Once Upon a Scare Blog Tour: The Evolution of a Mash-up

May 22, 2016 at 12:00 am (dark fantasy, fantasy, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

RitualDollI’m not overly fond of most mash-ups, but I love reading and writing mash-up fairy tales. I’ve loved them ever since reading Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood story collection when I was a teenager. I had played with an assortment of them before I wrote “Without Family Ties”: horror versions of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, a cyberpunk version of Jack and the Beanstalk, a Nordic dark fantasy version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and an adult dark fantasy version of Rapunzel. So when I set my sights on Pinocchio, I’d had some practice.

I decided I wanted a modern setting with a story centered on some sort of ritual doll, so I sent out some research feelers. When I came across the description of an unusual collection of 140 spiritual and cultural art objects from sub-Saharan Africa on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. called “In the Presence of Spirits,” I knew I had my inspiration. The exhibit included ritual dolls, masks and spiritual symbols of power that dated from about 1850 to the mid-20th century.

After reading through the available material, I decided the rituals of the Kongo (or Bakongo) and the Ambo peoples worked best for the mash-up. Their traditions included the nkisi, bakisi, baganga, mpungo, ovana, and rituals that could be completed by a single individual, such as my version of Geppeto, Jojo. My research also provided the traditional materials used to create the ritual dolls and the fertility stones. After I was done reading, I had plenty to work with.

Considering Geppeto constructed Pinocchio out of a desire to have a son, I chose a similar ambition for Jojo with Berko. Add the elements of a Kongo power figure and Ambo fertility magic along with his desperation and an evil twist, and the stage was set for horror. The challenge was then for me to match up the plot points and characters in the story with aspects of the original fairy tale. Top it up with an extra helping of fear and I had myself a mash-up.

If you are curious to see the end product, “Without Family Ties” is now available as part of the Once Upon a Scream horror mash-up anthology. My next mash-up WIP is a modern dark fantasy version of Sleeping Beauty with an Asian back-drop.

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Women in Horror – Spotlight: Violet Tempest

February 23, 2014 at 3:14 am (horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , )

My spotlight shines today on the author of The Grotesquerie short story “Deceitful Innocence”. Violet says she likes to research the strange and unusual (with a notable interest in ghosts,) that’s why she likes to write short stories and novels in the horror and paranormal genres.

You can find out more about Violet and her research into things mysterious on her blog – http://violettempest.wordpress.com/.

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NaNoWriMo Progress Report

November 9, 2013 at 3:04 am (Casualties of War, writing) (, , , , , , )

It’s day 8 and I’m almost at 14,500 words. Not a bad start. Concentrating on NaNo with so much else going on, like Hal-Con this weekend, means I’ve had to take a break from my blog, but I plan on posting the odd progress report, excerpt and maybe on an ambitious day I’ll even share some of my research. I learned a lot about crows while preparing for this novel and I wouldn’t mind preparing a piece on Cascade.

For now, I’m going to focus on getting myself ready for my day at the con tomorrow, including packing away the books I’m bringing with me. I have a couple I’m hoping to get autographed and four copies of my Masters and Renegades novel, Casualties of War. I intend on giving those away to four lucky folks who track me down, dressed in my blacks and purples. I’ll have my daughter with me and at some point I’ll be dropping down to visit the merchant room, where Tyche Books will be selling copies of the Masked Mosaic anthology.

Anyway, back to my preparations and more NaNo writing. I’ll have more to report back after the convention.

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Edit Fest – Taking a Break

May 9, 2013 at 2:06 am (fantasy, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I needed a pause from editing today, so since I was actually in the mood for formatting, something I dislike more than editing, I figured I had better jump on it. I set up the last novel in my Snowy Barrens Trilogy so that I just need to add illustrations and do my final edits. I still have to work on cover art, but this was a good start. Once I get this one out I’m going to attack marketing for the trilogy with gusto. I wanted to wait until all three books were out before throwing myself in whole-heartedly to any serious promotion.

Today also served as an opportunity for some impromptu research for Sifting the Ashes. I’ve delved deep into the world of crows and discovered they will recognize and distinguish one human from another. They will also label people as “bad” or “good” and actively warn others of their kind about the “bad” humans. I’ve been trying to get on the good side of local crows to get a better first-hand look at them and hopefully shoot some photos for the book cover at a later date. I’ve been feeding them breadcrumbs while out waiting for the bus and one of them, who I nicknamed “Divot” because he has a gap in his wing, was waiting for me at the bus stop this morning.

I don’t know if I’ll get him comfortable enough to get the photos I want, but just getting to watch him this morning I think will add to the book. We’ll see when I get back to it later this month.

Formatting is done now, so back to editing.

