To Mule or Not To Mule

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Hey Everyone,

An opportunity recently came up for me to become a carriage driver at Royal Carriages, here in New Orleans.

In the French Quarter, opinions are more prevalent than mosquitos and sometimes just as annoying.  Everybody has a stance on the mule carriages, from the mules are treated wonderfully to anyone willing to drive a carriage is an anti-animal psychopath bent on mule misery.

First, I’ve been a walking tour guide for seven years and I always see at least one carriage when I’m escorting my Haunted groups.  Never have I seen a mule that looked ill or unhappy.  What always tickles me is their jaunty gaits.  Now I have seen mules startle, particularly around barking dogs.  I know mules have been in accidents with cars but almost every day some idiot pulls in front of my car, nearly causing an accident (cabs driving at suicidal speeds, car and pedestrian alike that think Stop signs are quaint pieces of art and not something one’s actually expected to obey, bikers with no illumination at night, etc.) so I’m prepared to give mules and their drivers the benefit of the doubt on that one.  I’m also certain events like that are covered during training.

So I figure, why not take this opportunity to train?  Why not see for myself what the stables I like, how the mules are cared for?  What the tour itself consists of? At the very least, I know I’m going to have the opportunity to give a mule a bubble bath.

More tomorrow when I head for the stables!  If my muscles aren’t too sore to type, another blog will follow.

Crimson Kisses As Always,

Trisha Baker

Gone With The Wind: A Review

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I’ve decided to start my novel reviews with a controversial one. In some circles these days, admitting you’ve read GWTW–much less liked it–is tantamount to donning white robes and grabbing a pitch fork. I don’t have a pitch fork but I do have a keyboard so for that of you that read on, I’m going to discuss what works, what doesn’t, and of course we’ll address the elephant in Margaret Mitchell’s room. Caveat–this review isn’t for people who haven’t read the novel. There’s no plot summary. There are spoiler alerts. I know it’s mind boggling that some people may be unaware Rhett Butler doesn’t give a damn, but stranger things have happened.

To start, I’ve got a soft spot for GWTW. It’s the first adult novel I read at the age of eleven. It took me four days and I was proud of my accomplishment but it really isn’t for children, as evidenced by the end of the novel where I was stunned to learn Rhett Butler truly loved Scarlett O’Hara. Of course when I reread the novel in my twenties before turning to Scarlett: The Sequel to GWTW I wasn’t a few hundred pages in before giving a great big DUH!!! on the subject of Rhett’s obsessive, unrequited love for Scarlett.

What works for GWTW is it’s a fantastic, event ridden novel. Miss Mitchell was truly gifted when it came to putting her readers in the universe she created. You can smell ribs simmering at John Wilkes’s barbeque. You feel the brutal sun beaming down on your hatless head as Scarlett drives her rickshaw wagon through the countryside after fleeing Atlanta. You struggle to swallow the same lump Scarlett has in her throat when she tells Rhett nearly every boy in the County died at Gettysburg.

Margaret Mitchell had an amazing (and to this writer, enviable) ability for making history come alive. I owe my eighth grade A in History to GWTW. Because I was on the edge of my seat during the siege of Atlanta, because I tore the page in my frenzied hurry to learn if the Yankees managed to burn Tara or Melanie and Scarlett put the fire out in time, after I finished the novel I got several biographies and history books from the library about the Civil War.

That’s what works–bringing the Antebellum South and Reconstruction to life right down to sucking in your breath before putting on your whalebone corset and that brings to mind another asset the novel has–its wardrobe. Remember the bonnet Rhett brought Scarlett from Paris to lure her out of that icky mourning get up? Dark green taffeta lined with water silk of a pale-jade color. Sigh. Convent-made undies– I didn’t know they existed but apparently it was the Antebellum version of Victoria’s Secret. Bonnie’s blue taffeta riding dress that Rhett allows over Mammy’s protestations little girls where black broadcloth to ride. I could go on and on, just as Miss Mitchell did for a thousand pages.

What else works? Romance scenes that were steamy but not graphic– 50 Shades of Grey can’t hold a candle to Rhett Butler’s kisses making Scarlett feel hot and cold at the same time. Kisses that nearly made her swoon on several occasions in the novel? Rhett Butler can carry me up the stairs anytime!

Now let’s get to what doesn’t work–it’s not the elephant in the room, not yet. GWTW is an event driven novel deprived of any event in the last two hundred pages. The Civil War’s been fought, Reconstruction is coming to an end and Jim Crow has yet to rear its ugly head. Without an event, the last part of GWTW turns into a soap opera–a boring soap opera at that.

Without a siege or greedy scalawags trying to take Tara from Scarlett, all the novel has its love triangle–Scarlett, Rhett, and Ashley. Yawn. I’ve always thought the novel should’ve ended with Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage. Will it work? Will Scarlett finally move past her teenage infatuation for Ashley? Will Rhett just beat the snot out of Ashley and get him out of the way? How much better for readers to imagine scenarios than the enormous disservice Margaret Mitchell did to her characters!

For the last two hundred pages, Rhett should’ve changed his name from Rhett Butler to Rhett Snowflake. What a wimp he turned into! First, he’s all butt hurt when Scarlett demanded separate rooms after their daughter Bonnie was born. Why not tell her no? Why not stand up and demand your marital rights or a divorce is forthcoming? Rhett was such an iconoclast I can’t imagine a divorce would’ve bothered him.

Rather than have it out with Scarlett right there and then, Rhett takes another bedroom (where he sleeps with their toddler, Bonnie, because she’s scared of the dark. Can anyone else say CREEPY) and leaves Scarlett alone until the town gossips bust her hugging Ashley. In our time no big deal–got to rehashing old times, cried for all the dead and a way of life long gone–but in the Victorian Era, hugging a guy who isn’t your husband you might’ve well been busted wearing nothing but high heels and a garter belt.

