Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

Valentine’s Day Writing and Book Choices: For Love, For Readers, For Writers, For Healers, For Dreamers

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m about to present some poetry and prose surrounding dark love! But first, I must say I am looking forward to a special Valentine-themed dinner tonight with my family! I’ll be making homemade pink alfredo sauce to top tortellini, which both of my daughter’s adore, salad with strawberries cut into hearts, and a decadent dessert. Probably chocolate, of course. What are your plans?

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Valentine’s Day feels a bit different to me this year. It’s the first year in fifteen years I haven’t been helping at least one of my three children make individual, homemade Valentines for their classmates, valentine boxes, cookies for the party. It’s actually hit me somewhat hard – I always enjoyed this time with them.

I’m also missing my son very much who is away at his first year of college, but he will be able to pick-up a little box filled with love from home soon (hopefully the mail room at George Washington University will begin to actually give students their mail in a more timely fashion). After years spending time solely as a family, or my son sometimes cooking us dinner while the girls were our waitresses, Tim will be taking me out for our own date this weekend and I’m looking forward to that too.

My middle daughter, who is now fifteen, is having fun working on costumes and make-up with her high school’s production of West Side Story, which was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet of course (which she’s also reading in honors English 9), both tales of love so right and gone so wrong.

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I am so happy to have a family like mine, as they understand love gone wrong, and how much healing I’ve had to do, but also they know love done right.

So now on to reading and writing….!

In February (as a whole) we talk about love, don’t we tend to? Even love gone awry? I suppose we can talk, read, and write about it any time, I know I do, so it’s always a good time in my book and today is no exception (and well, IN my own writing love is not always a good time). Whether you spent Valentine’s Day happy in love, alone and happy, or crying, it takes on many forms and is often fodder for writers like me to explore. I wrote a sad poem about someone in unrequited modern love this year, but it was rejected by the literary site I submitted it too. Rejection – happens in love and writing. I still love the poem and will find it a home. Until then, there are some other of my writings you might enjoy!

valentines-day-candy-hearts-4014974I did have a story accepted by The Horror Tree for their Trembling with Fear series, which is online but also will be made into a print anthology. This short story, “Sinking Hearts” was titled by my 11 year old, though don’t let that fool you, it packs a punch.

This is total love gone wrong and what revenge might unfold. It’s FREE to read in honor of Valentine’s Day on their Love is in the Air (or not) series, right HERE!

My poem “Chained by Love,” was featured in the February 2018 issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. My gothic-themed poem showcased the love between moral Raymond and sea serpent/mermaid Melusine in medieval France folklore. You’ll see their happiness takes a different turn. You can read it for free in the magazine HERE. I’d like to again say thanks to them for choosing my piece to publish and for putting out such a gorgeous edition.

“A beautiful, tragic fairy tale.” – Author R.J. Crowder

“Very powerful, Erin. I loved it.” – Bram Stoker Nominated Author Jeremy Hepler

“Well done. Enjoyed it!” – Illustrator and Writer Michael Mitchell

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I had a story called “The Heart of the Orchard” featured in the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which released from Unnerving in December 2017 (but perfect read for February). It was widely reviewed, shared on social media with positivity, and I’m pleased that my story has been doing quite well too. My story is like a crime/serial killer/revenge story wrapped up with a fairy tale vibe. It’s a little bit of something I’ll always do to have a bit of the feel of grim fairy tales in my work. I grew up with Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and other folklore inspiring me and it’s not unusual it transferred into my work. The darker the better, but for me, it’s a way of dealing with trauma and fears. It’s totally the dark side of relationships and what they can lead to…

In this anthology there are all types of stories from love that hurts, to love gone wrong, to weird love, to the love of something unusual, to the loss of a loved one, but always each will get you feeling. Here is the synopsis:

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row (and Bram Stoker Nominated Author) and more. Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

Praise for my story in Hardened Hearts, “The Heart of the Orchard” –

“The Heart of the Orchard by: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – Loved, loved, loved this one—the setting, the tone, the writing—all of it was great!” – Literary Dust

‘The Heart of the Orchard’ by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is another of the strongest works in the anthology. A dark fairy tale focussing on a young woman with a scarred past who is offered help in her quest to succeed with her fruit orchard by a character known only as The Orchard Man. She gratefully accepts his assistance in the form of herbs for her sleeplessness and fertiliser for her peach trees.” – This is Horror

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim.” – Char’s Horror Corner (in listing the tales that stood out for her)

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – This one deserved its own book also! A+” – Book Dragon Girl (in listing her favorite stories)

I was also thrilled that for some, my story resonated, or they found it worthy of special mention. I know that my story, besides having some fantastical components, can also be unsettling because it’s based on some trauma I experienced in my own life. I channeled this into my character. I think it is the ultimate in hardening a heart and it was what propelled me to write it to match the theme.

