Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Origins of All Hallows

Halloween. As a child, I thought it was simply an opportunity to put on a costume and eat too much candy. It was simply a fun holiday -- nothing more. But now, as an adult, I wonder... What is behind the mask? What is hidden in the shadows?

 Photo by Leanne Dyck

It's natural to be fearful of what we don't know. But there's only one way to gain understanding. So, bravely, my friend, let us venture in...
Because they were farmers, Celts worshiped Baal, the powerful sun god who made crops grow. But Baal had power only half the year, and come the end of October, the winter god began his six-month reign. He was the Prince of Darkness. He was the Lord of the Dead. He was the god who killed crops and brought cold, black nights. His name was Samhain, or Summer's End... November 1...marked the end of autumn and the start of winter, so that's when Celts held their ancient harvest festival of Samhain. It was a supernatural time when barriers between them and the underworld vanished. Of all the nights of the year, sunset October 31 to sunrise the next morning was most feared. Evil spirits summoned by the Lord of the Dead where everywhere... To drive the evil spirits away. Celts gathered together around blazing bonfires. (p. 20-21)
-my favourite quote from Hangman (gory horror) by Michael Slade (the father - daughter writing team of Jay and Rebecca Clark)

Photo by Leanne Dyck
The deity most commonly worshiped by the ancient Canaanite people. Baal was a god of fertility and also of storms. The Hebrew word baal simply means "lord" and is often used to mean owner, master, husband or even man... In Canaanite mythology, Baal was part of an extended pantheon... According to the myth, Baal gained his preeminence in Canaanite worship by overcoming forces that sought to destroy the equilibrium and security of the world... In the Bible, Baal is seen as a rival to Israel's God. Not surprisingly, nearly every reference to Baal in the Scriptures is negative, bearing witness of the harsh fact that the Israelities were continually attracted to his worship. (p. 51)

-Reader's Digest's Who's Who in the Bible:  An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary 

Photo by Leanne Dyck

At Samhain (October 31), the Wicca say farewell to the God. This is a temporary farewell. He isn't wrapped in eternal darkness, but readies to be reborn of the Goddess at Yule.
Samhain, also known as November Eve, Feast of the Dead, Feast of Apples, Hallows, and All Hallows, once marked the time of sacrifice. In some places this was the time when animals were slaughtered to ensure food throughout the depths of winter. The God -- identified with the animals --fell as well to ensure our continuing existence.
Samhain is a time of reflection, of looking back over the last year, of coming to terms with the one phenomenon of life over which we have no control -- death. The Wicca feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is thin. Wiccans remember their ancestors and all those who have gone before. (p. 70 - 71)

-Wicca:  A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham 

Much thanks to my friend Terrill Welch 
for taking this photo of Bim and I
Please visit Terrill's website
to learn more about her visual art

Next post:  How do to increase your word count
I have over twenty submissions currently in publishers' slush piles. If you want to know how I did that, be sure to read my next post.

Sharing my author journey...

After a very productive Spring/Summer, I've entered a creative lull. It's not that I'm not working. It's not that I don't have plans. (In fact, I am working in dribs and drabs on four writing projects.) It's just 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book review: Wicked (fantasy) by Gregory Maguire

back of the book blurb: When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens. Muchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

from  the Reader's Group Guide:  One of the Wicked's key themes is the nature and roots of evil 
Evil exists, I know that, and its name is Boredom (p. 79)
When goodness removes itself, the space it occupies corrodes and becomes evil, and maybe splits apart and multiplies. So every evil thing is a sign of the absence of deity. (p. 80)
[S]ome invisible pocket of corruption was floating around the neighborhood... A perfectly agreeable soul might march through it and become infected, and then go and kill a neighbor. 
Evil isn't doing bad things, it's feeling bad about them afterward. (p. 370)
[E]vil is an absence of the inclination of matter to be at peace. (p. 370)
Evil is an early or primitive stage of moral development. (p. 370)
Evil's an incarnated character, an incubus or a succubus. It's an other. It's not us. (p. 370)
Evil isn't a thing, it's not a person, it's an attribute like beauty...
It's a power, like wind...
It's an infection...
It's metaphysical, essentially:  the corruptibility of creation (p. 370)
It's not of air and eternity, evil isn't; it's of earth; it's physical, a disjointedness between our bodies and our souls. Evil is inanely corporeal, humans causing one another pain, no more no less. (p. 371)
Evil is moral at its heart -- the collection of vice over virtue. (p. 371)
Evil is an act, not an appetite... Everyone has the appetite. If you give in to it, it, that act is evil. The appetite is normal. (p. 371)
Is religion itself -- that tired and ironic phrase -- the necessary evil. (p. 387)
The real disaster of this inquiry is that it is the nature of evil to be secret. (p. 372)
It isn't hard to find evil in this world... Evil is always more easily imagined than good, somehow. (p. 388) 
  People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us... It's people who claim that they're good, or in anyway better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.(p. 357)
Is the Witch evil?

I don't judge her; I feel sorry for her.

At her birth, her father makes a pronouncement:  

"Heaven is not improved by it... and heaven does not approve." (p. 23) 

Those who attend the birth consider killing her, but they quickly change their minds when the baby bites the finger off one of them.

