Wednesday, December 3, 2014

About Learning and Moving Forward.

To those new to the support group, welcome to the most awesome party on the net! To the old timers, I hope you are closing the year with an upbeat spirit! This group is meant to offer a place to vent your insecurities and help heal other writer's insecurities and that's great. Let's all thank Captain Ninja Alex Cavanaugh for creating the group and keeping it together. How? Well, go visit his site and all other participating blogs!

I don't know about you, but November just flew and I didn't even notice. I hope those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo feel accomplished; in one sense of another you all are winners. Such a tough challenge! Though I did not join the NaNo train, I did set my own challenge for myself: Finish my novel before Christmas. Many of you pointed out that 3000 words a day as a goal was a bit ambitious. And you were right! Believe it or not, there was a moment in my life not too far ago when I could churn up 3K/day no prob. Sadly, I'm not there now. Yet.

How's the project going? Fffine... I guess??? 

Here's the deal: I write short stories ALL of the time. To me, short stories are easy. When I conceptualize one, I see it almost like a cube that I can rotate in my mind to see where it came from, where it's going, and how many events are in between those points. Novels, on the other hand, are harder for me to picture. I can't see the whole of the story, therefore, I have a really hard time going from one event to the other without knowing my destination. Sorry, just not the way my mind works. To complicate things even more, too much time has passed since I came up with the idea of this book. 

At this point, I'm not even sure what was it that I set out to write. Sometimes I feel like I just lost the story somewhere last year. But despite these set backs, I've been writing constantly. The first week of the project I barely managed a hundred words a day. Last Friday I did the happy dance with about 1500 words for the week. No where near the goal, but I'm moving forward. Writing these days is frustrating, annoying, baffling, and encouraging all at the same time. 

But I'm moving forward. 

Why do I keep putting myself through this when I could be much happier writing short stories, you ask? Well, first, because I'm too damn hardheaded to allow a set of stupid characters I made up win the battle. But more importantly, because I'm learning. I'm developing my own way to write a novel and when the next idea for a long story comes, it'll be easier. 

I'm pretty sure Deliverance will be unpublishable even after extensive rewrites and editions (but who knows, right? A writer's gotta dream), however, it'll have served a purpose. Stopping right now and letting it go is to admit defeat. It'd mean that all those moths I dedicated to this project were a waste. But learning is never a waste, so I'm choosing to see this through the end.

It'll clearly take longer than until Christmas, though. *Hangs head in exhaustion*

On the happy news front: (Just to end up upbeat) I managed to write a short story and submit it to the DoubleDay/Bloomhouse contest. Wish me luck!!

To you all, I wish a happy season full of satisfactions and love. See you on 2015!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG November Edition

I don't know where the year went but there's an extra cozy layer in my bed and I'm wearing scarfs and jackets all the time. Yep, winter is a-coming. Now many of us write in a panic-induce fervor, trying to accomplish as much as possible to feel like we didn't waste another year of our lives. Others call it NaNoWriMo.

(That was a joke. I totally admire all of you who have the passion and stamina to even attempt NaNoWriMo. Hat's off to you!)

As many of you know, this has been a hectic second half of the year for my family. I've been concentrated in our move, finding a new house, selling the old one, and getting the girls started in a new school and new language. That left me no mind to write at all. Before I noticed, 4 months had passed. Lately, though, I can see the family settling into a rhythm; there's still much to get used to, but the stress level has gone down for everyone and I feel like we are finally in our way. So last week, I decided it was time to go back to my writing. Except that my brain hurts from trying so hard, my hand cramps after writing too much, and my fingers move too slow over the keyboard.

Way to start over... Thankfully, the Coffin Hop was just around the corner. Of all the blog hops I've participated through the years, the Coffin Hop's the one I've enjoyed the most. I decided to use the hop as a training camp. I researched my theme, wrote roughs by hand, and typed everything into my blog later on. I followed a schedule and put my butt on the chair weather I felt like it or not. And I had a blast.

