As many of you know, I celebrated a birthday recently, and to treat myself, I decided to hire a professional cover artist to give my Gothic horror Finding Poe a great new look. I also revised the story description, which will appear both on the cover and on Amazon. So, compare the old . . .
Follow the final days before Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death, journeying through twisted bits and pieces of his musings, both brilliant and mad, in search of the truth behind his final, unfinished work, "The Lighthouse," whole unraveling the mystery behind the elusive woman desperately seeking the author for answers behind her husband's haunted death.
"Atmospheric, lush, and lyrical, Leigh M. Lane's Finding Poe is a haunting Gothic novel which will delight anyone familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as anyone who enjoys an evocative and classic tale of terror." -horror/mystery author Dana Fredsti.
. . . with the new:
In the wake of her husband's haunted death, one woman must sift through the cryptic clues left behind in order to solve the mystery behind his suicide—all of which point back to the elusive author, Edgar Allan Poe. She soon finds that reality and nightmare have become fused onto one as she journeys from a haunted lighthouse in New England to Baltimore, where the only man who might know the answers to her many questions resides.
But will she find her answers before insanity rips her grip on reality for good? Might a man she's never met hold the only key to a truth more shocking than even she could have imagined? As far as I'm concerned, there's no comparison. I would like to give special thanks to Michael Ezaky for working with me (very patiently, I must add) to get this cover just right.You can view Michael Ezaky's art at http://ezakytheartist.deviantart.com, and you can contact him about cover art at Chaoticfantasy.com. He's also on Facebook. I can say with the utmost of confidence that Mr. Ezaky is very professional, very reasonable in price, and will not stop working until you have the perfect cover art for your work.I'm so excited to be unveiling this new cover to the rest of the world within the next few days, but I thought I'd give you all a sneak-peek. What do you think? Share your thoughts for a chance at a signed copy of the new printing.
I could spend a few hours looking for photos that fall within public domain, but in this case, I believe content is more important than any possible pictures or files.
I sit at my desk, struggling to catch my breath, in awe over the literary brilliance that went into the first episode of Fox’s new series The Following. I have read pre-release reviews on the show, and they have been as varied as the speculations portrayed in Poe’s art. Denver Post television critic Joanne Ostrow writes, “[The Following’s creator] seems to be treading a familiar path but with a more adult sensibility. [Kevin Williamson has] left the vampires behind, kept the scream-worthy horror and added some smart plotting.” In stark contrast, The Washington Post’s reviewer, Hank Stuever writes, “…I realized: ‘The Following’s’ fundamental problem is neither its gore nor its brutality; it’s the display of arrogance. Tangled up in easily avoidable clichés of the genre, this is a show that is entirely too pleased with itself and its pretentious concept. It’s not that we’ve become numb. It’s that we’ve become dulled."
“Pretentious” is often a term used by those who are too ill-educated or unsophisticated to appreciate the brilliance or depth of a particular work. Stuever clearly doesn’t know his Poe, nor can he appreciate the literary merit that has gone into the series pilot. As both a well-read student of Poe and an artist, I can say with certainty that Stuver has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s poorly misinformed, a fact easily discerned by anyone who has any background in the genre.
It is with great irony that I begin with the response to the antagonist’s first novel, which he himself calls “literati pretense.” He understands the gap between art and perception, and the writers take this concept to its own level. Clearly, its naysayers have no clue of the brilliance they review. While they cover the ramblings of a madman, unaware of the literary implications, the most important being the realization of one of Poe’s greatest fears: falling into the chasm of insanity. Poe also often used the theme of the (often insane) “unreliable narrator” to express ideas far beyond the scope of his characters. Anyone who has studied Poe will know that the themes explored by The Following explores themes only barely touched by many of Poe’s works. “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Raven” are three stories mentioned by name, but beyond story titles and thematic implications, the mere mention of these stories says something important about the series and where it is going.
Starting from importance, “The Tell-Tale Heart” hints at the physical issues implicated through other characters’ dialog. Retired FBI agent Ryan Hardy obviously has some kind of health issue related to his heart, an issue that will surely reveal itself in greater detail in episodes to come. Ryan is also a clear parallel to Poe’s deductive amateur detective Auguste Dupin.
The symbolism included in the series premiere is as important as any other aspect one might analyze. Hardy’s discovery of not only Carroll’s part in the continuing murders, but the connection to Poe’s works in his followers, suggests “The Murders of Rue Morgue,” as well as other prominent Poe works. The significance of “Rue Morgue” demonstrates the implication of Carroll’s ability to reduce his followers to the mental state of an orangutan—capable of great destruction but unaware of the effects of their mayhem.
