they would have both been in their element, comparing the people coming in, discussing hairstyles and clothing and so on.

Fairness is relative, but today I felt unjustly served.


Book Review: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

Book Review: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham.


My Hero…


What more can I say?


Vampyr review

[Written by horror writer Gary McMahon]

Vampyr: The Dream of Allan Grey

Vampyr (1932)

Cast: Julian West, Maurice Shutz, Rena Mandel, Sybille Schmitz, Jan Heironimiko, Henriette Gerard

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

72 minutes (R) 1932
Eureka Entertainment Ltd DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 9/10

Carl Dreyer’s subtle, silent and elusive retelling of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s famous short story Carmilla takes the vampire myth back to its dingy European origins, where the evil is represented by a spiritual rather than a physical assault as it works on a family from within.  There are no long capes, no white fangs, and no red-eyed stares to make young maidens swoon into the arms of a pasty-faced Count. This is the real thing: horror that makes no concession to a popular audience, but attempts to capture the oblique nature of bad dreams.

This is a film filled with symbols and repeating motifs. It is not what we see that connects us with the ancient dread we all carry within us, but what we feel; and the connection is one that happens in the subconscious rather than the conscious mind – a terror that hits us deep inside our imaginations. Watching this film, you feel anxious, and finally terrified, but you are unsure why. Nor are you able to see how this fear has been evoked – it just surfaces, rising from some hidden spot in response to the images on the screen. The effects of light and shadow are utterly mastered to offer us a truly idiosyncratic vision.

The film is virtually plotless, but that isn’t the point – what’s important here is what traveller Allan Grey (Julian West) experiences – or thinks he experiences – when he stops off at a small country village.

The visuals are rich and dreamlike, filled with subtle details which help depict the absolute wrongness Grey finds himself confronted by – dancing shadows capering without a source; strange figures who walk at night; an old witch woman and the doctor who aids her. One of the most disturbing scenes features the shadow of a man with one leg creeping around and climbing through a window. The shadow tracks down its owner – an old wounded soldier – and re-attaches itself, and as the soldier is called by someone off-screen, both man and shadow move together, reunited. It sounds such a simple trick, but in Dreyer’s day it wasn’t, and the overall effect is disturbing in a way that I’ve never seen equalled.

Vampyr is packed with these small, intimate terrors; an accumulation of unsettling details which add up to create a unique nightmare. Entire sequences do actually feel like the director has tapped into a nightmare, and is simply filming what he found there.

On one of the commentary tracks, Spanish director Guillermo del Toro mentions the repeated motif of the medieval memento mori (small reminders that one day we will all die, as symbolised by the presence of skulls and hourglasses). Skulls and skeletons are everywhere; time, or the fracturing of it, is represented by clocks without faces, timepieces with their internal workings removed. Everything is faded, washed-out (Dreyer filmed the entire picture through a series of gauze filters), and near the end of the film- during the infamous sequence where the protagonist witnesses his own premature burial – Alan Grey himself becomes transparent: we can see through him just as the evil character of the witch is able to see through the veil of death itself.

It is difficult to believe that upon its initial release, Vampyr was considered an artistic failure; it is one of the most incredible films I have ever seen – but much more than that, it is a true experience, a cinematic milestone that forces you to respond. Much more than the story of a vampire attack, it presents the argument that time is in fact a vampire, drinking away the lives of us all. The film raises cinema to the level of a work of art – what we view on the surface is just the beginning, and the layers beneath are meant to be scraped away to reveal the true meaning of the piece – whatever that meaning might be, and to whoever cares to investigate.

Vampyr (1932)


Day Six: Match Fifteen – Honduras vs Chile [Predictions]

Very tough match for these two especially as they have to take on both Spain and Switzerland in the next two matches. These are another two teams I don’t know much about and I’m going to guess based on what little I know about them.

Mark predicts: 1-3

[Family predictions to follow]


New Year = resolution time

OK, I maybe should have added these a few days ago (15 mayhaps?) but as long as I’m actually working on them, then that’s the main thing.

Never was a big one for resolutions in the past but now see them as a way to see whether I think my life is plodding along as I want it to or whether I should think about things.

Basically when thinking about the resolutions, I try to avoid life-resolutions, which means those about things I have as a constant, like: eat healthier, be the best dad and husband I can, work hard with Morrigan Books, etc., unless I have real issues with any of these that I need to address.

