Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Treat: Appeasement - A Japanese ghost story


-- prequel story to "In the Service of Samurai". A young Ietsugu learns that the stories about the supernatural are real. 

"Asaka-sama, we have been beset by the foulest of demons and nothing we do will rid us of it." The prostrated villager quivered from head to foot on the tatami floor. "Please, we are unworthy but would beg for your help!"
Ietsugu's heart raced at the statement, though he maintained his features as schooled as possible. He threw a glance at his father, the lord of the area, to see how he took the entreaty. The lined, square face appeared as calm and impassive as ever. Ietsugu hoped one day he too could keep his emotions so well hidden. Though he practiced, he still found the skill difficult to master.
The dire words hung in the air making a strange contrast with the warm sunlight and the soft morning breeze coming through the open sliding doors. Charms hanging from the rafters outside clinked occasionally, adding to the diversity.
After several long moments, Ietsugu's father finally spoke. "What do you think, my son?"
Ietsugu frowned down at the villager, though inside his pulse raced faster still. "Send me to investigate this for you, Father." He tried to sound sure and commanding, as a strong vassal should. "I will assess whether there's truly a need and correct it. Or, if the villagers are only making excuses not to pay their tribute, take steps." In the few years he'd studied at his father's side, this wouldn't be the first time a village tried to weasel out of their obligations.
The villager clapped his hands together in supplication. "Truly, lords, our trouble is real!"
"So we've heard." His father turned toward him. "Go and seek the truth, my son. Take Mitsuo-san with you and whatever provisions you think you might need. I will also have some ofuda prepared in case the supernatural is truly involved."
Ietsugu bowed, hidden excitement rising in his chest. "Thank you, father."


