Sunday, July 26, 2009

Swapping thread for words?

So I have swapped the laptop for the sewing machine that I recently inherited. This weekend’s projects – an apron, napkins and a cushion cover. Don’t worry. It’s just a phase!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mrs Underhilll Book Club meeting # 4

Some of us recently finished reading MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides. I'm not going to instigate any discussion points right now although I really do need someone to explain to me why the brother's name was "chapter eleven". And I did enjoy looking up info about Tiresias who was the son of Everes and the nymph Chariclo; he was a blind prophet, the most famous soothsayer of ancient Greece. And I still have on my TO DO list the research topics of Edward Gibbon and the journals of Madame de Stael to keep me occupied. Suffice to say there are two things to be tackled right now:

1) Do any of the readers want to meet in the flesh for a wine and cheese discussion of MIDDLESEX? (Welcome to have it at my place.) Or shall we do it online?

2) Do we have a suggestion for the next book and some inspiring discussion notes to go along with it?

Email me here (or don't, some of you I am just keeping in the loop in case you are keen now and then to participate) or log on and comment on the blog:
Remember to feel free to pass this on.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

This is Thriller!

So a couple of people have asked me if the previous post, WRITING AT NIGHT, was based on true events. While I have imagined eyes outside the sunroom - no - this has never actually happened to me and I pray to God it never does. I don't think my heart would re-start. I'll take it as a compliment though that it was rooted enough in reality. In fact it was a little exercise set by a friend after attending the Cleary Horror Seminar. I left it to the last moment, of course, so it was rushed and hammy but, hey, it was fun.

Speaking of Cleary, I had a constructive four hours of cleaning my office on Friday (internet connection was down and this job had been on the TO DO list for about three months so the universe gave me no choice) and I discovered notes from that seminar including books and films to follow up.

If you're in the market for an old fashioned fright then look into The Penny Dreadfuls. Apparently, when tracing the history of suspense novels and stories, much is owed to these nineteenth century British publications which, according to good old Wikipedia, usually contained "lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny".
As it goes the stories were mostly reprints or rewrites of Gothic thrillers such as The Monk or The Castle of Otranto, as well as new stories about famous criminals. Some of the most famous of these penny part stories were The String of Pearls: A Romance (which introduced Sweeney Todd), The Mysteries of London (inspired by the French serial, The Mysteries of Paris) and Varney the Vampire. I SO have to get my hands on that one. The library doesn't have it but good old Amazon does so come on down Mr Postman.

Also recommended by Mr Cleary was Polidori's The Vampyre. I can't get that at the library so I am purchasing a collection instead which sounds dead fascinating: Three Gothic Novels: The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, The Vampyre.

(On the vampire sideline for a second, I am slowly and steadily getting access (don't ask) to Season 2 of True Blood and, now that we have a new flash telly, the blood sucking, nipple biting, swamp stalking action is only going to be all the more gruesome and delicious. Already buff chests will fill the 40 inch screen and I'll have to have a flat lemonade and a cool bath afterwards.)

Then Cleary recommended looking at the story of Ed Gein (27 August 27 1906 – 26 July 1984) whose murderous ways inspired characters such as Norman Bates in 'Psycho', Jame Gumb from 'The Silence of the Lambs', and Leatherface from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Hmmm, I think I'll leave Mr Gein's story alone for now although it is interesting to see how screenwriters lift the stories from the daily news and transform them into screen nightmares.

The final Cleary recommendation, for those on a scary slope, was the script for the film, Don't Look Now. That movie was REALLY creepy. Don't think I could watch it again but apparently the author, Alan Scott, is a master so, while I haven't tracked down the document yet, I'll give it a red hot go (tips welcome!).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Writing at night

She’s tapping away at the keyboard in the light of a small desk lamp. An Arthur Conan Doyle book is on her right, something about a devil’s foot. She is typing, copying word-for-word. She does this when she cannot sleep. Somewhere, sometime, somebody told her to transcribe the works of great authors to help improve her work.

Her office is the sunroom. The wall beside her is all glass, with glass French doors opening on to the patio. It is dark, cold and wet outside. The moon is full.

We are outside, in the dark, and we are watching her. Our eyes crawl over her body, from the worn, grey slippers on her feet to her breasts hanging loosely beneath the oversized ‘Bada Bing!’ t-shirt she wears, a souvenir that came with her boxed set of The Sopranos.

Her typing slows down. She feels us. She looks out into the night.

She sees the shape of the huge potted palm on the patio. She sees her own reflection in the glass. Then she sees the person outside. He stands still, just staring in at her, his hands tucked casually into his jacket pockets. Their eyes meet.

Her fright is so great she stops breathing. No sounds come from her. Her hands grip the keyboard and a string of letters spew along the computer screen. He moves a little closer to the window, peers in and grins. “Boo!” he says in a low voice. Then he turns and walks towards the gate, just steps away. She is looking at him but glancing to the right as well. The French door is the least secure in the house. A child could force it in. Where is the phone?

She moves her chair back slightly, slowly. He places a hand on the gate, opens it and walks out. He leaves it swinging open behind him.

To exit the house that way one must walk down the drive way. To do this one must pass the rear window of the sunroom, the one crowded with a wild rose bush. She hears his steps at that window now and turns. He’s looking in again. “Boo!” he says and laughs. He raps hard on the window and she jumps and screams. She is up and running through the house, searching for the phone.

Triple 0, she dials as she moves back to the dining room, beside the sunroom. She wants to know where he is now. Has he gone back into the yard, back to the patio and that flimsy French door?

He is moving past the dining room windows, his steps pass on to the lounge room and then stop. She stands in the hallway where she can see the front door and the lounge room windows. On the other end of the phone the emergency operator answers. “He’s here, he’s here,” she cries into the phone. “Send someone now. There is someone here.”

The man leans in again, to the lounge room window this time, and raps once more. And then he is running away.

(Not for publication beyond this blog site)