You can check it out HERE! 4.18 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.

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In my dark poetry and fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., being in relationships is explored because I wrote my emotions about living in a domestic violence situation for many years into some of my poems. If you like love gone wrong, stories about domestic relationships, whether to connect or get a bird’s eye view or for suspense, and you like books like Gone Girl, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, Big Little Lies, and other such, you may want to give some of the poems and stories in my collection a try. For the stories, I’d especially recommend my “Vahalla Lane” mini-series of fiction.

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Other Suggested Titles

You might also check out my friend Sara Tantlinger’s poetry collection Love for Slaughter, which is not for my faint of heart readers (it has lots of bloody verse). It’s gritty, dark, undigestible but unputdownable too. It’s intelligent but gory in the details, messy as in love and life. It’s very hard to look away.

This debut collection of poetry from Tantlinger takes a dark look at all the horrors of love, the pleasures of flesh, and the lust for blood. For discerning fans of romance and the macabre, look no further than Love for Slaughter.

Find it on GoodReads HERE.

Love for Slaughter

If you’re healing from love gone wrong, you might try DragonHearts, which is a new release from three of today’s best-selling poets: Nikita Gill, Amanda Lovelace, and Trista Mateer. They weave an empowering tale in their collaborative poetry collection through the combination of prose and poetry, use fairy tales and myths to create something that is both timeless and extremely relevant to present-day issues, such as the #MeToo movement, reclaiming your voice, feminism, and the shared power of self-love and solidarity. This book is a reminder that romantic love does not need to be the main plot of your story, sometimes friendship is.

Another set of poetry and words that tears out your heart, puts band-aids on it, makes you feel and weep, and makes you feel alive and real.

Check it out HERE!

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For my other followers, friends, and fans who don’t read as much poetry and prefer novels, but still want some gothic and historical reads, pre-order HERE for yourself or your Valentine The Lost History of Dreams by my friend Kris Waldherr, coming in April from Atria! Kris is a fabulous artist and writer, who puts words on the page like she inks color on a canvas.

Check out this pre-blurb: Wuthering Heights meets ‘Penny Dreadful’ in Kris Waldherr’s The Lost History of Dreams, a dark Victorian epic of obsessive love, thwarted genius, and ghostly visitations. Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor.” – Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK and THE HUNTRESS

The Lost History of Dreams

Or if you can’t catch West Side Story yourself somewhere, and don’t want to delve into the language of Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet, you can read the tragic love story of Abelard and Heloise through The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones! Find it HERE!

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

You can see my past review of it HERE.

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Or if you just like your romance on the dark thriller side, read YOU by Caroline Kepnes. This totally an example of love done wrong, gone wrong, but gives you all the suspense you need to eat an entire box of chocolates. It’s a favorite of mine from Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

From the cover copy:

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

You can find it HERE.

YOU book

If you don’t have time to read the book, check out the series of same name on Netflix, which is stellar. It’s was of the my favorite shows I’ve watched in some time. It’s great for a weekend binge and those chocolates… maybe wine… with or without someone to share it with!

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Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, however or with whomever you celebrate! At the least, buy yourself a box a chocolates, and better yet, A BOOK! LOVE is the universal language. 

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David Blixt Talks About His Danger in Bringing William Shakespeare to Life

Negative Space

or

‘What Will Won’t Do’

Guest Post by Author David Blixt

To also see my review of Blixt’s book His Majesty’s Will, click HERE.

It’s dangerous, playing the expectations game. You rewrite Romeo & Juliet, you’d best bring something new to the table. You write about the fall of Jerusalem, there had better be something surprising and uplifting in that awful story. And if you write a novel about William Shakespeare, you’d best hope that you don’t get crushed by the weight of expectations. Especially your own.

