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Tag: Heroine's Journey

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New Romantic Fantasy Delves into Sensuous World of Ancient Carnival

READERS NOTE: Seductive New Romantic Fantasy The Chamber of Curiosities is now available. Be the first to read, review and discuss the provocative book. The love story between a charismatic carnival giant and a beautiful aerialist blends the romance of Beauty and the Beast and intensity of Game of Thrones. Many taboo themes and sinful acts are explored including:

  1. Cheating hero
  2. Adultery and infidelity
  3. Older woman/younger man
  4. Crazy Love
  5. Obsessive/Possessive/Jealous alpha men and women
  6. Forced Love
  7. Murder
  8. Betrayal
  9. Treason
  10. Bondage and Torture

It is an erotic tale, a love story, and filled with adventure and self-empowerment.

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Anastasia Blackwell Interview on Trap of Women Who Marry for Money

In a recent interview at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival in Oregon I was asked about the character of Ruth Sandeley, wife of wealthy Ramey Sandeley in The House on Black Lake. Here are my thoughts:

 

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The Chamber of Curiosities: Sneak Peak at First Chapter of New Mythical Romance Novel.

Welcome to The Chamber of Curiosities, a story of obsessive, passionate love set in a carnival on a bastion overlooking the seaport of a mysterious land. It tells the tale of how a single act of faith can transform lives and change the course of destiny.

Chapter One 

The Night of the Two Blue Moons

           The two moons were tinged blue that night, a remarkable, but not unheard of event in the ancient port town of Tressaria. There was a hushed anticipation in the air, and only those with keen senses could hear the creatures take their shifts in the dark rotation. The usual sounds that emanated from the freak cages in the ‘The Chamber of Curiosities’ were curiously still. It felt like something terribly wonderful or wonderfully terrible was about to occur. The twin sapphire moons were a sign of supernatural intervention by many, and a reminder that the cosmos cannot be trusted to remain constant. Yet its beauty was undeniable.

          A full season had passed since Darney Veska arrived at the carnival compound perched on a bastion overlooking the sea. The weather had turned cold and snowflakes began to fall outside his cage. He broke into a broad smile as he reached outside the bars to capture the delicate flakes, watched them melt into the warmth of his massive hand, and lifted fingers to lips to taste the fresh moisture. Mrs. Beedro, the carnival owner’s wife, had stitched a blanket from wild animal pelts to keep him warm during the cold months. He wore the skin as a cape by day and a coverlet at night. Darney had no other clothes, other than a pair of raw threaded trousers. His pet mouse, Kavas, had recently given birth, and the family snuggled beneath straw that covered the raw wood floor. The nest also served to camouflage his money safe.  He had pried open a board, where he kept coins tossed by the carnival patrons that filed by his cage each day.

          Darney gently reached beneath the nest, removed the plank, took his day’s wages from his pocket, and deposited them in the hollow spot.  Kavas squealed as her nest was disrupted and the silence of the night was breached.

         Darney heard the sound of a key chain rattling, and the lock to the cage penetrated. He turned to see the door swing open and a small figure cloaked in a scarlet hooded cape stepped inside.  He backed into the corner - his heart pounding with terror. The strange being drew back the satin lined hood and he glimpsed a flash of sharp steel clenched in a tiny hand. A shrill scream broke the stillness as Darney lunged forward, stole the weapon, and grasped the intruder by its throat. He knew he could snap the slender neck, if he needed, as he had executed animals with gullets of nearly the same size.

            “Please don’t hurt me. I beg of you,” he heard a young woman’s voice cry out, and sheets of silky dark blonde hair fell onto his chest as the hood fell away. He held her firmly, and pressed the razor to her neck.

            “Who are you? And what do you want of me?” he demanded.

            “You speak? When did you learn to talk like a human?” she responded, her voice clouded with fear.

             “As a young child.” he replied, and tightened his grip.

            “Then why have you never spoken?”

            “It did not suit the job.”

            “Please don’t hurt me,” she begged as he tightened his grip.

            “You did not answer my question. Who are you?” Darney asked, with coarse ruthlessness.

            “I am Clare, the aerialist.”

             The girl’s answer unnerved Darney. He had watched her pass daily and was fiercely drawn to the fragile young beauty. In fact, he had experienced the first pangs of a new emotion, jealousy, as he watched the men in the crowd turn to admire her small, but exquisitely toned physique. On the first day of his incarceration she had tossed her fair mane, then turned back to catch his gaze.  He remembered she wore a pale green suit stitched tightly to her body.  The only woman he had seen before that fateful day was his Mother, so Clare had left a powerful impression.

             “Why are you here, how did you get the key to my cell, and why do you carry a razor?” Darney’s asked. His manner was gruff but his hand shook.

            “Let me go and I will tell you. You hold the blade - I am no longer a threat to you,” she said, then began to weep.

            “Move into the corner, so you can’t be seen by the other freaks,” he ordered as he released his hold.

            Claire obeyed his gruff command and cautiously backed into the corner. Darney moved opposite her, holding the sharp blade at the hollow of her neck. They remained locked in the position, she weeping softly, while he observed her with intense curiosity. The two moons spied from above, like devious blue eyes, conspiring to set the stage for a darker struggle. Kavas and her brood huddled in anticipation, while Darney’s spider companion, Java, played with a mummified prey strung in a intricate web splayed across the ceiling.

            “Are you an agent sent to exterminate me?” he asked.

            “I would never kill.  Please don’t think me so terrible.”

           “Then what is your purpose? I have never seen a woman of the carnival carry a razor; although I have witnessed more than one enter a cage.

            “I had a dream.”

