The Coven (Prelude)

Back in January, I speculated on whether there was a story in Alan Rickman and David Bowie’s death. I managed to find a way to link it up, so I had homework completed for the writing group I now attend, which I have previously talked about. I thought I would share what I read out.

Hopefully, this will interest some people.

————–

She looked around, the black and white sleeveless dress with the symbols from playing cards adorning the knee-length edges, twirling and swirling at her knees. She swallowed hard. Was she dreaming, or was she awake? She never knew when it was like this…

Dark, gloomy night wrapped around her. She decided to run again, ignoring her knee, to escape them. She didn’t know who they were really, but she doubted that she was really being chased by Alan Rickman in his Snape outfit, or David Bowie, his head bandaged around his eyes. How did she know what he looked like? A large part of his face was covered up, silvery short spikey hair showing in tufts above his bandages. How could he see? All there were for eyes were buttons sewn onto the bandages, like he was a twisted rag doll. Snape was easy to understand, with just black spheres for eyes. The skin stretched over the skull and boney body, as if mute testimony of the grave. Both men were dead, so it should be a dream… but she had already scraped her knees when she had fallen over earlier. She could feel the blood starting to get sticky and hard.

If it wasn’t a dream, then who was chasing her? She didn’t know. She felt like she didn’t want to know, either. But where was she? The streets looked more and more Victorian, and not at all like the London she had lived in all of her life. Thick, swirling fog was sifting around, too. She quickly looked down, regarding the Gothic Alice in Wonderland costume she was wearing. Why? How? When had she put it on? If it wasn’t a dream, she would remember… right? But she couldn’t. Then again, she had blanks in her memories. She had worked it out a couple of years ago, though hadn’t dared tell anyone. She brushed a few stray strands of her dark hair out of her face, and back to the rest of her bob-cut locks. She looked about nervously, wondering if the dead men – or whatever they were – had followed her. Nothing. She started to run, twisting around to look ahead properly-

Colliding into a black robed figure. She shrieked in shocked panic. she tumbled to the floor, staring up at the dead Harry Potter actor. He… or it looked down on her.

“Love is more powerful than all of my magic,” the being intoned, then broke into a terrifying, rictusesque grin, the teeth stained and dirtied, like long inhabitants of the grave. She scrambled to her feet, and then started to run like crazy, heart pounding fiercely and forcefully, her lungs raw from the excessive oxygen usage, hands feeling tender from being scraped and scratched as she fell to the floor earlier. Pressing them to the floor to get up had only reinforced their tenderness, the pain locked away after years of experience. You didn’t cry in her family…

It took her several minutes to realise she wasn’t in any streets. She paused, to twirl around to take in her surroundings. Of course. She knew where she was. After all, Highgate Cemetery was at her doorstep, so to speak. She started to run, trying to get to a familiar part. Assuming she was in the right part. The Eastern Cemetery was further away from her home, whereas the Western Cemeteryif she went the right direction – would end at the junction that pretty much faced the Victorian gatehouse that allowed her to get home.

“Pretty Bella! Pretty Bella!” sang out a voice. She turned, swallowing hard. Revolving on a plinth was a horribly familiar bandaged man, grinning proudly as he held out a battered book with a black star on it, somehow revolving round and round, seemingly on display. Below the plinth were shuddering juddering, shaking figures. Thin and dirty, seemingly grave-raised. They moved forwards in a jerky dance-like style.

She looked up, seeing that it wasn’t really night. It was the sun, completely eclipsed. She fumbled, and took out a golden pocket watch. Four past ten… She looked up, and the Undead Alan Snape Rickman being was next to her.

“Fear is the mind killer, Pretty Bella.” It stroked her hair, as she stood, fear-frozen, the fingers on the strands making her feel tingly and wanting to shiver from the teases of electrical pulses being sent along her nerves. She swallowed, trying to get her heaving breathing into order. It gripped her by the chin, and then adjusted her head to make sure she was looking up, and into his eyes. The black pits of nothing that showed that this wasn’t a man, it was… she didn’t honestly know, but she knew that it was no man, whatever it really was. She just stared, suddenly enthralled by it. It kept on touching and stroking her hair, the corpse-cold hands making her shiver as much as the stroking. The pulsing and pounding in her head and ears made it feel all the more real, in a swaying, jilted way.

