Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fall From Grace - Prologue

The Prologue of the NaNoWriMo novel:

~~

     She had to stop running to throw up, which she found ridiculous considering that the man chasing her was so close she could hear his footsteps in the sand.
     Her body was going to fail her, Alex thought. It was going to fail her and she was going to get killed. All because she had to vomit.
     Somewhere back there was Cyrus Ranger. He wasn’t chasing her. He was dead. That knowledge alone made her want to surrender. The only thing that kept her going was the knowledge that he had died making sure that she wouldn’t.
     How things had come to this she didn’t quite understand. One minute they were getting ready to go back home, the next they were crawling out of wreckage in the middle of nowhere with an assortment of firearms trained on them.
     And Ranger... He would never be taken alive to be tortured and killed over a live stream on the internet for Al Jazeera. There was no way.
     He had broken three noses and a shoulder before she had even realized what was going on. The men surrounding them had rushed in. Perceiving the threat, Ranger had acted without thought. That was what they were trained to do. Kick asses and break necks. Leave the mess for someone else to clean up, the questions for someone else to ask. That was just how it went.
     The person chasing her started to fall back. She could no longer hear him so close. Alex resisted the urge to look back.
     Ranger was dead, she was positive.
     He had told her to run without using any words. They had worked together for so long that she could read his body language. A great skill, normally. This time it had gotten him killed.
     Alex pushed her breath through her nose and unclenched her fists, positioning herself to keep up a marathon pace without burning herself out. In the desert heat and the loose sand it was faster than she should have been going to begin.
     The bile was still pushing itself up her esophagus, making it harder for her to run as though her life depended on it.
     She felt like she must have been running for eternity and forever just stretched out before her.
     Goddamn body, she thought, altering her direction. Hers would never do what she wanted it to do. It was perpetually on strike and pissing her off.
     She hazarded a look back. The guy was a dot – obviously running only fast enough to keep a visual on her. She could see the wreckage on the horizon, a smaller dot. A stream of black smoke was drifting towards the heavens. Bringing Cyrus with it, she prayed.
     The desert stretched out before her. Miles and miles of sand and heat and it dawned on her: she was going to die. She had no water. If she kept running she would sweat out faster. If she stopped running she would die slower or get shot by an enemy marksman. Either way she was as good as dead.
     She kept running anyway, adding a zig here and a zag there; anything to make her pursuers life more difficult. She also knew the randomness of her run was supposed to make it harder to get blown to smithereens, although with the technology available on the black market, Misters Zig and Zag didn’t have a chance against Misters RPG and Grenade.
     Mister AK-47 read her mind. She dove into the ground as the rounds tore into the sand around her.
     Cover, Alex thought, belatedly. She needed to find or create cover. Pulling herself up from a side roll she began to run again, driving each foot into the sand toes first; her zig zags getting quicker but less defined, sometimes taking on the shape of demented parabolas.
     “Ramirez!” a voice called. She heard more gun fire and then the sound of a motor.
     There was no justification for stopping in the middle of the desert.
     “Alex Ramirez!” the voice was very familiar.
     Alex stopped and turned. One of her fire squad was closing in; the body of her pursuer was sprawled out on the desert sand.
     She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and a cold ripple crept up her spine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Have Reached: THE END!

I finally finished hammering out the ending to my NaNoWriMo2011 project. I uploaded it onto the site about ten minutes ago and have been declared a winner! Woohoo!

In a blog post written earlier today (18 or so hours ago), I mentioned a mushroom cloud hovering over my head. Now that November is over, it feels like the nuclear explosion that went off in my head a few weeks ago has tripled in magnitude. That's right, I now have more than one mushroom cloud hovering over my head.

The book is finished. It needs tweaking here and there. I have always found that the process of revision takes up so much more energy than the actual writing... I suppose I will print it off this weekend and hammer away at it some more.

For the rest of the week I will be bringing my head out of the clouds and gun fights. The house needs to be cleaned, the dog needs a few spectacular runs and my library books are overdue. My brain can now go back to math full time and I can start unpacking the boxes my dad dropped off over the weekend.

For tonight I would love to say cold beer is in order -- but I have to be up in five hours because December 1st is, sadly, not a holiday for NaNoWriMo participants. (But it should be!)

Congratulations to all other NaNo winners and participants!

Off to bed I go. *waves*

NaNoWriMo - The Final Day

It is six in the morning and I have been up for a little under an hour wondering about the ending of my NaNoWriMo project.

I have spent the month not writing as furiously as I should have been. I wrote my exams, finished two classes, and started two more. My dreams are filled with graphs and radicals, polyatomic ions and chemical equations. A friend told me a few weeks ago that there is a mushroom cloud over my head.

On top of these things, my life in the last week has made a drastic shift. Towards the toilet.

I shattered a tooth in math class and to extract, the dentist had to remove some jaw. That was a week ago. It has gotten more painful every day since.

My mildly autistic sister started a movement called "occupy bathroom" the day it was announced that our parents are selling the house she grew up in.

The eye doctor told me that I am getting old and need glasses full time, and also that I need to use eye drops at least daily because staring at text books and computer screens from five in the morning until eleven at night dries out my old eyeballs. I hate putting things - even drops - into my eyes. It is creepy.

If you look at my house, most specifically my room, you can probably see where the mushroom cloud over my head has come from.

Also neglected are my blog and my friends. For these I have no excuse, other than the dog ate my brain.

National Novel Writing Month ends tonight at midnight. After that my life may return to it's regularly scheduled program. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Teacher Geek

Thursday night I went to my niece's parent-teacher conference. I had met her teacher once before when we got together with her knew school to have a lame "transition" meeting with her old school -- in October.

Her teacher -- I will call him Joe -- seemed like a good guy when I first met him; genuinely interested in helping her meet her academic goals.(Readers Digest Compact Version: she is on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) as she has some learning disabilities and she was placed into a passive behavioral class because she has anxiety issues and likes to run away from school). But I have thought that before about her teachers and have been disappointed every time... SO I went in to the meeting rather reserved and interested in hearing what Joe had to say.

We were a half hour early and went to the book fair in the library. Joe was there and was happy to start the conference early. We started off with a very in-depth discussion on Age of Conan (I haven't played but M really enjoys it). Joe is a huge fan of both Conan (GEEK!) and serial killer thrillers, which put him in my good books (right at the top). We then moved on to more mundane topics. He showed us samples of her work and said that she is doing well. She got a B in math and he explained why. The only thing we needed to ask him was what could we do to help her meet her academic goals?

Basically, niece wants to go to med school (she is 11 right now -- always good to plan young, lol) and has started to realize that she isn't where she needs to be to get there.

Joe said that he would go through the curriculum and her work, and identify the holes in her foundation. He would then send home some extra work so we could spend a few minutes a day with her. Objective: Fill the holes.

I left feeling that the meeting had been productive. He provided us with a very clear plan for the niece as well offered me a very old Conan comic (I'm telling you - GEEK!) from his collection.

Joe seems like a teacher who actually enjoys teaching special need children and who actually cares about what happens to the kids that he teaches. I enjoyed discovering this. I enjoyed having a positive experience with meeting her teachers.

