Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Chill November Winds Give Warning; Heathcliff is Coming!





Heathcliff is coming!
“I believe--I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! [Lily’s note: his ‘life & soul’ being Cathy!]” Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Sir Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff
I’ve always loved the Gothic Romance genre. My first taste and probably most people’s first brush with Gothic Romance was Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. It’s been around a long time, as it was written in 1847. The old black and white movie starring Sir Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff was my first taste of the dark, twisted, beautiful yet sad tale. The black and white version is visually stunning and has the haunting atmosphere of the book.  Whether it’s Heathcliff served up as Olivier in black & white or as Ralph Fiennes in the 1990’s A & E television version, it’s an equally compelling in its desolate splendor.

Every November, it seems, there is a new version of the classic available in movie form. My husband and I first discovered Heathcliff and Cathy’s sad tale on a cold, stormy night in November. The rain was horrendous, branches were creaking outside and the wind battered the windows as we sat huddled together on the sofa watching the old B&W classic movie. To this day, when the wind is whistling eerily through the bare tree branches in November, my husband will turn to me with a creepy grin and say “Heathcliff is coming!” 



The old movie version with Olivier is romantic and sad, while the newer version with Fiennes is a disturbing tale that adheres more closely to the storyline in the book. For those who are not familiar with the tale, Wuthering Heights tells the story of Heathcliff and Cathy. They are both under the power of Cathy’s brother and they are in love. Heathcliff silently and stoically endures the cruelty of Cathy’s brother and pines for Cathy as he seeks to be with her. Cathy, on the other hand, loves Heathcliff but flippantly decides to marry another man, a rich man who can give her social prestige and luxury. Heathcliff is heartbroken. He vows to wreak revenge on everyone in the story who wronged him and displays an alarming penchant for cruelty as he torments even the children of his enemies. 

Heathcliff begins as a wounded lover in the story and changes into the villain--or the monster by the end of the book. Lucky for him, even though he’s the bad guy who has made everyone suffer, he finally is reunited with Cathy in the afterlife as they haunt the moors together. The quote above from Heathcliff is spoken when he’s given news of her death. He’d rather be haunted and driven mad by her then live without her.  
The question: Can Heathcliff be redeemed as a romance hero by today’s standards?
Answer: Probably not. We’d damn him as the villain for his innate cruelty and also label him as psychotic, and rightly so. No hero by today’s standards could get away with hanging his fiancee’s dog from a tree and survive to remain a hero. It’s just sick, sad and creepy.
Still, the icon of the Gothic Romance Hero survives. It’s Halloween today, we’re celebrating Dark Things. Dark love, dark kisses, dark magic, dark embrace . . . you name it and we’ve probably had a gothic romance novel with the word Dark emblazoned on the cover. The haunting November winds are upon us and I have to warn you, Heathcliff is coming. 

A sort of kinder, gentler cousin of Heathcliff. My version of a Gothic Romance Hero is not a bully or a psychopath. In Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance  Donovan Beaumont is a scientist, a former pirate and pure alpha male. He escaped France at the onset of the French Revolution after being tortured for a crime he didn’t commit. He mistrusts those about him and wants only to live in peace on his isolated island estate in the West Indies. As an adult he has physical scars yet his childhood was not dark and tragic like Heathcliff’s. Donovan was the only son of a wealthy nobleman, much beloved. This gives him the depth of character to be able to give and receive love from a worthy heroine; something I think Heathcliff missed out on growing up. Heathcliff knows only how to manipulate and control, not to give real love. 

Donovan, A Dark Hero

My Gothic Hero, Donovan, also has a dark side. He mistrusts people so he uses disguises and false identities to keep people at a distance. He’s damaged, and may seem a little too close to crazy at times. He’s a scientist, an anatomist to be exact. He studies disease but in order to do that he dissects corpses that he buys from the hangman. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural. As a product of the Enlightenment he’s a stickler for logic and reason. And yet, his home is infested with ghosts. Others can see them, others have told him, but he just won’t believe them. 

