Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Urban Legends for Halloween


To celebrate Halloween, I thought I'd throw out a few of the urban legends I remember hearing through the years. I'm betting these will be familiar to a lot of people. I'm also betting there are a lot of different versions out there, so I can't wait for the discussion!

Let's start with the one that made makeout point not such an alluring idea:

Escaped Criminal
Jennifer glanced shyly over at Sam as he pulled off the road into the gravel parking lot. Her heart pounded when he parked between two other cars, their windows fogged up. He turned the radio up and rubbed his hands down his pant legs as if to wipe his palms off.

Turning slightly in his chair, his eyes came up to meet Jennifer's. She smiled back at him, hand going to the jeweled cross hanging at her throat. She twiddled with it a moment before tucking it under her shirt. Jennifer adjusted her position in her seat, sliding closer to Sam, who cleared his throat and reached a hand toward her. His hand shakily clasped the back of her neck, pulling her face to his. Their lips met, hers soft and pliable, his firm and eager.

Her first kiss!

He pulled back, but she leaned further into him, kissing him back this time. His other hand slid onto her leg where hers met it, stopping it just above her knee.

"We interrupt this transmission with an important announcement. Police have asked us to alert the public to an escaped convict. He is mentally ill, armed and dangerous. You will recognize him by the orange prison uniform, a tattoo on the left side of his throat, and a hook on his right hand. Do not approach. Get somewhere safe and call the police immediately if you see him."

Jennifer pulled away, head turning as she looked through all the windows. She slapped the lock down on her door and asked Sam to do the same.

"Maybe we should go home," she said. "We're not that far from the penitentiary."

"Ah, he's long gone by now. We'll be fine. Come on."

He took her hand and pulled her toward him again. She hesitated, but he was so confident and calm that it calmed her, too. Finally, she let him bring her closer and returned his kiss.

She had just relaxed into it when she heard something scratching at her door. She broke away from him, turning toward the door and backpedaling toward him.

"What was that?"


"Didn't you hear that? It was a scratching sound."

"I didn't hear anything!"

"Well, I did. I wanna' go home."


With this, Sam threw the car into reverse, skidding on the gravel. They heard the sounds of tiny rocks pinging off the other cars, but that was overshadowed by a terrible screech, as of a rending of metal. Jennifer screamed and moved closer to Sam, straining against the seatbelt she had slid into place as he'd taken off.

As he steered the car around to get back on the road, Sam thought he saw a silhouette in the rearview mirror. He shook his head and sped toward Jennifer's house, holding himself firm, resisting her grip.

When they got to the house, Sam couldn't meet Jennifer's eyes. He put the car in park and waited for her to get out.

"I...I'm sorry, Sam. It was scary out there. I..."


Out of the corner of his eye, Sam watched as Jennifer slumped a bit and turned to get out. He sighed.

"Jennifer, it really is okay. I had a good time. I just wish we didn't have to leave so soon."

"I know. I'll see you later, Sam."

"Yeah," he said.

Jennifer got out and closed the door, turning to say one last thing. As she did, though, she looked down and saw something sticking out of her door. Leaning closer, she saw that it was metal, but with something dark and wet attached to it. She reached toward it, eyes widening. It was then she realized it was a hook. A remnant of flesh hung from it, dripping thick, red blood.


Oh, sorry, that was me.

How about the one that inspired me always to check the back of my vehicle before getting in, especially late at night when my car was the only one in the theater parking lot?

Look Behind You!

Mary fiddled with the radio, trying to find a good song. Heck, a song that didn't grate on her last nerve would be an improvement. It had been a long day and this drivel was just too much.

She settled on a rock station and leaned back into her seat, nodding her head in time to the beat.

"Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage!" she sang. Ah, Smashing Pumpkins.

The night enveloped her car, the headlights barely keeping it at bay. She flicked her brights on since she was alone on the road and continued singing along with the song until she saw headlights approaching around a bend ahead. She turned the lights back to normal long enough to pass then clicked them back to bright.

A few minutes later she winced as a pair of lights flooded her car from behind. She adjusted her rearview mirror to save her eyeballs from the glare and switched stations again, this time stopping on a R&B station.

Before she could start singing, though, she realized the car behind her was flashing its lights at her. She squinted and moved the mirror back where she could see behind her. Sure enough, the car was gaining on her, flashing its lights. When the driver started honking she threw her right hand up in the air.

"What the hell?!"

The crazed driver pulled up so close behind her she thought they were going to collide any minute. She pushed the gas pedal to the floor and shot forward, trying to trace the road before her far enough ahead to see the curves coming.

The horn blared, the driver holding it down, and the lights continued to flash.

"Pass me, why don't you?"

She slowed down when she hit a straightaway, hoping the driver would take the hint. "Come on, pass me!"

The driver simply slowed, continuing to ride her tail. The lights had stopped flashing, now permanently on bright.

As Mary approached her street, she grabbed her cell phone and hit speed dial.

"Dad? I need you to call the police and meet me in the driveway. There's some crazy person following me. I don't know what they want. I'm almost there!"