My niece is scheduled to remain at that school for another two grades. Hopefully he is the sucker who gets to teach her ;)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Asperger's Revisited...

I mentioned several months back in this post that my kid sister has autism.

She created a blog (you can read it here) to talk about what happens in her world. She is 22.5 and lives on her own and recently launched a Facebook page to raise awareness about Autism.

She has a mild form of Autism called "Asperger's Syndrome". For as long as I can remember, my sister has had various "obsessions" with one thing or another - side walks, light poles, buses; to name but a few. An easy target for bullies, the last few days I have seen some of the most vile and disgusting excuses for human beings slither out of a primordial cesspool for no other reason than to harass her and make her life miserable. They badgered her on Twitter and then, when she privatized her profile so they couldn't keep bullying her, they went after her blog.

Are you for real? These people are - allegedly - adults ("reporters", no less!) Get a life!

I find it very sad that, as advanced as our society is, some of us still refuse to be (or are incapable of) accepting differences. One of these bullies used her son as an example - her son has autism and does not act this way or that way. Would she like a medal? That's equivalent to comparing apples with turnips or saying that you have a brain and I have a brain, so clearly we must think and behave exactly the same way. (Thankfully the world doesn't work that way - at least not the one I live in... If it did, we'd be screwed.. The world could not handle more than one of you ;)

Anyway - to make a potentially long rant short, I will leave this thought:

We are created equally, not perfectly.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Fall From Grace"

Good morning!

I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so this weekend I wanted to share what I have been working furiously on for the month of November.

~
     Someone was pounding on the door.
     Cyrus Ranger groaned and rolled over, letting loose a string of obscenities that only a sailor could muster.
     “It’s not time to get up,” he muttered, glaring viciously at the alarm clock.
     Easter Sunday. He and his friend Adam were expected in the kitchen where Adam’s mom was patiently waiting to try, yet again, to teach the duo how to properly prepare a holiday feast.
     “I heard that, Ranger!” Came the voice from the other side of the door. “You need to watch that filthy mouth of yours or mum’ll wash it out with a bar of glycerin soap!”
     His eyes popped open and he grinned despite himself. The nagging voice belonged to none other than his favorite co-worker, Carmen A. Ramirez, or Alex for short.
     She was the epitome of female; from her sweet milk and honey scent right down to the enormous collection of shoes she had stashed away. The difference was her consistent refusal of the title “female”, or any other name that made the mistake of categorizing her as a girl.
     “Non-girl,” he breathed, smiling.
     He threw off the blankets and was reaching for his boxer shorts when the door flew open.
     “What the fuck?” Cyrus scrambled to cover up as Alex strolled in. “I’m, erm, in a compromising position, Alex. Couldn’t you have knocked?”
     She smiled sweetly. “Nice, erm...”
     He was holding a bed sheet around his mid-section, she noticed. He had covered quickly, but not quite fast enough that she hadn’t seen what was hidden underneath.
     “Modesty is over-rated, Ranger. I’ve seen it before.” She looked at the boxers that had been tossed on the floor and chuckled as his cheeks flamed.
     “Can I help you?” He asked, trying to remain casual.
     “Mum wants you in the kitchen. Yesterday.” She turned her eyes back to him and he shivered.
     “I’ll be right down,” he managed.
     She nodded but didn’t move. Her eyes slowly inched their way across him.
     She smirked and turned to the door. “I’ll let her know. Don’t keep her waiting.”
     The door closed and he listened to her footsteps as she travelled down the stairs.
     Cyrus shook his head and waited for his heart rate to slow down before reaching again for his shorts.
#

     By the time he managed to get to the kitchen Adam and Alex were sitting down on the stools, their elbows resting on the countertop. The steam still rose from their coffee mugs and the scent tantalized him from across the room.
     Adam’s mom stood at the sink. She had been dubbed “Mum” by most, if not all, of his friends. He lightly kissed her on the cheek and gratefully accepted the cup that she offered.
     Mum was a tall graceful woman with a sun weathered face and sparkling green eyes. She had a strong jaw and smooth sand colored hair. Her long tapered fingers were holding a mug on her own.
     She was already wearing a bib apron over her jeans. Her blouse sleeves were rolled up past her elbows.
     Mum had a soft spot for kids and a tendency to unofficially adopt her children’s friends. At twenty-three, Cyrus was far from being a child, but she had greeted him warmly and welcomed him into her home with open arms and an open heart, the Christmas after he and Adam had returned from a tour of duty in the Middle East. Having no family left of his own, Cyrus was grateful for the invitation and had been given a place in her life as one of her own children.
     Six years later Cyrus Ranger had come to view her with the love and respect he felt he would give his own mom had she still been alive.
     “Are you boys ready to start soon?”
     Adam and Cyrus looked at one another and grinned, their eyes alight with mischief.
     “Of course mum,” Adam said as he reached over Alex to nab a muffin.
     The last two times she had tried to teach them the basics of holiday fare had proved disastrous. Thanksgiving had found the turkey still raw. Christmas had produced one overcooked with smoke wafting off of it. Cyrus figured the result of this day would be somewhere in the middle.
     “Third time’s a charm,” Mum murmured, echoing his thoughts. She placed a stack of material on the counter. “Get dressed. There’s an apron here for each of you.”
     Adam snickered and tossed a pink flowered one to Cyrus, snagging a blue and white one for himself. There was one left on the counter. Alex’s eyes widened.
     “Oh hell no!” she said as the boys started to howl with laughter.
     Mum winked at her. “I need another woman in here to help me keep these two under control.”
     Adam had tears in his eyes. Cyrus snorted. “She’s worse than both of us put together!” he managed.
     “I most certainly am not a woman!” she snatched up the apron, indignant. “It’s pink!” she wailed.
     “You guys have thirty minutes to get yourselves ready,” Mum called as she walked down the hall, barely managing to suppress a laugh until she made it around the corner.
  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo, Etc

For those of you who don't know what "NaNoWriMo" is, I shall explain. November is National Novel Writing Month. You write 50,000 words in the month of November.

This year I signed up to participate. It started yesterday. Two days in and I am slaughtering the word counts (I am just under 6,000). This is surprising, for someone like me -- a master procrastinator.

I have so many other things I could be doing (my exams are coming up next week. I had one this morning, in fact). Instead I am putting studying off so I can write (and blog). Imagine. So unlike me to put anything off... ;)

Anyway... I have been having fun getting to know these characters who have been grumbling in my head for quite some time now.

Do you want to see some excerpts from this newest creation? Let me know in the comments section!

That said, I am going to cut this short so I can get some actual studying in before bed.

Have a great night!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just for Parents (I hope..)

Back at the end of April I blogged, very briefly, on Adam Mansbach and his new book titled "Go The F*k to Sleep". (You can view it here.)

Over the weekend I found same story narrated by Samuel L. Jackson on youtube.com, and I had to post it for you.


Enjoy! (When the kids aren't around!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gilles De Rais

I have decided to try something different.

I was doing some light reading yesterday and stumbled across a site that had posted their top 15 worst serial killers list. A commenter had added their dismay that Gilles de Rais hadn't made it on the list.

