Creativity and the Aging Brain — The Artist’s Road

“Don’t imagine you’ll have it forever. Use it while you’ve got it because it’ll go; it’s sliding away like water down a plug hole.” So said Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing of creativity. The author of The Golden Notebook, who passed away recently at the age of 94, said this five years ago when describing […]

Creativity and the Aging Brain — The Artist’s Road

I’VE GOT A GOOD FILLING ABOUT THIS… SANDRA HARRIS SAYS ‘BYE ‘BYE TO DENTAL PAIN AND ANGUISH. ©

I’VE GOT A GOOD FILLING ABOUT THIS…

BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Naturally, I never reveal my age (a lady’s prerogative, as I hope you’ll agree), but I can let slip this one telling fact; I’m old enough to have experienced the disturbing phenomenon known to some as the Bad School Dentist of Yore (male, by the way; they were always male).

I have distinct memories of coming home from appointments with this Bad Dentist, the accompanying parent hitting me over the head with the words ‘Whist up! There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re grand!’ and me all the while trying to alert same to the blood pumping from the hideous gap in my mouth and down my school jumper. We call them the Bad Old Days for reasons like this.

A book I read this year about the Magdalene Laundries of old (Ireland’s now-not-so-secret shame, and one that we still haven’t atoned for as a nation) was an eye-opener. If I had suffered at the hands of the Bad School Dentist of Yore, I imagine it was nothing compared to the experiences some women endured when the Man who Pulled the Teeth came a-calling at the behest of the nuns.

From what I gathered, this man needn’t even have been a qualified dentist. It seemed to me like he was just a local man with a pair of pliers in his toolbox, who pocketed a few extra quid from the nuns by yanking out the offending teeth of the so-called ‘penitents’ (they were not the ones who had anything to be sorry for!) without anaesthetic or after-care. Jesus wept.

Luckily for me, anyway, I grew up with good solid gnashers that haven’t needed much work over the years beyond the six-monthly cleaning and check-up. Recently, however, a check-up revealed that I had a filling which needed replacing.

Was I happy to hear this? About as happy as I would be to be told that my ‘f-f-f-fun-buddy’ would be classed as a close contact, and we can’t see each other during the pandemic for fear that we might give each other coronavirus. Oh, wait a minute. That’s already happened, lol. The sex-ban, that is, not the virus-passing! Still not happy about it, though. At this stage, a good ride might even be worth the risk…

Anyhoo. This had better not hurt me, I said darkly to my dentist this morning, re the filling replacement. In this namby-pamby snowflakey society we inhabit now, we’re totally allowed to say things like this to our service providers, and they totally have to pander to us like we’re spoilt, fussy children in case we take our bucks elsewhere. It’s a far cry from the Bad School Dentist of Yore and his ilk, and no harm either.

It’s just a little prick, my nice lady dentist assured me sweetly, or words to that effect. You won’t feel a thing. And you know what? She was right. My gum was numbed so that I wouldn’t feel the needle going in, then the nasty stuff- the scraping, poking and drilling- happened while I was all numbed up.

As a tired mammy-of-two, if you lie me down anywhere for a minute, I tend to nod off straightaway. Believe me when I said that I was very nearly relaxed enough during the procedure to doze off for a bit in the dentist’s chair. At the very least, I was able to come up with a few ideas for my next Work In Progress, THIRTEEN STOPS 4, which is quite hard to do at home because of all the distractions and calls on my time.

The best part was that I was petted and praised every step of the way, by the lovely lady dentist and her gentle female assistant, for being such a big brave girl. They just stopped short of gifting me with a lollipop on the way out. (I was mildly peeved about this. Where’s my lollipop?)

I thoroughly enjoyed the placating and encouraging. I felt like I was getting real value for money. In fact, the most painful thing about the whole experience was the bill for the filling I was presented with afterwards.