She jerked the wheel, not stopping at the stop sign, and sped toward her driveway. The front door burst open, warm light spilling out of her home onto the porch as her dad ran toward her. Her tires bumped over the end of the driveway and she threw the car into park and jumped out the door, not even bothering to turn off the car. She ran into her dad's arms, comforted by his embrace as he called out to the man who'd stepped out of the car behind her.

"The police are on their way. You need to leave. Now."

"Listen to me. There's someone in the back of your daughter's car."

"Bullshit. Too late, the cop's are here."

When the police pulled in, they took down the stranger. At his insistence, they checked the back of her car. Sure enough, there was a man in the back of her car, an axe hidden under a blanket beside him. The stranger had saved her life.

Yep, always check the back of your car. You just never know.

I had so many urban legends pop into my head, but I figure this is long enough. I'd only intended to describe the stories and list them, but this was more fun, and a good start to the beginning of NaNoWriMo. I'll talk about my version, ShaNoEdWriMo tomorrow.

What tales spring to mind when you think of urban legends? Have you heard different versions of the ones above?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 10/26/11

This is really going to be a [MOSTLY] Wordless Wednesday:

This is my house this evening. I took photos with and without the flash, but you couldn't see the SNOW in the ones without the flash (though you could better see the light-up decorations). Snow is coming! YAY! We've only had one good snow, so far, so I'm excited for another. As long as it's nice for Halloween.

Like the flamingos?

Do you decorate for Halloween?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday 10/25/11

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I'm doing two teasers today since I'm reading two different books (okay, three, but I haven't picked the third one up this week, so it doesn't count).

First, on my Kindle, this is Blood on the Ice by Ian T. Healy. I want to preface this by saying that if you like this teaser, you can download this book for free from Smashwords, Kindle or Barnes and Noble until Halloween (I think that's the date).

"If this was ten thousand years ago, he'd be a barefoot caveman hunting wooly mammoths on a grassy plain with nothing more than a spear and balls the size of coconuts. Our story, though, takes place in a more modern time, and instead of a spear, he's wielding a hooked stick of graphite with a wicked hundred and thirty-five degree curve at the lower end."

The blurb from his website:

When a talented new player joins the perennially-losing sub-minor-league hockey team, the Fighting Aardvarks, it marks the beginning of a winning tradition. But things aren’t as they seem, and players begin to change. First line center Hammie learns the truth: the Aardvarks are becoming vampires, and it’s up to him to stop them before the infestation spreads beyond just the team.

The second teaser is from Skinwalker, a Jane Yellowrock Novel, by Faith Hunter, p. 24:

"I took up the snake that rests in the depths of all beasts. And I dropped within."

From the back:

Last year Jane nearly lost her life taking down a deadly family of vampires who preyed on the helpless local populace. Now, after months of recuperation, she's back and ready to fight again. Except this time, she's been hired by those she's trained to kill - vampires.

Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind - a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires - and hunts the undead for a living. But now she's been hired by Katherine Fonteneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie's Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who's killing other vamps.

Amidst a bordello full of real 'ladies of the night,' a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission...or else the next skin she'll need to save may be her own.

What are you reading?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Simpler Better When it Comes to Horror?

With Paranormal Activity 3 having premiered with the highest grossing horror film opening weekend ever, maybe it's time to look at what horror fans really like. Gore took over in place of thrillers and ghost stories for awhile, but has gore finally lost its sheen? Has Saw 325 put the final nail in the gore porn coffin?

I haven't seen Paranormal Activity 3, and it will probably be awhile (video, ahem) until I do, but I know the type of film it represents. It's the softer spoken kind of horror that builds the tension for awhile then sends chills up your spine without spraying intestines all over the screen to accomplish this. It's the kind of scary that may seem inconsequential at first, but creeps up on you as you shut out the lights and head up to bed, straining for you in the darkness as your feet pick up speed and your spine tries to outrun the rest of your body. You laugh at yourself once you reach the safety of your bedroom, but then it's time to turn off the lights. That's when the terror creeps under your bedroom door and slithers underneath your bed or into the gaping maw of your darkened closet, waiting for your head to touch that pillow. This kind of horror, where you don't really see a monster, works to make your sleep a little harder to come by. The evil the victims face is implied, exhibited more discreetly.

Take a moment to look at one of the gory horror films. Choose one, be it Hostel, Turistas, Saw 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 29, 36..., Wrong Turn, etc. The fright is in the depravity of the perpetrator and in the horrific torture insinuated on the victims. Considering that this is something that could really happen, that these are typically human monsters rather than spectral ones, is part of the fright. It puts the scary in going to a stranger's house, going out in public, going on a trip to another country, staying in a hostel, or basically leaving your house in any way, shape or form. But where these movies fail to scare watchers is in their own homes. When these were the films horror fans were clamoring for, they still had a safe place to go. Bed was a safe haven, not a place ripe for ghostly attacks.

No longer!