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Edit Fest – Not Enough Hours

May 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I have always loved to read. When I was younger I was a voracious reader and I would be now if I could set my own hours as I please. As an adult with adult responsibilities, it’s not that simple. My accounting job takes up the better part of my week, spending time with family is a welcome requirement, I tackle as little housework as I can get away with, and I do some gardening and other chores – like walking the dog. My “spare” time is consumed by writing and writing associated endeavours (editing, marketing, submissions, networking, research, etc.) So if I want to read, I usually have to sacrifice something else, usually the non-work-or-family activities.

I still do read, regularly, but not the way I used to. I ran into an old friend on the bus; my commute is currently my reading time, and I gave it up to be social. We discussed books, and I was disappointed that he talked about books he has read lately that I want to read, but doubt I’ll be likely to get to them (until I retire, perhaps.) I already have enough books on my Kindle to last me a couple of years at the pace I’ve been reading, as well as several print copies waiting in the queue, and I’m sure to accumulate more as time passes.

Anyway, I am making a point to read more this month, since I’m not working toward any deadline at the moment and I tend to approach editing with a more casual attitude than I do writing. I’m hoping to finish reading one anthology tomorrow and start right on into another. I’m also itching to get back into working on Sifting the Ashes again. I may plunge into Chapter 7 this weekend.

Until then, it’s back to working on edits for Victims of Circumstance…

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Submission Blitz – Day 27

April 28, 2013 at 12:42 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I found courage in a glass of wine and sent out my submission query to a bigger publisher for “Sleep Escapes Us”, which included a 10 page partial, per the publisher’s specs. I really hope I find a good home for it someday. I described the story in brief as “an alternate history, zombie dark fantasy tale with a foundation in ancient Thracian mythology. The story is one of courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.” And for a lead in to my brief synopsis: “When a simple hunter, Zelmis, is chosen by lottery to be a sacrifice to Zalmoxis, the Thracian god of death, he chooses to instead slay the living god with the help of Cerzula, a witch of Hecate. The horrific results, the dead turning and rising as undead, dooms their realm to many years under the tyrannical rule of necromantic generals, a situation that only Zelmis’s daughter, Alina, can rectify.” I then went on to outline the four sections of the book, also in brief.

I certainly enjoyed doing the detailed research for the novel into the mythology, the history, customs and cultural aspects of ancient Thrace and things like flora, fauna and herbalism. It has an epic feel to it but it is a very basic story as far as the heart of the tale is concerned. It definitely isn’t your typical zombie story, to say the least.

I’m expecting a “no”. I’m a no-name writer with no agent and my work doesn’t fit into the cookie-cutter world of big publishing. I’m lucky to have (and to have had) a few people in my life who have a lot of faith in my work. That’s honestly what keeps me trying. Maybe I’ll find someone out there with the ability to bring me some significant exposure who feels the same way.

Only time will tell.

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Adventures in NaNo-land: In the Beginning…

November 2, 2012 at 11:58 pm (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

Unlike last year, I don’t plan on abandoning Word Blurb while I complete NaNoWriMo this year. Instead I plan on taking you all with me on this adventure while I write “The Trading of Skin”. I’ll be posting illustrations, excerpts and fun facts about Sami mythology and culture, samples of research I did in preparation for my novel, and even things like the origins of my character names. As I go, I’ll be posting my first draft chapters (yes, that means there will be errors and it will need editing) to Scribd.com. In fact, my first chapter is already up, and you can find it at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/111961069/The-Trading-of-Skin-Chapter-1

And for those who would rather get a quick peek at what I’m doing, here’s a little excerpt to kick things off:

Oaván pushed back the leaves before him, and moved into the thicket beyond. It was much easier to follow the blood trail now that the sun was peeking up over the horizon and illuminating each ruby red drop. He just had to follow the glimmer to find his runaway prey. Allowing his eyes to search up ahead, he caught sight of a silhouette that looked out of place, a graceful shape that was not part of the warm-season greenery.

Then it moved, a slight shudder accompanied by a plaintive sound. Oaván was sure he had found his lucky white reindeer. Slipping his bow up over his shoulder and drawing his duodji, with its antler handle and scrimshawed blade, he advanced upon the animal to put an end to its suffering.

It took only a few more paces forward for him to realize that this was not the reindeer he was looking for, or at least, based on the naked feminine human form before him, he assumed it wasn’t. Only, he could definitely identify the arrow jutting from the young woman’s bloodied thigh as his, the fletching dyed to match the colours of his household so nobody other than Dáidu could possibly lay claim to his prey.

Bewildered and horrified by the idea that he had somehow shot a person instead of a beast, Oaván crept quietly forward. From a distance, one might have mistaken this girl for the animal, curled in on herself the way she currently was and her skin as white as the reindeer’s had been, but her fine, white-blond hair did nothing to suggest she had borne the majestic set of antlers Oaván had clearly seen. As well, his eyesight was certainly not bad enough to mistake her thin lithe form for the rugged four-legged one that had stepped out of the bushes, even if the lighting had been dim.