            “You dreamt of killing me?” he asked.

            “I dreamed of shaving you.”

Darney’s eyes were reduced to slits as his mouth turned cruel and it appeared he might bury the knife in the girl's neck.

            “I have an unbearable compulsion to see your face," she said, and looked deeply into Darney’s eyes.  Beyond the pale façade that belied an unfathomable depth, Clare sought the bond she experienced the breathtaking first moment she saw him peering through the bars of his cage. He was an innocent then and his loneliness and fear were heartbreaking. A season of carnival cruelty had hardened him, but she still felt the sense of a kindred spirit and her desire for meaningful companionship had intensified her obsession.

            “Each night, since the day I laid eyes on you, I have dreamed of breaking into your cage and shaving off your beard so that I could see your face. Tonight the urge became unbearable. I brought the miserable 'little man', Croque, a bottle of spirits, waited until he passed out, and stole his keys.”

            “You came here to cut off my beard?”

            “I did.”

            “You are aware I am billed as ‘The Human Beast’, and it is my livelihood to appear as such?”

           “I am.”

            “Then why would you strip me of my work?” he asked, his resonant voice growing deep with indignation.

             Claire was overcome by a fresh assault of tears. “I don’t know. I was terribly compelled, that’s all I can say. Then, tonight, it was utterly out of my control, impossible to stop, as if I was the catalyst of a chain of events that was pre-destined.”

            “One more lie and I’ll slice your throat.”

            “It’s true.”

            “I won’t be tricked with words from a book,” he seethed.

            “Since when do freaks read?”

            “My mother brought them occasionally, when she dropped off my slop in the animal coop where I lived behind my parent’s house.”

            “How do you remember the words?”

            “There is no waste in my perceptions.”

            “I was never taught,” she said with a tinge of shame shining through a determination to show no self pity.

            “Then, how did you steal the words?”

            “The woman I lodge with often reads to me when her husband is not in sight. It is my favorite story. I have memorized every line.”

        “They don’t survive, you know.”

        “But they do, she shared with me the forbidden version.”

          Claire observed a glimmer of intrigue awaken in Darney’s luminous pale blue eyes. The mirrored reflection from the twin moons deepened the affect and made them even more mysteriously compelling than the first time she caught his gaze.

         “I must see your face. It is a compulsion beyond control. If you are stripped of the facial hair it will lead the town’s people to believe the celestial powers blessed you on this rare night. It will feed their superstitions and they will accept you have been transformed by the gods into a magical being. And since you have no access to shaving equipment it will be considered a miracle.”

         Claire’s obsessive desire intensified as she spoke, nearly unbearable, as she experienced the young giant as the most transparent, vulnerable human being she had ever met. She believed he could read her thoughts, feelings, and memories, leaving her naked, utterly exposed, and overtaken by a flood of wildly conflictive emotions.

          And Darney, in turn, was mesmerized with Claire’s vivid green eyes, shaded in dark lashes, and the perfection of her small features, and quivering red stained lips.

           “It was a silly idea. I’m sorry for the intrusion. Please forgive me. May I have your permission to leave? You can keep the razor. Likely, you will need it as a weapon in the future” she said.

           "Do you refer to a particular individual?” he asked with renewed suspicion.

            “The carnival is a vicious place; no one can be trusted.”

              An excruciating pause ensued as Darney continued to observe the girl, while appearing to struggle with an intense internal conflict.

             “May I have your permission to stand and leave?”  She asked him, now in the throes of a paralyzing panic.

            “No,” Darney replied firmly, and turned to look outside to determine if any of the freaks were peering through their bars, as they often did late into the night.

            “In this dream of yours, how do you shave me?”

            “I . . . crouch before you . . . and remove the hair section by section. I operate very slowly . . . so not to cut you. Have you . . . ever been shaved?” she asked, her voice choked by extreme desire and the fear of what he might do.

            Claire’s words struck a nerve in Darney and sparked a spontaneous emotional reaction.  He dropped his head, broke into tears, and began to sob like a heartbroken child.  The intense display of emotion shocked Claire, but it also calmed her panic. A veil of serenity descended as she sat with him and allowed the lonely giant to relieve himself of the pent up feelings.  She did not move or speak until he had fully recovered.

          “Why does my question make you weep?

            “I have never been touched and I have never seen my face,” he replied, and licked away hot tears as they caressed his lips.

           His shame at the outburst was tempered by comfort in a heavy blanket of snow that had begun to fall, guarding the couple from the eyes of the outside world.

            “Didn’t your mother touch you?” she asked tenderly.

            “When I was little, I suppose, but I don’t remember.”

            “Do you have a name?”

            “Darney Veska.

            “Lovely name,”

             He appeared embarrassed and a slight smile tugged at the corner of his lip,

            “Well Darney, we could change all that tonight, on the night of the two blue moons, and the first snow of the season. Tomorrow the carnival will be closed, with mounds of snow to shovel from the streets. I will wake Croque from his stupor and tell him there as been a miracle. Your facial hair has been stripped and you have learned to speak like a man. The townspeople are terribly superstitious. Once word gets out, you will be the highlight of the show. You may earn enough coins to retire and build your own home. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to live like a normal person?”

            Darney lowered his head and sheets of hair fell to cover his face, so she could not register his response. His lustrous dark hair, so different in texture from the coarseness of his beard, fell well below his waist. Clare was surprised it was not caked and matted like the other freaks. Her cheeks blushed as she imagined how it might feel to bury her face in the soft strands.

            “May I approach you?” she asked timidly.