This particular monster watches you in your own home. It waits for you to come in the front door and slide the lock home. It hears you let out that little breath of relief because you know you're safe again, all locked into your own space. This monster doesn't have to be visible to you until it wants to be. It can stand over you as you slumber in your bed, as exposed and unprepared as possible. It is the monster that knows where you are at your most vulnerable and can seize the advantage whenever it wishes. You could be cooking dinner, rocking your little one to sleep, taking a bath, watching TV, necking with your boyfriend or heading down into the basement to grab something from the pantry down there, and it gets to choose the moment it will attack you. Made it safely up those backless stairs without getting an ankle grabbed? That's okay, you still have to go to bed.

This kind of evil has no physical boundaries. You can't stab it or shoot it to get away. You can't kick it in the testicles and gain a few seconds. You can't blind it or maim it. It's untouchable. And it's in your own home. Your safety net.

Now what?

Do you think the face of horror is changing again? Do fans want something different? Or will gore porn still have a home?

Happy Halloween Week!

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MonsterFest 2011: Wendigo

For my second entry in the 2011 MonsterFest by Sommer Leigh of Tell Great Stories, I'd like to talk about the Wendigo. I previously wrote about skinwalkers. You can still sign up to participate in the MonsterFest on Sommer's blog.


While skinwalkers seem to be more commonly known in the United States, Wendigo is mostly a Canadian First Nation's monster, though his realm extends into the Great Lakes region, Minnesota and the Dakotas. So many tribes recognize Wendigo as a real creature that it has many names. "Wendigo" means "evil spirit that devours mankind," and is Algonquian in origin.

What is it?

Wendigos are creatures that roam the cold woods of the north looking for human flesh. They are always hungry, starving in fact. Not only are they formidable in size and strength, but they also have power over the weather, the beasts of the forests, and their victims.

As hungry as they are, Wendigos like to toy with their victims before tearing them apart. They will scream and growl, chasing the victim through the woods to get their giggles. (Not that they giggle.) They will do this until the victim is such a mess that they can no longer defend themselves rationally.

What do they look like?

Though stories vary, it is widely reported that Wendigo is humanoid in appearance, but deformed. Their skin is yellowish, and some have matted fur. Their teeth are needle sharp, their tongue a swollen dark blue. Bulbous yellow or red eyes glow out of its skull, peering through the darkness. Its claws are a foot long and razor sharp, both on feet and hands, though there is only one toe and claw on each foot.

They are said to be of such great size that the human mind can't comprehend it. Fifteen feet of height is not uncommon, and their limbs are extraordinarily long. They are scrawny, though, thanks to their intense hunger. Such hunger, in fact, that it is said they ate their own lips, leaving them with horrible, lipless grimaces.

What are these powers they possess?

When the Wendigos are young, they crash around haphazardly, causing wind storms, cyclones, blizzards, stampedes and destruction of the forests. When they're older, they gain actual shamanic powers over the weather and can control it intentionally. Therefore, when harsh weather phenomenon moves in, it is a signal Wendigo will come for you.

It's not just the weather, either. They work closely with the predators of the forest, sometimes controlling them. These creatures will often help the Wendigo, and both are known to share their kills with each other.

They can cause Wendigo Fever. The first sign you have Wendigo Fever is an odor that no one else can smell. When this happens, a person doesn't stand a chance. Within hours, they will begin having terrible nightmares, eventually awakening with a burning in their feet and legs which drives them to flee their homes, ripping their clothes off. This is when they race into the woods, to either be eaten by the Wendigo or to perish from exposure. Either way, very few ever return, and those that do aren't in their right minds ever again.

They can see in the dark, smell you for miles, and use nature to track their victim's every move without having to be near them. They have a connection with the trees, animals and plants of the forest that allows them to know precisely where they are. They can also detect body heat, just in case the rest of it wasn't enough.

Possibly the most frightening is that they are very smart and cunning. They can outsmart you, there in the woods. They may even let you think you're winning for a bit before really amping it up. Also, like the skinwalker, they can imitate voices, so don't rely on rescue. Just because you recognize a voice, doesn't mean you're safe.

I don't believe in magical powers; what else do they do?

Disembowel. Behead. Their teeth are so large and strong they can bite through a man's skull. Their claws are so sharp they can go through flesh and bone, alike.

Wendigos hibernate. The problem is, sometimes they prefer a house to a cave, which means someone has to give up their little cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, the Wendigo doesn't come with a pocket book, which means they must break into a cabin and take it by force, meaning some happy campers are going to be dinner.

Also, being smarter than the average squirrel (and then some), they know that people don't hike in the woods quite so much in the winter. Thus, sometimes they've got to sock away a little food. It's said that they keep pots of human body parts up in the trees for emergencies, but that takes away part of the fun when mealtime comes. This means they sometimes prefer to keep a warm body in their winter abode, so they can eat fresh while the person survives. Yum.

How do I kill one of these freaks?

In a word...silver. Right, not shocking, is it? Some day I'd love to research why so many different cultures thought silver was the go-to cure-all for killer critters.

