All posts by authoraemcauley

Writing Wednesday – Modern Fantasy World Building Prompts

1This week’s “Writing Wednesday” was inspired by my recent rewatch of “The 10th Kingdom”. It got me thinking of a few fun modern fantasy ideas, and since I’m in a sharing mood, I decided to pass them along to you!

If you see one you like and would like to use, please feel free to. If you come up with some, add them in the comments below, and I’ll put them on the list.

  • City witches who use their mirrored phones, or just blank phone screens, as a scurrying mirrors.
  • Witches under 21 carving new paths of magic, and laughing when their elders are confused at how they made new spells with technology. Alternatively, witches over 50 watching the new generations and shaking their heads, but also are secretly proud of their new students ingenuity.
  • Vampires or orcs who post make up tutorials on YouTube to make themselves look more human.
  • Witches who sell glamore spells at Ulta.
  • Apartments that include “Brownie Clauses”, where tenants have to agree to leave offerings out because they’re the ones who fix anything needing repairs.
  • Necromancers who own law firms that specialize in wills needing to be clarified by the recently deceased.
  • Magic users who can’t have a garden going to Whole Foods for fresh herbs and chatting with others to find what spell works best.
  • Mermaids who live in city lakes and curse anyone who pollutes it. City gets known for having the cleanest park in town because everyone’s too scared to throw trash in it.
  • Benevolent Jinns helping children soldiers and kidnapped women escape their captors.
  • Werewolves who have to play in dog parks because it’s the only place in the city where dogs are allowed off leash.
  • Changelings finding out they’re fairies and staying with their human family and use their new magic to help make their lives easier.
  • Dryad funerals held by city fae when a plot of land is turned into a parking lot.
  • Leprechauns who change with the times and instead of collecting gold, collect bit coins, own credit card companies, and who know how to manipulate the stock market.
  • Fire Salamanders that live in furnaces of major metal manufacturing companies, helping keep core temperatures stable.
  • Yakshas that hold support groups for people struggling with bipolar disorders.
  • Pixies that break or change road signs to get people lost.
  • Ogres who own their own bodyguard business. They protect anyone who’s willing to pay them, so long as they get to eat anyone who attacks their employer.
  • Huldrefolk trolls that make underground houses, only problem is if you’re an annoying client your house will have problems throughout your stay there.
  • Goblins that sit in underground bars, smoking and drinking all while making bets with humans and swindling them out of their money.
  • Gargoyles that have learned the hymns of their churches and sing them at night to the homeless who come seeking shelter.

 

I could go on, but this is getting to be a long list. Let me know if you’d like to see something like this again in the future. I’m sure I could come up with more.

Advertisements

Time to Get Offline

I’ve always hated social media, a fact I talk about often, both on and offline. Talking to strangers on twitter is fun, but it’s kind of impersonal to me, and if I can’t have that personal touch, I’d rather not be touching at all.

giphy
And like the 90’s girl I am, this whole post might sound very “Clueless”. Bare with me.

 

I’m so bad that I even sit around and day dream about living a life like Thomas Harris. What would it be like to be an author who doesn’t bother doing anything with social media, and just lives with his brain monsters (and family of course)? As an unpublished writer it’s very appealing, but I’m not Tom Harris, and none of my characters are nearly as up to par with Hannibal Lector. Instead, I have to focus on building a writer’s platform.

But like all necessary evils in a person’s life, or persevered evils, sometimes it’s good to take a step back from them. I learned this lesson the hard way. I moved to a small Texas town where internet takes forever to get set up.

It’s amazing what a couple weeks without internet did to me. I’m not going to say I’ve had any life changing, soul altering moments, but it’s definitely been great. No pressure to get tweets out every day, or to post up something on instagram, or heaven forbid find something interesting enough to add to facebook. I knew I had an app still making posts on my behalf, but I wasn’t having to try and impress anyone by coming up with new, clever posts.

