December 16, 2011
It's that time again! Doing a giveaway of a signed copy of Bloody Claws. To enter the drawing, leave a comment (with your name) about your favorite character (from the Rosso Lussuria Vampire Novels or the Kassandra Lyall series)!
A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday.
Cheers and good luck!
December 13, 2011
I should be working more on the book but I’m finding myself highly distracted this evening. Or rather, I should say, this morning. I was reading through some old books last night and I got to thinking about femininity and what it means for a person or thing to be feminine. In the book I flipped through, the author kept making references about woman being nurturing, gentle, and inherently submissive. The aspects brought up were of qualities thought to be feminine and solely feminine; sweet, demure, naïve… Over and over, the theme repeated itself. Granted, it’s an old book…a book written when that line of thinking wasn’t uncommon. But it struck me as odd that the image seemingly clung to was, dare I say, almost demeaning to a woman’s beautiful inner strength.
I could never fully agree that the epitome of femininity is always soft, gentle, and that at its core it wants nothing more than to be bent or swayed by a stronger force. I don’t know many women that would. We’re more than an image and full of complexities, women and men alike. This idea of woman as something sweet and mild doesn’t sit well, it seems old-fashioned and obsolete. Sure, for some people it makes a cute picture. But cute is girlish and not necessarily womanly. And something opposite of that doesn’t make a thing less feminine. It’s just another aspect of it.
Fueled by this interesting and somewhat intriguing internal debate I had going with myself, I remembered something that had happened several years ago to me. I remembered some of the conversations I’d had with fellow pagans in the past. I’ve heard differing views from so many different pagans when it comes to sexuality. I’ve heard, “Complete homosexuality is unbalanced. You’re not honoring the Goddess AND God,” (Right, because in order to do that I have to do it through a purely physical act with someone of the opposite gender – I can’t just honor BOTH my own feminine and masculine qualities and honor them that way). I’ve also heard, “Perhaps you were a man in a past life,” or, “Maybe you were assaulted in a past life and that’s put you off men.”
I’ve heard and read so many varying things. There are those that think that homosexuality is something that comes into play when a soul is transitioning from female to male or male to female in the next life and that homosexuality is, essentially, practice for the next round.
I have no idea who scraped up that idea, but If I come back in the next life with a phallus, whoever runs this bitch and I are going to be having a serious talk -- I like the option of purchasing one, but it’s totally a non-committal sort of thing, thanks! (I had to throw a little lesbian humor in here somewhere, didn’t I?)
Some aspects of Buddhism also believe that homosexuality arises due to heterosexual indiscretions in a past life. If that’s the case, I’m assuming most of the people in this modern day and age will be coming back gay. Hah! And you were waiting for the apocalypse, weren’tcha!? (Why yes, I did just sprinkle that with sarcasm).
It seems people constantly need to find an answer (and sometimes any answer) to the question: “Why?”
A huge part of what makes us who we are is what we like and dislike. Yet, sometimes we have reasons for those likes and dislikes and other times, we don’t. There are times when it just is what it is, we feel what we feel, and we can’t pinpoint an exact reason or answer to, “Why?” I could tell you why I don’t like the things I dislike and I could tell you what I like about being a lesbian…(and no, it’s not the synchronized PMSing)…but does it always need to be picked apart to be understood? If you tear off the petals of a rose, don’t you risk losing sight of its whole?
Case in point -- let’s switch back to a conversation that started up at a pagan gathering and how I somehow found my sexuality the center of discussion.
One of the women in the group said to another, “I think she has masculine energy.” Yes, she was talking about me. I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself. I didn’t even know how to respond to that, as I’m obviously a woman and a feminine one at that. Though, I do believe we’re all a blend of feminine and masculine qualities. I just didn’t comprehend how this woman was pegging me as masculine.
Until I realized that because I’m gay, she made the assumption that my “energy,” was masculine.
Another woman at the table caught it too and said, “I think you’re confusing that just because she’s gay. She’s not masculine. She’s strongly feminine.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, they clicked rightly into place. Strongly feminine, I loved it! It put feminine and masculine into a whole new perspective for me. It built the feminine up to its strength, its potential, without tearing it down or making it something completely masculine.
Femininity and masculinity have their own particular flavors within an individual, I think. I don’t think either should be belittled and discredited. Just because a woman’s gay or she’s not always softly feminine, doesn’t make her any less feminine. That, to me, seems to discredit all the varying aspects of the feminine.
History and mythology are speckled with them, with a woman’s ability to have a sharp wit and her own particular brand of strength. Sometimes that strength is cunning, cutting and wise. Sometimes, it’s armored and willing to fight alongside men. Sometimes, it’s that softness and subtlety that leads men to war or the honeyed song that leads sailors to their demise. Sometimes, it’s self-sacrificing and compassionate, it’s nurturing and understanding. And sometimes, it’s fierce and unyielding, and a little rough around the edges.
When it comes down to it, it’s all woman. It’s all a part of the feminine.
In the words of Ani-fucking-Difranco, “I am thirty-two flavors and then some.”
July 26, 2011
Over the course of the next few blog posts -- that's what you can expect. Hopefully, you'll enjoy learning about these fabulous people, their talents and creations, and hearing about their stories and experiences as much as I do.
I should note: I have decided to title this section to set it apart from my other blog posts. I've taken my wife's advice and gone with, "Artist to Artist." (Apparently, "Brains Worth Picking," really wasn't as cool as I thought it was).
With that said, I'll get on topic...
I first heard Inkubus Sukkubus about ten years ago. Of course, for this article, I started thinking about how I heard of them. I'm a bit foggy on that one...but I do believe I literally stumbled across the lyrics for their song, 'Heart of Lilith.' Once I read the lyrics, I had to hear their music. I was not disappointed. In fact, it's pretty safe to say I was instantly hooked. Candia has a marvelous voice and Tony's a wonderful guitarist (as well as a very talented artist). They make a great team and create music that's thought-provoking, intelligent, enchanting, seductive, spiritual, passionate, daring, and well...I'll let you decide the rest. *Grin.*
If you'd like to take a listen to their music (which I highly recommend), you can do so here: Inkubus Sukkubus - Listen and don't forget to check out the band's official Facebook page! Many thanks to Candia for taking the time to do this and for bravely subjecting herself to my (sometimes completely random) line of questioning. (But that's the spice o' life, isn't it?)