Having no previous knowledge on de Rais I did a google search. I spent the rest of the morning reading (when I should have been studying o.O) and compiled here, just for you, the information that I found.

Happy reading ;)

Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (AKA Baron de Rais) lived in France between 1404 and 1440.

At the time of his birth France was at war with England (The Hundred Years War) over who was the rightful heir to the throne.

As was typical in that time period, Gilles was raised by absent parents. He began his studies at the age of seven and proved to be a quick learner in every subject -- with the exception of politics.

In 1415 his mother died. Shortly after, and just before the quagmire that is now known as Agincourt, his father, Guy, was mauled to death while hunting wild boar.

Guy made sure that his will kept Gilles and his younger brother, Rene (two years junior), away from their grandfather, Jean d'Craon.

d'Craon, being one of the wealthiest people in France, challenged the will and the boys became his wards in the middle of 1416.

What Gilles learned from his influential grandfather was that as heir to the second richest man in all of France, he was above the law.

d'Craon made three attempts at marrying off his oldest grandson. Only the third, when Gilles was 16, finally happened. Gilles married Catherine de Thouars of Brittany on November 30th 1420. She was his cousin and they wed after Gilles kidnapped her, under instruction and tutelage from his grandfather. This marriage served to increase the family's already vast wealth.

Gilles was primary advisor and general to Joan of Arc. They fought together against the English during the war. In this he was able to partake in the carnage he seemed to enjoy so much. He was soon appointed the title Marshal of France which made Gilles the highest ranking soldier in France. He still hadn't learned how to politic, though, and his blunders made a lot of enemies for him.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Gilles, as well as everyone else, abandoned her in her time of need. She was seen as a threat and so, she was thrown to the wolves.

Soon after, on November 15th, 1437, d'Craon died. He renounced Gilles on his death bed and stripped him as heir to the family wealth.

In May of 1440 (the 15th), Gilles kidnapped a cleric during a dispute. The Bishop of Nantes started investigating him from that point.

On July 29th the Bishop released his findings. A second investigation, this one by authorities, was concluded in September and Gilles and two of his servants were arrested on the 15th under charges that included sodomy, heresy and murder.

The court planned on torturing Gilles into confessing to the crimes, but he admitted to them on October 21st.

Gilles confessed that between the Springs of 1432 and 1433 he began assaulting children. No account survives of the actual first murders, but he also admitted to murdering or ordering the murders of countless children after he sodomized them. According to one of the servants who was arrested with him, sometimes Gilles would issue a fatal wound and sodomize the child while they bled out. Other times, the man alleged, Gilles would sodomize the dead.

Afterwards he would have the bodies burned in the fireplace in his bedroom and then have their ashes scattered.

The accounts were apparently so graphic that the courts ordered certain parts stricken from the records.

The number of victims was placed somewhere between 80 and 200, although a few have said that the number is as high as 600. All victims were between the ages of 6 and 18. They were both male and female.

The servants confessed and were sentenced to death. Gilles was sentenced on October 25th. He was allowed to make confession and was granted his request to be buried in the church of the monastery of Notre-Dame des Carmes.

Execution by hanging and burning was set for Wednesday the 26th of October. At 9 am the trio made their way to the place of execution on the Ile de Biesse.

Gilles told his body servants to die bravely and to focus on salvation.

His request to be the first to die was also granted and at 11 am the platform was set on fire. Gilles was hanged. His body was cut down before the flames consumed his body and his remains were claimed. The bodies of the servants were burned to ashes and scattered.

Gilles' daughter Marie erected a stone memorial at the site of execution which was destroyed during the French Revolution.

Was Gilles framed?

The Duke of Brittany received his lands after he was executed. He split them among his lords. This was a man who could have protected Gilles. He was also one of King Charles's lords - who played the king and continuously switched sides during the war.

The verdict was based on testimony. But confessions in cases of witchcraft and heresy were often extracted through torture. Gilles de Rais himself confessed under torturous circumstances. The courts didn't want to hear the truth. They wanted to hear guilt.

Gilles de Rais

For more information:

TruTV

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Prep

Sunday I signed up for my very first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Every November insane people sign up to write 50,000 words (for a novel) between the first and midnight on the 30th. This year I will be one of those insane people.

I am stoked. I am nervous.

Dead center in the middle of November are my exams. Somehow I need to juggle those as well as other commitments, and still find the time to write around two thousand words a day.

Not just any two thousand words. Two thousand words towards the same manuscript. No bouncing around.

For the next few days I will be preparing myself for this. Outlines, research... I feel everything needs to be organized so that I can spend the time I have actually writing - blogging about writing and being on twitter or facebook apparently doesn't count.

Thankfully I found my desk last week and it is now in proper working condition.

I am looking to use this event as motivation to get off my lazy butt (or get on my lazy butt?) and get some serious writing done. There's an idea calling to me...

For more info on this craziness, click here

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Serial Killer....

It's Sunday.

Normally that would mean that I post about a female serial killer. (And by 'normally', I mean for the last 5 Sundays...)

Today was a busy day and I don't know how to make time. I hung out with my son instead of diving into the twisted world of sadists.

Check back next Sunday for part six.

My apologies.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I am my own Worst Enemy

These days I find myself in a productivity rut.
What this means -- for me -- is that I am producing the bare minimum (or nothing at all).

I wanted to blame exhaustion. I wanted to use the fact that I haven't replaced my desk (which fell apart at the beginning of August) and therefore I am forced to do all my work in the heart of the home -- you got it, the kitchen table. I live with kids, dogs and (jinkies!) other humans. None of the above appreciate the value of the phrase "Shhh!I'm in mid-sentence" as much as I do.

Occasionally I will allow my sister the privilege of reading what I have. I make sure that I stop in mid-sentence. It annoys her to no end. My job is thus complete.

Anyway, back to the productivity rut. Some days I just don't have the energy to rouse and take the dog running at stupid o'clock in the morning and then sit and assemble words into sentences until I leave at 7.

It is too much like work to roll out of bed before 5:15 and it is much too pathetic to go to bed before 9 at night.

So instead I get half of what I need to done between 4 and 10. Then I force myself to get up early-ish the next morning so I can drink obscene amounts of coffee and will the gap between my brain and spine to close.

And the To-Do list gets longer and longer.

With my niece's leg freshly broken, and with it being rainy season, and with the sun refusing to align with the fifth moon of Venus, I have no choice but to replace/repair my desk and move back to the confines of my self-imposed dungeon.

By this time next week I will have stood up and kicked my un-productivity in the balls. (And maybe caught up on a lot of sleep as well!)

Does anyone else struggle with procrastination?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daisy De Melker

Born near Grahamstown, South Africa, on June 1st, 1886, Daisy was child five of eleven.

In her teenage years, Daisy enrolled at the Berea Nursing Home in Durban and took holidays in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This is where she fell in love with a young civil servant in the Native Affairs Department, Bert Fuller. Their marriage was planned for the spring, then postponed until the fall so that Daisy could finish her education.

The marriage would never happen. Fuller contracted Blackwater Fever and died in the spring of 1907 - the day their wedding was originally planned.

Fuller had made sure that his affairs were in order, not one to take life and death lightly - they were in the midst of war, after all. He left his fiancee everything that he had - a 100 pound inheritence.

