Monday, October 31, 2011

A Ghost Story

Photo removed by author

Skene Manor -- Whitehall, NY

Happy Halloween!!!!

Sadly, today is the final day the 7 Days of Halloween unless you are sick of it.  I apologize if you are.  I also apologize for the over sharing I did this week.  Now you know I’m a strange, slightly neurotic writer.  What writer isn’t?

I’m not going to write about a creature of lore today.  I’m going to write about an experience I had back in May.  I know, I’m talking about myself again.  Deal with it.

I’m from the land of old farmhouses, country cemeteries, animals that make strange noises in the night, and Big Foot.  (Yes, Big Foot.  Google Big Foot & Whitehall, NY if you don’t believe me.  Abair road is in my childhood neighborhood and I’m not going to say I didn’t hear weird stuff when I was growing up.)  There’s even an Italian Gothic mansion that lords over my home town and you can bet there is a ghost story or two associated with it.   The Skene Manor is pictured above.

With all of that I had to go to Savannah for an actual haunting experience. 

Photo removed by Author

The Marshall House -- Savannah, GA

We stayed at the Marshall House which has been named Spookiest Haunted Hotel on Trip Advisor.  I love ghost stories so when we were looking for a place to stay, I wanted to stay in the Marshall House in the worst way.  I love ghost stories but I’m not sure if I believe in ghosts.  Weird, I know.  When we go to Baltimore, I like to stay in the Admiral Fell, another haunted hotel.

The Marshall house is Savannah’s oldest hotel and it served as a Union hospital during the Civil War.  The stories from the Marshall House involve phantom Union officers, ghostly children, and severed limbs.  You know, the usual creepies and ghosties.

My husband and I took a Ghost walking tour of Savannah.  We met a gentleman with a top hat and a nifty tapestry vest in one of the squares at 8:00 to begin the tour.  He carried a walking stick.  It was dark and creepy already and the moss covered trees added to the atmosphere.  Did I mention that Savannah doesn’t have an open container law? I’ve never been asked if I wanted a cocktail to go before.  I love Savannah. 

Our first stop was at the Marshall House where we heard all about our hotel.  I had read quite a bit about it before we left so it didn’t surprise me, but I found myself staring up at our room as the guide talked.  The maid had shut the curtains and a dim light shown through from the lamp on the bedside table. Our guide had a real talent for telling a story and I will admit that I was sufficiently creeped out.

We continued along our tour which was fabulous and we retired to the hotel bar.  I was going through a vodka tonic phase.  We sucked a few back and went up to bed.  We laughed on our way about the ghosts and probably because we were a little tipsy.  

I must have been asleep for a few hours when something woke me from my sleep.  Our room was pitch black with the exception of an illumination at the bottom of the bed.  Something was there.  I can’t see anything without my glasses so everything was blurry.  I tried to move but I was frozen.  We were in a king size bed so my husband might as well have been a mile away.  I tried to yell for him, but I couldn’t speak.  I panicked.  I wanted to cry.  I couldn’t speak or move for what seemed like hours. 

Finally, the light faded and I was able to yell out.  My husband jumped up and I launched myself at him.  I wouldn’t let go.  I told him I had a bad dream so that I didn’t have to go into it with him.  I had to go to the bathroom, but I was too scared to get of bed.  Buffy’s poor bladder. The too-scared-to-go-to-the-bathroom-in-the-middle-of-the-night thing followed me the rest of the trip.

It could have easily been a dream and it probably was, but I know three things: 1) I see perfectly well in all of my dreams.  The ghost could have been carrying a sign that read, “I’m a ghost.  Be afraid. Be very afraid,” and I wouldn’t have seen it.  2) I’ve never been so scared in all of my life and 3) Contrary to what you might think from my previous posts, I’m really quite sensible and not prone to hysteria.  I still think about that night.  Was it a dream or a ghost?  I have no idea and I’ll never know.

When I told my husband I was writing this post, he laughed and said, “You got haunted.”  He thinks it’s funny.  Maybe it is.

Have you ever been haunted?  Please share your stories.  I’d love to hear.

Link to the ghost tour we had in Savannah:

The Marshall House

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ankou, or Death’s Baggage Carrier

I think, out of all things in the world, death is feared the most.  I don’t think about death very often unless it’s the fear of a loved one dying.  If I die, I figure, it’s not longer my problem.  I do, however, think about my death every single time I take off in a plane.  I know I am more likely to be wiped out by some twat in an SUV talking on her cell phone and yelling at her kids, but the taking off part of plane ride scares me. 

Last month I was on a flight from Washington DC to Albany with my husband.  We were coming back from a trip to San Francisco to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.  It was late. I was tired.  Two kids were giving their parents a hard time behind me.  A woman was bitching to husband about how unhappy she was making everyone else unhappy in the process.  Another kid was screaming at the top of his lungs in the front of the plane.  I was going through the list of things that I was thankful for as I often due before we taxi down the runway.  Instead of the calmness that I feel after realizing that I’ve lived a pretty nice life, I looked around at the passengers on the plane and, with the exception of my husband, I realized didn’t want to die with these assholes.

