Monday, October 26, 2020

Digging Back for Childhood Faves: 'The Ghost of Flight 401'

I can't tell you just how excited I was when I found out the movie's been posted on Youtube. I saw this when I was a kid and was appropriately freaked out as only a kid could be freaked out. When I watched it again a couple of nights ago (and after several, several years of not thinking about it), I'm more appreciative of the legend than ever though the movie itself doesn't really hold up to time.


The ghost sightings have been documented in a book put out back in the 70s, and this movie was based on it. 

The story deals with psychometry, which is a theory that's always fascinated me, i.e., that a person can somehow imprint himself (his energy) onto an object according to the movie, and it's a process that usually happens when a sudden and especially violent death takes place. 

Anyway, the movie itself has its creepy moments, especially when the flight attendants see the flight engineer's apparition in different parts of the plane, though that's pretty much it. There's nothing else that can give you a touch of the goosebumps, though there's also that tragic reminder of the ghost's need to somehow save flights that have undetected problems. 

Because, yes, in life, the flight engineer failed to save the plane, so that desire (likely fueled by guilt) is carried into the afterlife. 

The whole idea of pschometry, though, especially when you're looking at why other planes are suddenly being haunted by the dead flight engineer, is pretty darned interesting. In short, parts of the original plane wreck had been salvaged and used on other planes. 

And these planes with their recycled parts are the ones getting all of the crews' reports of hauntings. I've never read the book, but in the movie, it's suggested that the flight engineer's ghost shows itself around those salvaged parts. Oven doors, seats, and even windows suddenly show either a reflection of the dead man or the person himself quietly sitting in a seat that was vacant just a second ago.  

The movie's ending is so quick and anticlimactic that it's very much a letdown, but if the events surrounding the ghost's eventual "exorcising" are based on true events, well, one shouldn't expect a major scene. For a kid, this movie was definitely shudder-inducing. For an adult, it holds a different kind of interest, though it does take a bit of effort ignoring the cringe-y dialogue. 

I think this is one movie that could be better in a remake, but at the same time, it's out of respect for the remaining family of the victims that I'm not really keen on the idea. It definitely got me thinking a lot about psychometry, however, though not as a factual thing (it's a phenomenon that's never been proven) but more of a jumping-off point for story ideas. Because you all know how my brain works when it comes to the kind of horror fiction I like most, and this one has so much potential, it's delicious.

Friday, October 23, 2020

In Which I Catch Myself Overthinking Things

So the last two weeks (or should I stay "in character" and say "fortnight" instead?) of October are pretty mellow and idle, with me largely re-reading Agnes of Haywood Hall on my Kindle for the last couple of editing passes. 

Other than that, I've been staying away from Eidolon (except for today only) and distracting myself with the usual stuff from Netflix and other places. 

I did go back and try to add to my WiP notes on Eidolon, and after page after page of corrections and updates and further tweaks, I went back and read over the original story outline I had and am now kicking myself again and again. Because you know what? The original outline works perfectly and is nice and simple (read: easily followed), yet there I was, wasting time on chapter after chapter with the main point of the book gradually vanishing till even I was really confusing myself with the direction of the story.

Too many sources of inspiration was my problem. Too many. And I tend to be susceptible to those in the course of writing, which led to my first draft getting massively bloated and unfocused before I put a stop to things. So my WiP shrank down from twelve chapters to five and now to four. I had to kill one more darling tonight while revising a few parts in the chapters I'm keeping, so I think we're now back on track.

And, hell, I hope things stay that way. 

Earlier today I took out my music app from my iPhone because I don't feel as connected to the songs I bought a dog's age ago and have all but forgotten about them. They're only eating up space in my phone, so buh-bye to them at least for now. I may re-install the app down the line, but as with other things in my life right now, my priorities are changing with regard to ownership and luxuries. 

I talked before about giving up all of my author copies of my small press-published YA books. I don't feel much of a connection to them like I used to largely because the saying holds true: you can't take it with you, and physical objects - at this point in my life, anyway - only take up room. For my books, I already know I wrote them, they exist, and I do have them in digital form. There's no need for a redundant print copy. 


For Goodreads readers, here's the link to the video.

With the songs I bought a long time ago, those were largely a product of me discovering iTunes and suddenly acting like the proverbial kid in the candy store, snapping up individual songs here and there and losing myself in them over and over again until my original iPod finally croaked, and I never bothered to replace it - because my priorities had already shifted to something else by then.