Elizabeth, the heroine in the story, is Donovan’s opposite. It’s sort of like Heathcliff meets the Ghost Whisperer, they fall in love and get married. Elizabeth is a child of nature, a descendant of Druids. She can see and speak with the dead. She’s not happy about it, and would rather just ignore the gift and try to pretend to be normal like everyone else. She can’t. Once her grandmother dies, the gift of the seer passes t her. It’s as if she suddenly has a sign on her that says to ghosts ‘hey, want to speak with the living, talk to me!’ This creates a serious problem for her as she’s married to Mr. Logic and Reason and those pesky ghosts just won’t leave her alone.

 Elizabeth is afraid to let Donovan know she has this gift, and with good reason as he might just think she’s crazy and pack her off to the nearest asylum. They did those things to women back in 1798. Elizabeth spends a lot of time trying to hide the gift. It would be easy, except there is one ghost in particular who is trying to harm her. This ghost won’t let her ignore it and the more she tries, the more violent the ghost becomes. So, Elizabeth has a problem, a big one. A ghost trying to hurt her, and its getting harder to hide the bruises from her husband.

It seems Donovan is her worst nightmare at times as Elizabeth struggles to understand him. Like Heathcliff, Donovan can not only be dark and brooding but also scary, manipulative and controlling.  And yet, Donovan is just what Elizabeth’s Druid Granny ordered. You see, before Elizabeth’s grandmother died she cast a spell to summon a champion from the mists to protect Elizabeth, a Dark Hero based on the heroes in the Gothic Novels Elizabeth devoured as an adolescent girl.
So the question that begs answering is this; was Granny Sheila senile when she cast the spell or perfectly lucid?

Will Donovan win Elizabeth’s heart or drive her away from him? Will Elizabeth trust him with her secret? Can she trust him?

There’s an old saying. Be Careful What You Wish For.
I’ve reworked it a little for the tagline of Dark Hero: Guard Your Dreams, Lest They Emerge from the Mists to Embrace You . . . 

Like Heathcliff, Donovan emerges from the mists . . . embrace him at your own risk!
Happy Halloween, everyone. May all your hauntings chill you to the bone and your heroes be dark, sultry, passionate but ultimately redeemable.

Buy Links: 
Smashwords--all digital platforms available  

Barnes & Noble Nook

Chills to You, 

Lilith Bloodrose

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gothic Romance; Magic,Tortured Heroes and Ghosts, Oh My!


I'm in the Halloween Spirit. After all, my fellow lovers of Dark Things, this is the most wonderful time of year. We can decorate our homes and yards with all the lovely little skulls and ghosts and no one blinks or thinks we're weird. We fit in, for one month out of the year. So, Let's Celebrate the Dark Side. I'm giving away free copies of my Gothic Romance to readers here. All you have to do is use the coupon code at the end of this blog and you've got a full length 400 page Gothic Romance Novel Free on me.

Excerpt From Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance:
Just to bring you up to speed: Donovan, the main character, the Dark Hero in the story, is a doctor and a scientist. He cuts up dead bodies, and preserves specimens. His laboratory, like that of any scientist, is sort of creepy for the rest of the world to enter, as he has his preserved specimens of both animals and human remains on display.


     An hour later, Donovan summoned Miss Ramirez to his laboratory.

     Seated behind his desk, he watched the woman’s reaction to the preserved specimens adorning the shelves. As a rule he didn’t allow strangers into his laboratory, particularly women, who tended to be squeamish. The one time he summoned Elizabeth here he’d had the more offensive specimens covered by a canvas to preserve her tender sensibilities.
     The rest of humanity could run shrieking from him and good riddance.
     Elizabeth was the one person he did not wish to repulse with his studies in anatomy.
    

