Uses of this World: Chapter 5

Hamlet

Denmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 5: Things Rank

A jerk.

A twitch.

Prince Hamlet was awake again.

How long had he been asleep? And what did he remember?

It took a minute.

He remembered starting to drink the absinthe the night before. When he would drink it with Horatio, it was always in sips, but alone and without companions he took on the entire bottle. When he began he hoped for the madness and visions that others claimed they would receive.  And Hamlet hoped in his visions to see his father, alive, brilliant and with that sense of safety only a loved child would understand.

No visions came, only a headache and some memory loss.

There was the morning assembly. Hamlet peeked an eye open and glanced around. He was in the portrait gallery. He closed his eyes again and searched through the messy remains of his memory. Was there a crowd? His finger traced along the chair arm he was resting against. He knew that too. He was asleep on the throne.

It was all a blur, flickering lights and images, like broken reels of a film spliced together all wrong, little bits of memory returning.

He remembered Ophelia bowing (her dress concealing too much), his uncle (his father now, that is what he called himself this morning) stroking that ridiculous long and thin black mustache of his. Hamlet wasn’t certain, but he might have been named the heir to the throne. Well, he was used to playing that part. Continue reading

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Book Review: Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma

This is a book I didn’t get a chance to review on WKAR’s Current Strate. And since it is a few month’s since its release it didn’t feel fair keeping it locked away. I hope you enjoy this new book review for Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. (And if you would like to check out the book for yourself, you can find it on amazon here.)

Why We Came to the CityWhen you are in your twenties, sometimes it can feel like the world is your oyster and ripe with possibilities. This feeling is definitely true for the group of friends that make up the center of Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. At the beginning of the story, they are sneaking into elite art parties in New York City, complaining about the more successful, and passing out on couches… many times not their own.

At the heart of the story is Irene. She is a young artist with a hidden past. Even her closest friends don’t even know her real name, yet there is something about her that is fascinating to all that meet her. She searches through garbage looking for things for her art, and writes messages in books that she hopes others will find in time. And everyone seems to know her in the Big Apple. Continue reading

Catch up on the new online book- Uses of this World

Hamlet Illustrated ClassicGreetings readers!

Why we all wait for the new Harry Potter book and tickets for Hamilton (seriously, I can’t wait to see that show, I’m addicted to the soundtrack), I’ve been working on a brand new novel online.

As I said in this opening discussion about it (here), it is an incredibly snobby enterprise. Prove it? I’m trying to reimagine my own version of Hamlet.

I know, I know…  Hamlet… Shakespeare… there is a chance there might be some eye rolling going on right now over the internet. But if I do this right, it should be a very engaging and interesting book with no prior knowledge of the Bard needed.

Denmark, 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

This new book, Uses of this World, will be created here online, and I will be putting up a new chapter each time they are ready. Just this week I shared Chapter 3, finally getting up to the first scene in my favorite play.

Why not take this moment to catch up?

Here are three links to the first entries in this new writing experiment. I hope you will give it a try. I’m really enjoying the work and the process around it.

Uses of this World: Chapter 3

Fear and Wonder

Prologue and Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3: Fear and Wonder

The fog sat uneasy on the castle grounds. It was as if the very world did not like the events about to take place and wanted to hide it away in deep and dark shadows.

It began with a shout. “Who’s there?”

A voice answered from the gray, this one scared, accompanied by the sound of a rifle cocking. “Nay! Answer me. Stand and unfold.”

Bernardo, with a sigh, slung his own gun back over his shoulder. As the young solder stepped forward, he raised his hands in the air as if he was comically surrendering. “Long live the king.”

The other solder, upon seeing the sight, lowered his gun, relief taking over his frame. “Bernardo?”

Bernardo smirked and lowered his hands. “He.”

This troubled Bernardo, he had never seen Francisco looking so tense and fearful. This was more than the fog. Bernardo was beginning to wish he didn’t agree to this foolish plan of Marcellus, or as he liked to think of him, “The Grump.” When Marcellus brought it up after the second night it seemed wise, and really why argue with the Grump.

