Tag Archives: Transylvania

DIY Winter Solstice Ceremony

I’ve been anticipating Winter Solstice for weeks, another chance to cleanse myself of dark inner voices and illuminate them with hope and renewal. When I participated in the Horror Writers Workshop 2015 in Transylvania I learned that burning a bonfire with intention keeps evil spirits from harming your property or family. Bonfires in Bran are rather small and quick burning, but sufficient to send intentions into the darkness. And people there light fires frequently to ward off dark energies.

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I’m planning a very simple celebration that will be personal for me but not too heavy for guests. To keep it simple I’m following the guidance of  Stacey L. L. Couch in her blog post How To:  Winter Solstice Celebrations. Couch says you need just these activities and she expands on how to accomplish each:

  1. Fire to light up the darkness. Any sort of fire is OK like even a candle or incense but an outdoor fire is preferred.
  2. Go outside, at least for a little while to experience the dark where it exists – outdoors. Turn off all lights except your fire to really feel the darkness around you.
  3. Offerings to burn in the fire. Invite guests to bring offerings, too. Stacey has some brilliant simple ideas about this so please check out her post. I bought oysters to roast over the fire and I’m writing a letter to someone who died but I still have something dark inside I want to tell him, to let it go. One guest is bringing cookies.
  4. Gathering of friends. You can go it alone but inviting new and old friends brings a community together. I’m keeping my gathering small, just 5-6 of us this first time. We moved our date to Friday to work with everyone’s schedule. It’s close enough!
  5. Quietude, prayer, and contemplation. I’m thinking a moment of silence and then sharing poems, quotes, or songs will fill this element. It can be serious, light or humorous, or all of it. I’ll ask  guests to bring some and I’ll dig some up, too. How many songs can you think of with Sun in the title or lyrics? “You might as well be walking on the sun”, “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Good day Sunshine”, “Sunshine on my Shoulder” . . .
  6. Sources of light. Candles, holiday lights, flashlights, matches, whatever bring about light in the darkness. Stacey says, “And may you remember the infinite light of your divine essence once again.”.
  7. Prayers for the Season. Stacey offers a couple of short prayers you can use or find your own or make them up.

This may seem like a lot but I think it can happen in about 10 minutes if you want it short or you can make it as long as you and your guests like. I hope you take some time today or this week to recognize the darkest time of the year and that the sun will bring light more and more each day. Please tell me how you plan to celebrate Winter Solstice. Read more to see how one brave woman used her imagination to create her ceremony.

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A friend who lives with a serious illness sent me this ceremony this morning. Let your self imagine your ceremony if you can’t have it in reality. Images can be very convincing.

“The morning of Winter Solstice 2016, and a new beginning.

I woke up unusually early with a negative feeling, one that was probably with me when I went to bed. I had fallen back into a pattern of attempting to force the truth from someone. Instinctually, I know this will not happen within any number of days set by me, if ever. So it felt as if I was already living the disappointment.

Wanting to feel better, I thought of the blog Kay Addington McDonald recently made about smudging and how smoke removes negative energy. The idea of this practice reoccurred in the story of Charlotte Pope’s daughter, Marston Blow, when she used sage liberally on herself and the Indians during the violence at Standing Rock.

Being in my cozy blankets, not having sage and it being dark outside – I used my mind to visualize as I’ve been taught in guided meditations by Jodie Lea and Renee Silvus [local yoga teachers]. I saw, the sage wrapped tight and burned down to a fat stick with a smoldering glow. I imagined that by my or some other hand, the smoking sage was made to circle me at and below the root chakra. Slowly, it was brought up and around my chest, neck and then my head. By this time, I felt free of the issue if not for my attention and intention alone.

In my mind, I stood and held the sage over my bed and let it drift about my room and then walked through my small home spreading smoke and letting all negativity disappear with it. I did feel better, but wasn’t able to fall back to sleep. So I made coffee and left a message for this person that allowed them to continue in whatever place they are, but without me.

I acknowledged that I slipped into initiating talk even if it wasn’t right because it’s hard to lose a friend, but that I’m learning to honor myself. I also explained the requirement of truth for me, even in a friendship because it is part of respect and love. I wished them well in their grief from a personal loss that has exaggerated both our shifts, and offered to be available should things change in a manner that becomes appropriate.

