Coffin Hop Day 5: The Ghosts of Kuskulana

The Ghosts of KuskulanaII

I grew up reading William Hope Hodgson and H.P. Lovecraft. Anyone who has read The Fishing Widow knows the influence of Hodgson goes beyond Mike Passarella’s quote from The Ghost Pirates. Indeed, The Fishing Widow is a marriage of that book and Moby Dick (among other stories). I wrote the original version of The Ghosts of Kuskulana back in May. It was a short story for submission to a New Adventures of Carnacki Anthology. I am thrilled to report that the story will appear in Carnacki: The New Adventures due out from Ulthar Press in early 2014! I am also thrilled to tell you that I found this out last night whilst I was mixing the last of this collaboration between myself and the venerable Axel AR Howerton.

My husband is also a Carnacki fan. After reading the original draft of Ghosts, he set down the manuscript, smiled at me, and said, “Please marry me and bear my children.” I laughed. “It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” He winked. “I love you so much right now.”

So, this was also an exercise in writing something that both of us wanted to read: an adventure for Hodgson’s Carnacki, The Ghost Finder set in the Alaskan wilderness.

The background: In 1912, Carnacki is summoned by a wealthy syndicate to investigate the paranormal goings-on that are affecting the transportation and commerce of a copper-rich mine in Interior Alaska. While Carnacki bristles under the imperial tone of the summons, he receives a desperate telegram from the manager of the Alaskan concern. Intrigued, he travels to The Great Land. What he finds is a chilling tragedy of loss, murder, and a Supernatural Echo that draws him into its Darkness.

The audio short story is presented as part reading/part atmospheric drama. The telling is well within the vein of the original Carnacki stories. My undying affection goes out to Axel Howerton for his time and talented reading of the story.

I truly hope you all enjoy it.

And, of course, since it is Coffin Hop, there is a contest! Please comment as to what is your favorite Paranormal Investigation story–be it Hodgsonian, Lovecraftian, or a modern day telling.

**As an aside, I ship anywhere in the world, so if you are beyond the US and Canada, no worries, I can get the prize to you!**

The prize today is three fold:

A container of Death Mints Death-Mints_3186-l

One of the Steampunk-inspired (but not this one) Coffins!

steampunk_coffin

…and … one of the DesignClinic UK Bronze Skulls! (These are small, just so you know, but they are oh, so EPIC-LY COOL!)

DesignClinicBronzeSkull

Happy Coffin Hop! Keep hoppin’!

A-LARPing We Should Go…. Welcome to Day 1 of Coffin Hop!

Devil Fish Bay Pic

Happy Coffin Hop Day 1!

So, as I was looking around for some semblance of inspiration for Day 1 of Coffin Hop, I was reminded of a video sent around by the good folks at Lovecraft eZine:

This LARP (Live Action Role Play) was unique in that it had a Lovecraftian theme, whereas most LARPs involve Epic Quests and running around the forested areas of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State smacking trees with swords. Please don’t ask me how I know this, because it would be embarrassing for both of us…. That said, a million years ago in my younger, wilder days, I used to LARP with a group from SUNY New Paltz and then-boyfriend Ken [last name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent].  If you’ve never LARPed, you should try it. At least try it once. It’s like acting on the largest stage possible. You lose yourself and become someone entirely different. It’s the BEST kind of mass-hysteria.

So, my Coffin Hop Day 1 post, inspired by Swedes LARPing about, is about a place on Prince of Wales that could beat Sweden hands down for an eerie place to hold a LARP. I’m talking about Devil Fish Bay. On the still-available-but-not-for-long NOAA Chart (that’s another post for another day), it’s here:

Devil Fish Bay Chart

Latitude: 56.09417 : Longitude: -133.34417

Innocuous, right? It’s a little place on a map that looks pleasant enough. Sure. Pleasure boats go through there. Never a problem, right?

