Retelling Lore and Updating Mythologies

This morning I found a dead bat in my house. It was a teeny tiny little thing – a little brown myotis. At first I thought it was a leaf. I was sad to see this tiny nocturnal creature  on the floor of one of the bedrooms, with it’s wings close to it’s body, all alone.

Mind you, it wasn’t a Vampire. It was just a bat. A precious and tiny little beneficial flying mammal that eats bugs. It made me sad to see it dead and alone.

This made me think of common lore, that is of Vampires and bats. Most of us prefer the night but we aren’t shape shifters. Mind you, we can make you think we are but that is your own fault.

Lore is spread through stories once told around the fire at night, and now told in movies, books, and television. Stories and mythologies evolve as our world and culture evolves. What is popular becomes belief. What is unpopular becomes forgotten.

I took the dog for a walk and started to think of the reworking of lore and mythologies, especially in weird times like now. Even the stories of atomic creatures such as Godzilla and giant insects come out of the advent of atomic bombs. Mothman first appeared in West Virginia folklore, in the Point Pleasant area from November 12, 1966, to December 15, 1967. In fact some people claim to still see him from time to time. So much of Space Alien lore and a boom in Science Fiction, also takes place in the 1950’s – 60’s, at the time of the space race,  though it goes back to as long as people have been looking up at the stars.

A writing friend of mine asked about rewriting mythologies. I say DO IT. I love it when authors take old stories and rewrite them.

One of my favorite things to do it to take a modern look at old characters. In my story Sam Judge I rewrote the story of Samson and Delilah in a post apocalyptic setting. Holy shit, I wrote it a few months before our current Covid-19 pandemic started. It was for the new WPaD Anthology Goin’ Extinct Too! Apocalypse A-Go-Go. 

Sam Judge was a retelling of the biblical story from the point of view of Lilah. Once you get rid of all of the sexist bull shit it just becomes a story of a guy with a lot of power and a powerful family, and a woman trying to do her job.

I wonder about a lot of old stories. Take David and Goliath. David was a guy who threw a rock at the big bully Goliath who was a GIANT. David became the King because that is how people picked leaders back then. My take is that David was about average height or maybe on the shorter end of average  like 5″6′. I’m going by what is average today, not five thousand years ago. Goliath was tall but not a giant. Maybe about 6’11” or even 7′ like a basket ball player. Goliath could have been the same height of Goliath who was obviously the epitome of the school yard bully. David kicked Goliath’s ass. It could have been with rocks. It could have been with words. The point of this story is that David’s crew had to spin the story to make it look more spectacular. They had to make David look bigger than life so they made Goliath into a 15″6′ giant and made David into just a regular guy which he wasn’t. The spin doctors were going for the lowest common denominators with their mostly agrarian and illiterate constituents. See where I’m going with this.

Another favorite story of mine and of my readers is Ode to a Greek God. I take the god Hermes and update the readers on what he is doing now in his home in San Francisco.  His son Pan is settled down. Hermes is evaluating his life and still getting into trouble with women. It is a new world where mortal humans tend to be a little more savy and demanding. I might even continue that story one day or update the new mythology.

For centuries people have been fascinated by the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table stories. Was Arthur even real? What about the Holy Grail. There are stories within stories within stories. Everyone from John Steinbeck to Stephen Spielberg had their own wonderful takes on the lore of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Of course Monty Python did it better than anyone.

I also had my own take on the story of Arthur, Merlin and the Camelot Crew with my Druce and Morcant stories. In Off To See The Wizard the two friends started with a trip to meet Merlin. I’m still writing their stories. By the way Druce is a Warlock, and Morcant is a Selkie. That makes for even more lore.

And speaking of Selikes please read the wonderful new story by emerging author Adelia Hoff called The Fisherman. She did a beautiful job taking the predatory and mean nature out of an old tale.

Be it Bible stories, Greek Gods, Vampires, Selkies, Mermaids, Wizards, Ghosts, old legends, or what ever lore you’re writing just remember that it is your story to tell. YOUR STORY.

Someone started the lore and mythologies we currently retell over and over and over. Why not start your own.

And if you just want to read you have plenty of material. I’ll make a list in my next book blog post.

In the meantime keep your mind open. Keep your heart open. Keep your imagination running. Wear a mask. Talk with your kids. Check in on those who might need extra help. Stay safe.