I decided to post this piece for the benefit of anyone who might be putting off going to the dentist after bad experiences in their childhood with the Bad School Dentist of Yore. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I solemnly promise you, though, that dentists aren’t like that any more. They’d be struck off, shure. You’ll be mollycoddled, pampered and jollied along, and, before you have time to fully finish your Chris Hemsworth-in-the-shower fantasy, the naughty canine/molar will be gone/filled/repaired/polished/shining like the roof of the Chrysler building. And that’s the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth. Guide’s honour.

(As coincidence would have it, the day after my dental appointment, I got talking to a lady in her sixties who was kind enough to share her own experience of the Bad School Dentist of Yore with me. This surpassed anything I had myself gone through. Her dentist reeked of booze and was actually smoking a cigarette while he treated her.

When ash from his cigarette fell on her person, she naturally started to cry. He called her ‘a little bitch’ and actually threatened to ‘strangle her’ if she didn’t pipe down. Do I believe this lady’s account of her childhood dental memories? To be honest, yes, absolutely. As the country with the Magdalene laundries on its conscience, we’ve actually done much worse.)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

The Benefits of Writing a Novel By Hand – by Bryn Donovan… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

I love writing on paper. Few things spark joy in me like a brand-new spiral notebook—and that’s been true almost my whole life. Writing a novel longhand, at least for the first draft, is my personal preference. I don’t write the whole thing by hand before typing it: I transfer it to Word document on […]

The Benefits of Writing a Novel By Hand – by Bryn Donovan… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

THE POOL. (2018) A FANTASTIC CREATURE FEATURE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE POOL. (2018) DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY PING LUMPRAPLOENG. STARRING THEERADEJ WONGPUAPAN AND RATNAMON RATCHIRATHAM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve been reading a large number of instructional blog posts lately on the subject of narrative, and What Makes A Good Story. As a fiction writer myself (when I’m not penning movie reviews!), it’s vitally important that, when I tell a story, I make it a good one worth reading. It’s equally important to be able to recognise a good story written by someone else when I see one. THE POOL is more than just a good story; it’s a sensational one.

One of the blog posts I read (I forget who wrote this) outlined a simple but effective metaphor that you can use to tell/write a good story. You, as the writer, should do three things. 1. Stick your lead character up a tree. 2. Throw rocks at him/her for a bit. 3. Let him/her down from the tree again, but not too quickly, and certainly not unscathed. I love this metaphor. I’m going to adopt it for every single piece of fiction I write from now on.

As a superb piece of narrative storytelling, THE POOL already knows all these things. The premise is simple but shocking. An attractive young Thai man called Day is trapped in a drained, outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pool with a man-eating crocodile. There’s your ‘tree,’ and the hero is most definitely stuck up in its lofty branches. Now to chuck rocks at him, lol, and boy, does this director chuck rocks at him…!

Various things are added into the mix to ramp up the tension, which never lets up for a minute. These include Day’s beloved doggie, Lucky, a dead ringer for the shaggy mutt in the Dulux paint ads; Day’s pregnant and possibly brain-damaged girlfriend Koy (he doesn’t want the baby, because he’s not in the right set of circumstances or headspace to be a dad, he reckons, but she vehemently disagrees); a rope of barbed wire; a ladder that’s there one minute and gone the next; and a tunnel beneath the pool ‘plug-hole’ that comes out God knows where.

You can add in hunger, thirst/dehydration and the lashing rain, and the fact that the pool is no longer in use and the protagonists won’t be missed for at least another three months; oh, and the crocodile is pregnant, too, by the way, and, as a nesting mother, she’s a hundred times more dangerous.

Also, her precious baby eggs are the only source of food available to the ravenous Day and his woman. Oh, oh, oh, and Day is diabetic, and his insulin (like his phone) is tantalisingly out of reach. How’s that for an obstacle course, then…?

Day, an ordinary, everyday bloke who’s probably never encountered a set of exceptional circumstances in his life before now, has to battle everything the director fires at him if he wants to survive this horrible and highly unusual ordeal.

His little victories and crushing disappointments are shared by the appalled viewer, who can’t believe how tough the director is making life for this one unlucky character. The pace and tension are maintained throughout, and the action never flags. The shocks, thrills and spills come thick and fast.

