she stepped from the river, muddy and dripping

Castle RuinsWhen I go to bed, I close the closet door to keep whatever lurks in the closet when the lights are snuffed from getting out. It took me years to stop covering my head, but my feet are always under the covers because, as Stephen King says, “covers are boogeyman kryptonite.” Yep.

My forays into writing horror fiction comes from growing up among folks who were both deeply religious and deeply superstitious. My great aunts and other elders believed in ghosts, prophetic dreams, witches, voodoo, signs and omens. It made for a rather nervous childhood.

I was afraid of a room in Aunt Nora’s house. Her house had been built in a style customary in the old days on the bayou, designed to hold two families so the kitchen was one large room, and opening off of it was another set of rooms on the righthand side of the house. Aunt Nora inhabited the left side, and the right side had been for family who had passed away before I was born.

On the right side was a shadowy parlor, and an equally dim front room that opened onto the enclosed porch. (In the old days parlors and/or front rooms often had a bed pushed into a corner. ) These musty chambers in Aunt Nora’s house were furnished with needlepoint furniture from bygone days, porcelain tchotkes, and to my imagination, ghosts of relatives I never knew.  I avoided that side of the house. The front room at least had a screen door that opened onto the porch and sweet daylight, but that inner parlor gave me the creeps.

I was afraid of the cemetery next to the Baptist church, afraid to be alone in an empty house, afraid of hearing and seeing things that weren’t there, and developed a fascination with death and dark things. One of my all-time favorite horror films is Carnival of Souls (1962). I’m fascinated by the idea of someone dying but not believing they’re dead and attempting to go on with the life they’d had. I’ve always felt great sympathy for the movie’s tragic heroine, Mary Henry, played by Candace Hilligoss.220px-Candacehilligoss4

I like horror films because the fears and anxieties raised by them vanish with the words “The End” or the modern film fade-out. Real life is filled with much greater darknesses, terrors and horrors that do not go away, but abide with us day in and day out. This is why I do not listen to the news. Escaping into a good horror film is a relief.

yesterday

Benedictine Cemetery, Salzburg, Austria

Saturday friends and I did a “Write-In on the Rails” day trip to Oceanside on the MetroLink train #660. We brought our laptops and as the 660 zipped past California’s wild ravines and hillside homes overlooking the cold, gray Pacific, we each worked on our individual projects. I completed a new scene in The Foreigner and worked on the outline for The Bone Box, a horror novella I hope to start writing soon.

The plan was to catch a morning train, meet in one of the cars to work, have lunch in Oceanside and catch an early afternoon train back to our respective homes. And it almost worked out that way but for a tragedy on the tracks.

In Oceanside. we made our way to Master’s for lunch in a gaggle of umbrellas, shielding ourselves from the drippy sky. After lunch, it was back to the train for the homeward run. Shortly after we boarded and pulled out of Oceanside, a man committed suicide, stopping his car on the track in front of the oncoming, southbound train, right in front of dozens of people. Suicide is a heartbreaking act in so many ways. I’ll spare you all the details, but let me say, we spent hours and hours, the rest of the day mostly at a standstill on the track, unable to go anywhere because of the ongoing investigation of the suicide and the resulting train congestion.

During the run down, I took a moment to check my e-mail, found a message from Black Fox Literary Magazine accepting my short short story, Crossing, for publication in the Summer issue, online July 27! I’m thrilled. Crossing was so very short, I didn’t know what to do with it and left it in my files until I decided recently to give it a chance and send it out. To my surprise, it found a home.

I’ve been crazy busy and have not had time to write my next post about my Danube cruise, Vienna. It doesn’t help that I’ve misplaced my travel journal with my notes! (sigh) As soon as the dust settles, and I hope I find my travel journal, I’ll get back to it. Besides Vienna, there’s Bratislava, Slovakia’s capitol, and Budapest (the crown jewel of my trip) left to write about.

The photo is the cemetery of the Benedictine monastery in Vienna.

 

Durnstein, Austria

Durnstein, Austria.6.10.15 The cruise from Melk to Durnstein along the Danube was a panoramic fantasy. It is that long sweep of the Danube between Krems and Melk known as “the Wachau” and it is truly lovely, a valley out of a fairytale realm. Too bad I can’t upload the video I took of entering Durnstein.