And tell me what your favorite stories of myths, lore, or retellings of old tales are. I’d love to hear.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Hooks

coffee

Coffee with Vampires and Ghosts

On TV whenever a hot girl sees a guy she likes she will run up to him, do a flying jump and wrap her legs around him as she plants him with a huge sloppy kiss.

NOBODY does that in real life. There would be a trip to the emergency room after he falls and cracks his skull on the pavement, and she falls with him and breaks her arm when it twists behind his back.

I just had to say that.

This morning after a long walk with my dog I fixed coffee and a second cup for Nigel. Being a Ghost, Nigel never drinks the coffee, he just puts his hands around the cup and takes in the aroma.

This morning we were not discussing stupid reality TV programs. We talked about creativity.

“Why don’t you finish anything?” Nigel asked with a sneer, as he shook a lock of dark hair off of his forehead.

“I finish blog posts and short stories,” I said.

“Novels?”

“I’ve finished a couple.”

“You never edited them or had them edited? What the Hell Juliette?”

I made more coffee and ignored his completely true comment.

“I’m writing today,” I said. “I’m working on a novel. I’m going to get a real editor to edit it.”

“What’s the hook? In one sentence,” said Nigel.

“A story that proves that Empty Nesters had lives before they had kids, and deadly secrets the’ll never tell.”

“I’d read that,” said Nigel. “Now give me the hook for another one.”

“Would you rather have a trophy wife on your arm or a raptor?”

“Oh, I like that. Go on.”

“Sometimes you have to die to find a love life.”

“OK. That hits home. Another.”

“After the fourth apocalypse in three years he decided to do something about it, and he didn’t really care what anyone else thought.”

“That one needs some work.”

“After the fourth apocalypse in three years he decided to do something about it, even if he was just a cat.”

“There you go. Is it about a cat?”

“It could be. I haven’t done much with that one yet,” I said. Wasn’t that the truth.

“Tell me another.”

“Get your gun, and get in the motorhome, said Grammy, “We’re going to hunt some Vampires.”

Nigel laughed out loud. “That was unexpected. Another.”

“I’m done for the day,” I told him. I need to write.

Yes, I do need to write before all of the ideas and inspiration drains out of my left ear and onto the floor. I need to write before I notice the floor needs to be mopped. I need to write before the dog needs more food, or the cats lie to me again and tell me they need more food. I need to write before another person drunk dials me, or I get distracted yet again by Ghosts or anyone or anything else.

I have to finish those stories and send those hooks out and catch some readers. My goal is to tell those tales and maybe entertain someone along the way.

And as always…

  • Talk to your kids
  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Check in on the elderly folks and others in your life you might need extra help.
  • Kiss a Vampire.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Cat-Writing-1

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Ghosts

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity. I am an artist and writer. By using both I am a story-teller using both words and pictures – sometimes together and sometimes not.

I am fortunate to know so many other creative beings who are writers, artists and musicians and even actors. Anyway, being one of those kinds of people is never easy. The risks of even admitting one is creative is great. You’re scorned if it is your passion or if try to make a living of it. You are celebrated if you succeed. There seems to be no in-between. And nobody understands, or so it seems. Mentors are few and far between. Paths are unclear and filled with holes.

Then again it can be wonderful and rewarding and magical. When I’m creating I’m happy. When I’m creating and making money that really makes me happy.

This morning I’m working on some drawings and writing, as well as some business…

I’d just fixed coffee in my red French press and looked out the window to see the red shoulder hawk sitting in an oak tree and turkeys walking below (just setting the scene.) Anyway, my brain was starting to go blank and doubt was setting in and my attention span was well, I have no attention span what so ever.

I looked up from my computer to see a pale face surrounded by a mass of shaggy dark hair. It was Nigel, THE GHOST, my ghost, sitting across from me with a fuck-you-Juliette look on his face.

“What are you trying to do today Vampire?” He was in one of his usual fresh out of the grave moods.

“I was just thinking about all of my insanely creative friends.”

“You have friends?”

“Don’t be rude. So tell me Nigel, you were a successful artist. How did you manage it?”

He leaned back in the chair and then loosened his tie.