Well, Rhett forces Scarlett to attend Melanie’s birthday party for Ashley that night when she wants to hide in her celibate bedroom rather than face social disapproval. Correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t Scarlett stand down Sherman’s bummers when they tried to burn down Tara and became a career woman when woman weren’t even supposed to be able to spell career? I can’t see her turning into a whining blob over what the neighbors would say.

After what I can only imagine must’ve been the most uncomfortable party ever (Happy Birthday, Ashley!) Rhett takes Scarlett home and goes out to get his drunk on. Comes home blotto, angry and proceeds to take Scarlett upstairs; knocking the sheets off that touch-me-not bed.

For awhile you’re like Woo-Hoo! Way to grow a set, Rhett. But instead of sticking around, after doing the dirty, Rhett runs right back to his favorite whorehouse. Turns up three days later to tell Scarlett he’s taking Bonnie on vacation. Then he screams at her when Scarlett demands how does she know her daughter won’t wind up in a cathouse with him? Rhett, you just told Scarlett that’s where you were. You went from your wife’s bed to a ho’s bed. You didn’t have the guts to stick around after a night that made the earth move and try to put your marriage back together. Don’t blame Scarlett for being mad and thinking you’re not exactly Father of the Year.

Well, Rhett goes to Charleston for ten pages or so, returns and picks yet another fight with Scarlett; the result being she falls down the stairs and has a miscarriage. At the end of the book, Rhett tells Scarlett he realized it was all over between them when she didn’t “call for him” while she hovered between life and death after the miscarriage. Um, the woman was delirious and I’m sure nice Dr. Meade was giving her laudanum for the pain. I had surgery, and in my morphine haze afterwards asked my husband to please put our laptop in the laundry. Thankfully, he didn’t base our future relationship on anything I said during my opiate haze like Rhett Snowflake did. Did Rhett have a brain in his head?! He said the relationship was over basically because Scarlett didn’t welcome him with open arms when he returned from the whorehouse and forgot to call for him on her near deathbed. You kind of want to go all Ren & Stimpy, slap him and say, “You Id–I-ooottt!”

Now Rhett’s wimpiness is nothing compared to the vivisection Miss Mitchell did to Miss Scarlett’s character. All throughout the novel Scarlett is at times a vixen, at times a liar, at times an out and out bitch but after marrying Rhett she becomes a real C U Next Tuesday.

Margaret Mitchell seems to forget her own heroine’s background. After Sherman’s Bummers came through, a nineteen year old girl had near crippling burdens to shoulder. Her mother was dead, and her father lost his mind. She had to save Tara from burning and then learn how to manage a plantation; buying cotton, planting it, doling out food and I’m sure she wasn’t given much education on those tasks before hand. She mastered them and then tricked old-maid Frank Kennedy into marriage so she got tax money after the scalawags unfairly hiked her taxes. After marriage, she learned how to operate a sawmill. This woman single handedly took care of her dad, her sisters, the servants, Miss Pittipatt and her children. Way to go!

Did working these tasks make her mean, short-tempered? Absolutely, but who wouldn’t be snappish under such circumstances? Scarlett knew she was being mean and told herself she’d behave better once she had money enough to feel secure. So why after marrying Rhett did she become nastier? Also, where did the vulgar taste come from? Scarlett grew up in a beautiful plantation home, she wore pretty clothes throughout the novel–why did marriage make her the Tammy Fay of Reconstruction?

Then there’s the way Scarlett spoke to Rhett after Bonnie died. Quick aside, that was yet another soap opera trick. A child’s pony stumbling over a six inch bar and all of a sudden Bonnie’s neck is broken? Donald McCaig rightly pointed out that foible in Rhett Butler’s People–most children don’t die when they fall of their horse.

But after the (contrived) death of their child, Scarlett tells Rhett it’s all his fault; he murdered their daughter. At that point, Scarlett isn’t believable anymore. She’s a caricature–vicious, angry, shrill. Rhett, too, is a cardboard figure; drinking himself to death and making poor Pork the butler put him to bed and change his clothes. Frankly, my dear, I stopped giving a damn about the people in this novel long before Rhett did.

Now for the elephant in the room–slavery. Not so much slavery as Margaret Mitchell’s take on slavery. No unhappy slaves here–nope, they sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot while they pick cotton, go home to comfy slave cabins and feel proud to belong to quality white folks. And that’s just the field hands. The highest caste of slaves–the house servants–are not only proud of who they belong to but feel themselves superior to poor white trash, such as those shiftless Slattery’s who live on Gerald O’Hara’s charity and pay it back by killing Mrs. O’Hara when she nurses one of them through typhoid only to die when she contracts the illness.

Is this view of slavery infuriating to a 2018 reader of GWTW? Absolutely. Should the book be banned or reviled because of it? Absolutely Not.

Margaret Mitchell didn’t come up with this perspective on slavery in a vacuum. She passed on what her grandparents, great-grandparents had to say on the subject. Such opinions were still the prevailing opinion even in the Thirties in the Deep South. That opinion was that Emancipation ruined the coloreds. (and don’t bark at me; no one would’ve said African American in that time period.) Slavery was so much better; they had good homes, were looked after in sickness and old age. Again, do not snap at me–I’m stating what people thought in that time. Do I think slavery was grand? Of course not, but what saddens me isn’t GWTW saying that it was; it’s that it still exists in corners of the world to this day.

Now as for GWTW I say it should stick around and be read for two reasons–One, being a student of history means learning not just about the Battle of Wherever but why people thought the way they did, what propelled them into a war in the first place. Why did Henry VIII think it was okay to behead two of his wives? Philippa Gregory’s novels, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance will help you out there.

Just as GWTW will help you understand why the South was willing to fight the Civil War and how Radical Reconstruction shaped a New South where Jim Crow played such a prominent role. During Reconstruction, Miss Mitchell writes that awful Freedmen’s Bureau filled the former slaves’ ears with tales of whippings and brandings that made the duped ex-slaves turn on their former owners. She writes that’s when “hate and suspicion began to grow.” But reading between the lines, you see this “hate and suspicion” was on the part of the former slave owners, feeling betrayed that their slaves ran the first chance they got, but for a few. You weren’t happy? Hah, we’ll show you real unhappiness now; we’ll form the Ku Klux Klan.

