October 10, 6:30pm
Mack will be reading an excerpt from the upcoming novel “Peace and Love”.
October 10, 6:30pm
Mack will be reading an excerpt from the upcoming novel “Peace and Love”.
My fellow authors and I at Ellysian Press came together to discuss the tools of the trade. Check out this enlightening discussion:
No really, a Human Zoo. To show off the colonial might of France a human zoo was built. It replicated, rather superficially, the lives and homes of persons indigenous to Senegal, The Congo, Morroco, Algiers, Tunisia, Indochine, and Madagascar. People were brought from these colonies and put on display in the zoo. Pretty messed up. But irresistible to my imagination.
Originally, Le Jardin Agronomie Tropicale was created to collect, cultivate and experiment on plants found in the French colonies. In 1907, the French Society of Colonization got the bright idea to create exhibits–replicas of the homes inhabited by the indigenous peoples of the colonies and populated these exhibits with real people dressed in their native garb. The colonial exhibition in which the people were displayed took place from May to October 1907.
Paris was not the only place where human beings were put on display like zoo animals. England and Brooklyn, New York had such exhibits. As late as 2005, Germany had a human zoo exhibit, parading Africans alongside baboons…
I have gone through, it seems, hundreds of photographs and read detailed accounts until I was able to conflate what I found into a fictional experience witnessed by one of the ancient beings in my novel. He relates the story to another character who, being rich white and, dare I say, privileged, had nothing in common with the people held in the zoo. It turns out, however, that there is a thread of humanity that connects us all. Sometimes, that thread must be held up to the light at certain angles to be seen.
I used this photo as a writing prompt to construct my story about the Congolese exhibit.
In my series, Scions of Darkness, the so called Scions are interdimensional creatures who are drawn to the abandoned beauty of forgotten edifices. Since they have more planes of existence than our meager three dimensions, Scions are able to make a home or create an institution in any abandoned place.
My second novel, Unto the Mother, Scions use the human zoo as a hospital. The Morrocan Pavillion is the setting for a hospital scene.
On the day of my visit, the wire fence surrounding the pavilion was torn down. And, now being in the habit of trespassing, I went inside
I had imagined steps leading down to the crypts and, to my surprise, I found the very steps my mind had conjured.
I spent the rest of my afternoon at the Indochine exhibit where I could sit more comfortably. With my back against the building, I could picnic and write all while hoping no rats came from under the building to join me. Thank goodness they kept to their hiding places.
That’s all for now.
Le Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers captured my imagination the moment I laid eyes on it back in my lair half-way around the world. It haunted me so much that I had to come and see it with my own eyes. I had to get as close as I could to it…
Dating back to the thirteenth century, this stronghold had gone back and forth between England and France during medieval times. It was virtually destroyed in the French Revolution. In 1809, Francois Hennecart bought the property. From him, it passed to the Baron Joseph Lejeune (Joseph! However, my fictional Joseph’s name originated much farther back. Theoretically, he could have passed himself off as this Baron). In 1932, a fire gutted the château. It was never restored.
As it stands now, the Mothe-Chandeniers is a heartbreakingly gorgeous relic of the past. Its only inhabitants now are trees and undergrowth and sundry vermin as nature re-stakes its claim on the property. In my novel, Progenie, Joseph lays claim to it still.
In the novel, this edifice retains its abandoned elegance as an inter-dimensional being inhabits planes not readily perceived by the human eye. Walking within the scorched stone of this château, the more perceptive human can catch a glimpse from the corner of his eye the nooks and crannies along the added dimensions. Mathematicians and physicists can find these spaces with numbers and calculations using five-dimensional geometry. However, beings whose physical construct comprises dark matter (which exists across six dimensions) and whose life force is animated by dark energy can move in and out of the planes seamlessly.
Upon arriving at my hotel in Raslay, I ask the owner about this magical château and she agrees it is a beautiful ruin but the owners, she says, are crazy and have been known to pull a shotgun on trespassers. “Be careful, “ she admonishes. And, yes, I agree I should take care, but I have travelled four thousand miles by plane, train, and automobile to see the lair that I have imagined for my forlorn villain, Joseph. I will risk my safety as much as I dare to catch a glimpse of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers.
