This is Not How I Remember It…

Wow this weekend went in completely different directions than I expected it to, but that’s ok. I think that the unexpected down time was necessary. 😊  It’s no secret that retellings and remakes have become really popular in film and literature. This coupled with a sense of nostalgia means that I’ve been watching a lot of movies from the 80s and 90s that I loved growing up. While re-watching them though I find that they aren’t as funny as I remember them (example: The Blues Brothers), or the messages in them make me cringe (I love Labyrinth but the line “Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave” makes me gag). The best example I can think of is Ghostbusters (the original that is). As a kid this was one of my favourite movies. I loved Ray, hated Venkman and thought that the concept of running around New York chasing Ghosts was pretty cool. Even before the #metoo campaign started my feelings on Ghostbusters had started to change. Ghostbusters has so many elements in it that are really cringeworthy. The treatment of women, African Americans, authority figures and non-macho males is really quite out-dated. Murray’s character Venkman displays such characteristically toxic masculinity that it throws the rest of the film into it’s shadow.

Venkman conducts an “experiment” on two students, a male and a female, to test their psychic ability. Both students continually get the answers wrong but Venkman only electroshocks the male student for his incorrect answers. Venkman is too busy hitting on the female student and lying that she is getting all the answers correct, that he misses when the male student actually gets an answer correct. Venkman doesn’t bother to look at the answer before shocking the student. When the student complains Venkman tells him that he has 75 more questions to go. It implies that Venkman is a sadist and that he expects women to fall at his feet. Venkman seems to be the character who is fleshed out and focused on the most. Which makes his behaviour even more disappointing. When the Ghostbusters get their first case Venkman asks the Librarian a series of questions designed to gauge her soundness of mind before they investigate. What starts off as reasonable questioning denigrates quickly when Venkman asks the aging librarian if she’s menstruating. While this insulting question would not have been out of place in Victorian society, it is rather disgraceful that male character in the 80s would have even thought of asking it.

The women of the film are treated atrociously, primarily by Venkman. Venkman tells Janine (the Ghostbusters receptionist) bug eyes and is generally rude to her. Dana on the other hand is a major character. She dresses conservatively (I mention this because her appearance contrasts sharply later in the film), is a professional symphonic orchestra musician,  and lives in a penthouse apartment on Central Park West. The imagery of the paranormal event in her home is significantly domestic, and the significance of the eggs exploding and cooking on the kitchen bench seems to indicate a ticking of her biological clock completely unnecessarily. At no point during the movie is Dana portrayed as desiring a family, and she seems to be quite happy in her career and lifestyle. Venkman makes inappropriate comments while he investigates her home and when he wants to go into her bedroom Dana tells him that nothing happened in there. Venkman deliberately misinterprets her and comments that that’s a “crime”. Dana makes it clear that she doesn’t like Venkman and he tells her essentially that he’s going to change her mind. When he won’t leave at her request, she has to physically push him out the door. Later, when Dana has been possessed by Zuul “The Gatekeeper” she is dressed provocatively and displays overtly sexual behavior. Venkman drugs her with Thorazine and kisses her twice while she’s unconscious. At the end Dana inexplicably likes Venkman. This makes absolutely no logical or narrative sense and quite frankly she should be filing a restraining order on him. If I were Dana, Venkman would be physically hurting in several locations.

The character of Louis, Dana’s nerdy accountant neighbour, also bothers me. Louis seems to be a genuinely nice guy and with an unrequited affection for Dana. All through the film Louis is depicted as weak and unattractive to the opposite sex. When he is possessed by an entity (the “Keymaster”) there is a scene that quite clearly indicates that he and Dana (possessed by the Gate Keeper) have had sex in order to start the chain of events leading to the opening of an inter-dimensional portal. The symbolism of his being the key and her body being the lock is in itself overtly sexual, and it is unfortunate that the film seems to be indicating that being possessed is the only way his character could be with a woman like Dana. Poor Louis seems to be the butt of a lot of the film’s jokes.

Like Louis, the character of Winston is almost sidelined, appearing only when useful. Winston’s main function as a character seems to be the token African American, which is disappointing when his character could have been fleshed out and really interesting. Winston is the only Ghostbuster who is not a scientist and it is hard to discern what his role in the group is. Initially Winston doesn’t believe in the paranormal and as he is hired after the group becomes famous I imagine that the team needed extra hands. However, apart from suggesting that the increase in paranormal activity is a sign of a coming apocalypse, he brings nothing to the narrative.

Venkman takes issues with authority. This is seen at a glance through his dealings with the University dean but is thoroughly displayed by his interactions with EPA Agent Walter Peck. Peck is a man simply doing his job. Venkman is rude to Peck every time they interact and calls him “dickless” to the Mayor. Their antagonistic relationship is directly caused by Venkman’s behaviour and explosion of Ghostbusters HQ is due to this. Peck is right to be concerned about the environmental impact the Ghostbusters could be having, considering that the four men are running around using what Spengler refers to as ‘unlicensed nuclear accelerators” that they call positron colliders. These are essentially guns that emit a beam of nuclear energy. In a world that saw the devastation of Hiroshima, is in the middle of the cold war, and is just over a year away from the Chernobyl disaster it is perfectly reasonable for someone to question these men.