It's not that easy, though. The slightest touch of silver doesn't kill the Wendigo. It's just further insurance that the thing may die. Like a vampire, you must go for the heart in order to shatter it. Did I mention its heart is made of ice? Once you have achieved the shattering of its heart of ice with something silver, you must then disassemble its body with an ax made of silver (the blade, not the handle), lock the shattered remains of its heart in a box that you bury, cover the rest of the remains in salt, burn them, then scatter the ashes to the four winds (north, east, south, west).

Now, a silver bullet or small silver blade may injure them long enough to get away, but they likely can't kill the Wendigo. The same can go for amulets and other protective items, which may hold it at bay. A fire will hold them off, as well, despite the fact that if they are burned they will quickly heal from it, just as they will from any other injury.

Where did these things come from?

It would seem there was originally an evil spirit with great powers. Beyond this guy, though, it is actually quite easy to become a Wendigo. (Don't try this at home).

The main way to become a Wendigo is to cannibalize. As the Wendigo is from cold areas, areas that can become isolated due to winter storms, this is quite common. Sometimes people become trapped and are forced to eat the weaker member in their group. When the spring thaw comes, there will only be monsters left behind, ready to rampage in the forests surrounding them. Once they cannibalized, evil spirits entered their bodies, forced their souls out and allowed the body to perish, thus allowing the Wendigo to rise from the dead. Woe to the person who finds this lost hunting party, for they are now a different sort of hunter, stronger, faster and exponentially more evil.

One may also become Wendigo by being bitten by one, much like the fabled werewolf. In addition, when a Wendigo has become old and weak, they can leap into another's body, possessing them. People can be turned by sorcery or by praying to the evil spirit for help.

Real life cases of the Wendigo:

Northern tribes used to have special shamans who were trained to track the Wendigo and kill any persons being converted to its evil form. Jack Fiddler, of the Cree tribe, worked with his brother and son as a Wendigo killer. He actually committed suicide in prison after being arrested for the killing of a woman he claimed was changing into Wendigo. White man's law felt he was just euthanizing a sick person, as they could not adequately care for and treat her. His Wendigo body count is said to be eighteen.

There is an actual diagnosis called Windigo Psychosis, in which a person believes they are turning into a Wendigo and become increasingly more aggressive and depressed over time. People have convinced others that they are changing and asked them to kill them. Marie Courtereille was one of those people. In 1887, with their community's blessing, her husband and son gave into her requests and killed her with a silver axe. There have been other documented murder cases thanks to this psychosis.

Or thanks to the Wendigo...

For further research:

Have you heard of the Wendigo before? Like to go camping?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 10/19/11 (& Award)

It's insect day on [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday!

This little guy sat still for me, which was shocking. You ever try to get a picture of a dragonfly? I tried late last month to get a photo of a blue dragonfly in the same place I'd gotten this one the year before (Rock Ledge Ranch), and no matter how patient and prepared I tried to be, I got a bunch of blurry photos of the little punk. This one, though, spread itself out on a rock to sun and I grabbed the pic. Yay!

Little factoid for you: though dragonflies have 6 legs, just like other insects, they can't walk well at all. They are some of the fastest insects in the world, though, in flight anyway.

This is going to be less wordless than usual, as I got an award from TF Walsh. I'd intended to post it with my Teaser Tuesday, but...well, scan back. I didn't do my usual Teaser Tuesday. Instead, I'll post the award here. With extra words.

Thank you, Tania!

In honor of Halloween, I'll continue what TF did and list 7 Halloween-type things about me. (Random ones, Andrew! Hahahahaha! Okay, just kidding.)

1. I spend the entire month of October devouring horror movies, books, shows, you name its to try and get a good scare.

2. I was quite pleased to freak out a friend since I usually fail to freak myself out. I passed "The Shining" on to her and she rather enjoyed it, but it scared her! ~Maniacal laughter~

3. For years, I've wanted to go on a haunted history-type tour, but have yet to do so. Cripple Creek does them. Some day, some day.

4. I love to watch shows about old haunted places, like southern plantations, but it's the stories about the people that draw me in.

5. I went trick or treating once in high school. Didn't go well, as most people told us we were too old to be trick or treating. I suppose I should have been committing property damage or other crimes instead?

6. I'm seriously considering hiding in my house instead of handing out candy this year, and fully taking advantage of the time alone while my hubby is out trick or treating with the kids. We get so many trick or treaters that I don't usually get any downtime between them. And the atmosphere of the night is just screaming for writing!

7. This horror buff has only seen two or three of the Nightmare on Elm Street films (four, if you count the new one). After decades of having night terrors and nightmares, there just seems to be very little entertainment in the franchise for me. And it actually freaks me out. There, I admitted it.

Considering this award says "I love blogging," please feel free to take this one for yourself and list 7 Halloween facts about yourself. Let me know if you do so I can check it out! Thanks again, TF, for thinking of me!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for my MonsterFest post on the Wendigo!