            He struggled with his answer, but it was more a fight against the weight of relief than the desire to maintain his image as a subhuman. To relinquish power and place his life in the hands of a young woman with a razor took courage. But not as much bravery as was required to maintain poise as he watched humans pass his cage. The worst of the humiliation was not that they threw coins or taunted him. It was that they walked hand in hand, families, lovers, none alone. None alone, except for Darney and the perversities of nature that inhabited ‘The Chamber of Curiosities’ - the freak show staged in the shape of a human heart.

           “Swear to me you come with good intentions and do not have plans to carry out a horrific deed,” he requested in a voice laced with solemn resignation.

            “I do. And will offer a token of trust, a strand of my hair for you to take the first cut. You may keep it as a symbol of my friendship. I have been touched many times, Darney, but rarely with love, so don’t believe loneliness is always a bad thing. I will be the first to touch you and show you your face. It is an honor.  I have a mirror in my purse and will offer a glimpse of your reflection when I am finished. May I kneel before you?”

              His nod of acceptance was barely perceptible, but Clare now felt keenly in tune and imagined their heartbeats in synchronicity as their vaporous breaths met and melted into the cold air, then faded through the bars. She cautiously moved to kneel before him, still somewhat wary of his emotional volatility, and lifted a lock of her hair to offer for him to cut.  He roughly sheered the lock, then secured it beneath his water bowl.

            “Now, hand me the blade,” she said.

            Darney’s hand shook nearly uncontrollably, but he did as instructed. “Do you have a cloth, Darney, to dip in water and soften the root as I cut?”

            He drew his hair back and tied it into a knot, then tore a piece from the old clothes he wore on the day he was transported from his home on the farm in the small barred wagon. He dipped the rag into his water bowl and pressed it to his face. Her intoxicating smell enveloped him as she leaned forward, pressed the razor to his cheek, and began to cut away the mask that separated him from humanity.

            The snow continued to fall heavily, and it was now impossible to see anything outside the cage. As the outer world evaporated in a white flurry, time seemed to slow, and Darney relaxed against his cell wall. He drew the animal skin pelt tighter as she moved closer and squeezed his eyes shut, lost in the sensuality of the moment, and gave himself over to her divine touch. He hoped she would not notice the affect she had on his body. He had matured in the company of animals, and believed the sexual act to be the same with a woman. Carnivals workers sometimes sneaked into the cages of the freaks, and he heard similar sounds late into the night. Darney understood the nature of ecstatic relief, but the feeling he experienced with this young woman was far more exquisite. He had no knowledge of finer forms of courtship but instinct told him she must be treated with care.

             Claire was also deeply attracted to Darney.  She had never felt attraction to a man before; a more common response was disgust and revulsion. She could not understand the infatuations of girls her age, but now understand the intoxication, a feeling both terrifying and delicious.  She had seen him nearly naked in his cage the day he arrived, and was astonished by his appearance. No man in her land carried such an enormous frame. He was at least a foot taller than the tallest males in her country, heavily muscled, yet firm and lean, with long legs and arms, a small waist, and the clothed parts hinted at powerful male virility. But it was his hands she found most appealing. They were large, heavily veined, with long fingers, and carried the potential of both a brutal warrior and sensitive lover.

            “Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you”, she said as her trembling hand cut into the flesh  as he shifted his weight and his thigh brushed against hers, causing a trail of blood to ooze down his cheek.

           “You don’t need to be gentle with me. I’m accustomed to bites and claw marks,” he replied

              Claire dabbed away the blood, cut the last section, and wiped his face clean with water from his bowl. Darney kept his eyes shut, as he could not bear the anticipation of her reaction to his bare face. He felt her move dainty fingertips across the contours of his facial structure - eyelids, cheekbones, and lips. 

            “Dear God – it’s sacrilege – the most horrible imaginable," she utttered.

            Darney was crestfallen at the sound of her intense disappointment. He had prayed his face was not that of a monster, at least equal to the most homely of those who peered in at him as they moved through the causeway.

            “How bad is it?” Darney said, and lifted a hand to his soft cheek.

            “Oh dear friend, it is very bad, indeed.”

            “Worse than Croque?”

            She laughed, then said warmly, “Dear God no, that would be impossible. Darney, I must inform you that you have been misled your entire life. You are not a human beast. In fact, you are the most ideally handsome man I have ever seen. How could they do this to you?”

          Clare was astounded at the perfect symmetry, features so unlike those displayed by her countrymen. Large noses, protruding eyes and ears, pocked skin, and coarse, unruly, balding hair were the norm, as were crooked teeth and small appendages,

           He opened his eyes and looked deeply into hers to ascertain whether her words held truth, or mere flattery meant to soften the blow. “But you agree I am not of normal size or stature? I am a freak of nature.”

            “Your frame is unusually large and certainly unlike the frail men in our township, or even the fittest seamen from other lands I’ve seen dock at the port. But, you are perfectly proportioned, and your face is exquisite. Every feature is perfection. Even your teeth are straight and white, despite your deprivation. Perhaps if you lived in another land, you would have been a king. My dear friend, I will now show you your face. Prepare for a shock,” Claire said, and reached into her satin satchel to remove a small mirror. “Here Darney, take a look at yourself.”

            Darney accepted the mirror, took a deep breath to calm his anticipation, and then lifted the reflective glass to peer into his face for the first time.

            “What do you think?” Clare asked him.

            “I cannot judge myself, but it is not as frightening as I imagined.” He said, while observing high cheek bones cradling a well formed nose, full lips, and deeply set pale blue eyes. There was a faint cleft in his strong chin, and the shadow of beard perfectly outlining a strong jaw. He observed no mars on his skin, other than the cut, and the skin color looked healthy, nearly radiant with the flush created by Claire’s presence.