Finally there is the overtly sexual imagery surrounding the Ghostbusters assault against Gozer. Gozer appears through the portal the Key Master and the Gate Keeper open. Gozer is apparently a destroying God, who although can manifest as whatever it likes, chooses to manifest as a rather masculine looking woman. The Ghostbuster call her derogatory feminine names and try to destroy her with their guns. They eventually accomplish this when Gozer is manifested as a giant marshmallow man, and it explodes, spraying white foam across the streets of Central Park West. I don’t think I need to explain the extremely sexual symbolism of four men crossing the streams of their phallic weapons and the resulting explosion when they finally conquer Gozer.

As I started with Ghostbusters is one of the films displaying out-dated ideas and humour that we as a society are thankfully growing away from. Venkman’s character never develops, he’s the same chauvinist he is at the beginning of the film, and we never really find out more than a couple of facts about Ray and Spengler. Their role in the film is much smaller than I remember it being. I always thought that the Ghostbusters were a team, but the film watches more like Venkman’s quest for sexual conquest with sidelines into fighting the paranormal with his friends. Watching Ghostbusters as an adult was extremely disappointing and made me wonder why adults pick up on different elements in the film than kids do. I never picked up on 99% of the sexual references/imagery when I was kid and now as an adult I can’t not see it. I thought the same thing when I rewatched Madam Doubtfire recently and caught a barrage of dirty jokes I hadn’t noticed or understood as a child.

On a completely unrelated note there are a couple more things I want to let you know about before I finish up here. For the month of June I’ll be running a sale on Amazon. It’s EOFYS in Australia so I’m dropping the price of The Kingston Chronicles Kindle Edition to 99c AUD and USD. Secondly, this weekend I’ll be flat out at the Denmark Festival of Voice so I’m not planning to post again till Monday instead of my usual Sunday. I’ve been looking at my schedule for the festival and it’s going to be crazy. I’m probably not going to be able to human until at least Monday afternoon. I’m so excited though!

 

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Genre Conventions in Angel Lit

You might be sick of hearing about Angel-lit from me at the moment. Only, it’s such a broad topic that it’s taken me several weeks to say everything I wanted to say. If you’ve stuck with me this long THANK YOU! Next week I promise to not post about Fallen Angels or Demons; well I’m planning on talking about Ghostbusters so there may be a few mentions of Demons.

While I was studying Angel Lit at Uni I needed to identify the genre conventions that defined Angel Lit. Some of these are synonymous with YAUF (Young Adult Urban Fantasy) because the majority of the books I’ve read in the genre were YA books.

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So here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

  • All of the books I’ve read have a female protagonist.
  • All of these protagonists are around the age of 16 at the beginning of their stories (these books are usually a series so they generally age throughout the books but they usually start their journey at 16)
  • All the protagonists are either Nephilim or an Angel.
  • All the books I’ve read, except for the Mercy series, are set in modern day USA, and even the initial Mercy book is set in the USA.
  • The love interest is a Fallen Angel/Demon OR Nephilim and there is a love triangle wherein one love interest is Fallen/Demonic/Nephilim and the other is Human.
  • All of the YA books are set in high school (unsurprising considering most of the protagonists are 16)
  • All the female protagonists embody Lilith or Eve traits, except Luce in Fallen who starts her journey as an Eve archetype and ends its having transformed into a Lilith archetype. (See last week’s post for more information about these archetypes.)
  • Many of them deal with some form of reincarnation theme.
  • In some of them the protagonist acts as a sort of psychopomp. (In Meridian the titular character is a portal to the afterlife and in The Coming Dark the main character can create a portal to Hell).
  • There is always a band of Demons/Fallen Angels or some form of Demon hunter hunting whatever the main character is.
  • The protagonist has to hide her identity as a Nephilim/Angel from most everyone for her own protection.
  • There is always at least one absentee parent, if not then the character is usually an orphan. The exception being Luce in Fallen and her parents are absent because they have sent her to a boarding school. Parental guidance is not a huge factor in these stories.
  • Dreams are important in the story because the protagonist communicates with spirits or sees visions of the future in her dreams.
  • These stories tend to start out in a suburban landscape and move into a more rural location.
  • Major Fallen Angels/Demons such as Lucifer, Samyaza and Azazel play a significant background role.
  • The histories provided in the stories use either The Fall of Lucifer or the tale of The Watchers as motivations for the conflict embedded in the story.