The dog is a furry legend and the crocodile, supposedly computerised, looks as real as everything else in this animal attack film. I nearly died when I found out it was animated.

I didn’t see the crocodile as the villain of the piece either. She didn’t ask to be put in this lousy situation any more than Day did, and, at the end of the day, all she’s really interested in is keeping her eggs (and babies) safe. (Just like Day and Preggers, lol.)

Then suddenly, she’s thrust into a scenario where man is her enemy and she is his. A crocodile can only do what she’s been programmed by Mother Nature for millions of years to do. I’m not taking the croc’s side over Day’s, but I can see the situation from both sides.

Day is extremely good-looking and the shots of his muscular arms and chest are very much appreciated. A sex scene between man and woman to affirm their humanity whilst in the jaws of certain death would have gone down nicely, as would a few shots of the lead actor’s no-doubt delicious naked butt have done, but sadly it wasn’t to be.

Ah well. You can’t have everything, and THE POOL pretty much delivers everything as it is, including pizza…! As we said earlier, as an examply of How to Tell A Good Story, it’s top-notch stuff, and required viewing for any would-be storyteller, regardless of their chosen medium. Do not miss out on watching this creature feature/battle for survival movie. It’s got teeth and claws, and it’s, quite simply, unmissable.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

Writing the Perfect Pitch — Lorraine Ambers

I’ve been practicing my pitches for years in a variety of ways. From the twitter contests where pitches need to be condensed into 280 characters. To crafting elevator pitches or Loglines (the one line introduction that sums up the whole story). And of course the dazzling pitch that introduces the main character, conflict and stakes. All in a bid to hook that illusive agent or publisher’s attention, making them want to read more of your novel.

Writing the Perfect Pitch — Lorraine Ambers

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES. (1966) A HAMMER CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES. (1966) A SEVEN ARTS/HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. DIRECTED BY JOHN GILLING. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. MUSIC BY JAMES BERNARD.

STARRING ANDRE MORELL, BROOK WILLIAMS, DIANE CLARE, JACQUELINE PEARCE, MICHAEL RIPPER AND JOHN CARSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a top-notch zombie horror film from Hammer Film Productions, the company that brought us such cinematic gems as the 1958 DRACULA starring Christopher Lee and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) with Peter Cushing.

Sir James Forbes is an eminent English physician, beautifully played by Andre Morell, who also portrayed Dr. Watson for Hammer in THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959) and Professor Bernard Quatermass for the BBC television serial QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1958-1959).

Sir James is disturbed in August 1860 to get a letter from a former student of his, who is now the local doctor in a small Cornish village. People have been dying from a mysterious plague in the village and the doctor, Peter Tompson, wants the advice of his former professor and mentor.

Sir James will jolly well go one better than that. He’ll go to Cornwall and see what’s up for himself. He is accompanied by his beautiful blonde daughter, Sylvia, who just so happens to be old pals with the doctor’s wife, the equally beautiful brunette, Alice, played by Jacqueline Pearce (THE REPTILE).

When Sir James and Sylvia arrive at the Cornish village, they are just in time to see the funeral of the latest plague victim being interrupted by a crowd of red-coated yobbos hunting a fox.

At the Tompsons’ house, they find Alice pale, unhealthy-looking, with a bandaged cut on her wrist, and extremely ill at ease. Then, in the local tavern, Sir James finds the young Dr. Tompson being harangued by the locals for his apparent inability to diagnose the cause of death in the plague victims.

Dear old Hammer regular Michael Ripper, for once, isn’t behind the bar at the local tavern, pulling pints and dispensing local gossip and homespun wisdom in equal measure.

In this film, he’s playing the copper who catches Sir James and Dr. Tompson digging up the corpse of the most recent plague victim, in the hopes of finding out what killed him.

Autopsies are banned by order of the local Squire Clive Hamilton, you see, which is a little strange. Why wouldn’t the Squire want to find out what’s been killing off his villagers and tenants?

