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Category: Urban Fantasy

Reversed The Curse!

Reversed The Curse!

cubs_2I’m not superstitious and yet when I say something that could, you know, jinx my favorite sports team, or bring myself bad luck, I knock on wood.

So what makes a great curse? Start with a truly engaging story of a stolen artifact or an innocuous act that results in death and destruction or in some cases, 108 years without a win.

But as my daughter has told me on several occasions, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern never said he was cursing the Cubs so that they would never win again.

Okay, so the curse never really happened and yet as a Cubs fan, we can’t get that thing out of the back of our minds, the idea that the curse is real because why else would the Cubs lose over and over and over and over again for 108 years?

I love curses. The stories behind them are fascinating, and the fallout of owing a cursed object or breaking into a cursed tomb is interesting in itself. That’s why the curse of the Hope Diamond and the curse of King Tut’s tomb have lived on for as long as they have.

I wish I could say I wasn’t superstitious but I kinda am. I refused to write this blog post until the Cubs actually won and I refused to wear my favorite Cubs shirt during the playoffs because I wore it during the first two losses of the World Series. What I did do was, wash the shirt and hide it in my closet.

You see, the curse gives us order and a reason for why something happens and hope that if we can only reverse that curse all will be well.

So as I hung out in Grant Park with 5 million of my closest friends at the Cubs rally, after they won the World Series, I just sat back and smiled in relief; THEY FINALLY BROKE THE CURSE!. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that they were the best team in the MLB with the best record. Nah, it couldn’t have been that.

Journey – Star Wars An Epic Fantasy Tradition

Journey – Star Wars An Epic Fantasy Tradition

Re-written from July, 2013

I speak of a journey. Whether it’s the one we take from the minute we’re born to the day we die or the smaller journeys in the in between. The stuff that makes up our life, our legacy. The journey with an end goal, working toward an accomplishment of a dream.

I’m drawn to stories about these journey’s to find oneself because I undertook one of those when I finally decided to honor my seven-year old self and write my first book.

And luckily one of my most favorite epic fantasy journey’s has been featured on-line, in Facebook, and I just finished watching it.

Star Wars – Luke’s Journey

I was nine years old and I still remember my dad asking if we wanted to see a movie called “Star Awards”. It was so new, I had no idea what he was talking about.

It was one of those experiences that from the minute the opening scrolled across the screen with the musical background, that a smile grew across my face. One that didn’t leave, long after the final credits.

Star Wars just happens to be one of those movies that I can watch and re-watch, always entertained, always amazed by this simple epic fantasy.

I will always contend the story is an epic fantasy, that just because the story is filled with blasters, light sabers, the X-wing fighters, it’s so much more than Science Fiction. It is at its core, a story about a boy who unbeknownst to himself, is about to take a life changing journey. And just like every epic fantasy, he will learn of his royal heritage, he will become the reluctant hero and he will discover his true self and what he is capable of. All this accomplished in a strange new world, with characters and creatures unlike our own, in a place with rules that are unfamiliar to life as we know it. 

My Own Journey

It’s much like my own life, my own journey. From the moment I opened my first document and wrote Chapter 1, and let the words pour from my head to my fingers, as I typed variations of twenty-six letters that became 100,000 words, I to find myself in an unfamiliar world, discovering jus what I am made of .

Star Wars, a simple, elegant story, rough and primitive, that is almost as old as I am. The nine-year old in me still watches with a smile on my face, simple joy at a story worth re-telling. And in honor of May the 4th be with you, may you all find yourself and your own journey.

 

Everything in Moderation – So Say the Sages

Everything in Moderation – So Say the Sages

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In an effort to teach my teenage daughters how to love and except themselves, I really try not to complain about my body or my weight as I desperately try to impart years of trial and error type of wisdom on to them. One thing I always tell them “Everything in Moderation.” Basically, don’t be afraid to eat the cookie, just don’t eat six of them.

I’m always intrigued by the idea of moderation. Sometimes its a bad thing when you work so hard for mediocrity, to find yourself stuck in the middle of the pack but oftentimes, moderation, the idea of not too much of anything, allows you to experience a wider variety of foods, or travel destinations, people or a host of other rewarding experiences.