I found a lot of these characteristics common to the YAUF genre, especially the sub genres dealing with vampires, werewolves and witches. Elements such as absentee parents, the journey from urban to rural landscapes, dream visions, and human/non human love triangles are prevalent in YAUF and tend to sell well to their target audience. Perhaps the angst and conflict in these tales mirrors that felt by YA readers and this is part of their appeal? If that is true then perhaps the sins of the Angels in the genre provide solace for their readers. If literary Fallen Angels and Demons can be redeemed then it gives hope to YA readers who may feel that the mistakes they make cannot be so bad and that they too can be forgiven. I remember when I was a teenager mistakes always felt worse than they actually were and books were an escape.

Next week I want to talk about how 80s pop culture movies have changed for me (because not everything in my life is literary, and my down time is usually crochet and Netflix XD), and why movies I loved as a kid I now watch and cringe.

Got any recommendations for Angel Lit books for me to read? Wanna talk about Angel Lit books? Comment below. I’d love to talk to you about it.

Feminists and Rebel Angels

This is going to be a slightly longer post today. I condensed it as much as I thought I could but it’s longer than my usual posts. During my undergraduate course I wrote a thesis entitled “Feminist Rebels” and Opening Pandora’s Box: The Sins of Female Angels”, and following on from my previous posts about the Angel Lit genre, I wanted to share some points from it, primarily concerning the archetypes of Eve and Lilith and how they relate to female characters in Urban Fantasy Angel. David Leeming, compiler of The Oxford Illustrated Companion to World Mythology referred to Lilith as “the first Feminist rebel” and this is where the inspiration for the title came from.

Feminists and Rebel Angels:

IMG_0658 For centuries literature has been littered with women who are the victims of their own curiosity and lust. Mythology and folklore tell stories of human and non-human females falling prey to their baser urges and being led down the path to sin. Pandora of Greek mythology was betrayed by her curiosity and unleashed pain and suffering into the world. Sinnann’s curious search for wisdom, in Irish mythology, ended with her death. Even Angels, beings of light and purity, supposedly above humanity, are not immune to personality traits such as curiosity and pride, and when they fall they fall further. From this notion is birthed the Angel-lit genre of Urban Fantasy. In this genre we can see concepts of Angelic Sin and its punishment/threat thereof.

In the thesis I used Mercy by Rebecca Lim and Unearthly by Cynthia Hand as examples because these tales illustrate alternatively the sins of Pride and Curiosity that lead to their protagonists’ downfall.  I found that the characters in the Angel-lit genre who portray the Eve archetype are driven by their curiosity and the Lilith characters are driven by their pride. While looking at these tales it was also important to ascertain whether or not, mythologically speaking, angels can sin, and why they would choose to do so. Each of these novels presents the fall of female angelic protagonists. As these Angels are women living in the Judeo-Christian literary tradition, they are not only bound by their own personal “sin” but by the concept of Eve’s original sin. In Judaeo-Christian mythology Lilith and Eve are the first women created by God, both as wives for Adam. Lilith was created first, and therefore, is the primordial transgressor. After she refused to submit to Adam, instead demanding that he treat her as his equal, she was cursed and became the demon creature of myth. God created the second woman, not from the ground as he had with Lilith, but from Adam himself; Adam’s famous rib. From her birth Eve was genetically positioned to be subordinate to men; obedient and passive. However, Eve’s weakness of character, as created by God, also allows her to be easily tempted by others. Eve, has in one way, been cursed long before her “sin” and subsequent exile. The obedient subordination desired by Adam and God leads to her bending to the will of the masculine Serpent (Satan). Eve lives within the passive behavioural conditions God gave her and is subsequently punished for it. Eve doesn’t intentionally instigate the destruction of her world; she merely follows the same literary path as Pandora, opening a box of woe. Lilith, however, purposefully changes her world.

The Lilith-woman cannot abide the idea of submission. Characters such as Mercy (in the Mercy Series) and Skyla (in the Celestra series), are an example of this archetype. They aggressively reject the rules and ignore commands given to them by men in positions of authority. This is the Lilith character’s principal sin: unrepentant disobedience. Eve characters on the other hand, like Liana (in The Coming Dark) and Nora (in Hush Hush) are bound to their insatiable curiosity. They don’t intend for their actions to have negative consequences, they just can’t seem to stop themselves.

One of the most important questions in this field of research is: Why do angels sin? And, with this: How can angels sin? Conventional myth believes that Angels were not gifted with free-will. They are the servants of God. In which case, how can a being without free-will sin? Sin derives from disobedience. How can a creature that simply follows direct orders, whom (by this definition) is mere robotic clone, sin? Any sin would be a direct result of God’s orders. In which case the Angel would not be sinning, rather merely carrying out God’s will, which is an act of obedience, and as Judaeo-Christian faith believes God is infallible the Angel’s action would therefore not be a sin. But literature tells us that Angels sin. There are many myths, legends and folktales regarding this.