With the success of the hop, now I feel empowered to tackle my latest novel project and I have a plan. Like I said, I just don't have the stamina to try NaNo, but I've decided to set a more realistic approach for myself. I'm going to dedicate every day of the week (but take the weekends off for family stuff) from here until a week before Christmas to write my novel. If I write an average of 3000 words/day, I'll be done with the first draft by then. So far I've been crippled by my own critical mind, obsessed over covering every plot hole I can think off before I even start. So this time I won't think too much, I'll simply write. It'll need a boatload of work, it'll be crap, but it'll be done. I can work with that. What I can't do is edit a piece that isn't written.

So wish me good luck, my fellow insecure writers, as I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Good luck in your writing endeavors! May the Muse be with you.

And don't forget to support other insecure fellas. Just follow this link...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Coffin Hop Winner

Halloween has passed us by, most trees are bare of leaves, and a cold breeze nips at our noses. Yep, November's here.

I had a fantastic time not only researching mythological creatures from all over the world, but visiting all the blogs that participated in this year's Coffin Hop. There were lots of interesting topics and many scary stories to share. Thanks to all who stopped by here and commented. You are the reason why the hop is such a wild success.

Now comes the time to award one lucky commenter an issue of the new magazine Jamais Vu: Journal of Strange Among the Familiar

But first, to everyone who isn't familiar with the magazine, this is a new independent magazine that has garnered a lot pf praise from genre critics. With big names like Harlan Ellison writing regularly and high quality stories, Jamais Vu has something for everyone to enjoy. However, as any emerging market, it needs of everyone's help to truly succeed. Now, this is not to tell you to go buy an issue--though you should, I'm telling you it's great!--but to talk to others about it. If you know of a horror lover, tell him/her about this mag. It's only through word of mouth that all small endeavours eventually turn big. I'm a big believer of this magazine and I know the group of people behind it are committed to excellence, so even though I have yet to sell a story to them (they are a pro-paying market), I still want them to succeed.

But back to our regularly scheduled giveaway... I wrote all the names of the people who commented on the blog throughout the hop in small pieces of paper, threw them into my daughter's Perry fedora, and asked her to select one with her eyes closed.

And the winner is....

RACHELLE REESE!!!

Congratulations! You have 48 hours to claim your price.

To all those who were involved in the hop, I hope it you enjoyed the ride. I know I did!

Happy belated Halloween to all and may you have a beautiful Holiday season.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mythological Beings From Around the World III

And so we've reached the Eve of All Hallows. Wow! I hope you've been having fun, hopping from blog to blog and participating in as many giveaways as possible. It's been a fun ride, but like every good thing, it must end.

Our last exploration into the darkest myths of the world will take us to the Scottish Islands, the Philippines, and Japan. This will also be your last chance to get your name into my Perry fedora (picture coming soon) for a chance to win an issue of the magazine every critic is hailing, Jamais Vu: Journal of Strange Among the Familiar.

My next and final Coffin Hop-related post will be on November 3rd, when I'll announce the lucky winner.

Enjoy safely of this, the most incredible, bloodiest of holidays. And remember to keep hopping!

NUCKELAVEE

By Boolengleng at DeviantArt
Meaning "Devil of the Sea", this horse-like creature original to Orcadian mythology, is reputedly the worst of all the Scottish Islands' demons. In the 17th century, a man named Tammis confronted the beast and survived. What he described is nothing short of terrifying.

According to Tammis, the Nuckelavee has a man's torso attached to a horse's back. The male torso has arms that reach the ground from his position and a 3-feet head that rolls back and forth. The equine body has fin-like appendages in its legs and a head with an enormous gapping mouth. In the centre of the animal's forehead, a single red eye burns like a flame. If that's not enough to give you nightmares, let me tell you about its skin, or lack thereof. Yes, the Nuckelavee has no skin. Instead, its black blood runs through yellow veins and its muscles are a pulsating mass.