 Miss Ramirez started and gasped as she saw the grinning skull on his desk. “El Diablo!”
     “Not the devil, one of his hirelings.” Donovan replied. “I killed him and fed his body to the sharks. Sit, Miss Ramirez.” He gestured to the chair.
     She regarded him with horror, as if he would slit her throat if the mood took him.
     Smiling, Donovan gestured again to the seat opposite his desk.
     With reluctance, she sank into the chair. “Please, do not send me away.” The woman blurted, near the point of tears. “I talk too much, it annoys my lady—I will try to be—“
     Donovan raised his hand, indicating silence. “I did not summon you here to reprimand you. I need your assistance. How long has the ghost been haunting Elizabeth?”
    “You know about the spirit, my lord?” Her eyes grew wide with alarm.
    “She visited us last night. It threw Elizabeth to the floor, right in front of me.”
    “Dios! I did not think the spirit would attack her in your presence.”
    “What does she want?”
     Chloe clutched the arms of the chair and pressed her lips together, as if the truth might fly from them unbidden. Her doe-like eyes begged him not to ask her to betray her lady.
     Donovan maintained his impervious stare.
      She crumbled. “I do not know, my lord!”
     “Has Elizabeth said anything to you regarding the ghost? Who is it?”
     “Her mother, my lord.”
      Donovan’s heart chilled at the woman’s words. “Her mother? What does she want?”
     “I do not know, my lord. My lady does not speak of her mother at all. She talks about her grandmother often, but . . .” The woman paused. Her eyes took on a terrified cast as something slowly became apparent to her.
     “Elizabeth is being harmed.” He insisted in a severe tone. “If you have any insights, no matter how slight, now would be the time to share them, Chloe.”
      She stared at him, considering her predicament: angering the master, who paid her wages, versus reporting the truth to him about his lady. Her lower lip quivered, her eyes brimmed with rising tears.
      Bloody Hell, Donovan cursed silently. That last thing he needed was another weepy female to deal with. Lizzie had been weeping off and on for days, and he fully expected that storm to worsen before it was over. He loved Lizzie, and dealing with her tears left his heart in shreds. He couldn’t endure a bout of hysterical weeping from another woman—he’d rather die, by his own hand.
      As he glowered impatiently at the servant, waiting for her to explode into an annoying torrent of tears, she straightened her spine, clasped her hands together tightly, and appeared to tuck her raging emotions neatly away beneath her colorful shawl for another day.
     “At first,” She sniffled, and went on in a throaty voice, “The spirit did not harm Madame. She appeared a few times to her at night and during the day she would toss items about my lady’s room. Several times, we would find the wardrobe emptied all over the floor. After questioning me as to the reason for the mess, my lady realized it was the spirit doing this to get her attention. She said her mother was a having a—Oh!” She spun her hand in the air. “—acting like a child who does not get its way? I do not know the word, my lord.”
      “Having a tantrum?”
      “Yes, that is the word my lady used. Every few days there would be an incident. Madame and I would pick up the mess and she cautioned me to keep silent. Lately, the spirit started attacking her. My lady has been pushed, slapped, shoved, and once she was locked in a closet.”
      “Yet, you did not come to me.” Donovan chastened.
      “My lady swore me to silence, my lord. And you are a man of science,” She gestured around the room. “What could I have said to make you believe my tale?”
The woman did have a point. He would not have believed her—not before last night.
       “Nothing like this happened on the ship. These attacks seem to have begun after our arrival here. What could have disturbed her mother’s spirit since then?”
       Her dark eyes moved about the room, from the stuffed raven to the owl and the lizard perched on the shelf behind him as if seeking the answers. “There is a magic charm in Madame’s possession. She discovered it among her grandmother’s things after we unpacked her trunks. My lady believes the charm is a protection against nightmares.” The maid tugged her shawl about her. Her dark eyes widened. “But it is pure evil, my lord.”
       Donovan pondered her words. Maureen’s ghost had said Elizabeth’s ancestors were sorcerers. If senile Old Sheila had fashioned a malicious charm, it seemed prudent to remove it from Elizabeth. “Find it. Bring it to me.” 
 Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance is available FREE at Smashwords.com. This is an exclusive offer only for readers of this blog. Coupon is good through Oct. 31st 2012. Have a Halloween Treat on me!
If you would like a free e-book copy of Dark Hero use coupon code TN97B at the checkout at Smashwords.com


Chills to You,  

Lilith Bloodrose


Monday, September 10, 2012

A Chilling New Gothic Classic




I just watched "The Woman In Black", and let me tell you, it's scary!
I was home alone, so I had to cling to my German Shepherd for comfort during the really scarey scenes. Usually my dear husband is the one who holds my hand, but he wasn't available, but Fritz, my 2 year old shepherd was most happy to sit on the sofa with me and let me snuggled him from protection.

