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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Strigoi

Greetings!
I had planned to post this on Wednesday, but all week has been a whirlwind of editing and synopsis/query letter writing. Friday morning, I submitted for the very first time to a publishing industry professional in NY. My hands trembled uncontrollably as my cursor hovered over the send button. My stomach flutters now just thinking about it. What is done is done and now the waiting game commences. But while we wait, let’s talk about strigoi.
Photo courtesy of Google Images.
The word strigoi originates from the Latin word strix which means witch or demon. In Romania, strigoi are referred to as troubled spirits of the dead who prey on humans. They are a cross between a poltergeist and a vampire in that they cause all sorts of mischief to their surviving families and sustain themselves with blood (both human and animal). Some claim the strigoi can possess other’s bodies or take on animal forms like pricolicii, a creature similar to a werewolf. They are not supposed to be sexy or glamorous. As you can see from the picture above.

Now there are two kinds of strigoi. Strigoi vii and mort. Vii are living vampires and are often referred to as witches.  Mort are the dead. They are the ones which prey on human blood. Yup, you figured it out. Strigoi vii become morti when they die. Once dead, he or she has to return their grave frequently—more specifically during the day.

How does one become a strigoi? *laughs* The ways are endless and they don’t involve being bitten. To name a few:
·         Being born out of wedlock
·         Die before being baptized
·         Born with a caul or tail
·         Unnatural death
·         Unmarried people
·         A cat walks over your dead corpse
And the list goes on. Have I mentioned Romanians are highly superstitious? So what if you are bitten by a strigoi? Chances are when you die you may become one of them, unless the priest intercedes at the time of death and in your burial.

How do you ward off strigoi? Garlic. Stakes, Fire. If you ever get a chance to drive through the countryside of Romania, you will see braids of garlic and herbs hanging from front gates of people’s homes. Yes, even today there are many believers in these myths. 

How do you kill a strigoi? There are multitude of ways and it all depends on the stage in with the strigoi is in. If they are in the wrath stage floating about, one must exhume the body and pierce a stake through their heart. The gypsies suggest sticking a clove of garlic in the mouth as well. If they are a fully developed strigoi, a stake through the heart, decapitation, and burning the body would do the trick. When the grave in which the strigoi inhabits cannot be found, the best time to kill a strigoi is while they are feeding because they are completely distracted by the blood.

Here is the key for a strigoi to survive. It is believed that if the strigoi goes undetected for seven years he or she are free to leave their original grave and lead a normal life among humans. Obviously they would have to live somewhere where they are not recognized. They are no longer bound to their own grave except for Saturdays when they must find a grave to spend the day in or on a special undead holiday. When they reach this state, they become immortally beautiful.

So now you know a little more about the vampires of Romania and some of the mythology I have woven throughout my novel. Most of this information I gleaned from the internet and tales my grandmother used to tell me when I was a child. She had a great way of getting me to go to bed or eat my carrots. “If you’re not a good girl, the strigoiul will find you . . .” I also understand now why Romanians eat lots of garlic.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dracula's Castle

Greetings!

In case you were wondering, I haven't turned into a vampire yet. The writing is going well. I'm at 85K as of this morning.

As promised, a post about vampires. Who is the most famous of the legends? Dracula (aka Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler). Made famous by Bram Stoker 1897 novel Dracula, Vlad Tepes has fascinated the minds around the globe and Hollywood only added to the fervor. Who can forget Bela Lugosi's hair-raising portrayal of the undead Transylvanian superstar?

With the resurgence of vampire frenzy in the last couple of years, thanks to the lovely Stephanie Meyer, Romania has once again attracted the world's attention. I can not tell you how many ghost hunting shows and other documentaries about the real Dracula on TV I've seen.

Here's a little factoid you may not have known: There are no Romanian legends that claim Vlad Tepes was a vampire. Yes he was a notorious ruler and shed blood without batting an eyelash, but Romanians don't consider him a vampire. Some think of him as a hero for defeating the Turkish armies. Oh, yeah, they believe in vampires, strigoi, just not in the Hollywood romanticized version.

