News and Info

The Times Picayune's Book editor Susan Larson has written an article on Fall 2008 books by Louisiana authors. You can see it here.

Also, local author Chere' Coen has recently launched a new website for readers and writers called Louisiana Book News. Very cool to have a place where you can find local author appearances and signings, reviews, and general goings-on in the reading and writing community. Chere' also writes a book column here on Sundays in our local newspaper.

Finally, the State Library of Louisiana has an interesting site worth checking out, The Center for the Book. Here you'll find a searchable database of Louisiana authors, information on a couple of writing contests, as well as info pertaining to local book festivals. Good resource - check it out.

Off to the Friends of the Lafayette Parish Library Used Book Sale today. Hurricane Humberto is knocking on my front door, but who cares when there are yummy books to peruse and buy. :)

13 September 2007

The Graveyard Road, Pt. II

Photo - Paul Devereaux from the Fortean Times

Related to my previous post about The Graveyard Road in my hometown, I've been doing some research lately on the lore of the Coffin Road, sometimes referred to as a Corpse Road or Lych Way. They were medieval creations in Europe, primarily the UK from what I can gather, and although they started out as political tools, have all sorts of interesting myths surrounding their creation and use.

In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church reigned supreme in Europe. Individual parish churches were numerous - sometimes too numerous for the populations in their immediate vicinity. In order to guarantee a bit of revenue from funeral and burial fees, they asked for and received permission to require residents of certain areas to use a specific church for the burial of their dead. Sometimes families had to transport their loved ones several miles in order to reach the cemetery where they had to be buried. In order to facilitate this transport, paths and small lanes were constructed, leading from various villages and settlements to the graveyards they had been assigned. Some even had large "coffin stones" carved on which to occasionally rest Grampa or Uncle Joe, as carrying a full coffin for several miles over sometimes rough terrain could be pretty tiring.

As you can imagine, lots of stories, traditions and folklore sprang up around these highways of the dead. People in those times had no scientific explanations for the odd lights that showed up occasionally in fields at night, or why little Susie came down with a mysterious illness no one could explain or cure. People really, really believed in curses and ghosts, and took them very seriously. Care was taken to keep the spirits of the dead in their place, as fear of revenants was common. Many times coffin roads passed over streams, for example, because it was commonly believed that spirits could not pass over running water. Another trick was to transport the dead to the cemetery with their feet pointing away from home, in the hopes that when and if they walked, they would do so in the opposite direction from which they came.

A traditional English Lychgate (entrance to cemetery)
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Interestingly, the idea of spirit roads was not a new thing, even in the Middle Ages. In Celtic Europe, "fairy roads", which always traveled (in theory) in straight lines, criss-crossed the countryside and were the reserved travel ways of the fey. People took great care not to build structures across them, or block them in any way with fences or hedges. Violation would incur the wrath of the supernatural - hauntings, poltergeist activity, and mysterious illnesses.

Related to all of this is the folklore surrounding crossroads, which by tradition are places where not only roads, but worlds, intersect. The Devil is said to keep watch at crossroads, a myth manifested in America by the legend of Robert Johnson, who sold his soul in Mississippi at a crossroads at midnight in exchange for the ability to play and sing the Blues. Suicides and criminals were often buried at crossroads to keep them from roaming and seeking solace with the living. One famous example in Britain is Tyburn, the traditional spot for hangings in London for centuries. It was located at the crossroads of two ancient Roman roads.

Sadly, many of the old Coffin Roads have fallen into disuse and neglect. Most people don't know the origin of these strange, overgrown tracks and pathways that lead through the countryside. The dead have to find their own way these days, picking among the ghosts of their former highways and byways. I like to imagine, however, that in time they find their destination anyhow.

"Where The Ley Lines Led" from The Fortean Times
Wikipedia articles on Coffin Roads, Lych Gates, and Tyburn, London

12 September 2007

Insanity it seems...

Click to enlarge:

A New Forum

(Authors Note: I'm posting this here, and also as the initial article on the new blog, in order to direct traffic. I'll be posting my first article on the new blog soon.)

Even after I wrote about my political posting, I wasn't happy about the state of my blog. What is it about? Writing? Politics? I am well aware that art and political discourse don't play well together. Hell, they don't even look good sitting on the same bench. Therefore after some thought I decided to break things up into separate entities.

The Persistence of Vision will continue to be about the things that prompted its origin - art, writing, folklore, magic and other interesting tidbits. The Paradox of Vision will be my activist voice - reserved for the constant struggle I feel as a citizen of the United States in 2007. There are days when I read the news and it is filled with things I don't want to see, things which outrage me and cause me to question the future of our nation. Other times I look around and see people and ideas that make me proud to be an American. It is open to any topic under the political umbrella - from the latest despotic labors of Mr. Bush and his cronies to rampant Republican hypocrisy, Louisiana politics and candidates and citizens that I admire and support. I know there are tons of political blogs out there supporting both sides of the aisle, but I don't care. I am a citizen, and a voter. My voice is important, even if it is drowned out in the crowd. I won't hide my eyes to what is going on around me. Democracy cannot die as long as there are informed voices that demand truth and justice.

I'll also be welcoming the LOML as a co-author and occasional ranter-in-residence. His screen name is El Prez, and he'll be offering his own take on free speech issues, legislation affecting electronic freedoms, and occasionally, opinions which are totally at odds with my own. But hey, I welcome discourse. It's what America is all about.

