…and maybe a slice of pumpkin pie? All sound good to me. Come be a part of our Amateur sleuths Group Giveaway. Click the link and find 8 Free Amateur Sleuth Mysteries to read. Download any or all. The deal ends October 2. Happy Autumn!
I didn’t want to drive to Wyoming with 200,000 other hearty souls, so we stayed at home for the eclipse. Here in Denver our image would be about 92.5 percent of a total eclipse and I decided that would be good enough for me.
As the shadow of the moon began to consume the sun, the day dimmed, little by little. We were using a pinhole camera made from a box. Yes, there was the tiny circle with the tiny partial shadow. And then we looked at the sidewalks.
The closely-spaced tree leaves overhead created small holes, and astronomer bugs had gnawed holes in some of those leaves. The sidewalks were teeming, burgeoning, bubbling with images of the sun made smaller by growing shadows of the moon. We were surrounded by an infinite number of eclipses, and the resulting landscape–moonscape–sunscape showed a new universe at out feet.
It was amazing. It was science. It was magic.
One of the inspirations for my Wisdom Court novels is this 1942 novel written by Irish author Dorothy Macardle. It’s a thumping good ghost story that was later adapted to film in 1944.
In this January 9, 2016, review in the Irish Times, author Anna Carey provides an interesting feminist slant to an old form: the haunted house novel.
Macardle, like many other Republican feminists, was appalled by the decision to enshrine the domestic role of women in the Constitution. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, a few years later, she wrote an excellent novel that shows just how unhealthy it can be to idolise women as pure domestic goddesses.
First published in 1942, Uneasy Freehold has been reissued as the second in Tramp Press’s brilliant Recovered Voices series, The Uninvited (its American title). In it, two Anglo-Irish siblings, Roddy and Pamela Fitzgerald, find an enchanting house for sale in Devon called Cliff End. But when they make enquiries about purchasing it, the owner tells them that it’s been empty for 15 years.
Its previous residents were the owner’s daughter Mary, her artist husband Lyn, their small daughter Stella, and Lyn’s model and mistress, Carmel. Mary and Carmel both died tragically at Cliff End, and Stella was brought up by her grandfather. Six years earlier, a couple lived there, but left after having “experienced disturbances”.
Roddy and Pamela are undeterred, but once they’ve moved into Cliff End strange things start to happen. They hear a woman sobbing and see mysterious lights. And then a mist appears, a mist that looks very like a woman with cold blue eyes.
Who exactly is haunting the house? And what does this spirit want with Stella, now a young woman who yearns for the perfect mother she never really knew?
Stella’s fascination with Mary allows Macardle to explore the dark side of the blind veneration of a saintly mother figure. Stella’s bedroom is a Marian shrine – in both senses of the word: “Pale blue walls – her mother’s favourite colour . . . Mary’s pictures – Florentine madonnas; a sketch of Mary as a girl and before it, in a glass vase, one white rose; even a statuette of her mother – a white plaster thing. It’s a culte. Oh the piety, the austerity, the white virginal charm!”
Macardle shows how limiting this cold ideal of virtue can be – and how long its unhealthy effects can linger.
Of course, the ultimate test of a ghost story is whether it’s scary or not. And while The Uninvited is enormously readable and full of nicely spooky moments, it rarely produces the sort of creeping dread triggered by, say, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover. This is mostly because the moments of terror are generally balanced by the characters’ sensible and thoughtful discussions of what might be causing them. This may sound tame, but turns The Uninvited into a different yet equally enjoyable ghost story.
Pamela and Roddy become not just the victims of a haunting, but amateur sleuths determined to unearth the source of the mysterious incidents at Cliff End. They put together a dossier on the previous household and bring in friends and experts to help them. I was not surprised that Roddy, putting off writing a book review, wondered “how on earth was I to give my mind to Peter Wimsey and his mysteries while our own diabolical problem was crying out to be tackled?” There’s more than a touch of Wimsey-creator Dorothy L Sayers’s wit and inventiveness about The Uninvited.
In fact, the dark subject matter and the complex issues explored by Macardle, combined with the engaging characters and light touch, make The Uninvited one of the most entertaining Irish novels I’ve read all year.
When de Valera was asked for his verdict on the 1944 film version of The Uninvited, his response was: “Typical Dorothy”. I hope she took it as a compliment.
Anna Carey’s latest novel is Rebecca Is Always Right
Comment to be entered in the Halloween drawing. A signed copy of the Wisdom Court Trilogy: Edge of the Shadow, A Signal Shown, and All In Bad Time, is the prize.