Ankou is the most prominent figure in Celtic Breton folklore.  (I know, awkward segue, but here we are.)  He’s either looked at as the King of Death (“ankou” means king of the dead) or servant of Death.   

He appears as a tall, gaunt figure dressed in black with long white hair and a hat.  Sometimes he is in skeleton form.  He has a neck that could crane around and see everything like a demented owl.  He drives a wagon piled high with bodies and a creaky axle.  He is sometimes accompanied by two ghostly footmen who walked silently behind the cart.  The wagon is sometimes lead by black horses or giant pigs or sci-fi novel sized beetles.  In some stories he knocks on the door of the person who is about to die and in others he howls like banshee.  Sort of like the boyfriend you had in college that couldn’t be bothered to get his ass out of the car and go  to the door but rather honked his horn until you came out. 

In some versions of the story Ankou isn’t a man at all.  He could very well be a she and often was.  Each parish had its own ankou.  It was the last person that died at the end of the year.  That person would be the servant of death, serving a one year sentence until the end of the next year when someone would take his or her place.  Worst temp job ever.

In another story, Ankou was a spoiled nobleman who didn’t go to church as was punished for his selfish and capricious nature.

No matter what form the Ankou took and for what reason he came to be, he was still the most feared portent of death. 

The next time I look out the window before taking off on  a plane and I see the baggage carrier dressed all in black, I’m getting the hell off that plane.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Swinophobia, Werepigs & Jimmy Squarefoot-and-I-don’t-care!

In celebration of the fourth (or maybe it was the third) anniversary of our first date, my husband booked us a room in a fabulous Bed & Breakfast, Inn by the Mill*, in St. Johnsville, NY.  He called me at the office that morning to ask if I was okay with the room he chose.  He had booked the Hog’n Haus cottage, a renovated 1888 hog house.  He was well aware by then of most of my freak-like tendencies and my irrational fear of pigs was right up there on the list.  He warned me the room was full of piggy bric-a-brac.  I was so excited to get away for a few days that I didn’t care.

That was until the middle of the night when I woke to see the four foot plus pig statue with tray staring at me from across the room.  It was my nightmare come to life.

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and why a fear or phobia takes hold.  I can tell you exactly when, where and why my swinophobia began.  I was fourteen.  It happened on summer break.  The culprit was a battered and slightly musty copy of the Amityville Horror that I picked up at a flea market the week earlier.

Jodie, Missy’s “imaginary” piggy friend, was the only thing that scared me in that book.  I tossed the book away years ago but I can still remember the pencil drawing she did of Jodie distinctly in my mind.  I still get chills remembering the father, George Lutz, looking up at the house in the middle of the night and Jodie looking back at him from his daughter’s bedroom window and Jodie looking in the window at the family from outside the house with its red eyes.  I can almost feel the horror the father must have felt looking at the pig tracks in the snow after Jodie (or something) had ripped the front door off its hinges.  Jodie scared the hell out of me.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t afraid of pigs until that book. I’m not the only one scared by demon pig-like creatures.

In areas of Brazil and Uruguay, residents are afraid of a local legend called the Lobison.  The Lobison is a werepig (but sometimes a werewolf, but that doesn’t scare me) that devours local residents.   In the Entre Rios Region, the Lobison is human by day and werepig by night.  Young women won’t date men that leave near the stockyards in fear that they are a Lobison.  Talk about a cock block. 

On the Isle of Man, Jimmy Squarefoot roams free.  He’s not dangerous, but rather his appearance is off-putting.  Man with a pig head.  Takes a new meaning to the term pig-faced.  Poor, Jimmy Squarefoot, all by his hideous self on the Isle of Man.  Don’t feel too bad for him.  When Jimmy was a human, he was a rock thrower and his wife was usually his target.  Maybe he deserves to be lonely and ugly.

Okay, I’ve shared my embarrassing phobia.  What about your phobia’s and fears?  But a pal and tell me about it.  Pretty please?

*Just as an aside, the Inn at the Mill is an awesome place to stay.  I would even recommend the Hog’n Haus.  We have stayed there twice and I hope to go back next year for the ninth anniversary of our first date!  Check it out:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Raw Head and Blood Bones

Along with worrying whether my feet were hanging over the edge if the bed or not, I had this deep ceded fear that something was going to grab my ankles when I descended the stairs to my grandmother’s basement.  She used to do a lot of canning and she would send me down for a jar of tomatoes or apple sauce or even venison.  Thank god her body-size freezer was in her kitchen or would have had to go down their much more often.

I would slowly open the basement door.  You know, just in case there was something there.  I’d turn the light on and crane my neck around to see if something was lurking in the shadows.  When I was satisfied that I had done all I could do, I would hold my breath and run as fast as I could down the steps.  I was lucky I didn’t fall and break my pathetic coward neck.  I think I did this into my teens.

Raw Head and Bloody Bones (one person, not a deadly duo) is an English Nursery Bogey.  He takes a humanoid figure with blood dripping down his face.  He sits on a pile of the bones of children who have told lies or said bad words.  In some stories he lurks in stagnant ponds or under the stairs.  Yes, folks, it’s not just Harry Potter living under the stairs.   Raw Head and Bloody Bones waits, biding his time to snatch up a misbehaving child.

