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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Book Review #4 – The Megarothke

I was six years old when I was inexplicably allowed to watch Alien. I say inexplicably because I grew up in a strict house, where science fiction and fantasy weren’t always allowed. When I ask my mom how I was able to watch this film, and so young, she usually scoffs and says, a bit disdainfully, “Don’t look at me, your father liked that crap.”

Whatever the reason for me getting to watch Alien at such a young age, it sparked a love of science fiction horror in me. While I still watch many movies and short films in this genre, I’ve strayed from reading it. I have to admit, I haven’t picked up a book that wasn’t high/urban fantasy in years and it wasn’t until fellow writer and friend, Robert Ashcroft contacted me asking if I’d like a copy of his first book did I get back into reading sci fi horror.

And damn, after such a long drought from this genre, “The Megarothke” welcomed me home with open, bloody, mechanical arms.

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The Megarothke is set in 2048, seven years after “The Hollow Wars”, and follows Theodore “Theo” Adams as he and the last 50k people claw their way through a war with machines just to stay alive. There’s a beast lurking just below the city of Los Angeles, and the small team set out to search and destroy the Megarothke will do what it takes to save the last of humanity.

Through a series of time jumps and unsettling quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the story of how The Hollow Wars” came to be, how the world has changed and just who or what the Megarothke is, unfolds with every spine tingling chapter.

What did I love about this book?

Ashcroft’s ability to build a solid, believable world, interwoven with a complex timeline is well above par. He doesn’t waste time going into too much depth, or leaving things out, and avoids flowery language to try and get some of his more complex ideas across. Not only does this make the reader fall into the world of The Megarothke, but it makes it easy to relate to Theo. While Theo is intelligent, he’s an average guy and he explains things as such. This trait also creates a great conflict later, when you’re introduced to his wife, and you get an amazing clash between characters.

I also enjoy how believable everything is. It’s not too much of a stretch to see certain aspects of Ashcroft’s world coming to pass, and since I’m a firm believer in “science fiction could one day become science fact”, it’s an unsettling black mirror held up to today’s society. There’s a fine line between too much technology and just the right amount, and Ashcroft makes the reader ask “How far is too far?” And let me be clear to note here, I don’t mean when it comes to a more accepting transworld, as there are several trans characters in this novel, but the use of technology until it swallows everything that makes us human.

Ashcroft’s military and philosophy knowledge also extremely evident. There isn’t one scene that makes me go “Wait a second, how real is that?”. It’s evident he’s a man with a military background, as well as being someone who knows what their talking about when it comes to philosophy.

Lastly, I loved the dark humor salt and peppered in throughout the novel. I even laughed outright at a few parts and scared my dog as I read this into the long hours of the night. And yes. I did in fact stay up past midnight just to read this.

What might not work for other readers?

While I don’t mind a story that starts at one point and then jumps back a few years, I know a few readers who have a problem with this form of storytelling. I think Ashcroft handled his timeline beautifully, and if people who don’t like “7 years earlier” trope can get over this, they’ll have a great time.

Overall Rating?

I would most definitely buy this book in hard back, and go out of my way to get it signed.

 

You’ll like The Megarothke if…

you’re fans Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson, Westworld, Blade Runner/it’s source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Black Mirror, or if you enjoy the of the work that comes out of Oats Studios (in fact, I’d be the biggest supporter if they made a film adaptation of this with Ashcroft).

Keep your eye out for this fantastic novel, coming out in February 2018. You’ll be up all night just to try and finish this refreshing addition to the Science Fiction genre.

Book Lovers’ Monday – What I’m Reading

Welcome to my first “Book Lovers Monday”, where you can expect to find calls for favorite novels, book reviews, and author interviews.

Today’s Book Lover’s chat is about the books I’m reading and what I currently think of them.

I’m not the type of person who can read one book at a time. I like starting between two to five and then work my way through them like a kid with too many choices of cake, eating a bite of each one before I decide which one to devour completely.

Right now, I’m on a serious high fantasy kick. I’ve been toying with a story that’s like the Dragon Age franchise meets The Last Unicorn, with a sprinkle of Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Rampant series. So, to give me some inspiration, I took the advice of my best friend and one very helpful Barnes and Noble employee and found the following.

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1. The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

Recommended to me by my best friend, and then a coworker when she found out I was looking for high fantasy novels.