So, yeah - same with what I did earlier today. I decided I can live without those songs and am now carefully curating playlists of albums I actually love for whatever reason (i.e., Jimi Hendrix and Jim Croce so far for classic nostalgia and a love for their art / Nox Arcana for their gothic music, which always serves as my playlist when I write). I doubt if I'll end up with as many songs as I did with those old iTunes purchases, but they'll definitely hold a lot more meaning for me, and that's what matters the most this time around. 

It'll also be a much more accessible process for me to buy these collections (I usually go for greatest hits compilations even though they aren't comprehensive) because I'm getting them from Amazon as mp3 files. 

Maybe I'll start converting my old classical music CDs into mp3s as well, but that's not a priority. Funny, that. I used to listen to Baroque music obsessively once upon a time, using stuff from Lully, Handel, Bach, Scarlatti, etc., as playlists for my YA novels. Now I listen to them whenever I feel like it, which is rare because other genres of music have risen up the ranks to take their place. 

Also I've reconnected with classic blues and jazz via our local listener-supported jazz station, and whenever I'm driving to and from work, I have the radio set to that and not the classical music station like before. I still love classical music, but nowadays I find a lot more comfort from Billie Holiday or Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk.   

I find that I'm settling down to a state of contentment of sorts now that I'm 52. There are so many things I used to cling to as though my life depended on them, but nowadays, I just laugh at myself when I consider my behavior. I have a love-hate relationship with technology, and I used to think of anything digital or streaming as too inchoate to own, but not anymore. Owning physical objects now feels like being held down by an unnecessary weight. 

It's nearly midnight, and I'm starting to get all puffed up and profound. Time for bed.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

So I Watched 'The Haunting of Bly Manor'

I freaking LOVE this show's opening and theme.

I didn't binge this bad boy, of course. I can't manage more than two episodes of anything anymore, but it's a great exercise in control and patience. 

This show really isn't as frightening as The Haunting of Hill House, but that's okay. I don't want a copy cat considering Henry James's novella isn't anywhere like Shirley Jackson's book. James's is very dense and slow reading, with a gothic atmosphere fans of classic gothic horror can sink their teeth into and a very vague (ergo a sustained feeling of uneasiness) hint of possible sexual abuse involving Quint, Jessel, and the kids. 

And a shit ton of academic essays have been written about the unnamed governess's own state of mind and possible sexual repression. 

On the other hand, Jackson's ghost story is more accessible with a clear emphasis on Eleanor's personal troubles. The supernatural elements are there but almost lightly dealt with and whose reality is made even more questionable because of what's going on inside the characters' heads. I wrote in an older blog post that I didn't like the novel and would rather have ghosts be ghosts and not another probable figment of someone's deteriorating psychology. 

As for the modern adaptations of the two stories, both succeed on their own terms in the sense that they take a specific element from each book and run with it. Hill House was all about actual ghosts (yay!) and how they haunt people (not in a literal way) even years down the line, while Bly Manor shrinks the world further and focuses on something even more specific and deeply personal: love and loss and the tragedy of being forgotten over time.

Forgetting becomes even more literal / physical through the "wiping out" of facial features by time and the world understandably moving forward while the dead are left behind.  

So the ghosts in Bly Manor are deeply tragic - hell, just about everyone in that show is a victim in one way or another (yes, even Henry Wingrave is one), and at least I couldn't get myself to loathe Peter Quint the way I loathe his character in the novella. Whether or not people are victims of circumstance, of others, or of themselves, it doesn't matter. No one emerges unscathed and, in some ways, mirrors the sad limbo that the faceless ghosts haunting the manor are cursed with. 

The love stories dominating the series are a couple of the best written I've seen so far in a mainstream show. Not only the obvious love story between Jamie and Dani, but also Owen and Hanna. Both couples are well-written and superbly acted (though I do find Owen and Hanna's to be slightly superior to Jamie and Dani's largely because of the circumstances shaping their relationship).

And please note the use of "love story" as opposed to "romance". There's no romance in the series. There's a love story - two of them, in fact, and there's a chasm-wide difference between the two genres. I'm not saying more, so suffice it to say, both subplots are just beautifully written and absolutely gut-wrenching. 