"You won't regret this, young lord. The village will be very grateful for your help." The villager named Taka flashed him a smile, urging his mare to move forward.
Their destination lay nestled in the mountains two days ride from Lord Asaka's seat. As a man of sixteen, this would be Ietsugu's first foray in service to his father. Something he hoped to be able to do frequently. While the intricacies or rule fascinated him, he also wanted to get to know the land he would oversee one day as well.
He refused to look behind him as they left the small city, not wanting to mar the excitement of his leave taking with a flood of wistful emotion.
Taka turned out to be a knowledgeable guide, chattering about plants, the best waterfall views, and the local deities. Time passed quickly.
"How much farther, Taka-san?" Ietsugu said.
"We will be there by nightfall, Asaka-sama." Taka tried to bow though he was seated on the old mare.
The side of the mountain was steep, but zigzagging paths of steps made with dirt and logs made the way easy enough for men and horses.
At random spots, Ietsugu spotted rock statues or small shrines erected for the worship of the local kami, or spirits. Moss made a carpet of green and red across the land and rocks, with maples and oaks providing welcomed shade. The shrill sound of cicadas and the chirping of birds kept them company.
As the sun lit the horizon in flaming colors, the path widened and opened to a cleared area. A covered well sat in the middle, surrounded by twelve family homes with thatched roofs.
Beyond the small village, Ietsugu caught a glimpse of a cultivated mountainside, terraced with rice fields. The maturing shoots waved in the breeze.
A high squeal from a naked four year old trumpeted their arrival. Surprised faces peeked out of doorways, some pale with fear.
Upon seeing Taka astride the mare, the villagers brightened and flooded out to greet them. Almost as one, they bowed low as soon as they spotted Ietsugu and his teacher.
A stocky man with gray in his black hair stepped forward wearing a fudoshi and haramaki to cover his privates and midriff, a simple brown linen short coat draped on his shoulders.
Taka dropped from his horse and bowing to Ietsugu hurried to make introductions. "Asaka-sama, this is our village leader, Gendou-san."
"We are so pleased to see you here, sir."
Ietsugu dismounted and nodded, following it with the slightest of bows. "I only hope to serve." He turned eagerly toward his companion. "This is Mitsuo-san, my father's vassal and my teacher. He speaks with my voice."
Everyone bowed again as Mitsuo came forward, his misshapen, stooped form making him appear short and weak -- an assumption far from the mark.
"Please accept the humble hospitality of my family," Gendou said, bowing again. "You and your companion can rest in my unworthy home for the length of your stay. You shall have total privacy. Please make your needs known and they will be seen to immediately." The older man turned and shooed the villagers from before him to open a path back toward his home. Several of the men were instructed to take responsibility for the horses and supplies.
Whispers, stares, and nods trickled after them as Ietsugu, Mitsuo, and Taka followed.
The chief's home resembled the others except for a broad porch in front proceeded by a set of steps. The interior of the house was a single, wide room with a square hole in the center, housing a fire pit. Rolled up blankets took up one corner, along with built-in shelves and boxes.
Gendou's wife, three daughters, and young son bowed as they entered, their gaze firmly planted on the ground.
"Please sit, Asaka-sama. Though we are unworthy, allow us to extend our hospitality to you and yours." Gendou pointed toward the place of honor.
Ietsugu sat with folded legs on the wooden floor, Mitsuo settling a pace or two behind him as was his want.
Gendou's wife took command at that point and plied them all with tea, rice, and small pieces of meat, probably deer or boar, wrapped in leaves.
Once they were served, she sat at the corner of the room, observing the men and rising when needed to refill cups or bowls.
Though the fare was simple, Ietsugu was glad for the food. The sounds of night rose around them, the deepening gloom kept away by the light of a short tallow candle. The quiet company, the warm tea, and the meal, seemed to bid as a good portent for the coming enterprise. Wallowing in the sensations a moment longer, he then set his empty dish back on the floor and made eye contact with his host.
"My father has sent me to help your village as requested. Taka-san spoke of evil demons and other troubles. What more can you tell me? Has a priest been called as well?"
Gendou bowed to the floor. Taka almost immediately followed suit. Ietsugu couldn't be sure, but he thought the peasant looked afraid. "I wouldn't dare pile more upon your shoulders when you've only so recently arrived, young lord." Gendou sounded nervous. "It is late, very late, and I couldn't possibly impose upon you until you've rested. Please, relax, take your ease until morning. Then all will be revealed as much as you wish."
Ietsugu's brow rose. Were they that frightened of speaking of demons and spirits in the dark? Surely they didn't believe they'd be overheard. He decided not to be rude and force the issue despite the obvious evasion to his questions. It had been a long ride after all; the rest would be welcome. "Till morning then."
Gendou's wife gathered the dishes, the atmosphere around them easing. Taka got up, bowed, and left in an obvious hurry, as if unsure the samurai wouldn't change his mind. The sounds of packages being placed on the porch rang loud in the evening air. Moments later two of the daughters returned and stood meekly to the side. Gendou rose. "My daughters will turn down the bedding for you, Asaka-sama. If you have any wish for warmth, they would be happy to accommodate in that as well."
The leader pushed his two daughters forward to where they could be clearly seen in the light. Both held their heads bowed, their hands gripped before them.
"The nights at this time of year are comfortable enough. Thank you all the same." Though to take one was within his rights, the fear pouring like water from the two girls didn't warm Ietsugu to the prospect.
"As you wish." The two girls unrolled several sets of bedding then escaped in prompt order.
"I will be in the house to the left. If you need anything at all..."
"Yes, thank you." Ietsugu still hadn't moved from his sitting position.
Gendou's wife joined him at the door and both bowed before leaving. Her expression seemed to be carved in stone and hadn't changed all evening.
"Lord." Mitsuo's deep slow tones bid for Ietsugu's attention. "I will sleep outside and guard the door."
"Sensei, I doubt it's necessary."
The old samurai creaked to his feet. "Nevertheless."
Ietsugu nodded, knowing better than to argue with his stubborn teacher. In some things, the old man couldn't be budged. He took his role as samurai and vassal even more seriously than his father. "Good night, Mitsuo-san."
"Good night."
Once the sliding door had closed, Ietsugu removed his swords and set them above the wooden pillow. Next he removed his outer coat and then the kimono underneath. Folding both and setting them to the side, he blew out the candle and by the light from the coals in the fire pit, settled under the bedding.