I’m so thankful that I didn’t know this story as a child or I would have never gone down into the basement. 

I think this will be my Halloween costume this year.  I’ll wear a tag that says:


Raw Head and Bloody Bones

No one is going to get it.  I think I’ll wear a hat.  Raw Head and Blood Bones needs a hat. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where’s my Tailypo?

Mrs. White was our elementary school librarian.  She looked like the typical librarian with her pale skin, long plaid skirts, and crisp white shirts.  To complete the look, she wore sensible shoes.  But Mrs. White had a talent for picking out book to read aloud to us.

I must have been in kindergarten or first grade the first time she read us Tailypo by Joanna Galdone.  Our group was relegated to the little kid section of the library, filled on two sides with cubbies and well worn books.  We all sat indian-style in front of her as she read ot us.

For those who don’t know, the Tailypo is figure in Appalachian folklore.  It’s a creature with glowing eyes, large ears and a very long tail.  It’s about the size of a dog and it looks just like the picture above.  It looks harmless.  This book scared the crap out of me when I was six.  It kind of, sort of scares the crap out of me now and I’m thirty-three.  I’m not too proud to admit this.

Tailypo is a story of a man who lives in an old, dilapidated cabin in the woods with his three dogs.  Food is scarce. One night while the man was out hunting with his dogs, he manages to secure the tail of a creature.  The man brings the tail home and eats it.

The details of the story are a bit fuzzy.  It’s been more than twenty-five years since I have read the book. (I tried to order it on Amazon but it won’t be shipped in time for this post.)  The man, tucked in bed in the stillness of the night, hears scratching at the door and the words, “Where’s my tailypo.  I want my tailypo.”  Frightened, the man sends his dogs out into the night after the creature.  They don’t return.  The man finds himself alone in the cabin.  I imagine he was lying contemplating his fate, not to mention the fate of his three dogs

He hears the creature’s words again and the scratching at the door. To the best of my recollection, the thing gets his tailypo back.  I think you can fill in the blanks.

For years after hearing this story, I wouldn’t let me feet hang over the side of the bed.  If I were honest, I’m still not too keen on it.  Those words:  “I want my tailypo.  Where’s my tailypo?” have haunted me.

Some people may say that the story is too scary for small children.  Maybe it had been too scary for me, but it sparked my imagination.  And isn’t that what younger generations are lacking – imagination. I wouldn’t trade in those late nights worrying for anything.  This story helped to shape who I am as a writer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Black Annis

Medusa Head -- Istanbul. 
Not relevant but a pretty nifty photo.

On another Halloween a few years later, I dressed up as Medusa. I know. I see the pattern here as well – my unnatural obsession with mythological characters.  Not to mention the two day hangover that followed both Halloweens.  It’s possible this is why I don’t like Halloween parties anymore.  I don’t look forward to the recovery time.  Heaven forbid I go to a party dressed like a normal Naughty Kitty and sip Diet Coke.  I digress. 

Oh, Medusa made me think Gorgon and that made me think Hag.  Mythology is full of Crones and Hags and generally unpleasant woman.  Take the story of Hansel and Gretel (witch that wanted to bake with them, literally), Snow White (the witch/Queen, not Snow White), Sleeping Beauty (again, witch not Sleeping Beauty.)   What do all of these stories have in common?  A horrible bitch that wants to ruin their lives. 
I can think of one that easily tops those three.

Black Annis is the demon hag from Danes Hills, outside Leicester in England.  It has been theorized that she derived for the goddess Danu.  Hmm, mother goddess to horrible old woman?  It wouldn’t be the first time a goddess is turned Hag.  Funny it usually coincides with conversion to Christianity.  Threatened much?

This hag has long iron claws, yellow fangs and a horrible blue face.  She’s not just ugly, she’s really ugly.  She lives in cave that she dug out with her own claws called the Black Annis Bower.  She likes to prey on children that stray too close to Danes Hills.  She skins them and eats them and drinks their blood.  She hangs their skin in trees to dry. 

Yes, a truly unpleasant woman.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bullbeggars Shouldn’t be Choosers

Almost everyone I know gets excited about Halloween with the exception of the dourest of Christians.  Halloween is fun.  You get to dress up in ridiculous costumes like Slutty Witch and Strumpet from Hell and stuff yourself full of so much sugar that you rival a Domino sugar factory.    And don’t get me started on the Halloween parties.  One year I dressed up as Hel from Norse Mythology. (Yes, I am a dork.  I am aware of this.)  I woke up the next morning with a perfect blue and black Buffy face print on the floor.  Not one of my finest hours, but it was one hell of a good time!

Dressing up is fun and partying is great, but I don’t I think that is what really attracts people to Halloween.  People like, no love, to be scared.  I love to be scared.  I have since I was a kid.  I think there is something in our DNA that wants to be scared.  I think it’s why stories get passed down from generation to generation.  Not as a deterrent for bad behavior, but for the thrill of it.