When I traveled through Romania in 1998, shortly after I had read Dracula for the first time, I wanted to visit Vlad Tepes' castle. My relatives living in Transylvania took me here:

This is Bran Castle, where Dracula may have stayed during one of his conquering tours. It is a beautiful medieval castle and elicits the feeling of grandness reserved for the rulers of that time period. However this is not THE Dracula castle even though the kiosks lining the gate entrance will sell you just about anything with Dracula stamped on it. I discovered this a couple of years ago after doing some research and watching a couple of documentaries on the History Channel. Dracula lived in the province of Wallachia, south of Transylvania.
In Fall of 2009, I spent a week visiting my grandmother who happens to live 30 kilometers for the actual castle, Poenari Citadel.

Poenari was built in the 13th century and was abandoned. In the 14th century, Vlad commissioned it to be restored enslaving the rich families of the those who had crossed him in the past. They worked till their fine clothes turned to rags and either died or were executed. The citadel is located on the cliff of a small mountain along the pass through the Fagaras Mountains. To get to it you have to drive way off the beaten path then climb over 1400 steps to reach the entrance. It is has the mysterious creepy feeling to it that one would expect visiting Dracula's castle. The views from the towers and walls are spectacular. Because of it's remote location there are no tours and neither are there any tourist attractions near by- yet. Romanians love to capitalize their fame.
The castle now lies in ruins as it was abandoned after Turks attacked it while Vlad lived there. Legend says his first wife cast herself off one of the towers after seeing the fortress surrounds by the barbaric Ottoman soldiers, claiming she would rather the wild animals or the Arges river fish eat her broken flesh than be raped and killed by the Turks. Her body was never found.

This legend has inspired part of my vampire novel. What if she was the real vampire in the myth? Something to think about, eh?

Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about my heritage. Next week I'll be discussing the strigoi.

Cheers,
Melania

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Submission Bootcamp Week 2

It's 2:30 in the morning, I really should be sleeping, however my sleep schedule has been completely turned bass ackwards. For the last week, I wake up around 2 every morning, because I start to dream about a scene or something related to writing my book. What's unfortunate about the situation is I can't just go back to bed when the sun comes up like the vampires. No, I have to return to the human world and to my very human job.

So these days my appearance resembles that of a possible druggie. Drug of choice-tall soy tazo chai (somedays it's a grande, others I require a venti). Thank you Starbucks! I can always count on you to be there for me.

How's my writing going? Thank you for asking. It's going quite well. Slower than I would like, but currently I'm at 66% completion on the The Vampire Novelist. Last weekend I wrote a scene which basically drained me of all creative energy. It was a very intimate scene which lays the foundation of the relationship between my two love birds. By Sunday night I was completely wiped out. Monday I could barely write a paragraph to continue the story.

What did I do? I toured the morgue of the hospital where I work and picked up the first season of Vampire Dairies from the library. Yesterday I picked up where I left off, however, now I'm completely addicted the VD and have to finish the season. Hello, I need to know what happens between Stefan and Elena!!! Is she going to turn into a vampire? What's the deal with her biological mother? Or this Katherine woman who turned Stefan and Damon? In case no one has watched the show, IT'S REALLY GOOD. Now I'm going to have to read the books this summer.

As for my goal to finish it before my chapter meeting, nah, it ain't happening and I'm okay with it. However last week, I emailed the editors and agents interested in my work letting them know it would be a while before I would send in my partial. The agent and the editor at the top of my list actually emailed me back the next day and said "I look forward to reading it when it's finished." First of all, I never expected them to reply back let alone within 12 hours. Yeah, there is a reason I have my eye on those two, because their level of professionalism is what inspires me as a writer to improve my craft and work harder. I told them the end of May, so now the ball is in my court and I need to raise up and deliver.

TTFN, but stay tuned for next week's post. Hint: vampires. Possible pictures and a few fun historical facts.

Melania

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Manuscript Submission Bootcamp Week 1

Hello!

As promised, here is my update (in bullet points no less):

  • The Vampire Novelist is 50% complete. Okay I've been at 50% before but this time I'm pushing through. With the new plotted outline, beginning, and ending, I had to cut out about 50% of the 50% I had already written. Everything from now on is pretty much brand new material. and so far I think it's much better than the original. My beta readers agree. 
  • The Right Way is complete, but I'm changing the ending a bit and rewrote the first three chapters. Now I just need them critiqued and they'll be ready to be sent in. 

I have 45K words left to complete TVN. Will I be able to in 10 days so I can meet my goal I put in last month at my RWA chapter meeting? We'll see. . .

Stay tuned.

~Melania