Where am I at? – Page 14
Thoughts so far – As enjoyable as the first 14 pages can be. I like the author’s writing style and his religion and world layout is well built.

 

2. Dreamer’s Pool – Juliet Marillier619nuraf2bll-_sx308_bo1204203200_

Recommended to me by a Barnes and Noble employee I talk with from time to time. While she’s not a writer, she’s a huge fan of the processes, and helping up and coming writers. She suggested I try Dreamer’s Pool after I said I enjoyed Tamora Pierce as a kid.

Where am I at? – Page 6
Thoughts so far – Starts with Blackthorn at the lowest of low, a great place to hook your reader and I’m definitely curious where she plans on taking it.

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3. The Stolen Throne – David Gaider

Recommended to me by no one, just my weird love with the Dragon Age universe. I’ve been hooked on the video games since I first played Dragon Age: Origins, and after playing through Inquisition I needed more of Thedas.

Where am I am? – Page 144

Thoughts so far – It’s a little rough, if I’m being completely honest. It reads like a book by someone who writes video game scripts, not book manuscripts, but I have to admit, I still really love it. It’s probably because I’ve got a soft spot for the games, so if you haven’t played them I’d say you probably could skip putting this one on your reading list.

 

 

What books are you reading right now? Are you a one at a time person or a multiple reader? Have a high fantasy book you can recommend? Comment below and let me know!

The Dark Mother in Books and Movies

Just as a warning, this post contains dark imagery and unsettling pictures. Viewer discretion is advised. 

 

I love tropes. I know other people have mixed feelings about this, but I find them fascinating. While diving too far into tropes can become cliche, every writer uses them. Just one look at tvtropes.org, and it’s almost impossible not to.

So to celebrate tropes, I’m picking a few of my favorite to highlight in my Writing Wednesday posts. I’ll do one a month until I get tired of it, maybe more if people have suggestions for tropes they enjoy.

Today’s trope is….

The Dark Mother

With every trope or archetype, there is a dark side, and if there’s one archetype I love the most it’s that of the Dark Mother. She’s a force to be reckoned with and can be any caretaker or mother figure with dark intentions.

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Patron Saint of Last Nights Tears 5×5 oval oil by Jasmine Worth

 

Examples in Literature –

The Other Mother – Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Evil Stepmother/Queen – Every fairy tale ever
Cathy Ames/Kate Trask – East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Norma Bates – Psycho by Robert Bloch
Margaret White – Carrie by Stephen King

Examples in Movies –

Alien Den Mother – Aliens
Stephanie Smith – 8 Mile
Mary Jones – Precious
Queen Bavmorda – Willow

Why do I love this trope so much?

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Mother Catrina by liransz on Deviant Art

Mothers are supposed to be loving and caring. They’re our caretakers, who we learn love from, and when we have nothing, we’re supposed to be able to count on them to be there for us. As someone who’s a fan of flipping tropes on their head, the idea of a Dark Mother, one who gives life, but also takes it, has always been fascinating. She’s strong, but in a wicked way, and is morally compromised at every turn.

I hope to do her justice in some of my future novels, both as an antagonist, and as the powerful female figure she is.

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Aura by Lourdes Saraiva Art https://www.facebook.com/l.saraiva.illustrator

 

Which mother do you prefer in your movies and novels? The Light or Dark? Who’s your favorite example of a Dark Mother?

What’s your favorite “How To” writing book?

I’ve been picky about what “how to” writing books I buy lately. Most of them are less about story structure, and more about the nitty gritty parts of writing.

Here are some of my favorite books on writing, but I’m in the market for more. Have any suggestions that improved your writing in any particular area?

16681583_1300483536656800_6852415959332937314_n1. The Emotion Thesaurus
Good for – writing character feelings through their body language.
Lacking in – For a thesaurus, it doesn’t list off as many emotions as I’d hope.

2. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits 
Good for – Nailing down Character behavior regarding their mental status.
Lacking in – It’s one sided and stereotypical at times.

3. Writing from the Senses
Good for – Writing more expressive and meaningful scenes.
Lacking in – It’s a little “How To” and repeats what I’ve read in other books.

4. Plot Vs. Character
Good for – Helps see things from a plot/character writer’s perspective.
Lacking in – Not sure. I really enjoyed this one.

5. Bullies Bastards and Bitches
Good for – Creating fun, deep, well rounded villains.
Lacking in – Can read a little Creative Writing 101.