I’ve got changes to keep making in the New Year, and want to start my Winter Solstice in a manner that represents that.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Anticipation

 
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Circle faces

I study round faces I found on masks and dolls and puppets in Sighisoara and Brasov, Romania last summer. Circles form the basic shape and eyes, nose, cheeks, and chin. Even eyebrows indicate circles. It makes a happy feeling. I’m ready to create masks and dolls and puppets, characters. Starting with painting circles appears easy, but will it be so? This little fellow’s hair grows around his face in a complete circle. What an enigma. I saw this hanging on a wall in a gift shop, just the face, nothing more. I think it would be a suitable face for Baby Brother puppet in a Baba Yaga play I am considering directing.

child face 2

A bowl full of angels. So cheery! This artist has it down, the circles, the faces. I don’t want to copy, but I think it would be a good practice for me developing my own style, to let it flow and see where it takes me. I don’t have to make angels, maybe I’ll make witches or Yule Boys, those mischievious tomten-like brothers who lick your spoons and bowls and slam doors and peek at you through windows at Yule time. I’m happy to wander through the creative process. Painted faces, can they be as espressive as 3 dimensional sculpted ones?

angel dolls in bowl

So simple, yet so effective. I like the pipe cleaners for arms and legs, adorned with beads.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Circle

Dracul’s emblem in the round

Draco symbol

This cirlular emblem represents the Order of Dracul. I found it mounted on the wall in the house where Vlad Tepes, or Dracula, was born in Sighisoara, a town in Trnasylvania, Romania. Vlad’s father was the first in the Dracul order. In Romania adding “a” at the end of the name indicates the son of the original member. Only the first son adds the “a” and thereafter all the decendents use the name that way. So Vlad was the second in the Dracul line.

History about Dracula is interesting. I learned about him in The Horror Writers Workshop, Transylvania last summer. If you like horror literature, or want to explore the genre and visit inspiring places for writers, I highly recommend you take the week long workshop. For me, it’s unforgettable.

In addition to his title of “Impaler,” Vlad was also known as “Dracula,” which means “son of the Dragon.” Originally, this title came about because his father (also named Vlad) belonged to the Order of the Dragon, an order formed by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund for the purpose of defeating the Turks. The elder Vlad used the dragon symbol on his coins and went by the name “Dracul” (“dragon” or “devil”). Hence the diminutive “-a” on his son’s name, Dracula. As the younger Vlad’s talent for torture became known, however, the name Dracula came to be interpreted more and more as the sinister “son of the devil.” Read more about Dracula’s history here.

I’ve long wondered why so many family emblems are shaped in circles. Obviously they fit well on coins. But consider the circle, a line that continues when its end meets its beginning. Life is a cycle, a circle. It’s not perfect and they say no circle is perfect either. Today I will draft an image contained within a circle. It might represent a family or an order, or it might just be a fun exploration with cirles. Perhaps I’ll go out in my field in snow shoes and stomp circles in the snow.

Today’s post is another photo in the Weekly Photo Challenge:   Circle

 

The watchful corridor

eerie door B & W

eerie hall with windows B & W

Bran Castle in Transylvania had just enough eerie feeling. Some thing seemed to be watching me through doors. Some corridors made me wonder what I might encounter as I approached the unknown round the far away corner.

Weekly photo challenge EERIE.

Woman with Flowers

woman with flowers 1

Beneath the south arch supporting the medieval shop rested an ancient looking crone. Her scarf tied loosely under her chin adorned her complicated face. Spongy sandals comforted her toes. She dressed in tidy dark skirt and vest. The tiny woman smoked her cigarette and tilted a bunch of white hydrangea and gold mums toward me.

Her face was carved in abstract creases shaped by time. The wrinkles gave her the look of wisdom and suffering that comes from experiencing life with unguarded emotions. But her folded skin was not a true guide to her spirit. It was her eyes looking straight into mine, not with insight but with mischief and delight and recognition, that hinted at some joy she felt in that moment. She sipped her espresso from the little crimson cup and balanced it back on a stone at her feet next to an enormous yellow shopping bag, a bright sunflower printed on its shiny surface.