The midwives... dropped the thing at its mother's breast, afraid to consider mercy murder for fear of what else the baby might bite. (p. 21)
The baby is untouched by the parents and tries to avoid contact. She is called horrid and demon, by those who should love her.

The mother describes her one and half year old as taking 'no delight in the world' (p. 33). Yet, how can she? How can she when her mother tells her things like..."Shall we go walk by the edge of the lake today and maybe you'll drown?" (p. 33) Has the child been treated with love? Does the child know love?

The minute the child begins to speak her family asks her to be quite.

And later, the adult daughter has this exchange with her father...

Frex (father):  You hated your skin, your sharp features, your strange eyes.
Elphaba (daughter):  Where did I learn that hate?
Frex:  You were born knowing it. (p. 339)

And yet, despite the emotional abuse she suffers and because of the love she finds...

in the liquid glare of sunlight on old boards she held up her hands... she had at last understood that she was beautiful. In her way. (p. 206)
The story concludes with...

In the life of a Witch, there is no after, in the ever after of a Witch there is no happily. (p. 406)
The only fault I can find with this book is the weak transitions between one chapter and the next. This left me guessing as to which character I was following. But on the whole it is an intriguing story, cleverly told.

More:  The author (Gregory Macguire) talks about his book (Wicked) (a YouTube video)

Next post:  To celebrate Halloween, I've studied its origins. I'll share that post next week.

Sharing my author journey...

What do you do if the words just aren't coming?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Thank you

I'm most productive and happiest in the Spring and Summer. I wish those days could stretch on forever. And, truth be told, here on Mayne Island, we have enjoyed seemingly endless days of sun and warm weather. Still it wasn't enough. But try as I might I was unable to will Autumn away. And it came, bringing with it a chill breeze and falling leaves. 

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Change isn't easy. But it is made easier with the support of a friend. It is made easier with your support.

"An unexpected gift from a thoughtful neighbour"
photo by Leanne Dyck

This year I felt forced to reduce the number of blog posts. I wanted to focus on my goal of finding a publisher for my writing. I wanted to focus on developing and completing more writing projects. For this reason, I made the decision to post once a week instead of twice. But I worried about this change. Would you, would I forget about this blog? Would it die a slow death? I enjoy this blog and want to continue to nurture it. I'm so glad you feel the same way. Thanks to our mutual support this blog will continue to survive and it will strive. Here's to many more years of blog posts. Here's to many more years of change.

Photo by Leanne Dyck

My goal is to continue to strengthen my writing skills. For many years, I received guidance and support for this goal from my Mayne Island writing group. That's why it saddened and worried me when that group folded. Where would I find the support I need? How could I continue to write? Thankfully, one of the members of that old group decided to form a new group. And I'm pleased to report that, with the help of a few new members, the group is now as strong as it ever was. And it gets even better because I've also found a first reader. My first reader gives me individual help on my entire manuscript. It is so much fun working with her that I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Many people have helped and are helping me with my author journey. To them, to you, I say thank you. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Reviewing Word Vancouver 2015

Word Vancouver 'is Western Canada's largest celebration of literacy and reading'.

photo by Leanne Dyck

Once again this year I was only able to attend half of what I wanted to. There was just too much happening. Inside the library there were author readings, workshops, presentations and panel discussions. Outside there were information booths for a diverse collection of groups from publishers to literacy advocates. Plus a stage for performers and tents for author readings.

Saturday I arrived half an hour early. I was eager for the day to begin. First up was a consultation with an established children's literature author. Because I was early I was able to score the third time slot. I was forewarned that ten minutes flew by so I spent the waiting time preparing a point form presentation about my experience, my manuscripts and my goals. The consultation was time well spent. I received validation for the work I've done and encouragement and inspiration to continue working. After the consultation I planned to grab something to eat but instead was pulled into an engaging workshop on how to get out of your own way and write the unexpected. In total, during Saturday and Sunday, I attended three workshops, three panel discussions as well as networking with publishers and fellow authors. 

It's interesting what you can learn if you listen...

A panelist said that she had received over 400 rejections. Another panelist dumped a large bag of mail on the floor.

He said, "This isn't fan mail."

It was rejection letters.

They told the room full of authors not to listen to naysayers and to never give up. They advised us to work towards our future success and prepare to make sacrifices to reach them. They stressed that writing isn't a hobby and it isn't part-time.

It's during events like this that I realize (once again) how truly blessed I am. I'm doing what I love, surrounded by a generously supportive community.

I'll write about what I learnt during Word Vancouver on...
Developing Your Characters on Monday, November 16th
Never Write Alone on Monday, November 30th

Next post:  What I'm thankful for this year

Sharing my author journey...

I'd like to thank you for your kind words regarding the death of my furry companion -- Ticky. He gave so much to me over his long life. And I knew I had do something with all that love. And so... Drum roll...

I'm pleased to introduce you to Bim.

photo by Leanne Dyck

Bim is a nine year old apricot Miniature Poodle cross. I think the other breed is Maltese.

For those of you interested in details...