Or it’s a great idea for a story. I wanted to write a book about the lost library at Alexandria and wrote a story around finding the answers to the problem at this library. And yes, I know the original library was destroyed, still its, fantasy and in my story it still exists. Anyway, not the point. So I came up the idea based on Pandora’s Box and the Seven Deadly Sins, that questions the idea, of fixing the ills of society, (the sins), with magical boxes were filled with love, diligence, charity etc. And what happens if those magical spells imbuing society with good things, backfire? Too much of the goodness will lead to something bad. Think of it this way, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

As I was doing research on ancient locales I happened across the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. I had heard of it before and of the Oracle Pythia who got her gift of prophesy from breathing in the gases coming from the chasm nearby. Curious, I read more about the former temple and it’s ruins and learned that carved into the temple were three sayings, “Know Thyself”, “Make a Pledge and Mischief is Nigh” and lastly, the one that got my attention, “Nothing in Excess”. Huh? I thought. Excited, I threw out the idea of the answers at the library. I was going to Greece.

These sayings were attributed to some or all of The Seven Sages, seven wise men, scholars, politicians, philosophers of the ancient world. They preached these ideas, carved them into stone to make their point. And though I fully agree with Everything in Moderation, I haven’t yet decided for certain the fate of the Seven Sages. They may be evil, misguided or good and saintly characters, but for now, I find them intriguing and worth a look at, because their advice is sound. The idea of making the time to do all the things that I want to do so that there are no regrets. I’ve been attempting to live my life like that consistently for the last four years. At least for now, its how I eat, exercise and work. I just need to add the fun.

The Monday Monster isn’t so much a monster as it is an idea, a way to live. Work but give yourself time to enjoy the results of your labors, play but don’t spend all your earnings in one place, assist and pay it forward but not to the cost of everything else. We can do it all, maybe not all at once and not everyday, but if we branch out we can experience and enjoy and that makes it all worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

Abominable Snowman and Yeti and Big Foot Oh My (And don’t forget Sasquatch)

Abominable Snowman and Yeti and Big Foot Oh My (And don’t forget Sasquatch)

 

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My children like all things supernatural,bizarre, impossible. In a weird sort of way, they challenge traditional thinking by believing anything  is possible. My oldest enjoys aliens, ghosts and Big Foot and spends a lot of time watching documentaries discussing the possibility these things truely exist. One of her favorite shows is Finding Bigfoot. The premise of the show is a group of investigators travel to various locations searching for evidence that Big Foot exists. While most of the team believes wihtout a doubt that Big Foot is real, the lone biologist spends most of her down debunking whatever evidence they discover.

The quest to prove the existence of the Yeti, Abominable Snowman or Big Foot has been a part of Western cultural since the 19th century but because of the lack of conclusive evidence proving an apelike homenid lives in the mountains, the scientific community regards these creatures at mythical or legends.

With all that we know, with every piece of modern technology that researchers have at their disposal, is it really possible in the year 2013 to not have discovered a large humanlike creature roaming through mountain ranges and forests across the world? Yes because think of the massive amount of acreage you would need to trek through. And no, you need to have more than one creature to reproduce. How can nature hide so many? For me that’s what it always comes down to. There has to be more than one for the entire creature population to survive. How can we not find a tribe, a flock, a village?

Is there really a difference between the Yetis, Abdominable Snowmen, Big Foot or Sasquatch? Not really. They are all said to be humanlike ape creatures, all spotted by indigenous people in varying regions. The Yeti, are said to reside in the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet. The term Abominable Snowman was created in 1921 by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury who led a journey up Mount Everest. After discovering unique footprints in the snow, (he believed were the grey wolf), the sherpa guides suggested the footprints actually belonged to The Wild Man of the Snows called metoh (man bear) kangmi (snowman). Henry Newman, a contributor to the The Statesman in Calcutta coined the term Abdominable Snowman when he mistranslated the word “metoh” as “filthy”, substituting the term “abominable.” And lastly, Big Foot or Sasquatch are similar ape like hominids inhabiting the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

 

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I love the mythical creature. Whether I believe they exist or not, they add a little fun to any story especially when in the created made up world, they are actually real creatures. Since it would be awfully crowded to have every creature in every book, I can glance over it by giving Dave Smith, Annie and Cham’s best friend the love of mythical creatures, so much so I gave him a job at the Wizard Zoological Society as a field researcher. He is sent to Colorado to investigate a new Yeti colony recently discovered. It’s on the fringe of the story has no real value to the story but to add richness and history to the character. But it’s there as a building block to the world I created. If you can suspend your disbelief that is.

Whether or not they do exist, I have no issue with the desire to find out. I am curious and a part of me would love to know for sure. What is your favorite mythical, mystical creature?

 

 

Aicha Kandida – The What Now?

Aicha Kandida – The What Now?

