Friday, October 31, 2014

Scary Stuff

What Scares Me...

I used to have nightmares about wild animals loose in my bedroom. Evidently, tigers were a favourite for showing up. They came when my parents were out and I was left with my Nana. She used to shoot them for me.

I don't remember any of that.

I do remember my closet door. It never closed properly. The darkness escaping that slightly open door freaked me out at night. Pulling the covers over my head was the only escape.

Through my closet was the way up to the attic. We lived in an old home which creaked ominously as it settled at night. Racoons and squirrels regularly found their way into our eaves. There was a lot of aural fodder for a creative young girl's imagination.

Later, when I moved up to the attic, I became enured those natural sounds. But, before I fully opened my walk-in-closet door, I'd reach in and turn on the light. And before going to bed, I made sure the door was fully closed and latched.

To this day, I like doors to be full open or fully shut. In between gives me the willies.

Related to closets, I don't like toilet lids left up. This isn't just the usual women's complaint about men leaving the seat up causing awkward moments when we sit without looking. I want the lid down too. That dark hole in the bottom of the bowl can be as bad as the shadows in a closet.

It's not that I believe the urban legends about snakes and the like coming up through the drains... at least I don't think it's going to happen to me here in Ontario... but you never know. (Anyway, it was a good story to tell my son to get him to put the lid down.)

Ghosts, in comparison, don't scare me. Well, I'm sure they could if they tried, but so can my children.

I saw my first ghost when I was six. It was my grandmother coming to say good-bye the night she died. Actually, that's the last ghost I saw. When my mother-in-law visited, I never saw her exactly. I just knew she was there checking up on her son. I could sense when she came and went and knew when she had moved on, satisfied that Ross was okay. (He was very sick at the time.) She made me a little nervous, of course, but my live father-in-law scared me more.

I've sensed other ghosts since then, but they've always been people I had a close connection with. One day I'm going to go on the Ghost Walk in downtown Guelph and see if I can meet some strange ghosts. The Albion Hotel, our oldest extant tavern, has several, including one of Al Capone's mistresses. Local legend says Capone used to stop at the Albion during (smuggling) business trips.

 True or not, we have enough spectral action to have our own Ghost Hunters of Guelph whose goal is "is to reduce fear of the spirit world by increasing ones understanding of spirit energy."

Vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night make great stories and fun costumes for Halloween. Until I meet one, I don't think I'll worry about being scared of them. Even in stories, it's not the monsters but monstrous actions that are really frightening. If anything, having a monster to kill gives us a cure for our fear.

Or does it?

What scares you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Question of Image

Venus Looking in the Mirror by Rubens
Adding up the Figures

October is Women's History Month in Canada.

I was trying to think of something to write  on the subject. Not coming up with anything on my own, I asked my fourteen year old son. He suggested I talk about how the fashion for different types of women's figures has changed over the years.

I've often said I was born in the wrong century. This is untrue. Peter Paul Rubens was born in the wrong century. I'm sure he'd prefer the twenty-first century with indoor plumbing and modern medicine more than I'd enjoy seventeenth century Europe during the Thirty Years War.

Speaking of war, one of few benefits of World War I and II were the changes to the status of women. Being called upon to do "men's work" in the factories, shipyards and in the military, changed how women saw themselves and how they were portrayed in the media. The muscular Rosie the Riveter comes to mind. Photos of sturdy young women were used to promote the Land Army. Attractive but business-like women in uniform were used to entice recruits for the women's army, navy and air force auxiliaries.

Canadian expat Elizabeth Arden was commissioned to create makeup set for the US Marines Auxiliary. The cosmetic maven promoted good health as well as the right makeup to achieve beauty. The clear message was that women could be pretty and useful at the same time.

Post World War II, an equally vigorous campaign was waged to send women back to the kitchen. What real women wanted was a new washing machine or vacuum cleaner, not independence. It wasn't enough to be pretty, you had to be glamorous. The model of beauty became Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield.

Young women exercised to chants of "We must... we must... we must develop our busts." Lifting a separating was important. Tight sweaters and big skirts were in vogue. (Not unlike tight, rip-able bodices and bustles a century before.)

At least Marilyn Monroe and her contemporary pinups* were meatier than the average starlet these days. That trend started with Twiggy. She popularized the notion that you can't be too skinny.

The frail, almost anorexic look isn't new. Lord Byron made it popular with his passion for Caroline Lamb. But you had to be a member of the small number of elite to have the time and inclination to subsist on a diet of vinegar and wafers. The thin poor didn't choose to starve themselves.

It took mass media to get a hold on the collective women's conscious and convince them they didn't look right. Too fat. Too flat. Too sort. Too tall. Too not like the models seen in ads. With the help of Photoshop, the models don't look like the ads either.

So, will the pendulum of fashion and history swing the other way? Or will we look beyond fashion to define beauty?

[* Note: I have a great deal of respect for Marilyn Monroe's ability as a comedic actor. For that matter, I don't have anything against Twiggy. I do object to how they were used to objectify women in order to sell products. Advertisers should stick to kittens and cartoon bears to do that.]

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Tour

The Long and Deadly Road

For the month of October, the DEADLY DOZEN authors are on the virtual road with a Pump Up Your Book book tour. I'll be at Beyond the Books on Wednesday October 8.

Monday, October 6

Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Book Featured at Maureen’s Musings

Tuesday, October 7

Interview at The Writer’s Life (Cheryl Kaye Tardif)

Wednesday, October 8

Interview at Beyond the Books (Alison Bruce)

Thursday, October 9

Interview at I’m Shelf-ish (Donna Galanti)

Friday, October 10

Interview at As the Page Turns (Catherine Astolfo)

Monday, October 13

Interview at The Dark Phantom (Linda Merlino)

Tuesday, October 14

Interview at Review From Here (Rosemary McCracken)

Book Featured at CBY Book Club

Wednesday, October 15

Book Featured at I Heart Reading

Thursday, October 16
Book Featured at Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews

Monday, October 20

Interview at Literarily Speaking (Kat Flannery)

Tuesday, October 21

Interview at Deal Sharing Aunt (Gloria Ferris)

Wednesday, October 22

Book Featured at Carol’s Notebook

Thursday, October 23

Interview at The Book Rack (C.S. Lakin)

Monday, October 27

Book Review at My Life, Loves and Passion

Book Featured at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 28

Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth (Susan J. McLeod)

Wednesday, October 29

Book Review at Hezzie D’s Books and Cooks

Thursday, October 30

Interview at Book Marketing Buzz (Cynthia St-Pierre & Melodie Campbell)

Friday, October 31

Interview at Lori’s Reading Corner (Jesse Giles Christensen)

Book Featured at Booklover Sue

Book Review at Undercover Book Reviews