Again, this is the perspective Margaret Mitchell provides–that the KKK sprang up to save helpless white women from ex-slaves gone drunk and vicious with freedom. Do we feel that way now? Of course not and interestingly enough, I don’t think a great deal of people felt that way in the Thirties. MGM, the studio that produced GWTW, agreed to do so on the proviso the Ku Klux Klan would not be mentioned, especially in any positive context. So it seems as early as 1939 when the film version of GWTW came out, the times they were a changin’.

Why should I have to understand this perspective you say? For one thing, to see what people do when they feel disenfranchised. For another to see the story from someone else’s side and this is what the PC crowd can’t seem to understand when they push censorship. No one is telling you to like this perspective, no one’s even telling you to feel sympathy for those that had that perspective. Perspective is about seeing events through someone else’s eyes. Also, perhaps in understanding, in remembering at one point people truly felt this way, history won’t repeat itself.

Just an aside for GWTW fans, I have to wonder if Miss Mitchell herself was leaning towards a new perspective, one that would’ve developed had she lived long enough to write other novels. Antebellum Atlanta (as opposed to the scalawags and Radical Reconstructionists swooping down after the surrender) holds a lot against Scarlett–dancing in public a year after her first husband’s death, going to work during Reconstruction, marrying Rhett, etc. But it seems her biggest faux pas (to them, at least) was leasing convicts to work in her sawmills. During Reconstruction, the state of Georgia finding themselves bankrupt, leased out prisoners to work in labor camps; chain gangs. Scarlett avails herself of this service and watches her profits skyrocket now that the Freedmen’s Bureau isn’t looking over her shoulder, making certain she treated freedmen well.

Eke! Scarlett hires a hideous specimen named Johnny Gallegher to get her lumber anyway he sees fit–if that means a few licks on hapless convict backs so be it. Miserable Ashley works the other mill making little profit off the convicts because he won’t “drive” them. That seems why old Atlanta is so scandalized–that she’d drive men so mercilessly to make a profit.

Scarlett rightfully points out “But you owned slaves!” Their rebuttal is slaves weren’t whipped or mistreated. Oh, yes they were. Even Margaret Mitchell had to admit one didn’t sell slaves south, for fear of what happened in states like Louisiana or Mississippi. So that meant slaves were badly treated, probably a lot worse than Scarlett’s convicts. Sorry, I’m not willing to let Atlanta off with It Didn’t Happen In My Backyard so therefore it doesn’t count and I’m glad Scarlett didn’t either.

The question is, did Margaret Mitchell do that deliberately? Was she pointing out Old South hypocrisy in that they weren’t angry about Scarlett driving men but that she was driving white men? Or was Margaret Mitchell upholding Atlanta’s viewpoint and despairing that her heroine bought convicts? It’s an interesting question.

Now, my other reason for feeling GWTW should persevere–it’s profound effect on American culture. Spike Lee named his production company 40 Acres and a Mule–a line right out of the movie. Malcolm X derided house servants–those that took the owners side post Civil War and chose to stay with them, scorning freedom–and he may well have learned about steadfast house servants from GWTW just like many of us did.

Also, the book inspired those not only willing to learn another perspective but than built their own perspective onto GWTW. The best example of that is Rhett Butler’s People, by Donald McCaig. Mr. McCaig rehabilitates characters and introduces them to twenty-first century perspective. The happy slaves refrains gets strongly retuned when Ashley Wilkes, sharing a drink with Rhett Butler, recounts a happy slave that played banjo and never seemed to work. Rhett, through careful questioning, makes him remember a sobbing slave woman watching her husband carted away in the seller’s cart.

Mr. McCaig also put the Ku Klux Klan firmly in place. The one character in his book that joins the Klan winds up committing suicide. The others seem to be learning a new perspective, finding their way into a new way of life. A place without slaves, where the former slaves will have their own jobs, their own lives. It’s best summed up when one character, asked to join the Klan tells his friend– “Andrew, I followed you into Hell. (prison they spent the end of the Civil War in.) I will not follow you into the Klan.”

Donald McCaig also makes Rhett and Scarlett far more than the one dimensional caricatures Margaret Mitchell wound up with. Rhett becomes an abolitionist of sorts, living with a freed colored family for awhile after his beastly father has a slave whipped to death merely for trying to save his wife from rape at the hands of the son of the overseer. In RBP, Rhett loves Bonnie, but not with the near pedophiliac love Margaret Mitchell imbued him with. They take a trip to New Orleans, all the more poignant because Rhett forgot to take Bonnie for a steamboat trip; a fact that haunts him after she dies. Scarlett finds her new author sympathizing with her frustration that wife and mother are the only acceptable roles in her world. Mr. McCaig also gives Scarlett vulnerability when Rhett leaves her. It’s that vulnerability, finally telling Rhett she needs him that draws her back to him.

Do I think Rhett Butler’s People is superior to Gone With the Wind? Yes, but it wouldn’t exist without GWTW. Like Dracula, a new world got born and people built on it–Anne Rice, Laurel K. Hamilton, all the way down to Trisha Baker, who might not have become a writer without stumbling over GWTW as well.

So that’s why I feel GWTW should stick around–the perspective it offers, and the impact it has and continues to have. Now my grade on the novel itself, just as a work of fiction? It had A plus event scenes and D soap opera scenes, adding up to B minus.

Suggested Reading

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//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ladybaldevar-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0446502375&asins=0446502375&linkId=065c6dc62abb86694d9e24d6bcc38993&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff Not profound, but a fun romance novel.

Toulouse Calls the ASPCA!