By connecting the murders with the unfinished work, Poe’s “Lighthouse,” the writers make a point about the power of words. Poe died after writing three pages of “The Lighthouse,” and yet Carroll is able to harness the power Poe has left behind and use it against his fellow man. There is repeated reference to “The Black Cat,” as well as reference to the often poorly understood “The Cast of Amontillado.” By referencing the lost clues that might reside behind closed walls, the story's authors offer deep commentary on what is versus what is perceived, an offshoot of Poe’s strong themes of the unreliable narrator. When Carroll refers to Hardy as “the flawed hero,” he speaks not only of the ex-agent who has lost sight of his greatest nemesis’ intent. This, of course, plays upon the literati philosophy of author intent. The gay couple draws attention from the babysitter, the babysitter represents the “unfinished work” portrayed in Poe’s unfinished short story “The Lighthouse,” and Carroll’s antagonistic leads play against Hardy’s predetermined views about the serial killer and the power he holds over all he’s affected.
The only other thing made clear is that Carroll is intent on creating a Poe-inspired masterpiece of his own by riding the coattails of the Gothic horror master. Whether or not he will succeed lies in the hands of The Following’s writers. I suspect they have a decent idea of what they’re going. Whether or not the general audience will identify with the brilliance the writers are tapping into remains to be seen.
Edgar Allan Poe was well known for his critical reviews of other authors, and to pay homage, I’ve decided to offer a critical review of what I believe to be one of his most provocative short stories, “The Pit and the Pendulum.” While Poe’s reviews were often scathing, I felt it more appropriate to celebrate his birthday with something a bit more praiseworthy and analytical.
In “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe uses hellish visuals to portray the irony of religious justification for torture and death. His unnamed protagonist first describes his physical response to the “inquisitorial voices” sentencing him to death. His senses fail him before he falls into a mild hallucinatory state, at which time one must consider the possibility that Poe is using his common tool, the unreliable narrator. This works to the benefit of the story, however, allowing one to regard the entire work as an opinion piece.The narrator describes,
I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment; and then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me: but then all at once there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill, as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help.
Here, the seven candles represent the Catholic pontifical high Mass, which is commonly associated with the Pope. It is in the above passage where he makes clear his intentions in writing this story. When he describes the candles as “angel forms [that] became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame,” he juxtaposes the holy with hellfire, a visual that will prove to be a recurring theme throughout the work.
The narrator falls into a fugue state, which he can only compare to death. Poe writes,
I had swooned; but still will not say that all of consciousness was lost. What of it there remained I will not attempt to define, or even to describe; yet all was not lost. In the deepest slumber -- no! In delirium -- no! In a swoon -- no! In death -- no! Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterwards (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed.
The narrator’s inability to define or describe his experience represents the unknown and the uncertainty of what lies beyond death. Through his perceived encounter with those sanctified by the Catholic Church, our protagonist loses his faith in the divine. He further exemplifies this ironic event in his confusion over what exactly he has encountered: “In the deepest slumber -- no! In delirium -- no! In a swoon -- no! In death -- no! Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man.” By claiming, “Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man,” the narrator is defining the moment in which he feels forced to question the afterlife. He compares the encounter to a dream immediately forgotten upon waking, bringing death to a strictly physical level and abandoning any spiritual connection. He elaborates upon this sentiment when he soon thereafter describes the experience as “some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which [his] soul had lapsed.”
Illustration courtesy of MacFran:
Poe cleverly offers a sense of confusion over the narrator’s unreliability when he comes upon a brief moment of clarity. He describes, “I brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from that point to deduce my real condition. The sentence had passed, and it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since elapsed.” Here, he recalls his sentencing, but also questions the state in which the shock of that sentence had imposed upon him. He exemplifies this by adding, “Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead. Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is altogether inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what state was I?” By specifically referring recorded experiences of death as “what we read in fiction,” he denies any supernatural connection to said experiences. His additional observation that it might be “altogether inconsistent with real existence” fortifies the idea that there is a clear divide between his perceived and actual occurrences.
The narrator, upon gaining full consciousness, finds himself in a pitch-black dungeon, which he describes as difficult to gauge in shape and dimension. This, of course, works as a parallel to the indeterminate size and shape of our universe (which remained an enigma at the time of this story’s creation), his imprisoned world suddenly reduced to the same level of uncertainty. He clarifies the nature of his prison, however, after again falling unconscious and waking to find the dungeon lit just enough for him to gauge his surroundings. He describes it as “a wild sulphurous luster” with an “origin of which [he] could not at first determine.” By describing the vague light source as having “a wild sulphurous luster,” he incorporates sensations most often associated with Hell, and by adding that the origin was one “of which [he] could not determine,” he makes clear the ethereal ekphrasis intended.
