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Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Originally posted January 17, 2010

One of the requirements of my horror-writing education is to read every story listed on pages 18 – 22 of ON WRITING HORROR by the Horror Writers Association

ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin is on this list.

As a child sitting on the sofa between my two older sisters and often through the cracks between my fingers, I watched the movie ROSEMARY’S BABY. To this day I still have a vivid recollection of semi-naked old people and the black bassinet that gave me nightmares for weeks to come. But, in spite of those memories, I was determined to fulfill my horror-education requirements. So, yes, not only did I read the book, but I loved it.

Ira Levin is truly one of the greatest writers I have ever read. He has the rare gift of horrifying you one minute and making you laugh hysterically the next. In truth, as I sit here, six years later, revising this blog post, Rosemary’s Baby is still on of my favorite books of any genre and one I am sure I will read again and again.

Mr. Levin’s main character, Rosemary Woodhouse, is a naive mid-western Catholic girl transplanted into the big city with her actor husband. As in all good suspense stories, there were subtle clues dropped here and there as the story unfolded. Rosemary was everything a woman in her situation should have been. The rape scene midway through the book was intense, the result of ultimate betrayal by her devious husband.

Ira Levin wrote his story at a time when everything was in question, including religion. Mr. Levin accurately portrayed society’s mindset during the 1960s with a conclusion grounded in the most basic of human relationships, the bond between a mother and her child.

On a personal note, I think reading Stephen King’s Introduction, though profoundly well-written, may have been too in-depth a read prior to the story itself.  Because the information given was so complete I do not believe I enjoyed the story as much as I may have if I had read the story first before the Introduction.

Other books on the list from ON WRITING HORROR:

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

I AM LEGEND and HELL HOUSE by Richard Matheson

….and many others

Never Settle for Second Best

Never Settle for Second Best

Years ago, at seventeen, I sought an outlet. Something, anything, that would allow me to give voice to my thoughts, a way to “visualize” the pictures and the “movies,” that ran through my head. The medium I chose was what came naturally to me, words.

With words I could paint a picture, with words I could share my thoughts, my ideas and explore the unknown universe within my mind…with words I could stretch and expand my creativity, thus providing the outlet I so badly needed.

…and so, a love affair began, my love affair with words.

Today, I was reminded of why I can never settle for second best when it comes to my own creativity. This movie, this delightful and entertaining movie, Words & Pictures, reminded me of why I started writing. It reminded of that innermost desire to paint with words.

My Narrow Escape from Life Inside a Box

My Narrow Escape from Life Inside a Box

I dreamed of you last night,
This time it was her heart
You broke, not mine, and I
I no longer wanted you,

Did I still love you?
Yes, that much remained
But you, you were tainted, and I
I no longer trusted you,

Were you ever true? Or
Was I an escape, a reprieve
From a box guilt and
Religion chose for you?

How strange it was to see you
The man I once esteemed,
Now stuck…inside that box,
The same box I once climbed into,

I laugh at the reality, You
Always were so different, Content
To follow rules society, the church
Dictated, A life I could never live,

Thank you for “discarding” me…
I am free, free to thrive
While you remain… Forever
Tucked inside your box.

difficult-roads

The Other Side of the Ocean

The Other Side of the Ocean

I’ve been reading my aunt’s book, “The Other Side of the Ocean.” Her words so fresh, so alive, I feel a newfound sense of who my grandparents were (my American grandmother and German grandfather, both pacifists) during a time of turmoil and “madness” in their beloved Germany. 
Upon the first mention of Hitler and what would later become his Nazi party, shocks ran up my arm as a sense of foreboding enveloped me. Until that point, the story, which chronicles the lives of my grandparents and their young family from 1899 until 1946, had been full of hopeful aspirations. It had been a love story. But as the reality of life outside their marriage began to change, the strain was reflected in my grandmother’s letters to her family in the States.
Nine years before the start of World War II, was the first mention of Hitler in the book. Under his leadership, his fledgling NSDAP party gained 107 seats in the German Parliament. Germany became torn between three political parties, the Social Democrats, the Communists and the National Socialists (NSDAP.) History tells us who became the victors in that struggle. What it seems to overlook is that as early as 1931, it was dangerous to publicly voice opinions contrary to Hitler’s party.
My Grandmother – Ellen Hayes Schulz
 
January 1933, Hitler became the German Chancellor. By the end of March, up to six thousand Social Democrats, Communists, trade union officials, heads of radio stations and newspaper columnists were arrested. On April 1st, Hitler declared a boycott of Jewish businesses, but then cancelled it due to negative international press.
 
One of Hitler’s first new laws was the, “Law for Restoration of the Civil Service and Aryan Clause.” Under it former Social Democrats, former Communists, and Jews lost their right to teach in public schools. My grandfather lost his job and his status as a civil servant.
My Grandfather – Paul Schulz
During all of this, my young grandparents were raising a family. My mother was born in 1928, her sister, Barbara, in 1929, and two more sisters (Sonia and Gudrun) were born years later in the 1930s. All this turmoil and still life, somehow, went on…
My mother, Kathleen, and her sister, Barbara (Author)
Sharing Our Hidden Secrets, The Ultimate Vulnerability

Sharing Our Hidden Secrets, The Ultimate Vulnerability

Our secrets, the ones we keep hidden too afraid to reveal to even our closest friends, can be our greatest stumbling blocks. There’s a part of us that yearns to be free from our emotional pain, if only a safe, empathetic avenue of exposure could be found. But reveal our secrets to friends and, even worse, strangers? Surely that is the hardest act of bravery an author could ever do! Be Original

I applaud those who are that brave, unafraid to expose their deepest, most life-shattering revelations. But what about the rest of us? We need that release just as much. We need the knots to become unwound. We need the wound to be open to fresh air and in doing so, we too can heal.