Ok, the monster's scary. But what can it do, you ask?

The Nuckelavee's toxic breath can wilt crops and sicken livestock. Once, he was said to infect every horse in the island with a deadly disease as a punishment to the people for burning seaweed. Can you say "overreaction"? But it can be worse. If truly enraged, the Nuckelavee can bring forth plague, death to the cattle, and the destruction of the crops.

Its Achilles tendon? A deep aversion to fresh running water (hint: if you cross a river or lake, it'll stop following you!) And Mither O' the Sea. Mither O' the Sea is an ancient divinity that lives in the sea during summer, and the only being who can truly control the Nuckelavee. She's said to confine the monster during the summer months.

MANANANGGAL

This man-eating, blood-sucking nightmare is brought to you by the rich folklore of the Philippines. Often described as a female, the Manananggal has the ability to sever her upper torso and sprout huge bat wings. She then flies through the night skies, searching for sleeping, pregnant women to torment. Once she has selected her victim, and this is the really nasty part, the Manananggal uses her long, thin tongue to suck the heart out of the unborn fetus. Like an insect from hell.

While the monster's upper section is literally sucking the life out of a woman's belly, the lower torso is left immobile. This is the Manananggal's most vulnerable half. If sprinkled with salt or ash, or smeared with garlic, the creature won't be able to rejoin her two sections. When the upper torso is exposed to the sunrise, the Manananggal will die.

KASHA

A Kasha is a large, bipedal feline that can be as large or even larger than a human being. They are covered in hellish flames and are usually accompanied by lightning.

These beings tend to live among humans, disguised as ordinary cats or strays. It's only during funeral services that they reveal their true nature. If you were a bad, bad person, a Kasha will jump on top of your corpse, snatch it, and bring it to hell for punishment. Such is their grim task as messengers or servants of hell. Other times, they do it just for fun, as they enjoy of animating the corpses, turn them into puppets, or simply eating them.


Now, it's your turn. Which creature was your favourite of the series? Which one will give you nightmares? Remember, if you ever incorporate one of these into one of your books and/or stories and you make it big, you owe me at least half of your money and all of your fame.
Now go on, hop along.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mythological Beings From Around the World II

Click here to continue hopping
Today, for my Coffin Hop-inspired series we'll be visiting the English countryside, the eeriest villages of Romania, and the North-west of France. Remember to hop over to the rest of the participating blogs for more scary amazing posts and giveaways. And for a chance to win a digital issue of the acclaimed new Post Mortem Press magazine, Jamais Vu: Journal of the Strange Among the Familiar, all you have to do is comment in this or any of my previous posts on the series.

So let us begin our descent into the darkest, least known corridors of world mythology...

REDCAP

Also known as Powrie or Dunter, this is a murderous fairy of English folklore. Redcaps are said to inhabit abandoned castles along the English-Scottish border, particularly those with a nasty reputation. Contrary to my concept of fairy, and certainly as opposite to cute, little Tinker Bell as one can possibly be, these buggers are depicted as sturdy old men with red-blood eyes, large teeth, scraggly beard, and wearing a red cap. Instead of fairy dust, redcaps carry a handy pikestaff in their left hands. Why, you ask? Well, to better slaughter you and all your traveling companions if you get lost, of course! And don't even try to run, as redcaps are said to be so agile that outrunning them is imposible.

So, once the slaying is done with, these charmers will mop the blood off the floor with their caps (hence the color). But beware, Redcaps need to kill frequently, for a colorless cap will cause their death.


STRIGOI

If you, like I, were a fan of the TV show The Strain, then you are familiar with the concept of a Strigoi. Except that this creature of Romanian mythology is much, much more complex than any other vampire you've ever heard of. Technically, he's not even a vampire. At least not in the modern sense.