I must say, it's rare that a Gothic story gets me that spooked, and I give praise to the director for taking the story and creating a very seriously creepy movie that is destined to become a cult classic. It's set in th late Victorian age, about the turn of the 20th century.

Daniel Radcliffe stars in a adult role in this thriller written by Susan Hill. He's a widower named Arthur Kripp, a lawyer who is sent by his firm to a remote village in England to find the correct will after a rich woman dies and leaves her estate papers in shambles. He has lost his wife, and has reached rock bottom. His son is about four years old, and doesn't want him to go out of town for this job. Arthur is in arrears financially, and his boss at the firm makes it clear that if he can't complete this job, he'll be let go from the firm. So, Arthur travels by train to the remote seaside village and is met by cold shoulders and anger at every turn. Arthur goes to the deserted manor house to find the papers, against the advice of the local lawyer and other villagers. The house is seriously creepy, a pure goth delight. The interior is dark, moody, and full of spooky atmosphere, the perfect setting for a ghost story.


As Arthur goes through the widow's papers at the empty manor house, he hears odd noises, and has strange sensations as things brush past him. He looks out the window at one point and sees a woman in black on the deserted grounds. He goes outside to try to find her, but to no avail. Instead, he finds a grave. Meanwhile, he goes to town and children immediately start dying. He can't understand it, but each time he encounters a child, they seem to die shortly thereafter, violently. The townspeople try to make him leave by force, but won't tell him why this is happening in their village. As the mob closes in he is rescued by the local gentry, Mr. Daily, played by Ciaran Hinds. Mr. Daily offers him a room at his mansion, and Arthur meets Daily's disturbed wife. The Daily's have also lost a child, and the mother is grieving, and has a strange affliction/gift as she as sometimes able to channel her child. Her husband just thinks she's nuts, but she's actually giving Arthur a few clues as to the strange woman in black and her purpose in the area. 

Poor Arthur is alone at the Haunted Mansion, but really not alone!             




Determined to follow through with his job, lest his employer let him go if he does not, he keeps searching through the papers at the mansion. He discovers some very disturbing things as he does so. A child of the owners died years ago. He finds letters from the birth mother, the old widow's sister, accusing her of taking her child from her, and of being responsible for the child's death.  The woman in black is the birth mother. She's haunting the house and the villagers, taking their children from them one by one for reasons unknown. She's a very angry ghost! Arthur is being stalked by her. The toys in the dead child's room start to play (wind up toys) in the middle of the night. He sees strange shadows and things brush past him. This movie is brilliant in that it's not about what you see, it's what is implied behind the scenes. There were some seriously creepy scenes using the children's mechanized toys. Scary little ghost children who aren't very nice!  Talk about a high creep factor.
  
Arthur's scared, wouldn't you be, all alone in a mansion with lots of ghosts?

Arthur came to the remote village to find legal papers at the house of a dead client. Easy job, right? He ends up finding a desolate house full of ghosts and dark secrets. He is isolated and alone, and is stalked by a woman in black as he tries to prevent her from taking more children to the grave in her mad quest for vengeance.  Watch the movie, you won't be disappointed. But my advice, watch it with a friend!
Watch the Movie Trailer

Chills to you, 

Lilith Bloodrose



Monday, August 13, 2012

What makes a compelling, believable Ghost Story?




Ghosts have always fascinated me. My first encounter with a ghost in a romance was Lynn Kurland’s Stardust of Yesterday. I admit I was pulled in partly by the cover, as the actor from Highlander was the cover model. Yes, those alluring covers do draw us in, don’t they! In this story, the hero was a ghost and the heroine was still alive. Talk about instant conflict. That first paranormal romance sparked my interest to the genre and led me happily down the path to the dark side.

As an author, creating ghosts is much harder than reading about them. When writing Dark Hero, a Gothic Paranormal romance, I had think long and hard about how and why the ghosts would appear in the story in the first place, as well to try to create that chill factor we love in ghost stories. No, I didn’t go into haunted houses. I love to be scared by reading ghost stories and watching scary movies (not alone!) but facing a real ghost in a haunted house--no, not if I can help it. 