“Don’t fear… hate. Hate with all your black heart. Do and be what is your nature. Be the Pretty Isa, to prophesise the coming of the Harbinger of the Light-Bearer,” it said as it held a hand forwards, giving her something. A knife, with a handle made of… she felt like vomiting when she realised what she was holding. She started swallowing hard, to try and remove the acid taste in her mouth. The handle was so cold and smooth, though one look made it clear why it was so, and the curves and ridges that were a part of it’s nature. She dropped the spine handled blade, stomach churning further. She wanted none of what actions she knew she was being directed to do. Suddenly, she was pushed to the ground, arms splayed outwards as her hands were pierced with long, square nails.

“Suffer for your virtues!” Sang out the Bandaged Preacher. “Bella Isa, purify yourself! Anti-Anointed!” it sang out. She was gagged before she could scream, being carried on the wooden object she had been pinned to. Searing heat came from her side. She didn’t want to know what it was causing that. Suddenly, she could see a tower looming up from the horizon, electricity sparking and showing from the top, arcing and striking the clock that was set into the structure…

“I have to tell you about the future!” sang both the Bandaged Preacher and Undead Tutor-Mage. She blinked. How did they end up inside the tower? And there were robed, masked figures… and a rather large dog… she started whimpering.

“Happy birthday to you!” They all sang as the dog leapt forwards-

And she realised she was bolt upright in bed, screaming her lungs and throat raw, cold sweat streaming from her shaking body. The night light was streaming in, the curtains never closed. She was too scared to be in the dark. Especially when she had just come back from a family get-together. Being part of the Denby-Ashe family meant obligations and duties, even if you were the pariah in the family. Not only that, but she was feeling bruised and scratched, and unable to remember much of the weekend just past. As was usual, she reflected sadly.

The girl with the bob-cutted hair reached under her pillow, and pulled out her rainbow covered dream book. She had discovered a few years ago that if she wrote down the dreams and nightmares, she then could sleep again, having forgotten about them. She put on the desk lamp, quickly scribbling away in a neat, precise script that had been beaten into her as a child. Sloppy handwriting was not allowed in her family. No matter how much you were the black sheep of the flock…

It took her little time for her – her mind was still stuck on the name Bella, which was only half her name – to put down all of the details meticulously. Years of expert punishment had ensued she would always be meticulous in detail.

Bella…

She hated that name, because it made her think of Twilight, and she didn’t want to be connected to those stories. Why her friend Fleur loved them… To her, it seemed that Bella was choosing between necrophilia and bestiality. Neither was appropriate to her. Love should be with someone you… well, loved. You need to know that person, understand them. She much preferred the older stories, like Austen, Gaskill and Eliot. It also helped her positive feelings that she had read the tales from books that were either First Edition, or near enough. One thing she loved about the wealth of her family, which was a rather short list, indeed…

She put the book back under her pillow, and then switched off the light. Writing it all down had helped to calm her, ready for sleep. She was looking forward to it as well, the day at Sixth Form. She was up to date with all of her work, and had figured out ways to needle her tutors. And being at one of the families’ many estates had meant access to a lot of useful material. For example, reading from a three hundred year old edition of Shakespeare, memorising the texts, knowing how the differences translated to the modern letter renderings. Not only that, but she had used the library of the family estate she had stayed at to look for any books on Shakespeare and the occult. Not to impress her tutor, but to find anything that could serve as intellectual torment for him. And that book written in nineteen hundred and nine, by Theosophicals… whoever they were, was a perfect place to start, too.

As she closed her eyes to sleep, she thought up little schemes to wind her English tutor up, the arguments to use and try to infuriate him with… all the while silently watched by three owls, perched on her windowsill, looking in…

Gearing Up For NaNoWriMo 2015

I have been busy, getting ready for the National Novel Writing Month Challenge – known as NaNoWriMo – for the past couple of weeks. Every November, you get the chance to sit down, and with fellow, like-minded people, fight to meet the challenge of writing fifty thousand words a month. This might seem impossible, but I have managed to write whole first drafts in a month, and at seventy five thousand words. I also know people who have (somehow) achieved a hundred thirty words. Impossible isn’t something that should discourage you, but rather inspire you to do more, push harder and reach further. I remember in GCSE Geography being told I would not get a C grade. I was expected to get an F grade, based on how I had been getting along. My coursework I hadn’t understood, and on top of that, I ended up having a breakdown at the point all of my coursework for all my subjects was to be completed. I also had been sitting with the wrong crowd in Geography, and that didn’t help, either.