Cruising to Durnstein

Castle Ruins5.DurnsteinHaving been told of a fabled bone box in the cemetery of the old church in the village, my friends and I hied off to walk what we thought was the road leading to the cemetery. It was a steep path that got steeper and steeper until my heart said “Sit your butt down now!.” Turns out we were on the path to the medieval ruins of Durnstein Castle where King Richard I of England was held prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of Austria.

Exhausted from our futile climb, we gave up the search and strolled the cobblestone streets visiting shops and taking in the pretty town before going back to the Viking Legend.Street in Durnstein

After a quick consult at Legend’s reception desk, with evening descending, we went off again in search of the bone box. We were determined. Once again we found ourselves on a steep path to nowhere until Neal spotted an old wall and gate tucked around a curve back down at the start of the path, practically hidden by the lay of the road. The old cemetery! We stepped through the unlocked gate into a garden of well-kept tombs blooming with rose bushes sheltering long-buried families of Durnstein, in the looming shadow of an ancient church. (Unfortunately, for some reason the cemetery photos I took won’t import from my camera, despite iPhoto insisting all photos have been imported! So frustrating!) Luck wasn’t with us, as it turns out. A construction wall closed off the area where the bone box was said to be. Dagnabit! We soothed our disappointment with a rest at the riverbank before strolling back to the ship for dinner.Riverbank View

 The Wachau Valley still has its medieval landscape with outcroppings of castle ruins, monuments to the age of knights, hills thickly bearded with forest, and charming red-roofed, white-walled towns threaded by aged streets of cobblestones.Alley in DurnsteinPink GeraniumsCastle Stone Fragment

Melk, Austria

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Melk Abbey, Austria

On a forested cliff above the town of Melk stands Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1089, and eventually rebuilt in the Baroque style between 1702 and 1736. It has a gorgeous and famous library holding centuries old manuscripts and books in Latin on religion, philosophy, science, and mathematics, and a collection of books published in later centuries in English and German. Candles were not allowed in the library for fear of fire so if a monk wanted extra light for reading, he could open a wall among the shelves behind which was a small chamber containing a desk and a chair and fronted by a window providing illumination as well as a comfortable, private alcove. The abbey runs a monastic school and also a school for children.

View of Melk from the abbey’s balcony and a ceiling detail.

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Salzburg Outing

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Late in the afternoon on Monday the weather turned rainy, but not for long. We travelled to Linz, Austria and was docked by dinner. Linz is an industrial city on the Danube. I didn’t do the Linz city tour, opted instead for the bus ride to Salzburg. It was a beautiful drive through pine and fir-forested Austrian countryside, passing by villages in pretty valleys. Mist hung over the deep forests, weather rainy and cool. We stopped for a rest break at Mondsee (Moon Lake).

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In Salzburg, my friends and I had lunch at the oldest restaurant in Europe, established in 803 A.D.

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Not so much with the castles on this tour, mostly churches and abbeys and old royal buildings like the fortress castle above the Benedictine monastery.

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Danube Waltz

Evening in Passau

Evening in Passau

Eight days of leisure coursing along on one of Europe’s great rivers. Each day began for me with a cafe au lait or cappuccino and a luxurious breakfast in the Viking Legend’s dining room with forested river views and the company of friends (there were 7 of us), and then that day’s shore excursion–following the guide through medieval villages threaded with cobblestone streets, through cities chock full of 18th and 19th century architectural beauties (nearly lost my mind among the striking medieval architecture crowning Budapest, Queen of the Danube, and rightfully so. Props to Vienna too, no princess come lately to the architectural ball.) Soaked up a multiplicity of historical details and information, and wore out my Canon, iPad, and iPhone cameras.

Passau, known as the City of Three Rivers, located in southeastern Bavaria, borders Austria, a stroll away across the bridge. Three rivers, the Danube, the Ilz, and the Inn flow through, coming together in a confluence of green and brown waters. Originally a Celtic settlement named “Boiodurum,” it became the diocese of Passau and a bishopric. Its fortune rose on the salt trade, known as White Gold, making it a rich city, giving its merchants a powerful monopoly until 1707 when all salt imports to Passau were forbidden and Passau, a shining star of the Holy Roman Empire, lost its luster.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, (Baroque)