That was the danger I was facing as I sat down to write Her Majesty’s Will. Even though I knew it would be light-hearted and joyful, a romp of a spy/buddy/comedy, I was still casting William Shakespeare as my lead character. William Shakespeare! The man who invented one of every ten words we use. The man who created more common phrases than we can count. The man whose only rival in terms of influence is the Bible. William Shakespeare!

That’s the problem, you see. I love Shakespeare – or rather, I love his plays. I’ve been performing them professionally for over half my life now. I met my wife doing Shakespeare. Last summer our six year-old son joined me onstage to do Shakespeare. Of the 36 accepted titles that bear his name, I’ve played roles in 19, so I’m just about halfway through the canon. Through the plays, I think I’ve got a vague sense of the man: his values, his mistrusts, his instincts, his loves, his hates, his sense of humor, his sense of drama.

But almost all of it is negative space. We don’t have anything even remotely resembling an autobiography, only lines here and there that we can speculate about – Hamlet’s instructions to the actors, Jacques’ cynical musings on life, Richard II’s thoughts on England itself. Any of those might be the playwright’s true voice. Or they might not. Then there are sonnets, which we might take as his own voice, if we did not know that many of them were written on commission for other people.

Taken together, that’s not a lot to go on. So when it came time to craft a tale with young Will Shakespeare at the center, I had to infer a lot. Fortunately, there are themes that emerge in his plays time and again, snippets and beats and moments that, taken together, present a picture.

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So what do I see in Shakespeare’s plays?

 – I see mistrust of power and those who crave it. From Henry IV to Richard III, from Lear to Macbeth, from Caesar to Antony to Octavian, Shakespeare shows how ambition is often a snake swallowing its own tail, how desire for power leads men to evil. How power itself is unfulfilling, yet absolute power corrupts absolutely:

 BRUTUS: But ’tis a common proof

That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,

Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;

But when he once attains the utmost round,

He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend.

That formula is as true for the Church and for Government as it is for Mankind. Power is dangerous, as is ambition. Yet he resolutely holds out hope that man can transcend this evil. Perhaps my favorite line from Macbeth belongs to Malcolm: Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell.

Conclusion: Shakespeare mistrusts authority – does that mean he’s seen the evil of authority up close?

– I see a longing for justice. It’s in the comeuppance he gives all his evil-doers. From Richard’s dream to Edmund’s recantation to Iago’s silence to Macbeth’s sleep-deprived madness, the evils men do return to them. It’s almost a sense of karma, though if that were the case, then there would not be the harm to the innocents that also appears – Macduff’s children deserved no karmic suffering, and poor Cinna the Poet did nothing wrong. No, Shakespeare makes it clear that there is evil in the world, but also that God or Fate or the nature of evil itself brings evil back to evil. Blood will have blood, as they say.

This is as true for the Comedies as for the Tragedies. Malvolio gets a cosmic comeuppance as he’s made the fool of by those he sought to overmaster. Yet his tormentors go too far, and he swears he will have his revenge. At that moment, I agree with him that they deserve it. His crime did not warrant such treatment, and shows the danger of trying to effect justice outside the law. Shakespeare is no fan of vigilantism, yet he understands it. And he detests arbitrary justice, as seen in Justice Shallow in Merry Wives.

 Conclusion: Shakespeare longs for justice – because he has been wronged?

 – I see his need to side with the misunderstood. So many of Shakespeare’s best characters are outsiders. Othello, Iago, Shylock, Aaron, Edmund, the Bastard Arthur, Richard (thanks to his deformity) – these men are, every one, outsiders. Yes, the majority are villains, because that’s what the audience expected, and because villains are the ones who make a story move. But to a one, Shakespeare gives us some of the most amazing, heartfelt defenses for who they are:

SHYLOCK: If you prick us, do we not bleed?

if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison

us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not

revenge?

EDMUND: Why bastard? wherefore base?

When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true,

As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us

With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?

RICHARD: I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them.

That is to say nothing of the women, outsiders in their own right. The life he gives to Rosalind, Viola, Kate, and Merchant’s Portia is truly astonishing. They are, in fact, the true leads of their plays, challenging gender roles either by being shrewish and assertive, or else by donning man’s attire and becoming men themselves, always proving better and wiser men than the actual men around them.

 Conclusion: Shakespeare embraces the outsider – because he is one?