Any interesting Halloween facts about you? Is there a movie/franchise that freaks you out?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Field Trip: Taking Inspiration From Your Surroundings

Whether you're in a slump, stuck for ideas, lacking inspiration or just wanting a change, a great way to get yourself started is to go on a field trip. A field trip, you ask? Yes, a field trip! You're never too old for a field trip.

Yesterday, I packed the kids up and headed out to the old mining district, specifically Victor, Colorado.

There's a better chance you've heard of Victor's neighbor, Cripple Creek, but they both have old preserved mining equipment from the last big gold rush, as well as preserved buildings from the time. Walking through a town that still boasts the gorgeous brick visages of the late 1800's and early 1900's will get you in a creative mood if nothing else can. Since we went on a Sunday afternoon, it was a virtual ghost town, which meant I could envision the old days: miners grabbing the electric car out to the mines; rich men in suits and hats strolling with powdered, perfumed women in long dresses with frilly hats; the bawdy madams of the red light district calling out to the saloon goers; trains steaming their way into town. Into historical fiction, non-fiction, steampunk? This place had it all!

I had intended to hit Victor, Cripple Creek and Florissant (to view some fossils and fossilized redwoods), but the kids and I had so much fun hiking and exploring the old mines and homes that we never made it anywhere else. And, while I'd really gone out there intending to get some fall foliage shots with maybe a couple of homestead/aspen shots, most of my hundreds upon hundreds of photos from yesterday are of the great old buildings.

I highly recommend that any field trip you go on, you take a camera, pad and pencil. Jot down ideas and notes that come into your head. Take photos of those things that inspire you, as you will continue to be inspired each time you reference them, and it will help to keep those ideas fresh.

Not everyone has a mining town near them that they can just pick up and drive to in an hour, but anywhere that allows you to get lost in the feel of a different time or place, anywhere that allows you to be closer to nature or deep in a past time, is perfect. If you're busy and can't spend a day exploring a new place, take a half hour jaunt to the woods, the beach, the mountains, a historical site near you or even your downtown, which will often boast older buildings, especially deep in the heart of the city. Go somewhere that is bustling with people to watch them and take it all in. Listen in on snatches of conversation and fill in the blanks. Any of these things can get your mind working in a different way, and bring out the creative juices.

I thought I'd pass along a handful of photos from my day out yesterday to maybe give someone else a little inspiration. I hope you enjoy!

An old homestead along Highway 24

Victor, CO, downtown, as you come upon the city

Victor City Hall, built 1900

Street view in Victor

Old buildings in Victor, including Victor Record (newspaper)

Shot of inside of one of the old electric cars that took men up to the mines

Old home on mining site. That top window was creeeeeepeeeeeey.

Mining buildings down the slopes

Old mining machinery

Some sort of motorized mining cart

Mining cart

Ore processing house at mine

Theresa Mine

Theresa Mine gears

Small building by Theresa Mine; I've seen this referred to at the changing house, and it had a little bench inside.

Homestead above Theresa Mine

Note: Do not use these photos without my permission.

Have you gone on any field trips lately? Any you'd really like to go on?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Feature Friday Features: "New Never News" and "A Blog by Writer J.A. Kazimer"

Feature Friday is a meme hosted by The Warrior Muse that encourages you to feature a blog of your choice each Friday to introduce others to blogs you enjoy. Anyone can participate. You can choose these blogs however you like and spotlight them in any way you please. Be sure you include a link in your post to the blog you wish to feature, copy the button above, and enter your blog on the linky list at the end of this post. I hope to see some others joining in so I can discover new bloggers!

In honor of the New Never News returning from its summer hiatus, today's Feature Friday is featuring two blogs by author J.A. Kazimer:

First, A Blog by J.A. Kazimer. She is a published author with several books under her belt, plus a new book due to come out in March 2012. She's a conference pro when it comes to Colorado conferences, so check out her blog for upcoming author's events, as well as conference tips and discussions on the writing world, as it currently stands.

The second featured blog run by J.A. Kazimer is The New Never News, a quirky online periodical that features stories from a grown up fairy tale world. Here, you can read about the nefarious deeds of the dwarves, Little Red Riding Hood, Old Mother Hubbard, and more. As an added bonus, you can find stories from me on there, as well!

You can also check Julie out on her website,

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

MonsterFest: Skinwalkers

It's my day in the 2011 MonsterFest, hosted by Sommer Leigh (awesome name, wouldn't you agree?) of Tell Great Stories.


What are they?

We are going to focus on the Navajo version of the skinwalker: yee naaldlooshii (which translates to "with it, he goes on all fours.") A skinwalker is a witch who can shape shift, at least partially, by using an animal's pelt. They are best known in the form of the coyote, but can take any shape, so long as they possess that animal's pelt.

What's so scary about that?

Not only can they shape shift (some say not fully), but they also practice mind control and read minds. Skinwalkers are known to cast spells that can cause illness or death, cause car accidents, mimic voices or the cry of a baby to draw people out of their homes, and wreak havoc overall.

People report creatures whose eyes don't reflect their headlights, stalking them from the roadside. These creatures can keep pace with a car and, ultimately, force it off the road.

