"One of the best things about folklore and fairy tales is that the best fantasy is what you find right around the corner, in this world. That's where the old stuff came from." -- Terri Windling
For American audiences, the most famous fairy tales, including those brought to the screen by Disney and others, all came from somewhere else. Such is the power of books and film. Of course, once upon a time, the more famous stories we know were once local yarns from real places.
Almost all places have stories associated with them. You can find some of the more notorious and/or most interesting by running Google searches with such phrases as "Florida ghost stories," "Glacier Park legends," and "Illinois haunted places." The people who live in a town or county often grow up hearing multiple versions of these stories along with others that never get into books, newspapers or websites.
We tell stories to each other almost every day. Sometimes, this is pure gossip. At other times, it's neighborhood news with a bit of opinion thrown into it.
Storytelling is a very natural pasttime even without a front porch or a campfire. We share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other. When that which we're sharing is larger than life, or stranger than normal, it begins turning into a legend associated with the place where we live.
As a writer of contemporary fantasy, I always love weaving local ghost stories and legends into my work. For one thing, those stories are just as much a part of a place as are the rivers, mountains and towns. Also, they have a lot of flavor in them whether it's pure local color or an amusing or frightening tale that could have happened anywhere.
Our stories are stronger, I think, when we consider the legends and tall tales connected to a place as part of our research. Almost every town has a haunted house, cemetery, or lover's lane. If you live there, you know about it already. If you don't, it's not too hard to track down through ghost hunter and haunted [name of town] sites.
Plus, for those of us who love blurring the line between fiction and reality, ghost stories about the places where we've set our short stories and novels add a nice touch of mystery.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
|pmschlenker photo on Flickr|
I visited Allerton Park with my parents and grandparents in the early 1950s and, while I liked the woods and trails, I took away stronger memories of the park's unique collection of sculpture placed throughout the grounds. I liked the Garden of the Fu Dogs, the Hidden Goldfish Pond and the Peony Garden. I especially liked the bronze statue of The Sun Singer that sculptor Carl Milles created in 1930. The statue in the park is a replica (created by Milles) of the original Sun Singer in Stockholm.
|broken thoughts photo|
"I will sing unto the
O thou radianty sun,
High aloft on thy throne
In the deep, azure night,
With worlds left and right
As thy vassals. Below
In thy glance they may glow;
But their light thou must be."
While I have never had an opportunity to return to Allerton Park, my novel The Sun Singer re-creates my long-ago powerful transcendent experience of standing in the meadow next to the statue. The Sun Singer is both an adventure and my song to the sun. It begins in Decatur, Illinois where my grandparents lived, shifts to Allerton Park, and then shifts again to Glacier National Park, Montana. The park is widely known for its scenery and its famous Going to the Sun Road. A perfect place, I thought, for my contemporary fantasy about a young man's dangerous trek into worlds left and right that shine with magic light.
|Contemporary fantasy for your Kindle|
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
As a writer, I've enjoyed speculating about such concepts. In three of my novels ("The Sun Singer," "Sarabande," and "Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey") I tinker with time. That is, what if you looked at the footprints leading to your present scenario in life and could change one of them? In most novels, things go terribly wrong when people try to change history for themselves or others. They usually end up worse off than they were while some cosmic genie or trickster god has a good laugh.
As upcoming expenses loom in our life, my wife and I were looking the other night at our footprints in the sand over the last several decades. What we saw, was our wont to get involved in lost causes. More often than not--whether in school, work, or other organizations--we have ended up fighting for underdogs who, as it turned out later, were less at risk than we were.
This is such a 1960s flower children chain of events, that I wonder why it took me to near-retirement age to see it. Flower children tended to "fight the establishment" whether it was over war, government, social ills, or business excesses. They helped change the nation by drawing media attention to things that needed to be fixed.
However, the flower children were often sacrificed in the process because they had no individual power to survive the uproars surrounding their protests. When all was said and done, they were fired from jobs, expelled from school, and cast out of one group or another while the "good guys" and "bad guys" involved in the uproars who had secure jobs and/or political/financial power bases went on with their lives.
The flower children were in many ways considered expendable by good and bad alike. I broached this subject in my magical realism novel "Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey." The novel is fiction, but it addresses a real life situation in which (in actuality) my wife and I fought for those who appeared to be underdogs. The "bad guys" won, but the underdogs had enough clout to keep their jobs while we lost ours.
I hoped the novel would get some of the anger out of my system. It has, but as I look at how well those underdogs are living now, it's hard to push away the notion that I was expendable in those fights like a 1960s flower child or like a foot soldier in a great battle. If we could change anything in our pasts, my wife and I would be very tempted to erase our participation in, say, one of those lost causes.
If we could, we probably wouldn't because then, even though we would be financially secure, we probably wouldn't be able to sleep at night.
I'm wondering if others who stop by this blog from time to time have experienced this: you get hired for a job, but you're not a big-time player. You find that the TOP BRASS are taking pot shots at your manager. You fight for your manager and end up getting fired while s/he stays on and ultimately gets a good job somewhere else while you have a blot on your resume.
Is there something in us that makes us do this over and over again? Are we just self-destructive, or are we unable to keep our mouths shut when those we love and support are being ripped apart by those we consider to be the "bad guys"?
As you can see, writing "Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey" didn't get all this out of my system. I'm doing better, though, I really am--but not every day. Only the gods of lost causes know the "why" of it all, and so far, they're remaining silent.
Friday, August 10, 2012
I've lived in the South since the first grade. When I look out a car window, I expect to see grass, trees, beaches and swamps. Needless to say, U.S. 395 between Reno and Carson City looks like another world even though nearby Lake Tahoe is a very inviting mountain lake.
My wife and I recently returned from our second visiting trek out to Carson City, this time to meet the new granddaughter Beatrice. What a cute kid. Of course, she's not yet old enough to notice she's living in a world of sagebrush. I often wonder what her older sister Freya makes of those endless tan hills. Freya will be 5 in January and, if her memory is no better than mine, her recollections of Indianapolis where she was born may well be faint ones by now.
But, other than the air travel and the dry hills, our Carson City trip was a great chance to catch up with Freya and to meet Beatrice. We have tons of pictures, mostly of the family, of course, because the hills and sage aren't as photogenic.