Ietsugu shivered, his first thought as he awoke was that it was terribly cold. A great weight pressed against him from above, making it hard to breathe. His eyes snapped open.
It was still night. He lay in the same place as where he fell asleep. Yet through what little light seeped from the window behind him, he saw his breath turn white as he exhaled. The weight upon his chest increased, becoming painful. But he could see nothing there. Fear nipped at him.
He bid his arm to move, to reach behind him for his katana, but it would not. He couldn't move at all. How could this be? An act of treachery from the peasants? The food must have been poisoned. But what had they to gain from such a maneuver?
His breath coalesced before him as he breathed out again.
No. This must be something else. The cold was real and not a part of him.
That's when he heard it -- the barest of whispers. Yet, it seemed to come from right in front of him, from where he felt the weight, from where there was nothing.
"Leave this place..."
His pulse sped faster. And though he tried, he couldn't speak. But he dared not let his fear show. He schooled his face into an impassive mask, the one that was a samurai's alone.
"You are not of the village. You must leave this place..."
A mist spread above his blankets. It floated upwards toward the ceiling, like strokes of a brush creating a painting. It formed before him into the shape of a beautiful young woman.
Tears covered her face. Her clothes were entirely white. Wisps of light floated around her head.
Ietsugu had heard too many stories not to know what she was - yurei - a ghost.
"You will leave this place...or die!" Her face came close, the features changing as they rushed near. Full and lovely cheeks shrunk, thinned and hung as if there were no meat behind the loose skin. Her dark hair rose around her, spiking in every direction. Sad tearful eyes turned to burning coals of hatred.
Cold pierced his soul as she shot through and past him. Then she was gone.
Ietsugu leapt to his feet, no longer weighed down, his limbs his own once more. His skin broke out in goose bumps, the previously muted sounds of the night now overtly loud. The warm night sucked away the cold as if it had never been.
The door slid open behind him, and at the sound Ietsugu whipped around with a gasp.
"Asaka-sama! Is all well?" Mitsuo knelt at the entrance, his gaze piercing every corner of the room, his hand on the hilt of his katana.
"Yes. Nothing to be alarmed about." Ietsugu hoped his teacher couldn't hear the harsh galloping of his heart. Pretending a calm he didn't feel, he sat down on his bedding, all thoughts of sleep fled. "The village indeed has a problem."