Others report something half human, half animal staring in their windows at night or climbing on the roof. They will try to break in, pounding on the doors and windows. They possess great speed, agility, strength and any other abilities they may glean from the animals whose pelts they wear. In owl or crow form, they can even fly.

Never meet a skinwalker's eyes, or they may take over your body. Some believe they can also use human skin to shape shift. If you're lucky, they will simply read your thoughts.

Skinwalkers sometimes use corpse powder, reported to be made of bone dust, to kill. They blow it in a person's face, which causes their tongue to turn black and their bodies to convulse. Eventually, they die.

How will I know one if I see it?

For one, there will be a naked man standing around with an animal pelt on his head. He will likely look pretty menacing. Sort of like he wants to kill you or step into your skin like a designer suit.

Aside from that, their eyes are said to glow yellow when they're in human form, yet not reflect light in animal form. Alternatively, they may have glowing red eyes. Also, they tend to look like a mutated form of the animal when shifted, rather than completely like that animal. If an animal is deformed, steer clear.

This sounds pretty groovy; how does one become a skinwalker?

How? By committing pure evil. Skinwalkers choose to be evil; they aren't born with a curse or bitten against their will. They learn some of the same things medicine men learn, making them educated and intimately knowledgeable with the workings of your mind and body. If they break cultural [moral] taboos, they gain their powers. One common way to become a skinwalker is to murder a family member, especially a sibling.

Holy evil skin-wearers, Batman! How can I fight them?

Due to the fact that skinwalkers often shift into predators, the Navajo have forbidden use of the skins of coyote, wolves, bears, owls, foxes, crows and cougars. Furthermore, Anasazi ruins are to be avoided, as it has long been thought that powerful magic could be created there.

Avoid talking about skinwalkers. Discussing them will bring their attention on you.

The only way you can harm a skinwalker is with a bullet coated in white ash. Beware, though, as you must take care not to be caught trying to kill a skinwalker; if they catch you, your gun will likely jam. Then you die.

Actually, there may be another way. If you discover who the skinwalker is, you can say their full name three times, which will cause them to perish. Good luck tracking them, though! If they know they've been recognized, they will become intent on killing you to keep their identity secret.

So where did they come from in the first place?

No one really agrees on this. Some think they started with other tribes (the Lakota, for one, or the Anasazi). Others feel they came to be after the forced marches by the whites. They developed the ability to shape shift in order to get away from the white soldiers and use the animal's strengths to keep them safe.

Another interesting origin story (from the Wikipedia entry on skinwalkers) involves the poor members of the tribe. They went door-to-door in ceremonial garb to collect food left out by those in each hogan. When people stopped leaving food out, the poor became angry and disillusioned, turning evil. Let this be a lesson to you, penny pinchers!

These are old stories, though, right? Just silly old tales.

Actually, the Navajo believe there are still skinwalkers. In fact, there has been a lawsuit in recent years, brought against an alleged witch/skinwalker by attorney Michael Stuhff during a custody battle. The child in question reported to his mother that his father had taken him to see a witch and a ceremony had been performed. During the ceremony, a dark doll and a pale doll were buried, indicating that the mother and lawyer (allegedly) would end up buried in that area. The judge, being a Navajo, recognized this particular ceremony and shot down the father's lawyer's argument that it was a Blessing Way, another ceremony he was quite familiar with. The verdict was upheld.

Reservation police have come forth with stories of animals pacing their vehicles at 60mph. Sometimes it is more man than animal.

You can still find people who will tell you of their encounters with skinwalkers. Whether it's the mother whose door was ripped open on an early morning paper route, or the man who watched a maddened creature crawl all over a neighbor's house, scratching at windows, pounding on doors. The skinwalker exists in the here and now, and no longer cares only to exact its vengeance on the Navajo people, but anyone who dares cross Navajo land. So lock your doors and windows tight, block the chimney, stay off Navajo land, and for heaven's sakes, if you hear a baby crying outside, don't go to investigate. It may be the last thing you do.

Hey, what's that pounding I hear on the roof?

Sources (and further reading):

Wikipedia article on skinwalkers

Rocky Mountain Legends

Skinwalkers - What Are They?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 10/12/11

For today's [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, I got to take a bit of a side trip on the way to get my daughter from school. This is one of the surest signs we get that fall has arrived:

That's snow on Pikes Peak! Of course, this isn't the first snow. I tried to get a good pic of that a few weeks ago and wasn't happy with the result. We've actually had snow down here on the ground, but it melted within a couple hours, so I look to Pikes Peak for reassurance on a day where we're supposed to hit 68 degrees. It's fall!

If you look closely, you can also see a dappling of yellow aspens on the green peak in front of the snow-covered Pikes Peak. I love the changing of leaves and can't wait until all that green around Garden of the Gods is full of blazing autumn shades.

This photo was taken at Garden of the Gods, one of my favorite places to go for some camera action. The red rock on the left is the eastern edge of the Kissing Camels formation.

Happy Fall!