6. Word Painting
Good for – Explains writing descriptively better than Writing from the Senses.
Lacking in – Not a whole lot. I really don’t have any complaints about this book.

 

Book Review #3 – Crimson Lake

When I read the work of a suspense author, I always have one worry. Is this story going to be the same type of tropes thrown into the same scenario? As much as I loved Hades, this question sat in the back of my mind. I should’ve known better, as Candice Fox did not disappoint.

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If you read my last review of her work, you’ll know I’m a big fan. So much so, in fact, shortly after I finished Hades, I ordered Eden, pre ordered Fall, and have my eye out for Never Never, a novel Fox wrote with James Patterson. When Fox contacted me with a chance to read Crimson Lake before it was released in the US, I have to admit, I might’ve fangirled just a little bit.

Crimson Lake is a small town in Cairns in Queensland, Australia, where Ted Conkaffey’s life is in ruins. Accused of kidnapping and torturing a young girl, he’s a retired cop with a tarnished name. He’s set on hiding from the world when he’s set up to met with Amanda Pharrell, a P.I. with murder in her past. The two begin their working relationship hunting for missing author, Jake Scully, under the eyes of a town that’s waiting for them to slip up.

If there’s one thing I enjoyed most of this novel, it was the protagonist, Ted. His fall from grace creates tension in a way that many authors are unable to capture. Not only is the reader able to feel his despair and emptiness, but there’s also rage and fury. He spirals into a depression and Fox makes his PTSD from his trial and experiences vividly realistic. Through all of it, I was rooting for him to succeed.

Amanda wasn’t a character to sneeze at either. She keeps Ted constantly pushed outside his comfort zone, and the two dynamics play well off one another.

I will say this though. Fox created two of the most unlikable police officers I’ve ever read. If anyone was going to get pushed into a bog full of crocodiles, I wanted it to be those two.  But here’s the thing. I LOVED to hate them. They made my skin crawl with how much they antagonized Ted, and made for a constant reminder that Ted’s life was always in danger because of what he was accused of.

You can purchase Crimson Lake on Amazon and if you’re a suspense fan, I say add it to your reading list!

Author Interview #8 – Jo Carson-Barr

I’m happy to announce my first children’s book author interview! Jo Carson-Barr creates adorable stories that are great for kids, teaching them about differently abled kids, and also including New Zealand Sign Language into her novels. As someone who grew up involved in the ASL community, I was happy to get a chance to interview her and share her fun books.

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Q. To start, let’s hear a little bit about you, outside of your writing life.

I am a wife, mother, sister, grandmother and I live in Auckland City, New Zealand.

I moved to the city after many years of living in Rural NZ where I was a very active gardener, created pottery and led the ‘good life’. Part of my work history was living and working with people differently abled people.

 

Q. Your children’s book, Talking to Nannie, was translated into New Zealand Sign Language. How has working with the differently abled community influenced your work?

I am keen to portray them in my books in a very natural way.

 

Q. You come from a big family with lots of kids. Do their ideas help shape some of the plots in your work?

A. Yes, their life experiences and mine influenced the short stories I wrote for adults.

My children’s picture books feature my grandchildren….exaggerated of course.

71fZ6hVHMPLQ. Simon Barr has created beautiful, colorful illustrations for your work. Which book do you feel like he’s captured the best?

Simon is my son, so this is a very hard question as they are all amazing…but I would have to say Waata the Weta: Can He Find The Perfect Home? this book has stunning illustrations.

 

Q. Do you ever foresee yourself writing for an older audience, such as Middle Grade, or do you prefer to stick to picture books?

A. I did start off writing short stories for adults, but because I am now working with Simon I imagine we will stay with picture books.

 

Q. When breaking into the world of children’s books, what’s been the most challenging part?

A. I think as a self published author the most challenging part has been the marketing, though I have been quite successful.

Q. On your website, you have the option to buy your books as part of a fundraiser. What fundraiser are you taking part in and how is it close to your heart?

A. We have completed two fundraisers, one for a club who help children and the other for a Hospice. At the moment one of my books is being used as a fundraiser to get a Downs Syndrome woman to attend a Conference in Ireland. This is very satisfying.

 

Q. As a librarian, what did you notice when working with children that’s helped you write educational yet fun books for a younger audience?

A. I must let you know I am not a qualified librarian, just a Play Centre librarian. That position exposed to a large variety of excellent children’s book which fueled my passion to write books and hopefully to add more excellent books to the world.