Though, perhaps I should start working on a disclaimer: No artists were harmed in the making of this interview...
Anyhow, onto the interview! Enjoy!
You can never quite plan how these things are going to turn out, can you? I was already a practising witch when I met Tony and was already singing, but it was only when I met Tony at college that everything ‘clicked’ - musically, spiritually and ‘other’ wise…
When Inkubus Sukkubus formed, Tony had previous experience in an alternate band. Did you have any previous musical experience? How did everything pull together?
I had previously been taking classical singing lessons (I had delusions of being a mezzo-soprano punk blues singer!) and had tried to get a band off the ground but failed miserably. When I met Tony he was thinking about starting a new band and someone mentioned to him that I sang, so he invited me back to his flat after college one day and I sang for him. We also got talking about our shared interest in witchcraft, magick and paganism, and the spark between us was palpable.
We’ve been married now for 21 years – with the inevitable rough patches, naturally, but that’s a fair old stretch and, as Tony says, you don’t get that for murder, do you?
The band’s title was at first Incubus Succubus, correct? When did you (and when I say you, I mean you, Tony, etc), decide to shake things up and change it to Inkubus Sukkubus?
Ah, now that was fairly early on in the band’s existence… well, I think it was around ’95/’96 actually. It may sound flaky (heaven forbid!) but it was to do with numerology. Tony’s a great believer in numerology and actually changed his middle name and spelling of his surname (from McCormack to McKormack) to achieve a more favourable and smoother path in life. I was pretty open-minded about it, so I thought, “Well, we’ve nothing to lose, so let’s give it a go.”
How did you reach the decision of Inkubus Sukkubus for the band's title? There's a certain duality to it, in the sense of male and female, God and Goddess, yin and yang -- was that symbolism intended when the name was chosen?
Yes, I think it’s fair to say that was part of the intention when we chose the name. We also wanted a name that was a little ‘dark’ and, at the same time, playful. Choosing names of so-called ‘demons’ invented by the Church to explain away their indiscretions in the bedroom expressed our interest in medieval folklore while having a pop at the sometimes ridiculous nature of organised religion. We had originally called ourselves ‘Belas Knapp’ after a Gloucestershire long barrow, but quickly dropped that when we realised it rhymed with ‘crap.’
When were you first drawn to paganism and what drew you to it?
You know what? I can’t actually remember when I was first drawn to paganism. I honestly think it’s always been there… and probably for several lives before too. My father used to hate to hear people crying in our house, so he found out the best way to stop me crying immediately when I was a toddler was to tell me that witches never cry. Oh, the lies parents tell their children!
Paganism is a very broad term and not all Pagans consider themselves Witches. To you, what does it mean to be a Witch? In our modern society, do you feel it's important to reclaim the word?
The word ‘witch’ is a very potent one. And, yes, you’re right: many, many Pagans don’t consider themselves to be witches but follow some other form of spirituality. There are very many paths that are considered Pagan, but as such generally share a spirituality that connects them to Nature and reverence for the powers of the Earth and her natural cycles. There’s immense power in a name, and I feel proud to call myself a witch.
Have you had to deal with any negative backlash/setbacks for being such an outspoken group? Has there, at any point, been any difficulty in booking gigs because of the Paganism?
Once or twice there have been ‘moments,’ but I’m a huge sucker for camaraderie and, at times of adversity, that’s when it’s at its strongest in the band and other areas of life. We’d be daft to be the kind of band we are and not expect a few ‘knockers.’
What was your first time on stage like?
Terrifying! It was at a small club in our home town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and I can remember walking through the crowd (friends and family kindly turned out in force to support us) as though in a dream. It wasn’t too long though before I thought, “This is where I really want to be.”
Do you have any (crazy) memorable experiences when performing a live show?
Oh, blimey, there are so many… Like the time when Tony’s Marshall amplifier caught fire and provided some neat pyrotechnics; another time when a couple right at the front of the stage got caught up in the ‘moment’ and had proper, full-on, no-holds-barred sex in front of us and the rest of the audience; playing at a small club in New Orleans with a very low ceiling and watching a huge cockroach crawling above me throughout the whole set, just waiting for it to fall in my hair; playing the last-ever gig at a venue in Finland and being allowed to smash up the stage with an axe at the end of the set; slipping on a puddle of beer on stage in Australia and breaking my coccyx… But, you know, the show must always go on!
Does it feel different now, taking the stage?
I still get nervous, but I enjoy the nerves and use them to channel energy into the performance…and hopefully pull it off. I do think nerves are important as it shows how much you care about the audience and how aware you are of what can go wrong! Complacency is one of the biggest sins, I reckon.
Mythology's often a theme you tackle and incorporate into your music. What's your personal favorite mythological figure or story?
I’m not sure I have a favourite myth – well, not one I can think of now, anyway – but I’m rather fond of some of the earthier mythology concerning Bacchus and Dionysus!
And because I'm oddly fascinated with asking people what they would be if they could willingly choose to be any preternatural/supernatural/mythological being…
What would you go with? What about Tony?
I would be a shape-shifter, with the ability to shift into all sorts of creatures – from a cat, to a bird, to a hare. I’d get up to all sorts of mischief. Tony has just said that he’d like to be some kind of dark fey creature…probably woodland-dwelling.
Some of your songs get a bit heavy when it comes to subject matter, such as 'The Rape of Maude Bowen' ...which is actually based on real events that occurred during medieval times, if I'm not mistaken?
Are songs like 'Catherine' 'Lily Bolane' and, 'Messalina' also based off of medieval lore or certain figures? What drew you to highlighting these characters?
Yes, ‘Maude Bowen’ is based on real events. Tony wrote the lyrics to the song, and based it on a local legend from medieval times, which has a pretty grisly story line involving incest, rape and murder. Well, you did ask!
When I wrote ‘Catherine’ I was inspired by the story of a real young woman who lived a few hundred years ago in a small village in France. She wasn’t a witch, but she was disliked by the village women… mainly because she was attractive and possibly flirted more than she should have. She was consequently declared a witch and condemned to death. It was fairly typical of those times of fear of the unknown, and of those who took advantage of the Church’s repulsive laws and used them to their own ends.