“Well, Juliette, my dear dear dear Juliette, I learned the business. I was sort of an asshole. I never took no for an answer. I believed in my art. But most of all I had a lot of support. Nobody every expected me to do anything but succeed. Good thing my family didn’t want anything to do with me or I would have never done anything. But my friends and my foster family were my real family. They believed. They made me believe. I probably would have killed myself before I ever made it out of high school if I’d stayed with my biological family. I was my art. My art was me. There was no separation. I worked smart too, learned from my mistakes and… connections were a big thing. I went to the right school. Right away I started to network and find the right people. I’ve never been shy. I was driven. I didn’t listen to anyone who wanted me to be nice or follow the norms or get a real job. Most of all I was good. I was great. People still buy my art. They still love it. Can you imagine if I’d lived? Can you imagine all of the people with real talent who are alive right now but so beaten down by all of the crap that they’ve heard all of their lives about how art doesn’t matter? At least their art doesn’t matter because… It was easy for me because I didn’t have to please anyone but myself and I was damn great at both art and pleasing myself. Everything is easy if you go throughout life as sort of a prick.”

I listened and thought a bit then poured more coffee.

I looked up and Nigel’s handsome almost transparent face was next to mine. “And you want to know what else Juliette? Tenacity. A lot of tenacity. A whole lot of tenacity.”

“It is easy when you’re young to dream,” I said, thinking of the teens I know, and of my own youth.

He gave a laugh, but it wasn’t mean. It was happy. “But when you’re old you have the life experience. You can do anything.”

“It isn’t that easy,” I said.

“Nothing is that easy, especially bringing back that passion but it can be done.”

“Anything else?”

“Don’t be a ghost before you’re dead,” said Nigel and he vanished in a whisp of blue smoke.

I’ve had doors slammed in my face. So I go to a side door or through a window. Or I find a better door. Or I kick the door down. Or I sit outside and yell. But as I go through my own front door, into the home I love knowing that my creativity bought this house I know that nothing can get me down at this point. It can’t. I won’t let it.

As I embark on new creative endeavours, new journeys so to speak, I will try not to bring any old ghosts with me. Well, with one exception. I will bring Nigel along with me, even if he is a pain in the ass sometimes. But when I go it alone I know he’ll be there, along with so many others cheering me on.

And in turn, I will be on the sidelines cheering on my creative friends. Better than that I’ll march in the parade beside them.

Never give up your art. Never give up your creative spirit. Never give up. Never. Like Nigel said – don’t be a ghost before you’re dead.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

don't be a ghost

Musings on Pets, Art, Vampires, and Trying to Make Sense of Anything At All.

It started out as one of those days where the dog ate all of the cat food, the squirrels at all of the bird food, the cat tried to eat a bird that flew into my house, I’m trying to take photographs and the fall lighting is all off, then the cat barfed on the carpet. The other cat is asleep out on the deck. He never causes me problems aside from his yearly “I am an idiot and got myself gravely injured again,” vet visit. Today, I am also feeling a great sense of loss that has come over me in a wave.

A sense of loss and melancholy isn’t uncommon for Vampires. I just had to throw that out there.

I put on some sunscreen and decent clothes and went out in search of art supplies. I didn’t need any. I thought it might inspire me to try to put pen or pastel to paper. That is to put it to paper without fear of disappointing myself.

At the downtown art supply shop, the one that had been there for decades, I wandered the isles looking at brushes, textures, tools, and colors. I was drawn to all of the shades of gray, then got sort of perturbed that some asshole decided to write a bad porn book of that name that became oh so popular with bored middle aged women who didn’t date enough when they were single. Still I looked and imagined what I might create.

I felt a cold hand upon my arm, then looked to my left. “Connie,” I said upon seeing my old friend. Constantine Jones, the very one I wrote the story Night Dogs about. He’d told me about that night a few years back. I valued his friendship because he matched my love of art, both in creating it, and in studying it.

“Juliette. Pastels today?”

“Maybe,” I said.

We talked of art and our lives. He asked about my children. I asked him what he was up to. I purchased pastels and paper. He picked up a few brushes and oil paint. Then we walked down the tree lined street to a small independent coffee shop.

As we sat in the shade sipping our coffee nobody would have suspected that we were Vampires who’d know each other for over a century.

No, dear reader, this isn’t a story of fangs, dripping blood, or darkness. All creatures, even the most ardent predators, the lions, the hyenas, the wolves, and the wolverines, still need their times of peace. We are always aware, but sometimes we just need to take a break from what keeps our bodies alive and think about what keeps our passions alive.