Take the Bullbeggar for example.  The Bullbeggar is an English demon or bogie beast.  It takes the form of an injured person lying prone on the ground.  When a helpful sucker comes to its aid, the demon morphs into a huge black mass and chases after the poor bastard, its eerie laughter shrieking throughout the night air.  The old adage, “No good deed goes unpunished,” pops to mind.

In Suffolk and Somerset, the Bullbeggar is called a Galley-Beggar and takes the form of a skeleton with its head tucked under its arm like a clutch purse.  

In some stories the Bullbeggar takes no shape at all but is the sound of disembodied footsteps following behind on a lonely road long after dark.

These creatures, these tales, play into some of our most fundamental fears.  Who hasn’t been creeped out searching for your car in a shadowy parking lot, turning a corner down a deserted street after dark, or walking down the hall of an empty building?

And what about those footsteps you could swear you hear behind you?  Those are the scariest part of it all.

What scares you the most?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

7 Days of Halloween

This week, starting Tuesday October 25th, Pixies Don’t Have Wings, will be observing “7 Days of Halloween.”  There will be a new blog post every morning with a creature that I find scary or disturbing.  Some will illustrate universal fears like death and some will illustrate some of my screwed up anxieties.  For example, my seemingly irrational pig phobia.  Pigs are scary, I promise.  I’ll prove it to you!

Make sure to come back and check them out.  There will be something for everyone.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Illustration by John Bauer.   I’m not sure who the illuminated
tart is.  To be fair, I didn’t look very hard. 

This past weekend, my husband and I sat down to watch “Troll Hunter” streaming on Netflix.  Half of the fun of watching a film with my husband is to watch him laugh, and he laughed full belly laughs with this very clever, very entertaining movie.  I would give it 8 out of 10 stars. 

I’m not too keen on watching movies with subtitles.  I think the last time I watched a movie with subtitles my husband and I were in the first year and a half of our courtship.  (I just love the word courtship.  It’s so wonderfully old fashioned sounding.)  And yes, I was trying to impress him.  It worked well enough.

If you plan on watching this movie, you can stop here if you choose.    I will be posting what some would call Spoilers.  I have a friend who is still mad at me for ruining the ending of “The Others” for him.  I saw where it was going, not sure how he didn’t.  You’ve been warned. 

The movie is shot in the same style of The Blair Witch Project.  It’s the tale of three college students who embark on a mission to track down a bear poacher only to find something unexpected.  The three believe they have found the poacher and follow him into the woods at night.  He emerges from the woods and shouts, “Troll!!!.”  They flee and one of the students is attacked and their car is a slime drenched wreck. 

They discover quickly that Hans is no bear poacher but rather a disgruntled Troll Hunter for the TSS – The Troll Security Services.  Basically, he’s hates his shitty job and wants a change in Troll management. He agrees to let them film him killing this creature in the woods if they agree to do just as they are told.  He warns them that trolls can smell the blood of Christian men and anyone who is a Christian should turn back.  Off they go, covered in troll stench and with an oversized flashlight that emits UVB lights.  Apparently, sunlight turns Trolls to stone or makes them explode.

Hans believes he is after a sick Ringlefinch.  He goes off looking for it leaving the students in a clearing waiting for him.  They aren’t convinced he isn’t crazy until the ground starts shaking and trees start to sway back and forth off into the distance. It wasn’t a Ringlefinch but rather a three headed Tosserlad.  Hans manages to turn the Tosserlad into stone with the help of a series of light stanchions on the back of his truck.  He knocks it over with a sledge hammer, jack hammers it and then blows it up hiding all evidence it was there in the first place.

Enter Finn, the representative from the Wildlife Board.  He is furious with Hans for allowing them to film the trolls.  His bigger concern is the valley full of dead cattle.  A Polish painter’s truck pulls up and unloads a dead bear – the scapegoat.  Of course they bring the wrong type of bear.  Hans makes bear tracks onto the ground to make it look real.

This doesn’t deter them from traveling with Hans in his Troll-Hunting-mobile complete with Troll tail trophies, Troll stench making equipment and UVB lights.  I can only imagine what the vehicle would smell like – cooked Troll stink.

The students learn from Hans that there are two main types of Trolls: Mountain and Woodland Trolls.  Varieties include Ringlefinch, Tosserlad, Rimtoser, Harding, Mountain Kings, and Jotnar.  Trolls aren’t born with three heads but some develop them with age to deter other trolls and to impress the lady Trolls.  They can live to be 1000 to 1200 years old and they are extremely stupid.

They need to get a blood sample from the sick Ringlefinch.  They use three sheep and Christian man’s blood to lure the Ringlefinch onto a bridge.  Hans gets knocked around in the process but he is able to deliver a sample to a veterinarian.

The four find themselves in a Troll liar at night.  While they are inside, the Trolls came home.  These Trolls were Mountain Kings and resemble the Trolls in the Bauer illustration sans clothing and princess, but with a whole lot of flatulence.  And that cameraman, he lied.  He was a Christian man.  You can only cover yourself in so much Troll stench. 