Between us stretched the cobblestone street that made our joints ache. Perhaps we noticed each other because we were the only two women in Shighisoara who wore sensible shoes this hot afternoon. But I feel it was something else that brought us together. She sat in the threshold, one door open to the long shady corridor behind her leading to a locked iron gate, the other door closed next to her showing the engraved pattern gracing its edge. The old architecture of the square juxtaposed with that of this knarly sweet person spoke to me.

I asked if I could photograph her and she nodded and sat straighter, posing. When she saw her images on my camera screen she smiled in silent approval.  But I know I heard her say, “Today was a good day.”

woman with flowers 2

These photographs are my contribution to the WordPress weekly photo challenge: Today Was a Good Day. I met this woman in Transylvania this summer. The experience hasn’t left me. A story waits here, an exchange between us that calls to be developed. Soon enough.

This week’s photo challenge asked us to create a Mesh gallery. It didn’t feel right for these two photos but I will try it out in another post when I have a gallery to exhibit.

Ghosty horned skull thingy

ghost skull in flashlight

And this wraps up my creepy posts for this week’s photo challenge CREEPY. Not everything about Bran Castle was eerie, but some of it definitely was. To see more scary images from my visit to Transylvania in July look at my recent posts below or in the left sidebar. To participate in the weekly photo challenge or see what other bloggers have posted for the creepy photo challenge click here. Not all my posts are about horror so please come back and see more gentle posts, soon.

Horror Bride

She knew she would never escape the fortress if she married him. Death forever was better than submitting to his demeanor.

running into scene

horse face close

bride with lantern

girl watching rider

bride's back

It’s CREEPY photo challenge week. Here’s my theme for today. To see previous creepy posts for this week, look through my recent posts below or in the left side bar. I have been posting photographs I made in Transylvania in July. This remarkable bride and horse, created by a film crew, were at the entrance to Bran Castle. To participate in the weekly photo challenge and see creepy photos by other bloggers, click here

by window light in a castle

Here’s another response to this week’s photo challenge, CREEPY. Today I look into windows and out of windows at fortresses in Transylvania, high up into the Carpatian Mountains. I consider sitting or standing in nothing but window light in Bran Castle. Would I be content? Would I be a prisoner or hostage in olden times? Would I be a ghost of someone who knew intimately the light inside the torture chamber? What secrets are hidden in dim  light of a castle window? What shall I compemplate at my own window today in the Rocky Mountains?fortress window skulls

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Favourite Place

by Terry Collett

For the umpteen time in as many days
You were caught sitting in the window
Of your uncle’s room, and he in as many
Times scolded you for disturbing his
Papers and books and cluttering up
The place, as he put it in his bass
Voice, which vibrated the timbers.Go elsewhere and sit and stare
And clutter up another room, and
Don’t look at me like that girl,
He moaned at you, jabbing his
Stubby finger into your bony chest,
Giving you the I’m-the-adult-around-here
Stare, and so you moved off and out
And pulled the door closed on his musty
Room with his dusty books and papers
And that smell of tobacco and old
Men and never went back again.

At least that’s what you told him
Thereafter, although you often crept
Back in and sat in the window looking
Out at the orchard, where, on certain
Times of night or day, you could see
Your now dead auntie, wave as she
Went on by the trees and on her way.

Poem from http://allpoetry.com/poem/5640287-Favourite-Place.-by-Terry-Collett
See more of my photos for the photo challenge CREEPY when you click here and here. 

Hidden passages

In the Tunnel
Up the hidden stairs

Anything can happen

when you take the first steps

into a hidden passageway.

Strange lights appear.

Walls close in on you.

Pretty creepy.

Especially when

stairs are involved.

And if

it’s in the dark part

of an ancient castle

deep in Transylvania

deep in the Carpathian Mountains.

And if you’re alone.

At night.

And it’s Bran Castle,

one of several

that inspired the story

of a cunning vampire.

The setting, they say.

Would you proceed toward an unknow light source?

Would you step

round the corner

toward an unknown light

source?

step up B & W tint

Would you recall

the murderer

creaking

up the old wooden stairs

every night

to your bedroom

when you were a child?