The Bible confirms that in Judaeo-Christian mythology Angels can (and do) sin. The book of Genesis makes references to the myth of The Watchers, Angels who chose to take human brides and therefore were cast out from heaven. This etiological story features prominently in Angel-lit. Most Angel-lit stories focus on either the myth of Lucifer’s Pride or the Fall of the Watchers as the basis for a war in Heaven, or even just as an explanation for why there are Fallen Angels and Nephilim. The Book of Enoch also heavily discusses the tale of the Watchers. These Watchers sinned by taking human brides, and by procreating with them. The bible describes their offspring, the Nephilim, as cannibals giants, who bring nothing but misery to the world. In the biblical story of the Flood, the Flood was brought down onto the Earth in order to wipe out the Nephilim.

But if angels sin we have to ask how this is possible.  This brings us back to free-will and whether or not Angels have it, as it is difficult to see how there can be Fallen/sinful Angels without free-will. The key word in this is “freedom”. In this context I believe that freedom is taken to mean both the ability to make choices and independence. Angels therefore would have to have always had free-will, choosing – until the war in Heaven and the fall of the rebel angels – to willingly complete the tasks set by God and live under His rules. What could be so important that an Angel would give up his (or her) position in Paradise to live cursed on Earth or in Hell? In the case of Mercy and Clara, as with almost every other protagonist in Angel Literature, this important thing is love. Love is apparently outside God’s control and the one thing that these characters believe is worth the risk of losing everything considered ideal. Faith would make us believe that Angels exist. But even without that faith there is no question that literary Angels exist, and they exist with foibles. Judeao-Christian religions believe that only God is infallible; Angels then must have the capacity to make mistakes. There is room, therefore, for sin to exist for Angels, and for punishments for those sins to exist as well.

Suggested reading for the interested:

Theory:

  • Cart, M. (2010). “Carte Blanche: My Mother’s Angels”. The Booklist (Chicago. III. 1969), 107(2), p 59.
  • Escobedo, A. (2008). “Allegorical agency and the sins of Angels”. In ELH, 75(4), 787-812.
  • Good News Bible (2nd). (1992). New South Wales: The Bible Society In Australia inc.
  • Illes, J. (2009). Encyclopedia of Spirits. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Klawans, J. (2006). Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Leeming, D. (2008). The Oxford Illustrated Companion to World Mythology. New York: Tess Press.
  • Papadakis, M. (2010). “Young Adult”. Sunday Herald-Sun, p 98.
  • Parker, M. (2009). “Angelic Organisation: Hierarchy and the Tyranny of Heaven.” Organization Studies. 30(11), 1281-1295.
  • Rousseau, V. (2005). “Eve and Lilith: Two Female Types of Procreation”. Diogenes (English ed.) 52(4), 94-97.
  • Tartar, M. (1992). Off with their heads. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

 

Works of Fiction:

  • Mercy by Rebecca Lim
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate
  • Ethereal by Addison Moore
  • Meridian by Amber Kizer
  • The Coming Dark by Erin McCarthy
  • The Watchers by Lynnie Purcell
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

 

Samhain – Why I Celebrate Twice A Year

I hope you all enjoyed a fabulous Samhain (or depending on your hemisphere, Beltaine)!

Samhain, also known as Halloween, is my favourite holiday of the year! So much so that I celebrate it TWICE a year 😊. Even before I identified as a Pagan Halloween was a big celebration at my home. “But why do you celebrate it twice a year?” you ask. There are a few reasons for this and the calendar is a major one. I mentioned in my Anzac day post that I am part American. Halloween has always been my Dad’s favourite holiday and as such I grew up in a house that went all out at Halloween. I don’t just mean putting a few skulls around the place. Our windows were fake boarded up, tombstones appeared in the front yard and we had a fog machine so that an eerie mist spooled around our feet.

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This photo to the right is from Halloween 2012. I was trying to channel my own version of a Voodoo Priestess inspired by Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It’s kind of hard to see but there was a science laboratory set up on the kitchen counter behind me.

Our family embodies the “go hard or go home” spirit when it comes to Halloween.  We dress up, we party and we enjoy almost a month long Halloween fest of movies and decorations because why dress up the house for only one night? Unfortunately, in my new house I haven’t had the opportunity to turn my house haunted for a month. I’ve been renovating for the better part of two years now and it’s just too hard to decorate. So American Halloween definitely gets celebrated, but it’s the commercialised celebration that the goth in my heart loves about Halloween. Halloween to me is not Samhain. I know that a lot of other people would disagree with me about that but I differentiate them. Halloween is the holiday that grew out of Samhain, the excuse for a party, the costumes and the candy. Halloween is for fun.

