Friday 31 October 2014

WEP-Challenge for 31st October 2014 - Ghost Story

Welcome to WEP's Challenge for 29th-31st October, Ghost Story.

For some reason, October's spooky challenge is usually the high point of our writing year. Halloween is the one night of the year when ghost stories are expected - within the English-speaking world.  Here in Sweden, Halloween is a newly introduced way of celebrating a holiday that used to only consist of lighting candles on graves.


I tried writing a ghost story, but my heart was just not in it. What I am offering are some photos documenting my daughter, Elisabet, and her schoolmate, Maria, together with my son, Erik, dressing up and going around our neighbourhood 'trick-or-treating'.

Elisabet and Matilda, the cat, before Halloween make-up.

When Elisabet told me that they were going to do this alone, without an accompanying adult, I said no. They are only ten years old and these are apartment buildings, in the middle of city, not a suburban development or farms, where everyone knows everyone.

For two days, I helped Elisabet draw pumpkins, print them out and hand-colour them to make 'Happy Halloween' - cards. (One of the reasons why my ghost-story never was finished. Oh well. Probably no great loss.)

Notice the black nail polish om Elisabet's fingers. I applied it.


We went to the toy store to buy a new Halloween costume, black garb including a witch's hat with attached green-coloured wig.

Maria and Elisabet apply make-up for their scarey roles.


Erik as the Grim Reaper!

Maria in the middle has chosen to be a vampire.

Halloween make up inspired by the green-faced wicked witch of the west from the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Many of you may remember this film. I do. This is Margaret Hamilton, who played the double role of Miss Almira Gulch / The Wicked Witch of the West. (I'm looking for a photo of Margaret Hamilton with green face makeup, but can't find any.)
Click on image to get to Wikipedia

Maria threatens to drink my blood. Elisabet casts a spell.
Click on image to get to Amazon UK

They are off, and the weather has been unusually mild.

My trio marching towards their first victims.

Surprisingly, they were given quite a lot of candy! I expected them to come home empty-handed, as this is too new of a practice. It is not a Swedish tradition, and I have mixed feelings about its introduction. But since I took a course in ethology in my youth, I understand that there is always a reason for why people start celebrating holidays.  My immediate guess is that this is a tradition that appeals to the 'tweens', or 'pre-teens', eight to twelve year-olds, just my children's age right now. 

There is a Swedish begger-tradition, with the children dressing up as Easter-witches with broomsticks and copper-kettles, and go around giving neighbours handmade cards with 'Glad Påsk!' (Happy Easter!) on them. But this is a tradition for small children, and mother usually tags along, at a distance if nothing else.

My guess is that Halloween appeals to pre-teen children because it is a first step toward independence. And there is so much from the outside world (read= English-speaking world) that supports the mythology of ghosts, witches and vampires, that are the stock characters for this holiday. And it feels a little dangerous for a ten-year-old to dress up like a banshee and actually knock on neighbours' doors.

I compromised. I let the girls do this if they let Erik go with them.  

Erik claims that celebrating Halloween comes from Germany. I'll have to check on that. The Christmas tree came from Germany with Martin Luther. Or so my mother told me once when I was a child. I'll have to check on that too.

When  dividing up the spoils of the afternoon (they came home before dark), they put everything that they did not like in a pile -  liquorice, tough so-called chewy sticks, sour drops and bad chocolate - and gave it to me. Thank you sweetums!

Dividing the spoils

Word count according to WordCalc: Not Applicable.


Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Rainforest Writing


Thursday 2 October 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for October 2014 - IWSG

Anna Nordeman

This is author Roz Morris

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for October 2014

This is my eighteenth post for IWSG.  And I am posting late. Alex J. Cavanaugh may think that I am not posting at all this month. Sorry Alex. There has just been too much going on in my offline life.