In March of 1909 Daisy married William Alfred (Alf) Crowle, a plumber whose body didn't agree with the local cuisine. He was thirteen years older than she. Together they had five children. Of those, only one, Rhodes Cecil (born in June of 1911), survived.

In January of 1923 Alf fell sick. He had experienced illness for most of his marriage, but this time he took a turn for the worse. Daisy called for help. The doctor, after seeing the symptoms -- Alf was foaming at the mouth, his face was blue, and his screams were agonized -- suspected that he had been poisoned with strychnine. He refused to sign the death certificate. The district surgeon conducted an autopsy and determined the cause of death to be "Brights Syndrome" which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

Daisy inherited 1795 pounds and was considered to be 'a widow of means'.

Three years later Daisy married another plumber, Robert (Bob) Sproat. Poor sickly Bob. He too, had chronic digestive upsets, much like the husband before him. A year and a half later he suffered from a violent illness - one that was similar to Alf's.

His death on November 6th, 1927, was said to be caused by arteriosclerosis and cerebral hemorrhage. No autopsy was performed.

The twice widowed Daisy - curse her bad luck - inherited 4560 pounds from Bob's will.

In January of 1931 Daisy married a widower, Sydney (Sid) Clarence De Melker - a former South African Springbok Rugby player who had taken up plumbing.

Remember Rhodes? Daisy's spoiled, obtuse, and epileptic son, had a hard time getting and keeping work. Daisy, ever the doting mother, sent flasks of coffee to work with Rhodes daily. He and his co-worker, sharing the flask one day, both took ill in March of 1932. The co-worker recovered a short time later. Rhodes, on the other hand, did not fair so well and died. The post-mortem concluded that Rhodes had died of cerebral malaria.

A few weeks before that Daisy had gone to a chemist out of town and bought arsenic under her second husband's name. She signed the poison register with her old name and address, having told the man that she needed it for a cat.

The next month Daisy's former brother-in-law reported to police that he was suspicious of all these similar deaths. They exhumed the bodies of Alf, Bob and Rhodes. Arsenic and strychnine were found in the remains of the two men. Arsenic was found in Rhodes. His co-worker went to the authorities and was tested for -- and found to have been administered -- arsenic.

A Judge found Daisy guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging for the murder of Rhodes. When asked if she had anything to say Daisy replied: "I am not guilty of poisoning my son."

She was hanged on the morning of December 30th, 1932, the second white woman to ever be hanged in South Africa.




Crime Magazine
Crime South Africa

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moment of Frustration

Apparently, so I am told, today is International Moment of Frustration Scream Day.

I think that what this means for me is that, as my day took a drastic turn for the toilet, I was allowed to scream in frustration. It is my right to do so.

I waited for the house to be empty before I attempted such a thing.

For anyone wondering - yes, it made me feel better. It didn't change a thing, but it allowed me to release some of the negative energy that I had harbored since 10:15 in the morning.

I believe that everyone needs a good screaming at least once or ten times in their lives.

Please take the time to enjoy yours now.

That is all ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Quick Recap

I spent Thanksgiving Sunday at my adolescent home participating in festivities with my family.

Somewhere in all of that it occurred to me:

I don't belong here.

Have you ever gotten the feeling that you had to have been switched at birth?

They talk weddings, pregnancies and work. I talk quadratics, Hamlet and bodies.   

They are blatant in their discussions on say, the usefulness of reproductive organs. My eye will twitch, my face will flame and I will blurt out something silly (in this case: the number of years it will take before I can identify one of them if they get tossed into a wood chipper).

My son - still the only grandchild - wants to talk armpit farts and the digestive process of well... of anything. I am happy to oblige.

This is followed with a chorus of: "Don't encourage him!" or "Your mom is being gross, E-Man!"

What happened to the days when I could sit around the table at East Side Mario's and, with the help of friends, clear the section while we chewed through all you could eat pasta dishes and discussed decomps and floaters?

*Sigh*

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Big 3-Oh

I woke up this morning the big three-oh. Yeah, I know... But we are really as only old as we feel, and I don't feel thirty.

At the onset of 2011 I chose one word as a new years resolution instead of a list of things I would never actually accomplish.

The word:

FEARLESS

The object was for this word to become an extension of who I wanted to be. I chose it not because I am a cowardly lion, but because I often find myself disabled by fear.

As New Years drew closer I started to fully grasp the meaning of the word and understand how exactly fear had crippled my life in the past. This was the perfect word for me, I knew.

I am the kind of person who writes but never submits. Fear prevents me from reaching out to others. It stops me dead in my tracks and I have panic attacks over the idea of making a phone call to someone in a customer service position. I know that's ridiculous - I will never ever meet this person who is answering my call in the Philippines. But I am completely unable to rationalize that to myself in the moment.

And so. I welcomed 2011 with the idea of being FEARLESS in the forefront of my mind.

It has now been ten months and I thought I would reflect on whether or not this worked for me (since I have been suggesting it to people and all).

Long story short:

I found my biological father, reunited with my semi-estranged family, and even invited people over to my house to be social. I have figured out what I want to do 'when I grow up' and have left my bat cave to chase that dream.

All this without worrying what other people are going to say.

If you ask my friends - who can testify that there are times when I am extremely callous and they feel like slapping me - I am not hiding behind a mask and pretending to be someone I am not. I say what I want to say, even it is not the most appropriate thing and makes me seem like a cold and heartless person. That is just me - and the me I know and love is still learning certain social skills. (I still keep a lot of thoughts to myself. I don't randomly walk around calling people idiots or anything like that. I just mean that sometimes my opinion is not the popular one.)

There are still a few months left before we ring in 2012. I already know that my resolution will be a word rather than a list.

Right now I smell the birthday cake that is baking. I am unsure if the candles will set off the fire alarm or not - probably not, I will just remove the battery ;)

Live with joy!

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Grateful List

A friend of mine, we'll call him Puck, posts daily on his Facebook page a quick, five item list of what he is grateful for when he wakes up in the morning.

Christine Kane (a mentor to women whose thoughts on combating procrastination appear here and whose blog appears here) believes in the power of grateful lists. You get up in the morning and come up with a short list of all the things you are grateful for before you roll out of bed to start your day.

I have been in using this practice for a few months and I find that the more I do it, the easier it becomes, and the less grouchy I am before my first cup of coffee (only the dogs are up when I get out of bed, so I guess it's not THAT big a deal...)

They don't have to be different from day to day, and they don't have to be thought provoking. A list for me has been along these lines:

  • The entertainment value of the Toronto Maple Leafs game the other night;
  • Having the support of friends as I prepare my life and mind for a major shift in priorities;
  • Being invited to my parent's house for Thanksgiving dinner;
  • Writing a unit test on quadratic transformations in twenty-five minutes; and
  • My mini-me and the blessing of helping him on his journeys of discovery.
I think in this day - and with the stress of the holidays right around the corner - the minute is well spent on building up and choosing the right way to start the day.

What are you grateful for?

I wish you all a happy and safe Canuck Thanksgiving!

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farewell, Unfaithful Swine

This weeks post brings us another poisoner - Vera Renczi of Romania.