IMG_2797The picture to the left is one I took as part of an assignment for my photography course at uni. Doesn’t my Dad look creepy? 🙂

As a witch I celebrate Samhain differently. Firstly, as I live in Australia I celebrate it usually in May, depending on when it falls in the lunar calendar, and it is a day of reflection and honouring my ancestors. I’ve always been drawn to divination and chthonic deities so at my Samhain these things play a distinct role. Samhain night is a night of slowing down and ritual. The house doesn’t get dressed up the way it does in October. This is not a commercial holiday to me. My house is already rather skull and candle friendly so not much changes there. Samhain for me is not about fun, although I quite enjoy it, it is a peaceful holiday. I have crazy dreams at the best of time (I swear Jung would have a field day in my subconscious) and I find that around the Sabbats, especially Samhain, my dreams are even crazier than usual.

This year I planned a special meal of pumpkin stew with home made cranberry and nut bread. I like to eat seasonal foods at special times like this, and so for dessert I made a strawberry and rhubarb cobbler. My husband surprised me with 5 kg of fresh strawberries a few months ago and I cut them up and froze them. This was a great recipe to use the last of them up.

What did you do to celebrate?

 

Fallen Angel Lit – Continued: My Problem with Fallen

Last week I started discussing my obsession with Angel lit. It’s something I could talk for days on. One of the most popular Angel-lit series would have to be Fallen by Lauren Kate but I have a love-hate relationship with it. When I first read it I loved it. It was everything I needed to read at the time. It seemed to have it all; star-crossed lovers, reincarnation, Angels, Demons, Nephilim, conflict, drama! It had a love triangle; does Luce choose the “bad boy” Fallen Angel Cam or go with the Fallen Angel Daniel who has loved her for centuries? It had all the best parts of Vampire-lit but it had Demons!

Then I read it for my thesis on Feminisim and the “Sins” of Angels; and I hated it.

WARNING: This post contains potential spoilers in the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. Do not read further if you hate spoilers.

Angel Books

(Yep this is one of the shelves on my bookshelf.)

If you haven’t read the book here’s a brief run down of the story: Luce is a young woman who never lives past the age of 17. She reincarnates periodically after dying horrifically, which always happens shortly after meeting the love of her life; Daniel. Daniel is a Fallen Angel and Luce is portrayed as the human girl he fell for and who was subsequently cursed with him into a reincarnation cycle. Luce has no memories of her past lives, but as Daniel is immortal he remembers her. It seems that no matter what he does Daniel always ends up where Luce is, thus triggering the cycle to start again. The series follows her current incarnation as she meets and falls in love with Daniel, on to her learning about their past together and her journey to make this life time different.

 

Ok having said all that this is the main thing that bugs me about Luce and Daniel’s “romance”. Daniel is horrible to her when they meet in this current incarnation. Sure, in the story he’s just being horrible to her so that she will stay away from him and thus hopefully have a long and happy life; but it doesn’t work. She falls immediately in love with him and no amount of his pushing her away has any affect on that what so ever. All she does is pine after him, throw herself in his path and question why he rejects her. In the end it is revealed that Daniel does love her and that absolves his behaviour towards her; which only makes the message worse. It reinforces negative messages that young women are told in the rape culture that is prevalent in literature. This really gets under my skin. It’s the same as people telling a young girl that the boy bullying her is only doing it because he likes her. If he actually liked her he wouldn’t dream of hurting her. As the story progresses Daniel orders Luce around “for her own protection”, which is classic controlling behaviour of an abusive boyfriend. The other characters of the story are well rounded and interesting, but I just can’t get behind Luce and Daniel’s relationship. He treats her like she’s sixteen, I guess because she never lives past 17, and acts more like her father than her boyfriend.

BIG SPOILER:

At the end it turns out that Luce was an Angel all along and her curse was to reincarnate until she had chosen a side in the War between Heaven and the Fallen Angels. So, she is in fact approximately the same age as Daniel. Why then does he treat her like a teenager for essentially thousands of years? Even before this revelation the third installment of the series focuses on Luce traveling through her past lives, both modern and in the ancient world, so we know she’s been around a freaking long time, so does Daniel. So why does he treat her like she’s a child?

Kate has a great talent for writing, and like I said, I loved her other characters and their stories; I think Arriane is one of my favourite characters, and of course Roland is hilarious. I just didn’t like the Luce and Daniel love story and think much of the drama could have been built without Daniel trying to control Luce’s behaviour. The genre is very similar to the Vampire-lit genre and I think both genres have a distinct need to move away from the “love interest who is technically abusive but does it for the “right” reasons” stereotype. In the real world there are no “right” reasons for someone to be manipulative, controlling or downright abusive to the person they “love”.

Anzac Day

It’s Anzac Day here in Australia. Today we give thanks to all the Australian and New Zealand citizens who have given their lives in service of their country. As a rule I’m opposed to military conflict, in my opinion most of the wars Australia has been involved with in recent history have nothing to do with defending our country, but I do believe that it is important to show our thanks to those who have fought for this country. My Dad has a saying that a soldier (but he really means anyone serving in an armed force whether it is military or police) is someone who has written a blank cheque to their country up to and including the sum of their lives. I come from a large military family so Anzac Day is always a semi-reflective day for me. Most of the American side of my family have served in the Army or Marines, and most of my mother’s side of the family has served in the Australian Navy or Air Force. It takes an amazing amount of selflessness to sign up for a job knowing that you may not ever come home to your family again. That alone should be respected.