As I have mentioned before, after reading Roz Morris' how-to-write books in her Nail-Your-Novel-series, I am convinced that she knows what she's talking about. So I've decided to read her novels. I have read both, but I am especially fond of Lifeform three, so here are a few words about this thoroughly enjoyable novel:

Lifeform three is Roz Morris' second novel in her own name and it belongs to two genre categories: Literary Fiction and Science Fiction. 

As a Science Fiction novel, Lifeform three is a dystopia, but a fun one. It is a fable set at a future time, when cities have eaten up every last bit of free land because of floods from global warming. 

From chapter 3: Between the roofs and the roads, there was no room for countryside.

But most of all, this is a story about what it means to be human, despite the fact that almost all of the characters are robots! If you don't count the human visitors, the only living and breathing creatures are the "lifeforms" (animals) that live in this last oasis of countryside, for which the robots are caretakers. 

Lifeform three is well-structured and beautifully-written; a school example of 'showing rather than telling' where every word is carefully weighed. The first chapter introduces the main character, and lets disaster strike him. It is not immediately clear what has happened to him. We get to know gradually. Roz Morris waits with a teaspoon of back story until chapter two. Chapter one is very, very short, only two pages long, but packs the essentials with few words. It starts with these two sentences:

 Paftoo leads the horse towards the shelter. He can feel the storm coming.

These words tell us that this is a story about someone named Paftoo who takes care of a horse. He wants the horse to be safe and secure. There is a storm brewing. How many horse stories have a scene like this? What a caring human being, Paftoo must be, I think, as I read these first two lines.

But Paftoo is not a farmer who owns his own farm. He is simply a worker on a farm, and the farm is not a farm as we know them in our time, but the very last piece of country property that has become a theme park where people come to enjoy an outing. For the generations who know nothing about how things were before the floods, they can get a taste of the countryside at Harkeway Hall theme park. But these visitors to the park don't understand animals. 

Paftoo is patient and gentle with the horse. The horse is frightened by a family of visitors who drive their car over the field. 

Paftoo runs to the car, waving, 'Excuse me, please would you leave the field?'
      Brakes squeak. The car stops. A head in a baseball cap pops out of the window. Small eyes squint at Paftoo. 'Why?'

Paftoo explains to the man driving the car, that they are scaring the horse. Paftoo needs to get the horse in the shelter of a truck parked nearby. The man doesn't understand. He thinks that they can do whatever they like in the park, so they just keep driving in the field. 

The storm is now overhead and flashes of lightning scare the horse so that it runs away. Instead of taking shelter for himself, Paftoo runs after the horse and gets struck by lightning. When that happens, the family in the car finally do stop to see Paftoo turn blue.

Freddy stares at Paftoo. He whispers: 'Is he all right?'
     'Oh you don't need to worry about that,' says Dad, and takes picture. It's only one of those bods.'

If we did not understand before that Paftoo is a robot, we do now. But Paftoo is to me more human than the breathing individuals sitting in the car. 

This is Roz' idea of what the 'Pebbles' look like.

This is Witley Park, the inspiration for the room under water.

With Paftoo, Roz Morris has created a character we can care about and root for from the start.

Roz Morris is inspired by such works as:

George Orwell, 1984
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale 
Aldus Huxley, Brave New World
David Almond, Skellig
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Kenneth Grahame, Dream Days
Peter Shaffer, Equus

Even if Roz Morris is inspired by many different well-known science fiction novels, her novel, Lifeform Three is a strong independent work of art, and a joy to read.

Best wishes,

Here are some tags that pertain to Roz Morris' novel, Lifeform Three:

horses, science fiction, dystopia, future, global warming, ray bradbury, future earth, landscape, bradbury, future of america, future of britain, fiction fantasy contemporay, margaret atwood, future tech, sea levels, future humans, future fantasy fiction, dystopia climate change, future run by computers, future animals, future of the human condition, future possibilities, vanished houses, vanished mansions

First Commenter:

Alex J. Cavanaugh

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