When Poe introduces the pendulum, he provides an interconnection between time and death, insinuating the finiteness of all life. He describes the pendulum as “a painted figure of Time as he is commonly represented, save that in lieu of a scythe he held as a casual glance I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum, such as we see on antique clocks.” By meshing the traditional images of (pendulum) and death (scythe), he alludes to the association between the two; both are inescapable and both play against one another in the eventual mortality of all humans. Many attempt to diffuse their fears over the two through faith, but again, perception and reality do not always go hand in hand.
Poe further alludes to this connection when his narrator describes, “there had been no perceptible descent in the pendulum.” Like watching a child grow or a person age, the perception is not one that can be viewed in one moment to the next. One might as well attempt to watch the grass grow. Old age creeps upon us all, and youth falls to the wayside before it can be fully appreciated. Death, as inevitable as it is, often seems distant until nearly the moment it strikes. Most of us think little about our mortality, or the finality that may come with death, until we’re forced to, as Poe’s narrator exemplifies, “For the first time during many hours, or perhaps days, I THOUGHT.” It isn’t until the pendulum has nearly reached him that he is able to ponder both its implications and his possible escape.
Poe returns to allusions of the battles resulting from the Inquisition when he brings the rats inhabiting the dungeon to the forefront. The narrator describes,
I had not counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the frame-work and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to the wood, they overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person.
Notice the choice in language here: the “general rush” and the “fresh troops.” Poe clearly depicts war through the garish guise of vermin warming a man on the brink of death. Still, his narrator survives, patiently waiting for their assault against his flesh to weaken also the ties that bind him, only to describe the horrors that ensue:
I had scarcely stepped from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up by some invisible force through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched. Free! I had but escaped death in one form of agony to be delivered unto worse than death in some other.
Image courtesy of Ryan Russell.
Click on image for more information.
Here, one might find a correlation between the assumed all-seeing eyes of God and the narrator’s torturers: “My every motion was undoubtedly watched.” The pendulum ceases as soon as he slips from his binds, and he anticipates a new level of suffering to replace the old. The “lesson which [he takes] desperately to heart” compares to the canonical “lesson[s]” anyone might derive from any given religious text.
When the torturers are finally revealed, the narrator describes “Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glar[ing] …in a thousand directions where none have been visible before, and gleamed with a lurid luster of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal.” The description here is more ethereal than it is earthly, turning men into demons, meshing the imagined with inescapable reality. Those trusted with the position of punishing the condemned are no better than those deemed the heathens they have sentenced; human and demon become one in the same. Poe ensures his message is clear by describing his torturers as “most demoniac of men,” and by transforming the stone walls of the narrator’s prison as “burning iron” ever closing in on his protagonist.
When he rouses from his imagined hell, the protagonist realizes “the fiery walls rushed back” and he is still on the battlefield, fighting alongside General Lasalle of the French army, driving those fighting for the Inquisition into submission. This reversal of roles here is key to the story. By shifting the narrator’s hell into reverie, Poe merely shows that he portrays one side of a complicated story. More importantly, he illustrates the atrocities that might exist due to something as menial as a difference in belief. The enemy is always the demon, and his domain is always Hell, and it is only human nature to dehumanize he whom one currently fights against.
Works cited by link:
As most of you already know, my Edgar Allan Poe-inspired novel Finding Poe contains references to over twenty-five of his best (but some not so well known) works. Are you a Poe fan? Think you can name the most references?
If so, send me a private message with your list using the web form on my Contact page. The winner, whom I’ll announce at the end of the month, will receive a signed paperback copy of Finding Poe, a signed cover art postcard, and a cover art refrigerator magnet.
Remember, Finding Poe is only $0.99 on Kindle through the anniversary of his birthday (January 19).
Do you love Poe as much as I do? If so, you'll enjoy this video released today through Bookish Friends. It opens with avid reader Bunny Cates reciting Poe's haunting poem, "Alone," and then cuts to a mini biography of Poe's writing and motivations recorded by yours truly.
Thanks again to Bunny Cates for inviting me to join in on this fun, Poe-filled venture!
With the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday coming up, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about his life and his amazing collection of short stories and poetic works. Most people think of “The Raven” or “The Tell-Tale Heart” when they think of Poe, but those who have read a decent sample of his writing know that he was as eclectic and innovative as he was prolific. Although my favorite works of his all fall under his vast umbrella of horror, he also wrote strange tales, humor, and detective mysteries (he was the inventor of the deductive sleuth).