Is there a landmark or event that truly, officially says "autumn is here" to you? How do you celebrate the start of fall?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday 10/11/11

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The following teaser is from Heather McCorkle's The Secret of Spruce Knoll. (Note: Heather is a fellow blogger. Check out her blog by clicking her name above.) From page 48:

"Maybe there was hope that she could remain normal a bit longer - or at least pretend that she was. She'd lost so much."

From the back:

"It's hard enough being a teenager under normal circumstances; imagine being orphaned, sent to live with an unfamiliar aunt - and learning that there really is magic in the world. Following the tragic death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with so-called 'channelers' - a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.

Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they - and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charming tricks show her being a channeler isn't all bad; in fact, it's kind of cool. But is it Aiden's abilities or Aiden's looks that Eren finds so fascinating?

As Eren and Aiden's relationship blooms, so too does a mystery in Spruce knoll. The town holds many secrets - and many enemies. It soon becomes apparent that the untimely death of Eren's parents was no accident and that her life might be in danger, too. Only time will tell if young, inexperienced Eren has the power to protect the people she has come to love."

What are you reading?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Details Matter: Do Your Research!

When I first became involved with the writing community, one thing I heard a couple times that stuck with me was that your details should be accurate when you're writing. Whether you're writing historical non-fiction or a fantasy novel set on a different planet, it is important that you get anything "real" correct, such as elements of the setting. People will notice if you get things wrong, no matter how minor you might think that specific thing.

For example, if you're writing a book set in Colorado Springs, you research wildlife before you mention seeing a grizzly bear in your book. We don't have grizzlies. We have other types of bears. People who live here will notice, as will others who have been here, or who study grizzlies, or who have any interest in wildlife in the west, so on and so forth. There will always be someone who notices.

People want to get lost in a book or movie, but when some minute detail catches their attention for being inaccurate, it can drag them out of it and ruin the experience. Even if the writing is phenomenal, something minor can rip a person right out of the story. Consider something like a cell phone being pulled out in a movie set in the 50's. That's an extreme sort of example, but would it catch your attention? Would it remove you from that suspension of disbelief that caused you to be absorbed in the story being told? Almost certainly! In fact, if you look at, many of the films have a section dedicated to goofs people noticed.

It doesn't take long to look up little things like native wildlife, local weather, state/city government, etc. Technology has even made it possible to see a street corner or storefront via satellite. You just have to go on the internet and you can see an entire neighborhood, zooming around to look at the houses, the lawns, the types of trees.

Historical novels are trickier, of course, but if you go into historical fiction or non-fiction, you likely go in fully prepared to do the research. One of the examples I first heard was from local author M.J. Brett, who taught before she became a writer. Her class was reading a novel that was set back during WWII, and a local area was detailed. This book had a couple driving through a part of town that would have been rubble on the day they went through it, thanks to bombing. These kids caught it and ridiculed the book; it ruined the entire story for them, made it so they couldn't take the rest of it seriously. Such a small detail, though probably not the easiest thing to find.

I'm not saying it's easy to do this research, but it is important. If you find yourself questioning something, it's best to look it up. Chances are, if it strikes you as wrong, someone else will respond in the same way.

By the way, I looked up London bombings in WWII to be sure I was talking about the right time frame (wouldn't THAT be embarrassing, considering the topic), and there are old newsreels of the bombings, which was interesting, so I thought I'd pass one along: NEWS REEL.

Is there a book or movie that has been ruined for you due to a botched detail?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Feature Friday Features: "LolliPop's Cottage"

It's been awhile since I did a Feature Friday, so here's a fun one for you! Today, the Warrior Muse is featuring LolliPop's Cottage. Maeve writes about writing, but also does book reviews accompanied by a yummy cookie recipe. That's right, for every book review she does, she posts a cookie recipe. Come on, who doesn't want hot fresh cookies while reading a good book!?

Make sure you read her bio for details on how she came up with the name of her blog; it's a cute story.

Question to all of you out there: Is this something others might enjoy doing as a meme? If so, I could put up a linky list from here on out. I'd love to discover other blogs, and a meme like this would be an easier way to do it than a giant blog hop (not that I'll stop participating in blog hops, but this seems a bit more laid back to me in the meantime). Anyone? If so, would you be interested in weekly or monthly?

I hope you enjoy a visit to LolliPop's Cottage!

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Author U BookCamp, Project 52 and Goal Setting

Today I'd like to quickly pass on some information on the Author U BookCamp. This is an online workshop intended to teach you how to launch your book online. It includes things like book blog tours, Kindle/nook links and customizing campaigns. Sounds like it could be quite valuable for someone about to launch their new book. I know that I was amazed by Beth Groundwater's book blog tour schedule, and that it made me wonder how one sets something like that up, to begin with. Here are the answers! There is a cost for this workshop, so check out the link HERE for more information.

While I'm here, I may as well update Project 52 and my progress.