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You don’t have to battle a demon, vampire or monster for them to have a role within a story. Sometimes they appear for another reason, their purpose merely to prove a point like scaring a character into understanding the world they’ve just found themselves in. In The Day of First Sun I threw Annie into the world of the non magical, similar to what she’s dealt with before and yet different because she’s never worked so closely with the FBI. Making things worse for Annie, is the fact she has to investigate the crime with the eyes of the world watching. She understands the ramifications of keeping her secret from the world, but what about the FBI agent who drags her into the case. He’s never dealt with a magical crime before.

That’s where I bring in the magical creature. Curious, Jack Ramsey finds himself in The Snake Head Letters, the all wizarding book store in which the proprietor illegally sells him a Book of Shadows, the witch or wizard’s heirloom passed on from generation to generation, the book which details the experience of the witch throughout their lifetime. However, the unscrupulous shop keeper, sells a book about the darker side of magic, with fearsome creatures that open the FBI agent’s eyes to a world he never knew existed.

This is Jack’s true introduction into the entire magical world, exposing the worst that can be experienced and as he reads the book, he comes across the Aicha Kandida. I chose to introduce this being because in my basic research, it’s a creature that singles out lonely men and Jack is just that, single and lonely, working late into the night, not even remembering the last time he found himself in the company of a woman.

The monster was perfect. A predatory water demon who appears in the form of a beautiful young woman, killing their prey by luring men to their death. The curious victim seeing the beautiful woman by the water’s edge, the victim saunters over and once within reach, they are dragged into the water and consumed by the creature.

As Jack read the book searching for information pertaining to the mystical Orb of Eridu, he became engrossed by the animated picture of the beautiful woman and horrified when it changed into its true form, murdering the victim in front of him. I didn’t need to bring the monster to life, it was simply an entry in The Book of Shadows, one little glimpse into the magical world and yet it shakes Jack to the core and he’s forever changed by the experience.

Maybe one day I’ll bring the demon to life, but only for a larger purpose. For now it will remain a distant, disturbing memory, reminding Jack to why he must keep their secret. Who would believe him anyway?

What’s your most creepy monsters? Vampires, werewolves, ghosts? Mine is the Weeping Angels. Whovians know what I mean.

 

Whatever Wednesday – Psychic Abilities

Whatever Wednesday – Psychic Abilities

psychicSo why are we so interested in the supernatural, shows and books like Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Witches of East End, Harry Potter? The ability to think a thought and move an object, think of a place and be there in seconds, wave your palm and conjure an object.

I was intrigued by the idea that we only use 10% of our brains and wonder if that means we might all be psychic if we knew how to tap into it? Maybe, or maybe it’s all make-believe.

Since I so enjoy the supernatural and was a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, it was only natural that I would eventually write my own Urban Fantasy about witches and wizards, creating stories that utilize their ability to move objects, teleport, create potions or find missing people.

It’s fun to create the character, give them only the skills that I wish them to have. I gave my characters the ability to divine for the location of people. Annie accomplishes this be using a crystal and something that belongs to the missing person. Her magic is channeled through the crystal and which must obey that magic until the missing is found.

So if you could have any ability wouldn’t you like to teleport. Moving from location to location within seconds. This psychic ability is the primary form of transportation for my characters. Though my characters are entrenched in the non magical world and most have cars, they still prefer to move from place to place in seconds. Wouldn’t you.

When Annie and Cham conjure and summon objects, they’re using telekinesis, the ability to manipulate objects with their mind. Though in my world the magic in controlled through the hands. With a wave they can manipulate, move, make disappear, change something about an object all by thinking of whatever it is they wish to do.

They create potions and spells, powerful magical tools that allow them to heal themselves and others, ward off evil spirits, create magnificent light to assist them in the darkness, create magical tracking devices to instantly find Sturtagaard. I can list more but there are so many ways that I can use magic that will assist Annie and Cham in their investigations.

In the future I expect that Annie as a result of future events may end up with other psychic abilities that she doesn’t have yet. In the world of fantasy there are so many ways that you can add the unexpected, because with magic, anything becomes possible.

There are so many more forms of psychic ability, giving the person the ability to see the future, percieve past events, be in two locations at the same time. If you had your choice, what magic power would you possess? I’d like telekinesis. The ability to move objects, conjure objects in order to complete tasks is appealing to me, though honestly, the ability to teleport and miss out on the long commutes in the Chicagoland area, might be far more useful.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday Monsters – Hundred Handers

Monday Monsters – Hundred Handers

hundred handersSo I don’t always create my own monsters. Sometimes I re-cycle from other sources, something I’m not alone in. As I researched creatures for my books, I recognized several from Harry Potter. Because sometimes, the sources for monster and creature ideas can be found in ancient Greek Mythology. Stories rich in character, monsters, places. Timeless stories about the human nature told in the fantastical or grotesque depending on the plot.