Let's see. First, the live Strigoi or Strigoii Vii. These are witches said to have two hearts or souls (sometimes both) and various abilities like shape-shifting, invisibility, and (obviously) magic. During day they seem like normal people, except for their aversion to onion, garlic, and incense. At night, though, the soul of the Strigoi leaves its body and goes on to commit its evil deeds. What Strogoi Vii have in common with the modern vampire is that they kill their victims by draining their blood. They also feed of psychic energy by plaguing the dreams of their intended victims; an attack that when repeated a number of times can cause death.

Now, the Strigoi Mort or dead Strigoi. Like their name implies, these are dead people whose soul can't move on for different--and far too varied to detail here--reasons. Their bodies don't rot and they eventually return to torment those still alive. Who can turn into a Strigoi Mort? A Strigoi Vii, of course, but also those who were buried without following the proper burial rites, those who sold their souls to the devil, unbaptized children, or the victims of infanticide.

Strigoi Morti have no soul; their human remains are empty vessels that constantly hunger for blood and the live energy they lack. As such, this kind of Strigoi is far more dangerous and unpredictable, and usually feeds of members of his own living family.

All Strigoi are stronger during winter. To kill a Strigoi one must either rip its heart and burn the body piece by piece, drive an iron or wood stake through the creature's heart, or place garlic in the Strigoi's mouth.

ANKOU

From Breton mythology comes Ankou, who works as Death's henchman.

There are varying descriptions of Ankou, but the most prevalent depicts him as an emaciated old man with long white hair and wearing a dark robe that covers most of his body. Part of Ankou's face is visible, though, revealing the absence of a nose and an ancient skin that hangs tight to the boney structure, pulling the lips from ear to ear in a soulless grin. A hellish monster that instead of eyes has two yellow lights flickering from within burnt out sockets.

Ankou moves about in a cart pulled by two old, sickly-looking horses. He stops at the door of a house where a person has died and collects the soul, throwing it into the cart. Helping him are two damned souls whose punishment is to walk at Ankou's feet.

The caravan is always preceded by a cold gust of wind. If you ever hear the creaking lull of a cart in the silent of the night, close your eyes and pray that Ankou doesn't see you, for public wisdom knows "there is always room for one more body."

If you want to know more about the rich folklore surrounding Ankour, I recommend you to read this article at Paranormal-Encounters.

And now comes your turn. Tell me, do you know of other death impersonations? How about Strigoi, Moroi, or any other vampire from around the world? Or share with me your favourite fairy legend!

Happy hopping and beware of the sleeping corpses!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mythological Beings From Around the World

Here we are, two more days until Halloween. Have you been binge-watching scary movies or reading every horror story that crosses your path? Yeah, me too. I usually get a kick out of it, and in the process find myself unable to turn the lights off at night for at least a couple of days. This year, however, not so much. I don't know about you, but as each year passes by, I'm having more trouble finding an intelligent story (in either film or print) that will give me nightmares. True, as we expose ourselves to the same horrors, we become desensitized. So I decided to look for more, to venture beyond the well-worn monsters and explore the unfamiliar. And that's how I came to this idea for the 2014 Coffin Hop. I hope you enjoyed the story of the Choctaw creature, Nalusa Falaya, that I shared on my last post.

In today's tour, I'll take you from the fields of war in Celtic Ireland, to death-infested villages in Germany, passing through a blood-soaked afterlife in Pharaonic Egypt. Don't bring a map. We'll leave the tourist attractions far behind, but don't forget your lamp. Where we'll go, there's only dark.

BADB

In Celtic mythology, Badb is one of the goddesses that form the triple goddess Morrigan. She's a War Goddess associated with death, destruction, and battle. In her human form, she's described as a pale woman with a blood-soaked mouth. Some believe she's a predecessor of the well-known Banshee, as there are accounts of her shrieking while washing the bloodied clothes of soldiers who'd perish in the upcoming battle. In her animal forms, she makes herself a force to be reckoned in the field of battle. As a hooded crow, she flies over the carnage, yelling curses and confusing her enemies. As a wolf, she runs among those fighting. She's also known for using the mouths of fallen corpses to communicate with the living.

