Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Short Story: Our Miss Engel

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit by John Singer Sargent

Thank you for your interest in "Our Miss Engel." This short story is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Read an excerpt below:

2 September, 1909
I received a letter today from the Ursuline Academy. It seems I have found a job.
When I informed my parents of my decision, my father said, “You watch those papist types, Clara. They’re a funny lot.” I don’t know what he means by that. From her letters, the Reverend Mother seems perfectly kind.

13 September, 1909
We exchanged a few more correspondences before settling on 20 September as my first day of teaching, a Monday. I will take the train to Paola on Saturday morning and should arrive before noon, which will give me just over a day and a half to get settled in.
I myself went to a good Lutheran school, and have nothing but cherished memories of my teacher, Miss Taylor. When I finished my eighth grade primer, she hugged me fiercely and said, “Clara, you just make me so proud.” She had tears in her eyes. I knew right then that I was going to become a teacher, like her. We are quite learned here in this part of the world, with a fine theatre and the Carnegie library. Also, Papa is something of an intellectual. He was a teacher back in Germany, so I suppose you could say it is in my blood. My brother and I were brought up to be diligent readers and encouraged to express ourselves through writing and discourse.
As I was studying to get my teacher’s certificate, Papa was fond of telling me that many schools in America are based on the Prussian model of teaching. “The German people know something about education, Clara,” he would say. “Don’t ever forget that.”
Behind my book, I would smile. “Yes, Papa.”
I must confess my tastes run far more to novels than to the philosophical treatises Papa is always urging me to read. We find something of a compromise in poetry, thank the Muses! Like most of the men in the tri-state area, Papa is a miner. Joplin is known for blackjack and lead. Both my parents have worked very hard for everything we have. When they first came to this country, they spoke very little English. But as their English improved, so did their prospects. Mama worked as a seamstress for a time, and Papa worked his way up from shafting and drilling to become a foreman, and we moved out of our cabin by the mining camp into a proper house off Grey Avenue. They wanted my brother and me to sound like perfect Americans. That was easy enough, as I was born in Joplin. Gunther was born back in Frankfurt, but he was just a little thing when they brought him over, so doesn’t really remember any German at all. I suppose that is just as well.
Anyhow, I am very excited about the position. My first school—my first pupils! I wonder what they will be like.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Order of the Four Sons Soundtrack

As I've been preparing the books for print, I find myself living, eating, breathing and dreaming all things O4S even more than usual.  So, in anticipation of the (hopefully very soon) release of Book I in paperback, I thought I'd share some of the songs that inspired this book.

I know, I know.  All the cool-kid authors are doing it.  But seriously, I've been sound-tracking my own work since I was 12.  Most authors that I've ever met, in fact, have always done it, it's just Stephanie Meyer went and blew our little secret.  Sound-tracking your stories is one of the great guilty pleasures of writing-- that, and coming up with a dream cast for your own film/TV adaptation.  But that's another list for another day.    

So, here are some of the songs we listened to while scribbling out scenes of monsters, magic, portals, and undead serial killers on the loose in little Missouri towns.  Enjoy!

Also, SPOILERS AHEAD. Consider yourself warned. 

The Order of the Four Sons, Book I Soundtrack 

1. The Beginning - The Sorcerer's Apprentice 

Natch.  A song about a novice who's bitten off more than he can chew?  And honestly, can anything sum up Kate's innocence and whimsy like those woodwinds?  I've always imagined that if the O4S books were adapted into a TV series, this would be its theme song.  And for a bonus, this symphonic poem by Dukas even features -- that's right -- a glockenspiel.  For those of you who've read Book II, you know why that amuses.

2. Excelsior Springs - Heartland, by George Strait

"Sing a song about the heartland,
The only place I feel at home . . .
Where they still know wrong from right."

Okay, so some of my song selections may contain irony.  A little.  

3. Missing Children - Down by the Water, PJ Harvey

"I lost my heart/Under the bridge."  There is no more perfect description for our kidnapped children, lost in a place defined by its waterways.  But more important than that, this song's instrumentals, as well as Harvey's whispered refrain at the end, are both creepy and seductive-- like Katarina, who is herself the ultimate lost child.

4. The Royal Hotel - This House is Haunted, Alice Cooper

"No more singing, no more laughing, no more sunny days
She left and took the colors with her, buried in her grave
This is where we climbed the tower, this is where she fell
Then when her young heart stopped beating, I went to hell."