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Hello, is this the ASPCA?! I need to report a kidnapping and assault. My name is Toulouse de Bienville. I am a beautiful long-haired Calico of Main Coon Cat lineage…

Oh, you stupid humans! Always wanting to get to the facts, not the least interested to know what a privilege you have talking to one of my beauty, my breeding…

Fine! (audible huff.) The reason I called is my servant assaulted me today. She kidnapped me under vile circumstances. I was giving my lovely coat Bath 6 when the delicious aroma of catnip floated in my nostrils. When I saw my favorite catnip toy (the one that DOESN’T smell like my vile little brother) I went to cuddle and– BAM!!!! I was picked up and shoved it into an awful little box.

That was only the beginning of my nightmare. I was then put it the loud, rumbling thing. I think the servants call it a car. Several times, I reprimanded my servant for her wicked actions. I also demanded to know where I was being taken and was given insipid answers. “It’s okay, you’re a good girl.” I KNOW I’m a good girl; this servant is the one beneath contempt. “Don’t be scared; it’s going to be alright.”

That, good sir, was an outright lie! My prison box was escorted to an oblong building that smelled of medicine and dog. In a much too bright room (my delicate feline eyes are very sensitive) I was laid down on a shiny table and some stranger started groping me without a by-your-leave. This unknown person laid down some treats but you’ve got to wake up pretty early in the morning to fool Toulouse! I’m sure they were poisoned and I was proven right. When I refused this shady bribe, they used some evil instrument to jab their wicked potions into me.

After that, the nightmare started receding. I was taken home and went straight to the servant’s phone. Yes, cats can use phones–we can do all sorts of things you servants only wish you knew about.

Now I wish to press charges. Have my wretched servant thrown in a dungeon immediately! Have her beaten and tortured…is that tuna, Servant of the Red hair? Hmmm, it’s quite good tuna–there’s more? Well, well things are turning around. Now you’re treating in the manner I expect and richly deserve.

ASPCA, it seems your services aren’t required today but do keep an open file in case my servant loses her mind again.

The Thanksgiving Cats

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It’s ironic that Norman, an inveterate dog lover, acquired both our cats on or around Thanksgiving.
First came Toulouse (our calico), found in the parking garage of Four Points Sheraton, where Norman works. Waiting for his car, one of the valets casually mentioned a kitten was trapped in the garage; mewing for several days.
Norman was furious and bawled out the valets right there. “You left a cat in the garage?! There’s no food or water source–it’ll starve to death. And it’s freezing out!”
Norman spent the next hour combing the garage, finally tricking the kitten by rubbing his nails over some wicker furniture the hotel was getting rid of.
He took home a squalling little bundle of cat, so filthy he originally thought she was dark gray. It turned out that was merely dirty and a bath revealed her pretty calico coat. We decided to name her Toulouse, for the street the garage is located on. Actually it’s Toulouse and Bourbon Street but none of God’s creatures deserve to be named for that cesspit.
We thought Toulouse was dirty from exhaust fumes in the garage, but it became apparent we had a cat with a fetish–dirt. Toulouse simply loves dirt, rolling around in it and then howling when I give her a well-deserved dry bath.
Two years went by and another cat came screaming to our door on Thanksgiving Eve, while I was at work. In shot our orange refugee, nee Shady but soon renamed Spaz due to his clumsy nature.
I joked to Norman that it was his fate to be adopted by cats on Thanksgiving but this was no laughing matter to Toulouse. SHE was the Thanksgiving cat, our adopted darling and quite determined to remain an only child.
Toulouse, however, hadn’t banked on the will of Spaz. Seeing the pampered life a housecat led, he had no intention of returning to his street life. He made himself right at home and eventually Toulouse had no choice but (grudgingly) accepting Spaz. They still aren’t the best of friends, but they do a protracted sniffing of each other when they come home. Sometimes we see Spaz staring at Toulouse as she takes her dirt bath like he’s thinking, “Would ya stop that?! We’re cats; we don’t roll in no dirt. You’re embarrassing me on the whole block!” (For some reason I envision Spaz with a thick, Brooklyn accent.)
It’s been two years since Spaz, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled this Thanksgiving afternoon to see if any new cats join us. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Extra, Extra… Get Your Copies of the Crimson Series Hot Off the Presses!

Hello Crimson Fans,

For years, many of you have asked where you can buy copies of my books. A legitimate question since the books were out of print for years and even yours truly had to pay an outrageous price on Ebay to replace my books after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the copies I had. The books (and more novels to follow) have a new home at Dark Oak Press. Here are the links to Amazon and Dark Oak if you need copies of the novels. Enjoy!

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http://www.darkoakpress.com/crimsonshadows.html

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Spaztory #1

shady spazWelcome to Spaztory—the history of Spaz, my orange tabby. I thought I’d start his posts with how Spaz came to us.

I was at work for Spaz’s advent. My husband told me he was making dinner when he heard a fearsome scream of pain and fear outside. Thinking an animal was run over, he raced to the front door and threw it open. That’s when an orange blur sped past Norman, into the safe harbor of the house. Looking down the street, he saw a larger, growling blur run down the street.

At first the refugee hid under a bed. Feeling braver, he eventually made his way to the kitchen and devoured Toulouse’s (my calico) kibble. After drinking copious amounts of water, he started a cautious inspection of the house.

That’s about when I came home. Asking Norman, “Why are you acting so weird?” and then spying the handsome arrival, I cried “Who’s the cute little baby?!” As the little boy (what a tiny, skinny baby he was) inspected our home, I followed him with Norman following me, crying admonishments in vain. “We don’t need another animal!” “I’m sure he has a perfectly good home. That mean cat just scared him and he ran in here.” “You’ll see. He’ll go back to his home tomorrow.”

It was plain, though that the orange stranger had decided this was his home. You could almost see the wheels turning in his bullet head. “Hmmm, house cats get bowls of food that magically refill.” “House cats have private bathrooms.” “Toys—housecats get toys too?!” “That catnip is the bomb!” “Man, this is the life. I’m movin’ in.”