Well, maybe if he was part of the reason they’ve been dropping like flies and disappearing from their coffins, he’d be anxious not to have his handiwork laid out in a laboratory while a surgeon takes a pizza cutter to the cadavers’ big, juicy delicious brains, nom-nom-nom…

When Alice’s corpse is found on the moors, as dead as the proverbial dodo, Sir James and the distraught widower decide to have a peep in her coffin. (The graveyard is the same one from THE REPTILE, by the way.) They won’t forget what they see in a hurry. It’s enough to give the poor bereaved hubby nightmares…

Meanwhile, the lovely Sylvia, Sir James’s pride and joy (though he hides his love beneath a gruff exterior), who earlier has narrowly avoided being gang-raped by the members of the local hunt (shades of Sir Hugo and his cronies in THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, much?), is being targeted by the evil Squire for his own secret, nefarious purposes.

A cut on her finger engineered by the cunning toff and all of a sudden she’s chanting Haitian voodoo mantras, to the alarm of young Dr. Thompson. Is Sylvia doomed to spend the rest of her existence as one of Squire Hamilton’s mindless zombies, performing his evil bidding (whatever that is) for all eternity, or will the two medics work out what’s going on and rush to the rescue? The dénouement is shockingly dramatic.

The scenery, costumes and settings are all gorgeous, as usual (you wouldn’t expect anything less from Hammer, whose standards and production values were always of a super-high quality), and Andre Morell is absolutely superb in the lead role, showing the younger ones how it’s done in a way that older actors don’t always get to do.

The film will put you very much in mind of WHITE ZOMBIE (1932), in which the magnificent Bela Lugosi, playing the wonderfully-named Murder Legendre, turns Haitian natives into zombies for the sole purpose of employing them as free labour in his sugar cane mill.

The idea of using zombies as unpaid workers, as you will see here, is by no means a new one, and it certainly saves you from having to engage with any annoying union reps. It may also remind you, to a certain extent, of other early zombie films such as I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943) and THE DEAD ONE (1961), otherwise known as BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE. I’m delighted especially to have this last one in my possession, as it was once considered to be a lost film.

I don’t love THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES as much as I do THE REPTILE (I really love THE REPTILE!), but it’s still a bloody good horror film, some say one of Hammer’s finest productions. Don’t miss out on seeing it under any circumstances.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

DIE NIBELUNGEN: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE. (1924) A FRITZ LANG CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DIE NIBELUNGEN PART TWO: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE OR KRIEMHILDS RACHE. (1924) BASED ON THE EPIC POEM ‘NIBELUNGLIED,’ BY ANONYMOUS.

DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU.

STARRING MARGARETE SCHŐN, THEODOR LOOS, RUDOLF KLEIN-ROGGE, RUDOLF RITTNER AND HANS ADALBERT SCHLETTOW.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This magnificent movie, the sequel in Fritz Lang’s two-film epic drama, DIE NIBELUNGEN, based on an equally epic poem penned in about the year 1200 in the language known as Middle High German, will take your breath away. I like it even more than Part One, SIEGFRIED.

In Part Two, and it’s called KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE for an excellent reason, Queen Kriemhild of the Burgundian royal family is still devastated by the murder of her beloved husband, Siegfried, by Hagen Tronje, the fearsome one-eyed, bearded warrior of the Burgundian kingdom.

Hagen Tronje is endlessly loyal (even unto death) to the King of Burgundy, Kriemhild’s rather wimpy brother Gunther. Gunther refuses to have Hagen Tronje killed for Siegfried’s murder, and, in fact, the whole family of royal Burgundian brothers close ranks around Hagen Tronje to protect him.

Kriemhild is so disgusted that, when Margrave Rűdiger of Bechlarn comes to Burgundy to tell her that his King, Attila of the Huns, wants to marry her, she accepts. Especially when Rűdiger assures her of Attila’s warlike nature and the fact that he would avenge a hundredfold any wrongs done to Kriemhild by any man…

Her little feminine brain starts working overtime. Could Attila possibly be the one to avenge her poor fallen Siegfried? She tells Rűdiger she’ll marry his king, and they set out immediately for the kingdom of the Huns, a warlike, nomadic people who were ruled in real life by Attila the Hun for the relatively short time of 434-453.