Colorado Gold, that is. It’s time for the annual gathering of writers at the Denver Stapleton Renaissance Hotel, 3801 Quebec Street, Denver. Tomorrow night, 9/9/16, many authors, including moi, will sign their books from 8 pm to 10 pm. The public is welcome to come see us, ask questions, buy books. Hope to see you there.
No lick and a promise this time. I’ve sent All In Bad Time (Wisdom Court Book III) to beta readers for reactions and commentaries. Until I get feedback, I’m trying to clean up my work area and find and file all the scraps of paper decorating my study.
And how’s your summer going?
The problem with being sort of done with a book is the limbo left behind. I’m still thinking about plot points, still dreaming about scenes, and definitely still waiting to see what kind of comments I get. That’s the scariest part. During all the times I feel I was delusional to become a writer, I’m most convinced when I first show the tender shoots of my prose to someone else. (Can you tell I don’t work with a critique group?) Then I start dreaming about specific words to replace others, curse the plot points I didn’t stress in the “final” draft, and up the amount of antacid to deal with the ball of lead in my gut. Good times.
So, why do I continue to write? I have reasons, most psychiatric, but secretly I yearn for the moments when the world of my book gets several pieces from the universe, all at once. I love the joy of figuring out plot snarls, even as I peer over the edge of the abyss called Stuck In Space. I’m a total sucker for the rare and beautiful moments when characters talk and I just record what they say. I’ve never found any other way but writing to stumble into those highs.
Now, as I have to pretend I live in the real world, my hopes for you writers out there are these: may your words flow smoothly; may you enjoy your work in progress; may you finish with real satisfaction; and, of course, may your work hit the bestseller lists.
I just registered for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Writing Conference, September 11-13, at The Westin Westminster. Checking through the list of panels and speakers made me happy.
Top-notch authors, editors, agents and make Colorado Gold one of the very best conferences in the country. We hermit-writers who spend most of our time muttering over plot points in rooms full of books will be able to hang with our own kind, meeting luminaries and not-there-yets. Tales will be told. Libations will be consumed. Fun will be had.
And don’t forget the pitch sessions and critiques with editors and agents. Sign up soon if you’re interested in showing your work to professionals. Those slots go fast.
If you’re interested, check out rmfw.org and get the details and deadlines. Attending the Gold is a great investment in your writing career.
I hope we’ll see each other there.
I like this blog post from Elle Hill. It’s a useful nudge to my imagination to put more character actors in starring roles. Thanks, Elle.
As both a writer and a reader, I’m always trying to figure out why authors do some of the things we do: End scenes in particular ways, juxtapose dialogue and description, harness the rhythm of words to craft verbal songs…
Maybe it’s due to my rather colorful political sensibilities, or maybe because my dissertation focused on, in part, lookism, but I’m especially sensitive to the symbolism contained in the physical descriptions of literary characters. As I’ve written about before, I’m pretty devoted to making sure I representunder-represented physicalities, and I particularly delight in subverting traditional physical tropes. Given all this, I find it so disappointing when I read books that reinforce all the old, tired symbolism surrounding characters’ physical presentations.
You know what’s super fun and reflects a lot more creativity than relying on the usual physical…
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…will be gathered starting tomorrow at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers annual Colorado Gold conference. They’ll come from all over the country to meet, greet, and share information about the maddening, wonderful profession of putting words together to express ideas, create characters, connect with the world. And I’ll be one of them.
Those of you scribblers who have never attended a writing conference might well consider doing so. I hid myself in my garret for years, swearing I’d not show any of my writing to anyone until I made a sale. I learned how much I’d missed when I attended a Bouchercon mystery convention and discovered my tribe. I’d always thought I had several screws loose, and then I met other writers. We could hardly hear each other speak for the sound of all those rattling fasteners clanking in the room. I met authors who shared what they’d learned and were more than generous to unknowns like me.
The members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers continue in that tradition. I look forward to each September when I know I’ll be spending time with people who are as passionate as I am about getting those words on the page. We’ll share rueful stories about how hard writing is, and how crazy the publishing business is, and how much we still love what we do.
This year’s conference has sold out, which is a testament to its informative panels and opportunities to talk with editors, agents, and other writers. Start thinking about attending next year’s conference. (http://rmfw.org/) Regardless of where you are in the many stages of becoming a writer, you’ll be investing in a glorious celebration of the joy and the pain of writing.
I can’t wait for tomorrow.
The links for the ebooks are in the previous post.