Move in he did, despite Norman’s vehement objections. He insisted, based on the boy’s affectionate ways and immediate compliance with the litter box, that he must already have a home.

Next day, walking his Pomeranian, Chloe, Norman asked every house he passed if anyone was missing a young, orange tom. Not only did he keep encountering negative responses, one neighbor told him of a house with dozens of ferals they weren’t caring for. All the cats were orange tabbies and in desperate need of caring homes.

At this point, Norman resigned himself but it turned out the choice wasn’t his. Seeing Norman out with the dog, our foster turned stalker and started running after Norman, meowing at the top of his lungs. “You will adopt me!!!” “You will love me!!!”

That’s when the great Name Debate began. I opted for Shady, because throughout the day, he’d leave us for awhile only to reappear in the courtyard. I texted Norman ‘Guess Who’s Back?’ and it reminded me of the Eminem song. Norman said, “No. Look at him. He’s such a Spaz.” I countered that would be like naming him Dopey or Stupid and Norman said, “Exactly.”

Over time, it became clear that when God passed out feline grace and agility, our Spaz was nowhere to be found. He’d see Toulouse make a running leap for the window, try the same move, and wind up in a bewildered heap on the floor. We have a mental gate on our front door. Norman would open the door in the morning to take Chloe on her walk. Spaz, determined to have his morning walk, would run at the door and smack headfirst into the gate. He’d shake his head and give Norman a bewildered look. “Man, I always forget the gate.”

Still, I resisted naming him Spaz. He got his neutering and vaccinations under the name Shady Baker. Things came to a head one day when Norman shouted urgently, “Trisha! Get in here.” I came into the kitchen and saw bright droplets of blood on the floor. Norman held the cat so I could see his rear and said solemnly, “I think he has a hemorrhoid.”

Of course I called his vet and she said, “Hemorrhoids are very dangerous in cats. Bring him in right away.”

I raced him over there and she got Shady? on the examining table. Lifting his tail, she said, “Oh that’s not a hemorrhoid. He must’ve cut himself. Put some salve on it and he’ll be fine.”

I said, “Are you sure?” and she told me to come look. I did and plainly it was a cut. Relieved though I was, the look on the cat’s face was priceless. Spaz is a terrible patient and the vet’s assistant was holding him splayed down. Spread eagle with his tail lifted by the vet, his expression plainly said, “Would you perverts stop staring at my ass?”

Getting back home, Norman and I speculated on how a cat could cut his butt. That’s when we remembered, the day before Toulouse was nimbly walking on the top of our fence. Again, Spaz tried to copy her elegant moves and stumbled. That must be when he cut himself.

After that, I couldn’t object to naming him Spaz. Any cat that cuts his ass is plainly spastic. Spaz he became and Spaz he remains.

 

 

Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Good, bad movie or awful bad movie?

yuckpumpkin.pnghalloweeniiiToday AMC is playing Halloween Movies ad nauseum, but they’re only playing specific ones. You need a Michael Myers fix, you have your choice of Halloween (the original with all time Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis), Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers or Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers. Let’s focus for a second on Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers. Exactly what was Mikey returning from? Some soothing netherworld where supernatural slashers take a nap between sequels? No, Michael Myers returned from near oblivion when he was knocked out of the franchise by Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

John Carpenter and Debra Hill—the creators of Halloween—thought after Halloween II their series was getting stale. Hadn’t Michael Myers tormented poor Laurie Strode and naughty doctors looking for a sex break during their shift long enough? Hadn’t Dr. Loomis done all he could for the beleaguered town of Haddonfield by committing himself and Michael to immolation? The Carpenter/Hill duo decided to revive their franchise by offering the movie going public something new, something innovative. Letting Michael Myers take a well-deserved retirement in Hell, each year would see a Halloween movie with a different story line—similar to the TV series American Horror Story offering a different theme each season.

Turned out, though, the movie going public didn’t want fresh and innovative when it comes to horror movies. They wanted to know each year Michael, Jason, and Freddie would return, cut up the requisite number of pot-smoking, horny teens and be vanquished (till the next sequel) by a (sorta) virginal heroine. Now if you start the sequel by having one of the revenants kill off last year’s heroine, so much the better. People were actually ready to take to the streets when they discovered a Halloween movie with no Michael Myers. So loud was the outcry that Halloween IV was called The Return of Michael Myers to soothe the furious fan base. Thus, in the early Eighties, Halloween III was all but dismissed as a treacherous aberration; movie-making treason on John Carpenter’s part.

But let’s take a look at that redheaded stepchild, shall we? Is Halloween III a bad movie? Sure it is, but last I checked none of the Halloween movies were Oscar contenders. What needs to be decided is this—is it a good bad movie (a la Plan 9 From Outer Space) or a terrible bad movie? The remake of Nightmare on Elm Street comes to mind—Freddie Krueger was just a McMartin victim don’t ya know.

First, a look at the threadbare plot of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Welcome to the small town of Santa Mira, CA; home of the sinister toy factory, Silver Shamrock owned by the evil Cochran (played with gleeful scene chewing by Dan O’Herlihy.) They have round the clock TV ads for their Halloween masks—you’ve got your choice of witch, jack-o-lantern or skull. However, these particular masks should carry a warning: Wearing this mask on Halloween Night will turn your face into a gory mask of cockroaches and snakes that will then kill your parents. Apparently Cochran has waited thousands of years—and stolen a slab of Stonehenge to boot—so he could play a ‘prank’ on the children. All that stands between him and world destruction are Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins), a functional alcoholic resplendent in Members Only Jackets and nubile Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), daughter of a small toy shop owner that seemed to believe the best way to stop Cochran was by lurking in isolated car lots late at night, waiting for Cochran’s army of gray-suited Young Republican robots to find him and then crush his skull in while the hapless man clutched a Silver Shamrock jack-o-lantern mask.