Lily Bolane wasn’t a real person but was a character I invented who would represent the thousands of women who were persecuted during the witch hysteria. I just liked the sound of the name, and went with it!
With the album ‘Vampyre Erotica,’ what inspired you to focus more on vampires and to further incorporate them into your music? (And actually, when I think about it, vampires are speckled throughout your music in general -- which goes perfectly with the band's title and is certainly not a complaint!).
Vampires have always featured in our music (and have always featured in both mine and Tony’s lives; we’ve both had a fascination with vampire lore since being small children). We do like to explore the many aspects of vampirism… from the sense of psychic or energy vampires to the full-on, deliciously erotic idea of the vampire embraced by Gothic writers, such as yourself, Winter!
What do you think of the modern "Vampire Boom," (for lack of a better term) when it comes to television and literature? I remember the days when an interest in vampires was something that warranted strange looks and quiet murmurs in school halls. Now, it's become fairly much the norm. Do you think this acceptance and interest in vampires has brought more people to your music?
Possibly… but I have to say I’m really not so sure. Vampires aren’t as much fun as they used to be (is it just me, or has Hollywood made them just a teeny bit dull?) and I long for the terror, blood, sex and mess of old-school blood-suckers. Hey ho.
'Science and Nature,' has become one of my favorite albums. It's both playful and serious, and you do a great job of scaring me just a little with the song, 'Sanctuary.' What is 'Nightwing' a reference to? And songs like, 'Catholic Taste' and, 'Aryan Adrian' (one of my favorite tracks), are they about people you personally knew or more a specific type of person?
Woah! So many questions in one... ‘Sanctuary’ is about the ‘wicked’ teenage mothers who were forced to live and work in Catholic laundries in Ireland, persecuted mercilessly by the nuns living there; ‘Nightwing’ is an erotic song of vampire lust; ‘Catholic Taste’ is about people who never really stick their necks out and commit to one thing and, erm, ‘Aryan Adrian’ is about someone I know. I’m saying no more, except that he’s not called Adrian.
Tony did the artwork on the album 'Beast With Two Backs,' and some of his artwork's featured on other album sleeves, but you too have designed some of the covers...so you both have experience with graphic design?
We met while studying graphic design, but I leave most of the artwork to Tony now as I’m far too rusty – and I adore his artwork!
It’s about my love for earthly pleasures that I seem to have inherited from my dad. Unfortunately, however, he took it to a whole new level and, though he was a clever, gifted man who had a strong thirst for knowledge, he stupidly destroyed himself, dying far too young. I plan to hang around for a while longer though!
On your most recent album, 'The Dark Goddess,' the last track ‘Karnayna’ is actually a reference to The Horned God, Cernunnos, isn't it?
Yes, it is. ‘Karnayna’ is believed to be a corruption (possibly by Alex Sanders) of the name ‘Cernunnos.’ I personally prefer the name Cernunnos and have favoured that over Karnayna in ritual… but Karnayna works better as an anthemic chorus!
I don't have any of the albums currently in front of me, but if I remember correctly you've also played some instruments in several of the songs. Which instruments do you play and what's your favorite?
I’ve added some additional instruments to our recordings, such as dulcimer and tin whistle, but it’s best kept away from a live audience. Nuff said.
What’s your writing process like? Do you both write the lyrics?
We do both write lyrics. Sometimes Tony and I work songs out together, but more often than not we work on our own elements independently of each other. That works out quite well childcare-wise too… it’s not always easy being a parent in the world of rock’n’roll.
When you’re literally working with your partner, how do you balance work and play? Or do the two go hand-in-hand?
The two most definitely go hand-in-hand. We live and breathe our music, though now, of course, we have the McKormacks Junior (Leon, 14, and Carmen, 6) to add to the equation. So, naturally, a lot of our attention goes on them and their interests now, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re completely besotted with them.
What do Leon and Carmen think about the music? The song ‘Witch Queen’ is about Carmen, is it not?
Surprisingly (we’re still waiting for Leon to rebel) they both seem to really enjoy the music. ‘Bright Star’ was written about Leon when he was still a baby/young toddler and, yes, ‘Witch Queen’ is about Carmen. You hear many people referring to young children as being ‘old souls’ and I certainly felt this way about Carmen. She has a wisdom way beyond her years and a spiritual presence that inspired me to write the song. We’re incredibly close.
Do you feel that becoming a mother changed you spiritually?
I know it sounds cliché, but nothing prepared me for how motherhood would make me feel. When Leon was born (it was 7:30 in the evening), I spent the whole night just gazing at him; I wouldn’t sleep as I didn’t want to miss a moment of seeing his first hours of life. Now, as any new mother would tell you, that’s a pretty stupid thing to do as you need every moment of sleep you can grab, but his beauty completely and utterly overwhelmed me. I do feel I've changed spiritually, physically and emotionally (I'm a wreck watching sad films these days!).
Who are some of the people that have inspired you, musically, creatively, etc?
In no particular order: Billie Holiday, Frida Kahlo, Johnny Rotten, Doreen Valiente, Ian Astbury, Sir Francis Dashwood, Lux Interior, Dion Fortune, Robert Plant, Buffy Sainte Marie, Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, and Johnny Depp.
What’s the recording process like?
It’s usually a pretty enjoyable process. We record at home now, so it’s a nice luxury to be able to roll out of bed, make a pot of tea and start recording in our jim-jams.
When you’re not working -- what do you do to relax? What’s your ideal ‘get away from it all,’ evening involve?
Usually snuggling up on the sofa with Tony, a bottle of wine or cider, and a bloody good horror movie. Can’t beat it.
What's next for Inkubus Sukkubus?
We’re working on some new recordings at the moment. It’s great fun to try out new stuff and see where it takes us…
May 31, 2011
My cousin is a very talented woman. I’ve been meaning to blog about her work for a while, not only because it gives me a chance to blog about something that's not book related, but because it gives me the opportunity to talk about someone with a unique gift. I’m constantly impressed by the works she creates. When she threw a Samhain party last year, she went full-out creative, transforming her bathroom into a scene right from of a horror movie. Not an actual horror movie. Tiffany decorated from that creative place within where the muse often dwells. I remember talking to her on the telephone after the party. Clean-up was a process that involved a lot of bleach and several days. After all, the blood had stained the tub, the walls, and the tile. Did I mention she’d created a corpse to prop in the bath with a few well-placed (dismembered) body parts? If I ever want anyone to give me a realistic visual of a crime scene or to decorate my place for Samhain – I’ll call Tiff.