With the first hint of dawn, Ietsugu stepped out to the well, waiting for the peasants to awaken. He stood with one hand on his sword, the other on his hip, a blank expression on his face. He had to fight the urge to pace.
As soon as one of the villagers peered out their door and spotted him, they sent sleepy children running in several directions, including the house where the chief and his family slept.
Within a minute Gendou rushed from the house, hair in disarray, and prostrated himself before Ietsugu's unhappy gaze. "Asaka-sama, is something the matter? Have we somehow displeased you?"
The rest of the village poured out to find out about the trouble, but all kept their distance from Ietsugu's dangerous expression.
"It is morning. I wish to have the" He raked the entirety of the village with his gaze. "Do not make me wait."
He strode back to the chief's house and entered it without once looking back.
He'd barely seated himself, arranging his swords so they wouldn't hinder him, Mitsuo moving to stand at the back wall on his right, when Gendou entered.
Taka wasn't far behind him, helping an older man up the steps. One other, whom Ietsugu hadn't met before, brought up the rear. The samurai said nothing as he waited for them all to be seated.
Gendou's wife came in with a tray of rice cakes and tea, but Ietsugu waved her away. He didn't even give the new men time to introduce themselves.
"Tell me about the ghost."
The four men stared at one another in confusion. "Ghost? Asaka-sama, many apologies, but there is no ghost. Our troubles come from a demon," Gendou said.
"Several people have seen it," Taka added. "They all described it as a monster."
The oldest of the four leaned forward. "All the signs are there, great lord. It began months ago with many bouts of lighting and horrid storms. We tried to appease the demon as our ancestors did in ages past, but it didn't work. People have been attacked in their sleep." The old man's voice shook. "Our livestock have been hurt or killed. The walls holding the water for our crops were damaged so we very nearly lost everything. It is why Taka was sent to seek your help. We are most desperate." He bowed to the floor, his hands clasped together in supplication.
Ietsugu stared from one to the other. Could it be they truly didn't know? Isolated as they were, might it be possible? "The actual harm to the village, when -"
A piercing scream cut off his words. As one, they rushed outside.
A young man in traveling clothes stood in open-faced shock, a woman unconscious at his feet. Several men of the village rushed him and grappled him to the ground.
"Do not hurt him!" Ietsugu took the lead, the crowding villagers parting at his approach. "We need to ascertain what has occurred here first."
A heavily bent old woman pushed through the crowd from the side, poking stomachs and elbows with her gnarled staff. She knelt beside the fallen woman. "She still breathes. It looks as if she may have only fainted." She cackled with harsh humor.
Ietsugu couldn't fathom what she could possibly find amusing about the situation. There was a puzzle here and it would be unraveled. "Stand him up."
The men holding the newcomer jerked him to his feet. The young traveler's eyes went wide when they settled on Ietsugu's swords.
"Who are you?" the samurai said.
"My, my name is Daisuke, sir."
Ietsugu nodded. "Tell me what occurred here."
The young man opened his mouth but no words came out. He swallowed hard and tried again. "I just came into the village, sir, and called out a greeting to Izumi-san. But when she saw me, she screamed and fell dead away to the ground. I don't understand it."
"So you have been to this village before? You are known here?" Ietsugu felt a tendril of dread as a dark suspicion itched for his attention.
"Yes, sir."
Gendou bowed his way forward. "That is correct, Asaka-sama. He spent a short time with us during the winter before last."
"Yes!" Daisuke nodded quickly. "I'd meant to come back much sooner -- just as I'd promised. But a long illness befell me and only recently was I well enough to travel again." The young man gazed at the gathered faces around him. "Where is Haruka-chan?"
The crone patted the face of the unconscious woman, her other hand holding tiny leaves to Izumi's nose. She cackled again. Everyone grew strangely silent their gaze anywhere but on the young man or the samurai. The men holding onto Daisuke's arms released him.
"Asaka-sama, I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding -- nothing to concern yourself about. We will take care of it." Gendou placed himself between Ietsugu and the traveler. "Why don't we go inside so we can continue with our meeting?"
Ietsugu stiffened, his previous sense of dread growing. He sensed Mitsuo doing the same. Something wasn't right here. "I haven't finished, Gendou-san." He put as much disapproval into his tone as he could.
Gendou instantly bowed and stepped aside, his face hidden.
"She's coming around now." The crone helped prop Izumi against the side of the well.
The woman moaned, her hand rising to cradle her head. Then she snapped up straight and her gaze locked with Daisuke's. Her face paled and tears sprang to her eyes. "Oh ohhhhhh."
"Izumi-san?" Daisuke pushed forward and knelt beside her. "Are you not well? And where is Haruka-chan?"
Izumi would no longer look at him, turning her face away and hiding it behind her sleeves.
Looking baffled, the traveler rose to his feet and stared about him as if never having seen any of them before. "Where is Haruka-chan?"
"She's dead." Gasps rang all around as Ietsugu answered his question.
"What? How can that be?" Daisuke turned to face the samurai.
"That is something the village will need to answer. All I know is that I have seen her angry ghost with my own eyes. She is now an onryo."
Several villagers fell to their knees, groans echoing around them. Daisuke's face paled, even as he stared at Ietsugu with incomprehension. "A vengeful spirit? Why would she be a vengeful spirit?" He turned on the villagers. "What have you people done?"
Ietsugu turned merciless eyes in Gendou's direction. "Yes, Gendou-san, tell us what was done."
The village leader groveled on the ground, his face in the dirt. "This cannot be. It cannot be." He shook his head. "You must believe us. We saw the signs! An offering had to be made."
"What did you do?" Daisuke shook where he stood, obviously fighting for control.
The answer didn't come from the leader, but from Izumi. Her low voice sounded lifeless. "You hadn't returned. We didn't believe you would. And she was the loveliest and most pleasing... The one most likely to satisfy the demon and therefore save the village."
"No. No, no, no no no. Haruka!" Daisuke slumped to the ground and covered his face with his hands.
"Ignorant peasants."
Ietsugu didn't acknowledge Mitsuo's soft voiced comment though at the moment he totally agreed. "What was actually done with the girl? How was she offered to your imagined demon?" He held back none of the disgust he felt from showing in his voice.
The adults cringed. Several small children cried out, sensing the distress of their parents.
The older of the four men who'd come to hold council that morning, crawled forward. "There, there is a cave on a cliff not too far from here. It is where our ancestors left offerings in the past."
"You will take us there. Now."