I asked myself this, why stick around in a place for centuries when you could be off enjoying the after-life? I’d go to Paris, to the Louvre. I’d be off in a heartbeat if I was a ghost and able to travel anywhere I wanted to go with no physical boundaries. And yet, the main element of ghost stories is the ghost being tied to the person or to a specific place.
Ah, now I had a clue. I can’t just throw random ghosts into a story to jack up the creepy factor and scintillate readers; we need to have reason for the haunting that fits into the plot of the book.

So, I came up with a list of elements to help me construct a compelling, believable ghost:
1). Ghosts have feelings, and feelings compel us to act, rationally or irrationally.
I love the Supernatural TV Series. As Dean and Sam hunt ghosts, there are often some pretty angry haunters to contend with. An example is the female ghost in the show’s pilot who kept appearing to men along the deserted road. The men she appeared to were unfaithful to their mates, so after they picked her up she would kill them. She did this because she had been betrayed by her husband and being in an angry, irrational state, she killed herself. Thus, she became fixated on killing other men in the area near her home who are adulterers. Her feelings of pain and betrayal at death forced her to seek revenge--now that’s an emotionally driven ghost.

2). Ghosts want to contact the living. That is the bread and butter of the Ghost genre. If they’re off doing their own thing, like going to Paris to haunt the Louvre (my choice) then where’s the story? What’s the point?  It might be at the Louvre . . . but again, why would I be there instead of at home trying to contact my children and grandchildren?

3). Ghosts have to be motivated toward a goal. There has to be a reason why they are stuck where they are. That’s why they are so angry, sad or psychotic. They have intense feelings which cause them to act and they are motivated to complete a goal so they can find peace.

 To illustrate this, consider two of the ghosts in the Harry Potter movies. I love the headless ghost who keeps floating around Hogwartz cheerfully chatting with everyone, but it seems he serves no real purpose in the movie other than background flavoring. Moaning Mertle on the other hand, (the girl who haunts the bathroom) has intense feelings and a purpose to be in the story. She has knowledge that ultimately helps Harry and the gang. Once they talk to Mertle, she helps them solve their problem by giving clues that lead to the next step in their quest. 

Elizabeth O'Flaherty in Dark Hero
I have several ghosts in Dark Hero. Some are strangers to the heroine and others are family members. Regardless of their relationship to Elizabeth O’Flaherty, they all have a reason to be stuck with a haunting gig and a reason to want to contact to her. Elizabeth is a seer and is able to see and speak with the dead. Examining why the ghosts should be present in first place helped me to write a compelling ghost story and avoid using ghosts as wallpaper merely to spice up the story. 

After sharing what I think makes a credible ghost, let’s open this up for discussion. Feel free to share your comments about what makes a worthy haunting in a story and what you like (or don’t like) in ghostly characters.

Chills To You, 

Lilith Bloodrose

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Highwayman, Part II


Undead Romance . . . Ghostly Lovers . . . The Highwayman still comes to visit Bess at the Inn after their demise. Love it. You will, too. With the Full Moon this week, enjoy this poem and imagine a bit of ghostly courtship taking place on a lonely, moonlit road, as gentleman caller rides up to the old abandoned inn door and pays a visit to the lovely, pale Bess, the Landlord's Black eyed daughter . . .

Part one of this excerpt was in the previous post, and the following lines are from Part II of the famous poem.

When we left the lovely Bess on Friday, she was having a bad night as the soldiers came to the inn and seem to be settling in.  She's worried, for you see, her lover, the highwayman, promised to come to her that night. 
 
The Highwayman, Part II by Alfred Noyes:

He [the highwayman] did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—Marching—marching—
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window; And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say— 
"Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight; 
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though Hell should bar the way!"

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding, Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming!
She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him— with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—Riding—riding— 
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter, 
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair

If you are looking for a musical rendition of the this haunting poem, check out Lorena McKennitt's  version from her Book of Secrets CD. The link is here again for your convenience:
Lorena McKennitt's rendition of "The Highwayman"