I borrowed the idea of Tartarus Prison from Greek mythology. Hades’s underworld, a place where once you enter, you can never leave and Hades’s rules with an iron hand. No one ever escaped. In my Urban Fantasy, the prison  houses the worst of the worst in demons, vampires, dark wizards. So horrendous, no one would ever want to find themselves there, a place that could turn a rather normal person crazy nuts. It is magic you know.

Who should guard such a place filled with the mystical creatures? It can’t be the mere mortal, the one who lacks the strength  and agility to handle the multitude of beings that pass through the doors. The logical choice could have been Cerebus the three-headed guard dog which defended the entrance to Tartarus. Though it would be borrowing from Greek Mythology and fit in my story, it would be taking from Harry Potter, too new to not be considered stealing.

I ran across the story of the Hundred Handers. The three children of Gaia the Earth Goddess and Uranus the Sky God. Their children so ugly, fierce and frightening, their father tossed them into a pit in Tartarus. They sought revenge against their father, eventually fighting with the Olympians and against the Titans, for control of the universe.

I’ve asserted in The Day of First Sun, that the giant guards were descendants of the Hundred Handers, with less arms and heads, mere giants, big and strong enough to handle the creatures that paraded through the prison on a fairly regular basis.

Greek Mythology allowed the ancient Greeks to explore and explain the world. I wondered, what would vicious fifty headed, hundred handed creatures be trying to explain. Their mother loved them regardless of their hideousness, their father threw them into a pit. Experts suggest that because these were considered the first beings created from procreation, and their parents disagreed on their care, it caused fighting between the Gaia and Uranus. In other words this is the first instance illustrating marital strife.

There was always a reason for the stories, an explanation, a lesson to be learned if you know where to find them.

 

Whatever Wednesday – Dreams

Whatever Wednesday – Dreams

I believe dreams represent the purest form of fantasy we unleash through our subconscious. They represent the truest freedom we can experience. Totally unrepressed and totally creative.
Miguel

I know there are a lot of people out here who don’t enjoy science fiction or fantasy because they prefer stories that are grounded in reality rather than in the make-believe. This idea fascinates me because the fantasy is all around us. We start reading with books from Dr. Seuss, we watch Sesame Street or read Harry Potter. And in our personal lives, we dream. The dream, the ultimate fantasy in which  we create worlds that often times make no sense are completely scary and odd and are not in any way based in reality.

Did you know that we have on average, about five dreams a night. We would then, on average, dream for about six years of our lives. We do our dream in REM sleep which can last as little as five minutes or as long as two hours. During this period our brain waves are more active while dreaming than when awake.  We spend so much time dreaming and many of us don’t even remember what we spent the night dreaming.

So what is the purpose of our dreams? Might they be a reaction to our daily lives, a way for our brain to sort through the images and experiences of the day and put them in some order that makes sense to us?

I have a recurring dream. It’s not uncommon, I know others have had a similar dream. But it always appears at times in my life when I’m searching for a career or ready to make that move from stay at home mom to career woman. It started when I graduated college and couldn’t find a job. It took me two years to find a permanent job with benefits and in that time, I spent much of my dream state reliving that dream when you show up to class for a test and realize you haven’t been to class all semester. You find yourself scrambling to learn the material in the next five minutes so you can either write that 50 page paper or take that final. It’s stressful as you look at your eminent failure. I usually wake up realizing that in my waking life, there’s something more that I’m looking for. I stopped having those dreams after finally getting that first job and it’s rarely showed up again. I must be more satisfied in my life or maybe I’m more confident and finding a job isn’t as stressful. I can’t say for sure.

Other visions and dreams appear to me at times. They’re far more mysterious as I haven’t found a source for what they mean. I’ve had that dream that I’ve been running without shoes. Though the more common version is dreaming about being naked, my stops at the shoes. You know how difficult it is to run through the forest without shoes on? I do know it has something to do with feeling vulnerable. Do I feel that way? Along with nudity there’s the dream about loosing your teeth. Also about vulnerability. Since I’ve had that as well, I must feel vulnerable at some point in my life.

How about the dream that I’m being chased by a lion, alligator or some other wild animal. I’m guessing it means I’m running scared from something. What that is, I’m not sure.

Here’s a quick list of the common dreams. Have you ever had any of them?

Naked/Nudity – This can mean lack of freedom or vulnerability. Feeling exposed or baring your soul.

Flying – You’re finding a way to move beyond your limitations or soaring above your problems. It may also mean feeling carefree and weightless, represent success or your amibitions are being achieved.