So, what exactly am I doing differently? I’m playing on the other side of the pen. By that, I mean...
I’m the one asking the questions. *Grin.*
Hope you enjoy!
Winter: So, how "real," do you think we should keep this?
Tiffany: Play it by ear. If I'm not comfy with something, (which I don't think will be an issue), I'll let you know
Winter: Well, I'm not going to ask your favorite position or anything. You're my cousin. I love you, but there are some things I just don't need to know. So, worry not! I'll tread wisely.
Tiffany: No worries.
Winter: I'm pretty sure that's staying in this. *Laughs.*
Tiffany: *Laughs.* Sure.
Winter: All right, let's begin with an introduction. I'm afraid if I introduce you, I'm going to make you sound far creepier than you really are (because I like highlighting the fact that you hide in your garage making scary monsters). Alas, I know your creative fingers stretch into areas that aren't creepy. So...
Tiffany: I think the funny thing is, if you met me on the street you'd never guess me to be the creepy art gal.
Winter: Oh, definitely not! (See: Picture of Tiffany below). Very Samantha Stevens, I think.
Tiffany: I don't have a very intimidating personality. I'm very...fluffy? I'm sweet and compassionate, quite the cry-baby.
Winter: I wouldn't say fluffy or cry-baby, as those two words are more often used negatively than positively. But, I would definitely agree that your personality is a lot different than what people might think if they only saw your work. It's a refreshing contrast. Makes me wonder how deep you have to dig to find that darkness.
Tiffany: I'm not so sure it's darkness. I don't have to dig at all.
Winter: What do you consider it to be?
Tiffany: It's almost like I'm the mad scientist. I will be working on one of my monsters in the garage, talking to it the whole time, just like it's a living entity. I grew up on horror movies and I love the visuals. That's part of it.
Winter: Do you make up stories to go along with your creations? Say, does Mister Sticky have a story? He was your first corpse, was he not?
Tiffany: Yes. Mr. Sticky was an accident. I didn't know at the time that I had that talent. I am really into Halloween and I wanted to go all out for a Halloween party I was having. I looked at all of the decorations in the store and couldn't afford any of it. So, I collected what I had laying around the house and decided to make my own. Mr. Sticky is rolled up news paper, cheese cloth, and carpet glue underneath his paint job. I was pleasantly surprised with how well he turned out. Later, I planned on making him a bride, but I haven't gotten to it just yet. Every time I have to move him around in the garage I talk to him...
Winter: I actually didn't know that (about Mister Sticky's birth). You were pleasantly surprised after creating him -- were you hooked? Did you know after making him that you would make more Corpse Creations?
Tiffany: Oh yeah! I've always loved art of any kind. Combine that with my love of Halloween and you could say that I'm hooked.
Winter: What about Samhain (Halloween) calls to you? Is it just the fun and spooky aspect or do you find another meaning in it?
Tiffany: During Samhain we are called upon to remember those who have gone before and I try to do so. I have lit candles for those loved ones that I honor. I haven't done this every year, as some years are busier than others. It certainly reminds you how small your life really is in terms of how large the universe is and how we see time. I've always been fascinated with how close we really are to those who have passed, especially on that day.
Winter: I know you've been doing art for many years. I remember your artwork hanging in our grandmother's home. When did you start drawing and realize that you had a knack for it?
Tiffany: I was always really good at coloring but I knew I had something special in the fourth grade. I remember sitting in my room drawing, I drew a Pegasus unicorn from my imagination and it looked spectacular. I immediately took it to my dad and showed him. I didn't know Mema had any of my work...
Winter: She did. It was hanging on the wall in the room closest to her bathroom. If recollection serves me well, it was a colored pencil drawing of a cross and roses. I really liked your roses. You showed me how to draw roses once, do you remember?
Tiffany: That was my trademark for the longest time! Of course I remember. I've gotten better since.
Winter: You really have. What was the title of the painting you recently finished with the skull and the rose? You blew me away with that one!
Tiffany: Eye of the Beholder. I have it hanging in my wet-bar in my living room. My husband thinks I'm going to scare people away.
Winter: *Laughs.* That's a bit of a Pennington trait, so it seems.
Tiffany: *Grins mischievously.*
Winter: You went to school for cosmetology, correct? Do you feel what you learned there has influenced your art in any way?
Tiffany: Well, I went to cosmetology school so I could do makeup. Since my sophomore year in high school I have wanted to be a makeup artist for cinema. So, that school got me closer to my goal. As far as my art goes, I do look at faces a little more technically. It's important to get the balance right and it's easier to draw or paint the human face when you understand the structure.
Winter: And you've also done make-up for a few photo shoots. In fact, I remember the first time I modeled for Anna Miller (a really awesome photographer), you were not only in charge of doing make-up (which turned out to be an all day adventure), but you also made a pair of beautiful fey/angel wings and really pitched in creatively with the costume design for the shoot.
Now be honest with me, do you really enjoy being on your feet and in someone's face for that long? Is it worth it to see the vision come alive? What do you feel when you see your ideas brought to fruition? Are you ever disappointed?
Tiffany: I don't like being in people's faces at all. You will find me with gum in my mouth when I do have to be. But I do love seeing my ideas play out. Some of my ideas have turned out better than others. I try not to waste time being disappointed because as long as I took the time to be creative, then I've learned something.
Those wings took me HOURS to make and I still have them.
Winter: Those wings were FABULOUS! Again, I was very impressed. And I have to say, you get some major brownie points for being courteous in that regard (chewing gum when you're so up-close doing make-up). Both positions can be a bit uncomfortable if you're not careful. *Laughs.*
Tiffany: Very true.
Winter: Back to your corpses, though. How many corpses total have you made and what inspired you to start your business, Corpse Creations?