            “Cut cut off my hair.”

            “Not yet, my dear friend,” Claire said with a warm smile. “I will simply braid and tie it, like the horses,” she said with sparkling eyes, then drew her tiny fingers through the silky strands while looking deeply into his eyes. “But first I desire to cut a piece to keep with me as a memory of this sacred night. I will weave it into a necklace and attach my favorite charm to it, the one that is said to hold magical powers, to protect against evil,” she said as she cut a length to the scalp, then wove it around her hand and placed it in her satchel.

           “Darney, have you ever given your heart to a woman?” Clare asked.

            “My heart?” he answered, bewildered by the phrase.

            “Have you ever loved a woman?”

            “I told you I have not felt the touch of a woman.”

            “You confessed you had not been touched. I asked if you had loved. I suppose what I was requesting was that I be your first.”

            “The first to have you?”

            “No. Not the first to have me. But yes, the first to love to me. I have been touched and taken, but I have never been loved. Some men take when they have no right – only the power. It doesn’t mean you have given yourself. So, I consider myself pure, as you.  I hope you do not view me as soiled.  I have waited to give myself to a man I could trust. We are the same, my darling, doomed to loneliness. Yet, if we fight hard enough, perhaps we might forge a life of our own.”  She looked deeply into his eyes and stroked the contour of his cheek. “I will give myself to you when you prove you can be trusted with my heart. That is what love is, complete trust in another.”

            “The two moons are nearly spent, and so is our night together,” Darney replied with regret in his voice.

            “This has been a most spectacular evening. We have forged a vow, never to be broken.” Claire leaned forward and afforded Darney with a tender first kiss. The virginal gesture drew a wildly erotic response from deep in his gut and he responded with hunger.

            “No, dear, not yet,” she said, and drew away.

           “In the morning you must stand at the bars and speak to whoever approaches. I will set the gossip in motion and tell everyone that on my way to trapeze practice I saw The Human Beast stand at the bars of his cage. His face was shaven, hair braided, and he spoke as a man. A miracle happened on the night of the two blue moons and the beast has been transformed into a God. The curse has been lifted. Now, let me braid your hair,” Clare said, and slipped behind him to draw up his hair and weave it tightly away from his face.

           “You look lovely.” she said, and moved before him to take one last look at her handiwork. “I will be back soon,” she said with a delicious grin while drawing up her hood and moving to the door. “Remember,” she said turning back to him, “no matter what happens, you are a supreme being in this world or any other - more beautiful than the most acclaimed. I swear, it is true,” she said, then turned to depart.

            Claire leapt through mounds of glimmering fresh snow to her small carriage, replaced the stolen keys without waking Croque, then returned home to tuck herself into bed before the landlady rose at dawn to prepare breakfast. As she placed her head on her pillow she looked out the window at the drifts climbing up the window panes and felt a rare peace as she saw a vision of her children playing in the winter’s first snow.

           Darney drew himself into a fetal position, wrapped his fur tightly around him, and fell into a deep slumber, broken at times with startling dreams, both erotic and violent.  The power of faith had awakened Darney’s unclaimed legacy. He was no longer a savage innocent held in abject servitude, bereft of either identity or hope for the future. A robust manly power now struggled to be born, and the desires it would awaken would wreak havoc as he fought to secure his right to love and freedom. Yet all the young giant knew was that he wished to hold Claire in his arms for eternity.

                                                                                                                                                                             *  * *

 

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Dramatic New Flying Trapeze Trick Unveiled

Note: Photographs of the seductive new trapeze trick, "The Heroine's Journey"  can be viewed at end of article. Cinematic trailer of novel may be viewed on Home Page. Photograph courtesy of David Miller Photography.

     A dramatic new flying trapeze trick, "The Heroine's Journey", choreographed by Tanya Henkle-Hoover, and performed by Tanya, Keith Hoover, and Marek Kaszuba, of Trapeze Pro, at author Sam Keen's Sky Ranch in Sonoma, has been created for a new music video. The sensuous trick is a representation of the heroine's experience at the climax of "The House on Black Lake". It is a stunning trick, and the physical beauty of the performers adds much impact. Rehearsal pictures of the unusual act have been leaked, but the video itself , filmed by award winning cinematographer Frazer Bradshaw is in post production, and will likely be released mid-summer.

     The trick has been likened to "The Piggyback", but it is decidedly different, not only in execution but also intent. "The Piggyback" flying trapeze trick looks pretty much like a piggyback looks on the ground. A flier takes the bar, while a second flier mounts him from the back, with legs crossed around his waist and arms around the neck. The first flier swings out and the piggyback flier is caught by the catcher. It is a dramatic trick, rarely done, and usually involves two men.

     "The Heroine's Journey" is more physically complex and has emotional components. It can only be performed with a woman on the back of a man - as it is the heroine's journey. Directions for performing the trick:

     Heroine is drawn by flier onto his back, her legs wrap around his hips and feet come together beneath his crotch, with toes pointed. One arm wraps beneath his pectoral, the other around his shoulder, and her hands meet at his heart.  Flier takes off from board and Heroine releases her arms and flips under him, holding on with her legs until the last second, then straightens her legs as she is caught by catcher. The trick can end here, or for the more experienced a second part of the choreography is even more complex. They go into swing doubles, where Heroine moves into an angle, the flier goes into an uprise, and they touch hands. Heroine and catcher do a pike, wrap,  and climb to a swinging drop, as the flier falls to net. 