Her name means "The One Who Boils" and she presides over the Otherworld Cauldron of Death and Rebirth. In Celtic lore, Badb will be the one to bring the end of earthly time by letting her cauldron boil over and engulf the planet in a wasteland. There's a nightmarish image for you.

SHESMU

He's the Egyptian god of the winepress. Did I say god? Well, technically he is. But you know Egyptian gods, all complex and sometimes borderline bipolar. I guess more modern minds would call him more like a demon-god. Allow me... Some texts of the period describe him as a friend of the righteous dead, offering them wine to ease their journey to the Netherworld. Then, things take a turn for the grisly as Shesmu is also known as the Headsman of Osiris, Slaughterer of Souls, or simply Lord of the Blood (for his friends, maybe?). In this, his most charming side, he's depicted tossing the heads of enemies (his or the pharaoh's) into his wine press to extract the blood as if they were grapes. In the Cannibal Hymns (yes, there's such a thing) this is how Shesmu helps Unas gain power:

"[...] Behold, Shesmu has cut them up for Unas, he has boiled pieces of them in his blazing cauldrons. Unas has eaten their words of power, he has eaten their spirits."

Yikes.

NACHZEHRER

Originally from German mythology, the Nachzehrer or Shroud Chewer is something in between a vampire and a ghoul. It all begins when a person commits suicide, dies a violent accidental death (specially drowning), or dies during times of plague. If you can hear the loud, constant noise of chewing coming from his grave, it is time for you to change countries, as this is a dead-giveaway of a Nachzehrer and the presage of an oncoming pestilence.

At first, the Nachzehrer is too weak to come out of his coffin, so he eats his mortuary shroud and then his own flesh. With every nib, he robs the life-force out of those closest to him. When he's done and stronger, he proceeds to ingest the human remains of those unlucky enough to be interred close by, thus absorbing their relatives life-force. Now, strong and able to move in the world of the living, he takes the form of a pig that drinks blood, and directs himself to the local church where he climbs the belfry or bell tower and rings the bells. Anyone who hears these bells is doomed to die soon after.

So, how to prevent anyone from becoming a Shroud Chewer? Lodge a rock or a coin in the throat of the deceased to prevent it from feeding. Or you can drive a knife through his mouth. Then, there are those who rather just cut the head off the corpse and be done with it.

Fun, right?

So, for a chance to win a copy of the critically acclaimed new magazine Jamais Vu: Journal of Strange Among the Familiar, tell me which of these creatures do you think is more dangerous and why? And don't forget to visit more of the participating blogs to increase your loot!

Enjoy the coffin hopin' and be mindful of the sleeping skeletons.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Time for Coffin Hop

Oh, October, how I love thee because... 'tis the season to be scared!

Halloween is upon us once more and I for one can't stop watching horror movies and reading all kinds of spooky material. To top it all off, 'tis the time of the Coffin Hop, too! In case you've forgotten, the Coffin Hop is the annual Horror Author event where readers and fans of the genre can interact more closely with the authors. Each year, the number of blogs participating increases, and each one of them houses one (sometimes many) giveaway. So, go, visit other blogs on the list, comment, and win prizes while sharing your love for the macabre with us.


On previous years I've done a Classic Monsters and Urban Legend Series, Real Haunted Places and Symbols in Dreams, and this year I'm excited to present you a Mythological Beings Around the World Series. I'll share with you the creepy story of some monsters you've never heard about, but that you'll never forget. From Celtic, Egyptian, and Native American lore, among others, I'll take you down the darkest roads of the world's forgotten legends. All you have to do is be here on the 24th, 27th, 29th, and 31st to share your thoughts in the comments section. On November 3rd I'll announce the one winner that will take home a virtual copy of the critically acclaimed new magazine Jamais Vu: Journal of Strange Among the Familiar. Check it out, choose the issue that intrigues you the most, and take it home for free!