Tiffany: So far, I have four in my collection and I have donated one to a friend. After Mister Sticky, I attempted Mrs. Sticky. I got the dimensions of the torso - oh, so wrong. So, it became the dismembered burned man that I used in my bathtub last Halloween. Then I worked on a clown named Bones MacPhearsome. He's awesome. I then worked on an idea I had in my head for over a year. It's a troubled being coming out of a framed piece of wall art. The last was the most difficult to make. I made a demon. He stands over six feet tall and has these expansive wings. As far as Corpse Creations being a business, it's more like a hobby. I have dreams of it becoming a full-fledged business someday.
Winter: And what about your paintings? Many of them are viewable on Corpse Creations' Facebook page, right? Will you continue on in both areas? Do you find it difficult to balance the painting VS corpse creating, or just go where the muse beckons?
Wait, are you even five feet? *Ducks.* (For those that don't know, my cousin is quite short).
Tiffany: I've had to do what the muse tells me. Some of my painting is a little darker so it works well posting it with Corpse Creations. The other more spiritual work is on another page of mine called Artistic Visions by Tiffany. I've been on a painting kick for a very long time now. I haven't worked on a corpse since last October. The muse is just wanting me to develop in as many ways as possible.
*Sticks tongue out.* I'm 4'11"!
Winter: I know, I know. Considering I'm only a few inches taller (another Pennington gift) -- I've no right to cast stones here. *Laughs.* However, I wanted to point out the fact that I was pretty sure, if you were making a 6ft tall demon, you were up on a ladder. *Grins.* I've got to highlight your dedication to your craft, you know.
Tiffany: I did spend some time on a ladder after the wings were put in place. I actually applied the carpet glue to the wings while they were attached to the frame of the body. You should have heard all the cursing coming from my garage during the making of the demon. Only fitting, I guess.
Winter: Well, you were working with a demon. Apparently, you start channeling bits and pieces of your art?
Tiffany: Ha! It felt like I was channeling more than one demon!
Winter: I can send a vampire and a lycanthrope over. I'm fresh out of exorcists, though.
Tiffany: I kept asking myself what I was thinking making those wings...I would like to create a vampire. Not sure about a lycanthrope. I like to be as realistic as possible.
Winter: Yeah, and that would be very difficult, methinks. Well, I know it's getting late for you (not everyone's keen on the vampire schedule). So, we'll start wrapping this up. Do you have any plans for future projects?
Tiffany: I've been asked to be one of three featured artists in a Halloween show this coming year. I had an idea of showing how disconnected we have become by using a corpse family and setting them up around a dining room table. That's all the information I can give out on that event. I am working on a zombie child, however. I also have some paintings in the making. Time will tell.
Winter: And I'm going to get my Sheela-Na-Gig and Zombie Breasts, right? *Smiles sweetly.*
Tiffany: Heehee, that's the plan!
Winter: Marvelous! I truly look forward to seeing what you create next, Tiffany. Thanks so much for letting me play on this side of the pen. I appreciate it!
Tiffany: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I always enjoy chatting with you.
Winter: That's a good thing, considering!
Note: The picture of Tiffany, Sticky, and Bones are courtesy of Anna Miller.
May 30, 2011
Yule is a time to celebrate the rebirth of the light, but for Preternatural Private Investigator and Paranormal Huntress Kassandra Lyall, it’s about solving yet another series of crimes.
When a couple disappears from their quiet neighborhood home, Detective Arthur Kingfisher brings Kassandra in on the case. Faced with a bloody symbol painted on the couple’s bedroom wall, the cops are stumped. That is, until they find a body and their missing person’s report becomes a full-blown murder investigation. Kassandra realizes that someone is targeting the pagan community. The investigation brings up some heavy emotions, making it harder for her to play human in front of the law enforcement officers she works with.
In the midst of aiding the police, Kassandra finally finds herself at serious odds with Sheila Morris, the local werewolf pack’s Alpha female, when Sheila decides to abuse someone very dear to Kassandra.
A certain Alpha has a bone to pick. The question is: Who’s going to pick it first?
The Third Book in the Kassandra Lyall Preternatural Investigator Series.
May 17, 2011
I wrote a few blogs ago that the muse isn't always there, revving to go. Pretty to think so, but in my experience, I've learned it's completely unrealistic to think that way. When you sit down to work on a novel every day, trust me, there will be a time where all you end up doing is having a staring contest with a blinking cursor. It happens. In fact, it's happening to me right now, but you know what? Up yours, cursor! Ahem, anyhow. I don't believe in writer's block. I've mentioned that before in previous posts. I firmly believe that any blocks a writer or artist comes across are generally a result of something self-created. We wall ourselves in, we box ourselves in, and it's ultimately up to us to get ourselves out and over the wall we've built around ourselves. Walls arise for a lot of reasons, and yes, I've hit 'em. Most definitely. My walls generally erect during moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, when I'm questioning the writing too much, or when I'm trying to get a character to do something they don't want to do. The best cure for writer's block or any artistic blockage is to steadily work through it. If you don't like it the first time, you can do it again, and again, and again -- until you're satisfied. Eventually, you'll find your flow, your muse, your mojo...whatever you want to call it.
Something I've learned after writing four books is how to seduce my muse. Moments of inspiration are wonderful and exhilarating but they don't keep a book going. Diligence, patience, dedication, and passion keep a book going. Every writer and artist is different when it comes to the creative process, their likes and dislikes, and that's something we learn along the way. One of the things that working on two series of books has taught me is to pay attention to what inspires me, to learn to strike the match of my own creative spark without the rush of inspiration first-hand. Sometimes, all it takes is just getting away from the hustle and bustle (and all of the cats) and hiding in a room alone. Other days, I have to create a sort of sacred space; candlelight, incense, perfume, silk, whatever works to help create the right atmosphere in which to get my head in a scene. There's something very transcendental about writing for me. I'd go so far as to call it a spiritual experience, like slipping into a deep meditation for hours and when I finally come up for air, the mundane world is still a bit foggy. Once I find my flow, I lose myself in the writing. I transcend reality. I can't write clinging to it. I have to surrender to the sweet lure of my muse, to the process, to my characters and their worlds. Sometimes, it really does feel as though there's an in-between world that us artists step into in order to work, to create. There's a rush to it, yes, and a comfort, a home. It may sound strange, but think of it this way: I cannot think of a single person I have known or met that does not crave such a thing. Look at the world around you, look at history -- there's always been a need within humanity to transcend (not necessarily escape). We do so through movies, television, magazines, books, music, poetry, games, and so many other various ways. If you've ever watched a really good movie and left the theater still feeling slightly unreal, that's similar to what I feel when I step away from a book. When my wife and I got together, she kept reminding me of the importance of finding a balance, of keeping one foot in the world of the imagination and one foot in this. You can't lose yourself entirely to one or the other, and truth be told, without reality imagination would not exist.