Have a great weekend – I hope to hit 6,000 words tonight.

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Oodles of October

September 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm (Fervor, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

Overtime season has finally come to an end for me at my day job, I’m closing in on the last chapter of the first draft of Providence, and my home life is more subdued because the garden has been reaped and the kids are back at school. As much as I might wish this means things will calm down for me, I’m afraid I’m not that fortunate. October is creeping up, after all, and October is the month for horror writers, so October finds me as busy as ever. What do I have on my plate, you may ask? Well how about I share that with you:

Editing, editing, editing – My regular publisher, May December Publications, has experienced a few delays, so the edits for Transcendence I was expecting to review in September have yet to arrive. I’m anticipating they’ll come my way in October. This also means preparing my blurb, my preface and my acknowledgements, all time consuming to some degree. On top of that, Harper Voyager is opening up a brief two week window when they’ll be accepting unsolicited, unagented submissions. I have three manuscripts, Elements of Genocide, Sleep Escapes Us and Intangible, I intend on editing and submitting within that two week span (they’ve all been edited at least once or twice previously, but I’ll be polishing them up again.) By the end of those two weeks, I’ll be lucky if I have any hair left.

Anthologies a plenty – With Halloween approaching, it is prime time horror anthology release season. I know I’ve mentioned these before (in My Hurricane Season), but now I have more details. To begin with, Crooked Cat Publications is releasing their Fear charity anthology, a scary collection of tales from 60 different authors, in two volumes. My phobic tale, “Octavia,” will be appearing in volume one. You can find out more about it at their online launch party on October 3rd. Another anthology from Crowded Quarantine is scheduled for October release, Tales for the Toilet: Volume 1, a horror Johnny reader containing my short tale “And Then the Crow Said ‘Henry'”. I’m also pleased to say that my wicked tale, “Orbs” will be sharing the pages of the Mistresses of the Macabre anthology from Dark Moon Books with other frightful female writers. It had an anticipated October release, but the schedule is not firm and from what I’ve seen with small presses, expect to be flexible.

Preparations Galore – Preparations will be required for two upcoming events. The first is Hal-Con at the end of October. While I won’t be appearing as a guest this year, I will still be there – only with much more freedom to attend panels, hang out and be friendly, and come and go as I please. I’ll also have a backpack full of books and business cards with me and I’m working towards showing up in costume. I’m hoping to see some of you there. The other event is NaNo. I have a great deal of research to do on Lapp mythology, culture and language for my planned “The Trading of Skin” novel. I’ll also be doing more research into North American mythology, for a separate project. I loooove doing research, so this part of my chaos will also be my bliss.

And just a quick mention that I plan on making October a “My Favourite Monster” month for my blog. All my non-review blog postings will offer up something about some of my most-loved monsters, until I start my NaNo blog hiatus in November. I’ll be on the hunt for guest bloggers before then.

Toodles, until oodles, for now!

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Eight-Legged Eats

April 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm (horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , )

While doing research for a story you will run into things you would never expect. One story led me to look into situations where spiders are eaten and associated facts. What did I discover? Well, aside from learning that spiders supposedly taste like peanut butter, I also found out that they are cooked and eaten in some recipes in Cambodia (http://www.cambodiancooking.com.au/). Mention that to most people, and they’ll cringe and say, “ewww!”

Are spiders such an unusual dish? Arachnids are not far off from crustaceans, and we happily eat crab, lobster and shrimp (all things a non-seafood-eating friend of mine likes to refer to as bugs.) And how about escargot? Why would eating snails somehow be acceptable but the idea of chowing down on the creepy-crawlies with eight legs makes you want to spew?

Ever hear of chocolate-covered ants? Apparently those are available for consumption too.

Insects, spiders, worms, grubs, slugs – all manner of wriggly invertebrates are high in protein and could conceivably end up on the menu. What decides what we choose to eat and what we turn away? The choice for all cultures is not the same.

Some people have even gone so far as to cast aside societal reservations and eat the things that disgust their neighbour. Survival shows and reality TV do it all the time, showing us close-ups of people sucking the juices out of a camel spider, crunching into a still wriggling cockroach or spitting up the giant grub that just exploded its guts into their mouth, for the shock factor. Our local natural history museum has presented a “cooking with bugs” series that has been an effective draw. You can even find entire cookbooks on the topic, such as David Gordon’s Eat-a-Bug Cookbook:


or how about Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, Phd’s Creepy Crawly Cuisine:


How many of you groaned, uttered a heart-felt “gross!”, or even clutched at your belly to stop it from doing flip-flops at the thought?

