This is not 50 FIRST DATES!

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This is not 50 FIRST DATES! Christine spends the first hours of each day reading in her journal and the rest of it recording what happens to her as it happens so she will remember it tomorrow. The victim of … Continue reading

Dexter Meets Nancy Drew

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Dexter Meets Nancy Drew Harper Curtis squats in a house, the owner dead and rotting in the hallway. In his pocket he finds a key. When he uses the key in the front door, he is taken to whatever time … Continue reading

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Beautiful Twilight I have read a bit of young adult (YA) fiction in my life, more that I remember since I’ve been an adult than a young adult. Most of my exposure to YA is vicariously through my students. Every … Continue reading

Critique of “Star Trek: Into Darkness”

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Critique of Star Trek: Into Darkness Warning: Spoilers follow. I’ve been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember, so devout a fan, in fact, that the first time I heard of the JJ Abrams re-boot, I … Continue reading

A Farewell to “Cult”

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What’s this I hear? Cult has been cancelled and the remaining episodes will not be aired? And I was just beginning to have an inkling as to where this series may be going.

Cult is, in many ways, superior to the other cult-oriented show, The Following, in that there seems to be an overall design motivating the characters. Jeff Sefton is a reporter searching for his brother who disappeared shortly after solving a puzzle whose clues are hidden in a television show called “Cult”. He is assisted by show researcher, Skye Yarrow, who is investigating the disappearance of her father who has ties to the show’s mysterious, never-seen-in-public writer. Last week’s episode saw Skye nearly die after being slipped a drug, similar to the one the members of the cult on the show take as a part of their religious ritual. In a prolonged dream/near-death-experience, Skye sees Roger Reeves (played with extreme creepiness by Robert Knepper) who begs her to stay with him—which would equate to her giving up her death-bed fight. To persuade her, he allows her to see her father which only serves as an indication to Skye that what she sees is not real. Meanwhile, in reality, Jeff searches for a sample of the drug that felled Skye so doctors can synthesize an antidote. He breaks into Detective Sakelik’s house and takes the tabs from her freezer. At the end of the episode, Skye is cured and Jeff is punished for his hubris when his colleague turns up dead for his role in helping steal Sakelik’s hidden stash.

Though an interesting premise, Cult tries to take on too much. Events on the television show unfold out of sequence (Kelly Collins is an ex-cult member turned cop who wants to take Reeves down in one episode, and marries him in the past (I think) in the next). On top of this there is a real-life cult devoted to interpreting and exposing the sub-text of the television show. Sakelik lurks in the background waiting to pounce on Jeff and Skye whenever they get close to figuring out the cult’s secret, though her connection to the cult is ambiguous. While I like the duality of the actors having both television and real-life personas, and the notion of a secret society based on the sub-text of a television show, the characters seeking out the truth behind the disappeared uber-fans find things out too slowly, which  may have contributed to the show’s downfall.

The other cult-based show, The Following, is so quick-paced it is, at times, dizzying. James Purefoy plays Dr. Joe Carroll with smarmy sophistication. An English professor and author, he is obsessed with the horrific  elements present in the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, the former FBI agent responsible for putting Carroll behind bars and subsequently having an affair with his wife. The story shadows Carroll’s followers as they murder to show their devotion, goaded to action by clues in Poe’s writing. The main storyline centres on Carroll’s desire to write the next best-seller and reconstruct his fractured family, and Hardy’s quest to keep Carroll behind bars and then to return him to prison after he escapes. Each week showcases gross brutality and gratuitous murder aplenty, with little ulterior motive. The Following makes me squirm because I don’t understand what about Carroll could turn everyday people into remorseless killers.

As with the fictional “Cult”, the real-life Cult relies on its viewers’ ability to read between the lines to find meaning in the story; The Following lays it all out for its viewers, who are left wondering if there is method to Carroll’s madness. I am disappointed Cult was cancelled, even more so after hearing the final episodes will not be aired. In addition to lamenting the cancellation of the show, I mourn popular culture’s favouritism of the simple and graphic over the subtle and cerebral.

About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Graphic from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_(TV_series)

Being Human Send-off

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I hate this bittersweet time of year, the time when all my favourite television shows come to a climax and leave me hanging. This week I watched this season’s culminating episode of Being Human, a show about a vampire, a pair of werewolves and a ghost trying to subvert their supernatural sides and…well…be human. This season saw a vampire virus, Aiden siring a son, Sally’s transformation from shredded, limbo-confined ghost to flesh-eating zombie and back to ghost, and Josh’s journey from were to human and back to were. There was a lot of murder and mayhem and sex and a marriage, but no matter the excitement level of each episode (which was stuck in high gear for the duration), it never reached the high of the season finale.