     The trick can end here, or enter into an even more sophistacted act, combining the skills of flying and static trapeze performance. Heroine and catcher begin a  sensuous static doubles routine representing the "Dangerous Game" (song title) of love. Details of the choreography for the doubles performance are not yet available. However, there are photographs taken as the static trapeze act was being filmed.

     "The Heroine's Journey" is a ground breaking piece for a number of reasons. Not only is it a stylish, sexy, and unique new trick for trapeze artists, but it is the first documented trapeze act created to represent a scene from a novel in an original music video. The stunning pictures attest to the drama and beauty of the "Heroine's Journey".
     All photographs are protected by copyright and courtesy of Dave Miller Photography.
 
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The Heroine's Journey Means Freedom At Any Cost

Recently, I met a woman who asked me what my novel was about. I explained it was the tale of a woman who had become disfigured after childbirth, and made a vow at a shrine, Truth for Beauty - a promise to fulfill her manifest destiny in return for an unmarked face.  Her beauty is restored, but as she begins to seek a  rightful path her "perfect" life falls apart. The woman's marriage ends in a devastating divorce, and her life, she has known it, is destroyed. The novel explores her transformation as she is lured into the Montreal underground, educated by the mystics and gypsies, and through self discovery begins a dramatic transformation.

"Why should I care about a spoiled woman who gives up a perfect life, destroys a marriage, and uproots her children to seek her own selfish destiny? she replied with vehemence.

"But", I explained, "she made a vow at St. Joseph's Shrine, Truth for Beauty - a promise to seek her truthful destiny in return for unparalyzed face."

The woman shook her head and looked disgusted, as though I was one of the tawdry, spoiled women the media parades out, like witches deserving a good sacrifice at the stake. Of couse, I realized she was from a country with a strong caste system and different values than my own. Yet, I knew her thoughts were shared by many, if not most women in the world  To walk away from wealth and power and the oppression it carries is hard for many woman to understand, or find any degree of empathy.

In the prelude of the novel my protagonist Alexandra describes how her husband removes her long white coat and smoothes the wrinkles from her dress, a sign of control over her image. When she leaves him he uses his wealth to destroy her finacially and take their children. She eventually becomes an outcast, with no possibility of creating a new life in the old system. She has no choice but to seek the destiny she promised at the shrine, and take the heroine's journey. There is no selfishness in her motives, rather a sacred quest to be true to herself, and by doing so help to illuminate others.

Our forefathers did the same thing, as do all revolutionaries, yet their causes are not generally deemed "selfish". So, why then is a woman to be distained when she seeks the same kind of freedom from oppression and desire for illumination?

We must believe in freedom at any cost if we are to live in the land of the free.  How can we live free is we are slaves to a man or a lifestyle, chained by money and greed. Each woman must ask the same question of herself, whether rich or poor. The blood  men shed as they fight for their freedom is also shed by woman, but invisible to the eye.

Would you chose TRUTH or BEAUTY? If you answered the former you will find beauty. If you answered the latter, there will be no truth, and your beauty will fade as your destiny is lost to time.

The pain passes, but the beauty remains.
~♥~ Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Thank You Immortal Angel -
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Rebecca - A Classic Gothic Romance

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. . .” is the most quoted opening line from Daphne du Maurier classic gothic romance, “Rebecca”.  The novel, which was written during her husband’s tenure in Alexandria, Egypt and published in 1938 in the UK, is one of the most well known examples of gothic romance.

“While working as the companion to a rich American woman vacationing on the French Riviera she becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter. After a fortnight of courtship, she agrees to marry him, and after the marriage accompanies him to his mansion, the beautiful West Country estate Manderley.

Only upon their arrival at Manderley does the new bride realize how difficult it will be to lay to rest the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca. Rebecca is understood to have drowned in a sailing accident off the coast next to the mansion a year before, but her memory has a strong hold on the estate and all of its inhabitants and visitors, especially the domineering housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, one of literature's most infamous female villains.

Mrs. Danvers, who was profoundly devoted to Rebecca, tries to undermine the second Mrs. de Winter, suggesting to her that she will never attain the urbanity and charm that Rebecca possessed. Whenever the new Mrs. de Winter attempts to make changes at Manderley, Mrs. Danvers describes how Rebecca ran Manderley when she was alive. Each time Mrs. Danvers does this, she implies that the new Mrs. de Winter lacks the experience and knowledge necessary for running an important estate such as Manderley. The second Mrs. de Winter is cowed by Mrs. Danvers' imposing manner and complies with the housekeeper's suggestions.

Lacking self-confidence and overwhelmed by her new life, the protagonist commits one faux pas after another, until she is convinced that Maxim regrets his impetuous decision to marry her and is still deeply in love with the seemingly perfect Rebecca. The climax occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball. Mrs. Danvers manipulates the protagonist into wearing a replica of the dress shown in a portrait of one of the former inhabitants of the estate—the same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim the previous year, shortly before her death.

In the early morning hours after the ball, the storm that had been building over the estate leads to a shipwreck. A diver investigating the condition of the wrecked ship's hull discovers the remains of Rebecca's boat. It is just prior to this shipwreck that Mrs. Danvers reveals her contempt for and dislike of the second Mrs. de Winter. Taking the second Mrs. de Winter on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, her wardrobe and luxurious possessions, which Mrs. Danvers has kept intact as a shrine to Rebecca, she encourages the second Mrs. de Winter to commit suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window, but is thwarted at the last moment by the disturbance created by the shipwreck.