So today I’m reflecting, writing and making a batch of these amazing Anzac cookies that Ania from Lazy Cat Kitchen shared on her blog. I’ve made them several times because Anzacs are my husband’s favourite cookies and this recipe is just so yummy! If you’re Australian let me know what you are doing to commemorate the day by commenting below. Alternatively, have you made these cookies??? Let me know. 🙂

Fallen Angel Lit – Why is it so popular?

I have three main things I like to write about when it comes to my novels: Witches, Fallen Angels and Mermaids. For a short time a couple of years ago I went back to university to study a Masters in Writing (I never finished the course due to health issues) and I chose to base my research around a sub-genre of Urban Fantasy that I refer to as Angel-lit. These books, for those of you not familiar with them, revolve around characters that are Angels, Demons or Nephilim and deal heavily with the mythology of a War in Heaven. There is a distinct pattern in this genre of the female protagonist falling for a Fallen Angel. Often these women are Human, Nephilim (half Angel-half Human) or they are an Angel with no memory of their origins. All the stories I have come across have been set in Western society, usually modern-day America or Australia, aka perceived Christian Societies. Angels – especially Fallen Angels – have quickly become one of the most popular supernatural beings of the Urban Fantasy genre.

I think that this emergence in literature is fascinating. The values of modern society differ so vastly from the traditional values of the religious lore these stories draw from and represent. Angels are primarily found in Christian, Judaic, and Islamic literature, and most of what we believe about Angels comes from these texts. It is also interesting considering that there is a re-emergence of pagan religions in mainstream society.

I’m addicted to these books and, like I said, fascinated by them. They’ve been steadily gaining popularity for the last ten or so years and are competing with Vampire-lit books for shelf space in stores. The following list is by no means exhaustive. There’s a lot of books I haven’t read yet and I’d bore you if I listed all the books I’ve read here; although I recommend Erin McCarthy’s The Coming Dark and Lynnie Purcell’s The Watchers (I’m yet to finish that series but looking forward to reading the next book; The Seekers). Some of the better-known titles include the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand, the Meridian series by Amber Kizer, Rebecca Lim’s Mercy series (which has to be my favourite if I’m honest) and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I haven’t read The Mortal Instruments yet (it’s on my “to read” list) but I’ve watched some of the series on Netflix and rather enjoyed it.

I was doing a research Masters studying this genre basically because I wanted to write an Angel-lit novel and I wanted to have a Masters, so I thought “two birds, one stone”. My thesis would have been two parts; a novella in the genre and an exegesis discussing the novella and the genre at large. There were so many questions I had as I started to research the genre that I never got to satisfactorily answer; and probably never could. I have my own hypothesis to their answers but without becoming a trained psychologist I doubt I would be able to definitively give an answer either way.

My first question was “Why is Angel-lit so popular?”. It seems to me that these books are targeted to a predominately white, female, western audience. This audience is generally coming from a Judeo-Christian background yet the values that Christians hold now differ from the values that they held when these religions were formed; and these societies are more atheist than religious these days. Church values have less impact on society now. Couples can divorce now, and finally gay marriage has been legalised (YAY!). A decent amount of the population drink, get tattoos, don’t go to church, or “live in sin” with their partners etc. Yet these books deal deeply with scripture, sin and the supernatural. Why are we so drawn to religious myth? Further, why is this relevant to the current patriarchal values in a society undergoing social reform of religious values?” My conclusion is that these books are satisfying a deep psychological need that I can’t identify. As the Hero’s Journey in literature helps us deal with the obstacles in our own life, what is there in religion that satisfied a need in our ancestor’s psyche that we are now looking to literature to find?

I started my research for this topic in my under-graduate degree and noticed that most of these female protagonists can be viewed through the archetypal characters of Lilith and Eve. I’ll go into this in more detail in another post, but these two archetypal women are much maligned in the texts that they come from. So why are they so influential within the genre? This genre is predominately read by young adults, so what are young women learning, or being told, by reading these novels? I think that you can look at these two archetypes of Lilith and Eve as a representation of the suppression of women’s liberty through religion, and the suppression of Goddess Worship and Pagan religions. Are these stories an expression of the Collective Unconcious’ need for the Goddess to claw her way back into our psyche? Goddess Worship is slowly becoming mainstream once again which would indicate that society needs a strong feminine spiritual presence, not just a masculine one. Many pagan paths focus on the Goddess, if not on her own then in a balanced relationship with The God.