This week’s episode saw Aidan form an unholy alliance with Blake to compel Kat to forget seeing Sally’s rotting corpse in her room; Sally’s return to ghostdom while linked to Donna the Souleater’s spirit; and Josh’s seeming inability to return to (for lack of a better phrase) being human after turning, following being bit by a full-blooded were. To make matters worse, a woman has shown up that looks eerily like Aidan’s long dead wife, there’s a mutated baby vamp on the loose that Aidan suggested to Josh he’d killed, and Werejosh is about to pounce on Humannora.

On the up side, I’m satisfied. This ending promised no fewer cliffhangers than any other episode this season. On the downside, I have to wait the better part of a year before I am able to ride the Being Human roller coaster again. Being Human is one of the better sci-fi shows featuring supes out there today. It lacks the soap of Vampire Diaries, and True Blood’s gratuitous sex and violence. The characters develop every season, and the relationships are believable, which can be attributed to the chemistry of the cast and the skill of the writing. Knowing the British production has been cancelled makes me all the more grateful that this was only the season—and not the series—finale.

To my dear friends Aidan, Josh, Sally and Nora: have a great summer, and try not to eat too many actual humans while on hiatus.

About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Graphic from:http://www.bigdamngeeks.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/being-human-1.jpg

THE VIRGIN CURE – Review

As an archaeologist, I have extensive knowledge of objects used by European cultures in the nineteenth century in The New World. After reading Amy McKay’s The Virgin Cure, I realize I know very little about life in the nineteenth century, particularly amongst the lower classes. In The Virgin Cure, preteen Moth is sold into servitude by her alcoholic, promiscuous mother. She goes willingly and is beaten on a whim by her mistress, Mrs. Wentworth, treated poorly by the rest of the servants and escapes to the streets. She is taken in by Miss Everett, a woman who offers homes to girls with intact virginities, trains them in the art of how to please a man, and then sells their virtue off. She strikes a friendship with Miss Everett’s doctor who offers to take her in herself, but Moth refuses. The title refers to the belief that men with sexually transmitted diseases may be cured of their illness after having sex with a virgin. Young girls like Moth live under the ever-present danger that they may fall prey to this practice. Though Moth remains safe throughout, one of her friends is raped by a syphilitic man in an alleyway and succumbs to the disease. In the end, Moth survives the experience and grows to leave Miss Everett, only to follow in her footsteps, eventually opening a similar house for wayward girls of her own.

McKay’s narrative style, in the first person present tense from Moth’s point of view is extremely compelling. Moth is precocious and streetwise, though naïve when it comes to male-female relations. She looks fondly upon her life in the tenements, yet has no desire to return. Intermittent throughout the narrative are “author’s notes” in the persona of Dr. Sadie. Though intended to enlighten the reader with respect to nineteenth century customs and practices, they interrupt the flow of the narrative instead, adding little to it as the information is eventually imparted elsewhere in Moth’s story. Newspaper articles documenting events in the plot are unnecessary as they add little to what the reader has already experienced. The same can be said for Dr. Sadie’s notes and letters.

In McKay’s afterword, she explains that this novel is based on a picture of her great-great-grandmother (the inspiration for Dr. Sadie) and her daughter and research she undertook in an effort to learn more about her great-great-grandmother, a pioneer with respect to elevating the role of women in society. This may explain why, aside from a few beatings and following through with selling her virginity, little happens to Moth in the book. Most of the intrigue is in what Moth hears or witnesses, first at her employer’s erratic behaviour, then from the girls at Miss Everett’s and in her role as a “Circassian Beauty” – slash – fortune-teller in Mr. Dink’s museum.