Jessica Degler, this song's for you and all the sad little ghosts of the Royal Hotel.

5. Kate's Magic Lesson - Symphony #25, Mozart

Peering through the slots in the blinds, he spoke in a ruminating, almost musing sort of tone.  "When I was younger, I worked out of a field office on the east coast.  I was fortunate enough to get very good seats at a Mostly Mozart concert.  I was near the front, and it sounded as if the orchestra completely surrounded me.  I could hear every cello, every violin, every crescendo that Mozart had written throughout the three-hour performance.  I could almost see very spire of sound that he had built with his genius.

"Now," he turned back to Kate.  "Listen.  What do you hear?"

Kate receiving her first magic lesson from Dr. Doug Grigori.  This one's kind of a no-brainer.

6. The James Diary - Frank and Jesse James, Warren Zevon

"On a small Missouri farm
Back when the west was young
Two boys learned to rope and ride
And be handy with a gun . . ."

All true, but we add our own little, shall we say, twist to that particular story.  Keep on ridin', ridin', ridin', Frank and Jesse James, and be sure to slay a few demons on behalf of the Order while you do.  Not to mention, protect a certain magical artifact of incalculable power.

7. The Grave of Thomas Howard - Hey Man Nice Shot, Filter

"Now that the smoke's gone
And the air is all clear
Those who were right there
Got a new kind of fear . . ."

The scene in the old graveyard is really where our heroes see their first action, going up against Kat and a horde of bloodthirsty eretics.  Fortunately for us, our heroes have lots of guns, lots of bullets . . . and Kate.  This is also the scene where she first gets her hands on the Wand of Deleth.  This song has some appropriate lines, but I've always liked it for this scene just because it's good and loud.  It just begs to be played during a scene with lots of gunfire.

8. MJ-12 - Guerilla Radio, Rage Against the Machine

"All hell can't stop us now."

To me, MJ-12 represents the evils of government corruption, though this is another song choice based more on decibel level than thematically-relevant lyrics.

9. The Hall of Waters - Horizon, Eri Sugai

In stark contrast to the previous two selections, the Hall of Waters is a place of serenity, peace and healing.  The vocals on this remind me of cool, lapping water.

10. The King in Yellow - Voodoo, Godsmack

"I'm not the one who's so far away."

Poor Bill.  He gets branded by the alien being Akhenaten, better known as the Yellow King, which triggers his isolation and the beginning of a long downward mental spiral.  It's also a song about addiction, which makes it even more appropriate for Bill who has a trouble letting things go-- like relationships, past slights, and pills.      

11. Jessica Degler - Enter Sandman, Metallica

"Hush little baby don't say a word
Never mind that noise you heart
It's just the beast under your bed
In your closet, in your head . . ."  

Really, do I need to explain this one?

12. Fernando - Low, Cracker

"A million poppies gonna make me sleep."

When Fernando Rios, an O4S field operative, is found savaged by demons, there's really only one humane thing for his rescuers to do.  Vaya con dios, Rios.

13. Ice Cream & Cannon Fodder - You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told), The White Stripes

"I can see your man can't help but win
Any problems that may arise
But in his mind there can be no sin
If you never criticize . . ."

In Book I, Emily Hayes is a young MJ-12 agent, hopelessly brainwashed into thinking the greatest asset she can bring is total obedience.  Girl, you don't know what love is.  You just do as you're told.

14. Defeated - Disarm, Smashing Pumpkins

"Disarm you with a smile."

Katarina.  A wink.  A smile.  And one word: "Amateur."

Game over.

15.  Crossing Over - Walking with a Ghost, Tegan & Sara

Another song for the children ghosts who haunt the hotel.  

16. Chambers, KS - Lake of Fire, Nirvana

"Where do bad folks go when they die?
They don't go to heaven where the angels fly . . ."

Apparently they go to . . . er, Chambers, KS.  While Aaron Vickers isn't dead at the end, he just wishes he was.  And I chose this song because his pain pleases me.  "There is indeed a hell and I am in it."

17. Epilogue - Hobo Blues, John Lee Hooker

Good travelin' music for our intrepid characters, whose adventures have only just begun.

I guess this means I'll have to post the Carcosa: The Order of the Four Sons Book II soundtrack sometime soon.  Stay tuned.