Renczi has been dubbed the Black Widow. She was born in Romania approximately 1903 to a wealthy family.

In her childhood and youth she had trouble maintaining relationships with men.

The following is a chronology of her deeds:

Her first husband disappeared when their son, Lorenzo, was a year old.

Her second husband, Joseph Renczi, disappeared shortly after their marriage.

Vera had a string of lovers, all who went to visit her and then never came back. She was caught after the wife of one of her lovers insisted that the police search her home.

Authorities found thirty-five coffins in her wine cellar, containing the bodies of the missing men as well as the remains of Lorenzo, whom she had to kill when he discovered her grisly secret and tried to blackmail her for it.

The investigation revealed that her victims had been killed by being poisoned with arsenic.

Because the law did not allow for the execution of women, Vera spent the rest of her life in a maximum security prison.

What makes Vera Renzci an interesting Black Widow is that her motives were not monetary. Vera killed her victims because she was paranoid that they were unfaithful to her.

That the reason for her ultimate capture was the wife of one of her lovers taught me a valuable lesson:

Laughing out loud while coffee is in your mouth is not so good.

Moral of the story: If you are going to cheat, make sure the men who came before you are still walking. If you're going to kill someone, don't leave their corpse rotting in your basement. Doing so makes it easier for you to get caught red-handed. It is also incredibly unsanitary.

For a more dramatic version of this story, click here.

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~~
The Serial Killer Files are posted weekly, on Sundays. If there is someone you want to hear about or if you have any questions, leave a comment or e-mail me at keeleystjames@gmail.com

"Unclean" is available at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com

Saturday, October 8, 2011

When Hamlet was Alive, were there Dinosaurs?

Last night I ditched book two and left Andie propped against her crutches, again frozen in time. Instead I had a small gathering of friends. We had a few beers, a lot of really great food stuffs, and some awesome laughs.

The later it got the weirder the conversation became. We discussed Hamlet and his telling Ophelia to go to a nunnery. Is he saying go to a convent or go to a brothel? I need to re-read the scene to make my clearest choice, but I am pretty sure he is telling her to go to a brothel. He just accused her of sleeping around. Is it just me, or does anyone else see how this would not pass over well in a convent?

For some strange reason this then brought us around to STI's and whether or not they were around during the time the play was written.

I said yes.

Hamlet, written around 1601 (1599, according to some sources), came after the 1547 death of King Henry VIII. There has been much speculation as to whether or not this King had syphilis (see On the Tudor Trail for details). That could explain the remarkable change in his demeanor and the rate at which his various wives lost pregnancies.

From there we discussed what the cause of syphilis was. I won't go into much detail here. Let's just say that someone said bestiality with sheep and someone else said general uncleanliness. Well... Didn't that launch us into an even weirder conversation about the Irish Ritual of Enthronement. (I first read about it in a Diana Gabaldon book.)

Naturally, last night (after more than a single beer but less than a half dozen), I couldn't find any information to back up my claim. One of my guests laughed in disbelief and decided that I was full of something that was not beer.

I hate when that happens.

The Irish Ritual of Enthronement has been a tough thing to find actual sources for, but I didn't make it up! (Take THAT, Puck!)

As the myth goes a king would mate with a white mare which would then be turned into a communal dinner.

To find out the why, check out these links:

Jules Watson
Law Library (page 11)
Lost Civilizations

How did you spend your Friday night?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Help! I got on the Train and can't get off!

Remember this?

Well, that day I exaggerated. There wasn't four million people on the bus with me.

For the last two morning there has been, though.

Normally I would stay far away from any topic that could be considered political. I sorta follow politics, but let me be honest: I am much too self-absorbed to blog about them.

Today I am going to break my own rule and offer a comment.

Some smart cookie in our city has gotten the great idea that herding us all like cattle into tin cans on tracks is perfectly fine. Can't sit, can't breathe, can't get off at your own stop without pushing through. Politeness and decency? Thing of the past.

There is talk of increasing the price of the transit. To pay for this amazing service.

Two days in a row I have had to elbow my way out of the soda can I use to get places. Two days in a row I have come way too close to missing my stop.

Cut backs, they tell us. Write to your reps, they say.

The amazing service I mentioned a few sentences ago? Also a thing of the past.

If I disappear for a while, don't panic. I am either stuck on the subway still trying to get out at my stop, or some kind soul sneezed...

Here in Toronto we seem to take our aggression out regarding these matters on inanimate objects. Case in point:



Poor paper box. Must have had news that nobody wanted to hear. Probably about cutbacks.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maria Catherina Swanenberg

Born on September 9th, 1839, died on April 11th, 1915, Swanenberg lived in the Netherlands.

Before 1868 Swanenberg lost two young daughters. She married Johannes van der Linden on May 13th, 1868. This union was blessed with seven children (five boys, two girls) and lasted until 1886.

She earned the nickname "Goeie Mie" ("Goede Mie" in modern Dutch) by taking care of the sick.

Between 1880 and 1883 Maria poisoned approximately one hundred people with arsenic. Twenty-seven people died from the poisoning, an additional forty-five suffered from long term health problems as a result.

Her first victim was her own mother. After a while she also killed her father. 

In 1883, while she was in the process of poisoning an entire family, she was caught. Her trial began on April 23rd, 1885.

The motive for the killings was insurance policies and inheritances -- most of the policies she took out herself.

She was sentenced to life in a correctional facility and died there in 1915 at the age of 75.

From: Historici

Historici (translated)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cup of Joe

I was asked today by a friend what happened to a coffee mug that I used to bring to a class we took together.

I still have it. And I still use it.

Because she misses it so much, I thought it would be nice to take a video (it sings) and post it for her, so she can listen to it whenever the mood strikes.

I think it makes her happy, lol.

Here you are, Katie:

video

9 Simple Solutions for Procrastinators

This email arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago. I didn't read it until this morning (procrastinator) and thought: Wow! I need to share this...  So here it is, for everyone out there who puts things off (like I do ;)

(This was written by Christine Kane - there is a blurb about her at the bottom, for anyone looking for more information.)

-----------

Irony: As I started to write this article, I thought, "I'll just go play one Sudoku game first." I caught myself in the act and marched to my laptop.  People who say that procrastination is about laziness are probably the same people who think that anorexia is about not eating enough.  Procrastination isn't about laziness. It's about fear. It's about perfectionism. It's about overwhelm. We all experience it, and there are some tricks to help you get moving again.
                   
Here are 9 ways to break the procrastination habit:

1 -  When you get an idea, do some little thing to begin.
                  
When I read Stephen King's book On Writing, I noticed something.  I noticed that when Stephen King gets an idea, he writes it.  Immediately and imperfectly.
                  
Most people get an idea.  Then they sit there.  They wonder if it's a good idea.  Then, they wonder if it's a good idea some more.
                  
Got an idea? Begin it now!

2 -  All hail small chunks of time!
                  
Lots of us complain about having no time. My guess is that we all have lots of time. It just doesn't happen to be all at once.
                   
Are you waiting for many hours of spare time to begin your idea, your project, or your taxes?   Stop waiting!  Learn to use the spare half hour that comes up here and there. (I gave myself 45 minutes to write this article just to take my own advice.)