The revelations from the shipwreck lead Maxim to confess the truth to the second Mrs. de Winter; how his marriage to Rebecca was nothing but a sham; how from the very first days of their marriage, the husband and wife loathed each other. Rebecca, Maxim reveals, was a cruel and selfish woman who manipulated everyone around her into believing her to be the perfect wife and a paragon of virtue. She repeatedly taunted Maxim with sordid tales of her numerous love affairs and suggested that she was pregnant with another man's child, which she would raise under the pretence that it was Maxim's and he would be powerless to stop her. Maxim, truly hating her, shot Rebecca and disposed of her body on her boat, which he then sank at sea. The narrator is relieved to hear that Maxim had never loved Rebecca, but really loves his new wife.

Rebecca's boat is raised and it is discovered that holes had been deliberately drilled in the bottom and the sea-cocks were opened, which would have caused it to sink. There is an inquest and despite it not being clear who drilled the holes, a verdict of suicide is brought. However, Rebecca's first cousin (and also her lover) Jack Favell appears on the scene claiming to have proof that Rebecca could not have intended suicide. Favell attempts to blackmail Maxim because he believes that Maxim killed Rebecca and then sank the boat.

Rebecca, it is revealed, had an appointment with a Doctor Baker shortly before her death, presumably to confirm her pregnancy. When the doctor is found he reveals Rebecca had been suffering from cancer and would have died within a few months; furthermore, due to the malformation of her uterus, she could never have been pregnant. The implication is that knowing she was going to die, Rebecca lied to Maxim that she had been impregnated by another man because she wanted Maxim to kill her. Maxim feels a great sense of foreboding and insists on driving through the night to return to Manderley. However, before he comes in sight of the house, it is clear from a glow on the horizon and wind-borne ashes that it is ablaze.

It is evident at the beginning of the novel that Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter now live in some foreign exile. The events recounted in the book are in essence a flashback of the narrator's life at Manderley.”

The novel did not receive critical acclaim when it was published, although the novel was very popular. It continues to this day to be a pristine example of the gothic romance genre which include supernatural forces, a woman trapped, repressed sexuality, powerfully erotic undertones, and a charismatic male with unclear intentions. Most notable in “Rebecca” is the figure of Mrs. Danvers, a female antagonist obsessed with the diseased Rebecca, who incorporates a homoerotic thread that seeks to break the bond of male and female. The book was translated into a stage play by du Maurier and subsequently adapted to film and television. The story is a classic tale that in its essence explores the unequal power of a man and woman.

Plot summary from Wikipedia

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Sarah Palin's Parlor

One can only imagine the entrance to Sarah Palin's Parlor. Likely it is homey, filled with the smell of freshly cook jam, and the stuffed and mounted relics of her gamesmanship - perhaps like the picture featured below.

The photograph was taken in the parlor of the Chateau Tivoli in San Francisco while shooting film trailer for scene in “The House on Black Lake”.  In novel protagonist Alexandra Brighton is ushered into the stately summer home of Ruth and Ramey Sandeley and is aghast to see the lineup of exotic animal head trophies and artifacts decorating the elegant room. Ruth tells Alexandra that her husband believes when you look into a powerful animal’s eyes and take its life you are bound forever. Of course, this is not a good omen for Alexandra.

 Most hunters keep a souvenir of victims when they kill for sport, and not for survival. Yet, rarely do women lust for blood. “A woman gives life, and God, the father, takes it”, Ramey informs Alexandra. In the course of her journey she is betrayed by women with a thirst for second hand power and ultimately led into a patriarchal trap. Sarah Palin's hunting partner is not her mother, sister, or girl friend - it is her father. In her videotaped journey she finds a pioneer soul sister squatting in the depths of the Antarctic, who sews her own  flesh wounds and professes to love blood and guts in the manner in which other woman covet jewels. She is not a not bold feminist in a frontier land, but rather a conservative leader in a modern world. She does not shoot for sustenance, but rather for the glory of the kill, and the camera that records the killings seeps a taste of the barbaric into mainstream experience. A female who gives and takes life for sport is clearly an anomaly, in all of nature. Dominance cannot succeed without its hand maidens, and there are rewards for those who are willing to play the game. What the protagonist in the story does not realize is that she is the trophy. In the course mankind's recorded history the display of a sacrificed victim has always been a symbol of power and domination.

 Perhaps it is time for Sarah to clean her parlor of the relics of domination and fill it with trophies of empowerment. When she puts down the rifle and embraces mother earth, all creatures will feel more secure. A female role model that embodies the unique powers of the feminine, while igniting the loftier attributes of the male, carries the hope of a remarkable new world order.

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Power Exchange

A perfect  example of power play between a man and a woman can be found in "The House on Black Lake".  In chapter twenty-two, titled "The Beast In The Cage", Alexandra Brighton and Ramey Sandeley engage in a fierce power enchange that leaves each altered and prepared to take their relationship to the next level.

Following is complete chapter:

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

The Beast in the Cage

 

I watch a myriad of my reflections in the eyes of the exotic stuffed animals, as I move through the entryway.

          “Where have you been, Alexandra?”

            He moves up behind me, baring touching.

          “What are doing up so late, Ramey?”

          “I might ask you the same question. St. Agathe closes up tight by ten o’clock, unless you’ve been invited to a private party.” 

          “I was invited to a private party.”

          “Was it good?”

          “Beyond words.”

          Ramey digs his fingers into my arm and swings me around to face him. He looks dreadful, with hair sticking up in tufts, the corners of his lips caked with dried blood, and his T-shirt stained with perspiration. What is more alarming are the gray hairs mingling in the growth of stubble on his chin - the first sign of anything that has staked a claim on his perfection. A wave of repulsion rides up my spine and spikes a fit of nausea, disgust unfathomable in my former carnation. The God has fallen from his pedestal. This grim satyr looks and smells like nothing more than a filthy drunk.