I’m going to stop here.  I’ve ruined enough of this movie for you.  I would recommend that you watch it yourself.  All I am going to say is that there are some big freaking trolls out there.

Some of the beauty in the story will be lost on non-Norwegian audiences like the three sheep on a bridge and the Jotnar.  That being said, I still enjoyed it and now that I am exploring some of these myths, I’m realizing just how brilliantly funny this movie actually is.  Trolls are so imbedded in Scandinavian folklore.  I will be doing a Part Two of this post at some point to explore some of these stories and myths.

Have you seen Troll Hunter?  Are you planning to?  I’d love to know what you think.

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Attorcroppe in the Grass

I have been contemplating this week’s Faerie Friday since I wrote last week’s Faerie Friday.  First I was going to write about Kobolds and then I was going to write about the Nix  -- one a nasty, pickax wielding dwarf and the other a drag-you-to-the-bottom-of-the-lake-to-your-doom water faerie.  Neither was doing it for me this week.  I may revisit them on a future date.  Yesterday I came across a creature that I had never heard of before – the Attorcroppe.

The Attorcroppe hales from Saxony and its name translates into “little poison head.”  The Attorcroppe looks like a small, upright snake with arms and legs.  It is extremely malicious to humans.  It is active at night and can be found wherever you find regular snakes – near rivers, woodlands and under rocks.  It was probably a manifestation of the human fear of poisonous snakes or maybe just a salamander* performing a circus trick.

Yeah, I appreciate that the Attorcroppe isn’t a particularly fascinating creature, but on a side note, I once told a guy with a shaved head that he looked like a penis with arms and legs.  It was the midst of an argument over music at a party.  I apologized.  I was out of line, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t true.

I have been contemplating moving Faerie Friday to Wednesdays.  I know that doesn’t seem to make any sense, but it breaks up the week better.  I’ll have to come with a better name.  Faerie Friday on Wednesday just won’t work.  Any suggestions?

Tomorrow I will be posting Part One of my post Troll!!!  Next week I will be doing a few special Halloween posts.  Make sure to come back and check them out.  I promise they will be better than today’s.

*Not to be confused with fire elemental Salamander.  I was referring to a regular salamander.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Musings on Paranormal Sex

I’ll be the first to admit that I love paranormal fiction, be it paranormal romance, urban fantasy or some bastardized version of the two.  There are hundreds (if not thousands) of writers out there on this very day, at the very moment typing away at their paranormal romance/urban fantasy manuscript.  The amount of creativity is astounding and it amazes me every time I read a new book.

My friend, Nina, and I were up one night gabbing on the phone (as we often do) about writing and we were discussing what the next big thing was going to be in paranormal fiction.  I had already hitched my wagon to faeries by the time we were having this conversation so it was just an exercise in speculation.  She had read somewhere that it was going to be mermaids. (Oh, please god, don’t let it be mermaids.)  I thought that was ridiculous.  Paranormal romance and urban fantasy has lots of sex in it.  How on earth was that going to work with mermaids?

This conversation made me think how ridiculous it all was and not just the scaly mermaid sex.  I’m not going to even consider a few vulgar, juvenile comments I could make.  The thing is mermaid sex isn’t sexy, not to mention anatomically impossible unless the mermaid is in human form.  If she’s in human form, then what’s the point of making her a mermaid at all?   To work on your watery prose?  It may work in some YA fiction with all of the pussy footing around and little actual sex.  But fish spawn.  Enough said.

Wings are as ridiculous as fish tales.  Any sex worth the effort is bound to pull out a few feathers or tear a pretty gossamer wing.  If you have wings, does that mean you always get to be on top?  Speaking of creatures with wings, what about angels?  How is a hero supposed to stick it to an angel without an overarching feeling of guilt?

Werewolf sex only works when the two are in human form or both in wolf form.  Human and wolf would be a whole different genre and wolf-on-wolf action is a little too nature show for me.  It reminds me the time when I was a kid and my dad was watching a tape on deer hunting. When it was time for Mr. Deer to mount Mrs. Deer, my dad made me leave the room.  I peaked. Still wish I hadn’t.

I’m not sure what the attraction is to succubae is.  Maybe it’s the same draw as autoerotic asphyxiation – let’s see how close to death the bitch can bring you without actually killing you. We all know how well that worked out for David Carradine. 

I have to admit I’ve never really considered books with dragons before. I usually just rolled my eyes at the thought.  Men that turn into dragons (or is dragons that can turn into men?) sounds like a logistical nightmare to me.  Dragons are huge.  What do you do with your honey if he’s loses his temper and changed forms in your living room?  Order a new sofa every time?  And most importantly, what about the sex?  Is there a chance you could get toasted when he climaxes?

I’m so sick of vampires I could scream.  If you can get past the super human strength, the sharp pointy teeth and the new nocturnal lifestyle, it’s still a little too emergency room with the blood and gore all over the place.  And you know it’s impossible to get blood out of sheets.  Just saying.

