Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!


Today’s the day when all the spooky things we’ve ever feared get hauled out of closets and garages and put on display.
Bats.
Spider Webs.
Tombstones.
Grinning skulls (some pumpkin, some not).
Graves.
Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in European history.  It was originally celebrated as Samhain, a Celtic end-of-harvest time that also marked the beginning of winter.
The Celts believed at this time of year the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because Samhain was when the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld.
When Christianity grew throughout Europe, the new religion stamped out pagan beliefs the easiest way they knew—they co-opted the traditional days of celebration.  Christmas took the place of Saturnalia, the Roman mid-winter festival that marked the winter Solstice.  Easter was a spring festival celebrating the rebirth of the land.  And Samhain, once the most important Celtic holiday, became All Saint’s Day, November 1.
And in preparation for All Hallows (or Saint’s) Day, the evening leading up to it was the busiest time of the year for the spirits of those who’d died.  Treats were made, families feasted and remembered their dead.  Some of the Spanish cultures, including Mexico, still celebrate with Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
From a way to say good-bye to the dead, Halloween has morphed into an evening when we embrace our fears and try to outdo one another with macabre costumes, decorations and foods.
How many of you will be eating eyeballs or veins or bones or brains tonight? (And later, how many of you wil be ransacking you kid’s trick or treat bags for the best candy?)
Most of the scary symbols of Halloween come from our recognition and fear of death and these traveling spirits have become our witches, warlocks, vampires and zombies, all characters in our own psyches.
There is one symbol that most kids know however, who was real.  Not a goblin or a ghoul or a skeleton or a ghost. It’s the bogeyman.
The bogeyman is a faceless fear that has kept kids behaving for about two hundred years. Ever wonder why there’s no bogeyman costume?
It’s because the bogey man was Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor who almost invaded England.  When invasion was close before the Battle of Trafalgar, mothers on the south coast if England threatened their misbehaving children with “Bonaparte will get you if you don’t watch out.”
Today, though, not many kids would be frightened by someone dressed up as a French general!
Some things just aren’t what they used to be.

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian.  She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.
Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review and a Memorable Book for 2011 on DorothyL, is available in paperback at Amazon and B&N.
Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook format at Amazon.  The first book, SNAP: The World Unfolds, received a 4-star rating from the Paranormal Romance Guild.  The second book, SNAP: New Talent, also received 4 stars from PRG.  The third book of the Chronicles, Plague: A Love Story, was published in June 2012, the fourth, Danube: A Tale of Murder was published September 13, 2012 and the fifth,  SNAP: Love for Blood is scheduled to be released in December 2012.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Is It About Black Cats? 13 Superstitions & One Real Life Encounter

A kitten who could be adopted from the Wisconsin Humane Society.She looks like my first cat. 

            
            My first cat was black except for a tiny dab of white under her chin. She was petite, graceful and tolerant of me, a first-time pet owner, and my son, a toddler at the time. She taught me the ropes: what kind of food she liked, when her litter needed changing, the proper way to pet her when she wanted affection.
            But perhaps my cat loved the outside world and the hunt even more than me.  Or perhaps she considered my cat training complete because a little over a year after she and I had adopted one another, she left the house and never returned.
            Her hunting was something we could never agree about. I wanted her to adjust to living indoors. She refused to be penned inside and would lurk by the door, looking for the opportunity to escape. Abetted by my toddler, she regularly got out and, until her last expedition, she’d always come back.
            Off and on, we looked for her for months, leaving posters around the neighborhood and visiting cat shelters. Always we found ourselves describing her yellow eyes and ebony coat. People often would share their black cat experiences with us. Some said black cats were the best hunters. Others told us about their pets and still others, the more scholarly of our friends, gave us a mini history lesson, which went something like this:
            In the Middle Ages, black cats were rumored to be witches’ familiars or sometimes even evolving into the shape of the witch herself. Many people attributed a mystical and perhaps an evil nature to the felines. Even today, they’re sometimes associated with magic and eeriness. Around Halloween, black cats take their place center stage along with pumpkins, witches and other holiday decorations.
            We never found our missing cat. I like to believe she might have returned to the family that initially raised her.
            Since then, we’ve had a number of cats and all have lived out their lives with us. All have been indoor felines and no others have been black. Probably that's because we try to pick our cats by personality rather than color, but I don’t think there’s any other color in cats that inspires so many varied reactions.
            In memory of Mimi, my wandering first cat, here are 13 superstitions.