Francisco held out his hand for Bernardo to shake, which he did. “You come most carefully upon your hour.” Bernardo couldn’t help noticing how cold the other soldier’s hand was. It was ice and the grip was tight. Continue reading

Uses of this World: Prologue and Chapter 1

Prologue: Silent Home Movies

Home movies at their heart capture loss-
The family on the beach…
The child taking the first step…
The dance at a wedding…
Each of these moments are lost immediately after being arrested-
Leaving the viewer with a bittersweet feeling-

It is never joy or peace when a person revisits an old film-
It is always something closer to mourning…
Home movies at their heart capture loss-

Consider the films of this family:
A happy picnic surrounded by servants,
The little moments of peace before World War I-
The father chases the son, not feeling the burden of a kingdom-
The mother content to watch and laugh with her brother-in-law-
The royal family, unlike normal people, never had to worry about holding the camera-
There was someone always there to shoot the family-
And those captured losses would appear in newsreels before the movies and performers-

The citizens of Denmark loved the king-
The citizens of Denmark loved the family-
The citizens of Denmark loved the young prince-

Time sneaks in-

With each newsreel, the beloved prince gets older and older-
There he is studying in the library…
There he is practicing his fencing…
There he is reading in the royal gardens (with a young woman spying on him)-

Then the final film reel:
The son returning to college in Germany,
The father embrace (tight)-
Little does either suspect it would be the last time-

DenmarkDenmark 1926

Chapter 1: This Dead Hour

This is not where Marcellus was supposed to be.

This guard duty was a worthless task, usually thrown to the new soldiers or the ones that no one could stand to be around (either because of attitude or smell). For nothing happens at midnight. Even if some wayward right-wing revolutionary or anarchist found their way to the castle, they would probably select a more convenient entrance inside than up the parapet walls running around the great estate, the great border meant to keep the rabble out.

Little to see, little to do.

Most who walked this midnight shift spent their time complaining about the cold, what it would be like to be sleeping, and everything and anything they would rather be doing then this guard duty.

Marcellus had only been doing this midnight duty for a little over a month, but he was already feeling himself slip away. It wasn’t fair, and many said as much to him when he got the assignment. For over twelve years, he was a respected member of the guard, many times right near the royal family. The previous king (His king, Marcellus would note to himself) and his son even knew his first name! The king would always lean to Marcellus, choosing him to follow along, even once or twice turning to him with a little glance or a raised eyebrow when something curious was said or done near them.

Those glances meant everything to Marcellus.

Marcellus was good at his job then. In all his time, he had only made one mistake, the problem is he made it at the worst moment possible.

When it was announced in the royal chambers by the dead King’s younger brother, Claudius that he was going to marry the mourning queen, the response was supposed to be joyous. Marcellus was certain looking back at that moment that that is what the royal family wanted everyone to feel. A bright new future, a healing dawn. Instead there was silence, the most quiet and dead. Which, of course, made Marcellus’s outburst that much more noticeable.

Marcellus didn’t swear like some of the guards claimed. It was more of a grunt, but it was loud and it said more than most words would have. That singular noise was enough to make Marcellus an unsuspecting legend in the capital and tossed him to the worst guard duty in the kingdom.

Every 11 PM to 6 AM, poor Marcellus could now be found walking back and forth along the parapet walls circling the acres, taking the only occasional and quick glances down to the grounds far below, making sure no one was approaching the castle walls or sneaking around inside. Castle, check; private chapel, still there as well; the royal graveyard, check; gardens and maze, green and intact…

It was such a worthless task, created out of tradition, now continued out of laziness and ancient formality. Whenever Marcellus dared to look to the grounds in that darkness, the people would look just like black ants. And really how was he to tell the difference between the dark ant that was a washerwoman coming to do her cleaning and the dark ant that was a revolutionary with a hidden bomb? They were all ants to him!

Another problem for Marcellus is that he always had a deep fear of heights. Whenever he took the time to look down, he would almost immediately begin to feel dizzy, weak at the knees. There was even a time, during his first week, when he had to be saved from falling off the wall.

