F is for Farasi Bahari – A to Z Challenge

farasi bahari image

Source: http://mythicsummer.blogspot.com/2012/01/farasi-bahari-and-haetae.html

This next tale I found deep in the Pacific hidden in a nook inhabited by an eel. The eel put up a bit of a fight, but I prevailed, and introduce you now to the farasi bahari.

Emerald green hides, and fins for mane and tail, the farasi bahari are magical horses that live deep in the Indian Ocean. They have no need for air, and thus have no lungs and are never short of breath. They flee at the the faintest scent of human and are impossible to capture, but any offspring beget on normal mares inherent their speed and endurance.

Horses are to many sub genre’s of fantasy what air is to all of us, but most often the usual run-of-the-mill types are used. Occasionally one finds a unicorn or pegasus, or the somewhat specially endowed (such as Shadowfax in the Lord of the Rings books). But magical hybrids with fins instead of fur and without the need for air? Now we’re talkin’!

k.

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E is for Eikthyrnir, The Giver of Water – A to Z Challenge

An image if Eikthyrnir

Found on vallume.deviantart.com

This next A to Z Challenge tale I found on page 321 of a stained tome called The Dictionary of Mythology. The story of Eikthyrnir is likely familiar to some of you, anyone with a fascination in Nordic Mythology will likely have encountered it. It might not be quite as uncommon as the others I’m presenting here in this series, but its imagery is so compelling I had to share it here.

Eikthyrnir is a mighty stag that stood on the roof of Valhalla and, craning it’s neck, ate from the great Oak tree Laerad. Fluid dropped from Eikthyrnir’s antlers, and from this were birthed all the great rivers of the world.

Eikþyrnir heitir hiörtr,er stendr á höllo Heriaföðrsok bítr af Læraðs limom;en af hans hornomdrýpr i Hvergelmi,þaðan eigo vötn öll vega:

Eikthyrnir the hart is called,that stands o’er Odin’s hall,and bits from Lærad’s branches;from his horns fall drops into Hvergelmir,whence all waters rise:

When I read this I think about the Nightwalker from Princess Mononoke, a creature as large as the sky, nibbling on a mighty oak, leaking all the water of the world from its vast reach of antler. It’s beautiful imagery, a beauty rarely seen outside of Miyazaki films, but that would fit wonderfully within the pages of a fantasy novel.

k.

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D is for Dinnshenchas – A to Z Challenge

Image Courtesy of: http://bit.ly/1yBtfbD

Image Courtesy of: http://bit.ly/1yBtfbD

The fourth story in my April A to Z Blog challenge I found riding about on the back of an enormous bull grazing in a field in western Colorado. Which is odd, considering it originates in Ireland. Then again, Aine is Goddess of cattle and protector of women, and would thusly be anywhere they are.

The myths tell a tale of violence and rape, and out of Aine’s grief and anger, the Dinnshenchas were born, dwarf fairies able to take any shape to guard cattle and to help avenge women harmed by men.

There are plenty of stories of shape shifters within the fantasy genre. And plenty of rape as well, depending on the sub-genre. But here we have something of a different story altogether. A race of paranormal beings hell bent on handing out justice. Shape shifters with a unique purpose. A motivation beyond survival. Something not so commonly seen within the fantasy genre. Plot nugget.

k.

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C is for Camazotz, the Destroyer of Life: A to Z Challenge

Camazotz Statue MayanAt the bottom of the Amazon, deep in the belly of an Arapaima, I found this Central American story of the second people, and of the giant bird Camazotz who has a bottomless appetite for the heads of people.

The Mayan gods Tepeu and Gucamatz sought out the help of magic adepts, and through incantation found that man should be made of wood, and woman of the pith of bulrush. They set to work and soon found success, and while able to speak and beget children these wooden people had neither fat nor blood nor intelligence. The gods sent four huge birds to destroy their creation. Xecotcovuch tore out their eyes, Camulotz cut off their heads, Cotzbalam ate their flesh, and Tecumbalam crushed their bones.

These second people tried to flee. They climbed to the roofs of their homes to escape the flood but the walls crumbed. They ran to the trees, seeking safety in the high branches, but the trees fled. They sought to hide in the caves of the mountains but found heavy stone doors closed tightly against them.

Vengeful gods are well known in the collective pages of Fantasy, but birds are most often portrayed as helpers (when portrayed at all). In this tale we have four enormous birds with a particular taste for human flesh and annihilation.

k.

Want to see the other beasties from the April A to Z challenge?
Abiku
Baku

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B is for The Eater of Dreams; the baku – A to Z Challenge

Baku, creatures of MythThe second entry in my April A to Z Challenge I found while wandering the dreams of children scattered across China and Japan. They cried out in the night. Tossed violently in their beds. Caught in the talons of the monstrous beasts that tread the pale blue threads attaching their souls to their dreaming mortal forms below. When these children awoke, sweat soaked and shaking, they chanted under their breaths: Baku-san, come eat my dream. Baku-san, come eat my dream. Baku-san, come eat my dream.

The baku is a supernatural being with the body of a horse, the face of a lion, the trunk of an elephant, and the feet of a tiger. A terrifying chimeric visage, a construction that could only itself be made in nightmare. But the baku hungers only for dreams. Particularly those tinged with the luscious taste of fear. Beware invoking it for this purpose though. If the nightmare is not enough to satiate its hunger it will go after all your hopes and dreams as well, leaving you a listless shell of a person with nothing to live for.

While dreams often make an appearance in fantasy, they are rarely the star of the show. N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood books are the only ones that come to mind. But the vision of enormous horse/lion chimeras treading the night skies, syphoning off first our fears then finally our most precious dreams, is a story waiting to be told. For what are we, without our hopes and our fears?

k.

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A is for Abiku – A to Z Challenge

Flowers & Trees

Greetings fellow A to Z bloggers! A warm welcome to you and to everyone else stopping by.  I wish I could say I was writing this from the warm tropical beaches of Mexico, but alas, I’m whiling the hours away on a plane headed back home instead. My only consolation is the fun month of blogging I have ahead of me and all the wonderful folks I’ll be meeting along the way!

I’ve been poking around in the gloomy places of the world seeking stories of monsters, beasts, and mythical creatures. Bookshelves, heavily guarded with bastions of eight-leggeds, weighted with books that’ve not felt the touch of human hands for decades. Perhaps millennia. Strange transitory zones between sea and land with creatures both webbed and legged. In places with darkness so absolute I began to wonder if the sun had yet been birthed or if it were only some strange dream I’d had. And I’ve found things.

Today’s entry I found deep within the bole if a giant baobab tree.

In some areas of Africa the spirits of wood and tree and forest are said enter the womb of a woman, to be born attached to her child and to dwell on earth, die, and be reborn into the same family. It ‘brings the child to it’s forest home’ before the child reaches puberty, a euphemism for causing the child’s death before the age of eleven.

In some areas of Africa the term abiku is used to describe the spirits of those children who have died young, spirits that linger with the family they were born too, befriend any new children, and lure them, too, to their early deaths.

Within folklore it is rare for a child to survive possession by abiku. Desperate parents and village medicine men would ring bells around the child, a sound said to drive off the abiku. Parents would tie heavy iron weights to their children’s feet in an effort to keep them in this world. Those most desperate would maim, disfigure, or torture their children in the belief that such pain would drive the abiku away.

In the fantasy genre tree and forest spirits are often depicted as beneficent and wise. I find the story of the abiku a fascinating counterpoint to this trope. The abiku myth was likely born out of the desperate grief felt by those who lose their children before birth or while very young. In today’s world, though, humanity’s relationship with trees and the forest is one of violent antagonism, making the story of the abiku an interesting plot nugget to explore.

k.

p.s.
A short story called Abiku.

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April Blogging from A – Z Challenge!

If you don’t know, April is the month that bloggers from all over the blogosphere and from every possible genre or topic of blog, come together for a massive blogging extravaganza. I don’t know where the time went, or how it got here so quickly, but it starts in nine days y’all and I can’t wait!

Every day for the month of April another strange and unusual monster, myth or beast will make it’s appearance on these pages. I’m not talking about the typical vampires and werewolves, oh no! I’ll be pulling some of the strangest creatures around straight from the dusty, crumbling, rarely-read tomes of folklore from around the world.

I use bits and bites from folklore extensively in my own writing. My YA epic fantasy novel Magicless features headless cannibals with mouths in the centers of their chests called Anthropophagi, mysterious creatures of the water called Ashrays, and a bulbous spindly armed creature called a Boggle or Ballybog. My dark urban fantasy novella Desiderium (book one in my Monsters series) features a succubus and dark magic. And my up and coming novel ‘Ling features a Changeling, and Golum-like creature of earth and magic. All actual creatures from the shadowlands of myth and the magic of folklore.

So come along! Let’s check out some of the seriously odd creatures spawned from the dark ages of human history, from the fear of the dark and the unknown.

k.

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January 2015 Calendar Challenge

Nature & Scenery

Us writers are always looking for ways to hone our craft and develop our skill, so I thought I’d share a silly one for those logophiles among us!

For xmas this year my sister bought my mom one of those desk calendars that introduces a new word every day. It is really a great calendar with some real heavy weight words in it. She decided to try to write a bit of a story utilizing the words from January – and I had to share it! She crammed a whole lotta words in an awfully small space!

I’ve linked the dictionary words to their definition at dictionary.com.

And here we go…

(Address Here), my El Dorado on this Sunday morning. At 10 am the sounding of the warison is not necessary. As comptroller and boniface of this address I feel drawn to create a feuilleton using my lares and penates, in this instance, pen and paper. Being totally agog, I will suffuse my words through this prosaic, addlepated piece to adduce what thirty-one days of vocabulary building can create.

With my fervid, bird-dog drive I will wend through this nodus composition. As a bluestocking babe of the seventies, I will stravage to the bottom of this page, not to stultify or inveigh, but to prove that I can do this.

One doesn’t have to transpontine ones self or create sesquipedalian verse to be understood. A mordacious style, or dolorous morning mood need not be in my way. This attempt may not be strong, but it’s not slimsy either.

Please take a moment and engage me, honor me with a marquette, with a lunette, at it’s peak-a sliver of possibilities all shiny on top. Take a moment, sit back and enjoy a zwieback, or a delicious pomaceous apple. I did it, a noachian masterpiece thirty-one days in the making.

Feeling brave? Take a nuncapative challenge – I dare you!

Up for a Monday Flash Fiction Challenge? Write me a fantasy story using all linked words above. The winner (meaning the one the community likes the best!) takes home a $10 Amazon gift card! 500 words or less, add to the comments or link to your blog post! Please vote by ‘liking’ the comment of your favorite story (only one vote please!) Contest ends 3/25/15 at 4:00pm mountain time.

Happy Writing,

K.

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Blogging Tips & Tricks

Much has been written on the Internet about how to effectively build your platform and your blog. In this section, we cover a few tips and tricks to help you get started on your journey. This is not intended to be a thorough exploration of the topic, but rather a gentle push toward the deep end of platform building, where you can start swimming on your own.

Point #1: platform building is about creating original content that entertains and/or informs. This will vary quite a bit from person to person depending on what it is you are trying to accomplish with your blog. Patrick Rothfuss, a fantasy author, blogs often about his not-for-profit organization WorldBuilders, his event schedule, and about his family. Chuck Wendig, another sci-fi/fantasy author, blogs frequently about the tricks of the writing trade. They are both building and maintaining platforms and both interacting with their readers and prospective readers, but they do it in very unique ways. What they have in common is they both create original (meaning straight from their own brains) content that entertains and/or informs their readers. This is what keeps readers coming back again and again, not just sales pitch after sales pitch about new book.

That brings me to point #2: remember this is about building relationships. Relationships are two-way roads—don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just vomit out ads and promotional posts for your books all day and still get followers. This will annoy and chase off your current readers and any possible future readers. Your platform is not a marketing tool designed to act like a commercial. It is for connection.

Last but certainly not least, point #3: just get out there and do it. A lot of authors wait to begin their platform-building efforts until they have a book. That is about a year too late. Sure, it can feel awkward in the beginning—you don’t have a name/brand, you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a product, and you don’t know what to say. All of this is normal, and we all experience it. But just like writing, you learn by doing. Waiting for the “perfect” time won’t get you anything but more waiting. You’ll course-correct often. You may wipe the slate clean a couple of times and start over. That’s perfectly ok…just start!

If you are interested in learning more about blogging, there are several websites out there with loads of amazing information on blogging and building your platform. ProBlogger is a great resource for information relating to blogging. Jane Friedman also has a great blog filled with information on marketing, building your platform, and blogging.

There are also some great books on the topic. The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano is a great resource for help on figuring out your voice and what types of “stuff” you want to talk about on your blog. Platform: Get Noticed In A Busy World by Michael Hyatt is another great book on building up an effective platform. There are many more, but I found these two quite helpful in my own efforts.

Our journey here is finished. You have designed your first website and have taken some significant steps along the path to your goal. Let me know what you thought of this book and if it helped you out, if there are things you’d like to see included in a future edition, or just stop by and tell me about your journey.

Thanks for spending some time with me, and best of luck! For previous articles in this series please see the articles below.

The Importance of a Website to Your Author Platform
Why You Need a Self-Hosted Website
Naming Your Website
Selecting a Registrar and Web Hosting Company
Installing WordPress
Picking and Installing a WordPress Theme
Creating and Modifying WordPress Pages
Creating and Editing WordPress Blog Posts
Using Categories and Tags
Finding and Installing Plugins

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Finding and Installing WordPress Plugins

silly smiley face

Plugins are, quite possibly, the absolute best thing about WordPress. They allow you to bring sophisticated functionality to your website without having to know a stitch of coding. WordPress (and the developer of the plugin) does all the heavy lifting for you.

Think of a plugin as little bundle of software designed to perform a function. It is designed in such a way that it can be “plugged in” to your WordPress site and work with very little tinkering on your part. It’s like a light bulb—you have to get the right size, but from there you plug it in and it works.

Plugins are designed for all sorts of stuff, from silly (adding a new Hello Dolly quote to your site each time someone pulls it up) to complex (adding a captcha to your comments to reduce spam comments—one of those things that makes you type in displayed text before you can post). They might be visible on your site or they may work in the background where a site visitor never sees them. Regardless, they’ll make your website much easier to manage, and they make it really shine with visitors.

I have a plugin that allows me to find free stock photography and graphics that I can use in my blog posts. I have a plugin that allows me to add social media sharing buttons to my posts so my visitors can easily share my content on Twitter or Facebook or whatever other platform they use. I use a number of these applications to help improve my site.

Finding and installing plugins is easy. Log in to your admin panel and find the Plugins option in the menu along the left side of the admin panel. Hovering over the option allows you to see all currently installed plugins, add a new one, or utilize an editor. Select the Add New option.

img of installing plugins

The Add Plugins page is very similar to the page we explored when we were looking for a theme for your site. It has similar search functions, allowing you to see Featured Plugins, Popular Plugins, or your list of favorites. It also allows you to do a search. Say you want a plugin that would allow you to display a new quote every time someone visited your site. You don’t need to know the name of a plugin, simply type, “quote of the day” into the search bar and see what options you get.

When you find one you’d like to use, click the Install Now button. It will install the application and direct you to an install page. Just like with your theme, you will need to activate this plugin before it will work on the site.

image of installing a plugin

Also much like with your theme, there may be some options allowing you to customize or modify the plugin. This will vary by plugin. If there are settings available, you will see a Settings option in the menu item beneath the widget. Here as example, a Plugin called Akismet, which is used to prevent comment spam. You can see there is a Settings option below the plugin. If there is no Settings option, there are no custom options for you to worry about.

Image of how to access plugin options

If the plugin you installed is something that must be visible on the site, like the Quote of the Day plugin installed for this example, the final step in this process is to tell WordPress where you want the plugin to be visible on your site. This is done through Widgets.

From the Dashboard of your admin page, look for the Appearance option on the far left menu. If you hover over it you get several options, one of which is Widgets. Clicking the Widgets option will pull up a page that will look very similar to the image below.

This page allows you to determine what you display on your website in the sidebars or in the footer. On the left is a list of all the available widgets (this will auto update with any new plugins you install that are displayable on the site). You can see in the example below that the plugin I installed, BrainyQuote Widget, is listed as an available widget.

image on managing widgets

To make it visible on your page, you simply click it and drag it to where you want it. To remove something from the sidebar or footer area, simply click and drag it over to the left side or the Available Widgets side.

Another image on managing widgets

I felt the default sidebar for this site was a bit busy. You can see in the above image that I pulled several items out of the sidebar, and I put the BrainyQuote Widget in there. Once you are done with your modifications, hit Save. Now, pull up the front end of your blog. You can see you now have a new sidebar with the Quote of the Day showing.

image of page with newly installed plugin

Hopefully you can see from this example how easy it is to add cool effects and functionality to your site using plugins. Now go have some fun!

Next week we will talk about some basic blogging tips and tricks you might find useful. For previous articles in this series please see the articles below.

The Importance of a Website to Your Author Platform
Why You Need a Self-Hosted Website
Naming Your Website
Selecting a Registrar and Web Hosting Company
Installing WordPress
Picking and Installing a WordPress Theme
Creating and Modifying WordPress Pages
Creating and Editing WordPress Blog Posts
Using Categories and Tags

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