Preview of Ashes: A Fairy Tale

I'm new to this graphics thing.

I’m new to this graphics thing.

I’m not dead.  But since it’s summer and my research isn’t going so well, I’ve been working more seriously on my second novel.  It’s to be called Ashes: A Fairy Tale.

It will be a frame-story narrative, broken up by shorter episodes that are based in other fairy tales, such as the Pied Piper, Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood.

Speaking of which, here is a preview of my re-imagining of that fairy tale… re-titled “Wolf Eyes.”


Emma ran through the snowy forest, not bothering to try to be quiet.  She knew her tracks in the snow would give her away to her Count and his dogs.  Clutching the stolen silver in her arms, she cursed her luck.  Her confederate had betrayed her—told the steward, who in turn alerted the Count.

She could hear the hounds barking even now, trying to find her trail.  And if they caught her… God only knew what they would do to her.  She wondered if she dared ask Him for protection—she was a thief.  But her Count was cruel to everyone in his household, family or servant.  Liberal with the switch and with his affections— she could not stay with him.  But she couldn’t manage on her own.  And he could spare fifty times the worth of what she had managed to grab without a squeeze.

The daylight was dying.  Even through the clouds that was obvious.  She slowed her run because she could feel the cold cutting through her chest like a knife.  Walking, she could breathe more easily.

One of the dogs howled in the distance, and she nearly dropped her sack of coin.  Emma began to run again, but tripped on a root hidden under the snow and fell, cutting her face.  Cursing and trying not to cry, she sat up and tried to gather as much of her silver as she could.  The dogs were making more noise now, and the men shouted with them.

Blood dropped into the snow as she staggered to her feet.  She felt slightly dizzy and could not now stop the tears that tore at her eyes.  Salt ran into her cut, and she had to lean against the cold trunk of a tree until the pain was manageable.

They would catch her, Emma realized.  If she did not die here in the woods, she would face the Count’s wrath when they took her back to his castle.  In tears, she raised her head and looked into two glowing canine red eyes just visible in the snow ahead.

She gasped in terror, and they disappeared.  A moment later the noise of the hunt ceased.  A deafening silence settled in the air, replacing the baying and shouting.  Emma shivered and gingerly touched the cut on her face.  Her fingers came back scarlet, and she sucked the blood off them, knowing she had to keep moving.


Nightmares and the Monster Under the Bed

No wonder I had bad dreams.

No wonder I had bad dreams.

Hamlet contains the line, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of eternal space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”

It’s a line near and dear to me because ever since I was a very small child, I have suffered greatly from bad dreams.  When we lived in our little green house, my mom always blamed it on my bedroom’s high windows.  Maybe it was biology… or my budding, overactive, writer’s imagination.  But when I think about it, my nightmares always fell into a pattern: the animal nightmare, the Disney nightmare, the realistic nightmare, the supernatural nightmare, and the ones that defy categorization… like the half-dog in Inside Out.

The funny thing, though, is that as I got older I could make myself wake up when I got too scared… except in the realistic ones.  Like I always end up taking that calculus exam I never studied for, or something even worse.  I wonder why that is.  But even though those can stick with me for days, nothing in the present measures up to the monster under my bed at the aforementioned little green house.

I’m not sure why I had nightmares about black leopards… the only thing I can think of was the old Looney Tunes cartoon “Tree for Two” which involves Sylvester being mistaken for one.  But all I know is that for pretty much the entire time we lived there, having to get up in the middle of the night was agony because I was convinced that if I put my feet on the floor, I’d get clawed.  Actually, I wasn’t all that safe on the bed, either.

It wasn’t until we moved that my nightmares really dwindled down to the occasional occurrence.  But what really turned the tide was a gift from one of my mother’s colleagues– a pink and turquoise dream catcher.  It was made out of sticks from her back yard, although the feathers were bought.  She taught me to touch it when I went to bed to turn it on, and again in the morning to turn it off.  Finally, I had to shake it out every so often to release the captured nightmares.  Personally, I always envisioned it as working like a Portuguese Man’O’War… catching the nightmares in the tails and then working it up to the web.

What a difference that made!  I could try to explain it logically, I suppose, but my brother and I got too much use out of ours.  Like Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth…”  I’ll buy that in terms of my dream-catcher.  Maybe it’s time I found a new one.


Top 10 Vampire Destruction Scenes #1 Horror of Dracula (Candlesticks and Sunlight)

It's the perfect ending.

It’s the perfect ending.

Back at #5 I mentioned that it would have been asking a lot of director Terrence Fisher to achieve perfection twice, and here is where he achieved it.

I could go on about Horror of Dracula for days… in fact, I probably have, if one kept count.  Anyway, it’s not the most scrupulously faithful of the novel, but it’s probably the best cinematic version in existence (I’d all the 1977 BBC adaptation the best ever); the fact that it also stars Peter Cushing as Dr. van Helsing and Christopher Lee as the immortal Count doesn’t hurt it a bit.

The movie opens with Harker arriving at Castle Dracula– except this Harker actually knows the Count is a vampire and wants to destroy him.  Unfortunately, he’s no van Helsing, and is vampirized.  Later, his colleague has to drive a stake through his heart.

Because Harker destroyed Dracula’s wife, the vampire goes after Lucy Holmwood, his victim’s fiancee.  She becomes ill and eventually a vampire.  After reading his brother-in-law to-be’s diary, Lucy’s brother, Arthur, decides to aid van Helsing in his anti-vampire adventure– even though it means bearing witness to the destruction of his sister.  Undaunted, Dracula begins to bite Mina Holmwood.  After supervising a blood transfusion, van Helsing realizes that Dracula has set up his coffin in the Holmwood family cellar.

A terrific carriage chase follows this, all the way back across the border to the Count’s castle.  As the sun rises, Dracula abandons Mina and flees inside with van Helsing right behind him.  Almost to his hiding place, the vampire gives up on running and attacks the doctor.  They fight all over the room, with Dracula briefly gaining the upper hand by choking van Helsing until he seems to pass out.  However, he was only playing possum, and when Dracula relaxes his grip, van Helsing throws him off.  Realizing that the sun is rising, he leaps onto a long table, races across it and leaps at the window, pulling down the drapes to let in the light.

It catches Dracula’s foot, which disintegrates, and the vampire falls.  Van Helsing then forms a quick cross out of two candlesticks and forces his foe into complete sunlight, until all that is left of Dracula is dust and his ring.

Where do I begin?  The climax moves at lightning speed, and the resolution is also very fast.  The score also pounds relentlessly, further adding to the frenetic action, and by the time it’s all over, the audience is practically out of breath.  But it’s very satisfying and makes the Lugosi version look like a horse and buggy job, all without puppets, computers, animation, or other really sophisticated special effects.  But there I go, getting all “We didn’t need computers, we had faces” again.

At this point, I run the risk of sounding like Ed Wood by saying it, but no word other than “perfect” will do to describe this scene.  See for yourselves (