Now, what does Halloween III have going for it? First, the priceless TV commercial. A cloying voice chants: Six more days (or five, four, three) till Halloween, Halloween…six more days to Halloween….Sillllllveeeeerrrr Shamrock! You ever want to torture someone, force them to listen to that ditty over and over—makes water boarding seem like child’s play. The movie also has a delightfully spooky atmosphere with the off the beaten path hotel where a woman tries to remove the token from a Silver Shamrock mask and burns her own face off in the process and Cochran’s soulless toy factory. As a promotion, you could also buy your own Silver Shamrock mask in certain magic shops when the movie was released. Wonder if those are worth a pretty penny today?

Now what’s wrong with Season of the Witch? Plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through, particularly towards the end of the movie where it turns out Ellie is a robot. Really, create a robot in less than twenty-four hours right down to the chipped red fingernail polish? Quick work, Cochran. Congrats. But if Ellie was killed somewhere in the bowels of the factory and Dr. Challis rescued a robot (after rescuing himself by kicking in a TV set before his skull mask could do him in), why didn’t Robot Ellie kill Dr. Challis while he was wreaking havoc on Cochran’s factory, destroying all the other robots and laying waste to Cochran’s carefully cultivated Samhain plans? Why did Robot Ellie wait till they were in a car to attack? Though I must say it was pretty cool to see Robot Ellie’s forearm cling stubbornly to the passenger side panel, still trying to kill Dr. Challis after he managed to mash up the rest of her.

My verdict? Let’s go three out of five jack-o-lanterns. Sure Halloween III is silly and schlocky but what Halloween season is complete without a good dose of schlock? My recommendation? Break out the popcorn, turn off at least one Michael Myers rampage and break out Season of the Witch.

Sneak Preview–Chapter One of Crimson Resurrection!

 

This novel may be coming along slowly but so far I really like where it’s going.  Tell me what you think!  Here’s the first chapter of Crimson Resurrection:

Chapter One

“They limped and stumbled through a bad dream to that terrible place they were bound for. Where they were traveling, the sun and moon mean nothing and winter and summer less,” Richard Adams, Watership Down

 

“You know,” Meghann O’Neill said impishly when her lover started guiding her down the steep roof stairs, “I’ve never made love during the day.”

“Little one, I’ve not had that pleasure in over four hundred years,” Simon Baldevar laughed, pulling her into his embrace. “I say we remedy this problem straightaway.”

Laughing back, Meghann took a coy step away from Simon and turned back to the roof door. Much as she wanted to be with Simon, make love and forget the horrors they’d been through the past few nights, what she wanted even more was one more look at the city bathed in daylight, at the sunlight she hadn’t seen in so long.

It was beautiful, she thought with pleasure. She’d almost forgotten what the skyline looked like etched by the rising sun, all the chrome and glass buildings reflecting the sunlight with a brass, almost insolent sheen.

The skyline?????

Meghann blinked, but the buildings in front of her were the same—those of the Manhattan skyline.

What the hell? Meghann thought. After that terrible argument she and Simon had the night before, she’d fled to his townhouse in Mid-Town Manhattan. When he tracked her down, they wound up on the rooftop and all quarrels were forgotten when they realized the coming dawn wasn’t hurting them, that they would be able walk in sunlight now that they’d partaken of their son Mikal’s blood.

Oh, Mikal, Meghann thought sadly of her slain son, dead by her own hand when he threatened all their lives. Mikal was the first vampire born, not transformed. How Meghann had looked forward to getting to know her son, taken into seculsion by Simon when he was born so no other vampires would threaten the child’s life. Unfortunately, Mikal had grown into a psychotic monster, one Meghann was forced to kill. To save Simon’s life, Meghann gave him the heart’s blood of his dead son that he might heal. Once Simon recovered, Meghann had fed from him and now she too had Mikal’s blood, blood immune to sunlight, flowing through her veins.

No, she’d never forget Mikal and she’d always regret what she’d had to do, but sadness was banished by the slowly rising sun. With the glee of small children, Meghann and Simon had watched the slowly rising sun illuminate Central Park, take the formerly dark, brooding trees and give them brilliant, gaudy life; the full green, leaves of early summer gleaming with droplets of early morning dew.

Central Park, Meghann thought with rising fear. That’s what I should be seeing. That was all you could see from Simon’s rooftop, along with some tall buildings and rooftop gardens nearby. The view before Meghann’s eyes was one you saw from her father’s house in Queens and Meghann hadn’t been on that rooftop in over sixty years.

Was the price a vampire paid for being able to walk in sunlight that you lost your mind? Meghann whirled around. “Simon?” Was he seeing things that shouldn’t be there too?

Simon was gone. Everything was gone. Everything was black—dense, fathomless black like the darkness she’d encountered when Alcuin took her and Charles to Dunmore Cave in Ireland.

“Alcuin?” Meghann called out for her vampire mentor, the man who’d rescued her from the bondage of her early days with Simon and been slain by Lord Baldevar forty years later. Even as a ghost, Alcuin was still able to come to her when she needed him desperately. If anyone should be able to help her through whatever was happening now, it should be the strong spirit of Alcuin. “Alcuin? Simon? Dammit someone answer me! Where am I? Help!”

No! Meghann thought. I won’t start screaming like some terrified child. She wasn’t losing her mind; she was just showing the strain she’d been under. The same week she’d killed her own son, she’d learned her other child, Ellie, and Jimmy Delacroix were lovers—something Meghann still couldn’t wrap her head around, seeing as how Jimmy used to be her lover. If that weren’t enough, she’d never forget seeing Simon lying lifeless and blue with approaching death after Mikal got the better of him. After all that, who wouldn’t have a flashback or whatever this was?

The first thing she had to do was get her bearings. Meghann couldn’t see or hear anything in this viscous darkness, but she did feel the roof door handle under her palm. Meghann moved her fingers and focused her sharp, vampiric eyes on the door handle. That was the first thing she’d seen the sunlight strike—the crumbling, rusting flakes that had been black when she arrived on the roof and slowly started turning reddish-brown.