I can poke fun at all of these things.  The reality is if you can write it well, I’ll read it.  Even if it’s about vampires. In fact, I’ll probably read your next book about some crazy creature you’ve decided would make a great hero in a book just to see if you can do it.

What king of paranormal romance/urban fantasy do you like? What do you think is ridiculous?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to know.  While you are at it, suggests some new writers for me as well.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What the Aufnocker!

Writing Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance sounds sexy with all of the vampires, werewolves, demons, etc.  I decided that I liked faeries which has brought out a great love of folklore that I forgot that I had.  Leave it to me to turn writing something sexy into a proto-scholarly pursuit.  My husband asked me the other night if Moss Woman were like dryads. I got so excited I must have been smiling like a freaking fool.  I told him that they were more like hamadryads and went on to explain why in probably more detail than he wanted to know.  I was also super excited that he actually reads my blog and paid enough attention to ask me an intelligent question.  I am such a big fat dork.

In my head, I lump faeries together with all things that go bump in the night.  These creatures are all part of the folklore which is why I am drawn to them.  Today for Faerie Friday, I am going to write about the Aufnocker.  It might not be a traditional faerie, but this is my blog and I’ll write what I want.

The Aufnocker is German spirit.  It’s like the Belgian Kludde and the English Hedley Kow had a love child.  You don’t know what those are, either?  The Kludde is an evil shape-shifting demon that often takes the shape of a dog (among other things) and the Hedley Kow is an evil shape-shifting bogey beast that often takes the form of a horse (also a cow but cows aren’t sexy so I’m sticking with horse, and it works better in my analogy.)

In canine form, the Aufnocker is huge black dog with burning eyes.  What’s a large black dog without burning eyes – hard to find.  English, Scottish, Irish and German folklore is just filled with menacing black dogs and all of them have wild red eyes that burn into your soul.  Cue the gothic undertones.

The name Aufnocker translates is “leap upon.”  In its dog form, it jumps up on an unsuspecting traveler on a lonely night and goes for the poor bastard’s throat.  Sometimes it just hangs off the guy getting heavier and heavier until the guy dies from exhaustion or gets crushed by its weight.

It looks innocuous in its horse form.  Picture yourself as a weary traveler.  It’s late at night and you happen upon a horse.  Your feet and back hurt.  It’ll be hours, if not days, before you will get to your destination on foot.  So you decided to take the horse.  Wrong.  What makes you think taking some sketchy horse for a ride is a good idea?  It’s not.  Especially if it’s an Aufnocker.  The horse will run wild and try to buck you off over a cliff or into a swamp.  Dawn’s first light or church bells are the only things that stop the Aufnocker and save you from a horrible death.

And sometimes the Aufnocker takes no form at all and that is probably truly the most terrifying Aufnocker of them all.

Please join me back here tomorrow for my regular post.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Are you a good faerie or a bad faerie?

Last night, I fell asleep contemplating Good Faeries and Bad Faeries, the Seelie and the Unseelie.  I was also thinking about my next post on paranormal sex, but mainly about the two main distinctions between faeries.  Brian Froud wrote a wonderful book titled: “Good Faeries, Bad Faeries” or “Bad Faeries, Good Faeries” depending on which side of the book you are looking at.  The illustrations in this book are amazing.  Some of the bad faeries mentioned in the book are ones that we have all experienced – Computer Glitch and A Small Pang of Regret.  My office has its very own Pen Stealer.  My favorite faerie in the entire book is the Faery of Pure Joy.  She should be called the Faerie* of Infinite Happiness because she makes me infinitely happy.  Take a good look at her and try not to smile.  I dare you.

Photo removed by author

Seelie and Unseelie are Scottish terms – to be exact they are Saxon words that mean “blessed” and “unblessed.”  These terms are widely used by paranormal romance and urban fantasy writers to differentiate between good faeries or bad faeries, and in most cases, taking no consideration of the faeries’ origin or where they fit into the mythos.  To be fair, writers have taken the supernatural – be it vampire, werewolves, mermaids and even faeries – and made them their own.  The amount of creativity is astounding and humbling, but using these classifications incorrectly sticks in my craw and has made me stop reading books.  That and blasted wings!

The Seelie, the blessed, are the pretty faeries with delicate features and voices like angels.  They are the Trooping Faeries with a Faery Court.  These are the faeries who dance and hunt and feast.  They are benevolent towards humans, helping the poor and repaying kindnesses.  They can be seen in faery processions in all their faerie splendor.  Don’t be fooled. They can be vicious when crossed.

The Unseelie are the ugly, solitary fae.  The most famous of the Unseelie are:

The Host (you can see my earlier post on The Wild Hunt) -- These faeries are most active between Halloween and Easter. They force humans to comment heinous acts likeshooting elf-shot into their nearest and dearest.

Brown Man of Muirs – Dwarf guardian to the wildlife of the moors.  He is a vegetarian and is particularly nasty to those who hunt for sport. 

Shellycoat – Water demon shaped like an animal draped in weeds and shells.  Known to mislead travelers.  Not particularly dangerous, just annoying.

