Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Rat Bargain

The house was old with a pointy roof like a witch's cottage. Inside, the house was cluttered with ancient furniture while hand painted murals peeled off the walls. The walls were most interesting to me as they were wide and hollow and riddled with secret passageways. The doorway to one if them looked like bit of wood paneling, only it had a catch and if you went inside on hands and knees, the tunnel wound around to the other side of the house only to pop out inside a bedroom cupboard.

I lived in the attic and my room was all pointy angles and odd shaped cupboards. At the end of a large walk in wardrobe was the most curious thing on the wall:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat#mediaviewer/File:Rattus_norvegicus_1.jpgA stop sign.

Even more curiously, the stop sign was attached by a hinge. It was in fact, a doorway to another secret passage. One of the many in this strange old house. Barely big enough for an adult to crawl through, the passageway beyond the stop sign door was carpeted in dark green shag pile.

When I first discovered the stop sign for what it was, a doorway, naturally I opened it. And two gimlet eyes met my own. Sitting on the dark green shag pile carpet, as if awaiting my arrival, was a rat.

It was an old house filled with old furniture and riddled with secret tunnels. A rat was no surprise. Although I didn't fancy him running across my bed in the night, or munching through my lunch when my back was turned.

So I made a bargain with the rat. I said, "Mr. rat, if you will promise to stay this side of this stop sign and leave my room alone, I will promise to lay no traps or poison nor tell the landlord of our meeting."

The rat nodded and scampered off.

I never saw him again and neither him nor his ratty brethren ever entered my room.

This is a true story.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Impostor!

 I'm drowning in the eternal bog of procrastination... I’ve written only a few hundred of the 5k words I aimed for this week. I think I’ve moved beyond the ‘afraid to write’ stage - thanks to the support and good advice I received last month - and into writer's block.

I’ve got a good beginning and the first three chapters done. And now I’ve stalled. I don’t know how to start chapter 4. I know what happens in chapter 4, I know there is a big disaster coming in chapter 5. There’s plenty of foreshadowing, our cast of characters are introduced and our world is alive. Monsters are lurking in the shadows, Gargoyles are vanishing along with their warning cries, our protagonist is refusing to go on a quest to acquire monster-slaying magic while at the same time, walking straight into the one place she should never ever go. What’s the problem? Lightening should be sparking off the keyboard. And yet…. The keys sit untapped.

I think, to quote Megan McArdle in her article Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators, I am “paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.” I have impostor syndrome:

The fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you 'really' are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome.

Sinking....


This post is for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. A place for writers to stand up and face their inner dragons, cry at the woeful inadequacy of their weapons, get some much needed support from other dragon slayers and carry on anyway. I think. I hope....

Friday, 27 June 2014

Freyja and her cats

The Norse goddess Freyja is associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, and gold, but like the cat with whom she is closely connected, she could flex her claws as the goddess of war, and death.


Freyja riding with her cats (1874)
By Ludwig Pietsch (1824-1911) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The latter two interests she shared with Odin. They also shared the souls who died in battle, half going to Valhalla to drink the blood of their enemies from their own skulls with Odin, the other half were scooped up from the battlefield by the Valkyries and brought to Freja’s heavenly meadow of the afterlife, F√≥lkvangr, meaning people-field or army-field. I imagine F√≥lkvangr to be like a big fluffy cushion surrounded by plates of sushi and bowls of overflowing tuna. The kind of afterlife a cat would love!

It is said that the cat was Freyja’s sacred animal and she would bless those who were kind to them. As well as loving cats and being generally associated with them, Freyja also rode in a chariot pulled by two cats; Bygul and Trjegul. Some claim they were Norwegian Forest Cats others have called them as "Gib-cats" however they are referred to simply as 'cats' in the Prose Edda. They have been described as either black, grey or blue and were a gift from Thor.

The name Freyja is roughly translated to mean ‘Lady’. Some scholars argue that she is one and the same as the Goddess Frigg. Either or both of these Goddesses’ names are the root of the fifth day of the week, Friday, in Germanic languages.

So Happy Feline Friday on behalf of Freyja and her cats!

