17 February 2008

Guest Blogger: Bettie Sharpe


I'm Bettie. I'm a bit of a newbie at Samhain. My first novella came out on January 15, 2008. I'd like to thank the regulars at Beyond the Veil for allowing me to guest post today.

Strangers and the Night
Our ancestors spun stories from the dark mystery of night. Their imaginations shaped creatures in the flickering shadows cast by their campfires or hearth fires. Their tales filled the night-darkened land beyond the reach of their torches and lamps with vampires, witches, sidhe, djinni, yosei, and a thousand other mythical creatures that used magic and darkness to confuse the unwary and to hide their true forms.

Every culture and age has had archetypes of the mysterious stranger. In myths and stories a stranger can embody all of the mystery, the danger, the possibilities of the unknown. A mysterious man or woman is a canvas for our dreams, our desires and our deepest fears.

In folklore the stranger is often a force of evil, a devil who seeks to make bargains with the credulous and unwary. In these tales, even if the stranger seems innocent, he is not. In the Welsh telling of "The Devil's Bridge" the devil appears as a monk, but is outsmarted by the clever farm girl he tried to trap. In some versions of the folklore of the American South, the devil is a stranger who stands at the crossroads waiting to trade talent, knowledge or skills in exchange for souls.

In other stories, the stranger is a force of good—the bent old woman who begs kindness from the knight errant, and upon receipt of that kindness is revealed to be a beautiful fairy with the power to grant the knight a boon.

In modern archetypal tales, like westerns and mysteries, the dark stranger is a wanderer. He may be a good-hearted gunfighter, or a surly private eye with a hidden streak of nobility. She may be a woman from the wrong side of the tracks, or on the wrong side of the law.

When Samhain put out a call last spring for submissions to an anthology entitled "Strangers in the Night" my imagination immediately filled with possible stories. I knew right away that I wanted both my hero and heroine to be dark, dangerous strangers.

I wanted to write a world of shifting shadows—to create a setting that was as full of possibility and danger as the shadows beyond the edge of a campfire's light. I ended up with "Like a Thief in the Night," the story of a thief and an assassin—two people who live outside of society, outside of the law. And since the story is a paranormal, they live a little bit outside the bounds of reality, as well. Secretive and stealthy, Aniketos and Arden are strangers to the world, but by the end of the story, they are not strangers to each other.

In the end, I think the appeal of the stranger is not that the stranger is unknown; the appeal is our desire to know. The same blend of fear, excitement and curiosity that drives us to spin stories out of shadows drives us to read and listen to so many different stories about strangers. We want to unmask the devil beneath the monk's robe. We want to discover the black-clad gunfighter's heart of gold. We want to know and understand the stranger that walks out of the shadows and into the light.

CONTEST! What's your favorite story about a stranger?
Comment, and I'll drop your name in the hat for a copy of Like a Thief in the Night. I'll post the name of the winner in the comments one week from today.

Bettie Sharpe is a Los Angeles native with a fondness for hot weather, classic cars, and air so thick it sticks in your teeth. When she's not busy attempting to metabolize smog into oxygen, Bettie enjoys romance novels, action movies, comic books, video games, and every other entertainment product her teachers said would rot her brain. Visit her web site at www.bettiesharpe.com
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