Nuckelavee – One of the most revolting and dangerous of the Unseelie.  Described as half sea-monster, half centaur, this creature kills everything that it comes across – crops, livestock and humans.  Only way to escape the Nuckelavee is to cross over a fresh water stream. 

Red Caps – The real bruisers of the Unseelie.  Red Caps are goblins who inhabit castle ruins.  The dye their caps with human blood.

Baobhan Sith – A female faerie succubus with goat feet that sustain themselves on human blood.  Usually, they travel packs of four like rabid teenage girls. 

As I was preparing for this post, it struck me how typical this all was. The good faeries are pretty and clean and the bad faeries are grotesque.  As if pretty equates goodness!  If high school teaches us anything, the opposite is usually true.

It also struck me that the Seelie, the Trooping Faeries, would have been representative of the landed gentry the common people lived under.  In some regions of the UK, the faerie folks were called “The Gentry.”  Were the peasants assigning qualities to the good faeries that they saw in or at least wanted from their social betters?  Feasting, dancing, hunting, settling disputes and charity for the poor would have been common practices of the nobles.

This next week I am planning a post on paranormal sex and don’t forget to come back to Faerie Friday where I am continuing my exhibition of German faeries

*There are many different ways to refer and spell the faerie folks – fairy, faery, faerie, fae, fey, fay, fary.  I just happen to like faerie.  I don’t like Fey because it means someone who is privy to the faerie world, not necessarily a faerie.  It’s also a Scottish term that means on the verge of death or making a decision that will lead to death.

Saturday's Post

I am currently working on Saturday’s post.  It won’t be going up until this afternoon due to my sister’s birthday lunch, but rest assured I am working on it.

I usually know what I am going to write about before I write and I have a good idea of what I’m going to say, but that doesn’t stop me from putting on my researcher’s cap.  The picture below depicts what my writing process is.  My notes, my laptop, and big stack of books.

I'll see everyone back here this afternoon for my Seelie versus Unseelie post.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wood Wives, Moss Women, Wish Wives, Whatever!

Welcome to the 1st ever Faerie Friday.  I’m not going to yammer on about how excited I am or how much fun it’s going to be – I’m just going to jump in.

Ambiguity is one of the most frustrating aspects of studying faerie and folk lore.  One name can mean so many things and some names seem to be interchangeable but are completely different.  I know that makes no sense.  See why I’m confused?

Today’s subject is Wood Wives.  They are in both Scandinavian and Germanic folklore.  According to Carol Rose in the “Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns and Goblins,” there are many other names for Wood Wives such as Moss Woman or Wish Wives.  Wood Wives are described as petite, blond and very pretty.  They often give wood chips to humans that have helped them in some way.  If they human takes the woodchips and isn’t a dick about it, the chips turn into gold.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention that they whine and cry and moan a lot.

Kveldulf Gundarsson in this book, “Elves, Wights and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry, Vol 1” describes the Wood Wives as helpful to humans, teaching them herb craft and milling.  The cool thing about studying folk lore is that you have books called “Elves, Wights and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry, Vol 1” in your home library. 

From there, I decided to research Moss Woman and Wish Wives.  Guess what, Moss Woman have skin like moss and limbs like twisted tree roots.  Not exactly the paragon of feminine beauty that is the Wood Wife. 

The Wish Wife, she’s like a genii waiting around the woods to grant wishes and favors for someone, and in some mythologies, they are succubae.

None of these faerie creatures seem to be the same.  They do have some similarities.  All three creatures seem to have an inherit connection to the forest they inhabit and in the case of the Moss Women their very lives are tied to a specific tree.  Oh, and that little scamp, the Wild Huntsman, finds them all irresistible.  Apparently, he likes wood chips and isn't particular about skin conditionsJ.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WIPs and a Blog By Any Other Name...

I’m back on the futon tonight drinking spiked hot chocolate and contemplating my two WIPs.  I started working on a trilogy at the beginning of the year.  I know, big groan.  Everyone is doing a trilogy.  If I thought I could tell the story in less than three books I would, but I have no desire to write a thousand page book and I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people willing to read said book.  I’m not George R.R. Martin.  It’s going to have to be three books to do it justice. 

I’m overwhelmed by the project.  Writing a three book series is daunting.  I have to give credit to people that do three, four, five book series and manage to hang onto their sanity.  My writing buddy, Nina, very nicely persuaded me to try something smaller.  That’s the thing about Nina.  Instead of telling me that I’m an idiot for trying something so hard off the bat, she gently steers me toward something more manageable.  She’s an awesome inspiration, a good friend and a great freelance editor.* 

My small project is a short paranormal romance with a great big heaving dollop of sexy.  It is super fun and I can use words you don’t find in main stream romances — you know, the dirty ones.  I don’t know how romance writers pen entire novels without being in a constant state of arousal.  Just saying.  I’m having fun writing The Dark King’s Lover and I’m starting to get some confidence in my writing.  I may someday think up a better title for it. 

I’ve been chuckling to myself as I write.  What would all those kids who called me Fluffy Buffy in school think of me writing romances?  What did they think were in those Judith Krantz novels I read in high school?  Hopscotch and knitting?  There were scenes in those books that still make me blush.