High on an exposed side of the mountain, the cave appeared as nothing more than a dark depression in the wall. A narrow ledge offered a ready grip for a grapple and rope.
Of the villagers, only Gendou and Taka were allowed to come and show the way. The rest were to wait at the village. Diasuke trailed behind them, looking lost and numb.
The basket procured from behind a set of bushes, contained a rope ladder. After several halfhearted attempts, the two villagers secured it to the ledge.
"The two of you will remain here." Ietsugu said. Mitsuo watched them coldly, his hand resting on the pummel of his sword, making a promise of what would be their reward if they decided to disobey the order. Both men stared only at the ground.
Ietsugu took hold of the ladder, and after testing it, climbed up. Mitsuo and Daisuke followed.
Sunlight only penetrated a foot or so into the cave. Cold air emanated from the interior. Mitsuo lit a lamp and handed it over to Ietsugu. Making sure the sacred papers his father had obtained for him before his journey were still safely tucked within his sleeve, Ietsugu held the lamp before him and turning sideways, shuffled inside.
Daisuke followed him, with Mitsuo remaining to guard the entrance outside.
The cave was narrow for several arm lengths then widened. The cold rose in intensity and the stench of rotting flesh grew cloyingly close.
The diffused light parted the darkness. An ancient shrine sat on the left, hasty repairs and more recent offerings of food and incense evident.
The back of the cave went deep. Yellowed, brittle bones and bone dust covered the floor there like a bed. Nestled in the middle of it lay the decomposing body of a young woman. Bindings were tied around her ankles and wrists, dried blood staining them from her struggles to get loose. A gag was set firmly in her mouth.
Ietsugu frowned, knowing this to have been a dishonorable and agonizing death. Worse, it was done to her by her own people. The anger he'd been holding back so fiercely glowed a little brighter. His knuckles turned white on the hilt of his sword.
"Haruka!" Daisuke lunged past him to fall on his knees beside the decaying body. "Oh, my beloved Haruka!"
The already low temperature plunged. Their breaths frosted before them.
A cloud of mist formed above him, taking on the shape of the dead woman on the floor.
"Haruka-chan!" Daisuke's gasp was filled with both exhilaration and horror.
Moving incredibly slowly so as to not attract attention, Ietsugu set the lamp on the ground behind him.
"Beloved... You've finally come for me." Her ghostly arms extended toward the young man. "I've waited so long." Her face peeled back into rows of jagged teeth. "You've come just in time to join me in death!"
Daisuke screamed as he was bodily picked up off the floor and flung the length of the cave. Ietsugu rushed forward and slashed at the apparition with his sword to no effect. The blade slid cleanly through Haruka's floating body, not slowing her in the least.
"Come, Daisuke, prove your love to me. Give me your life." She glided forward affection and hate warring over her features.
The traveler struggled to stand, holding his right arm tight to his body.
"Stop! He is not the one who did this to you!" Ietsugu tried to get between them.
With only a flick of her wrist, Haruka sent him flying back onto the bed of bones. Something sharp and hot pierced Ietsugu's hip, making him grimace with pain. The scent of blood wafted around him.
"Beloved. Please!"
The ghost enveloped Daisuke. His eyes bulged, his left hand rising to his throat.
Ietsugu used his sword to pull himself up to his knees. He reached inside his sleeve for one of the folded papers with the almost unintelligible cursive script.
As if sensing the item in his hands, a shrieking wind swirled in the space with brutal torrential force, pushing Ietsugu to the floor and sliding him back toward the entrance.
Flailing for purchase, he stabbed his katana into the ground to keep from being pushed away farther. With gritted teeth, he removed his wakisashi, keeping the ofuda pressed tightly between his hand and the short sword's hilt.
Struggling against the wind, and grimacing at the use he was putting his swords to, Ietsugu used the blades to drive them ahead of him into the dirt and loose shale to pull himself back toward the dead woman's body.
Risking a glance in the ghost's direction, her entire attention appeared to be riveted on her strangling lover. Ietsugu pushed to move faster, knowing she wouldn't be diverted forever.
By the time he made it to the corpse's side, his arms and body shook from the strain of fighting the wind.
Sending a prayer to Buddha and Amaterasu, he let go of the wakisashi and slapped the blessed papers onto the forehead of Haruka's physical body.
Her ghost form screamed as the two made contact, light flashing from the corpse. Her keening wail forced Ietsugu to cover his ears in pain.
Haruka's form expanded and expanded until she seemed to fill every nook and cranny of the cave. With a final shriek, there was a sudden release of pressure, and she was gone.
Daisuke dropped to the ground, coughing. As Ietsugu labored to stand upright, Daisuke seemed to realize the ghost was truly gone. His face scrunched up in pain and unashamed tears poured down his cheeks. "Beloved!"
"Asaka-sama!" Mitsuo squeezed into the room, his sword drawn. Spotting him, the weeping Daisuke, and no one else, he hurried to his master's side confusion warring with the need to make sure his young charge was well.
"I'm all right." Ietsugu waved him off. "We should leave this evil place."


Ietsugu stared at where the cave entrance had once stood, full of satisfaction. For four days the villagers were pressed into service to mine rock from the mountain so the cave could be filled and then sealed.
Taka had been sent back to the city with a note to summon a priest and monk. For the last day, the Shinto monk and Buddhist priest had done their best to lay those within to their proper rest and also make sure no demons or spirits were still tied to the place.
Every villager would go through rituals of purification and pay penance through prayer for their part in the misdeed and also help build a proper shrine and housing for a monk. The errors of the past would not be repeated.
Ietsugu removed his gaze from the thick woven rope and lightning shaped papers draped about the closed entrance and stared with some pity at Daisuke. The young man no longer looked quite the same. Lines of sadness and of the things he saw marked him.
The samurai had already decided the young man would go back with them. The sooner he left this place, the faster he might become himself again. Perhaps one day Daisuke might even forget Haruka and the betrayal perpetrated on her by her own people.