 

Q. What did you learn the most from your first children’s book, Talking to Nannie, and how do you feel like you’ve improved since then?

A. I learnt …..’I can do this and it is fun’…..and very rewarding working with Simon as a team to produce The GoodBye Chair, The Chill Out Chair and Waata the Weta.

 

Q. When it comes to being an author with a family, there’s always a fine balance between being with them and needing to work. What advice can you give to writers who are trying to find time to write with children and grandchildren?

A. If you have a real passion in your heart to do something you will always find time. I virtually never watch TV!!! Just DO IT.

 

Q. Who’s been the biggest part of your support system when it comes to your writing process?

A. I have a close friend who is an ex school teacher, who reads my manuscripts, helps me when I am stuck, makes suggestions and just tells me to go for it.

 

Q. What do you think is the most enjoyable part about writing for children that you don’t think you’d feel if you were writing for adults?

A. The best part is seeing the children’s faces, when they see the books, or they tell me this is the best books ever, or they just love one of the books and their Mum or dad tell me they have had to read it ten times.

 

Q. If you could sit down with any children’s book author, alive or dead, and have lunch, who would it be?

A. Being a New Zealander, my absolutely favourite children’s author is another New Zealander called Joy Cowley and I would love to have a chance to chat with her.

 

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_coverQ. Which children’s book did your children love to have you read to them the most?

Where the Wild Things Are.

Q. You’ve been writing for ten years now. What piece of advice did you receive and didn’t take, but wish you did?

A. To be honest I don’t remember anyone actually giving me any advice. Now days I learn lots on webinars, fb pages, groups etc…..what I wish is that I had started earlier.

 

Q. Lastly, tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects, and when you hope to have them finished.

We have just finished The Chill Out Chair and are waiting for the books to arrive from the printer. We hope to have our third book in the Nicholas series and two more adventures of Waata the Weta by the end of the year and then I want to do a simpler version of the Nicholas stories for a board book series.

 

Want to learn more about this author? Check out her websites below, and be sure to look out for her newest children’s books!

Website: http://www.veritasaotearoa.co.nz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/josephinecarsonbarr/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jocarsonbarr/

 

Authors Who Changed my Life – Neal Shusterman

The original copy of my favorite book of his, purchased when I was 13.

In 2004, I was a big eyed, quiet, never quite fitting in 13 year old. I hid in the library during lunch, wrote stories inspired by whatever book I was reading and had a close friendship with the librarian. Books were an escape from a hectic homelife and Neal Shusterman’s work was my favorite place to run to.

When the school announced they had invited Shusterman for a talk on writing, the librarian knew how much I loved his books, and snuck me in to the advanced class’s private talk with him. Now, I doubt he remembers me. In fact, I’m positive he doesn’t. I was one girl, in one small town Texas middle school, out of hundreds he’s gone to. He met me for maybe five minutes, but those five minutes changed my life more than he’ll ever know.

Sitting in the back of the room, I hung on every word he said. Here was my favorite author, an idol in the eyes a eighth grader, the person who created all the books I loved. A real writer. 

When he finished his talk, I lingered behind a long line to get his autograph. Unlike the other kids who rushed to greet him, however, I didn’t have one of his books in hand. I had five pages of a story I wrote.

I didn’t know why I brought those pages then, and still don’t know why it was so important now, but when I walked up to him, I held them out and said. “Full Tilt’s my favorite book. I want to be a writer, but I’m not very good.”

He could’ve just laughed, or told me to head out because I was one of the last kids of the day. Instead, he smiled and said something to me I’ll never forget. “I bet it’s great! Be proud of your work. If you keep it up, you’ll be a writer one day. You just need to practice and never give up.”

I was shocked. He was the first adult to ever tell me that. No one, not my mother or father, not teachers, no one encouraged me to write.

It was just five minutes of his life, and four sentences he probably told a lot of kids, but that was all it took for him to encourage a shy kid who didn’t have faith in her work. 

I’m 27 now, and last month I started sending my first novel to agents. I have to say, wherever Neal Shusterman is, I thank him. He said the words I didn’t know I needed, but that I still cherish to this day.

If you’re an artist of any medium, don’t underestimate how your words can help a child. You never know how much they might need that little push of encouragement.

Which author changed your writing life? Who do you have to thank for helping you get where you are today?


Learn more about Neal Shusterman here.