The Graveyard Road

When I was a little girl in rural (very rural) Louisiana, we lived in a tiny neighborhood close to the crossing of what is called there "the backroads". Generally, people got around on the main highway of the area, US 165, which runs north to south through the western edge of the state. The backroads were a collection of paved and unpaved ways that led between all of the same towns as 165, but were small, narrow, and cut through the deepest parts of the woods. They didn't lead triumphantly into the little towns, with cute little flower gardens kept up by the ladies' auxiliary and "Welcome to..." signs posted, but instead crept surreptitiously into neighborhoods only the locals knew. One of these roads, within walking distance of my house, was called the Graveyard Road. I think it had an official name of some family or other, but the Graveyard Road is what everyone called it. It was short, more of a lane, really, less than a quarter mile long, and it dead-ended in our tiny community cemetery. When we were bored in the summertime we used to take walks down there, picking blackberries that grew on the fences alongside and swatting mosquitos. When we got to the graveyard we'd wander among the tombs and crypts, speculating about how the people there had died. Trees grew thick and heavy along its length, keeping the little street shrouded in quiet darkness even on the brightest of days. Everything down that road was laced with mystery. It didn't seem like a serene resting ground for loved ones. It just seemed spooky. My grandfather is buried there. So is my mother.

As I have been working along on a pile of stories lately, one thing has become clear to me - that a large number of them share a common theme - the supernatural. I have a couple of ghost stories, a Louisiana swamp werewolf, and the usual odd assortment of various creepies. I've decided then, to bind them up as a collection when I am done, and to try to sell them as a book instead of individually. The title? The Graveyard Road.

11 September 2007

Vote Cthulhu 2008!

10 September 2007

The Usual Suspects

You know I am absolutely fascinated by how the Bush Administration struts around and boasts about making the world safer since 9/11, when the actual perpetrator is still out there, making new videos and (I have to believe) laughing his ass off. Bush and his pals managed to turn what should have been an international criminal investigation into a pointless, expensive war that has so far managed to kill more Americans than the actual attack itself. It galls me to see these videos surface, and then to hear a Bush spokesperson claim that bin Laden is "virtually impotent". Excuse me? This man killed 2,973 people on American soil. Sorry, Mr. President, but that doesn't sound impotent to me.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, who, along with Bush, has made a virtual career of profiting off the misery of the victims of 9/11, especially the brave first responders who lost their lives that day, is caught telling a big, fat, boldfaced lie on television. Check out the video at "The Real Rudy", a new project that strives to let the world know there is more to "America's Mayor" than a few slick and well-played television appearances.

Also, for those of you who watched the video I posted a couple of weeks ago concerning the genocide in Darfur, but don't quite understand why the hell all that misery is going on, here is a quick explanation.

Finally, I found this great cartoon from Harper's which sums up the Democrats in Congress very well:

Could it be...could it be...a backbone?

Goodbye, Ms. L'Engle, You'll Be Missed

Very sad last night to hear of the passing of Madeleine L'Engle. She has always held a very special place in this reader's heart, as her book, A Wrinkle in Time, was the first sci-fi/fantasy-type book I ever read, and she literally opened up a new world to me that I had no idea existed. I was a skinny little girl from the back woods of Louisiana, and as you can imagine there wasn't a lot of Asimov or Bradbury on our library shelves. One day, however, my teacher offered up as a prize in a math quiz a little paperback she'd gotten as a class bonus from Scholastic. It had a picture of a centaur on the front, and when my turn came to choose a prize from the box, I picked up that book, intrigued. When I started reading it I was astonished and delighted, but most of all, I felt like Meg and Charles Wallace lived in a world that I knew, a world where you were considered "weird" if you were smart and slightly isolated from everyone else. In Meg and Charles Wallace, I found my long lost sister and brother.

In the obituaries I've read about Ms. L'Engle, she is always described as a Christian author, which I suppose she was, but I never felt her work to be preachy. She conveyed her vision of Christianity as a fundamental battle of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, rather than dogma. Even now, when my own faith has faded and drifted away, I can read her books and agree with much she had to say. She was the best kind of teacher. Shine on, Meg.

08 September 2007

To Stand or Kneel

I opened this blog up to different topics earlier in the summer mainly so that I could go off on tangents concerning subjects I found interesting, subjects which in one way or another have influenced my stories. By that I meant some of the few things left in the world which still have an air of mystery about them - things that could conceivably, if we squint our eyes and promise not to overanalyze, exist because of a bit of magic.

Instead it seems I have been posting a lot lately about politics. In fact, almost exclusively so since I re-launched. This has come about as a direct result of where my attention has been focused in the last few weeks, as I have been finding it very hard to search for bits of magic in the midst of what seems like the darkest days of American politics. I am genuinely concerned about what kind of world my children will inherit - not in the 'high school valedictorian/Miss America speech' sort of way. No. I mean, I really am concerned that there will be no more America, that my kids or their kids could actually live in a United States which no longer exists as a democracy.

Every day I read things which alarm the hell out of me. Every day part of me wants to stop paying so much attention, stop writing letters to the newspaper, stop blogging about it or endlessly aggravating anyone who will listen about the state of my country. Bear in mind, now, that I live in the heart of an almost purely Red state. It's hard to find anyone here who takes Progressive politics seriously. Most people I know despise the ACLU, think global warming is an elaborate liberal hoax, and believe that we should legislate against gay marriage. If it weren't for the sympathetic ear of the LOML to listen to my almost daily rampages, I don't know what I'd do.

In any case, I do have other interests. I do still believe that magic exists in small pockets here and there, and it does influence what I write about and how I see the world. I promise that my posts will be more varied in the future, but I can't promise that I'll leave politics completely out of it. One day, when all of this shit is over and done with, I want to be able to look my children in the eye and tell them that when I was challenged and times were dark, I stood up instead of knelt down. I owe it to them.

06 September 2007

You Will Not Deny Our Future

Powerful message from Greenpeace on global warming:

05 September 2007

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