All of this because of a grunt.

The bitter thing that Marcellus had to stop thinking was that he knew (he knew!) that every soldier in the kingdom agreed with him about this so-called royal wedding. Some soldiers said this to him after his new assignment, others said enough with their little nods and glimpses. It was all too suspicious. The quick and strange death of the good king, the wedding of his queen to his brother, and the throne passing over the son to the uncle. Truly, this Denmark was not the Denmark they agreed to guard or the one they fought for during the great War, the War to End all Wars. Then they were following a king they believed in, a royal family that they cherished thanks to the newspaper stories and, especially, the newsreels. That is what they bleed for. A world where a perfect family like that could live in peace, set an example for all of them. The king lived a life that could only be compared to a dream, and the soldiers were guarding that dream.

A beautiful thought in a way.

Marcellus had no idea how long he was going to be on this assignment. At one point, he actually considered abandoning his post, collecting his saved earnings and escaping. He had nothing holding him to Denmark; no wife, no children. But as each day went past, the idea of escaping drifted farther and farther away from him. Soon every night, every moment began to bleed into each other, and shortly Marcellus didn’t feel time anymore.

You lose time when you lose the daylight. The only thing Marcellus had to mark time was the weather, the cold and the rain were different, but only slightly, for even the summer nights in Northern Europe can get pretty cold. It was almost shocking to him that it was only a month. It felt like all time, and none at the same time.

There was one fire on the wall, near the north-east back where the walls stop and the cliffs take over. Near it, were the scribbles of a hundred different solders, each tracing their now-forgotten name on the pavement. That fire had probably been kept ever since the first family, many generations ago, called the castle home. There was a disgruntled history in the fire, in the action of holding one’s hands over the flames. You feel warmth, you feel a little closer to the illusion of truly being alive.

It’s not as if the high castle of Elsinore in the middle of the royal lands was worth fighting for or protecting. Historical importance aside, it was an aging building and five steps from a wrecking ball. Too cold in the winter, too humid in the summer, the royal family would take any excuse available to abandon it for a time.

Elsinore was a place rich in ghost stories, with each room having its own devils and angels to draw a storyteller forward. For Marcellus, he felt the dark stories more. It didn’t help his nightmares that in the summer, when especially humid the walls would drip blood. Now Marcellus was wise enough to know that it wasn’t really blood, but poor construction and clay mixing with the water, still it was very disconcerting even to those with level-enough minds to know there is no such thing as ghouls.

It would have been wiser to just turn the castle into a tourist location. It could have easily been done decades ago. Maybe adventurous tourists would enjoy the discomfort and bleeding walls? The problem is that no king or queen wanted to be the one to abandon the location. It would have been seen as a loss, and no one in power wants to be seen as a failure in the eyes of a single peasant. So because of pride, the royal family suffered inside while guards like Marcellus suffered on the out.

The duty was all so monotonous, and Marcellus could feel his “wants” disappearing as each dark evening began. Lust for food, lust for excitement, lust for drink, lust for women, it all began to feel too tiring for him. A memory of his past life.

The midnight watch was his only life now, and all because of a grunt.

Prison would have been kinder. At least in a cell, he might have kept his soul intake.

Really it was not surprising that Marcellus considered just ending it, falling over the side. He imagined it being symbolic in a way, the guard jumping to his death as the kingdom falls around him. He probably would have enjoyed conversing about it, if he wasn’t the one to do the leaping. He could see the debates now, with soldiers talking about the troubles with the growing right-wing factions in Germany, the stranglehold communism had on Russia, the faltering strength of Denmark’s royal family, and everyone in Denmark, young and old, feeling like danger was a little too close.

Marcellus also liked how his leap may help to silence the other soldier he shared the evening with, Bernardo; or as Marcellus thought of him in his mind, “The Talker.”

Bernardo- the name could almost be a curse now for Marcellus.

Bernardo didn’t know when to stop talking! Thanks to his age, he was lucky enough to miss the war, and maybe, Marcellus conjectured that was why he couldn’t shut up. Yes, that must have been it. He was making up for the bravado he didn’t have on the field, the earned struggles and scars of the older soldiers like Marcellus.