          “I need to talk to you; come back to my room.”

          “Take your hands off me. Enough is enough! I don’t welcome the sexual advances of my friend’s husband, or anyone else’s for that matter.”

          “You sure rode in on a high horse.”

           “I’ve paid a high price for my freedom, unlike you. I have no respect for men who seek the safety of the cage and the thrill of the wild, but don’t have the courage to commit to either.”

          “Don’t lecture me, dear.”

          “Fuck you, Ramey.”

          “I don’t take seconds.”

          “Is that so?”

          “What’s that supposed to mean?

          “Where’s Ruth?”

          “She stayed the night in Montreal.”

          He digs his fingers deeper into my arm and guides me roughly through the house.

          “I said no! Let go of me.”

          “Quiet. You’ll wake the children,” he says, then draws me inside the room and engages the bolt lock.

           “Sit down.”

          “I prefer to stand.”

          “Suit yourself, baby.”

          He moves to a hanging chair, upholstered in brocade, with interlocking chains connected to hooks in the ceiling. 

          “I’ve seen your little warlock’s den, Ramey. What are you, some kind of wizard?”

          “I have a fascination with science and magic. Does that frighten you?” he says, and sits in the chair with legs spread wide.

          “You don’t frighten me.”

          “Did you fuck Andre Labat?”

          “Jealousy doesn’t suit you, Ramey.”

          “Answer the question.”

          I’m silent.

          He rides his hands up the chain and draws a tongue over cracked lips.

          “I’m disappointed; I thought you had higher standards.”

          “Why did you row me out to stay in the house on the island?”

          “I love a good game. Terror and Titillation is one of my favorites. I also like Pain and Pleasure. They’re goal posts on the same playing field. Rowing you out on the lake and leaving you there, was like tying you up without tethers. The thought of you alone and frightened got me off - knowing I could set you free . . . or not.”

          “You have a very sick mind.”

          “Freedom can only be attained through absolute containment. The body is a vessel for the soul and the soul is the conduit to the spiritual world. When your body is contained, your soul is released. The soul’s escape is a powerful, life-changing event. And when it happens, there is no turning back.”  

           He stops the motion of the chair.

          “Don’t pretend you don’t understand.” He gets up from the chair and moves across the room to where I stand next to the door.

         “You know exactly what I mean, don’t you? You’ve had a taste of it, haven’t you?”

           I clasp the palm of my hand against my chest to calm my wildly beating heart. 

          “It started in the house, didn’t it? And last night in the hallway, you went there with me, didn’t you?”  

           “Is this the warlock talking? Or do you worship a darker deity?”

          “Yes, it’s happened, Alexandra. That’s why you fell for the pathetic charms of Andre Labat. But giving yourself to that little worm is like a sailor dipping his cup in the sea when he’s dying of thirst. He’ll never be able to quench what I see in you.”

           He stands only inches from me now - so close a bead of sweat drops from his forehead onto my cheek.

         “I made love to Ruth the night we left you on the island and pretended she was you.”

          “Save your confessions for your satanic priest.” 

          “But you had to fuck with it and move into my basement.”  

          “Nothing matters to you, does it, other than satisfying your perverted needs?” I say, and turn to walk out the door. 

          “I didn’t give you permission to leave yet.”

          He blocks my movement to the door.

         “You stay in my house, eat my food, drive my car, and expect me to babysit your son so you can go out and fulfill your perverted needs?”

          “I refuse to defend myself. You invited me to stay in your home. I’m your guest. I will be leaving soon, so you shall be relieved of your burden shortly. And with whom I choose to share my bed is certainly none of your concern. I’m a single woman and free to do whatever I desire. I was once contained, but I had the guts to release myself. You, on the other hand, are completely contained. You wear on your hand the gold band of ownership, proof you’ve been tamed. You are no different than your marked and pierced livestock. You have no claim on freedom. You’re branded, Ramey.” 

          The look in his eyes terrifies me. They are the eyes of a killer.

         “Listen, Ramey, I’m tired and you’re drunk, and this isn’t the best time to have a discussion. We can talk tomorrow if you like, preferably with your wife present. Now, please move away from the door . . . I need to check on Sammy.”

           Ramey’s perfect teeth glimmer inside his parted lips.

          “I want you to consent to a punishment for your behavior, for being such an ungrateful houseguest. Five lashes would be fair, wouldn’t you agree?”

          “This has gone far enough.”

          “Have you ever taken a beating?” 

          “What are you saying?”

          “Have you ever taken corporal punishment from a lover?”

          “I have no idea - ”

           He gestures the bed against the wall, a four-poster bed swathed in yards of parachute silk and covered with a plush crimson duvet and lace pillows.

          “You’re acting crazy, Ramey. I’m leaving.”

           “You walk out that door and I’m taking you and your son to the airport tonight.” He spits out while grabbing my arm.

          “Get out of my way. I’m leaving this room."

          “Go . . .” he says, motioning to the door. As I turn to leave, he whisks me up into his arms and carries me across the room to throw me roughly onto the bed.

          Like a prodded beast inside its cage he paces the room. His eyes glow, dark gray eyes transformed to a vivid gold. Or perhaps the change in color is a reflection of the flames from the studded candles stationed on wood pedestals next to the bedposts. 

          “Stand up and bend over,” he orders.

          “No.”

          “There’s only one way for it to happen. We’re the same you know; we’re the same kind.”

          “I’m nothing like your kind.”