The End

If you enjoyed this tale, you might also enjoy "In the Service of Samurai". Sample chapters and a book trailer to entice you are there as well. :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Movie Review - Crimson Peak

(Hubby has a cutover so Movie Friday is out this week...luckily I saw 3 movies last week! Woot!)

Crimson Peak

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope, Doug Jones, Jonathan Hyde, Bruce Gray, Emily Coutts, and more.

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro Written by: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins Cinematography by: Dan Laustsen Music by: Fernando Velázquez

Premise: Edith knows ghosts exist. But aside from a warning from her dead mother to beware Crimson Peak when Edith was a child, she's not had much to do with the supernatural. But when she meets Thomas Sharpe, an earl from England, she receives a second warning, but still doesn't understand to what it pertains. Will she be able to decipher the warning before it's too late? (Rated R)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Loved Jim Beaver as the overprotective, self made, American tycoon. Mia Wasikowska was perfect for the modernized, idealistic, yet still naive/inexperienced Edith Cushing. Tom Hiddleston was very suave as Thomas Sharpe. Jessica Chastain gave the story plenty of edgy and oily subtext. Nice!

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The special effects teams came up with a lot of lovely items for the film. From the semi-opaque ghosts to the recently deceased, they did some really nice work. The bathhouse scene was graphic, shocking, and nicely detailed.

The rickety elevator and the workings of the different sized digging contraptions were great. Add in the slow hints of the snow absorbing the clay's reddish color, then culminating it in a gorgeous scene as the whole mountain changes, gave a lovely visual for what is going on inside the house.

The house itself is marvelous! Half rotted, half maintained, it screams of the state of those who live there and those who are still there.

3) Story - Thumbs Up: If you like slasher films, this movie is not for you. Crimson Peak is a combination of creepy Victorian  Hammer film like horror and murder mystery rather than a slash/fright fest with mounting body counts and creative new ways to kill. The fun in this film is knowing things will get bad, seeing how they're going to get there, and then going along for the ride as the events unfold. Like any good Victorian drama, it builds over time.

That being said, the who is pretty obvious right away, but the details and some of the subtext do keep it interesting. The ghosts just add to the excitement and anticipation. (Though the previews hinted at other supernatural happenings being connected/wrapped up in the reason for the murders, there aren't any. A little disappointing...)

The only major let down was a contrivance (or outright visual lie) of a reveal shown to the audience in the bathhouse scene which is not actually true. I can only assume they did it to curtail any sympathy the audience might be feeling for one of the characters and to keep hidden the true force behind certain decisions. And while it worked in that capacity up front, it also leaves you with a sour taste when the scene is replayed later and the true culprit shown. (Also, Edith turning weird at the autopsy room didn't entirely jyve with the young and 'modern' woman she was portrayed to be.)

The house is a character in the film all its own, used several ways to symbolize the souls of those who live there and the horrors it has witnessed. There are several interesting dichotomies between the characters as well, so kudos for that.

4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Filmed in Dundurn Castle, Casa Loma, and Victoria College as well as other locations in Canada, the film crew had some awesome places to pull from for the different homes of the American rich as well as for Crimson Peak itself.

Panned back views of the grounds and that first initial introduction to the house were done exceptionally well. Between the locations and how we're shown them, a nice sublayer of story and symbolism were skillfully incorporated into the whole.

5) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: As the house was used to give visual subtext and story, so were the costumes and makeup. A lot of subtle touches in the clothes used worked to elevate Edith from young modern girl to white innocence and purity clashing in direct contrast with Lucille's almost opposite dispositions - Edith as a conduit of love, future, hope and Lucille's stiffness, always looking to the past, and shrivelling ever deeper into the darkness.

Their work with the special effects department for a scene close to the end with Thomas was so well done it will make you cringe to see it. :P

Conclusion: If you enjoyed The Woman in Black, you will probably like Crimson Peak. It's an old fashioned murder mystery with ghosts added for extra flavor. The ghosts and house look fabulous in IMAX.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mind Sieve 10/26/15

Another Monday is upon us!

Fan Fun

Jessica Jones Official Trailer - damn, this is going to be a dark one! Eek!

Star Wars: the Force Awakens Official Trailer - okay... looks awesome, but I am also confused. How much of cannon has been changed? Eek!

LIFE Official Trailer - Interesting!