Want to win even more stuff? Then visit other participating blogs and pile up the prizes! Best Halloween. Ever. I know.

And just to give you a taste of what I'm talking about, here is the first in my series. From Choctaw Mythology, I present thee:

NALUSA FALAYA

Literally The Long Evil Being, Nalusa Fayala is a Native American legend of the Choctaw people original to Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. This creature is described as resembling a man--about the same size and walking upright--but with a shriveled face, very small eyes, and long, pointed ears. It lives in the densest of woods, near swamps and away from men. But when hunters stray away from familiar territory and the shadows grow tall, Nalusa Fayala comes out to play. It sneaks upon the lost, calling in a voice that resembles that of a man, except that when the hunter turns to face his caller, the mere sight of this creature causes him to faint. With its pray unconscious, the Long Evil Being sticks a thorn into the hunter's hand or foot that bewitches him, pushing him to do evil unto others but without remembering his encounter with the monster until after having committed its deed.

Sor far the legend sounds more like an excuse for being a mean drunk, right? But wait, there's more.

Nalusa Fayala is said to have many children that, when very young, have the ability to remove their own entrails. Yep, picture that. Then, with their innards hanging from their hands, these kids become small, luminescent beings that can be seen roaming the boarders of the marshes.

Before I wish you sweet dreams, tell me about other Native American legends that you've heard, or monsters that have turned your heart black with fear. I'm dying to hear all about it.

Enjoy the coffin hoppin' and be mindful of the sleeping skeletons.

17.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Uncertainties


There's an old saying in Spanish: "There's no date that doesn't arrive, term that won't reach an end, nor debt that doesn't get paid." So far in my life, I have found that these are words you can live by. As much as you dread a moment, a meeting, a change, you can't stop time from slipping by, getting you closer to that date with each ticking of the clock. As long and hard as a that gloomy period in your life seems to be, it'll reach an end and the sun will shine once more. And that last one, debts that have to be paid, looks a lot like karma--which I blindly believe in.

So, yeah. I find comfort in those words that have been repeated a million times over through centuries. They still ring true today. Actually, if you think about it, every uncertainty that enters your life walks by the hand of inevitability. Funny how two concepts so seemingly opposed can be in reality so closely related...

But why am I writing about this, you ask? Well, after all that stressing and depressing, our relocation to Montreal from Connecticut has finally arrived. We're here, in temporary housing while we hunt for the perfect house. We arrived to the West Island section of Montreal a week ago and it looks awesome. I don't know if I'm in denial or if my expectations of the move were so bleak that almost anything is good, but I actually am happy with the way things are going.

West Island is a predominantly anglophone area, which helps a lot to my positive thinking. We've heard amazing things of the school district and Welcome Programs in the elementary school, which has gone to relief at least 50% of the nightmares I was having. Finally, the area is so far from downtown Montreal--a good and a bad thing in itself--that it has the feeling of a small european town from a hundred years ago. Beautiful!

I know harder times are coming as school starts soon and my kids, who know less than the basics of french, will have to attend an all-french school. Still, I'm trying to concentrate on the positives. I'm determined to go back to that novel I've been working on for forever, and that means I won't be writing short stories for some time, but just the clicking, soft touch of the keys on my fingers feel so good! I missed writing so much and hadn't even realized it.

What can I tell to all of you reading this that are going through some stressful time? Confront your demons, grab the bull by the horns, embrace the inevitable. Dreading the fact will only bring you nightmares and a hell of an ulcer. If you take action and move forward, it might still be a trying time, but at least you'll be working on the solution.


Remember that IWSG is an awesome group where writers of all genres, published or still in the making, share their knowledge and support other writers. Help spread the love and visit the rest of the participating blogs, just click on the dedicated page of this blog. As always, thanks to ninja warrior Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating the group. Now go on and click.