  1. In Italy, some people believe that if a black cat curls up on the bed of a sick person, that person will soon die.
  2. In other locales, people are warned not to chase a black cat from their house because doing so brings ruin on the home.
  3. Some Chinese say that black cats are harbingers of poverty and famine.
  4. There are lots of superstitions about a black cat walking. In some places, they believe that if a dark cat comes toward you, so will good fortune, but if it heads away from you, it will take your prosperity with it.
  5. It’s said, in the United States and Great Britain, that if a black cat crosses your path, you're destined to have bad luck.
  6. But black cats don’t always foretell trouble.  Some cultures believe that petting one of the ebony beauties leads to health and prosperity.
  7. In Germany, you have to pay attention to the direction in which the cat crosses your path. If it comes from the right, your luck will be BAD. But if it comes from the left, plan on GOOD FORTUNE.
  8. Rumor has it, if you’re in Latvia and you find black kittens in your silo, you can anticipate an abundant harvest.
  9. In Scottish lore, riches will come your way if a black cat sits on your porch.
  10. Some cultures believe that black cats can heal. One belief is that pressing a black cat’s tail to your eye cures conditions ranging from a simple sty to blindness.
  11. Another superstition is that if you can find and remove a white hair from an ebony cat without getting scratched, you’ll be blessed with a happy marriage.
  12. Many a fisherman’s wife kept a black cat because she believed it would ensure her husband returning safely from the sea.
  13. To be given a black cat is supposedly good luck.
            In my case, getting my first cat was good fortune indeed. She taught me how to live with a furry friend and how wonderful its pleasures and purrs could be.
            What do you think about black cats? Are they lucky for you? Or something you avoid? Please share.                                                

Sources


A Dictionary of Superstitions, Iona Archibald, Opie – Moira Tatem~Oxford University Press ~ 2005





Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shapeshifter Love Stories

By Eilis Flynn

As I put the finishing touches on my werewolves along the Silk Road workshop (coming up next week at savvyauthors.com! Spaces still available!), I figured I’d take this opportunity to tell you about a story about one particular kind of shapeshifter. I figured it was appropriate for at least part of the audience who would be checking in at the Otherworld Diner.

As I was doing my research for the workshop, of course I ran into lots of stories. One in particular interested me. First of all, let me explain the background. The workshop looks at different shapeshifter lore around the world, and while my copresenter Jacquie Rogers looks at Western lore, I look at the shifter lore in the East (actually, I look at myths starting with Africa and move east from there until I hit the Pacific Rim). Shapeshifter lore connected with foxes show up by the time we arrive in the easternmost part of the Asian continent.

In this story, a man searches far and wide for his ideal woman. One day, he finds her. What he doesn’t realize, of course, is that his ideal woman is a fox who has fallen in love with him as well. Nonetheless, they are very happy together, although mysteriously, the man’s faithful dog becomes hostile to the woman after she gives birth to a son. One day the dog attacks the woman, and the woman is so startled she turns back into her fox form and runs away. (Dogs have an instinct about disguised humans who are secretly foxes. Your dog doesn’t like someone? Maybe that person is a fox in disguise!)

The man realizes what his wife’s secret has been all along, and calls out after her, telling her that he loves her no matter what her true form is, and she can always come back. Comforted by the thought that her human husband loves her despite knowing her secret, the fox turns back into a woman every night to sleep with him and live happily ever after, bearing him many children. The children from such unions demonstrate special abilities such as magic, which they pass down to their descendants.

Now, mind you, these shapeshifter stories generally have unhappy endings, so this one, in which the husband loves his wife despite her true self, charmed me. Do you have a favorite shapeshifter story? Why do you like it?

Eilis Flynn copresents a series of workshops examining myths and legends around the world. She can be reached at eilisflynn.com or, you know, a lot of places.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Waiting…Thirteen Thoughts and an Update

Deana Barnhart



Last month I participated in Deana Barnhart’s Gearing Up to Get an Agent Event. I was lightning-strike, act-of-God lucky. The pitch for my novel Dark Bringer made it to the final Agent Pitch Contest and managed to snag some requests.

Now, I’m waiting and hoping and thinking—wow, this process is universal. We all are anticipating something: a birthday, a date, or a new beginning.

You and I have experienced this before period time and time again, so have most people. Well, what’s it like? What do the articulate, the smart or the wise think of waiting? Here are 13 different takes.