Instead of building a platform, I took a step back and picked up some books. Not just the quick easy reads I normally read when I needed a mental break from writing, no I dove into everything. I finished Clive Barker’s “The Scarlet Gospels”, Mercedes Lackey’s “Firebird, and even a graphic novel I secretly love. From there, I moved to “Plot Verses Character”, by Jerff Gerke, and tackled a few other non fiction pieces from my husband’s library. It was like finding my writing voice that I had years ago. The more I read, the more I began to feel like myself.

giphy1

It wasn’t just books, however. I drew pictures, practiced my digital art, took my dogs for walks, and explored the new city I just moved into. I came to realize that life without internet was great. As much as I know I still need to build a platform, I know that it’s more important not to get so lost in your online life that your offline one suffers.

So here’s my goal for 2018. Get on the internet when I need to, but only jump on social media once a day. If I miss some hashtag games, or lose a few followers, so be it. Being more worried about my follower count than my word count is counter productive for me at this moment in my writing life. While sure, other writers are building a strong social media game, they’re at that point in their walk that they can do that. I still have a long way to go, and can’t compare my journey to their’s.

While I’m at it, I’ll be changing my blog schedule, focusing more on quality vs. quantity of posts. I’m also going to try and build a more conversational tone, since I know I can sound a little dry sometimes. I’ll also try to interact with other bloggers more, to build better relationships with you lovely people who are consistently liking and reading my posts.

giphy2

If you’ve ever been in my shoes, and have some tips for finding a better balance, please let me know. I’m definitely open for a critique!

Little Known American Folklore Writers Should Use

Welcome yet again to another Writers’ Wednesday. Time to talk about something I love, American folklore.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably already know this, but for those of you who are new, the older I get the more I want to know about folklore and fantasy of North America.

From common ghost stories to murderous monsters that lurk in back woods, chances are you’ve probably read a book inspired by the urban legends of North America. If you haven’t read a book, you’ve at the very least seen things on film.

folklore
Here are just a few that came to mind that featured folklore and fantasy of North America

As many as folklore inspired pieces of work as there are out there, there are some that don’t get nearly enough love. Here are some that are definitely neglected and should fuel writers in future novels.

Xunaan & The Young Warrior – Mexico
It’s a story of love and a mother keeping a couple apart. There are so many ways this could be interpreted and reinvented. I’d love for more people to know about this story, and even put a twist in it where Xunaan saves herself.

Black Dog of Hanging Hills – USA
Most people, especially readers, can tell you black dogs are bad omens. Usually monsters and signaling death, the black dog in Hanging Hills Connecticut is smaller than its British Isles cousins and much more relaxed. In fact it has it’s own little saying by New York geologist W.H.C. Pynchon. “If you meet the Black Dog once, it shall be for joy; if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time shall bring death.”

Michigan Dogman & Beast of Bray Road – USA
A sort of twist on the werewolf myth, these American dog monsters are known to scare livestock to death, terrorize locals, and have a man like scream. While werewolves in the Bayou are fairly well known, these two wolf like monsters rarely make an appearance in urban fantasy.

El Muerto – Mexico/USA
I included Mexico because there were a few conflicting stories as far as where this story is more prominent, but it appears to have popped up around south Texas. While everyone is fairly familiar with the Headless Horseman, no one ever mentions El Muerto. El Muerto was once a hispanic man, and after being accused of theft, his head was removed by another folklore legend, “Big Foot” Wallace. Not only was his punishment to have his head removed, but Wallace tied his body to his horse, hung his head and hat from his saddle and let the horse loose on the countryside. When they finally caught the horse, the body had been riddled with bullets and arrows from locals and tribes that saw the body pass. They buried him in an unmarked grave, and he still haunts south Texas to this day, due to how horrendous his punishment had been.

You can tell I really love this story. I could go on about it forever.

 

Folklore Creatures in Groups Worth Mentioning –

Little People of the Cherokee – Cherokee Nation
When I first heard about these, the person who showed me explained them as “American fairies”. The more I read about them, the more I went, WHY don’t more stories feature these incredible little people? Too many stories only rely on the fairies found in Irish/Scottish lore, when really there are a numerous of them across the globe. I’d love to see a book one day where the Cherokee little people just look at the fae from across the ocean and go HA. You think YOU have it bad?