I realized today that I foolishly didn’t explain the title of my blog in my first post.  How silly of me!  I’ve done a lot of research on faeries.  I hate when I come across a mention of a pixie in a novel and the writer has attached wings to it.  Pixies don’t have wings.  I have to admit that I’ve helped perpetuate the misconception.  My husband and I bought our niece a set of Disney pixie dolls for her birthday.  I felt bad about it, but they were pretty.

I thought I’d let the MC of my trilogy tell you her feelings about faerie misconceptions.  She’s better with words than I am.   I don’t think this will appear anywhere in my finished novel.  It was an exercise in developing my voice for this particular character.

If I could have a few moments with Walt Disney, J.M. Barrie or anyone else who believes the Victorian notion of faeries as ethereal creatures that be spell the world with sweetness and light, I’d kick them in the ass.   They had no business writing about creatures they clearly knew nothing about.  If they did, Tinkerbelle would have had mouth full of sharp, mauling teeth and the Blue Fairy would have demanded Pinocchio’s soul or first born or something equally as unpleasant for turning him into a real boy.  Faeries do not do anything from the goodness of their own hearts.
            And most importantly, pixies or piskies or whatever you want to call them don’t have wings.  Pilliwiggins have wings.  Piskies do not.
I should know this.  Some people see dead people.  I see faeries.  I see freaking faeries every freaking day of my freaking life.  Everywhere I turn there is a different faerie: dracae in the river, pilliwiggins in the gardens, piskies along the banks, trows under the bridge, abbey lubbers in my parents’ basement.  I think you get the picture.  The list just goes on and on.  They are everywhere and to add insult to injury, I am the only one (well, almost only one) that can see them.  Let’s just say that the girl who saw monsters in every corner wasn’t very popular at sleepovers.  Faeries ruined my life.
So Walt Disney and J.M. Barrie, I have no idea what you are talking about.

*If you are looking for a great freelance editor, do yourself a favor and check out Nina Alvarez.  Here’s her website:

Tell her Buffy sent you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

So Many Faeries, So Little Time…

I’ve decided to institute Faerie Fridays.  It’s like Casual Friday but much cooler.  I will blog about a different faerie every Friday starting this Friday with a monthly theme.  In honor of Oktoberfest and my love of good beer, October will be German month!

Now all I have to do is pick out four German faeries.  Make sure to come back on Friday for Faerie Friday and Saturday when I blog about Seelie versus Unseelie.

The Wild Hunt

Visions of the Wild Hunt by Agostino Musi

This afternoon I am listening to Serena Ryder and sitting indian-style on my office futon surrounded by bookmarked volumes of faerie lore and wishing my left leg wasn’t asleep again.  I promised a blog post today about the Wild Hunt and I plan on delivering on that, but I’m having a hard time narrowing down exactly what I want to write about.  Not to mention that I have a new toy – Twitter – and I am experiencing a mild obsession.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter.  I’m still a little shy, but it’ll wear off eventually.  It always does.

There are countless common themes prevalent in Western European faerie lore.  One of my favorites is the Wild Hunt.  I’m researching it now because of one of my WIPs.  It’s called many different things – The Furious Host, The Slaugh, Devil’s Dandy Dogs, The Gabriel Hounds, Odin’s Hunt, The Seven Whistlers to name a few.   It usually entails a Wild Huntsman (a faerie king, a demonized pagan deity, a damned human, the Devil himself) who rides a wild black steed and is accompanied by a pack of scary black dogs like a demon dog walker on horseback.  In some stories, the huntsman is a huntswoman like in the case of Hecate in Greek mythology or Frau Goden in German folklore. Sometimes they are joined by witches or ghosts or faeries.  They are hunting the damned, lost souls, the unbaptized or anyone who is foolish enough to be out alone at night.

In some mythologies, the Wild Hunt only comes on Halloween night or May 1st.  In others, the specter of the hunter appears any night at midnight.  Sometimes they ride through the night air and other times they hover just above the ground.   To hear or view the Wild Hunt is almost always presumed a bad omen or a portent of death. 

These stories make me think about the gullible peasants that believed that there were beings, be it demons or fallen angels or souls of the dead, that were out to get them.  It certainly made it easier for local magistrates to enforce curfews and for priests to ensure that all children were baptized.  Who would want to be caught and taken away by the Wild Hunt to hell or wherever they took you? 

I can laugh at how foolish this all sounds up until a point.  I grew up seven miles outside of a small town in Upstate New York called Whitehall.  I still get goose bumps recalling the sound of a pack of coydogs I heard through an open window on a summer night.  I had lost track of the time and back in those days I spent most of my time slaving away at my word processor.  I must have been sixteen or seventeen.   The pack ran along a ridgeline of forest about five hundred yards behind our house.  It sounded like they were under my bedroom window.  I stopped breathing for a moment, their eerie wails growing louder as they came closer.  I am not ashamed to say I almost woke up my father, but instead I climbed onto bed and hugged my pillow close to my chest.  In moments like that, it’s harder to judge other people’s fears and superstitions.