Let me tell you a little bit about Devil Fish Bay (at least what I know about it). Legend has it that there was once a Native village on the shore of Devil Fish Bay. One night, a Devil Fish rose from the water, created a tidal wave, and wiped out the village. Such was the terror, that those who survived fled and never returned. No village was ever established there again. Ever. But, the strangeness doesn’t end there. The Devil Fish persists. Apparently deep beneath the water is the wreck of a boat pulled under by the Devil Fish. Through the clear water, you can still see suction cup marks all around the hull. Are we seeing a Lovecraftian LARP opportunity yet?

It gets better.

I’ve heard stories of kayakers who have attempted to spend the night on the shores of Devil Fish Bay only to be frightened by some unknown “feeling” or “presence” that they’ve fled–leaving tents and gear behind them. One kayaker reported hearing “voices” when no one was there. Another reported smelling “coffee” when there was no one around and no one else making coffee.  Are we there yet?

It gets better.

I know this guy who, for the purposes of this blog post, will remain nameless. He is one of  the most down-to-Earth guys I know. He isn’t given to flights of imagination. He isn’t dramatic or high strung. He’s even-keeled, he’s matter-of-fact, and he’s got a wry sense of humor. I thought he was kidding when he told me that Devil Fish Bay scares the hell out of him. I mean, really? He doesn’t like it there. He openly tries to avoid it. He doesn’t want to “talk about it,” but talking to him belies the fact that he’s witnessed something there.

It can’t get much better than that.

I know it would take years to set up, but a LARP in Devil Fish Bay might be just the cure for October blues that settle in with the weather.  Just throwing that out there; everyone’s gotta have a hobby.

 

CONTEST!

The Coffin Hop Day One Contest is simple: Considering the Lovecraft Mythos, what creature or character would you chose to be in a LARP, and do you think you would survive?

Today’s Prize:  a Coffin FULL of Candy (35 pieces to be exact!) and a package of Raven’s Brew Deadman’s Reach Coffee!

12ozBagDMR

Comments close at Midnight, so don’t delay! A new contest and prize every day!

 

 

 

 

Coffin CandyCOFFIN HOP CONTINUES! Click the link and Hop On!

 

 

Happy Alaska Day (and a Giveaway)

Happy Alaska Day 2

♫ Eight stars of gold on a field of blue –
Alaska’s flag. May it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes, and the flow’rs nearby;
The gold of the early sourdough’s dreams, The precious gold of the hills and streams;
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The “Bear” – the “Dipper” – and, shining high,
The great North Star with its steady light,
Over land and sea a beacon bright.
Alaska’s flag – to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier. ♫

~ Music: Elinor Dusenbury

Lyrics: Marie Drake

 

Happy Alaska Day!

On October 18, 1867, the United States took control of the Alaska Territory, which it had purchased from the Russians back on Seward’s Day (March 30, 1867) for a staggering 2¢ per acre. At the time, Seward was ridiculed and derided for wasting the government’s money on an ice chest of little importance. “Seward’s Folly” they called it. And, it’s not that the Russians were ignorant about the whole thing–it’s that they were realists. Think about 1867. The Crimean War was little more than 11 years behind them, the population of British Columbia was increasing, and Alexander II and his advisors figured (rightly) that any other conflict with the British would involve the loss of their American territories (i.e. Alaska) without compensation. And then there was the enormous debt to the Rothschilds… It was the perfect storm of suck in the international affairs sphere that allowed Seward to sweep in and make the case for the purchase. Still, politicians and popular support in the Lower 48 continued to ride against him. Good thing he was a stubborn son of a buck.