Some of you may be thinking that these are novelty cookbooks, which they are, but only because our society has decided to discount bugs as a proper food source. It’s that novelty, however that has brought us such treats as the Cricket Lick-it, a candy-encased bug, and its kin, a candy-coated scorpion (my husband and I bought one of these for my sister-in-law, one Christmas). You can find them both at Hotlix, along with many other buggy delights.


So what do you think – if you have the chance to sample some arachnid cuisine – would you go for it?

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A Sample of My Research

December 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm (dark fantasy, Elevation, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

(Image: rough sketch of one of the cover concepts for Sleep Escapes Us)

Despite the fact that I write dark fantasy and horror, I do a fair amount of research for my NaNoWriNo novels. Since I’m using a mythological backdrop, I search for as much relevant information on the mythologies I’m using and the area where the myths originated. In the case of Sleep Escapes Us, I actually wanted to set the story in Ancient Thrace and the surrounding regions, so I felt some elements should be historically accurate, despite the fantasy and supernatural aspects of the tale.

I also like to include a certain amount of realism in my fantasy and horror tales, even if the events never did, or never would, happen. In this instance, I wanted some validity to my herbalist character, Kerza’s skill-base. This is what I came up with…

The Flora of Sleep Escapes Us

When I started my research into Ancient Thrace for Sleep Escapes Us, I was pleased to stumble across information from Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Pseudo-Apuleius’ Herbarius , sources that discussed the Dacian names for plants along with their English and Latin names and the uses for some of the specimens mentioned. I planned on having Kerza knowledgeable in herbalism, so I knew it would be a great resource for my story. It turned out there were several places I could make use of the information beyond the witch’s remedies and incenses. Here are the various points in the story where the Dacian flora came into play:

In chapter 3, Zalmoxis prepares to sacrifice Zelmis using a zuuster club, which is the Dacian term for wormwood (Artemisia arborescens or Tree Wormwood). This is shrub with a woody base, and a club would have to be made from securing a bundle of the woody stems into a solid bunch with some heft. It may have been supplemented with a more solid core, of wood or stone in order to issue a lethal blow. The plant was believed to be linked to things psychic and death/afterlife.

In chapter 5, Alina asks her father, afflicted by infection, where she can find the diesema (mullein or verbascum) to purge his blood. It is used again later in Kerza’s treatments for Sur. Mullein has been used historically to treat everything from colds to colics, although mullein remedies meant to be drunk have to be finely filtered to eliminate the irritating hairs. Mullein contains glycyrrhizin compounds with bactericide, concentrated in the flowers. Different extracts have varying levels of efficiency against bacteria.

In chapter 9, Kerza prepares an herbal remedy in the form of a tea. In addition to diesema, she also mentions using diassathel (wavyleaf mullein or verbascum sinuatum – sathel signifies “sieve”), which has similar properties to diesema, and lax (purslane or portulaca oleracea, supposedly used as a laxative), which was historically used to treat infections or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract as well as dysentery.

In chapter 11, Kerza tries to escape Sur’s company by excusing herself to gather kinouboila (wild pumpkin or cucurbita foetidissima), but Sur follows. Supposed medicinal benefits include using pulverized root in tea to speed protracted labor in childbirth, tea made from boiled peeled roots is used to induce vomiting, powdered seeds and flowers mixed with saliva reduce swellings and dried root ground to a powder, mixed with cold water, can be drunk for laxative.

In chapter 14, Kerza makes a stomach soothing tea from salia (anise or pimpinella tragium – having a carminative effect to settle the stomach), tuedila (peppermint or menthe x piperita – reduces abdominal pain and stomach irritation) and a bit of amalusta (chamomile or matricaria recutita – used to treat sore stomach and an irritable bowel syndrome). She also finds gonoleta ( gromwell or lithospermum tenuiflorum- used as an oral contraceptive).

In chapter 18, Kerza uses incense made from dracontos (rosemary or rosemarinus officinalis – used in incenses as it was considered a divinatory herb, possibly because its use in large quantities can cause seizures) and ziodela (sweet marjoram or origanum majorana – used historically as an incense, a mild sedative). She then anoints Alina and Zareus with holy oil made from azila (hound’s tongue or cynoglossum – it softens and soothes the skin, but it has a narcotic effect, depressing the nervous system) and hormia (annual clary or salvia horminum – primarily for aromatic purposes, a soothing/relaxing effect).

I was pleased to have a source that allowed me to have proper names for the herbs and assured what I was using was native to the area. This was probably one of the most useful results of my research for Sleep Escapes Us.

    Sleep Escapes Us is available in first draft format, posted by chapter, on Scribd.com and will remain there in full until the end of December. If you would like to read it (by year’s end), you can find the first chapter at:


Also – this month marks the release of the ebook version of Elevation, the sequel to Fervor (the print version to follow at a later date). You can purchase it at Smashwords or Amazon:



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