To poor souls like me, I say one word…FICTION.

If our secrets are too profound, if our memories are too hurtful to ourselves or others, why not write in such a manner that allows us to reveal the pain, yet not expose our reality? That is the path other authors have followed and for them it has been most healing….and just between us, it is the path I took while writing my novel, My Father’s Magic.

My-Fathers-Magic-minThough Esme and her world are not direct reflections of my own, I used my personal memories of childhood trauma, separation anxiety and rape as fodder for the more traumatic parts of her story. Also, my own deep desire to be closer to my mentally ill mother was a key component in Esme’s relationship with her mother. The path I took in writing this novel allowed my inner pain to be handled in smaller doses and to expose my own memories at a safe distance rather than up close and personal.

Regardless of your choice, nonfiction or fiction, to all of my fellow writers I offer a warm smile and an empathetic, “Peace be with you.” And remember, we are all on this journey together and though revisiting our memories can be a dark and scary place, please know that with the love and comfort of friends, we can get through it and be the better for it on the other side.

As always thank you for reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We are all in this together...

Interviewing Your Characters

Interviewing Your Characters

Upon inspiration of the essay by Tina Jens in ON WRITING HORROR, I have created a character sketch I am using much like an interview sheet. In my mind’s eye I invite my fictional characters into my office for an interview. So far it has worked like a charm. My questions are pretty much standard but the difference is it is not me who is answering the questions. They are.  My approach is that this is their story and I want to know them as I would an old friend from high school (per suggestion by Tina Jens.)

I had created a list of characters using my previous method of simply coming up with them as I wrote my new novel but the process was tedious and boring. Following Tina’s suggestions, I created a new character sketch to get to know my characters for who they are, separate from me. My protagonist, who I had previously named Sandy, was a middle aged woman and I had given her blond hair with gray streaks and gray eyes much like my own, was all wrong.

The woman who walked in my office was entirely different, even her name. She was younger, tougher with dark hair and eyes. Her entire persona is one of a lonely but self-assured widow on her own and looking for a change. While Sandy was also looking for a change she was married and more dependent upon her husband.

My second “interview” was with my evil, sadistic antagonist. I was nervous about the interview because this character was to be the epitome of evil complete with horrific appearance and behavior. The “man” who entered my office was again, very different. I found him compelling and alluring with a definite darker side concealed beneath his attractive appearance. At the same time, he was forthright with a definite sense of humor about the story that is to come.

I have four more interviews to do with my previous version of this story still in the back of my mind. What will become of this story? I have no idea. It’s truly in the hands of these fascinating new characters. One thing for certain, I won’t be bored!

Thanks for visiting my site. I would love to hear your thoughts…

Getting to Know Your Characters

Getting to Know Your Characters

Another tidbit from a few years back that has changed my writing life forever….

In between the required reading in ON WRITING HORROR, I’ve been studying the various essays by the gifted writers enclosed within its pages. The latest nugget of wisdom came from Tina Jens titled “Such Horrible People.” Ms. Jens describes characterization in such a creative and entertaining way that not only have I soaked up her insightful words, but I do believe they have changed the way I write forever.

Within her essay, Tina Jens describes getting to know your characters as well as you would your high school buddies. Their ins, their outs, their quirks, fears, flaws and successes. What makes them tick? Getting to know your characters so well that they are sitting there beside you writing your story for you. Your job as a writer is merely a stenographer, they are in control. After all it’s their story, right?

Yes, I’ve read lots of articles on developing characters but never in such a clear, open manner where it is not only practical, but brings the knowledge down from my gray matter to application. Thank you, Tina Jens, for such an intelligent and entertaining essay.

So to put into practice this new-to-me character-creation process, I’ve interviewed one of my main characters for my current work-in-progress. As it turns out she is nothing like the puppet I created. I got her name, hair color, age and even personality totally wrong. The character that arose from this interview is stronger, more dynamic and a complete improvement over what the puppet-master (me) had created.

Rather than feeling the pressure of creating this novel purely out of my own tedious, task-oriented agenda, I am excited to see what she and the other main characters will show me as their story unfolds. I have more interviews today. One I am particularly nervous about, my villain. He’s a dark, angry creature whose fiery home was recently disturbed. Wish me luck….I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you, Tina Jens and the Horror Writers Association…and to you, thanks for reading!

When Writing…. A Good Rule of Thumb

When Writing…. A Good Rule of Thumb

When writing a story, you are your own best immediate gauge of how good it is. Does it excite you, hold your interest and keep you on edge? Are you emotionally invested in your story to the point of potential embarrassment?

If not, then you need to either change it or start over. If you don’t have an emotional reaction to your story, your readers won’t either.

Here is one of my favorite quotes, one I keep on the wall of my office, and what I try to live by when writing my stories…

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