There, she could see the reddish-brown flakes again—no, no, no! Terrified, Meghann yanked her hand back from the thing coming to monstrous life in front of her. In place of the crumbling chips, she saw rusty scales and the thing kept elongating until what stood before her was a three-headed serpent, hissing with each pair of hideous yellow eyes focused on her.

Aillen, Meghann thought in horror. When she was a child, her father had told her all sorts of Celtic myths. One was of the vicious Aillen, a monster of unholy strength and evil cunning that rose every All Hallows Eve from some fathoms deep cave and stalked the Irish countryside looking for prey. That was why, according to Jack O’Neill, you always made sure to be indoors before sunset on Halloween night.

“Lig dom!” Meghann shouted when the thing advanced on her. High time she remembered that she was no terrified child, but a vampire and one who’d learned a thing or two about dealing with supernatural creatures. Both Simon and Alcuin had impressed upon her that you never showed a demon (or whatever this horrible thing was) any kind of fear they could use against you.

“Nil eagla orm romhat feasta,” Meghann hissed. I don’t fear you. The thing turned, seeming to cock its hideous ears. Meghann strained her own ears and then she heard something faint—somewhere in the darkness, a child—no, at least two children—were sobbing. It was more than sobbing; the poor children sounded terrified and utterly desolate—they were in fear for their lives and something more. Meghann could feel they were scared, but of what? Not just the aillen but that it might kill something precious to them, something they’d never known but wanted desperately.

“Na dean sin!” Meghann screamed when the aillen turned from her, slithering off in the direction of those heart-breaking wails. “Don’t you dare go after those babies!” Her own fear forgotten, Meghann jumped on the aillen’s back, determined to save the children. Suddenly the Celtic cross Alcuin had given her the night she met him was in her hands and she used the sharp base to stab one of the aillen’s heads.

With a roar of outrage, the beast threw her off its back and one leathery wing knocked Meghann off her feet when she tried to stand up. She felt the breath knocked out of her, but in a painless sort of way—perhaps this was a dream. Even so, Meghann felt it was imperative that she save those children. In some primal way, she felt responsible for them.

No time to question what was happening, Meghann used to the cross to slash the aillen when it tried to claw her across the face. She might not be able to see, but she’d certainly been able to sense the blow coming at her.

As the aillen advanced on Meghann, the cries of the children grew louder and louder, as though they were terrified for her.

It was madness what she did next, but there was no time to think or wonder. The aillen was nearly on top of her, but all Meghann could think of was calming the children. Rather than scream at the monster what came out of her mouth was a soft, lilting, “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral.” Hush now; don’t be afraid, the Irish lullaby Meghann’s father had sung whenever she’d had a nightmare.

The sobbing subsided, but to Meghann’s amazement the aillen stopped moving too, as though uncertain.

“Of course,” a feminine voice said behind her. The voice was scratchy and the words she spoke were not a Gaelic Meghann had heard before, but she understood it perfectly. “So much has been forgotten, so much reliance on tedious ritual. What these monsters fear more than anything is the joy in music and song—the things they can never create or understand like love and wonder. You haven’t forgotten the power of joy over those with none in them, a leanbh mo chroi, you just haven’t learned yet how to listen to your heart.”

Daughter of my heart—that was what the unseen woman had called her.

“Mathair?” Meghann called back. Mother?

“I am the mother you’ve never known,” the voice said and it didn’t surprise Meghann at all to see a crow on her left shoulder. The oppressive darkness had lessened and Meghann could make out that it was a beautiful bird, each of its feathers a gleaming ebony.

“I am the mother you will need for what faces you,” the crow continued speaking a woman’s words but in the caw, caw, caw of a crow. “I am Mathair of the Battlefield.”

“Morrigan!” Meghann said and it seemed the bird smiled at her.

“Do you accept my aid, inion?” the crow asked. Meghann recalled that the Morrigan, an Irish war goddess, often appeared as a crow. Why she’d come to help her, Meghann had no idea but she felt honored—as well as relieved.

“Ta,” Meghann said. “What must I do, Mathair?”

“Sing,” the crow replied. “Sing in the face of madness and rage, no matter the fear you feel. Sing for your babies and I shall do the rest.”

Meghann raised her chin and glared at the aillen, momentarily silenced by the appearance of the Morrigan but now back to hideous, screeching life. It seemed the beast’s three-voiced wails lifted her hair and nearly took it off her scalp with the deadly force behind it, but Meghann did as the crow advised and sang. “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral.”

While Meghann sang, the Morrigan flapped its black wings wildly, screeching at the aillen. The monster ignored the flapping crow and focused its rage on Meghann, clawing her face. Meghann felt fear, as well as pain with each strike, but she kept singing, putting her faith in the Morrigan. She strained her ears for the crying children and theirs sobs started turning to sniffles. Then there was something extraordinary. In place of crying, Meghann heard a savage cheering; it seemed the children were encouraging her to fight. Meghann didn’t know who the children were, but perhaps she was put here to help them out of the darkness as well as herself. Maybe she’d been sent here to do a good deed after the horrible things she’d been forced to do over the past week.

Perhaps sensing defeat, the aillen roared louder and continued its assault on Meghann. She sang, though the pain in her mutilated face was horrible. She kept singing Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, the lilting rhythm in her voice matching each flap of the Morrigan’s wings.

As she kept singing, the wings were no longer flapping from Meghann’s shoulder. Looking down, she saw the wings were hers—she was the Morrigan and the Morrigan was her! Meghann flapped her wings mightily and it seemed each feather sprouted one of the Celtic crosses Alcuin had given her. Now it was her stabbing the aillen with the power of a goddess! The beast stopped howling and started trying to shield its hideous faces.