But enough of all that and onto the resolutions I have set myself for 2010 (the wife asked me for ten this year, the loon!):

  • Work on more music compilations – this is something I used to do a lot, an awful lot and something that I really miss when I’m not doing them. I used to spend hours in front of the stereo, choosing songs, putting them on tapes, and sending them off. Now it’s all so much easier with the computer and I do so few…go figure! I’ve actually already done one to hand out in March, when I visit blighty and I’m hoping to get some more done too!
  • Write more non-fiction pieces – this is a big one for those who have been reading about my aim to write more fiction over the last few years and there was lots of thinking behind this over the holiday. I feel that I’ve been punishing myself for not writing more fiction, when in truth I’m feeling much more positive towards my non-fiction pieces: reviews (music, literature, film), articles and episodic commentaries. Expect to see much more of that this year (and yes, less fiction writing, if that is indeed possible)!
  • Keep on top with the 40th Birthday bash plans – this one has not started well, as I’m a little behind with preliminary invitations but I need to focus, focus, focus.
  • Read more – I did read quite a bit last year but nowhere near what I have done in previous years. That one needs changing and changing quick sharp.
  • More contact with friends – I sort of disappeared a bit last year, what with a stressful year at Morrigan Books and Audrey’s first year but this year I want to make more time for friends, be it online chats, Skype calls or evenings with friends. I think this one has started off well, a few big chats both online and friends over and I need to keep up with this.
  • Get the board games evenings up and running – this is one that I had a couple of years ago that went really well. Then when I don’t seem to have it as a resolution it disappears… Will be looking at getting the oft-talked about once a month gaming night over here, with preliminary chats for a Star Wars Risk night already underway!
  • Learn to typset – I know I can, I just need a bit of time set aside and a whole lot of patience.

Sorry Etina, only seven this time around…


Eight years on

Well it’s been eight years to the day since we tied the knot and in that time there has been much to enjoy and much to deal with. Obvious high points are the births of both our children, our many trips together and the support we have received from each other in all things artistic, health related and career choices.

The two very obvious low points being my mother’s lost battle against cancer four months before Maddoc was born and the murder of my brother-in-law, in December 2007.

And now we’re eight years on…

A rare event is when the wife surprises me, yet that has been the nature of our relationship over recent months, with her trying to surprise me in both little and big ways. Today’s was calling me this morning to tell me I had to leave home and get over the gym as soon as possible as one of the wheels had fallen off the pram. She couldn’t fix it and so I would have to. I cycled over, only to find the pram in full working order and a grinning wife letting me know that we were off for coffee (Latte and pepparkakor cheesecake please)!

Been mulling about doing work-related stuff this afternoon before getting ready for my first innebandy game in about four years now – very much looking forward to that one, especially as the wife is involved too! We are then off to Indra, a new Indian restaurant in our very own Norrköping.

Some days are just too good!


Muse Online Writers Conference 2009

(please be aware this is not a review of the rather weak new Muse album)

Over the weekend I took part in the Muse Online Writers Conference, hosting two events: a one hour pitch session for submission queries to our company and a one hour chat room, answering questions for those interested in Morrigan Books and/or the internal workings of a dark fiction publisher.

At first I was a little surprised by the high level of quality of the pitches I received (fully expecting some duds during the hour) but it was all made clear to me later by Lea Schizas, organiser and general goddess of the con, who explained that they had received pitches from more than 500 people and had filtered them down into the best of the best to meet me on the Saturday. As an aquistions editor, she knows what she is looking for, and so I have a few sample chapters on their way over the next few weeks.

Sunday was the chat and I thoroughly enjoyed this too. I found the questions thoughtful and engaging and twice I was caught out by questions on topics I just can’t seem to pin down. I’ll try and explain them here and hopefully some clever person might be able to help me in my search…

When asked if I preferred first person or third person POV, I responded by stating that I would love to publish an excellent second person POV novel. All went well until a wily person asked me which second person fiction I loved and I got a bit stumped. I mean, who is actually writing good second person stuff at the mo?

Not content with being caught out there, I then went off an rambled about how I prefer werewolf fiction to vampire fiction (after being asked my opinion on why vampires are so attractive to teens), which obviously gifted me with the question about what werewolf fiction has impressed me of late…oops…I knew I should have bought the Stephen Jones anthology at FCon…

And now, nearly a full twenty four hours later, I have just remembered that I rather enjoyed Carnies by Martin Livings. I think Martin still has a few copies left and I strongly advise buying one before they sell out.

I’d love some tips of where I can go for some top drawer werewolf stuff (just so I’m ready for next year’s con and tough questions), as it seems my werewolf lore mainly concerns itself with films.

Speaking about the werewolves, I received my copy of Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater today, and I do confess to being a little apprensive about this one. Elaine Cunningham was impressed though and that’s always a plus sign in my book!

But back to the conference and with it being on EST time (six hours behind us here in Sweden) I wasn’t able to take place anywhere near as much as I wanted to be but I am going to make sure I am ready for 2010, after already being invited to be a participant there too.

And I could go on all day about Lea Schivas, host of both my groups and very involved in the whole conference, full of support for writers, publishers and editors, encouraging groups and chats and even pushing a writer to pitch to me when the writer didn’t actually feel like she could (and it was a very good pitch indeed)!

I already hinted that I’d like to be involved with Lea on something in the future and I hope that she doesn’t take that as an empty invitation as it definitely wasn’t (and I’ll stalk her to prove it ;)).

All in all, a very enjoyable con and, as I mentioned earlier, one that I am going to make sure Morrigan Books is very involved in next year.


Interview

The lovely Mihai Adascalitei interviewed me for his Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews site:

Mark S. Deniz


Dead Souls & Grants Pass Launch – 26th September at Kulturnatten in Norrköping

Swedish launch of Dead Souls and Grants Pass