American Witches & Their Curses – Across the United States but mostly the Ozarks
Why does every witch in every urban fantasy do high magic? Why don’t we have more witches who poison livestock, or spoil milk? Heck, you can even make this more modern and say American witches know how to turn gas to water in a car, or who can cut out wifi with a witch bag buried in the person’s back yard. They don’t rely on athames and wands, but roots and bones. Give me gritty witches! Give me more American Folklore witches with old and dark powers who follow their own moral compasses! Give me American witches!

 

Of course, there are thousands more, but these are just a few I have tucked away. Have one you want to add to the list? Comment below, let me know! Want more folklore? Check out Folklore Thursday on Twitter.

Writer on the Road: Help me pick a plot! – Day 5

 

Almost done with my trip! I have one more day left on the road before we reach our destination, so today, I’m going to do a quick run down of plots I was working on while driving. If you see one that you like that you’d like me to elaborate on, please comment below! I’m looking for a plot to turn into a Wattpad project, so I could use some help with picking what sounds the most interesting.

 

  • Hades x Persephone – Romance –  I like the idea that Persephone didn’t get kidnapped, she ran away. That she was already in love with Hades and the two decided to run from Demeter, and Persephone only returned when she saw her mother was going to kill the Earth. I’d love to go into just how Hades and Persephone met and fell in love, and came up with a full novel for this retelling.

  • Medusa – Revenge Plot – I hate the hand Medusa was given. She was raped, turned away by her goddess, and then was killed and used even in her death. I’d like to give Medusa a more fitting end. She asks Athena to turn her into a gorgon to get back at those who wronged her, and kills whoever comes to kill her because she found her power in her pain.

  • Misery in Magic (possible title) – Urban Fantasy – Basically, this is an urban fantasy novel about an arranged marriage between two magic users from high standing families. Unlike the typical “forced wedding” romance plot, this one is more about how they have to work together to over come someone who uses magic to harm humans. It’ll have more of a “slow burn” romantic subplot, and really focuses more on the blurred lines between good and evil.

  • Salvation (possible title) – Supernatural Detective – Out of all the ones I’ve been toying with on my drive, this one is the most under developed. I have a demon. He goes on road trips. He’s got a priest with him that’s damned to hell that’s trying to redeem himself. That’s about it. Maybe it’ll be something like Clive Barker’s work mixed with a bit of Supernatural, but I really like the characters that came to mind while driving, so I’d like to have the in their own story

  • Modern Cinderella – Coffee Shop Romance- Yes. It’s been done. Yes. I know we don’t need another Cinderella story, but I want a story that follows the version where the prince and his friend switch places for the night. And I want it in a modern setting. Call me crazy, but I love this idea, and I think it’d make for a fun quick enjoyable read.

  • Forged in Fire (possible title) – Traveling High Fantasy – This one is one I’ve actually drawn out a character for a while ago, but I’m only just now trying to decide a solid plot. Basically, I have a high fantasy world where a knight is on the run, and comes into contact with a woman who does folk magic. She agrees to help him get his honor back, but for a price. It’d be pretty heavily inspired by Ladyhawk and Willow, since I’m a sucker for 80’s fantasy.
2718994_KQkjbLcVla4hZAN
Here’s the sketch of the knight character, Dawson.
  • Multiple Species High Fantasy – Escape High Fantasy – This one would have a lot more magic and different species compared to the one before it. It’s inspired by the worlds of Dragon Age, Witcher and Lord of the Rings, and would be a little heavier on the world building than the one I mentioned above. Out of all my ideas, this one is my least likely to pick, just because it’s a really big project, but hey, if you think you want to read a heavy high fantasy, let me know.

 

 

Which idea sounds like a fun, no pressure story that you’d like to read for free?

 

Writer on the Road – Day 4

We’re back in civilization tonight and had Whataburger for dinner for the first time in almost 6 months. For those of you who know what that is, you know how fantastic I found my meal after being away from it for so long.

We left Utah today and made it into New Mexico. With only two days of driving left, I spent a lot of time today thinking about writing and what I want for my life. 

When I first started writing, I had no intention of ever being published. I liked to write because it helped me escape from reality but it wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up. I shared with my friends, and while they enjoyed it, I never thought I’d one day try to sell my work. 