Marcellus knew Bernardo was given this awful evening duty because of that mouth of his, but the young soldier had no idea. He truly thought it was an honor based on how the day guard described it. Oh, the foolish simpleton!

So it was on that evening, with Marcellus’s feelings of loss and hopelessness and the Talker going on and on about his future (from the woman he would marry and all of the other women he would impregnate as well), Marcellus walked to the edge of the precipice of the wall right near the cliff, ready to end it all finally.

It would be so easy… so very easy… all he would have to do is lean and then look really closely at the ground below. His fear of heights should do the rest. He probably would faint so soundly that he wouldn’t even feel the swishing of the breeze as he fell or the slam as he body broke on the rocks below.

Marcellus didn’t bother to take a deep breath or say anything profound. No need and not worth it. He just moved to the edge of the castle and looked down.

…But Marcellus was not looking at the ground.

A face!

There was a face looking right up at him, and for the very first time since that mistaken moment in the great chambers, Marcellus let out a second grunt of astonishment.

The face was gray, ashen in a way. The flesh was pealing, and the body connected to it was also ghostlike, invisible and solid all at the same time.

Marcellus knew that face, had loved that face! It was the face of the king. His king. The same king that inspired him to become a guard, the one that would wink to him, pat him on the back from time to time. The right king to be on the throne, not the usurper that sat there now.

Marcellus staggered back from the edge, falling to the ground (it bruised him with his military garb on but he would not notice his bruises until hours later). The Talker only saw Marcellus’s collapse and began to let out a laugh but stopped when he saw the great specter nobly and slowly rise to their level. Even in death he was greater than them and demanded respect.

The dead king was dressed as most people knew him. The same image that adorned many walls in the kingdom, from bars to their dining rooms. He was in his great armor, the same one passed down from generations to generations. The mark of the king, and he had taken it with him to his grave.

How was any of this possible? What did it mean?

While Marcellus just stared up in astonishment, watching as the silent haunt turned from them without even a glance and floated away down the wall, the Talker did the one thing Marcellus wished he could’ve done earlier.

Bernardo fainted.

Enjoying the writing? Why not show your support by checking out my newest novel?Permanent Spring Showers

Permanent Spring Showers was published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.

What I Have Planned With Shakespeare

Gorilla and HamletSometimes creativity can feel like you are caging a gorilla.

Most days it will stay in its cage, happily eating a banana, maybe even doing sign language with the audiences, making everyone grin. But, from time to time, it needs to be released. Go wild, get crazy.

I’m having a gorilla moment.

With the blog, with the book reviews, with the new book (which I am really proud of and currently working with an agent on), my creativity wants to do something out there. Everything has felt too safe for a while. I need to do something a little dangerous, something that is honestly… very unsellable.

This screams vanity project in all caps.

This screams vanity project in all caps and bellowed from the top of a mountain.

Wait! I need to back up. I can’t just jump to the introduction.

I need to begin with my last novel Permanent Spring Showers, talk about Shakespeare and then I’ll beat my manly ape chest some more.  Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Current StateToday on WKAR’s Current State, I got the opportunity to catch up with some of my fellow reviewers. You can add me to the chorus now, singing the praises of The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-angela-flournoys-turner-house

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out The Turner House,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

NEW WKAR Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Current StateOne of my favorite things to do on WKAR is talk about new books that really impress me. Some like to believe book reviewers get more pleasure out of negative reviews, but that has never been the case for me. So today was a highpoint for me as I take on My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-elizabeth-strout-s-my-name-lucy-barton

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out My Name is Lucy Barton,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Current StateToday on WKAR I took on the new literary fiction and ghost story by Samantha Hunt. Check out my take on Mr. Splitfoot.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-samantha-hunts-mr-splitfoot

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Mr. Splitfoot, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Quicksand by Steve Toltz

Current StateToday on WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by Steve Toltz, Quicksand. I hope you like it!

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-steve-toltz-s-quicksand

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Quicksand, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page. Continue reading