But I was told that the C grade I had believed possible was out of my reach. I could accomplish a D grade, but only by doing extremely well in the exams. I then silently resolved to prove my teacher wrong, and show her up. Of course, I ended up with a second breakdown, right at the time of doing my exams. (It was an interesting year.) I couldn’t revise. I kept on sitting down, managing to read a couple of lines, before I was having panic attacks, and had to stop revising. After a small number of attempts, I realised I wasn’t going to manage any revision at all, so gave up the notion. I went into all of my exams without doing a shred of revision. I had no choice in that, and it made me even more panicked and insecure. I walked away with decent grades, and with a D grade in Geography. I was annoyed and disappointed at the time, but have since concluded I was on the Intermediate Tier exam, so the highest possible was a D grade. In any case, I think I should have – upon hindsight – have chosen History instead. But such as is life…

Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing when it comes to last year. It was an utter nightmare, that November. I had been working since August to have an outline ready, so I could be fully prepared when the first of November came along. I had been trying to come up with a Book Two to The Thorns Of Lovecraft, and nothing I came up with would work. And I tried, and tried… and all that was happening was me growing more and more agitated. In the end, I had to declare it impossible. A week before the start, I had seen the trailer for the film Lucy. I read up on it a bit more, and then was intrigued by what was coming up in my head. I decided to run with it, because I had something, even if it was something very vague, and wasn’t fleshed out at all. I set it in the town i was living in at the time, and then played around with the concept.

I had a month of nightmare. At more than one point I was gleefully plotting how to kill all the characters, just to end my misery… in the end, I had it in the same universe as the Thorns Of Lovecraft, thus helping me out slightly. But it was a hard, bitter struggle. I managed to get past the target, and before the end of the month. I never managed to finish the story, because the laptop died, and I had it all on the hard drive, in limbo. I have back-ups, but not of the final couple of days of writing. The rest can be readily salvaged, however. I’m rather annoyed, because I want to finish it.

I plan to get a new computer, and then work around the issue. I know what to do, and how to do it… I just need time to get it done. And a computer to do it. I have tried with the replacement netbook, but it is rather uncooperative in that aspect. If I can’t succeed, then I shall carry on, try to rebuild the missing parts, and then continue it. This is rather personal to me now: I know it will be an okay story when finished, and I want to go and prove it. I also want to prove the impossible, and demonstrate that this will be something worthwhile. It also has helped to pave the way forwards for me, and the whole Thorns universe I have been establishing. Two years on, and it is a much more rich, diverse place.  I enjoy exploring it more and more these days.

This year, however, should be a different story. I know this because this time, I am ready. I have a full outline, I have everything fully prepared, and have done for months. That is because I had watched the horrendously bad film The Coven, and had tried to work out how to make it into a decent story. I decided to keep the name, because I had something more in keeping with it. I also accidentally discovered The Sword Of Truth series, through people Cosplaying characters in the television series adaptation created by none other than Sam Raimi. I have now managed to watch the whole of the first season of it, despite being in a country where it was never released on DVD. I love a challenge, and I love interesting stories. And Legend Of The Seeker certainly is. I will probably talk some more on that series, because there is a lot in it, and is worth taking a closer reflection on. I also took some elements, and then played with it, and expanded those ideas. I ended up having new ideas to add to the story I was developing. The end result was something that was very much in my universe, but with shades and elements being influenced by the Nightmare November story. This is something I find interesting in and of itself. And no doubt will be exploring further, when I fully write the story.