Even more so it is the small things that matter. It is things we do for tangible reason like having coffee with an old friend. We talked about art, as kindred spirits do.

Connie touched took my hand in his. It was warm from holding the coffee. I thought how odd that was to have a warm touch from another Vampire.

“Your heart is heavy,” he said to me.

“I don’t know what it is right now,” I told him. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not.”

“It shall pass. I just have too much BS that I have to deal with.” That is true, but isn’t that the case for a lot of us.

Standing across the street I saw a lone figure with dark hair and a black suit with the tie loosened. Connie looked as well.

“A ghost,” he whispered. “Why is he looking over here?”

“I know him. He lives at my house most of the time, but he’s buried near here.” I motioned for my ghost, Nigel, who was an artist in life, to come join us.

I pulled up a chair for a friend that nobody but Constantine Jones and I could see. I ordered coffee for Nigel. He sat in the chair holding the cup and letting the aroma pass through him. He can’t drink it but he can smell it, which is a small comfort for a ghost.

We talked more of art, and the weather, and small things that friends talk about.

After two hours Connie went his own way and Nigel came home with me. As we drove down the freeway Nigel changed the radio station about thirty times. I finally yelled at him to stop it.

And now I’m home. I don’t know where Nigel got off to.

From my window I cans humming birds in the lemon and orange trees. The calico cat sits snoring in a chair. I can hear the other cat scratching a piece of wood outside.

I feel better. Sometimes we just need to get away from ourselves for a while, or at least get into a different place where we can be the selves we need to be, and deserve to be.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Creative Spirit

Articles abound about how schools stifle creativity by forcing children to conform to certain ways of thinking and doing things. Fortunately that isn’t always true.

Unfortunately what happens when kids get out of school, either high school, or college is devastating.

Doors are slammed in the faces of those who put themselves out there into the world where all things are subjective. The real world, especially the workplace, is set up to stifle creative thinking, the individual, and anyone with new ideas. Employees are hired for their creativity and drive, then that creative is beaten out of them, only to be replaced with the acceptable mediocracy of the prevailing management.

We’ve all seen how our government works with old men asking fear filled questions about the dangers of social media and other subjects they will not even attempt to understand. They are the same people who cut off funds for our arts and sciences because they do not trust what they do not understand. Unfortunately they do not want to understand – that would mean opening their eyes to new and different ideas. That would mean letting go of ignorance and opening up their minds and maybe even their hearts.

Friends and relatives can be the worst at killing the creative spirit in a child or young adult. They all have loud and negative opinions about hopes and dreams of the young people they know. They say things like, “only communists and socialists get Political Science degrees,” or “you can’t make a living as an artist (or a historian, a marine biologist, a fashion designer, a musician, a bed and breakfast owner, a baker, a vintage motorcycle mechanic, a poet, a writer, an art historian, a speciality crop farmer, or anything else where someone has new ideas, or ideas on making old ideas better.)

Dreams are easy to kill, especially in those who have had doors slammed in their faces  time after time after time. Even if you go around back there isn’t always another door or even a window to crawl into.

Don’t tell a young person that they are a failure before they have even tried.

I feel that individual sports and activities such as music and acting can help prepare a child for the negativity and judgments of adult life.

For example, my daughter roller skates. That is Artistic Roller Skating. It is like figure skating on ice, except on roller skates. When the skaters do their events, be it Figures, Team Dance, Solo Dance, or Freestyle, they are out there on the floor alone. They skate in front of a panel of judges. The skaters have specific requirements, but they are all judged individually on their own merits. That is a tough lesson for kids, and a good one. My daughter skated for years without winning. Finally she did win Gold at the National Championships – Twice. She got Bronze once. She also went to the National Championships and didn’t win. But she went. She went out of love for her sport. She did it because she wanted to do her personal best.

We should all strive to do our personal best even if there is no Gold Medal at the end. Even if there is no cash reward. Even if there is no fame.

Creativity in any endeavor is an act of love. Don’t stifle that love in the young people you know.

I have been writing this odd little blog since 2012. I haven’t received a MacArthur Fellowship. I haven’t received a penny off of my efforts. I has not made me famous (maybe a little bit.) But I continue to write this blog anyway. My thoughts on parenting, Vlad, Eleora and Tellias, Nigel the Ghost, and the rest of it are all stories that must be told. It is mine. I encourage you all to find what is YOURS and hold it close and keep doing whatever it is that makes you happy and creative.