Social Media/Author Platform

How to Get More Out of Google+ With Circles by Kristi Hines at the Social Media Examiner.

Instagram Images: How to Stand Out on Instagram by Michael Stelzner at the Social Media Examiner. Podcast with Peg Fitzpatrick but a lot of the info is on the blog post as well. :)

Writing Advice

Three Reasons Your Writing Writing Career is Stuck by Kristen Lamb - more writerly truths!

Writing Diversity: How Can We Avoid Issues? by Jami Gold.

May your week be fruitful!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Virtual Tourist - Final Fantasy XIV 10/25/15

Gack, running late. Typical, no? Boo!

Final Fantasy XIV
Main Storyline
New Gridania

Battle at the sacred tree. 

These guys are doing the destroying but are not the actual instigators of the trouble. Bad tempered though. Heh heh

I've come with the rangers to stop them.

Now this guy is the one behind the current troubles.

And he really wants to win.

The mysterious duo shows up once more to help.

Later, I speak with the leader of Gridania

Lots of things to learn. And she's chosen me for a role in an upcoming celebration.

Oooh! Hope I will be able to make stuff like that some day!

People getting together.

I'm wearing a ceremonial mask representing those who helped during the calamity years ago.

Which in turn...

Unexpectedly gives me visions of the past and the disaster from before.

Things are very grim.

The leaders of the battle to defend the planet.

Dude on the bad side. 

After the vision, went to meet the leader again in a special garden. So pretty! 

Isn't that neat? She realizes more trouble is coming and wants me to deliver messages to the other two leaders.

Cure little guy right in the middle. Awwww.
And off I go!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jewel Of The Gods Book Trailer

I didn't get to do any voice over, but I still think it came out pretty good.

I present to you the "Jewel of the Gods" Book Trailer! Huzzah!

Sample chapters and more at

If you like it, I would appreciate any help you might give me in spreading the word!


Friday, October 23, 2015

Movie Review - Bridge of Spies

(Took a day off with hubby and we went movie watching! In order of awesomeness - Bridge of Spies, Crimson Peak, The Last Witch Hunter. Only have time to review one though, so picking the best of the three.) :)

Bridge of Spies

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Domenick Lombardozzi, Joshua Harto, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Dakin Matthews, Mikhail Gorevoy, Sebastian Koch, Will Rogers, Nadja Bobyleva, Michael Gaston, and more.

Directed by: Steven Spielberg Written by: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski Music by: Thomas Newman

Premise: After a Soviet spy is caught on American soil, James B. Donovan is asked by his firm and peers to represent Rudolf Abel in a criminal trial for espionage. Accepting, Donovan tries to fight for Abel as he would any other client, believing that a fair trial and due process encompass what makes America and Americans what/who they are. When one of our own is shot down over Soviet Airspace, Donovan gets asked by the government to act as a mediator for negotiations for a prisoner exchange to had Able over for Powers, but he must do so as a private citizen. The murky waters he swam in before, just got deeper and darker. (PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Awesome performances all the way around. Tom Hanks was very likeable as the "boy scout" James B. Donovan. Mark Rylance was fantastic as Rudolf Abel - he is one capable spy! "Cool as a cucumber", too! And a nice guy to boot. Lots of fun give and take between Tom Hanks and Mikhail Gorevoy and Sebastian Koch.

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: From drive by's to exploding spy planes, all the special effects were top notch.

The train scene will stay with you for a while. :) The building of the Berlin Wall was disturbing in all sorts of ways.

3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: The film is based on "true events" but these occurred a little before my time, so I can't state on the accuracy one way or another. But it seemed thorough, giving multiple sides of a number of issues. I liked the fact you didn't get a lot of 'cutout' characters in the story. If anything, they surprised me several times in this area and they even gave unexpected depth to side characters which made them seem more real, and this in turn added to the believability and depth of the story as a whole.

People are people - and the plot doesn't shy from showing that. Even the good guys can be bad and the bad guys be good. And what the public or others believe is not always the truth. Also shows plainly how the interests of different parties can make even simple things extremely complicated. Oi!

As good movies do, you feel fully invested and moved by what's going on by the end of the film. The fact they show how Donovan's home life and family were affected by the decisions he made, added a nice touch, and some depth to what he might lose. There were also a ton of little moments full of levity, which just made the movie all the more fun.

4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Filmed in multiple locations in Germany as well as in the US, the camera work was excellent. Lots of attention to detail in recreating the late 1950's at home and abroad. As I mentioned earlier, the train scene (you'll know the one, you can't miss it) will stick with you - and the cinematography for it worked extremely well there and again when done in a different but correlating way in Brooklyn.