Sources:
Nine Lives: The Folklore of Cats, Katherine M. Briggs
The Cat in Magic and Myth, M. Oldfield Howey
Cats in Norse mythology, http://felineforever.com/cat-mythology-norse.html
Freyja, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja
Image: By Ludwig Pietsch (1824-1911) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Can kissing a cat make you fat?

black cat and white cat

Kiss the black cat
An' 'twill make ye fat:
Kiss the white ane,
An' 'twill make ye lean.

This little rhyme was quoted in The Denham Notebooks by Henderson (2), along with a convoluted discussion as to whether a black cat is lucky or not and where. Like most folklore, there is not one simple 'truth' however, in most instances, black cats are lucky and white cats are unlucky.

I think Miracle, pictured above, knows this...

However, for those aiming to lose weight, a white cat could be lucky for weightloss. As long as you kiss it. But how can you negate a white cat's bad luck? Get a black cat and have them both living in your home. Happy Feline Friday the 13th!!


Sources:
1.Briggs, K. 1980. Nine Lives: The Folklore of Cats. Pantheon Books: New York. p69.
2.Henderson W. 1879. Folk-lore from the Northern Counties of England and the Borders. F.L.S.:London. p207.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Beware The Cat! #CTST #FelineFriday


Beware the CatI always thought the modern horror genre of fiction was born in the 19th Century with novels such as The Vampyre by John Polidori, Bram Stoker's Dracula and the ubiquitous Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. But it seems I was mistaken. Some argue that the first ever horror novel was written much earlier.

In 1561, William Baldwin published Beware The Cat. The book concerns an underworld society of talking cats, a werewolf, magic potions, forbidden secrets and other supernatural skulduggery.

The image is from the title-page verso of Griffith’s 1570 edition of William Baldwin’s Beware the Cat and the top most image (some argue all three although the bottom two look like hedgehogs to me) is the cat to beware of.


This Feline Friday, I am celebrating Beware the Cat!
 
 

http://viklit.blogspot.co.uk/p/celebrate-small-things-master-post.html


This is a post for Celebrate The Small Things and part of VikLit's blog hop. To join, just click on the link and put your name on the Linky list, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful for that week. It can be anything!


AND  Steve of BFDude's Feline Friday!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Is there a word for that? #IWSG

Can a writer be afraid to write? Not the fear of the blank page. Worse. Not even getting there. After naively completing my first novel and filled with enthusiasm and bursting with ideas for the second, I find myself stumped when it comes to putting words on a page - or even getting to that glorious blank space. You see, I realised how much I didn’t know about writing a novel and became paralysed. I read something about these painful things called 'pinch points' and some nautical structures called 'character arcs', and some awful outlining practice of ‘beating the cat’ and thought, holy cannoli I’m clueless!

I am not a complete panster. I do plot roughly and do my character sketches, sketchily. A plotting panster or panstering plotter, take your pick. I had an outline for my first novel – a line per chapter detailing what would happen following a folktale structure. And it all came together rather well (or so I thought). I find magical things actually happened in the ‘act’ of writing and too much planning is, well, a waste of time as the magic will lead me else where. A bit like charting a course from A to B when you just know there’s a spooky ruin along the way and you’re going on an adventure.  While doing my rough folkloric outline I had read a couple of books on the craft and perhaps my mistake was returning to them.

You see, the more I start reading about writing the more I realise I don’t know about the craft. Do I really need to know every characters favourite colour, mother’s occupation and star sign? Is it not enough to know their defining moments, darkest secrets and weaknesses? And these will most certainly be exposed... Is it absolutely necessary to plot out each individual scene complete with character arcs lashed to defining inner and outer conflicts while subtly, yet definitively painting a broader theme? What is my theme?

What exactly is a 'character arc' or a 'pinch point' anyway? Please tell me I'm not the only one who doesn't know! It is at this point that I abandon all reason along with my blank page and scramble to that all-knowing oracle ‘the internet’ and throw myself prostrate at the feet of the great seer - Google search….

As you can see, I am not even getting to the blank page. This inner subterfuge doesn’t even break the ‘writer’s block’ barrier. That at least would be a start. No, I’m paralysed by reading about writing so that maybe, just maybe, I can start doing it.

Is there a word for that?


This post is for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. A place for writers to stand up and face their inner dragons, cry at the woeful inadequacy of their weapons, get some much needed support from other dragon slayers and carry on anyway. I think. I hope....