You knew you would be the first one killed,

silently

because you were too scared

to scream.

Next,

your sleeping brothers.

Would Dad wake up

in time

to save his family?

You never found out.

down ancient steps

What ghosts crept down these

primitive planks,

before you?

Did they escape?

Will you?

Will you miss a step

and tumble down head first

screaming

as you see your belly

falling over your face

again and again

like you were a child?

Again and again?

Who will unlatch the door

at the bottom

and hold you

this time?

Keens on stairs 3 colorful

Better carry a lantern

and wear sensible shoes

lest you slip

and break your neck.

Blood wipes up

completely

from polished stones,

they say.

stone staircase

Better yet,

stay away.

Don’t go

into dark passages.

You’ll never be the same if you do.

This poem was inspired by images I made during my experiences at The Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania, in July, 2015. Of the scary photos and writing on my blog for the photo challenge, CREEPY, the post Hidden Passages is the most popular. It doesn’t show images of things created to be scary like a ghost bride racing away on a ghost horse, or a skull with horns over a huge fabric draped in the woods, or animal skulls baring their teeth in a fortress window. No, instead it shows ancient wooden or stone stairs, most of them spiraling, and small dark hallways and strange lights. Those images are more real and we all have fears of the real more than the fantastic art pieces created to scare us.

The Wall

Bran Castle might be one of several structures that inspired Bram Stoker’s setting for his dark novel Dracula. Some of the photos I made here feel eerie. I messed with this image a little in Adobe Photoshop CS4 to see if how I could alter it for this week’s photo challenge, creepy. It’s the shaded north wall of the Transylvanian castle as I approached it. Which of these images creeps you out the most?

Creepy North Wall
Creepy North Wall

This is only slightly adjusted for tone and contrast, mostly the way the picture came out of the camera. I like the glowing light reflected in the windows.

Creepy North Wall 1
Creepy North Wall 1

A little more adjustment brings out some details and enhances the sky slightly. See more shadows in the stones and a brighter whiter wall.

Creep North Wall 2
Creep North Wall 2

A little more monotone look, or black and white.

creepy north wall 3
Creepy North Wall 3

Tinted, oldish look.

Creepy North Wall 4
Creepy North Wall 4

Tint is adjusted and the color range changes. Using the curves tool, now we see contrast between warm and cool tones.

Creepy North Wall 5
Creepy North Wall 5

I adjusted a previous version with the level or straighten tool (in crop menu) to see how it would look if the roofline or floorline were leveled, creating a 90 degree horizon line. With just a very slight adjustment, I can’t see the horizon line much more level, if any. But I like what happened to the cloud effect. From my position on the stone path when I captured the image I doubt if it would have been possible to get a 90 degree horizon. I would have had to climb out the rock wall to get that perspective. Not allowed, I’m sure. The approach perspective was likely an intention of the architect. Cameras were not handy when the fortress was erected atop the rock, but the image in the eye of guests or invaders would have subtly influenced the mood. Yikes!

So, does one of these images strike you as more creepy than the others?

Masks Keep Order in Transylvania

I’m always delighted to see hand crafted masks and those I encountered in Romania were most impressive. Masks represent the strange symbolic world. They serve to protect the home by warning off evil or beckoning good wishes. Romanians hang masks on their homes, in the forest, and display them on mantles and walls. They create masks and wear them in ritual dances for life’s greatest passages like birth, marriage, and burial. As the year passes through time, masks worn in ceremonies ease the passage from one world of time, or season, to the other, especially at New Years rituals. I photographed the masks I saw on my tour with the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania. But fear not, the faces I encountered were not all so scary. Some were downright fun. Petre Vlase tells about Romanian masks expertly here if you want to learn more about the tradition.

Wood masks 3Our inn’s host Lorenzo at, Mamacozonacilor Pensuine in Bran set these on the mantle in the dining hall to scare off evil during our writers workshops and tours. These two were hand carved by an elderly man in Bran.