When working on Darkness Embraced, I realized that I could use music to create atmosphere. When I wrote my first book, I was against listening to music when writing. I was cautious and I didn't want to take the risk of distracting myself from writing Kassandra's story. Yet, even though I wasn't listening to music -- there were times when working on a scene that a song would get stuck in my head. I've mentioned musicians and songs in the books and have received e-mails from readers that checked the bands out and really enjoyed their music. But it wasn't until Darkness Embraced that I started listening to music when writing and actually using it as a way to seduce my muse. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that, really. Why didn't I realize sooner that I could use music to enhance the feel of a scene? Well, mainly because I've always been a very lyrical person. I focus on lyrics and when I listen to a song, that's what I'm doing: listening to a song. I adamantly believed it would only distract me. When writing Darkness Embraced, I found myself craving music. I flitted through songs and realized that if the music was in some aspect reflective of what I was working on, if I could relate it to the story or a character, then it clicked into place like a soundtrack and actually enhanced the atmosphere in the room where I was writing.
I thought for this blog that I'd go ahead and reveal some of my process a bit more intimately by sharing some of the music I listened to when working on Darkness Embraced and Bloody Claws.
Vampyre Erotica; Viva La Muerte; The Dark Goddess
I'm pretty much an all-around happy author if Inkubus Sukkubus is on my playlist. If I could only have one artist to listen to when writing, I'd go with IS. There's a lot of versatility with their music, many of the songs I can draw a connection to or simply enjoy. "Woman to Hare" (Vampyre Erotica) is a great song, especially since it covers the topic of shape-shifting and is pretty much a, "Hell yeah," to female power. "Vampyre Erotica" was on my playlist when writing Bloody Claws and is a song that strongly puts me in mind of Eris (a bit of a teaser for those of you that have asked if Eris will feature more in future books). "Vampyre Kiss" (Beltaine) is another wonderful song that I listened to when working on BC, though, quite frankly, I have a hard time deciding if it reminds me of Lenorre or Eris. I'm leaning toward Lenorre on that one. The character that I've had the most difficult time trying to find a song to listen to when writing has been Rosalin. There was a scene in Bloody Claws that I wrote while nearly in tears listening to "Emergence" (Viva La Muerte). Another song that worked for a scene involving Ros was "Lunancy" (The Dark Goddess). The song focuses heavily on the moon and her many faces. I think it's fairly fitting for a preternatural being governed by the moon. "I Am The One" (Belladonna & Aconite) and "Danse Vampyre" (Vampyre Erotica) are songs that I listened to when working on Darkness Embraced. I hit a bit of a block writing one of the sex scenes in DE (stuck in a sex scene -- oh no!) and found myself listening to "Danse Vampyre" to get my head into a more darkly sensual frame of mind.
My Winter Storm
Several songs from this album made it to my playlist when working on Darkness Embraced. "I Walk Alone" reminded me of Epiphany, as well as, "My Little Phoenix." Tarja's cover of Alice Cooper's, "Poison" is bloody effin' sexy and "Damned and Divine" is beautiful and haunting. "Die Alive" and "Minor Heaven" also worked for some great background music. (Note: As you can tell, I don't listen to entire albums, only the songs that I can twist in my head to fit what I'm working on).
I started out listening to a lot of the songs on this album while working on Darkness Embraced. "Not Enough" and "Spellbound" worked for the feel of character relationships. "Wide-Awake" was another good song that I listened to. Really, the only aggressive song on this album that I found myself listening to when writing Epiphany's story was "Underdog."
When I finished DE and started working on Bloody Claws, many of the more aggressive songs on this album went on my playlist. "Survive" and "I'm Not Afraid" and "Unchained" really helped me to get in touch with Kassandra's anger and resilience.
Florence + the Machine
I only listened to one song off of this album and that was when writing Bloody Claws. "Howl" is freaking epic. I heard it and instantly caught the inner beast/werewolf reference. There was a night when I couldn't sleep that I got up to work on a scene between Lenorre and Kass. I put the song on repeat. I must have listened to it twenty times. The song doesn't necessarily reflect any story-line, but it captured a certain depth of emotion and passion that I found fitting and very Kass.
So, there you have it. One of the tricks I've learned to help get the creative juices going -- finding music that reminds me of my characters and using it to help fuel the creative spark.
For those of you interested in checking the above music out, I apologize for being too lazy to link directly to the official sites in this post (and I'm seriously not computer savvy). However, as Inkubus Sukkubus is one of my favorite bands, there's a link to their official website under the links section of my blog.
May 4, 2011
I am happy to say that my partner and I were handfasted on Beltaine. Weeks before the wedding got me thinking, thinking a lot about what marriage and what the ceremony itself meant to me. We did not do a traditional wedding. I didn't wear a white dress. There was no aisle to walk down. It was a small and intimate handfasting, with my folks in attendance. We performed the ceremony at midnight on the first of May, under the blanket of a starry night. There was a chill in the air as a cold front moved in, but even so, it was lovely. Bec and I wrote the ceremony out earlier during the day. We had already exchanged our rings, but we did perform the tying of the hands to symbolize our union. I wore a crown of ivy, a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and matrimony.
Before the wedding, I had considered incorporating things more conventional, more traditional. Alas, I realized -- I'm merrily unconventional. I looked at dresses. I spent several hours one morning looking through online catalogs. I found nothing, absolutely nothing that I felt suited me. Bec and I were folding blankets from the dryer when I realized a "dresser" cloth I had, (material that was used to cover a dresser that needed to be painted) -- I could wear. I went to the bathroom, stripped, and donned the material. Who knew my sarong wrapping skills would come in handy? I found a broom skirt to pair it with, stepped out, and asked Bec, "What do you think?"