I kept up the work, even when I didn’t think I’d make it a career, until about three years ago I realized it’s what I want to do with my life. That being said, I’ve never been published. I’m not writing to pay the bills yet, I’m writing still out of passion, so I don’t have to worry yet about the career side of the writing world. 

As I realized this, I had to ask myself, do I really want a career as a writer? Do I want the work as well as the play? Why not just be a hobbiest, why do I want to be recognized as an author?

Being a hobbiest and being a professional are two totally different animals. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. 
Everyone has to answer that question to themselves. For me, I decided on day four of my drive that I wanted to be a writer, not because of the romance, but because I like the work. I like the hours bent over a manuscript. I love the feeling of starting a new idea. And as much as I complain, I even enjoy the editing. 

Work isn’t some four letter word to me as so many creative types make it out to be. It’s something I find myself embracing. Writing is as much of a career choice as it is a way to share my love of stories with others, and that’s why I’m perusing a job as a writer.

It was a nice realization and it’s fueling my fire as I keep on writing this November. I love the work that gets put into books, and I can’t wait to jump into the career side.

I don’t know why you write, but please let me be clear. Everyone’s reason is a valid one. If you want a career as a professional writer, you go after it with all the fire you’ve got. Everyone has their drive, tell me yours below and let’s share the love of the job! 

Writer on the Road – Day 3

There’s something about dying desert towns that makes me anxious. I drove through the small town of Green River, Utah tonight. As the sun went down at my back, the moon bleached out the buildings as I looked for my hotel.

arches-national-park-2704664_1920

If you ever travel to Green River, you’ll notice one side of the street is lined with gaudy, half working neon lights, the other is long dead and empty. If you go on a full moon, the cold light will make the husks of closed motels and empty gas stations look haunted. \

When I finally made it over the river and looked back at the city behind me, I can’t tell if my imagination is running away with me, or if there really are figures moving on the plateau outlined in the setting sun.

It was unsettling to say the least.

But I learned some very important writing lessons today. One, every place you drive through can be inspiring enough to write a little overly flowery blog post, and two learn how to manage your time.

If you caught last night’s blog post, you’ll know I was having trouble at my last hotel with the wifi, and this night started out exactly the same. I downloaded my files to my phone, and managed to start last night’s words, even if I didn’t meet what I was originally hoping for. The funny thing is, I had net at one point, but thought “I can always finish this later, I want to screw around online right now”. I made plans for a later time, but that later time turned out to be problematic.

So here’s tonight lesson. If you want to write a book, start to notice when you’re wasting time, because you might not get it even if you plan for it. Even if you’re a night writer, if you get an hour in the morning, write in the morning. Worse case scenario, you get a little bit of work done, and you still have that night to write. Best case scenario, you lose that time, and you’re already done.

It should be an easy lesson to learn, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do this sort of thing. Maybe this trip will make it skip this time.

Writer on the Road – Day 2

This is a short one today, but definitely a good lesson.

Don’t rely on wifi while traveling. If a hotel says it has free internet, don’t think “Oh perfect! I can sign in to my online storage, download all my files and get some work done.”

There’s a chance they won’t have working internet and you’ll have to get all that important writing done on your phone.
In other news, 600 words into my NaNoWriMo novel and my protagonist is now a guy, my love interest turned into a strongwilled female lawyer, and my book went from a comedy to more of a fun romance.

Oh November. You’re full of surprises. My original idea will be recycled later, so don’t worry, those of you interested in my “Gilmore Girls meets Good Omens” idea. That one will come along in the same universe but different setting.

Okay all, time for bed. Sorry my post doesn’t have any pretty pictures to go along with today’s mini lesson. Have one of my dogs in the Uhaul instead.

Hope you all had a great writing day! Adios till tomorrow.

Writer on the Road – Day One

Between my normal writing schedule, I’ll be doing a mini series about my life on the road. I’m going through some massive life changes and starting NaNoWriMo, so this series will be a little bit about how to stay productive while writing, but also just about my trip in general.

pexels-photo-510298

I won’t bore you on what it’s like to check out of military housing. I could fill a book about my life of dealing with the government as a military spouse, and that’s really not something I want to write about. I’ll just leave it at, it was annoying, but typical, and we were quickly on the road.