Given the build-up, I expected a more vivid description of Moth’s first time and was disappointed. I also expected her to find redemption in the favour of the upper-class she so fantasizes about and was disappointed there as well. Rather than join Dr. Sadie on a crusade to save girls from falling prey to the same fate as herself, Moth opens her own brothel, offering up girls as naïve and pure as she once was to dirty old men. The Virgin Cure is a slice-of-life novel, offering the reader a glimpse into the plight of women, especially the destitute in late nineteenth century North America, and is well worth the read, in spite of the lack-lustre climax.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

THE PURCHASE and Point of View

Whether consciously aware of it or not, the point of view from which a story is told can make or break the story. The most popular points of view are first person—in which the reader sees the events unfold through the eyes of a single character, including their thoughts and feelings—and third person. There are typically three types of third person narrative. The first is limited, essentially another take on the first person narrative. In third person limited, the reader can only know, see and feel what the point of view character knows, sees and feels. In third person omniscient, the reader experiences the narrative from a variety of people’s points of view. In third person objective, the narrator tells the plot as if the reader were viewing a movie, taking in all of the characters’ expressions and actions, but with none of the characters’ thoughts and feelings expressed in the narrative, other than those responses which can reasonably be observed.

The Purchase by Linda Spalding is about Daniel Dickinson, a Quaker living at the turn of the nineteenth century, who is excommunicated after his wife dies and he marries Ruth, the fifteen year old Methodist orphan living with his family as a servant. Disillusioned with his former life and feeling as if he has no future, Daniel moves his five children across the country to settle in Virginia. At an auction to purchase farm equipment, Daniel inadvertently bids on a slave and is bullied into giving up his favourite horse as collateral for the purchase and taking the eight year old boy, Simus, home with him. Thus begins (if I may borrow a phrase) a series of unfortunate events for Daniel as his family grows and he tries to build first a house and then a mill on his land.

The story is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, following each character’s thoughts, feelings and actions as the scene unfolds. This allows the reader to glean information that the main character(s) may not have. The following passage demonstrates Spalding’s expert use of this narrative technique:

“If we take my children to Virginia, thee could travel as a wife.” It was possible, [Daniel] supposed now, looking back at her unwashed face, that she had never had a book of her own. “Thee may borrow my Aeneid,” he called back to her, “with due care to its binding.” He turned to smile, but she had lowered her head and did not see.

But I am reading it just now, Mary wanted to say. That book was the one thing she shared now with her father. It was theirs. She stayed silent.

If this were written from Daniel’s point of view, we would not know that Mary wants to say something to her father but chooses to remain silent. Spalding also uses this technique to hide from Mary that her husband was involved in Simus’ murder. The reader knows it was reluctantly so and that he tried to stop it and gave up and left before the actual murder took place, information Mary never finds out.

The Purchase is written in third person omniscient, but it is more a cross between this and third person objective, as many character thoughts and motivations are hidden. Ruth is the best example of this. Though she is present throughout and the reader knows she struggles with her position in the family, little is shown with respect to her emotions. Next to Daniel, the well-meaning but aloof patriarch, the most detailed, well-rounded character is Simus. Though he is around for perhaps only half of the novel, his life and death act as catalysts for most of what occurs in the plot. Mary, the eldest daughter, and Bett, a slave girl with whom Mary lives, befriends, and helps escape, aren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. Though Mary gains local notoriety as a healer while secretly using Bett’s salves and potions, Bett only expresses fear at being caught, for it is against the law for blacks to medically treat whites. I would have liked to have known more about Bett’s feeling with respect to what happens in the story, as I felt the real story lay in the relationship between Simus, Bett, Bry (Bett’s son, the result of her being raped by her owner) and Mary, who form the closest thing to a family portrayed in the book.

Spalding’s choice to use this point of view allows her to expand her story, giving the reader snapshots into the lives of characters beyond Daniel and what he knows about his family’s goings-on. In this fashion, the author expertly layers the story, drawing the reader’s curiosity, rendering The Purchase a page-turner; the pace is quick, the chapters are short and the narration is easy to follow. The novel explores the themes of perseverance in the face of adversity, alienation, religious faith, and the make-up of family. Spalding draws thought-provoking parallels between the slavery of blacks and the servitude of women. Daniel remains cold to Ruth throughout. They do not have relations until they are several years into their marriage. Even then, he is aloof with her and quick to lay judgement. In many ways, He treats Ruth as more of a slave than either Simus, Bett or Bry, figuratively lashing out at her when she disobeys him or tries to assume ownership of the new homestead, he does not forge a relationship with her and goes to her only when he wants to have relations. This parallels Bett’s plight. Her owner (the Fox family) literally lashes her when she disobeys them, they forge no attachment with her and the owner uses his female slaves whenever he wants to have relations.

The Purchase intricately weaves the stories of the members of the extended Dickinson family into the harsh realities of pioneer life using a great deal of irony in the telling. The story itself is told darkly, but the end message is uplifting and emotionally and spiritually satisfying.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!