 – I see him challenging his audience’s perceptions. There are obvious examples, such as writing a Comedy and then killing everyone off (Romeo & Juliet) or rewriting a popular play like The Taming Of A Shrew to make the female the one who “wins” at the end (and in his version, she’s not whipped and beaten). But the one that’s been most on my mind lately is the startling nature of his play Julius Caesar. Until 1599, Brutus was firmly denounced as one of the great betrayers, being eternally chewed by Lucifer in Hell, second only to Judas in terms of his crime. Shakespeare does the unimaginable and recasts Brutus as the hero, the man who does a terrible thing for an excellent reason, raising all sorts of moral questions, while at the same time redefining Brutus for all time. It may not seem like much to us, but it was a revolutionary act. 

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 Conclusion: Shakespeare sees the world differently from other men.

– I see the law of unintended consequences. Nothing in Shakespeare goes according to plan. From the death of Caesar failing to restore the Roman Republic to the secret marriage of Romeo and Juliet failing to solve the feud (well, it does, but not in the way the Friar intended). Tricking Benedick to fall in love with Beatrice leads to Benedick challenging one of the tricksters to a duel. Shylock demanding his pound of flesh ends with him impoverished and a forced convert to Christianity. Nothing – nothing – goes according to the plan of men.

Conclusion: Shakespeare knew that life was unpredictable, and one must think quickly to survive.

Above all, I see Shakespeare’s love for the common man – the peons, the rabble, the rank and file. Oh, as a group he disdains them – he rails at mobs at the top of Caesar, and during Mark Antony’s speech proves how short their memories are, how quickly they can be swayed. But individually he loves them. He certainly caters to them, pandering to their tastes with low humor and bawdy jokes. But he also finds more good in their raw honesty than in all the upright nobility. It is the rough, the rude, the boisterous that he admires. Oh, they have faults, but he loves their faults along with their virtues. Drunkenness, lewdness, cowardice, cheating, lying – these are all accepted purely as clever means to survive in the world. He gives his greatest wit to clowns and fools, and makes drunkards the most joyful of his creations.

Conclusion: Shakespeare accepts and loves low men – because he came from their ranks.

So as I thought about my Shakespeare – not the real one, but the one being created by my pen – this is the man I saw. A fellow of common birth and uncommon thoughts. A man who understood the vagaries of life and yet longed for justice and order. A man who has played the villain for the best of reasons. A man quick on his feet. A man mistrustful of authority. A man who craves the approval of his peers, even when his nature renders him peerless. A man who has always felt on the outside, misunderstood, different, alone.

Even before I cracked Stephen Greenblatt’s wonderful Will In The World, which gave me incredible historical details for Shakespeare’s origins and contemporaries, the man himself was shaping from the negative space created by his plays into a positive and (thankfully) very human character.

 I’ve always maintained that Her Majesty’s Will isn’t serious, and it’s not. Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe running around as spies for Walsingham, working for the Queen? Ridiculous! I certainly wasn’t aiming to write a biography or some serious piece of literature. This is farce. I am the first to acknowledge that.

But just as Shakespeare gave his best bits of wisdom to his fools and clowns, I hope that, through my own clowning, I’ve been able to imbue my Shakespeare with something close to Truth. If this is not who the real Shakespeare was, this is perhaps who he should have been. A man not dragged down by the weight of my expectations, but rather raised up by his own.

Her Majesty's WillAbout David Blixt’s Book:  Her Majesty’s Will

Publication Date: April 23, 2012 | Sordelet Ink | 247p

SYNOPSIS:

Before he was famous, he was a fugitive.
Before he wrote of humanity, he lived it.
Before he was the Bard of Avon, he was a spy.

A very poor spy.

England, 1586. Swept up in the skirts of a mysterious stranger, Will Shakespeare becomes entangled in a deadly and hilarious misadventure as he accidentally uncovers the Babington Plot, an attempt to murder Queen Elizabeth herself. Aided by the mercurial wit of Kit Marlowe, Will enters London for the first time, chased by rebels, spies, his own government, his past, and a bear.

Through it all he demonstrates his loyalty and genius, proving himself to be – HER MAJESTY’S WILL.

About the Author:  David Blixt~

David BlixtAuthor and playwright David Blixt’s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE’S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, “Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It’s well worth it.”

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”

For more about David and his novels, visit www.davidblixt.com.

David Blixt provided this guest post to Oh, for the Hook of a Book as part of his Virtual Blog Tour coordinated by Amy Bruno of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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