It seems I’m not alone in seeing Poe as a creative inspiration. Last year’s The Raven came out shortly after I released Finding Poe (you can read my review of the film here) and the Poe-inspired Fox television series The Following premieres later this month. Although The Raven and The Following are vastly different from Finding Poe and each in their own way, both incorporate elements of his most well known works.
| |The muses hit me with the idea for Finding Poe after I had read (or re-read) a number of his short stories, and in order to do the best justice to my tribute, I read and studied literally every work of his that I could find. PoeStories.com is a great resource, as is The Literature Network, and you can find several free or low priced Poe short stories and poetry collections for your Kindle at Amazon. Not every work he wrote is brilliant, and a handful of his short stories are downright awful, but they’re worth sifting through.
In honor of Poe's upcoming birthday, I’m reducing the Kindle price for Finding Poe to $0.99 through January 19. His is a legacy that few other authors have achieved, and I’m proud to be among the writers and artists who have strove to pay him his due homage. Happy reading—you might want to leave more than one light on.
| |Finding Poe fans: please consider voting for Finding Poe in this year's P&E Readers' Choice Awards in horror novels. There's no registration required. All you have to do is click on the link, check the box beside "Finding Poe," fill out the info below (for verification purposes) and click on the verification link in your e-mail (which P&E will send you to ensure you're not a spammer). It would mean a lot.
Finding Poe has been named a finalist in the upcoming 2013 EPIC Awards, but that alone is not enough. To push this novel into the mainstream, I need readers to back my work, and that is where other awards like the P&E Readers' Choice Awards comes into play.
Here's the link: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelh.shtmlMy thanks for your readership and support!
I’m sure you’re preparing yourself for some clichéd rambling about my writing because I must, or that I knew I was a writer since I was seven, or something else to that effect. While all that might be true, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the subject, while at the same time offering a few candid words behind my motivations in sharing the written word.
I’m not your typical thirty- (around the corner from forty-) something. I’ve spent much of my life observing rather than participating, documenting rather than doing, and analyzing instead of simply enjoying the moment. I can only assume that a good number of other writers have shared a similar path, although it is a difficult one to admit.
If not in talent, then at least in demeanor, I am a Salinger … a Dickenson … a hermit. I strive to understand the human condition, many aspects of which thoroughly confound me, by exploring it through my writing.
I write from an outsider’s point of view. This is both to my detriment and to my advantage. It is only human to want to connect, and so my greatest wish is to reach others in the only way I truly know how. Throw me into the heart of a booming party, and I’m clueless. My heart will race, my body will glisten with sweat, and I will stand awkwardly in the corner of the room, unsure how to interact. The truth is, I don’t fit in. I’ve never fit in. And it is painfully obvious to anyone who has encountered me in person.
I spent my childhood clinging to my books and my studies for some sense of grounding, while bullies singled me out and chiseled away relentlessly at my self-esteem. They saw my weakness, and as any young person will do, my peers exploited it to their greatest advantage. I spent my high school years finding ways to stay as invisible as possible, lest someone notice the bull’s eye painted across my forehead and the word “outcast” visible within the furthest depths of my horrified eyes. Some people fear spiders, some fear snakes, and some fear the dark. I fear none of those; I fear people.
One of the greatest motivations behind what I write is a stern desire to understand all that eludes me. I seek to gain as much from my works as I would hope others might gain in reading them. Of course, what we each derive will likely be very different, and that is the beauty of it. I write because it is my way of reaching out to you, readers of the world—people I might never otherwise have the chance with which to connect. I write because, although I might not understand you, I know you. I know you very well. That is the gift and the curse of people like me.
So I entreat upon each of you: pick out one of my books, one that might suit you better than the rest. Let us connect through that book. Let me touch you, if I can; in the process, let me offer you a tiny piece of who I am. That is all I have to offer you.
This month, Finding Poe finds itself alongside Kim Harrison's Into the Woods and Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road as a Featured Review at the SF Site. Here's an excerpt:"It is a story that seems as though it has been written in the dark, as the setting and characters are darker than normal. This is a gothic novel with Poe being one of the main interests in it. The story starts with her trying to find Poe and the answers to her husband's death, but along the way she is subject to some horrifying events that form the dark setting of the novel. Although it is rather short, it has some nerve wracking moments, and some that are downright gory."Read the full review here.
I'm very excited to share that Finding Poe is a finalist in the upcoming EPIC Awards. EPIC holds yearly awards for books published in electronic format, judged by a panel chosen by committee. I won't know if Finding Poe has won until EPICcon this upcoming March, but I'm honored even to have made it this far. Keep your fingers crossed for me!Here is a list of all of the finalists.