In addition to having an outline, I have been working more in the Thorns universe I created, and there is more “canon,” and more exploration of the setup, and the rules. I feel so much more confident of success, for a number of reasons. Firstly, as already detailed, I have an outline ready to go. I also have been preparing mentally, and trying to not be mentally over-taxed. I probably should start getting into Meditation again, to help keep myself centred. Another advantage is the fact I have managed to book off the first week as annual leave. So I have an eight day block where I can just write away to my heart’s content. There are also other long weekends as well, but I plan to finish the first draft in that first week, so I can focus on editing and honing it for the rest of the month. The plan is to have a fully finished novel this month. (Another impossible challenge…)

I also have managed to be writing continuously since July, when I had to switch Camp Projects about. I was working on a part finished, but fully outlined, short story. But as I progressed, I found myself being presented with a story that is really better off as a full novel. In addition, I started to sit down, and closely work out details to the story, I discovered some rather startling problems with chronology and background. So, it needs to be overhauled.

To get past the word count, I went and created a new project on the fly. It was meant to be a simple short story, but more and more kept emerging, and I just kept going. It is now well over 15,000 words long, and I’m wanting to finish it this month. Ironically, it is working into being Book Two of the multi story arc I had been trying to continue. But again, it is helping to further and develop the whole tapestry of narration I have been developing. It also is helping me hone and develop my storytelling skills, because I have been working almost every day on it, even if it is just a couple of hundred extra words per session.

I know now that I am well on the way towards succeeding, and getting more stories finished. I just need to keep going, keep finding my path forwards.

I just need to keep on proving that the impossible is possible.

Rest In Peace Slate

At the start of the month, I ended up making one of my wonderfully infrequent visits to my Facebook account. Something cropped up in the feed, and it caught my attention:

31 August at 22:59 ·

RIP Slate, it was a great ride.

Now this was from a friend I have known some time, so I straight away was paying attention. I expressed my condolences, and what words I could place together that was respectful and considerate of someone I had never met. Then there were other comments, and I was feeling more and more confused.

It turns out that Slate isn’t a real person, as in of this physical world. He is a LARP character. As in Live Action Role Play. I expresse my relief at this, because a person’s death is always a gravitas inducing event.

The matter has stayed with me, however. I have been mulling over this character death, pondering it whilst I’ve been actively trying to finish off the story I started at the end of July.

I have been pondering, because it has made me think quite a bit. I do Role Play Games myself, and have a number of characters for a number of different games. Some are not too exciting, because my group has never really done very many adventures with some of the games we play. Others, however, are far more important to me. There has been many adventures, deadly situations, personal trials. They have grown from being humble simple adventurers, into powerful heroes capable of leading great armies, and deeds well known.

Something to consider is the fact that RPGs are a form of storytelling. There is a skill and art in running a game, to make it seem like you have free will, when all you are doing is following the script. In fact, I could sit down, and write some of the adventures, because we have some classic tales.

Of course, my characters have not stayed in their respective games. My first ever character has appeared in a novel of mine. Paige Cousyn. She still is alive – amazingly. She is a Call of Cthulhu character, a game notorious for characters encountering very grisly and spectacular demises – sometimes in the first adventure. So the fact I have had her for a number of years now is something amazing. I saw opportunity to use her, and make it credible, to boot. Moreover, she will be having a bigger role in the novel I plan to write in November. More on this in due course…

I also intend to use Melissandre, my half Fae sorceress as well. I have a way to jump universes, and plan to use her in some way in a future story.

I hope to get some more blog posts up in the near future, and try to make this become far more regular. I want to talk some more about November, and the n ext National Novel Writing Month challenge. As I’ve mentioned, Paige will be in it, and life has been both cruel and kind to her. But will she be up to taking on the horrors and trials? Of course, she is just one of a number of characters. All of the action will be based in London, particularly Highgate.

And yes, I’ll be uising the Cemetary as a location. I wonder if there will be a tombstone with “RIP Slate” on it? Now that is a most interesting question indeed…

The Coven (2015) Film Review.

I felt like writing a review of this film, the reasons being will eventually become evident.

I bumped into this film quite by chance. I was looking online at random images, and I was curious to see if I could find online the poster to the film The Craft. I did so, but then encountered this:

Those of you who have seen the cover – and poster – for The Craft, will straight away recognise just how similar it is. Well, I immediately was amused by this discovery, and started to delve deeper, to find out more. In the end, I watched it, having gotten hold of a copy. (That might prove difficult, getting hold of an unburnt copy of the DVD.)