Following Pryor as he bicycles down the road looking for a break in the quickly rising Berlin Wall and the chaos on both sides made for a subtle but strong scene. Especially when he comes back.

5) Music - Total Thumbs Up: The soundtrack by Thomas Newman is very reminiscent of John Williams' work, which Spielberg has used on a lot of his films (and for good reason!), and was the perfect touch for setting mood and pacing during several places in the film.

Conclusion: Bridge of Spies is a thought provoking, fascinating film on a topic and period of our history not often talked about. Strong actor performances and plenty of little touches and surprises make the whole work a definite worthwhile experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Paying Full Price to See Again)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Picture Kaleidoscope 10/21/15 - FanDays Editions

While I missed about half of FanDays due to work, I still made it in time to get a few pics. Yay!

My daughter had not made one of these triple layer flowers in forever. Someone saw it on the banner and asked for one. I think they are super cool!

Look at the awesome detail on her headdress. Fascinating!

Her weaponry and the buddy with her also had it going on!

Hawkwoman! Lots of nice detial.

See what I mean? Came out great!

The armor looks awesome!

Master Splinter and Raphael! Master Splinter is in the original comic style. Poor thing.

Talking of originals - here's the Penguin! Qack qack qack. (He looked awesome!)

A young Poison Ivy was hanging around too. Her necklace is super cool!

Pic my daughter sent me that Friday. She had my back while I was slaving at the day job. My bro came too, so he had her back. :)

Hope you have a great Wednesday!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mind Sieve 10/19/15

Ugh. Morning... :P Between all the OT at work and having a show at the same time this weekend, life has been more than full. So a quick post Monday it is!

Back to the Future 4 Trailer - Whhhaaaaaaaa????

May your week be fabulous!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Picture Kaleidoscope 10/14/15

The day job is trying to kill me... Ugh...Seems October is going to be bad every year. Boo!
Year End in January? Can't bear to think about it! Heh heh.
Anyway, let's see what I can share with you today. :)

Hidden Gem by Yanbing Shi at - snow in a cave - cool shot! :P He says he's an amateur but his flickr account shows otherwise. Some really neat stuff there!

Hippo's Power by Ale Olivieri at - When i saw the smaller version I thought the water was lightning! Talk about power! Heh heh. Sadly no website for Mr. Olivieri.

Quirky Photo-Manipulations That Remix the World in Creative Ways by Michael Zhang at PetaPixel. Photography by James Popsys.  Neat stuff! Some you don't even realize what he's done till you look at them closely. Lots of more cool pics of this type in his Flickr feed. :)

Running short on time so will have to bow out early. Have a great day!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mind Sieve 10/12/15


Fan Fun

New Trailer for The Sherlock Special - getting weird weird vibes from this. Should be fun though!

Hail, Caesar! Official Trailer - this looks all kinds of Awesome! Just the production value and in-jokes on old Hollywood films I spotted will make ti worthwhile. heh heh

Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies Official UK Trailer #1 - while the book took things too far (heart ripping ninjas - really?) the film looks like it will be some definite fun. Sweet!

Social Media/Author Platform

All LinkedIn Groups Becoming Private: This Week in Social Media by Lisa D. Jenkins at the Social Media Examiner.

4 Ways to Improve Engagement With Hashtags by Dylan Kissane at the Social Media Examiner.

Writing Advice

Making Story MAGIC—How To Bring the Elements All Together by Becca Puglisi.

Developing Our Story: From Beat Sheet to Scene List by Jami Gold. Lots of food for thought. :)

May your week be calmer than mine is going to be. :P

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Virtual Tourist - Final Fantasy XIV 10/11/15

I was going to give you all a break and put up another game's pics then changed my mind. Heh heh heh. I'll switch it up next week...? :P

Final Fantasy XIV
Player Housing Zone

Took a boat to the fields where Adventurers and Free Companies (guilds) can buy housing. Here's a fountain and lawn prop we saw there

Don't know much about how the system works but isn't the Sakura tree gorgeous?

Randomly went into a couple of homes. Look at the awesome bookshelves!

Such cool and weird stuff!

Hot tub anyone?

View from the street

Another home front


That's slightly disturbing. lol. 

New Gridania

Adventurer's Guild Head and mother influence. :)

About to embark to another city. Latest armor. :)

Nice suit of armor dude!

Head of the Archery Guild. 

Is this a gorgeous field or what?

Hope you're weekend has been fab!
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