Research, the Great War and Band History

IMG_5603In Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse, I wrote in a reference to one of the former incarnations of the band: the trunk that the band carries around contains a few artefacts, including a horseshoe which Bartos, of revered memory, once used to hold ghouls at bay on a battlefield in France in World War I.

This year is the anniversary of the start of that war, and there are all kinds of solemn and striking stories being told: reminding us how it began, and why it didn’t stop sooner.

Here in London, where I am on holidays and looking for material for several books, including the next Kitty and Cadaver novel, I have seen a couple of terrific exhibitions. The Cartoon Museum has on display a number of newspaper cartoons and postcards, not only from the Allied perspective but from the Germans and their allies too. Seeing how the other side saw things is always an interesting perspective, and British cartoonists occasionally showed a human side to the nation’s enemies as well.

Public opinion, as expressed through editorial cartoons, advertising and postcards, isn’t as cut and dried as you’d sometimes think. It’s one reason it’s always a good idea to return to primary documents rather than rely on later interpretations.

The Imperial War Museum also has a Great War Gallery, proving very popular, and it threads the historical narrative with homefront conditions and some alternative perspectives as well.

All of this viewing of exhibitons and documentaries and reading of articles is essential so that I can one day write out the whole story of Bartos and the horseshoe – an idea which popped up when I was at Genrecon one year and took part in a writing exercise. This short piece was, I think, the first thing I wrote in the Kittyverse.

Now I know that Bartos is Slovakian (a country then under the power of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and Piotr is originally from Russia (then allied with Great Britain, until the Russian Revolution saw its withdrawal). I now know what those two men were doing together in France, and where they were first – but I don’t know yet who else is in their incarnation of the band, or their fates. It won’t all be happy endings, obviously.

In the meantime, here’s that exercise I wrote.

Kitty reached instinctively for the horseshoe lying in the folds of greased brown paper at the top of the trunk.

“This feels… strong,” she said, rubbing her thumb across the grains of rusted metal. The brown streak on her skin tingled.

“Good choice,” said Yuka, “Steve says it’s a hundred years old, that one. Bartos, the percussionist back then, was caught in the Somme, a ghoul was coming up from the bomb crater for him. This was all he had. That and a tent peg. But he made music with that horseshoe and his voice, and held it back until Piotr could arrive with his flute.”

There will be more stories set in the band’s 700 year history coming from my experiences on this trip – and I’ll post some of them here when I’m done.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

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Untold Story 2: Goblin Park

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Goblin Park Keszthely HungaryThe walk from the train station into the Hungarian spa town of Keszthely goes by this dark and overgrown park. The park contains a small shed, from which desolate cries whisper in the twilight. On stormy nights, the cries ring out as though the trees themselves despair of ever escaping the vines that cover and choke everything.

Something bad happened here, long ago. Perhaps something good, as well. Perhaps someone was taken by the park, or perhaps someone escaped it. Is it the lost souls who cry, or the enraged park itself?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWrite your idea of what happened in the comments or submit 500-1000 words to kittyandcadaver@gmail.com and the best ficlets will go into a follow-up Story Told post. You can set your drabble/ficlet anywhere from the 13th to 21st century.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Story Told 1: Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka salt mine (1)In Untold Story 1, I invited readers to give me their ideas of what happened to one incarnation of the band down in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. Sally Koetsveld answered the call, and here is her fabulous poem/story!

The Horror In The Deep
From deep below a tinkle
Crystal chimes discordant
Chink, chink, chink the heartbeat
Of the deep, echoing from the core
Of the earth.
Down, down, down.
Crystalline, pink, white ,blue
Hollow and full
Form and formless.

What horror waits for you?

No golem, no cthulu
but all the same it seeks
to freeze, to frame, to light.

A dwarf in search of perfect gems?
An ogre in search of food?
Not these either.

In the deep it sings to you, for you, at you.

In the deep, deep, deep.
Below the lake that is not a sea, not an ocean
But the portal to the core of the earth
It sings.

An Artist surfaces.

Keen eyes and many deft hands steal the music played to soothe the restless
Dead, and with magic of its own, uses the music to
Carve in the salty rock a curse, an invocation, a dark blessing hidden in the shape of the would-be Saviour.  It has a sense of humour, that Dark Artist, that Magician.

The salt caverns ring with delicate beats as the Artist claims more souls
Crystalising them into their sculptures.  Their hearts still beat and tingle.

Even now, when visitors grace those caverns they hear the whispers of those trapped souls, the loudest and oldest the Bard and Saviour who tried to quell the Magic Beast and was turned into its first creation.

Tread quietly and listen.
Sing his song.
You may yet free them all.

  — Sally Koetsveld

Thank you Sally for playing with us in the Kittyverse!

Another Story Told for the salt mine is by Yvon Hintz: read Breath of God.

Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267. Their mission? Protect the world from the things that hide in the dark, using magic through music. The Untold Story posts show fragments of their 700 year history. The details have been lost in time – so I invite you to imagine what the story could be.

Stay tuned for the next Untold Story!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Postman’s Park (for everyday heroes)

Photo by Jez Nicholson, via Wikipedia Commons

Watching Alan Cumming in his charming wee travel series, Urban Secrets, I learned about  Postman’s Park

Postman’s Park is a quiet little park in St Martin’s le Grand, off Aldersgate Street in the EC1 district. In 1900, philanthropist and painter GF Watts created a memorial to the heroic efforts of unsung, everyday people who had lost their lives helping others.

Photo by Jez Nicholson, via Wikipedia Commons

Reading the beautifully designed Doulton china tablets is a humbling experience. With everything we hear of the nastier side of human nature, here is a litany of courage, care and sacrifice that makes up the other side of that coin.

Being a writer, I’m predisposed to rifling through life to find inspiring elements for my stories. That habit of burrowing through real things to tell stories is not necessarily a pretty trait among writers, but most of us do try to use those proclivities and the gems they unearth to tell new stories about being human. We borrow from life to shine a new light on life.

Photo by Jez Nicholson, via Wikipedia Commons

So, with the greatest respect for those brave (and maybe scared, and maybe frantic, and maybe too desperate to help the innocent or the loved or the helpless to think of themselves) souls of everyday courage and care, the Postman’s Park has burrowed its way into my writer’s brain.

I like to think that in another universe, where the minstrels of the line that leads to Kitty and Cadaver lived, there is a little patch of that garden where today’s band leaves a song and takes inspiration from their comrades who have fallen in service of humanity.

Because in stories as in life, there should always be someone to sing for the unsung heroes.

Find out more about the Postman’s Park:

Photo by Jez Nicholson, via Wikipedia Commons

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.