Header by Samulli



  1. “If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best way possible. If he has to make a choice, may he make it now. Then I will either wait for him or forget him.”
    Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
  2. “For a while" is a phrase whose length can't be measured. At least by the person who's waiting.”
    Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun
  3. “After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting.”
    Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
  4. “I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.”
    E.V. Lucas
  5. “...of all the hardships a person had to face none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.”
    Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns
  6. Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one's thoughts.”
    Elisabeth Elliot
  7. “I'm hungry for a juicy life. I lean out my window at night and I can taste it out there, just waiting for me.”
    Brigid Lowry, Guitar Highway Rose
  8. “Even a snail will eventually reach its destination.”
    Gail Tsukiyama, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  9. “Waiting turns men into bears in a barn, and women into cats in a sack.”
    Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
  10. “But, someone, please give me—who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew—give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?”
    Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
  11.  “In life one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day - or to celebrate each special day.”
    Rasheed Ogunlaru
  12. Patience is learned through waiting”
    E'yen A. Gardner
  13. “Everything comes to him who waits, except a loaned book.”
    Kin Hubbard
  14. And here’s a fourteenth, just because I like Ray Bradbury. J “He had felt that a moment before his making the turn, someone had been there. The air seemed charged with a special calm as if someone had waited there, quietly, and only a moment before he came, simply turned to a shadow and let him through. Perhaps his nose detected a faint perfume, perhaps the skin on the backs of his hands, on his face, felt the temperature rise at this one spot where a person's standing might raise the immediate atmosphere ten degrees for an instant. There was no understanding it. Each time he made the turn, he saw only the white, unused, buckling sidewalk, with perhaps, on one night, something vanishing swiftly across a lawn before he could focus his eyes or speak.
    But now, tonight, he slowed almost to a stop. His inner mind, reaching out to turn the corner for him, had heard the faintest whisper. Breathing? Or was the atmosphere compressed merely by someone standing very quietly there, waiting?
    He turned the corner.”
    Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Are you waiting for something? What? How do you feel? Please share.

Sources

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Werewolves Along the Silk Road, the Workshop

By Eilis Flynn

Somewhere along the way, back when I was young (and this would be long, long ago, when the dinosaurs…well, you know), I became an anthropology major. Mind you, I started off as a linguistics major, which made sense, since my family has long been one of language. But I ended up an anthropology major, because anthropology, I discovered, was a really cool way of learning about everything! Why is this relevant? Because I took folklore classes, and now, decades and decades after doing so, I’m finally getting to use ‘em! It’s for the Savvy Authors people (www.savvyauthors.com), who offer all sorts of workshops. My co-presenter Jacquie Rogers (www.jacquierogers.com) and I have done others for them, and doing the research for each has been a ball.

Anyway, about werewolves. You don’t find wolves all over the world, but you can certainly find stories no matter where you go. In one form or another, there are always stories about men and women who morph into the forms of wolves and other creatures. But it’s not one simple legend, so that you could take an Armenian werewolf story and drop it into China and have it make perfect sense there. No, there are all sorts of variations in the legend, making the change of a person into a mysterious beast of some kind.

The stories about humans changing into an animal of some sort is as old as any story in the library of man. Wolf shapeshifters are frequently found in the European tradition, but certainly not the only kind: there are dogs, cats, rats, and bats — and those are just the creatures that vampire legends usually claim for shifters. There are many, many more.

But that’s Europe, and as we start our journey along the Silk Road, we find different stories about shapeshifters. African folklore has many instances about shapeshifters, including bears and apes, with many strong similarities between the shifters here and those that can be found in Central and South America. Among the Zulu, owls, hyenas, and wildcats are often shifters in disguise, sometimes for good intent, sometimes for evil.

Once we find ourselves in Asia, those shapeshifter stories are markedly different. Because wolves are relatively uncommon in large portions of Asia, the animal tricksters are usually in the form of foxes and even tanuki, the raccoon dog (it’s a dog, but it looks like a raccoon—seriously!). One of the most haunting fairy tales from Japan involve the sad story of a vixen who falls in love with a human male, and decides to change into the shape of a woman, only to encounter trouble because she has chosen to do so. Not an unusual story, variations of which you can find elsewhere along the Silk Road and beyond — and if you consider the bare bones of that tale, remember the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid, who was a shapeshifter herself, after all, with a sad ending (at least in the original version; let us not speak of the Disney version).

And what about the story of the princess and the frog? Being cursed into a shapeshifted form is universal, too, with a modern twist on the story being found in the movie Shrek — but instead of the human being cursed, it is the ogre, doomed to be in the form of a woman.

Not to mention dragons. Dragon shapeshifters are common in folklore and literature; in Armenian lore (again), there’s a story about a serpent-like river monster — that description’s usually reserved for a dragon, you know — that shifts into the shape of a human woman or a seal. And the Hawaiians have a tragic tale of the son of the shark king being beaten to death, basically because he was different. The scariest of the Hawaiian shapeshifting legends? The story of the fire goddess Pele, who keeps a close eye on her home. Don’t think about taking a pebble from Hawaii home with you, because she will make sure you suffer the consequences! Sometimes seen as an elderly woman (a common disguise for her), encouraging the local culture to be nice to the little old ladies, because they could smite you just as easily reward you! Not an animal, but shapeshifter nonetheless.

Of course, we have to ask ourselves: Why do we have the shapeshifter legend at all? And why are they mostly predatory animals that the shifting is into? You never hear about a were-pig, after all. Think about that!

What all this comes down to: Anthropology rocks!

Eilis Flynn can be found at Facebook, Twitter, and even at www.eilisflynn.com. Or even presenting yet another workshop.

Monday, October 1, 2012

One foot in front of the other.

All of us at one time or another have thought of quitting - a job, a relationship, a race - or should I say, giving up?

When you're a writer there are so many pulls on your time and energy. Being an artistic endeavor, often people in your family or work sphere just don't get why you do it. Aaand life doesn't accommodate a writer's schedule. Oh, you've noticed.

When I look back and the last two years I can identify a couple major road blocks or turning points in the way I planned to handle my writing career. (Bear with me - there's a point to this.)

March 2011 I put off submitting my requested wip after a friend and multi published author offered to critique it first. I figured what's a month? So I shot it off to her and an opportunity buy a small business arose so I leapt on it.

April 2011 I still hadn't heard from the author, the new business was doing well but the river was rising. At the end of the month we decided to move our entire household and close one business and move it across the river, after which we lived like campers for three months. Needless to say, writing was far from my mind and time and space didn't help.

In July we moved back and at the end of my season, I decided since I hadn't heard from my friend the author and had lost the window of opportunity for submission, I would self publish. I had three months last winter '11 to get it polished, formatted and published on Amazon. This was not my first choice. But I would not change anything about the process. There were so many 'rites of passage' that I would not have traveled had I not gone this route.

But after January 2012 publication and a month of promo and preparation, it was time to open the business again. This time I had to give it my full attention, working seven days a week. It was four and a half months before I had a day off.

I had it all planned. I would do everything for the house in the morning, check email, pop on my business Facebook and announce specials for the day etc, then during the slow hours I would continue to move forward on Destined for the Storm which I planned to publish this fall. Ha! When you work in a 2 1/2 x 6 foot workspace with not desk you pretty much have to work in your lap. I found that no matter how slow it was, if I pulled my computer or notebook out to work, someone would drive up. Good for business, bad for the writing goals. I finally just got tired of fighting it. I couldn't keep my train of thought. So I took a break.

By the time September 15th came and the close of season, I was bushed and totally discouraged. Just like last summer after the Thank-God-it-didn't-flood Flood, I wondered if I would write again.

But I'm starting to feel the story pulling me back like a Star Trek tractor beam. The only thing is the enthusiasm is also accompanied by fear, doubt, and issues of a short time frame to meet my goal of December release with the need to take a couple trips and enjoy my life a bit over the winter months.

I keep remembering something I saw during the Olympics - a Tom Brokaw biographical segment on Churchill. Did you see it?

When Britain was the last country to stand against Hitler and her was threatening from every side from Russia to Africa to France, gradually encroaching on Britain's border and even the US was saying, "Aah, that's not our fight..." Churchill said this to the people of Britain.  

"We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

And the people responded. They did fight in the streets. They fought and fought and just kept holding on (for TWO YEARS) until help finally came. We cannot imagine. 

Whether it's people fighting for freedom or those we've seen recently who are joyfully overcoming physical or financial obstacles, it boils down to holding on and taking baby steps until you get back in the game. 

I may not make that goal I've set. I'll try. But if it takes longer to produce a better story and to enjoy life a little as well, then so be it. Because the story is in me, just like the music is in me. And if I don't write, and I don't sing, I'm not complete. 



Here's another quote. 
A writer writes. Period. No matter if someone is buying your work or not. 
Len Wein

That's kind of comforting don't you think? This week it's BICHOK for me, even if it starts small.

What kind of interruptions to your writing have you had to face and how did you overcome it?

For one commenter I'll give away a copy of a friend's book, Fire in my Blood, an erotic novella by Marcella Rose.
 
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