Unfortunately, for soooo many reasons, I have not gotten much accomplished with editing and writing. I go to bed each night completely determined to wake up and get back to it, and it never ends up working out in the morning. Rawr. I did, however, get some more New Never News articles written up, so I am submitting those tonight. As such, I get to scratch out:

40. Write more New Never News articles

I didn't give myself a number I had to write, so this is good enough to mark something off. Anything scratched off is incentive to get more done. I don't know about you, but accomplishing anything from a list helps me to leap forward.

I'm tempted to write daily goals/to-do's on here just to get my butt moving. Instead, for now, I will make myself a major goal for November (since I have no intention of doing NaNoWriMo) and work toward that goal. It's time to get things done. Now to figure out what that goal will be.

Here's some miniature goal setting, in the meantime:

Today I will work in my office for an hour, minimum. What I'm working on is up in the air. Just getting my butt down there will be more than I've done in about two weeks.

This week, I will work on a short story. All the better if I finish the first draft.

This month, I will edit at least five chapters of Lonely Hollow: Synthesis.

How's that for a few mini goals to get myself back in the driver's seat?

How do you do goal setting? What's your goal for the day/week/month?

May you find your Muse. I hope it isn't hiding with mine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday 10/5/11

I previously posted a photo of Apache, a gorgeous timber wolf who made an appearance at the Annual Garden of the Gods Pow Wow. I got to visit him again this year (and am looking forward to an even better visit in November at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation), but there were also birds of prey to interact with. That's where I got a picture of this little fella':

They didn't give his name, but he was specifically bred for the program and is a mix between a peregrine falcon and a prairie falcon. He was very interested in what was going on around him and was hopping all over the place.

I was interested in why they would have cross-bred these two types of falcons and did some brief reading. It turns out when you cross-breed falcons like this, the resulting falcon gets the best traits of each type, something known as "hybrid vigour" or heterosis. The peregrine falcon brings speed and endurance to the pairing, while the prairie falcon appears to bring different hunting habits (such as catching prey in mid-air, rather than knocking it down, like the peregrine falcon does). I couldn't honestly find anything big the prairie falcon brought into it. Apparently, this is a pairing that occurs naturally in the wild at times.

A couple factoids:

*Baby falcons are called eyases. Raise your hand if you've ever heard that term before...anyone?

*Power plants have the best production rates for falcons. As in, a lot of babies are born in power plant stacks. It's like the falcon Caribbean. This is such a well known fact that power plants actually participate in restoring falcons to the wild.

*The females are bigger than the males. Female Power!

*During the Hundred Years' War, if you poached a falcon from the wild, your sentence was to have your eyes poked out. Yikes! Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to have them pecked out?

*Lastly, in medieval England, falcons were status symbols. The type of falcon you were allowed to own was a good indicator of your rank: Kings owned gyrfalcons (the largest type, and sort of the king of falcons), while servants could own kestrels (so I guess we can call them the poor man's falcon). Falcons were important to the clergy, as well, and they were allowed sparrowhawks, basically one step up from a kestrel.

So there's your lesson on falcons for the day! Didn't know this was a biology blog, did ya'?

Have you ever seen a falcon in the wild? Any fun factoids about them? What do you think of when you see a bird of prey?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Teaser Tuesday 10/4/11

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The following teaser is from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I've had the urge to reread this oldie, but goodie, for awhile now, so I finally pulled it out. Maybe it's because I've been loosely planning a trip back home to visit family in Oregon, where this was set. I have no idea, but I love the way he words things. From page 16:

"Nobody can tell exactly why he laughs; there's nothing funny going on. But it's not the way that Public Relation laughs, it's free and loud and it comes out of his wide grinning mouth and spreads in rings bigger and bigger until it's lapping against the walls all over the ward."

From the back:

In this classic novel of the 1960's, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Big Nurse. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Big Nurse, backed by the full power of authority...McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Big Nurse uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story's shocking climax.

If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend you do. Kesey's writing is phenomenal, and the story is powerful. Don't assume that if you've seen the movie you know all about it. His writing makes this an easy read, though the subject matter can make it a rough one.

However, for those of you who have seen the movie, I used to live in Salem, Oregon and pass that duck crossing sign on a regular basis. I fully intend to get a pic of it this time through, if I can make it out to Oregon for vacation next summer. Of course, when I lived there I was far too young to know the sign was famous. Thus, the lack of a photo up to this point.

Do you have a book or books that you return to again and again? What brings you back to it? Anyone read any of Kesey's other works? Would you recommend them?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 3, 2011

National Book Month

Did you know that October is National Book Month? What better time to fall into a book than the first full month of fall? Grab a light blanket (because let's face it, most of us aren't having truly cold temperatures yet), light a fire, make some tea and curl up with a great new book or an old favorite.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, though, right? For my part, I didn't actually have any idea it was National Book Month until I visited the Writer's Digest website and saw a story on there about it.

Speaking of books and October, there's another blog hop going for the month with a Halloween theme. This one appears to be for published horror writers, and is called the Coffin Hop Horror Web Tour. It will be taking place between October 24 and October 31, and will involve prizes. Sounds fun; check it out!

Did you know it was National Book Month? Know of any special ways to celebrate it?

May you find your Muse.