The next day, I take the back roads from my hotel. I hope to drive by the field of rapeseed where my heroine, Zen (In my 2nd novel, Unto the Mother), begins her journey to find Joseph who has done grievous harm to her and her family. I had only imagined its existence but now, I am elated to see that the field actually exists, nearly the way I imagined it.
Expecting the sight of the château’s black spires to herald its presence behind the stand of trees, I drive by the castle, never seeing it. It is well hidden from view of the road. I turn back and notice a private drive with a ‘No Trespassing’ sign. I hold my breath and turn onto the gravel road.
I still do not find the castle. Again, I turn around and, driving back, I see it—not the château but the little chapel to the side of it.
I stop the car and I get out to take pictures. As I am about to get back in the car, I see the Castle! Beyond the trees and the furry tips of tall grasses, I see this lonely abandoned château, the weathered stone of its walls falling away. Leafy inhabitants peer out of the window and wave in the passing breeze. I am so close but I am not there yet.
I drive onto the main road, and just as if it were nestled on another plane, I glimpse it from the corner of my eye. The black spires. The wrought iron dome. The timeworn tower with crucifixes carved into the crenelles.
I park and cross the street to the grass covered bridge. It is crisscrossed with tape. Beyond the barrier is a sign: “Danger”
Stepping over the tape, I walk past the sign. I walk as close as I dare, moving towards Joseph’s Lair…
Getting here from Paris was about as easy as anything could be. When I get to Gare Montparnasse, a mere five minutes walk from my apartment, I have to meander around a congregate of unresponsive travelers who stand evenly spaced–more or less– facing the same direction. I make my way to the departure board to find the platform for the train to Tours. France. I see the departure but not the platform. At the information desk, a nice gentleman explains that the platforms don’t appear until twenty minutes before the train is scheduled to depart.
So, I take my place among the zombies and face the big black and white departure board. The letters and numbers spin as the time and platform information is updated. It will be ten minutes before I re-animate and join the herd moving towards platform six.
After an hour and a half on the train, I arrive in Tours and pick up my adorable five-speed (trains don’t go to these tiny hamlets). I punch in the addy for my hotel in Moulin de Raslay and I am led through alternately quaint, stark and downright gorgeous countrysides. I have to resist the urge to stop my car on the edge of a field of rapeseed. Here the sun pours down in a sheen of honeyed light, drenching the flower blossoms and the golden leaf oak tree which stands watch over them. The scene is a miracle of colors that at once evoke warmth and sweet taste on the tongue.
The roads grow narrowerer and twistier until I arrived at my destination, a quaint farm house sitting on the edge of a stream. I am greeted by honking geese. The chickens ignore me as they scratch the dirt for snacks. Two large dogs bark furiously and charge me as the hotel owner panics. But I remain calm. I stop in my tracks. One of the dogs run to me, circles then licks my hand.
So… about this place. I doubt I will use it in my current series, but as charming and as beautiful as it is, this little B&B has all the markings of a horror movie or, perhaps a short story. Note, for instance, the sinister window, facing the parking area. Could there be someone in the darkness watching me approach…
This place is so quiet and secluded, no one would hear me scream…
And the dark barn–oh my! The owner invites me to see freshly hatched ducklings– a great ploy, I think to myself, if they were going to go ‘Hostel’ on me. I follow half because I am fairly sure these are good people and partly because I enjoy giving reign to my imagination. The stories I could make up about that barn….
Oh, and the duckling is too cute.
To tell the truth, this place is charming and quiet and full of light. The weather is nice, so I sit a the table next to the stream and I write and smoke cigars and drink green tea that the owner has so kindly offered me.
I think, also, this secluded gem has writers’ retreat written all over it. But who would travel all this way to the hamlets of France? I believe that I would again if only to enjoy the solitude and beauty and just write.
Oh, I did ask about the abandoned castle, the Chateau de la Mothe-Chandaniers–my whole reason for coming here–and learned that the owners of that property are ‘crazy’ and are known to have pulled a shotgun on trespassers. So if you don’t hear from me in the next couple of days, I probably got caught going someplace I oughtn’t to have gone…
Talk to you later… I hope.