Lateness – Missed opportunity, disappointment or the inability to make a connection.

Teeth – Dreams about teeth can represent decision that need to be made. Debating both sides of an argument. If you loose your teeth maybe yo feel a loss of control.

These are some of my most interest reoccurring dreams. What are yours?

Thanks for the information at http://www.dreamanity.com/all-about-dreaming/dream-facts.html

Monday Monsters – Aloja Fairies

Monday Monsters – Aloja Fairies

fairyOkay. It might not be a good title for every creature that I’d like to highlight, because not all of them are monsters. But they are all magical creatures. They were all created as a way to bring order to the world, to make the harshness of the ancient world not as scary, offer hope to its inhabitants.

As I was developing Annie and Cham and their friends, family, and histories, I decided that if I were to have Annie motherless by age three, a single father might need a nanny to help him. But you can’t just have a nanny help raise two magical children, now could you? When you come up with issues like this as you put together your new world, you need to fill a need. So I took out my handy-dandy, magical creature go to book of magical creatures and researched the perfect creature that would fill that magical nanny need.

I happened across the Aloja Fairy, a creature the originated in the Catalan region of Spain. They are water women symbolizing fertility and life-giving virtues, said to protect pregnant women and children.  I thought I struck gold. Nocturnal beings who also have narcissistic tendencies and enjoy viewing their reflection in the water, who also enjoy fine clothing.  I still have difficulty adding that aspect of the fairy into my character of Zola because for me she’s not that half of the tradition, rather she’s a substitute mom to Annie and her sister, stern and respectful, loving and caring, one of the few beings who can control Annie. The Aloja Fairy, the water woman, bonded to Annie by an unbreakable magical spell, something that will last beyond the Annie’s mortal life on to her children and their children. The fairy who can feel Annie’s needs before Annie herself knows what she needs.

As I researched the Aloja fairies, and trust me there’s not so much in the way of this type of fairy being, I came across The Fates, three goddesses also known as the Moirae in ancient Greece traditions. Their connection was that both character were female creatures responsible for mortal lives. whereas the Aloja is responsible for the birthing process and caring for young children, The Fates spun the length of yarn which represented our allotted life span for each mortal being.

These creatures I believe were related to ancient religions that believed in both a male and a female G_d and to those who believed the female goddess was more important of the two because she contains and conceives life. As I put all of these pieces together I found myself with far more than a magical nanny. I found myself with a character with a rich back story and history and possibly another book plot.

For me it’s about creating a creatures based on existing beliefs of our ancient ancestors. To find out more about Zola and her past and how the Fates figure into it, read How Zola Got Her Charge.  Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

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Fairy Tales: A History

Fairy Tales: A History

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Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a printing press. Our histories, our cultures, our stories, were passed down in the oral tradition, while sitting around a fire in the middle of the village. Sharing and re-enacting the stories was the primary form of entertainment. Imagine no cable, no movies, no music, no The Walking Dead.

Those stories changed and grew from stories like The Golden Ass, the story of a man’s curiosity and his desire to learn magic, to have it all change when his spell to turn into a bird goes awry when he becomes an ass instead, to the famous Greek stories known as Aesops Fables. As kids, we remember the Brothers Grimm and Mother Goose, delightful or terrifying adventures with talking animals, and fantastic elements. Today we could be talking about Disney.

I’m really more interested in the history of the fairy tale the folk-lore. How they started, what they came to be. Some interpret the fairy tale as solar myths, the idea that the characters are recognized as G-dlike, representing the Sun or an aspect of it and the characters becoming a manifestation of power and strength.

Other experts feel the tales explain ancient customs. The historical fact that many women once died in childbirth. When their husbands remarried, the stepmother competed with the children from the first marriage for resources. We see this in Snow White and Cinderella, as the step mothers do unspeakable things to their step daughters.

So do you enjoy the world of the fantasy? Did you realize it began as child or did you forget the love for things nonsensical, or scary or fantastic. Though the world of the Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction have taken a turn for the popular, the genre itself has been around for a long time. It’s not new. It doesn’t belong to the stereotypical geek. It’s our history, it’s the future.

Do you have a favorite? A story that means something to you or resonates with you on some level? Me, I have two. Cinderella and Mulan for two totally different reasons. As much as the Disney princesses can be irritating and weak, needing a man to save her, I love the story of hope in Cinderella, her intense belief that it will get better. In Mulan, it was the first princess whose story didn’t resolve around finding a man. She took control of the situation and solved her problems on her own. Ironically, it’s a movie based on a Chinese folktale.

 

 

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