But, European involvement in The Great Land extends further back. Yes, the Russians were here, the Americans were here clandestinely and then properly with the purchase from the Russians, but there was another group here that not many realize were here: The Spanish. Did you think I was making all that up? I thought it was strange when we first moved to Craig that I looked out on Bucareli Bay and the island San Juan Bautista, that there’s Sumez Island, Núňez Rocks, and the Canal de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Channel of Our Lady of Carmel) that people in the area might know as Clarence Strait. Bocas de Apodaca are the twin mouths of Moira and Cholmondeley Sounds, El Cap (the cave and all) is short for El Capitan, and San Christoval Channel (St. Christopher) is the channel that runs between San Fernando and Prince of Wales Islands. But it’s not so strange when you realize the Spanish were here in the late-1700s. But … do you know why they were here?

ThroughSpanishEyes

Because there are more demands on fiction to make sense more than real life, I found it necessary to figure out just what a group of monks were doing on the fictional San Angelo Island in the late-1700s. If you’ve read The Fishing Widow, you’re familiar with Josh Padgett’s story of The Reach. If not, please click up above and read it. I’ll wait. Okay, got it? Now, what you need to know is that there is an actual Deadman’s Reach. There is a similar story, similar but not too similar that happened among the Russians. If you drink Raven’s Brew Coffee, you’ll know the story from the packaging. Yes, the Russians were acting inappropriately, and yes, they were poisoned by shellfish (I’m pretty sure it was blue mussels in that instance, too), and yes, they tried to get away and made it to Deadman’s Reach where most of them succumbed to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. But, I digress. What were those (fictional) Spanish guys doing on (fictional) San Angelo Island way back when? Well, I’m writing a sequel of sorts, but in order to get to the sequel, you have to understand how it all started… And here is the why on the most basic of levels:

 ~~~~

“The King commands it,” he said without looking up, his dark eyes trained on the paper spread across his desk, his thick northern accent betraying the heritage of the Pyrenees. He thoughtfully dipped his quill in an inkwell and scratched at the paper. The silence within the ornate great room was palpable before he continued, “And as I am the King’s servant–”

“King Charles’ servant or de Godoy’s servant?” The brown-robed priest stood patiently across the desk. He shifted slightly on his feet, the movement not unnoticed by the finely dressed official.

The priest looked as the official had imagined, yet why he was to summon this priest specifically was something he could not imagine. The priest was tall, thin, clean-shaven with intensely dark, brown eyes and a face mapped with all his forty-five years had witnessed.

The light beyond the windows shifted restlessly though leaves shot through with the colors of autumn. The effect of the light dappled against the marble floor, diffused by the sheer draperies that hung motionless against the windows. Behind the official, a fire crackled and popped against the grate, warming the carved soapstone mantle graced with a coat of arms and threaded with what looked like leaves of ivy.

The official did not ostensibly look up at the priest. He kept his eyes trained diligently on his paper; the hand that held the quill stabbed at the ink well. The priest waited. He was not unused to his presence achieving such effect.

“He is the one,” de Godoy had insisted days earlier when the official, barely daring to raise the face he kept bowed, had been ordered into the royal presence.

The official had shot a sidelong glance at the Queen of Spain who sat, unmovable, as her lover paced the room. He quickly turned his gaze back to the floor. “One priest is the same as another, sir,” he had started.

De Godoy stopped pacing. “Then you know nothing of their Order. You will send for him,” de Godoy continued with a brisk nod, “and you will send him on.”

In the silent, dimly lit great room, the official hesitated, his quill twitching in irritation.  He glanced at the red robed Cardinal who sat, his hands folded serenely in his lap, in a chair behind the priest. “I endeavor to separate myself from those affairs of state.”

Father Michele Rodriquez’s lip twisted into a smile and he bowed his head quickly. “Of course,” he managed.

“Spain’s claim to the far north of the Pacific coast is far more ancient than these upstarts’,” the Cardinal cut across Father Rodriquez as if he had not spoken.