The next big question I had was, what values do these stories promote and how do these values affect women in our society in terms of the subliminal messaging these texts create? I found a lot of allegorical messages of our society’s history, as well as the conflict our society is currently undergoing due to the changing position of moral standards in western society. Lilith and Eve were, in their scriptures, the original women who took charge of their lives and explored the freedom they had. It makes sense therefore that these heroines, who are navigating their modern worlds through this dogmatic background, resemble so much these two archetypal matriarchs. When I read I always look at the subliminal messages. I want young men and women to learn to treat each other with respect, and to know that with hard work they can achieve their dreams. I hate that a lot of books romanticise toxic relationships with lovers and gloss over consequences for bad behaviours. I want my nieces, and one day children, to recognise when someone is mistreating them and not be fooled into thinking it is an expression of love.

In my own creative writing on Fallen Angels I explore the nature of the Goddess as an archetype and her place within the world. Throughout history religion, especially Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, have a reputation, and displayed agenda, to subjugate the Goddess and strong women who do not cow to their dogma. History has women burning at the stake as witches or heretics, and pagan Goddesses were translated into Demons or Saints depending on how the church viewed their characters. I’m currently drafting a novel in this genre whilst also working on Samhain Sorcery and my blog. I’ve almost finished the drafts of both novels and I’m really excited about putting them out for publication over the next twelvish months.

Here Lies Beth

So I’m quite the Joss Whedon fan, I mean not the accusations of being sketchy towards women, but I have long adored Firefly, Buffy, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along and Dollhouse. Through these shows I became acquainted with the work of Jane Espenson and I quite admire her as a writer. She’s hilarious! Earlier this year she posted on social media a retweet of Alex Zalben’s idea of typing “Here lies” followed by your name, and then allowing the predictive text on your phone to write your epitaph. It came up  in my feed again the other day and I had a few minutes to kill so I thought, “Why not. I’ll give it a go.”

The result was not disappointing.

 

here lies beth

 

#obviously #howcouldInotbe?#duh #beingme #thewayIam #predictivetext#humour #writer #author #indieauthor #amwriting#backtowriting

Festival Appearances for 2018

There’s a couple of festivals I’m going to be at this year. Read on for more information.

Denmark Festival of Voice

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I’m really excited to be a part of this year’s Denmark Festival of Voice! It runs over the June long weekend in the picturesque paradise of the Great Southern town of Denmark (the name totally doesn’t give it away does it? :P). I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be giving a talk on The Kingston Chronicles and what it’s like to be and Indie Author, as well as my Indie Publishing experiences. It will be a perfect opportunity for readers to ask questions me questions and get an autograph on their copy of The Kingston Chronicles. I’ll also be teaching a creative writing workshop for kids! For more information about my appearance, and other events going on at the Festival of Voice check out this link: http://www.denmarkfestivalofvoice.com.au/performers/

 

Beautifully Haunted

Ok, so this is one of my favourite festivals! I missed out on going last year, I can’t IMG_2400remember why, but it is a fantastic arty, gothic event in Perth and it makes my heart sing. The first year Beautifully Haunted was run I was still dancing and was lucky enough to be able to dance quite a few times during the night, both in a solo act and as part of a troupe. I had immense fun portraying the Goddess Persephone that first year (look right to see a picture from rehearsals). Each year it is themed and this year the theme is Athena Rising. It is to be a celebration of the warrior female. As much as I’m disappointed I won’t be able to dance at the show as I have in the past (I’m fairly confident my dancing days are over) I will still be there to celebrate the sisterhood this event evokes. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and watching amazing dancers display their skills to some kick ass music. Prior to the show I’ll have a small stall with books for sale where you can meet me! I’ve been encouraged by event organisers to dress up and I’m looking forward to it immensely. You can check out the website here, or follow the event on Instagram at @beautifullyhaunted, or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyhaunted/)

Telling Tales

Telling Tales 2017_1I’m hoping to be at Telling Tales again this year. It runs in the July school holidays (this year 7th and 8th of July) For the last two years the talented author Nina Smith and I have run creative writing workshops for kids at the festival and they’ve always been a big hit. The workshops we’ve run in the past were “Build a Beastie” and “Fracturing Fairy tales”. I’ve run these workshops without Nina but, to me, it’s just not the same. The kids love the opportunity to let their creativity run wild, especially in the “Build a Beastie” workshop. I can’t tell you how many poop monsters we’ve had from the boys. We even had a snot monster from one of the girls once. The festival is held annually at Bailingup in WA’s beautiful South West. For more information you can go to their website (http://www.tellingtalesinbalingup.com.au/). The festival is definitely a family event with the activities aimed at children but it’s always a lot of fun for the adults too. Event staff all take the opportunity to dress up from children’s literature and the costumes are fantastic. The first year Nina and I dressed up as witches, and a child dressed as a not-so-cowardly lion walked up to me and said, “I know who you are! You’re the Wicked Witch of the West”. I decided to run with it, which may not have been the best idea because the child punched me lightly on the arm and ran off to his parents. It was pretty funny though. Last year we dressed as gypsies. To find out what we’ll dress as this year you’ll either need to be at the festival or be monitoring my Instagram and Facebook feeds over that weekend.