3 -  Agree to do it badly.
                  
Set a goal to do it badly. Set a goal to show up.  Let go of doing it ALL, or doing it WELL.
                   
Some of my coaching clients' biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over perfectionism and fear, than they do about getting it all done perfectly.

4 -  Commit aloud.
                                         
Call a friend and say something like this: "I'm going to spend the next half hour working on creating my new product." Then go do it.
                  
Call the friend after the half hour and make her congratulate you. Repeat daily.

5 -  Define quantities.
                   
Nebulous goals make for nebulous results. "I'm gonna get my office organized" is a lot like saying, "We oughtta do something about Global Warming."
                  
Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We think everything needs to be done NOW.
                   
When are you going to do it? For how long? Which part of your office? The file cabinet? Or your desk?
                   
Define the goal and acknowledge its completion.

6 -  Install this System Upgrade into your Mental Hard Drive: Less is More.
                                        
Have fewer goals. Have no more than three priorities for a week.
                   
Why?
                    
Because you're not lazy. You're just trying to do too much.
                   
Find out what it feels like to accomplish one thing instead of not quite getting to everything.  Wow - what a difference this makes!

7 -  Do it first.
                                          
My first coach made me write songs first thing in the morning. He told me to schedule the 2-hour chunk as my first activity upon waking.
                   
Why?
                   
"Because you're telling the universe that this is your priority. And then the universe lines up everything to align with your priority."
                  
Action grounds your priorities. It makes them real. It also makes your day easier because you're not wasting energy thinking about this thing you're supposed to be doing.

8 -  Avoid nose-bleed activities.
                                       
Email, voicemail, web stats - any activity that bleeds itself into your whole day becomes a non-activity.  It becomes a nose-bleed.
                   
When you do it all the time, you never complete it. You just let it slowly drain the very life force from you.  Define times for these activities. Then, turn off your email, your cell phone, your web stats, until that time comes.

9 -  Don't ask how you "feel" about doing the activity.
                                                              
Have you ever committed to getting fit? And then when the alarm goes off, you lie in bed thinking, "Do I really feel like going to the gym?" (Like you even have to ask!)
                  
Change this pattern. Make your decision the night before. Commit to getting up and going right to the gym, the computer, the blank canvas. Don't have coffee and sigh and think, "I'll probably feel more like it at lunch time." You won't!
                   
If it's a priority, don't waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it. Feelings are an easy out.
                  
--------------
                   
There. I did it. I wrote this article. And now, I don't even want to play Sudoku! How about that?


--------------
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christine Kane is the Mentor to Women Who are Changing the World.  She helps women uplevel their lives, their businesses and their success.  Her weekly LiveCreative eZine goes out to over 20,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://christinekane.com.

 TO SEE HUNDREDS MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS ONE?
                      See Christine's blog  at ChristineKane.com/blog.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Minnie Dean

Also known as Williamina Dean and "The Winton Baby-Farmer".

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1847, Minnie Dean moved to Southland, New Zealand, in 1868.

From: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/minnie-dean

In 1872 she married Charles Dean. Fourteen years later, in 1886, they moved to a twenty-two acre ranch called "The Larches".

Shortly after the estate was destroyed by fire. A small house (22 by 12) was built. Minnie opened up a baby farm, a place where mothers could drop off their illegitimate children, no questions asked. The babies were cared for until an adoptive family could be found.

That was the pretense, at least.

In October of 1889 Minnie Dean was brought to the attention of the police after a six month old died in her care. In May of 1891a six week old girl also died. The causes of both were found to be natural; one of convulsions after taking ill, the second of inflammation of the heart valves and lung congestion. Infant mortality rates were high all around, and children often died of natural causes.

The investigation also found that she had tried, without success, to take out life insurance policies on several of the children.

In 1892 Dean was again under suspicion. Police in Christchurch apprehended a three week old that Dean had acquired from the mother for twenty-five pounds. They found her in a ramshackle boarding house feeding the infant curdled milk from a bottle.

In May of 1895 she was again brought under scrutiny -- this time for boarding a train with an infant and detraining without one.

Police searched her property and found the remains of two infants buried in the flower garden. They were both identified as babies two grandmothers had relinquished into Deans custody. Findings showed that one had died from an overdose of the opiate laudanum.

The skeletal remains of an older boy were later found.

The theory was that she had killed one infant on the train and placed her body into a hatbox. She then went and received the second infant, killed her, and wrapped her into a parcel. She left the train carrying both concealed bodies.

Minnie Deans trial began on the 18th of June, 1895. She was sentenced to death by hanging. On the 12th of August, 1895, Minnie Dean was brought to the gallows. She maintained her innocence.


From: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/execution-of-minnie-dean

She also became the only woman to ever be legally hanged in the country.

The story of Minnie Dean has since become somewhat legendary, with mothers threatening their poorly behaved children that if they didn't stop she would send them to Minnie Dean's house where they would never be heard from again.

For more information:
Crime New Zealand
New Zealand History

Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 Things I learned Today

This afternoon I had the pleasure of chatting with a very interesting individual I met at school last year. (A friend introduced us. Sorta. He is as bad with names as I am with social skills, I think.)

We have spent quite a bit of time talking about future plans, annoying subjects (and people), and - of course, because we are both female - our track record with men. (I won't go into that topic here, it is best saved for a night at the bar with some ice cold beer...)

Janice (she said I could call her anything, as long as it wasn't "HeyYouWithTheFace") taught me a lot about myself in the half hour or so that we were riding in the germ factory on tracks.

Lessons I Learned Today:

1. I am wonderful - in small doses. And only if you know me. Otherwise I seem like a cold-hearted and callous something or other.

2. Janice really hates graphic descriptions/depictions of bodily torment - or really, anything to do with the body period - and I am absolutely fascinated by them to the point I think I could have made her faint when demonstrating how valves in your wrist open and close.

3. Item number 2 will not prevent me from trying to show her again. (This is really not something that I learned today, per say, but it was something I had forgotten about until I tried it again...)

4. The idea of eyeball harvesting (a very integral part of my book) does not gross me out nearly as much now as it did when I first wrote about it.

5. Sometimes (more often than not), I don't think through what I am trying to say before I blurt it out stupidly in front of a table full of my peers. Very uncomfortable lesson here: shut up and learn to articulate your point. Duh.

6. (This is the bonus because 3 doesn't *really* count) I have learned that no matter what I have been through, I am not alone. I am not the first person to have been there. I will not be the last. Someone is always in more pain - which doesn't make mine invalid.  Today I learned that no matter where I am in the grieving process, there are always friends available to talk it out with me.

All that now filed away in my memory stores, I am hoping to learn from these lessons (or at the very least, make it seem like I have).

Question: Do you feel that it is important to discover at least one new thing about yourself daily, or are you satisfied with who you are?

**Update: Forgot to mention: Janice is in the health care field... Nope, I don't get it either, lol.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Leonarda Cianciulli

Also known as the "Soap Maker of Correggio"

Italy --  1893 - October 15th 1970

Leonarda Cianciulli - From the Italy Wiki

Leonarda married Raffaele Pansardi in 1914. She had 17 pregnancies; 3 miscarried, 10 of the children died at young ages and the remaining 4 she was compelled to protect, since she had had her fortune told by a gypsy who warned her that all her children would die.