Meghann had never felt anything like this in her life! Even when Simon had let some of his dark power into her, it felt nothing like this extraordinary rush. She felt at once wild and invincible, capable of great power and even greater darkness. But the darkness inside her was a natural thing, nothing like the evil she sensed in the aillen. She felt darkness inside her, but she also felt beautiful and natural at the same time. It was like she was a beautiful meadow at sunset, yet simultaneously she was a tornado bearing down on that meadow.

Meghann kept striking the aillen, feeling blood from the wounded creature splash on her face.

Blood. Fresh Blood.

Meghann blinked, and the oppressive darkness was gone but she wasn’t on the rooftop anymore. She was in a room—a bedroom—that she’d never seen before. She had a confused impression of cypress wood floors and a large, crude hole in the wall where a window should have been.

Meghann couldn’t focus on any other details—even so simple a one as where she was, whose house was this? —because of the sickness roiling through her. Meghann hadn’t been mortal long, but there had been several memorable teenage hangovers before she’d transformed. Her throbbing head, sour mouth, and queasy stomach brought back the memory of them in excruciating detail.

What’s wrong with me, Meghann thought and put her hand to her head. To her horror, her hand came back slick with blood. Whether she’d merely dreamed the aillen, something had disfigured her badly. She had to feed to heal; she needed blood immediately.

Behind her someone was moaning. Meghann spun around on her knees and saw a mortal man. Badly wounded by the look of him and moaning incoherently. When Meghann crawled closer to him, he didn’t appear to notice her. He had a gash on his forehead and blood was flowing freely.

With the smell of fresh blood in her nostrils, that loamy scent of iron and copper, any thought for right or wrong deserted Meghann. She grabbed by the man by his grubby T-shirt and attached her mouth to his neck.

Dear God, how wonderful the blood tasted! Meghann feasted on and on, feeding on the man like a starved leech. Dimly she had an impression that it had been quite some time since she fed on fresh prey, but that couldn’t be right. Hadn’t she and Simon fed just last night? Meghann felt her face heal, the nausea and headache faded to nothingness, but some instinct whispered to her that a deeper healing was going on, like she was recovering from a protracted illness.

When the blood drained to a mere trickle, Meghann raised her head and wiped the blood off her mouth with the back of her hand. Before she could feel remorse for killing this unknown man, something in his departing spirit caught her attention. It wasn’t anything like the ancient malevolence of the aillen, but nor was this man some innocent victim. Meghann had a fleeting impression of a hateful soul, some rotten corrupt mortal that hurt those too weak to stop him. A child abuser, perhaps.

Meghann dismissed any more thought of him as easily as she flicked his body to the far side of this unknown room with one careless swipe of her hand. She had to figure out where she was; where had Simon disappeared to?

Meghann looked down at herself and saw one familiar thing. She was wearing the lacy, white negligee Simon had given her the night she’d transformed. After she’d escaped him, Simon had saved all her clothes and gave them back to her when they reunited.

A few feet from her was an enormous rice bed covered in gauzy mosquito netting. Pushing aside the netting, Meghann saw a man’s denim shirt on the ivory bedspread. She put the shirt on, wanting a more substantial covering while she figured out her surroundings.

Meghann sat on the bed and stared at the gaping hole in the wall across the room. The air drifting in was dense with humidity, it almost felt like water settling over her. It reminded Meghann of the weather in Cuba, where she’d lived with Simon the first thirteen years they were together. Was she in the Caribbean?

An open door on that side of the room revealed a bathroom. To Meghann’s left were two double doors slightly ajar, probably leading to a dressing room. Meghann’s sharp ears detected hitched breathing in the dressing room—low and treble like children.

Dear God, there were children in this unknown house! Meghann’s cheeks burned with shame when she realized she’d just fed on and killed a man in front of innocent children. They were probably terrified! Meghann had no idea where she was or why she was alone in a house with children, but the most important thing was calming them.

Meghann hopped off the bed and crossed the room, stopping a few feet from the open mahogany doors. She didn’t want to go in the dressing room and frighten the children any further—better for them to come to her.

“Please come out,” she said in her most coaxing tone. “I won’t hurt you.”

“Oh, we know that,” a young voice replied. What struck Meghann was the confidence the boy spoke with. It was as though he knew her well, and had no doubt she wouldn’t harm him. “You’d never hurt us.”

“Who are you?” Meghann said, feeling more confused by the moment. What in holy hell was going on here?

The mahogany doors swung all the open, and two young boys clasping hands came into the bedroom. They smiled, and Meghann gasped at two pairs of blood-teeth gleaming in the moonlight.

The one on the left smiled and spoke to Meghann. “We’re your children. Hello, Mum.”

Welcome To My Parlor

Hello Crimson Fans!

I’ve decided to start blogging–perhaps make a million dollars and work from home.  Well, we can all dream, right?

Crimson Trish will certainly have tidbits from the (ever so slowly) developing Crimson Resurrection, but there’s going to be plenty of other ranting going on.  I’m going to write reviews on favorite movies, TV and books.  More importantly, I’ll blog about despised media.  I plan to offer my take on American Horror Story Cult–that topic alone will keep me blogging till the New Year.

I’ll also chat about my work as a tour guide in New Orleans French Quarter– most writers that don’t want to live on Ramen Noodles and water need another source of income.  I plan to log about my great tours, my awful tours and my I Can’t Believe You Said That! Tours.  This didn’t happen to me but I kid you not, a customer earnestly asked one of our guides, “Was Louisiana included in the Louisiana Purchase?”

I know a lot of you hope to be published one day and I’m happy to write blogs to help streamline that process.  Sorry but since we live in a litigious world, I can’t critique anyone’s work for fear in my next novel someone will cry, “She totally stole that from me!” Anyone that wants to try that keep in my mind I think a rack makes a lovely addition to any home.

That’s all for now but I do plan a little Samhain short story where Meghann and Simon rile up a ghost at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, one of the most haunted bars in New Orleans.

Crimson Kisses,

Trisha Baker