          “I haven’t slept since I met you,” he says in a chilling voice. “I wander through a maze of empty houses filled with dark shadows. When I awake in the darkest hours I want to take you into my arms and lose myself inside you. Some nights I feel I might succumb to the gloom and follow the curse of my legacy.”

           He observes me with a strange curiosity, as though he is aware I have been plagued by similar dreams.

          “We’ve been together since the first moment I took your eyes - the night you walked into the crazy house in the desert on the arm of your asshole husband. You looked like an angel dressed in white, with snow falling outside the windows behind you, and Mozart echoing in the rafters - a fucking angel sent on a mission to destroy me. I’ve waited for you a very long time - it feels like more than a lifetime, and perhaps it is. My quest is only to release you I’ll give you what you deserve, and more importantly I’m offering what you need to spread your wings and fly.”

          “You’re not listening to me. I said no! You are not used to hearing that word, so it may sound foreign to a man like you - one who has never been refused.”

          “There is no other way,” he says with calm assurance.  There’s no other way for you to break out, to crack the shell.  You say you’re free, but you’re not. You took off your ring, but you still live inside the cage. Your perfect world was never your own, and now it’s impossible to return. You can refuse, but we both know it has to happen, sooner or later.”

          “Who are you to lecture me about perfect worlds? If you were true to yourself, you’d be living in hell, or at the least in a cave instead of this castle.”

          He stops his pacing and moves to where I sit perched at the edge of his bed. He grazes his hands along the heavy leather belt holding up his jeans and begins to unfasten the buckle.

          “I could tie you up and torture you with love first, but you don’t deserve it.”

          “You’ve tortured me long enough.”

          “Well then, let’s get to it.”

          “How does beating someone free them, for God’s sake?” I ask, and avert my eyes from what is impossible to explain, ignore, or understand, for that matter, the male thing, the strength of not knowing, wanting to know, what lies beneath.

          “It’s a method used by tribes and most civilizations throughout the history of the world. When used in initiation, to help the initiates ascend to a higher level of spiritual awakening. The experience is powerful for both the giver and the receiver.”

          “How do you know?”

          “I’ve experienced it.”

          I struggle to gather my thoughts. I don’t know how to express my feelings, so I let something deeper take over and speak for me. “You may be a sorcerer, but you are neither my master nor my priest. My body and soul are not for your taking. That privilege is earned through trust and commitment. You are correct. I am not yet free. But when I am, I will only supplicate myself to a man who worships me as much as I worship him.”

          I shift my focus to gaze at a picture in a gilded frame, set on the nightstand next to a crystal bowl of fragrant potpourri. It is a photograph of Ruth and Ramey wrapped in each others arms, surrounded by their five young children, standing in front of a Christmas tree trimmed in colorful balls and ribbons and brimming with dozens of gaily wrapped packages. 

          “We’ve been conjoined by fate, and there’s no turning back,” he says, and a strangled thread of emotion seeps into these words, a mixture of sorrow and regret that makes me shudder. 

          There is a long and terrible silence, a silence like no other. It is the stillness after an upheaval, after the squeal of the tires and the sound of the catastrophe. It is the hush when you know your life will never be the same. It is the dead calm when you have crossed the line of time into a new existence. Something has changed. This interlude of sadism has changed me forever. 

          “Look at me . . . look into the pupils of my eyes, Alexandra. They are the only place in the body where you can look inside the mind and see what it is thinking and feeling.” 

           I straighten myself on the downy silk comforter, wipe the tears from my lashes and gaze directly into Ramey’s eyes.  Beyond the fading anger, I see other emotions flicker. There are nuances of more vulnerable feelings, and something else, more profound and meaningful than the vain and shallow substances floating on the surface. A shadow lurks there; a glint of the unspeakable hides beneath the wreckage of his heart. He holds a terrible secret in the unfathomable depths. It is wild, crazy, unbelievable, and eminent, yet I have no idea what it is.

           “You’re moving away from me, baby. It’s like you’ve fallen into the bottom of a well. You’re crouched down there, but I can’t get to you. I can’t save you.”  

          “Forgive me, but you are mistaken. I didn’t ask you to save me.” I stand up from the bed and move across the room.

           “I believe it’s you who’s looking to be saved. You need to save yourself, Ramey,” I say, then turn and walk out the door.

Power Struggle

 

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Music Video "Dangerous Games" to Feature Flying and Static Trapeze

A new music video titled "Dangerous Games" with music composed by Peter Busboom is now in preproduction. It will feature trapeze artists recreating scene from book where Alexandra finds drawn into the allure of the magic glen, where her union with Ramey Sandeley evolves into a ruthless power struggle. 

 

Scene From Magic Glen

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The Mistress of the Perfect White Blouse - Anne Fontaine - Photographs from "The House on Black Lake" Trailer

THE HOUSE ON BLACK LAKE HAS BEEN ADAPTED TO SCREENPLAY. GO TO HOME PAGE TO VIEW PROVATIVE CINEMATIC TRAILER FEATURING FONTAINE OUTFIT.

Novel/screenplay The House on Black Lake features the sexy, French look, with a touch of gothic, gypsy.

The clothing worn for seduction scene in "The House on Black Lake" Trailer were designs from Anne Fontaine, a French Canadian designer with boutiques in majors cities of U.S., as well as international appeal. The white ruffled blouse in photographs is a signature look, as well as the cinched patent belt, black pencil skirt, and fitted blazer with lacing at back.

White ruffled Anne Fonteyne louse with patent leather belt.

Anne Fonteyne White Ruffled Blouse, Patent Cinch Belt, Pencis Skirt.

Photograph of Anne Fonteyne Ensemble from "House on Black Lake" Trailer

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