Amadeus – the making of a perfection

“On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse – bassoons and basset horns – like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly – high above it – an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, till a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing a voice of God.”

Mozart died way too young, but I always console myself with the thought that he might have never been born. And then we wouldn’t have known the sound of God’s voice.

The transcript above belongs to one of the most beautiful movie scenes from one of the greatest American movies, and was played by one of the most majestic actors of our times.

I’d need several pages just to start writing about Milos Forman’s Amadeus (1984). It wouldn’t do, so instead here are a few interesting details.

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Lum & Unsplash

The movie was based on a play “Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer. Forman, who was invited to see it, but hated music biographies, told Shaffer after Act One, “If the second act is as good as first, I’ll make a movie of it.”

The play itself was inspired by Pushkin’s poetic drama “Mozart and Salieri” (1830), and it relayed on lots of rumors and very little facts. It looks like the relationship between the two composers was far from what Pushkin’s play suggested. The court composer Antonio Salieri was popular and respected. Mozart, back then, less so. Salieri wouldn’t have felt threatened by the much younger, less known and troublesome Mozart. There is much proof that Salieri helped and supported Mozart. And his music was, well, decent.     Continue reading

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My Name Is Rose

First, the book.

You know the type of quizzes such as ‘which animal are you most like’, ‘which celebrity are you’, ‘which Disney princess are you’?

I have a quiz question: what book are you?

I am The Name of the Rose.

Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

I’ve read thousands and thousands of books, and I have hundreds of favourite ones. Yet, I love Umberto Eco’s first novel with incomparable fascination and devotion. To me, it is one of the finest books ever written. I’ve read it many times, perhaps once a year since the early 1980’s, always finding new layers and new depth. Falling in love over and over again.

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Rashomon, or a story of human ego

I re-read books I love, and I re-watch movies I love.

A few nights ago I re-enjoyed one of my favourite movies, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, which is based on two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa.

Photo by Leo Rivas-Micoud on Unsplash

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon was made in 1950. Kurosawa was in his forties, yet at the beginning of his career, which would, fortunately, last for almost half of a century and have a colossal cinematic and cultural influence.

Kurosawa’s most famous movie cuts deep into human nature, exposing its dark complexity. It gives us four versions of the same event, through the eyes of the woodcutter, the thief, the raped woman and the spirit of her murdered husband. Or did he commit suicide? We’ll never know what happened because the truth is relative, the memory unreadable, the subjectivity inevitable…

“Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves,” Kurosawa would explain to his assistant directors, who were somewhat confused with the script. “They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing… even the character who died can’t give up his lies when he speaks to the living through a medium. This film is like a strange scroll that unrolls, displaying human ego…”

About my other favourite movies and books some other time…

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Of Beauty and the Beast, book covers, and dreams (once more)

Photo by Kelvin Smit on Unsplash

… Both a little scared,

Neither one prepared,

Beauty and the Beast…

F# – E- F# – A – D

D – C# – D – F# – G

F# – G – E – F# – D

The first three lines are under copyright and they won’t appear in my book; the transcription of the music (a big thanks to my pianist brother!) that matches the words might. (If I get the green light form my copyright-and-trademark-agent sister, that is.)

Photo by Meredith Whitman on Unsplash

Dizzy with excitement of finishing my first duo–Asanni and Ellida–head full of new stories, I wrote the next chapter in my Red Cliffs saga.

And then life happened. Sort of.

Now I’ve decided to finish what I started three years ago. I’m making significant changes: it’s going to be one volume instead of two, 250 pages shorter than the first draft. Elizabeth is still a vardanni, ‘the guardian of the realm’ (about vardannies next time) and Brian is still a blaidd (a werewolf), but some things will be different. The book covers that I commissioned, lovely as they are, don’t work anymore.

I’ve loved this story (no title yet!), perhaps even more than Asanni and Ellida. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, my favourite fairy tale. It’s complex, emotional and deeply moving. There are scenes that never cease to make me laugh; others that always make my eyes burn every time I read them. And inside this long story, there are seeds of a few shorter ones, waiting to be written.

There are several dreams in this novel. They prepare Elizabeth, a young human woman and the unsuspected ‘guardian of the realm’, to face and accept the ‘slightly different’ nature of the man she’s fallen in love with, and the world that will soon become hers.

So here’s one of Elizabeth’s dreams:

We were walking through a forest. The ground was soft, covered with a thick carpet of new grass, pine needles and moss. Our steps didn’t make any sound. The forest was filled with lemony-yellow morning light.

“See, it’s still me,” he said. No sound came from his muzzle, but I could clearly hear him in my head. “Now that you know, you won’t go, will you?”

“It’s still me, too,” I said in the same way and turned around to let him examine me. ”How do you like it?”

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The Sisterhood of the Full Moon

If most families are like fudge–mostly sweet with a few nuts, as someone said–mine is just the opposite. Not tragically dysfunctional, yet unique in a way that makes me feel as if I’ve been sitting on a chair that has three legs instead of four but somehow holds balance.

What we can’t reach in real life, we can try to find in our imagination and dreams. In our stories, paintings, music, creative art… if we were fortunate enough to have a grain of talent and the courage to explore it.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My novels are as much about love as about families. Families that are not about blood, but about the people in your life who want you in theirs, as another quote says. Families who accept you. Families who would do anything to see you smile, and love you no matter what.

The Sisterhood of the Full Moon has been adapted from Ellida, Book II of the Red Cliffs Chronicles.

I woke up feverish, achy, and irritable. In less than twelve hours my human entity would go through an involuntary, quick, and terrifying transformation. Astrid the Wizardess would turn into Astrid the Bleithast, a huge and beautiful, but weak and helpless wolf. And she wouldn’t have any memories of it.

“You don’t remember because you’re fighting the werewolf inside you, Astrid,” Jack had said to me once. As the offspring of a wizard and a werewolf, you’re destined to become an Ellida, the powerful force of good and the ultimate authority of our clan. But first you must accept who you are …”

Well, nobody asked me if I wanted to become an Ellida, as noble as it sounded. Right now I only wished I could be an ordinary, mortal human girl. Not the wizardess who was not allowed to use her powers, nor the bleithast who had no control over her monthly shape shifting. 

If only Jack was here, I thought miserably, curled up on the couch in my living room. But Jack was away, and my hope that he would be back before my transformation was slipping like sand through fingers.

Multiple voices in front of the house yanked me from my lethargy. The next moment my aunt Betty, my mentor, Ellida Morgaine, and my cousin Maggie burst in, laughing, their hands full of bags. Behind them stood a fourth woman, who gave me a wary smile and closed the door.

Peyton Kinkaid, my boyfriend’s former girlfriend.

 

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The cosmic ties between stories and writers

Maybe because of two big events of the last week–the solar eclipse on Monday and the final episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones on Sunday– everything between was a blur. (The songs are from Season 6, when GOT music has never been more beautiful.)

Through #14 welding glass, the sun looks like a small green orb. Very SF-ish.

Jon Snow is who we thought he was, although until the last night we didn’t know his true name. Now we do, and my life is complete.

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

But, since the eclipse is old news and Game of Thrones really doesn’t need additional promotion from my website, I’ll talk about my books and my own fictional invention – ellidas.

An ellida is the female offspring of a werewolf father and a wizardess mother. This is only the necessary prerequisite. Not every daughter of the werewolf/wizard couple becomes an ellida. The most important ‘ingredient’ is of a spiritual nature. It’s in the inner beauty, humanity, strength and balance.

An ellida is the living embodiment of the ancient alliance between wizards and werewolves, the powerful force of good, the most treasured member of her werewolf clan, its highest authority, and the greatest honour granted to a clan. She brings prosperity, happiness and peace to her people, and never abuses the power given to her.

Ellidas are above the clan hierarchy; they have the power to overrule any alpha’s decisions. They are military leaders of their clans as well, although this particular function is ceremonial: an ellida’s life is too important to be risked in an open battle.

Once, Astrid asked her mentor, Ellida Morgaine, why it is that only women can be ellidas.

“Because no sane creator, or god, or force, or whoever you like, would grant such power to a man,” Morgaine said. “It would be too much for any man to handle…”

So how did I come up with this word?

I don’t know. Like for my Tel-Urughs, I thought a lot about the name that would frame the concept. I like names that start with vowels. That was my starting point. Then I tried different words. Different lengths. Different consonants. Open vowels, closed vowels… And stopped on ellida. I heard melody in this word. Lightness and strength at the same time. I often see words in colours, and this particular combination of letters and sounds was silvery-gold, with a touch of blue, like the full moon on the ink-blue night sky. Or like the shiny metal surface of a shield.

And thus Astrid became an ellida, and a shield, with eight little moons in different phases, ended up on the book cover.

Now what about the cosmic connections between writers and stories that form the title?

When my book was written, but still in manuscript, I came across a Celtic myth about Elathan, or Elatha, or Elada. (I still remember the goosebumps I got). He was a Moon/Sun God; he was forever young, had golden hair and sailed in a silver vessel. It was said he had a sense of humour and a sense of nobility.

Like Astrid, the Ellida of Red Cliffs.

You can read the story of the first ellida of the werewolves and wizards’ realm here on my website, in Excerpts.

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The story of the first Ellida

 

… I sprawled across Jack, closing my arms around his neck. I buried my nose into his strong neck, inhaling his scent, both animal and human, familiar, warm and natural.Ellida (THE LANGAER CHRONICLES Book 2)

Jack lifted his head toward the night sky. “Do you know that the Chinese call Sirius Heaven’s Wolf? It guards Heaven’s Palace, which is our Ursa Major,” he said. “We also call Sirius the Dog Star. We can’t see it now. It becomes visible just before sunrise around summer solstice.”

“The wolf has an important place in many cultures and civilizations.”

“Yes, but it symbolizes different things: in Japan, he’s regarded as a protector from other wild animals. For North American Natives, the wolf is a warrior allegory because of his strength and courage. In many cultures, he represents passion, love and fertility. In Anatolia, barren women in rural areas pray to a wolf to help them get pregnant. There are many human legends that talk about a union between a woman and a wolf. In some other societies, however, his ranking is pretty low.”

“In Western civilization,” I said. “In Greco-Latin mythology, with the exceptions of legends such as Romulus and Remus, the wolf is mostly pictured negatively. Later, wolves became connected with witches and evil forest spirits. In many cultures, he represents the underworld. Not very flattering. And utterly unfair.”

“Do you know the story about the first Ellida?”

“No. Tell me, please.”

“Are you warm?”

“Are you? You’re lying on the snow.”

I heard his soft chuckle. “I’m okay for now. Don’t worry, I’m well protected. So…

Long ago, there were two mighty asyrs, the wizard kings. Affan was a good ruler, whose kingdom thrived until the bad wizard, king Studen, the ruler of the far, frozen North, stole Affan’s Horse with the Silver Mane, and his beloved daughter Illeanna. Heartbroken and without his magic horse that made him undefeatable in battle, he turned to his friend, blaidd Harlan, for help. Harlan had been in love with Illeanna for as long as he could remember, but never dared to ask Affan for her hand, even though he was the Einhamir. ‘Bring me my daughter and the Horse with the Silver Mane back, and’—this is a very important detail, Astrid, you’ll like it—‘if Illeanna agrees, with my blessing she’ll become your wife,’ Affan promised.

“Harlan changed into a wolf. He didn’t stop running for three days and three nights, until he reached king Studen’s palace. He found the room where Illeanna was sleeping. He woke her up and scared her to death because he hadn’t come to her as a dyn–a man–but in his wolf shape. As they brushed against each other, they felt the warm current of the bond run through their bodies. And Illeanna, who had never given Harlan a second thought before, fell in love with him.

“Being a clever asanni, Illeanna didn’t exactly sit in her room and mope waiting to be saved. She had prepared a magic powder and used it to enchant the palace to secure them enough time to escape. They rushed to the stables and took the Horse with the Silver Mane and ran from the palace. They’d almost made it when the guards saw them and closed the gate.

’Get off the horse, Illeanna!’ Harlan said. ‘It can jump over the gate, but not with you on its back! You’re going with me!’

So Illeanna climbed on Harlan’s back and they jumped over the gate. The Horse was already waiting for them on the other side.

“King Studen wasn’t ready to accept defeat. He raised his army and marched to Affan’s kingdom. There he met not only King Affan’s soldiers, but also Harlan’s warriors, who came to fight alongside Affan. It wasn’t long before king Studen was defeated. King Affan kept his word and gave his daughter to Harlan. ‘As I promised, I’m giving you my daughter to be your wife and the mother of your children, Harlan,’ the king said. ‘She’ll bear you many sons, but your first child is going to be a daughter. She will be an ellida, and she’ll bring happiness and prosperity to your people.’

“And from now on, when a werewolf clan proves to be strong enough in its spirit and good deeds, a female child from a union between our two kinds will become the clan’s Ellida. She will be a powerful force of life and good, and a token of the alliance between my people and yours.”

Jack finished the story, but the sound of his soft voice still echoed in my ears.

“That’s a beautiful story, Jack. Thank you.”

He shifted slightly under the weight of my body. “It has many similarities to a Russian legend about—”

“—King Afron, Yvan Vyslavovich and Elena the Beautiful,” I finished. “Yes, it does. But then Afron wasn’t a wizard and Yvan wasn’t a werewolf, although his best friend was. There was no Ellida and the horse mane was gold.”

“And for us, it’s not a legend. It did happen. Affan lived long ago. Illeanna did marry Harlan, and they had a daughter who became the first Ellida of our realm. She still is.”

“I know,” I said. “Morgaine told me she’s sort of the ‘Reverend Mother’ of our sisterhood. The name, Ellida, reminds me of Elatha, or Elathan, from Celtic mythology. He was a Moon God; he was forever young, had silver hair and sailed in a silver vessel. It was said he had a sense of humor and sense of nobility.”

“Ah, I wondered if you were going to make the connection. Do you know what your wizard’s chronicles say about him?”

“No. I was raised more or less as a human girl, remember?”

“I know, love. Well, according to your sources, he was indeed a noble and wise man with a nice sense of humor. He was a wizard, not a god, of course, but for the people of those times, there wasn’t much difference between the two. He was an Albino, hence the silver hair. He introduced agriculture to a small group of hunter-gatherers, saving them from starvation during long winters. They thanked him by turning him into a mythological being. Affan lived many centuries after Elathan’s time, but Affan must have known about wise, noble and altruistic Elathan. And if you want to describe an Ellida in a few words, what would you say? Wisdom, humanity and nobility—the principal qualities the vast majority of you possess…”

Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

 

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