We headed down to Portland, a place I only know anything about because of a quick google search of “Is Portland really like Portlandia?”, and took a drive long the Columbia River.

What struck me as crazy was seeing the damage done by the fires. Not because of how everything was black and dead, in fact it was the opposite. I was admiring the striking green of new grass against the charcoal black tree trunks and fresh pine needles pushing through scars, all the while thinking, anyone can recover from anything if nature can come back from a fire like this.

It wasn’t till I saw the simple white crosses hammered into the ground did it really hit me. This wasn’t just nature, people were recovering, too. For miles, the recovery wasn’t just something you could see, it was something you could feel.

It put life in perspective. Here are people who have truly lost, not just land or houses, but loved ones. Family and friends they cared about are gone forever, and here I am driving through just admiring how nature’s recovering. Heck, the hardest thing I had to put up with today was arguing with a housing inspector. My drive became somber and even humbling, as I really took stock of how much I had.

Stress is easy to let creep up on you. Here I was, worried about my novel, trying to set up a house to move into, and get through military paperwork. I thought, “How am I going to get through the first part of this month”, all the while others out there are asking “How am I going to get through this day?”.

So when you start to feel stressed, take stock in your life. Be grateful for what you have, because you never know when you could lose it. Got a deadline looming? Dealing with real life mini stressors while writing your novel? Look at what you have instead of what you don’t have. It really will give you a new outlook on how much you have on your plate.

Stranger Things Review – Season 2 Episode 1

I stayed up way later than I should with how crazy my life is right now to catch season 2 of Stranger Things. Like most people, I’m in love with the first season. The nostalgia vibes, the Stephen King like story, and the great acting all had me hooked.

I was pretty excited to see the next season, in spite of mixed reviews, so here’s my take on how the second season is going.

Stranger-Things-Season-2-Episode-Titles

Just as a fair warning, spoilers are whited out between the !! !!.

The first thing I want to point out is my love of the writers ability to introduce characters through conflict. They did this every time they needed to introduce someone in the first season, and they followed it up with the same formula. You might argue, “Doesn’t this get old?” But they do it so seamlessly, you barely realize it’s happening until someone points it out.

We start the episode with a bank robbery, introducing a collection of characters that are almost cliche 80’s punks. Spiked hair, piercings, mohawks; they looked like cut outs from the British punk scene. After a quick chase scene with cops, !! it’s relieved one of these girls shares something in common with Eleven, proving many a fan theory true that there are other numbers out there. !!

From there, it’s basically a run down of how everyone’s life has changed since the first season. The one thing that was clear about this episode was that everyone’s still suffering from the aftermath of the demogorgon.

Each character is suffering from the loss of something, and most of them have some serious PTSD. I really loved the way the writers handled it, too. No one character was the same in how they handled stress. Some broke down in tears, others froze completely, and with the use of Dutch angles, some people’s worlds literally tilt.

One thing that the first season didn’t touch on that episode one promised was showing the other families in the town. There wasn’t a lot that went on with Barb being missing, and the absent parents of Lucas and Dustin, but it already gave us a glimpse of Dustin’s mom and Barb’s parents, so here’s hoping they keep that going.

The one thing I wasn’t thrilled about was Dr. Martin Brenner’s replacement. Paul Reiser takes up the coat as Dr. Owens, after Matthew Modine, and while he’s not horrible, he lacks the charisma Modine instantly brought to the screen. Maybe it’s because I’m only used to him playing comedy roles? Unlike Sean Astin’s addition to the cast, an actor I’ve seen wear many different masks, it was hard to think of Reiser as anyone other than Paul from Mad About You thanks to my mom. Sure he was in Aliens, but still.

Speaking of additions to the cast! One character I wasn’t sure I was going to like was Max, the sulky red head played by Sadie Sink. I always approach new characters to a franchise I like with a little bit of caution, especially young female characters. Writers usually write them very one sided. Preteen girls have to be flowery and rainbows, or bratty and annoying in adult shows.