Richard's chairLorenzo gave this mask to Richard Thomas, our guest horror author and instructor in exchange for Richard’s promise to return next summer. Richard took this protection home to guard his writing chair where he composes some wicked tales. Photo by Richard Thomas, enhanced by me.

masks and flowersRomanian masks aren’t all so frightening. These fiber masks hang on homes. The male head of the household wears one in a ceremony and asks for certain wishes or hopes for the home. I found these displayed on ancient homes that were moved from various sites in Romania into Herastrau Park in Bucharest. They are hand crafted from fabric, animal hair, fibers, dried beans, and other materials. The inside where you put your face is all black felt. In some mask wearing traditions the person wearing the mask goes into the void when putting it on, becoming the character of the mask. That’s why masks are often black inside. I don’t know if that’s true in Romanian tradition.

2 masks on treeMany of these furry masks have something dangling off the nose. Most wear this sort of hat attatched.

1 more mask on wallThe teeth are made from dried beans drilled and sewn in.

1 mask on wallFur can be real or otherwise.

3 macrame facesThese look to be more for display than wearing. They are macrame, probably hemp. Now here’s a use for wooden spoons.

4 macrame facesNo two are quite alike.

wall of masksOwls see more than we can, so useful to display on the home.

2 white fur masksThese are the only old man masks I saw. They are at a souvenier shop at an ancient fortress we visited.

blood drooling faceRather absurd, don’t you think? This face is on the wall in Dracula’s birth home, now a bar and restaurant. I couldn’t hold the camera still. Yikes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome masks like this ceramic candle holder in a restaurant in Brasov are just decorative and plain old fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA mask on the wall helps set the tone of the place. Relax and enjoy a pipe

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or whatever.child faceChilren are represented in some masks. The lighter side. It’s not all dark and scary.

horse faceAnimals, too. This is not really a mask. It was made by a film crew that used the Bran Castle as a setting. Now that’s scary. It inspired a new horror story for me. You can’t miss this monster and rider as you enther the fortress.

skull with horns at Bran entranceWe couldn’t figure out the meaning behind this but no doubt it means to be scary. This was at the top of the steep path to Bran Castle.

face in forestFigure out this one. It’s on a hill alongside the road in one of Transylvania’s most haunted forests. We were warned that wolves do live in this forest. If you were in the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania, dont’ tell what we discoverd about this spooky sight.

I’m thrilled that as soon as I came home from Transylvania I was asked to direct a spooky play this fall. You can be darned sure I will use some of this inspiration for masks, props, and the set.

Walking home alone in Bucharest

In Bucharest, Romania a few nights before going to Bran,Transylvania for the Horror Writers Workshop, I left my dinner group at the beer hall, and walked back to my hotel alone so I could make some photos. I definitely prefer my Olympus DSL for night shots but the Canon Powershot 530 provided well enough. I feel the curse of Gypsies in the last shot, the fiddler near my hotel. He shook his head for me to stop photographing him and I stopped, reluctantly. I didn’t realize the woman pulling the child and cursing me was the same one as in the photo until I worked through my shots back in my room. She followed me and was deadly serious with her ever-so-quiet tongue in a language I barely understand. But her tone was direct and her glare pushed forward all the venom it could collect as she steadily strode toward me, gaining on me until I had to turn around and notice her. I gave it right back at her with a hearty look of offence more powerful than the defence I felt. And I meant it just as much as she did. Our locked and loaded eyes were our common language. I don’t know what she was saying but I silently warned her, “You’d better not if you know what’s good for you.” She backed off and turned away as I stood facing her, ready for confrontation. So far so good.

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Invitation to Horror

I am thrilled to get to partcipate in the horror writers workshop in Transylvania this summer! I get to visit Bran’s castle and have a bite at Dracula’s house (lunch). I invite you to take up the challenge, too.

Horror is not my best writing genre, but then I don’t really know because I’ve only peered into it. This workshop will immerse me in the craft. The author teacher, Richard Thomas, is one of the best. (More about him in the link at the end of this.) I’ve been assured that exploratory writing will be just the ticket.

When I wondered if my writing is up to the challenge, the Program Director, an accomplished author herself, Tausha Johnson gave me this to think about. (She’s in the link below, too.)