I sat down watching this, flicking between it, and responding to replies on my forum. I think this was a large mistake on my part, because I was seeing it in smaller chunks, and wasn’t fully paying attention to it. As a result, I was getting more and more creeped out by it, as it developed. Then I had a question pop in my head, and then I realised what a steaming mess it is…

I honestly don’t know what to make of this film, and i pity the Film Board person who had to sit down and watch this to rate it. You get the feeling like they wanted it to be a horror for tweens and maybe young teenagers. But with all of the references to sex, drugs, drinking and the like, it would never obtain a rating low enough to acquire it.

You also have the Mackie twins, Holly and Cloe, in this film. It has been a long time since St. Trinians, and i was interested to see how their quality of acting was nowadays.

The film starts of in historical Highgate School. This is where it all starts to go horribly, horrendously wrong. The pupils present looked like they were rejects from the local Comprehensive, and they were sitting at single tables that made it look like an exam is about to take place. Add to that the fact that you had Dexter Fletcher arrive to teach, looking like he was a renegade Time Lord just escaped from Gallifrey. And, for some reason, he is teaching Wicca to these schoolkids. Add to that the fact that the students clearly have had prior lessons, due to mentioning Margaret Murray and the books on the topic she wrote.

I have no idea what sort of school casually teaches Wicca in its classes. It didn’t even seem to be linked to any subject, either. Truly bizarre, but Dexter Fletcher skilfully moves the pace along, and you don’t think much about it, at least not right away. But then, you get the setting up of things: The enigmatic Uri Clef had taken seven of his followers, and none were seen again.

I’ll digress here. There is lengthy reviews about Uri Clef, and how he was in a mystical fights against darker forces in Cochranian Wicca… really going into some depth about this fictional character that is only mentioned in passing. It is utter rubbish. If you pause the film at the newspaper reports, it clearly says that no-one knew who he was, or his background. He had simply appeared from no-where, and was recruiting followers by his charisma.

Of course, past dark deeds in the local woods is too much to resist for the clique of bad girls in the class. (weirdly, most of that class was female. I stopped to check, because it was completely weird.) They end up plotting and scheming to go to the Coven, a group of ancient trees in Queens Wood, stay there the night, and see what they could witness. Hardly shocking; teenagers test their stupidity levels by doing something blatantly a Bad Idea.

So, in the end, they set off, using the bus. All but one. She was trooping around the school alone, and collared by Dexter Fletcher’s character. A nice location piece… but here is the problem. Highgate School is a private school, and is obviously that. If they had made it that they were in a private school, it would have made it all so much more believable. I’m certain the school would have been okay with that, given how they are fine having school leavers produce bizarre videos of teachers weilding plastic guns, and shooting down pupils. And then there is the clip where the Head is given a suitcase full of money, and is throwing it in the air, laughing maniacally… quite, quite strange.

In any case, they bother to use the actual locations, which is something of a bonus, I guess.

The girls end up in the woods, and eventually, after a lot of drinking, smoking and drugs, start to get attacked by demonic forces. More specifically, Lucifer on a black motorcycle. Yes, you saw correctly; not content in ripping off The Craft for the poster, and then rip off Harry Potter with the beginning sequence, followed by stealing camcorders in the woods from The Blair Witch Project, they then proceeded to take from Ghost Rider as well.

And after a lot of mumbling and running around (making Scooby Doo proud in the process,) you mercifully get to the end.

I was admittedly getting creeped out by this film, until I had a question pop into my head: Why is Lucifer riding a motorcycle in the woods to get these girls? It is a very valid question: The film did start off with Wicca, which doesn’t have Lucifer, or Satan. That is Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And worse, I was left traumatised by discovering that there were films in existence that makes David DeCoteu’s efforts look good.

This film palpably doesn’t make sense in the slightest. Not in plot, not in acting, not in directing,  Not in how they spent £615,000 as a budget on this unrelenting disaster of a film…

In the end, I was left roaming around the next week after watching it in a daze. I couldn’t believe how everyone in the process thought it a good idea to make this film, then release it.  I then started asking… could there be a way to salvage it? What could be done to make the story work? In the end, I ended up producing a story outline from that stealing pile of celluloid manure. I’m planning to write it in November, and am looking forwards to doing so.

I don’t think I’ll be watching this when I do so, for inspiration. It’d probably suck it all away from me.

Utter, utter mess of a film, and a massive disappointment. And I didn’t go in to this with high hope to begin with…