If there's any issue I have regarding the show, it's that it does stretch out pretty long, and even in the development of a novella, nine episodes feel overly doing things. At the very least, however, the writers were able to flesh out almost all of the characters and allow them different degrees of complexity (see: Peter Quint and, to a lesser extent, Henry Wingrave as prime examples of fully fleshed out characters based on pretty flimsy material in the original). 

The second issue that I have involves Rebecca Jessel, who doesn't feel as convincing to me as the others. Yes, she's a lot more developed compared to the original, but not to the extent that the other characters are. I guess her character in the series is so far removed from the original that I just found it a little more challenging wrapping my head around her goodness and naivete. 

In the novella? She was pretty devious and Quint's willing assistant in the children's corruption. To the writers' credit, she does remain consistent throughout the series, and even though she's duped by Quint, she doesn't become an angry, vengeful ghost the way Viola becomes one. 

Jessel's characterization is less of a niggle compared to the series length, but I still enjoyed the series for the way it explores those themes of love and loss and remembrance. If there's another gothic horror series being planned for the third season installment, I'm all in, of course. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Waffling, Waffling... It Never Ends

Just a very quick note for visitors to my blog...

Apologies for the constant changing of my blog theme. Heh. I've been trying to see how best to make things work, but I end up coming back to this specific theme, anyway. I really should stop, but recently I've been in the mood to fuss and fret over my online home. 

Anyway, just to give you all a quick nudge. I'm too well aware I've been messing around with this place more times than what's healthy, so do bear with me if you're starting to go cross-eyed every time you check out my site. 

To compensate for the weirdness hereabouts, how about a fantastic trailer for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Chadwick Boseman's last film? 


The visuals and the acting look absolutely phenomenal, and it'll be a bittersweet experience watching this once Netflix lets it loose on the world. 

And speaking of Netflix, I'm picking my way slowly through The Haunting of Bly Manor, and I'll be posting my thoughts on it once I'm done. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Blurb: 'Agnes of Haywood Hall' (Plus Mid-Month Signal Boost)

And here's the blurb for Agnes of Haywood Hall:

"The dust never really settles in a haunted priory, and Prudence Honeysett learns that valuable lesson all too quickly. An idyllic stretch of quiet passes following the disaster in the priory's garden, and normalcy hints at a return with the final stages of the priory grounds' beautification and the upgrading of the interior with newly purchased antiques and - well - 'antiques'.

Trouble once again brews when Prudence and Frederick go on a shopping spree, and they unwittingly purchase an item that's apparently haunted by a dead letch. But ghostly warnings tend to come in riddles, and a frenzied search for the mystery item turns into yet another dip in the waters of frayed nerves, late night tipples, and terrified young servants being harassed by the image of a lascivious dead man in the mirror.

In the meantime, Freddy gets whisked off to help a neighboring French gentleman whose Medieval hall is haunted by a lost servant who, literally, can't find her way around the maze of passageways and rooms. Freddy's attention is now divided, leaving Prudence to sort out priory troubles with a bit of help from an overly zealous friend.

Throw in a generous dose of a young man's clumsy sexual awakening, a visiting dandy who's also a purveyor of literary smut, and a servant suddenly allowed a note-book into which he can share his energetic accounts (and marvelous art) of the madness within St. Grimald priory's walls, and readers are in for another madcap epistolary adventure over tea."

Since the publication date is still months out, I've got time enough to tweak the blurb some more, but the book itself is pretty much a done deal. Maybe a couple more light passes with the editing pen, but what's there is there, and I'm really stoked.

I'm also back to waffling over whether not print copies should be made available because I really don't sell any. I wish I were as confident about dumping that option as other writers - or at least I know of one writer who's never seen the need for print copies of her books, and I wish I had her self-assurance. 

The temptation of having a physical copy of my book is pretty hard to overcome, though for my previously published stuff, I'm totally over owning those and am not thinking twice about giving them up completely. Maybe down the line I'll feel the same way about my self-published stuff, but why even wait, eh? Dunno. 

At any rate, the book's already been uploaded to Draft2Digital, and here it is.

And a mid-month signal boost coming at ya: Automata is now available, and you can check out the book page over here. The e-book sales for the month of October are Wollstone and Hell-Knights, and to learn more about those oldies but goodies, read up on them (as well as Automata, for that matter) over here.