And so, I wore what she jokingly deemed the, "equivalent of a tablecloth." Which is definitely more my style than a traditional white dress. ;)
One of the reasons I pulled myself away from the path of the white dress and wedding hoopla, was because to me, it detracted from the true meaning. I didn't want to get caught up in materialism (not for our wedding). I wanted to keep my focus on what was of most importance: Our union, our love -- not who could make it or who couldn't, not what we were going to wear, or eat, or drink, or where the ceremony was to be held. I didn't want to get so caught up in the details that I overlooked our intent. I wouldn't allow myself. A close friend actually told me, "Stop being so non-materialistic. You at least have to have a reception so you can get gifts."
I felt a bit like a cheese-ball trying to explain that I already had my gift: Love. And when it came to the wedding, it was all about that one word, more-so than I had even imagined. I'd been focusing on Bec and I's love for each other, but there was more than that, so much more. There too was the love of family and friends, showering us with their blessings, congratulations, and support. Bec and I found ourselves deeply touched and thankful.
And might I say, my wife looked amazing. She wore a metallic grey blouse tucked into a pair of dark slacks. As soon as I saw the outfit, I told her she looked like a pirate. A sexy, swashbuckling pirate.
One of the other things that the marriage got me thinking about was the lack of equality in areas of our country, and of course, the unfairness of that lack. Years ago, in my teens, I came across a quote by Boethius that resonated very strongly for me: "Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law." I still believe that; it still resonates for me.
Equality would be a lovely thing, but when it comes down to it, a marriage is not a document, not from my perspective. Marriage is a verb. One of the things I addressed during the ceremony was that the ceremony itself is a symbol and a symbol has all the power and meaning that you give to it. Bec and I's marriage is not to be defined by a state or a religion, but by us, our own actions. It is OURS to define and OURS to uphold. The government in certain areas of this country may refuse to give us a piece of paper that declares our love and commitment, they may turn their cheeks and close their eyes to it, refusing to acknowledge it, but that doesn't make it go away, that doesn't make what we have anything less of a marriage.
This, dear readers, may be where I deviate from the norm. As a Pagan, I believe that we are all children of the universe, all daughters and sons of the Divine -- by whatever name you call HER/HIM. I believe that every human on this planet holds within themselves a thread of the Divine, whether they are good or bad people, and we have a right to make our own choices. The woman in me understands that I have a right to love as I will and to decide in what manner I will express that love. Though, I should note, I do not believe in actively seeking to harm another. There's a major difference of topics here. What you do with what you are given at birth is solely your responsibility, whether you acknowledge and embrace your inner God or Goddess is solely up to you. I believe that the capability to be beautiful or harrowing lies within us each.
There's an old Native American tale of a grandfather telling his grandson the story of two wolves: the dark and the light, the good and the bad, the selfless and the selfish, the compassionate and the cruel. The grandfather tells his grandson that these two wolves wage war within each of us. When the grandson asks, "Which wolf wins?" The grandfather tells the lad, "The one that you feed the most." How true is that? If you feed anger and resentment within yourself, is it no surprise you become an angry and resentful person? So, ever should we be careful of what we feed and nurture in ourselves, of which aspects of ourselves we choose to embrace and tend to, and which aspects we seek to transform and grow beyond.
I do not believe another human being has the right to say who (not a what, for those of you thinking about sheep, for Goddess' sake, please leave the poor sheep out of this) a person can or cannot love and marry. Love, real love, is a gift in all its forms. Is there a religion out there that doesn't highlight the importance of love? Isn't that one thread that nearly all religions carry in common? The love of family, friends, your neighbor, your pets...it's pretty all encompassing and everyone knows love isn't always sexual. Why religious fanatics try to attack the LGBT community with, "Well, if they get married what's next? Goats?" is, to me, a silly excuse.
For one, a goat can't say, "I do," and I think most people would agree with me that non-consensuality is a big-arsed no-no. Most importantly, we're talking about people here, consenting adults, flesh and blood individuals who have a soul, a mind, a body, a heart, thoughts, and feelings. Yes, feelings. An espousal of hatred and condemnation doesn't get anyone anywhere.
I remember the lessons I was taught in Sunday school as a child, and I do not, in any of them, recall hatred and condemnation being an attribute of those who are Christ-like. In fact, the last I checked, such things were the complete opposite. I'm tempted to call that kind of attitude as many things, but inconsiderate, uncompassionate, and selfish make it to the top of my list. I don't comprehend why it's so difficult for people to live and let live, to spread positivity instead negativity. Spiritual work and development are a personal journey, and sometimes, people don't always stop to do the work or to check themselves. Perhaps, many of them would realize the source of their negativity originates not from something outside of themselves, but from something within them. And that would be a daunting beast to tackle, wouldn't it?
Everyone has a right to their opinions. Diversity can be a strong suit. Just because someone's different than you doesn't mean you can't learn something from them. In fact, reflecting on the many different friends I have, from so many different walks of life, I feel confident in saying -- you can learn quite a bit from those that are different than you. Even if it's just a lesson in "tolerance." ;)
All in all, this whole thing has really shown Bec and I how many great and wonderful people we are friends with and how blessed we are. We have the pleasure of calling so many beautiful souls, our friends.
April 12, 2011
So, here's how this works: At the end of this post I'll post a question. In order to enter the giveaway, comment with an answer (and your name, if you're posting as anonymous). A winner will be chosen in a random drawing (based on entry, not answer to the question). I'm going to let this giveaway run for a few of days (maybe a week) and will announce the winner in a separate post. Note: If you don't see a post announcing a winner, then the giveaway is still a go and open to entries.
In keeping with the nature of my previous post -- If you could willfully choose to be any kind of were-animal, what would you be and why?
As of May, since I've received so many entries for this giveaway -- I thought I'd offer up a second book and extend this contest. :) Though the first book giveaway has officially closed, all those who previously entered (aside from the previous winner) and any new entries will be entered into the new drawing that I will perform on the weekend of May 14th. I'll announce the winner in the comments section of this post.