Today the 2019 MacArthur Fellows were announced. Sometime this is know as the MacArthur Genius Grants.

Twenty six people from a variety of fields were awarded a $625,000 stipend that they can do whatever they want with.

From the foundations president John Palfrey: From addressing the consequences of climate change to furthering our understanding of human behavior to fusing forms of artistic expression, this year’s 26 extraordinary MacArthur Fellows demonstrate the power of individual creativity to reframe old problems, spur reflection, create new knowledge, and better the world for everyone. They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.”

They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.

I was so happy to see one of my favorite artist Lynda Barry on the list. I love her work so much.  Lynda Barry, 63, graphic novelist, cartoonist and educator
“Inspiring creative engagement through original graphic works and a teaching practice centered on the role of image making in communication.”

For years I had her Poodle With A Mohawk poster on my wall. I still have the poster. I’m going to put it back up.

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Congratulations to all of the recipients and to your creative spirit, and thank you for inspiring generations now and in the future.

So now, your assignment for today is:

  1. Encourage.
  2. Inspire.
  3. Support.
  4. Discuss.
  5. Hug.
  6. Read.
  7. Learn.
  8. Love.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Inspire (it isn’t a dirty word)

In my home I have a wall of bookshelves. Don’t we all. There are also more books scattered all over the house on other shelves as well. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from film maker John Waters, ““If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!”

John Waters also said, “It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.”

But back to what I was looking for. I was looking for a book about California art, but ended up on the other side of the wall looking at poetry and literature.

Then something in my mind just shattered. It was my current WIP (work in progress.) The structure is there but there had to be more. The characters need to care more about each other.

So there you have it.

Over the years, and I’ve been over quite a few, we adults find that things like work (jobs), school, judgmental friends and relatives, and society in general has totally beaten any inspiration and creativity out of us. Or at least they try damned hard to.

I never understood the disdain some people have for creativity, change, innovation, and inspiration. The artist is revered but damned if anyone wants to study art. The writer is mocked as a quaint hobbiest. The inventor is mocked with the mythical idea of the man who would rather spend his life inventing a better apple peeler, or mouse trap than feeding his children.

My advice to my children, and anyone else who finds everyone around them is trying to suck every bit of inspiration out of them, is don’t listen to them. Shut out those who say no. Shut out those who make condescending remarks. Shut out those who say your creativity, be in art, music, writing, or even science, is a waste of time. Shut them out. Make them more of a pariah than they want to make you.

Inspiration isn’t just some stupid workplace poster that usually insults rather than inspires.

Inspiration can come in any form. It can be love. It can be acorns that have fallen on your car. One idea inspires an entirely different idea out of nowhere. Just go with it. Don’t think about it too much. Just don’t listen to the assholes. They don’t want you to be inspired. Being inspired makes you dangerous. That is a good thing.

I also tell my kids that if they’re around those who are boorish and lack imagination, and lack empathy, and want to be jerks, to just keep their ideas to themselves. You don’t have to share your world with assholes.

Creativity doesn’t have to be monetized either. Don’t ever forget that. 

And when you’re young, and even if you’re not, it is OK to just move on.

Let yourself shine, even if it is just on the inside. Have satisfaction knowing that you aren’t like them.

Then share with those who care, and understand, and those who feel safe sharing their ideas with you as well. Yes, know you can always be inspired by listing to others. Your story is wonderful, but it isn’t the only story. Don’t shut others out.

In the meantime, since I’ve turned this post into a vent rather than what I was going to write (don’t mind me, I have other things to share so just move on to the items below.)

I recommend you check out the books below. These are four of the books that distracted me and got me thinking about other things. They are by two authors I admire and respect. I am honored to consider both friends.

They both have a reverence for words, and actually see the world around them. They’re observers of life, and love, and everything.

You might be inspired. You never know.

Sack Nasty
Prison Poetry by Ra Avis

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Dinosaur Hearted
By Ra Avis

dinosaurheartedcover

Centripetal Force and Other Stories
By Jon Obermeyer

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Wingspan
By John Obermeyer

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One last quote. This is something we don’t say often enough to each other.

You are loved.
~ Ra Avis

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For those looking more for the Vampire side of things, I understand Vlad will be back soon with mire diary entries.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman