Saturday, April 29, 2017

Monsters In Your Head

Black Magic ventures into a shapeshifter's world

The Famous Big Foot Pic

Everybody’s had a monster. In childhood, it might hide under the bed, or out in the woods behind the house, or lurk beneath the surface of an otherwise calm and placid lake. When I first started looking into some of the Canadian roster of scary creatures, I saw some that already were familiar.   

The first and most famous is Big Foot or Sasquatch (or, variously, the Floridian Skunk Ape or the Jersey Devil, etc.), who legendarily has quite a large territory here in the Americas.  A similar creature is also is said to exist in Asia, as the Nepalese Yeti or Abominable Snowman. Farther west, there are the Mongolian Almas. In all iterations, however, these guys are tall, hairy, large – and by many accounts smelly.  

This is explained as a surviving close cousin, a beast still living, now hiding in forests and on mountain tops.  Sometimes its identified as surviving Gigantopithecus or the later Neanderthal. These mysterious creatures are said to have a world-wide – but extremely thin -- distribution.  As genetically isolated and small as these populations would have to be, and beset as they must be on every side by us--the most lethal predator this planet has ever produced--I think we human-beans are imagining things. We are--however powerfully--simply retelling ourselves some very old, very scary stories.

Disney Company's Jungle Book

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as much of a creature fancier as anyone. I was pleased to learn that there are plenty of monsters in Canada, aided by the indisputable fact that there still are huge wide open spaces without a lot of us. I recently learned that the Dene and Tlicho tribes of Great Slave Lake both have a legendary man-animal called "Nakan." This creature is closer to man in appearance than ape, at least on my amateur's scale.

I've just learned about another Nahnni Valley cryptid, the Dene's Nuk-luk, who sounds like the same sort of ape-man. He shares with the Tlicho's Nakan bad, skunk-like smells and, he sometimes wears raggedy clothes. On the person-hood upside, he has a house which he’s dug underground. In fact, that’s the way you find where Nakan hides in winter. Like hibernating bears, on cold days –and there are plenty of those in NWT -- you can see their breath rising from ground level breathing. You may be hungry enough to assault with intent to kill some sleepy bear, but a Nakan—well, it’s best to leave these awful beings alone. 

They are tremendously strong, have beards and lots of hair, and want to bring you into their sex life--no matter which sex you are! They most often steal women, but sometimes children too, “because they have none of their own.” I’m not sure why Nakan—or Big Foot for that matter--never seem to have any females. It’s not very mammalian for an animal to reproduce by budding or cell division.

My personal explanation for these man-amals is that they are black bears, standing up on their back legs in order to get a better look-see. Frankly, bears would be sufficiently terrifying for someone like me, who, at 6, suffered from screaming nightmares which involved bears searching for me--snuffle, snuffle, snuffle--while I shuddered under my bed.

Canadian monster lore is a well-stocked larder, thanks to so many 1st Nation traditional stories. Some characters, however, like the familiar werewolf, or his more versatile shape-shifter cousin, Loupe Garou, are European imports.

Wendigo or Wittigo is a nasty character from Ojibway, Cree, and Assiniboine legends. Universally, among 1st People, the three worst sins are greed, gluttony and selfishness. If you behaved like that, not sharing food with your kin, you might turn into a Wendigo. The Wendigo are very tall, with yellowish rotting skin—and a taste for dining upon the flesh of their best old ex-friends.

Of course, starvation, not unheard of in Hunter-Gatherer societies, could lead to episodes of cannibalism. Making that choice, however expedient, would nevertheless cause a person to transform into the loathsome, man-eating Wendigo, worst of all terrors.

Opopogo—a famous water creatures--lives in Lake Okanagon in BC. He’s Canada’s Loch Ness/Lake Champlain type snaky monster,  reputed to be 40-50 feet long. Some witnesses say this guy has horns, too. Some say he's a member of the plesiosauria family, now surviving in remote fresh water lakes. 

Now, the 1st Nation’s people had a legendary hostile spirit who was said to live in this lake, one who did not enjoy having them disturb his peace while they paddled across. It was traditional 1st Nation practice, if they had to cross the lake, to sacrifice something as they set out, a chicken or another small animal, in order to appease this angry power. Today's informants, however, say that this "monster" was a spirit, not a creature from the “primitive survivor” category of the cryptozoologist's version of the animal family.

This guy's got attitude

Whether Opopogo exists or not – the jury is still out – images of him, horns and all, may be seen on hockey jerseys for the team out of nearby Kelowna. 

Opopogo Opopogo Opopogo Opopogo Opopogo… ! How it trips off the tongue! Any monster with such a phonetically enchanting name deserves to be better known, don’t you think?

Last and not least is Waheela, a gigantic wolf with a huge head, sharp teeth, a wide splayed foot, and a reputed height at the shoulder of four feet.  Covered in long white hair, Waheela enjoys ripping the heads off people who trespass in his territory--the Nahanni River basin in the Mackenzie Mountains National Region--which is aptly named "The Valley of Headless Men." This dire-wolf like beast seems to be a relative of the Inuit's Amarok, who is gray and hunts at night. Amarok catches and eats foolish or desperate hunters who might still be outside their villages. 

Perhaps these are all simply cases of the monster hiding inside our own heads, what psychiatrists describe as "projection."  That’s probably what, the X-Files, Scully would say to Mulder, although he probably wouldn’t be listening. Imagine the way he’d just go on muttering aloud about historic sightings! His iteration would certainly go on for a long time, because any catalog of monsters just has to begin 'way far back in our collective history.  And, really, folks, we're the scariest animal that ever walked onto this planet?  Like Pogo said a very long time ago "We have met the enemy, and he is us."


~~Juliet Waldron

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Writing Emotion into Your Novels by Connie Vines

Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?

For romance novelist the emotional involvement is the 💖 of the story.  Whereas fear would be the emotional of a horror story, etc.

So, like so many other romance novelists of my era, I have one key movie and one key television series which spelled out emotion in capital letters.

The opening of the movie Romancing the Stone, where author Joan Wilder (played by Kathleen Turner) is bawling because she has finished her book with a very emotional scene in her book.

The television series,  Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Pearlman (as Vincent, the beast).  The opening music was enough to make my throat thick and my eyes teary.

"Beauty and the Beast" with Vincent (Ron Perlman) and Catherine (Linda Hamilton) 1987-1990:

 I've read meany books that brought me to tears (Jane Eyre, to name my favorite), and I must admit, I still cry when I re-read scenes in my own novels, too.  Talk that dark moment in Lynx, Rodeo Romance, Book 1, when Rachel turns down Lynx's proposal.  Or in Brede, Rodeo Romance, Book 2 when my heroine is willing to sacrifice her life to save Brede and his daughter.  Well, you get the picture , ,

I plot my novels and short stories, however, I emotionally live my scenes.  Since my settings are places I have lived or visited, I have memories and sensory reactions. In real life, since  I can feel other people's emotions, which is difficult at times, and it helps for me to write it out through my characters.

Emotional draining? Yes.
Rewarding?  Always.

Happy Reading!

Connie                                   KOBO                               Barnes and Noble Bookseller

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Be fearless, like my heroines - by Vijaya Schartz

see more of Vijaya's books HERE
At one time in my writing career, I looked at the covers of my books and realized on each of them was a young woman with a gun. So I decided I was writing girls with guns, then girls with swords and blasters. Now, as I write in different genres, including medieval fantasy, it's Romance with a Kick.

When we say fearless, we are not talking about the absence of fear. Everyone has fears, it's ingrained in our DNA. Fear protects us from doing dangerous things. Those who have no fear at all die young. When fear threatens to overcome you, the trick consists in finding peace and clarity of mind, despite overwhelming or dangerous circumstances, and overcome fear in order to do what needs to be done.

I remember being about twelve, doing handstands in our small apartment, late at night. On the way down, my bare foot hit a heavy ceramic bowl, which broke, and a large shard gouged a hole in the top of my foot. Blood everywhere... for the first time in my life I saw my mother paralyzed by fear, babbling, unable to function. She could hardly breathe, she was so upset she couldn't think clearly. We had no phone, there was no 911 then. We had no car, it was a small town in France.

So, I remembered my martial arts teacher saying "Stay calm. Think. What needs to be done? Do it." So I did. I told my mother to get out of the room. I took a few deep breaths, then calmly asked my sister to get the first aid kit. I cleansed the wound with alcohol and bandaged the foot tightly to stop the flow of blood. Then I cleaned the blood in the living room. The next morning, I walked to the doctor's office and the doctor stitched me up. I carried a big scar on my foot for decades.

Of course, some of us are thrill seekers. Conquering fear has become a hobby of mine: jumping free fall out of perfectly good planes, braving the river wild, fighting opponents three times my size just to see if I can do it. I have to mention I stand barely 5 feet and a hundred and five pounds (on a good day) and was always picked by my various martial arts teachers for the time honored David and Goliath demonstration.

Skill, speed, balance, training, coordination, foreknowledge of the enemy, endurance, will power, clarity of mind, these are the elements of victory over fear. These are what drives a champion to the Olympic gold, what makes a fictional character worthy, what makes a soldier lethal. Although, in a soldier's case, there is something to be said for a good exoskeleton... especially on alien planets where gravity can play tricks on your balance.


1 - Take a few slow breaths, calm your mind, slow your heart, stop and focus
2 - What needs to be done?
3 - What's the most effective way to do it?
4 - Got it? Now, Just do it.

You may be tempted to think of the worst that can happen. Forget the consequences. Get over it. Do what needs to be done. Whether or not you become a hero, you'll have the satisfaction of having done the right thing. True heroes are ordinary people who, in extraordinary circumstances find the courage to do what needs to be done.

It's that simple. I said simple, I never said it would be easy. Good luck.

  Vijaya Schartz
  Romance with a Kick
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How I wish I’d become a scientist—Tricia McGill.

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Back in the days when I was ready to leave primary school in London and move on to high school we had to sit for what was called the 11 plus. My primary school still exists I am pleased to say as I loved that little school. We called it Conewood Street, but it is known as St John’s Highbury Vale CE Primary School. I look at it on the internet and am transported back there where I can still smell the chalk as the teacher wrote on the black board. I sometimes can’t remember what I did last Saturday but can still vividly recall my first day at that school as if it took place a mere few years ago.

 I have no idea what the entrance exam is called these days as the school system is much more complicated. I guess I must have done well in the 11 plus exam as my mother was given a choice of the high schools I was eligible to apply for. (My father had passed away earlier that year so this is why the decision was left to her) Her first choice was Lady Owen’s, so off we went for the initial interview with the headmistress. It’s worth taking a look here:

There is quite a history attached to that school I was blissfully unaware of back then. I guess my senses were alert to the knowledge that this school was not right for me, as the curriculum concentrated more on Science, Physics and Maths, all subjects I detested. Needless to say I flunked the interview so was not accepted. I often ponder how different my life would have been if I went through my secondary education there instead of the second choice which was Barnsbury Secondary Modern all-girls school in Islington (Which doesn’t exist anymore) I’ve searched the internet so if anyone out there knows how, or if, this school was disbanded I would love to hear from you.

I was happy in my choice as there I excelled at my two favorite subjects, which were art and English. My art teacher seemed to take a liking to me and my budding skills so therefore I loved her. I was never too fond of the rules of grammar or Shakespeare (who was idolised by our English teacher) in those days, but absolutely revelled in writing the essays and what we called compositions back than, which were simply short, short stories about life in general. My sisters and brothers would tell me how clever I was and how interesting my stories were. Sadly they never went as far as preserving any of them so my early efforts at penmanship have been lost in the sands of time.

Now, you are asking, what has all this to do with science and the fact that in the last part of my life I am regretting not opting for the sciences? Don’t get me wrong, I have few regrets about my life choices. But you can blame all this sudden interest in science and physics on Professor Brian Cox OBE who is currently on our TV explaining all about the universe, its beginning and expected end, in a fascinating programme called Stargazing Live:

If you haven’t heard of him, and I doubt that, as Prof. Cox is a British particle physicist at the University of Manchester and Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science. He is best known to the public as the presenter of a number of science programs for the BBC, boosting the popularity of astronomy, physics and exploration. He is one of the world’s foremost communicators of all things scientific, possessing an incredible ability to make highly complex matters entertaining and easy to understand, even by ignoramuses like me. Apart from all that he is a very likeable man and very approachable. He has brought about this sudden resurgence in me to regret losing interest in science all those years ago. He just makes it all so plausible and easily understood. All things die eventually of course and it is inevitable that our earth won’t be around forever, so that is why we must find another planet to inhabit within the next 3.5 billion years, which is when the sun will be so hot it will finally have evaporated all Earth’s water. Don’t take my word for it, just have a look at what Brian has to say.

Considering my non-knowledge of the universe and the galaxies I wonder how I had the audacity to write a Sci-Fi Fantasy (cover featured at the top of this post) but as writers we are prone to use our imaginations and go off on flights of fancy. Also, considering what I have recently learnt about the planets and the likelihood of there being a far off planet on the other side of the universe that just might be inhabitable by us earth people, I am rather proud of the fact that my story sounds plausible. The only fact that I sort of fell down on was how long it would take to reach this far planet and how many years might have passed by the time a spaceship went there and returned.

I love Sci-Fi movies and my all-time favorite is probably Interstellar (might be because it features Matthew McConaughey) because it comes closest to what I imagine space-travel may really be like in the future. My list of other favorites is endless but to name a few: Terminator, The Matrix (never did really get the hang of it but loved it nonetheless) Inception, Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, and how can I leave out E.T., one of the greatest movies ever. Way back in the 50s I saw my first Sci-Fi which some of you may recall—The Day the Earth Stood Still. Without modern technology and cinematography to help it, that movie convinced me that there really were aliens out there who might one day come visiting.

Which brings me to my theory—we were created by an alien force a long, long time ago, and they have been keeping an eye on us to see how we progress, or how long it will take us to completely annihilate ourselves. They have visited on and off forever and left behind a few pointers for us to ponder over. Just take a look at how many wonders of this world that we have no true explanation for. Okay, far-fetched, you say. But we all have our theories, and that’s mine—what’s yours? 

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Sharing a Spring Short Story - Love in Lies

DK Davis here – sharing a Spring Short Story I wrote for the 750 Writer’s Group on GoodReads. They have monthly short story contests – March was 500-1000 words, and required three components: a boat, a storm, and an angry person. Hope you enjoy it;) Here’s my entry:

Love in Lies – written as Susan Davis   w/c - 960

“Marry me, Lisa.” Nick slowed the trolling motor to a stop. Water lapped against the boat from the jet-ski activity in the middle of the lake. “Five months is plenty of time to mourn and move on.” He pulled a velvet ring box from the cubby beneath the steering wheel. His brilliant turquois eyes studied my face, perhaps in judgment.

I closed my eyes for a moment in loving memory of my mother and silently spoke a, Bless You.

“We’re set for life. We could be travelling, enjoying our time together right now.” He flipped open the box in front of my face. “Let’s do this.” The diamond sparkled as did the sapphires on each side. “It’s rose gold, just like your mother’s.”

“It’s beautiful. Truly, but…”

“But—what are you going to say? What’s the reason now?” Nick’s lips pinched, his eyes narrowed.

Mom’s killer continues to run free. The lawyer is still clarifying all of Mom’s properties, business dealings, and assets. I’m following up on her insurances.

I could list a ton of reasons why marriage didn’t rate as a priority. “I’m not done grieving.” I’d used this before.

A couple of swans slapped the water announcing their landing a short distance away. They were building a nest in the reeds, making ready for a family. Something Nick never talked about, children. He wanted to travel, see the world and never allow any seedling to grow beneath his feet.

“I retired early for you, and now that’s not enough.” Nick snapped the box closed and dropped it into his pants pocket. He started the main motor and spun the boat around, toward the dock and Mom’s lake home.

“I’m not retired, why would I care if you’re retired? I’ve got a good twenty-five years or so to work. I never told you to retire for me.” Frustration and the knot in my throat stole my breath.

“Don’t give me that spiel about you need to work. I know your mother set you up. Hell, you’re a millionaire, if not a billionaire.” He shut the boat down and attached it to the dock. “You don’t need to work another day in your life.”

Why the anger? It was like he never lost a person he loved, but I knew he did.

What did I honestly know about this man?

I met him at Mom’s funeral. Right away he made me feel like no one in the world existed but me. We hit it off. He always said the right words to draw me out of my grief, to make me feel special, loved when I had no one else in this world. My father had passed years ago, and now my mother. No siblings; like my parents. No living grandparents.

Perhaps that was why I resonated so fast with Nick. His life sounded a lot like mine, at least according to him. He’d lost his entire family in a house fire when he was young, and then he lost a pregnant wife in a car accident. He was alone in this world, like me.

I never did a history check on him like Gordon, Mom’s lawyer and my best friend through high school, had suggested as soon as he knew of Nick. Perhaps I should, if only for peace of mind.

Dark clouds shuffled in from the western sky, inking away the mid-day sun. A stiff breeze whisked across the water, creating a chop of white to the waves. I craved some alone time, maybe until the darkness passed from the depths of my life.

Nick stood on the dock, staring at me. “What’s your big plan for today? Are we staying here or heading to your Colorado place?”

“I’m not leaving Michigan until I have a handle on Mom’s estates and holdings.” I sighed then climbed out of the boat. “I’m a lawyer with clients, even if it’s small town stuff. People depend on me.”

My office and home were an hour away from the lake house, so I didn’t visit Mom much, plus she’d traveled a lot.

“I want to set a date, Lisa.” His voice tightened. “Let’s nail down the wedding.”

A gust of wind whipped my hair around my face and knocked over a chair on the patio. I ran to the house as rain pelted across the lake in a fury.  

Gordon met me at the door, he’d let himself into the house. Nick followed me inside.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Nick’s hands fisted.

Gordon studied his face for a moment then turned to me. “It’s a matter of urgency, Lisa. We need to talk. In private.”

“Anything you have to say to her you can say to me. We’re getting married.” Nick shoved his way between us.

“Wait here, Nick.” I moved around him and led Gordon into Mom’s office. Outside the window, a couple of police cruisers were parked. “What’s this about?” I nodded my head toward the cop cars.

“We discovered who murdered your mother.” He motioned for me to sit. “This man had been spending a lot of time with her. We understand from a few of your mother’s travel companions, he was set to marry her…until he found out about you. He doesn’t like children.”  He cleared his throat and handed me a photograph. “His name is Jonas Stark, a wanted man in a number of states.”

Turquoise eyes, silver-gray hair, a goatee, different from the look he wore today, dark hair, clean shaven, and yet the same man, Nick Spencer.

My heart shattered.

Gordon clasped my hand and drew me out of the chair into an embrace. “You’ll survive this, dear one. Begin anew.”

And the storm raged as policemen filed through the front door.

DK Davis writes YA sci-fi, supernatural, and fantasy with a good dollop of all the relationships woven in between. When she’s not writing, editing, or reading, she’s hiking, RV’ing, fishing, spending time with grandchildren or her favorite muse (her husband) in Southwest Michigan. She also writes paranormal suspense-thriller romance as S. Peters-Davis, and all genre short stories as Susan Davis.

You can find DK Davis at these links:

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