“Writing a Horror Story

Every story is, in its tiny way, a horror story. Horror is about fear and tragedy, and whether or not one is capable of overcoming those things. It’s not all about severed heads or blood-glutton vampires. It’s an existential thing, a tragic thing, and somewhere in every story this dark heart beats.”

She said, “Yes, Kay, horror is very open and covers a lot of ground, such as dark fiction, dark fantasy, gothic, noir, psychological horror, weird, supernatural, surreal, grotesque, suspense & thriller, slipstream (crossing lines with sci-fi and fantasy), etc. Then there’s the horror I write which is more literary horror. Flannery O’Connor & Shirley Jackson often fall into this horror sub-genre. Whatever our style or genre of writing, there are elements to the genre that can help us create suspense and unique, original stories.”

Roots, photo from The Storyteller’s Abode at https://thestorytellersabode.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/roots.jpg

In my LaWrynn stories (in the menu at the top of this blog) there is much fantasy and darkness. She arrives in our world from the other world, the Celtic idea of where we are when we are dead or where the enchanted beings live. She enters our world through a portal on Samhain, the Celtic celebration when spirits can enter our world for 3 days, then go back to their world. It occurs at Halloween time and celebrates the end of the old year and beginning the new with festivities and community bonfires. Once in our world, she lives in the dark underground, Badger’s hole, and encounters life on this side, including dangers and horrors as well as light mischief and fun. She’s trapped here for a year because she didn’t get back through the portal at the end of 3 days. Her horror is having to live in this world. There’s magic and fantasy and lots of room to add darker elements. LaWrynn is mostly living in a real notebook with me for now. I need to prod myself to get more of her stories into this blog.  You can read the draft of her appearance here. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/lawrynn-stories-fantasy-and-celtic-lore/

And I have more ideas for dark stories. My new neighbor might be a pyromaniac and he’s obsessed with sealing wasps out of his house. For real! Wasps really scare me!They attack me every chance they get. I feel like their target. His house was abandoned for several years so wasps moved in and I don’t doubt ghosts abide there, too.

In my https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/the-cat-rock-letters/, I plan to animate the stone formation, a cat that overlooks the river and section house where Frank lives. In Celtic lore rock formations have powers and can change and cause changes. But this set of stories is not so dark and maybe I’ll leave them as they are.

I have other ideas in my journal, too, so maybe horror writing is not that far off for me. My fiction writing is more like dark fantasy than gore. But the horror genre seems to be experimental and flexible these days, according to the instructor’s podcast. http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/tih-025-richard-thomas-on-the-dos-and-donts-of-short-story-writing/

Dracula’s Castle

I like the ravine in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.  I long to produce a play adapted from Poe’s “Mask of the Red Death”. I love Stanley Kubrick’s directing in the suspenceful movie “The Shining”. Nicole Kidman’s performance in the ghost story “The Others” convinced me. And I could not put down Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk even when the snow outside was the best ever on my vacation. He wrote Haiku in the story! Poe also wrote poems in his stories like https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/haunted-palace/ in “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Shakespeare’s stories showed ghosts and seers and tragedies. Mythology is full of tragedies. I got this!

Farewell Bonfire

If I never wanted to write horror, and never contrived a place I’d like to be when I write it, and people I’d like to be with…well sometimes I just need to be spontaneous and go with the demon when it stretches its claw toward me. With a generous scholarship offer from the workshop director, Tausha Johnson, I am 93% sure I am going to be in in Transylvania in July for the horror writer’s workshop. I’m looking at travel costs before making 7% more commitment. I’m sure I can do it! Just do it for no good reason. Going!

Get me there…alive…

I’ve never traveled off the North American continent and I need a little guidance about making flight arrangements. If you can advise me, please reply! I can fly from Boise or SEATAC. Here’s where I need to go:

“We recommend that guests fly to Henri Coandă International Airport, Romania which is located 16.5km (10.3mi) northwest of the city of Bucharest. Once all travel arrival times have been confirmed, a shuttle will bring you from a designated meeting point directly to the hotel in Bran. Please be aware that travel time to Bran is approximately three hours.”

http://www.workshopwriters.com/

http://www.workshopwriters.com/us/

https://www.smore.com/y6es9-horror-writing-in-transylvania