Father Michele cleared his throat before he turned and made a deep obeisance, keeping his head bowed. “His Eminence is referring to the papal bull of 1493.”

The official smiled in spite of himself, realizing his earlier pun had escaped him. “Forgive me, Father Rodriquez,” he said, gentling his voice as Father Rodriquez turned back toward him, “but with all the bother of the French and Napoleon and the coming war with Britain, can you blame their majesties for wanting to tighten their God-given grip beyond Europe?”

Father Michele waited patiently.

“This,” the official waved his hand as if at an irksome fly, “United States of America, so self-styled a democracy, is merely an experiment doomed to failure. While Spain continues to press the advantages of her colonies to the south, there is no doubt that commodities in the northern climes beckon.”

“Commodities?” Father Michele echoed.

“Furs, whale oil, all the things the damnable Russians and the Golikov-Shelikhov Company are after, Padre,” the official replied, the irritation returning momentarily to his voice. “Our ships have sailed from Central America, past our holdings in California.” Father Michele watched as the man placed the quill on his desk and folded his hands together. The man smiled. It was a smile Michele returned. “I am the Queen’s man, since the King gives no thought for his government. As I was entrusted by the Crown with the continued exploration of the north, so I entrust the civilizing of the savages to you, Father Rodriquez.”

“Civilizing?” Father Michele’s brow tilted.

“We can’t have them all cast into the Pit because of some misunderstanding of salvation, can we, Father? Rumor has it that Baranov is bringing Russian Orthodox missionaries to live among them. A bastion of heresy within the bounds of a Spanish protectorate would be,” the Cardinal hesitated, “unfortunate.”

“I’ve read our commanders’ journals, Eminence,” Father Rodriquez continued carefully. “These are not men who suffer strangers to exist in their midst.”

“I have complete confidence in you, Padre,” the Cardinal said as the man at the desk bent his head back to the paper in front of him. “You and your Brethren.”

“And if we fail, we are at least expendable.”

“A foothold, Father,” the official replied, his voice becoming more grave. “The Crown is seeking a foothold—to stop the Russians, to stop the Americans, to press the Spanish right and restore some of her former glory,” he took a breath, his eyes darkening, “and the French be damned.”

“Queen Maria Luisa’s man,” Father Rodriquez said softly.

The man’s lip twisted. “I daresay that de Godoy is her man, Padre, in every Biblical sense of the word.” He sighed and picked up the quill, dipping it distractedly into the inkwell. “Better we are here, Padre. Better you go to the north and freeze with the savages than face the horror that is coming to Europe.”

“There are men who say this is the most illuminated time in the history of mankind,” Father Michele said evenly. His lip twitched into a smile as the Cardinal behind him drew an audible breath. The official’s fingers tightened around his quill. He took a breath before he raised his face, training his gaze past Father Rodriquez toward the Cardinal whose knuckles had begun to whiten against the arms of the chair.

“Even now, I begin to see what their majesties saw in you, Father,” the official said, his voice barely rising above a whisper.

Michele continued to smile quietly as he placed his hand flat against his chest and bowed slightly. The official set his teeth and nodded brusquely.

“We are four years from the end of the eighteenth century, Father Rodriquez,” he continued. He bit at his lip and continued to scratch at the paper. “I do not believe you and I will see the nineteenth.”

 ~~~~

…and so the next bit of the story starts. It’s far darker than The Fishing Widow, and (at least for me) far more terrifying. But, it’s what happens when good people want to do good things but hold themselves to such a high standard that the standard itself is unattainable and that makes the falling short of it just that much more horrific.

While this post didn’t go anywhere I thought it would go, it went and I followed. But, in the end, it’s Alaska Day! It’s also a day I celebrate a place so rife with stories and atmosphere and potential that it’s stunning to me that not every writer on the planet clamors to live and work here. So, in celebration of Alaska Day, I’m holding a giveaway so you can enjoy a bit of Alaska, too! All you have to do is leave a comment (how easy is that?) on this post about where you would most like to go in The Great Land if someone handed you tickets to Alaska. The prize? Well, I happen to have a Raven’s Brew Coffee Deadman’s Reach prize pack:

DMR Prize Pack

 

Happy Alaska Day!