I guess I need not tell you what claustrophobia is. Everyone knows that fear of being locked up in closed off spaces or they know of someone who has that fear. Most people who know me are aware of my claustrophobia. It is not just closed off spaces but tight crowds and sometimes even traffic jams can give me grave anxiety. More than the physical situation, I react to the feeling of being trapped, having my freedom from moving one place to another restricted the same way I would react to being in a tight spot. To be cut off from my freedom, from the world that I am used to is my fear and it is sometimes my nightmare.
An airplane neatly fits the parameters of a closed of panic-inducing place. And I must admit, when people are boarding, I have a distinct urge to fight crawl or climb my way out. This is why I get the window seat. I can take a few deep breaths and look outside, and I am usually okay until take off. Once we are in the air with metal sealed off careening tens of thousands of feet above the earth through a deadly cold and thin atmosphere, I am not bothered at all. Go figure.
Landing four thousand miles away gives rise to a similar sort of anxiety as claustrophobia. I don’t know if this phobia, this anxiousness has a name. It is this feeling of being so far from home with no way to get back. When the length of my stay seems interminable and the gulf so wide from me and my loved ones I may never get back to them. I guess some would call it homesickness. I know homesick but this feels different. I feel unsettled. Adrift. Not exactly longing for home but feeling a distance from it. I feel like this a for a couple of days, like my soul has come unbound and the world I have left behind might as well be in another universe or dimension.
So, for the first day, I struggle through the foreignness. I figure out my new surroundings usually by getting things wrong. I realize it’s part of the process of my becoming acclimated. The most important thing is not to panic. Do not get angry or frustrated. Just stay dogged and steady and fight the fatigue until there a time and place to rest.
While it’s a good idea to stay up the first night in Paris in order to get on a regular schedule, I am so tired, physically and mentally, that I take an ambien and go to bed at 6 pm. Of course, I wake up at 1 am. I tell myself bedtime stories about Zen and Emmett* falling in and out of love or about demons wreaking havoc with the living. I should be taking notes about these characters from my books but I let them lull me into a deep sleep instead.
Luckily, the next day, I awake in time for my trip to Versailles.
The first hurdle along the journey to deliver my most prized creation d’art to the world is now behind me. Melissa Carrigee of the Loiacono Literary Agency has decided to take a chance on me and my work. This left me so gobsmacked, I held on the good news for a while. A part of me wanted to shout the news from the rooftops. Yet other parts, in equal measure, held me back.
The realistic part of me said that this is just the first step. I don’t yet have a publisher or an editor so announcing that I have an agent might be celebrating too soon. Having published before, I know the agony and time involved in endless revisions. So, to me, to announce an agent would be like announcing ‘mission accomplished’ when the work had only really just begun. Would my non-writer friends get that? Did I have the energy to explain why getting an agent is such a big deal–even though I don’t have a publisher yet?
So why is it so important to have an agent? Primarily, most publishers will not accept an unsolicited manuscript. They only work through agents. And, from what I have gathered, landing an agent is like wrangling a unicorn.
This brings me to another worry: Being excited and telling whomever would listen would be insensitive to the wonderful writers in my circles who are still struggling to find an agent. In retrospect, I feel silly harboring this particular misgiving. Once the cat was out of the bag, the warm support I received from my fellow Houston Writer’s Guilders was overwhelming. Where I had been retiring and even sheepish, my news was greeted with such enthusiasm that I realized that they were as excited as I was about this accomplishment.
Now, I have the task of building platforms. I am quite introverted and the thought of encouraging friends and acquaintances and strangers to follow me and stick with me until that glorious day arrives when The First Daughter is in print. So, for a few weeks now, my finger has been on the button to publicize my website and social media pages. Once it’s all out there, I am behooved to keep all platforms current and enticing so that as many people possible know about the intriguing and thrilling novel that will be available to them.
So, welcome to the first blog promoting The First Daughter, the first book in a series to come. And, let me tell you, this novel will take you on a great ride through space and time.
Beyond my love of a good story, I am absolutely in love with the written word and with the well formed character. And so, you may find in my novels a heady brew of personas evolving in a dark and terrifying world but with a touch of my own spice which is earthy, frank and, to an extent, ribald.