April 1, 2011
I fell asleep for about an hour and a half earlier this evening and had some very strange dreams. Sometimes, I remember my dreams completely while other times I can only recall bits and pieces. The strongest part of the dream I had earlier had to do with shapeshifting. I've had shapingshifting dreams before, so it's nothing unusual for me, and actually comes in quite handy when writing books about shapeshifters. Though, there's definitely a difference between the fiction of the novels and the dreams that I have. The dream is far less dramatic, smoother, there's no popping of bones or anything like that. There is only the animal form and being inside it, seeing from its height, feeling the ground under four paws, the elongated spine, the swishing of tail and flexing of claws. The dreams are almost always amazingly vivid. They don't always make sense, but they're vivid and detailed. This evening I woke feeling sore and stiff and slightly drunk. I stumbled out of bed completely disoriented. If I'd taken a sobriety test, I would've failed epically just because that's how disoriented I was. I clipped a couple of walls on the way into the kitchen to get a beverage from the fridge. My mouth was dry and I felt hot like I'd been running a marathon in my sleep.
I dreamed of tigers in a multitude of colors, not all that appear in the natural world. I dreamed of water, a crystalline body of it, with tigers swimming and splashing in it, their muscles rippling beneath shimmering fur. I dreamed of fighting when provoked, of setting boundaries with others and standing my ground. The rush of tiger energy was exhilarating, powerful, and unstoppable. The tigress was a creature of courage and battle, thick and muscular, her heavy form and sharp claws made for defense and protection.
It's not the first time I've dreamed about her. There have been other dreams where I have taken the form of the tigress charging into battle, leaping into the fray, and standing her ground. Whether she does so to protect cubs or those simply not as strong as she - the tigress does not fight a useless battle or a shallow one and she chooses them wisely. She stands up for what she believes in without shame. She announces her individuality with her very bold colors, the strength and power of her walk, and burns with an inner confidence as she holds her head high.
I believe in totem animals and that when someone dreams so strongly about an animal, something about that animal is trying to get a message across to the dreamer. With the tigress, I know what her message is: Embrace me.
My Chinese astrology sign is that of the tiger and I would say, considering the feline babies I have, I am more of a cat person than a dog person (I like to consider myself equal opportunity with them, but when it comes down to it, it's kind of obvious I'm more of a cat person). I consider myself to be an introvert, which often conflicts with the "generic" definition of the tiger personality. Then again, female tigers are often solitary, and I can definitely be that. Tigers are supposed to be hot-tempered and a bit rash, which I wouldn't consider myself.
Okay, hot-tempered I'll give you an inch, but only when the pissed-off switch has seriously been flipped. When I was younger, I never thought twice about leaping into the fray. Now, I try to be less selfish and more compassionate (it’s that damn Buddhism – it got to me)…doesn’t mean it always works, as I am human, and it really depends what set me off. *Grin.* However, I try to count to ten. The question I often ask myself is, Do I want to stick my foot in this? And more often than not, the answer is no. Experience has taught me that if I'm going to have an argument when I'm angry -- someone's going to walk out of the room hurt and wounded...and nearly every time, it was both the other person and myself.
A lot of readers have asked me how much Kassandra reflects me. There's definitely some of myself in Kassandra (and in all of my characters) but one thing that sets us apart: I like to think I've established better control over my temper. But, in Kassandra's defense, I'm not a werewolf. ;) And notice, keywords, “I like to think.” It’s really amazing, the paradoxes within a person. I consider myself good-natured and easy-going and affectionate with those I know and love, but when I’m upset…I have to watch my mouth. To me, it’s important to be in touch with your darker self. I mean, come on, you kind of have to be aware and know your faults before you can improve on them…and denial is rarely a pretty sight. “I’m not angry - I was just trying to play Frisbee with the dinner plate.”
Hey, you know, I’ve never actually thrown a plate…Hmm…
And for those of you that wonder: yes, I've had wolf shapeshifting dreams as well. Those tend to be more light-hearted, like the dream I had where I was walking through the grocery store in wolf form looking for a package of yogurt covered pretzels, nails clicking in the tile floor. I wonder if Duran Duran had the same dream when they wrote the song, 'Hungry Like The Wolf,' though, I suspect not. Maybe, I was channeling Rosalin.
I finished Bloody Claws not too long ago. Yeah! Currently, I'm taking a short break from the work before I dive head-first into edits. I've already started writing Summoning Shadows, the second book in the Rosso Lussuria Vampire Novels, and Darkness Embraced is about to be released next month. Whoop!
I noticed when working on Bloody Claws that I've become much more critical. Sometimes, the inner critic does come in handy, as she'll force you to dig deeper and to work harder -- but other times, she just blows things out of proportion, stifles the voice of your muse, and becomes a serious pain in the ass. There were a few times when I locked up and had to quit writing for the night, because I couldn't turn that voice off and all it was doing was getting in my way. I kept questioning and when I looked at the page, I found myself staring at everything I'd written and not knowing how I felt about it. When that happens, I step away long enough to put things back into perspective.
I've known a lot of artists and writers that won't work unless they're, "inspired." I've personally learned that it's not about sitting around and waiting for the muse to drop in and pay a visit. Writing is hard work, it takes effort, it takes courage, it takes learning how to tune-out or evade the voice of your inner critic when you need to, and to listen to it when you need to. It takes learning how to trigger your muse and inspire yourself, what works for you and what doesn't. I'm the type of writer that when I'm working on a book, I become immersed in it, but I don't sit down at the keyboard everyday always revved up to go. Sometimes, I have to get myself in the mood. I have to have mental foreplay to establish the connection I need with the main character and to pick up where I left off. There's really no right or wrong way to do that and every writer is different, but I think that's what makes a writer: we write, and nothing and no one is going to stop us, not even the voice of the inner critic.
Can you hear the tigress now? There's a time to tame her and a time to embrace her.
I will be hosting a giveaway soon for a signed copy of Darkness Embraced over on my author page on Facebook (the link to which is located on the right of this blog). I recommend keeping an eye on the page so you don't miss it. I will be doing the giveaway before May, as I'm hoping to provide the winner with a signed copy of the book before it even hits the shelves. That's pretty cool, right? :)
March 16, 2011
I've been meaning to post this podcast interview to the blog for a while. Lack of sleep and writing like a madwoman apparently make me a bit forgetful. Some of you may have seen this already on Facebook, but for those that have not...here it is. Andy and Rev, as always, are quite the hoots and I really enjoyed being on their show.
Be sure to check out their other podcasts too...you won't regret it.