I shouldn’t have doubted the Duffer Brothers, however. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I was plenty annoying as a 10-12 year old, but it’s nice to see them portrayed as something other than those two tropes. While she wasn’t much, she showed some promise. Overall, she’s talented.

So was it an episode to rival season 1’s first season? No, it wasn’t as great as the introduction to this universe was. Did it answer some questions and show serious character development? Definitely.

All in all, I don’t think fans of this show should write it off as some message boards have. There’s a lot of promise and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

2017 NaNoWriMo Influence Map

My NaNoWriMo novel this year is a paranormal comedy, and with it only a week away, I gathered up my inspiration to make myself an Influence Map.

As promised, here’s what’s keeping me motivated on this project!

numbered

 

1. This one is a bit obscure if you don’t know The Twilight Zone, but in season 3 episode 16, I saw Death personified for the first time in pop culture. I was 10 when I first saw this episode, and it’s stuck with me all these years. While Death won’t be a huge character in my novel, I definitely love the idea of Death appearing to people in different forms, and hope to translate this as well as The Twilight Zone did.

2. I found this picture on pinterest and for whatever reason, it just cracked me up. From this picture, I started collecting others that reminded me of haunted cafes, or ghost related things. I took it and ran, and haven’t stopped since.

3. Now, I won’t be too influenced by Gravity Falls, but I do like the general feel of the show. A town with supernatural happenings that just kind of shrugs and goes with it is definitely the vibes I want to give off.

4. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of Ghost Whisperer, but an old writing friend of mine pointed out some of my plot points reminded her of that show, so I went back and rewatched a few clips, and yeah, there are definitely a couple similarities. Not many, but enough to admit when there are common themes.

5. Buffy is one of my favorite shows of all time. I love the girl killing monsters trope, and while my main character isn’t as outgoing as Buffy, she’ll definitely be in a “Hell Mouth” situation. She’ll also be a reluctant hero type, so that’s a bit of inspiration for me as well.

6. & 7. Practical Magic and Dime Store Magic are inspiring as far as the witchcraft goes, but also because of how they portray female friendship/sisterhood. Much like Death, witches won’t have a huge part in my novel, but they’ll have enough of an impact on the plot to take some inspo for them.

8. Gilmore Girls has a bigger square because I’ll definitely be pulling some of the class division in small town life, as well as a woman trying to make her own away from her family. As I’ve been saying, this is really a paranormal book about friendships, especially positive female ones, and I really hope to be able to portray that.

9. I’ve been listening to the podcast, New World Witchery for close to 3 years now. While it’s mostly about North American magic, they have side stories revolving around folklore that I’ve always found inspiring. Their collections of ghost stories, American witchcraft, and general folklore will heavily be influencing my world building.

10. There’s a house in the small town of Steilacoom, WA that sits on a hill facing the bay. With two stories and a shade of dark mint green, when I first drove by it, I had my husband pull over so I could get a closer look. Now an office building, it’s the perfect size and layout of where I imagine MC lives and works, with a cafe in the bottom, and bedrooms on top. It’s my main setting inspiration, and I can’t wait to explain why this house turned cafe is now the pit stop for lost souls in my universe.

11. Good Omens was the first Terry Pratchett, and 3rd Neil Gaiman book I’ve ever read. I loved the snappy dialogue and hilarious idea that an angel and demon are trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. The writing style of both authors has heavily influenced my comedic work, and to say I didn’t get my character dynamics from them would be a lie.

12. As stated above Steilacoom, WA is a town a drive through or visit semi frequently. The first town in Washington, I love how cute and quiet it is, but since I’m a small town girl, I know that there’s probably some problems there that are just under the surface. Maybe there aren’t literal ghosts people are trying to hide, but I bet everyone has a few skeletons they try to keep buried. While I called my city “Stella Cove, WA”, there will definitely be some similarities between the two cities.

 

Hope you enjoyed seeing where my ideas are heading! If you’d like to make one of these influence maps, check out the link here for the download. Also, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo comment below with how you’re getting ready. What’s your story about? Have a link to share? Throw it my way!

Also, I’m looking for writing buddies, so shoot me a line on the NaNoWriMo site to team up.