The Huns are portrayed as proper savages in the film, compared to the relative sophistication of the Burgundians, who sleep in proper beds and have nice fancy chainmail armour and huge stone castles and stuff.

The Huns crouch in trees like monkeys and whoop, shriek and chatter like monkeys too, they wear animal skins to (just about) clothe their nakedness and they sleep on animal skins, on the mud floors of their straw huts. They have dark skin, wild hair and wild staring eyes, and this includes the women, of whom we see very little.

I don’t think that women featured very prominently in real life Hun households of the time. They probably stayed home, cooked the food, submitted to animalistic sex and the odd thump and died in childbirth, judging by the look of the place and its primitive peoples.

The men were the important ones, the warriors, the providers, the hunter-gatherers, the ones who got the biggest chunks of meat and the most comfortable spot on the dirt floor for sleeping.

The Huns’ eyes are out on stalks when they see Kriemhild. Tall, blonde, statuesque, with a beautiful cold face, huge expressive eyes and two plaits of hair that reach nearly to her ankles, she’s the polar opposite of their crouching, swarthy, simian-like semi-savagery.

(You’ll remember me mentioning when we reviewed DIE NIBELUNGEN PART ONE: SIEGFRIED that Hitler and Goebbels both loved this film. Can you see what I’m getting at here?)

King Attila, a fascinating character, is head-over-heels in love with her from the moment he first sets eyes on her. With his grotesquely large, mis-shapen head atop a short, wiry body and his ferocious-looking face deeply scored with battle scars that even criss-cross through his cruel mouth, he’d be enough to give any young virgin the heebie-jeebies at the thought of having to go to bed with him.

Attila’s men later complain that the fearsome war king, who went to war at the drop of a hat and was never happier than when he was breaking in an unruly horse, has been made soft and ineffectual by his infatuation for ‘the white woman.’ ‘Her tresses bind up the horseman…’ Well, if they think he’s dotty for Kriemhild now and besotted with her, just wait till she presents him with a beautiful, curly-haired son…!

The ferocious war king is reduced to the level of a blob of ecstatically happy jelly to see his new baby boy. He’s pathetically grateful to Kriemhild on this joyous occasion, even though she’s been nothing but cold and distant towards him. She may have been obliged to give him her body, but her heart, which she keeps under lock and key, is frozen in ice and belongs only to the dead Siegfried.

I’ll happily grant you one wish as a thank you for this wonderful son, he tells Kriemhild, who replies, sweetly and innocently, with: Oh, I’d give anything to see my beloved brothers again. No problemo, says Attila, before swiftly despatching his own brother to Worms on the Rhine to ask Gunther, Giselher and Gerenot of Burgund to pop along to the kingdom of the Huns to visit their dear sister Kriemhild.

Kriemhild, of course, knows that her brothers never travel without their devoted bodyguard, Hagen Tronje, her hatred for whom has not abated one iota since she’s lived in the land of the Huns. Her desire for revenge is so strong that she’s prepared to see everyone she loves perish horribly before she eventually realises that she’s gone too far.

The dénouement is magnificent to look at, but sad, chilling and tragic in the extreme, with an eerie foreshadowing of the Holocaust in the hellish inferno of Kriemhild’s making.

Just look at her standing there with arms folded tightly, or one arm extended, or the closed fist beating on the breast, with her closed-off, unyielding face and ice-cold eyes unchanging in expression, and see who she reminds you of.

Poor, poor King Attila. He’ll rue the day he ever heard the lady’s name, all tied up in death and destruction as it is. What a narrative. What a musical score, what a visual experience, what a film! Book yourself some time off and watch it. End of transmission.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

15 Steps to Self-Publish Your Book – by K.M. Weiland… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

on Helping Writers become Authors: What are the steps to self-publish your book? The modern boom of independent publishing has put the power to publish in the hands of authors—if they choose to use it. But even once you’ve decided in favor of the indie route over the traditional path of soliciting agents and pitching […]

15 Steps to Self-Publish Your Book – by K.M. Weiland… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog