Would I Spend Forever Here and Not Be Satisfied? (Theme Music Monday)

It had to come down to this, the song that is not a part of any one book I write, but everything I write, the song that is as fundamental to my imagination as reading C.S. Lewis, watching the first Highlander, or hearing the legends of King Arthur.

Sarah McLachlan’s 1993 U.S. breakthrough song, Possession.


I had heard sweet-sounding music.  I had heard dark music (though, frankly, not so real and thoroughly dark as an obsessed and ultimately suicidal stalker).  But I had never heard the two brought together so powerfully.

Although I don’t usually like music videos, I’m glad I saw this song first.  The American video (shown above) conveys the intricate dysfunction of the lyrics.  Close ups of Sarah’s face create an sense of intimacy, a sense of being closer than we actually are, putting us viewers into the shoes of the stalker.  But the film is marred, intentionally distorted, projected over moving sheets and rough walls, then filmed again, producing a surreal face-scape and mindscape.

I was eighteen years old when I first heard this song.  Prior to fall 1993, my musical tastes were mediocre at best, with a few bright spots.  I mostly listened to whatever was on the radio, and gravitated toward the shoddy hard-rock of the era (okay, Metallica has never been shoddy in concert, but they were the exception).  Aside from Peter, Paul, and Mary, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Amy Grant, and Heart, my musical tastes sucked.

Then I saw Possession, and everything changed.  I became enthralled by powerful, complex lyrics, complex but understated musical compositions, and emotionally charged music.  Granted, I still liked hard rock, but Queen and Meat Loaf (okay, nothing understated about him, but still) became more interesting than typical radio songs.

My imagination shifted, and although I was still a dumb kid and an awful writer, a corner had been turned.  VH-1 played it between midnight and 2 am almost every night, so I stayed up late, losing sleep just for the chance to see the video, to hear the song.  I never thought I would be one of those people who says that a song changed their lives, but this one did.  No joke, no kidding.

I’ve seen Sarah McLachlan in concert three times, in 1994 on her Fumbling Toward Ecstasy tour, in 1999 at the Lilith Fair, and in 2011 on her Laws of Illusion tour.  Possession has blown my mind every time.  It still does something to me every time I see the video, every time I even hear the song.


Modern-Day Fairy Tale

First, let me apologize for the inexcusable tardiness of this post.  I try to do one every Monday, and, well, it’s nearly 2 am on Saturday, and I’m just starting this.  Life has been a bit crazy, and I’ve been spending every possible moment I could steal for writing on a new story I’m writing.

Without giving too much away, it’s a second action-horror series called “The Red Lands,” and it combines Celtic and Arthurian legends, survival horror, and the kind of world-traveling dark fantasy found in Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Roger Zelazny’s Amber series.

It also draws heavily from that most ancient of horror-fantasy stories, the fairy tale.

Let me be quick to say I’m not talking about sanitized kid-friendly Disney-style fare (though I have a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast and the furry Robin Hood, and I never miss an episode of Once Upon a Time).  I’m talking about the old tales, the ones that delved, uncensored, into the known and unknown darkness, illuminating not only the evil that lived there, but the hope we have of defeating it.

As G.K. Chesterton famously said, “Fairy tales do not give a child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

I’m talking about Orpheus in Hades; Gilgamesh and Enkidu; Inanna’s descent into the underworld; Parcival’s grail quest; Dante Alighieri’s walking tour of hell; Alice’s passage through the looking glass; Dorothy’s struggles along the yellow brick road; Gulliver’s travels among the Liliputians and Brobdingnagians; Sam and Frodo’s journey into Mordor; Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter’s journey through the lantern waste and into the heart of Narnia, where is was always winter and never Christmas; and Harry’s many trips to Platform 9 3/4.

In the archetypical fairy tale, a relatively normal person is drawn into a very different world, where everything he (or she) is, believes, and holds dear will be sorely tested.  Victory may come, but it will not be without price, will not be without sacrifice.  A boy may enter the other world, but a man will return.

The Red Lands is a fairy tale, a survival-horror retelling of the legend of Sir Gareth and the Knights of the Red Lands.  It’s the story of Garrett Maines, who steps into the dark world of his own free will, to save the life of the woman who broke his heart.  It’s the story of eight other innocent men and women who were swept along.  It’s the story of a curse, a Red Plague, that plunged one world into living death and is now threatening to spread into ours.

It’s a story of valor, of sacrifice, of coming to terms with what must be done, and still finding a way to show grace, to love mercy, to keep one’s soul together…to face down those who worship death without bowing at the reaper’s altar.

And I am incredibly excited about it.  If you have half as much fun reading it as I’ve had writing it, you’ll be a very happy customer.  Oh, don’t worry – I haven’t abandoned Benedict.  In fact, Blood Oath Book Two: Blood Guilt is waiting on my trusted first reader as I type this.  But I’m bouncing off the walls about The Red Lands.  Not only do I have another series in me, but it’s one I really like.

And Garrett is so different from Benedict, it’s amazing.  Getting to write such radically different lead characters, loving them both in all their flawed, ultimately well-intentioned selves, is a blast.

It’s good to be me, sometimes.

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