In 1939 her oldest son, Giuseppe, joined the army. In order to keep him alive, Leonarda started doing what she thought best: making human sacrifices.

The woman had three female friends, all lonely and who had asked her at some point or another to help them. They wished to escape from the grinding life that Correggio offered.

The oldest woman was Faustina Setti. She was promised a husband in Pola and told to keep it a secret. Leonarda had her write postcards and letters before she left telling friends and family that all was well. She was instructed to mail them on arrival in Pola. And then, before even getting a chance to leave, Leonarda killed her with an axe, cut her body into nine pieces, and gathered her blood into a basin.

Her body was dissolved in caustic soda and dumped into a septic tank. Her blood was used to make tea cakes, which Leonarda served visitors, as well as fed to Giuseppe.

Francesca Soavi was promised a job at an all girls school in Piacenza in the same way that Faustini had been. She was to keep it under wraps, write the postcards, mail them when she arrived. On September 5th 1939 she went to bid her friend and rescuer farewell. Leonarda killed her and sacrificed her.

Virginia Cacioppo had been an opera singer in her past. At 53, she was reduced to living an impoverished life in Correggio. Leonarda promised her a job in Florence and the woman accepted, under the terms that she could not tell a soul. On 30th September 1939, she too, ended up a sacrifice.

Leonarda turned her body into bar soap, which she gifted to neighbors and acquaintances. She also said, after her capture, that her friend had been much sweeter in the cakes than the others.

Virginia had a sister-in-law, who became suspicious of her disappearance. She had last been seen going into Leonarda's house. The sister-in-law went to the police with this information.

The murderess, when questioned, immediately admitted to the murders. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 3 years in a criminal asylum. She died in Puzzuoli, in the women's asylum, in 1970, struck down by cerebal apoplexy.

For more information:

Criminology Museum
The Italy Wiki

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Waffle-ing

I was sitting on the floor in the hallway a few hours ago, discussing a series of very random topics (math, 'Skinny Bastard' - the book by the authors of 'Skinny Bitches', vegan-isms, to name a few), when the weirdest thing I have seen in quite some time happened:

The fellow next to me reached into the pocket of his cargo pants, pulled out a blueberry waffle, said: "Yes! Breakfast! I forgot that was in there", and proceeded to eat it; lint and all.

There was no Ziploc bag, no Rubbermaid container, no paper towel protecting this poor lonely waffle from the unknown depths of said pocket. Just a hand reaching in, snatching it from the dark recesses, and then biting into it, sending it to a second dark and scary recess, where it would be reunited, eventually. In pieces. With teeth marks.

Waffle abuse, at it's most nefarious.

I am appalled. I need to go drown my sorrows in some waffles. Not from a pocket.

On the Bus

715 Monday morning and it was a cool 17 Celsius. I got on the bus. The probability that cramming so many people into one tin can on wheels could ever be safe is remotely slim. I should have waited, but I had left later than usual and needed to be places. On time. And looking half decent.

The bus could fit three more people before we all were standing on top of one another. So we took on another dozen.

Granted -- so early in the morning most people (myself included) seem to have a gap between their brain and spine. The buses in Toronto are one and a half levels. For whatever reason, no one wants to sit in the back upper half of the bus.

The driver kept telling us to move back. I can't. My bag is already on my feet, which are on someone else's feet.

The bus is  a lot hotter than it needs to be. There's fifty more people than seats -- can we not open the windows?

Apparently not. I wipe the sweat off my face, which only clears the area for more sweat. I can feel it trickle down my back. Really? I think. My clothes are going to be stank by the time I get off the bus.

I am neither a claustrophobe nor a germaphobe. But I think back to SARS (for which I was in beautiful, germ-free Nova Scotia). I think back to H1N1 (for which I was in lovely Canton, Ohio). Toronto has some four-ish million people. All of whom are on the bus with me. No wonder the outbreaks hit the city.

And of course, I am considering what all these microscopic germs look like, being sucked into my lungs. Floating into my bloodstream as though invited. Latching on to -- and attacking -- all of my defective cells (of which there are plenty; I do, after all, talk to people I claim live in my head).

So my mind is going like an out of control train barreling towards the end of the tracks.

And then I hear it.

Someone...

..Sneezes...

Someone, big or small, had just signed my death warrant, voices and all. 

That MEANIE!

By now I am positive that I should be doing one of 4 things:

1. Stealing the face mask from the paranoid guy in his thirties a few seats down,

b. Looking around for the culprit to join in on the lynch,

3. Hyperventilating (which will only serve to speed the process of invasion along, so that gets ruled out), or

d. REMAIN CALM and wait for my stop. Then go home and bleach my entire person, inside and out.

I begrudgingly choose the first half of option d.

Begrudgingly. Because obviously I want to participate in face mask stealery. And I want to experience being in a lynch mob. (Hands on history, anyone?)

Needless to say, I get off at the subway station and continue with my day. No criminal activities to report, thanks ;)

ENDNOTE: I have since realized I look just as paranoid as Mr. Face-Mask since I posted about going to the doctors Monday night. I am not. It was a scheduled thing that had nothing whatsoever to do with viral outbreaks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Excuse me, Sir, But...

You're coughing in my face...

The idea of going into a germ infested office and then waiting with at least a dozen sick people for two hours so I can see the doctor about something that isn't contagious makes me break into a cold sweat.

The evening was spent doing just that. Sitting in the waiting room while the guy across from me hacked his lungs out without covering his mouth. The aisle is narrow. Coughing without a cover means he is coughing all over my healthy person.

My person now needs to be dunked into a vat of sanitizer. Or Clorox. First one and then the other?

So not cool, dude. We are living in the age of SARS, H1N1 and other stuff. Did the cold latch onto your brain cells and suck the common sense out of them? I for one do NOT want that to happen to me. Keep your germs to yourself!

Anyway... My rant for the day is done, mainly because I am exhausted and need to take my dog for a good walk.

What is your pet peeve?

Live with joy  ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Countess Erzsebet Bathory

Also known as Elizabeth Bathory and "The Blood Countess"

Hungary - 1560 - 1614

Elizabeth was born into a wealthy family from Transylvania in 1560.  Her uncle was Istvan (Stephen) -- the king of Poland.  Another uncle, Andras -- a Catholic cardinal.  A cousin, Thurzo -- Prime Minister.

She received a full education and in modern society would have been considered a tom-boy.

She was raised a Calvinist, despite her extended family's religious affiliations.

The Countess. Photo from www.gothicmars.com


It was not uncommon for royalty to breed amongst themselves. As such, mental instability may have run in the family. As a child, it is known that she suffered from seizures and fits of rage. In later years she described eye and head pain that caused problems. It is thought that her father also suffered from similar symptoms.

In 1671, at the age of 11, young Elizabeth was already engaged to 16 year old Count Ferenc Nadasdy de Nadasd et Fogarasfold.  He would eventually become known as Hungary's "Black Hero" for his participation in battle. They had five children together -- the oldest 3 female, the youngest 2 male. The first son, Andras,died young (1596 to 1603).