 

Art Practice and Deadlines

Today I want to talk about Art Practice and Deadlines. I really hate the term “ArtJournals Practice” but I can’t think of a better term so I’m stuck with it. All artists have some kind of art practice. Whether you are an illustrator who draws daily or a painter who keeps an Art Journal; Art Practice is important to your growth as an artist. Musicians play their instruments daily to keep their skills honed. As I posted on social media at the end of January I keep writing journals. Keeping a writing journal is something I started in University but it wasn’t a completely foreign idea. When I was in high school part of our curriculum was to keep a visual arts diary because I took (what was then T.E.E.) classes in Art. Our Visual Diaries were part of our final grade and after the Education Department had finished marking them the Diaries that received higher marks, as well as the assignments, were displayed at the State Art Gallery in Perth. In year 11 we were taken to the gallery for the exhibition and I loved it. I actually quite miss painting and drawing. I’d love to illustrate some kids books I’ve written (but not yet published) but I need to work on my skills again. They have deteriorated due to lack of practice. Unfortunately, my time is extremely limited, as I said in previous posts being an Indie Author, I have to be everything that a Publishing house has a department for – as well as go to my paying job and fit in admin work for my husbands’ business, so I have to choose what to focus on.

But, I’m getting side-tracked. I have a large collection of journals that span the last ten years filled with ideas for stories, bits of story that have come to me when I was away from my computer, thoughts I’ve pondered, dreams, doodles, and things that I’ve collected that inspire me or I simply liked. Things like quotes, pictures out of magazines, newspaper articles, song lyrics etc. I almost never buy myself notebooks because family and friends have been gifting them to me since I was 16. I prefer sketch pads because I can write or draw in them but I use lined journals more frequently. I love looking at Art Journals on Pinterest for inspiration for ways to let my creativity out. Journaling is vital to my growth as a writer. I can come back to ideas that are years old, I can trace where three different ideas have come together and amalgamated into a story, and I can see my skills improve over the years. But at its base level, there is always the fact that if I didn’t have an outlet for my creativity I’d probably start climbing the walls (or painting them).

I strongly recommend, no matter what kind of art you produce, that you keep a journal of some description. I usually carry mine in my handbag, especially if I know I’m going to be stuck somewhere like a doctor’s office, so that I can always write down the things that come to me. At a pinch I have been known to open the note app in my phone and record things there until I can get home to my journal.

pocket muse

If you want to start an art journal or writing journal and you don’t know where to start there’s plenty of places on the internet and social media buzzing with ideas. There are pages on Facebook that will give you daily writing prompts, there’s pins on Pinterest with “challenges” where it will give you a month long challenge with a different thing to draw/paint/write about each day and there are of course books on writing that will give you activities or inspirations to journal about. One of my favourites is The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood (see left image). Of course you can always just work on whatever you are inspired on but challenges and prompts are great when the muse has flown. In my opinion, if you want to make a living out of your art you need to treat it like a full time job. That means having “office hours” (even if they are jumbled around a paying job) and working on your art every day. Progress doesn’t get made unless you are making it. Which leads me into deadlines.

You’re probably thinking that Indie Authors, being self-employed, don’t have to worry about deadlines. I can’t talk for everyone, but I can definitely say that I need deadlines and I would imagine that a lot of Indie authors do. A deadline in my case is less a hard and fast “this needs to be at the printers by X date” and more like “I want to finish this manuscript by the end of next month so I can send it to my editor (yes I have an editor, she is an amazing human being who reviews my work for all the stuff I missed) with enough time for her to get it back to me, and changes to be made so that I can have the book out by say, Christmas. Sometimes manuscripts will go to her several times before I’m ready to publish. I think The Kingston Chronicles went to her twice, a second editor once and one of my friends beta read it to see if people would enjoy the story. The Kingston Chronicles took me nine years to write due in part to life circumstances, my terror at the idea of people reading it and hating it, and not having a defined goal or path to how it was going to be published. Mostly it was the lack of discipline to work on the manuscript in a routine. You might not have time to write every day but to get the ball rolling I recommend you have a few hours set aside every week to focus on your writing. Once I chose to self-publish and had the manuscript to where I was happy with the whole “publishing” side took less than six months. The long part is writing and editing the manuscript. I still have days where I sit at the computer and mess around on social media, listening to music, while I’m trying to figure out where the story is going next but that’s part of the process. I’d love it if I could sit down and write for eight hours straight every day and be super productive but I can’t and I’m not. I try not to be too hard on myself about this, my mental health couldn’t take it if I was, because I value the quality of my life over my productivity. And, generally, the odd day off here and there make me more productive.

What kinds of art practice do you utilize? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