In 1604 the Count died, leaving his wife to her own devices.

In between 1604 and 1610, Elizabeth committed such atrocities that to this day she is still considered to be one of the cruelest monsters in history.

With a small and close-knit entourage -- which included 4 women and 1 male -- the Countess wreaked havoc on the small surrounding towns and villages.  She was bloodthirsty, it was later said.  Her small contingent of friends collectively tortured and killed dozens of girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

The law caught up with her on December 29th 1610, in her castle.

The eye witness accounts suggest that the castle was littered with dead and dying girls -- most, if not all, of whom had been tortured in ways that even had the courts appalled, when it was recounted during the trial. (This is significant, since it was common practice for royalty to torture their servants.)

Her friends - the five who had participated in such heinous crimes alongside their mistress - were sentenced to death and faced the same torturous treatment that they had inflicted upon the girls: Their fingers were torn off; they were burned, stabbed, bitten, forced to tear off strips of their own flesh. Testimony at the trial indicated that even when the Countess was bedridden, she still managed to inflict pain ad suffering onto her victims with her fists and teeth. In some accounts it is said that she bit at least one girl to death.

In order to prosecute the Countess, a special statute was needed to strip her of her royal immunity. A second would be needed to execute her -- as king Mathias wanted. Her uncle, the Prime Minister, stepped in on her behalf, suggesting that she was insane and simply did not realize what she was doing.

Elizabeth was convicted of 80 counts of murder. In the second part of the trial a small journal was submitted as evidence. The journal was in the Countess's handwriting, and gave names and small details for more than 650 females. It could not be proven whether or not she had killed that many.

She was imprisoned for life in a tower in her castle. The entrances and windows were sealed with the exception of small slots to allow food and air. Parliament ordered  that her name was never to be spoken again in polite society.

The Countess died in her tower in the early hours between Sunday August 21st and Monday August 22nd 1614, after only 3.5 years imprisonment.

As far as the Countess lore goes -- it is said that she began her spree over blood. One day she struck a servant. The servant began to bleed. When the Countess -- a very beautiful woman -- washed it off her face, she noticed that the spots where the blood had been looked so much more youthful than elsewhere. That she bathed in the blood of virgins to protect her vitality is unsubstantitated.  Her files were sealed for more than one hundred years before anyone could access them. After that, the person who pieced the story together was a priest.

For more:

Countess Elizabeth Bathory - TruTV
Elizabeth Bathory  (There is a disclaimer on this site about the factual errors it contains.)
Infamous Lady

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jack the Ripper

I did not get my word count done yesterday.

Instead, I struggled through a math session that had me thinking that my brain has turned into primordial ooze over the summer. Add to that the enormous gap between my brain and my spine. Now we're talking.

The intention was there, really.

What I did instead was probably more painful. I stood in line ups for an hour and a half. Not for something interesting like concert tickets, either. Nay, I stood in the formidable lines so I could sit in class rooms and learn about grammar and quadratic equations. Who is super cool now?

In an odd twist of fate I also communicated with real people who were still breathing. Bet you didn't see that coming. Me either.

But enough about that...

I came across an article on Jack the Ripper yesterday, that I found interesting. And by "I found", what I ultimately mean is that Kathy Reichs posted it on Twitter and I happened to click it and find it interesting. I love reading about Jack. Morbid fascination, I suppose.

It has now been over 123 years since Jack hunted (and haunted). New evidence is suggesting that the Ripper may not have actually killed all five of those women.

The identity of Jack has always eluded law enforcement, specialists and Ripperologists alike. Now, modern technology is allowing us to get closer and closer to putting a face on the killer and putting the case to rest for good.

Once that happens, my curiosity may finally be satiated.

And now... Back to quadratics...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bribery. It Gets You Everywhere.

Years ago, when my son hadn't figured out the finer nuances of the English language (Read: still too small to talk), I had a marathon writing session for "Unclean". Start to finish - three weeks.

Towards the end of the manuscript, I was honestly bored with being in a closet and doing nothing but drinking coffee and writing, so I bribed myself.

I had really wanted to see "Mona Lisa Smile" and said to myself: "Self, how about we strike a deal? We finish the manuscript, and then we watch the movie." Thankfully I agreed with myself, and so it was settled.

Tossing the pen down at the end of the story left me with a great feeling of accomplishment, and I scurried out to the real world (AKA the living room) to treat myself to the movie that I had been waiting to see.

While good, it was NOT all that I expected.

Myself said, and I agreed, that we would never speak of the experience again.

So here we are, several years later, embarking on Book Two, in much the same fashion. This time we are using another Julia Roberts film as bribery (Eat Pray Love), but instead of traipsing blindly where neither of us have ever been, self and I watched most of it before we made our decision.

Unfortunately, there won't be a three week marathon session as there are too many other things I have to do -- like play video games and/or discuss them with my son, who is now eight and old enough to tell me that he thinks the dog is a pain in the rear, or that blah blah blah (insert something about Pokemon here).

Fortunately, I have learned enough about myself to know that I write best in the middle of the night when the house is creepily quiet, so I can see a lot of coffee being consumed over the next little while.

Now, time for a refill.


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Thursday, September 8, 2011

There's Something in the Wall...

Last night I had a delightful encounter with my bed, pillow and blanket. The window was open, which, after a summer of heat advisories, no air conditioning and a fan with a mind of it's own, was so relaxing.

And then I heard the scratching on the wall.

At first I tried to ignore it. I was tired and comfortable. I wanted to sleep, not to go hunt for whatever was annoying me.

I thought it could have been something on my desk too close to the wall. It was a little windy. Maybe it was papers brushing and the sound was just magnified times a million. 

So of course, getting irritated, I hopped up, moved the items in question, and went back to bed.

You know that state of rest when you are half asleep yest still awake enough to process ANNOYING NOISES THAT KEEP YOU UP? Yeah, I'm familiar with that too.

I have a habit of freaking myself out over things that go bump in the night when I am in that state. And I have been writing Book Two. People drop dead. I had left my characters in the morgue doing their thing when I went to bed. Such a bad idea. I keep telling myself I'm going to stop doing that. I tell myself that I am going to read a book for the hour leading up to bedtime and leave someone elses characters in the morgue doing their thing.

That is yet to happen.

Anyway, the scratching continued and my mind was in over drive. Mice? We have a cat who keeps those out. Giant spiders? I think the dog would take an issue. A banshee? We're so not in Ireland. Probably a killer outside scratching at the window, trying to draw me outside. I'm on the third floor. In daylight that seems highly unlikely. In semi-sleep mode, however...

So what do I do? I get up, change so I look presentable when I meet my untimely demise, and go to investigate. (Yup - I am one of the idiots in a horror flick that I yell at for doing something just as stupid.)

I wonder if I should get a flashlight and if my teeth are clean enough. Should I stop and brush them on the way?

All this and I never made it outside. The dog was on my sons bed in the room right next to mine and in her sleep she was running. Her nails were scraping along the walls.

I moved her over and rubbed her head, then went back to bed, stopping to brush my teeth again.

Let's never speak of this again.