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Things That Go Bump In The Night – The Headless Horseman

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On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!—but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! 

– The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

In the United States, we are most familiar with the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Besides currently being the main villian of  Fox’s Sleepy Hollow he has also appeared in Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, from the movies The Headless Horseman (1922) to Sleepy Hollow (1999),  and even a Snickers commercial.

What isn’t as well known is that the Headless Horseman isn’t an invention of Washington Irving.  Stories about ghosts riders with missing heads heads show up in many European cultures. German legends as recorded by the Brother’s Grimm tell tales of two different horsemen.  One was seen astride a gray horse by a woman gathering acorns in the forest.  The second one, known as The Wild Huntsman, blows a horn that warns hunters not to ride the next day, or else meet with an accident. Ewan the Headless of Scotland, is said to appear before a death in his family. And the Irish unseelie faerie known as either Dullahan (“Dark Man”) or Gan Ceann (“without a head”) rides a black horse.  Where the dullahan stops riding is where a person is about to die.  If you see him on his rounds, he will mark you as next to die by throwing a bowl of blood on you or lashing your eyes with a whip made of human spine.

Some stories about headless horsemen have roots in actual events.  One example is the legend of El Muerto.  In the 1850s, a cattle rustler known as Vidal was killed by the Texas Rangers in a raid on his camp.  The Rangers were determined to set a gruesome example to deter any would-be bandits.  Vidal was beheaded and his body tied upright to a wild mustang.  His head and sombrero were lashed onto the horse’s saddle.  The mustang was then set free to roam the hills of south Texas.  It wasn’t long before stories began to spread about the ghastly pair.  Eventually the horse was captured and relieved of its burden.  The corpse, riddled with bullets and arrows, was buried.  That didn’t stop the sightings that still occur to this day.

There are no headless horsemen in Hunger Moon, but Victoria Storm does come close to biting Logan Koenig’s head off.  To prove this, I’m giving away a paperback copy of Melissa Snark’s Hunger Moon.  To enter, please leave a comment below before 11:59 PM Thursday, October 31st.  I’ll choose the winner via random draw on Friday, November 1.

 

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Hunger Moon

Hunger Moon by Melissa Snark
A Victoria Storm novel
#2 Loki’s Wolves series
Genre: Paranormal/urban fantasy
Published: April 25, 2013
ISBN-10: 1492107581
ISBN-13: 978-1492107583
Amazon ASBN: B00CJ1D1BI

Victoria Storm faces seemingly insurmountable odds to keep her dwindling pack of werewolves alive and together. She fights hunters- including the brother and father of her deceased lover-and the pack takes another devastating loss. When they seek sanctuary in a small town near Lake Tahoe, high in the secluded Sierra Nevada Mountains, Victoria discovers they are infringing on the territory of a vastly more powerful Alpha wolf. To save her pack, she uses her feminine wiles to seduce the Alpha. Nothing comes easily for Victoria. Her plans are complicated by the Alpha’s erratic son, a ghostly wife, and a vengeful witch. Not even her status as a Valkyrie or the favor of the Goddess Freya can change the course of destiny for Victoria or her packmates.

Excerpt :

Victoria felt him before she saw him. His power washed over her with the force of an incoming tide, as dark, mysterious and unstoppable as the ocean. Her wolf rose to answer his in instinctive response, defiant and determined. She challenged his power and altered the irresistible flow so it passed around rather than over her. Before she reached the office entrance, the male werewolf responded to her presence and surged to his feet. He rounded the desk, demonstrating extraordinary grace and strength, and she braced for a physical confrontation. He dwarfed her in both height and weight.

As soon as their gazes met, they locked in a dominance contest. His narrowed eyes pierced hers; the light-pigmented brown irises were the color of honey and eclipsed the whites and round black pupils. Wolf eyes.

Victoria did not approach with her head low or avert her gaze. Instead, she challenged him outright, radiating defiance, posture stiff and erect. While they faced off, she regretted the tactical error, but it was too late to rescind. Her stubborn pride permitted no retreat, and it went against her nature to submit.

“Let’s take this outside where there are no humans to bear witness,” he said in a deep, resonant voice she found appealing.

Aroused, her wolf took an immediate interest in him as a fine, fit male animal. For the first time, Victoria noticed his physical appearance, and her wolf found him more than acceptable. She estimated his age as being in his late thirties. He in no way suffered for the smattering of silver hairs that peppered his dark head. He was a perfect specimen of a man.

Distracted, Victoria broke eye contact, but not to submit. She ran her gaze over his body with blatant approval, lingering on his broad shoulders and chest, muscular arms and legs. He wore a tailored navy suit with a light shirt and dark blue tie. From the way his clothing fit, there was not an ounce of spare fat anywhere on him.

His features possessed splendid symmetry, though a silver scar on his right cheek marred his perfection. The shape of his brow, nose, and lower face hinted at a distant Roman heritage. High cheekbones alluded to his Nordic blood. He cleared his throat, and Victoria scented both his arousal and amusement.

“Did you come to challenge me, or do you have something else in mind?”

His devilish smile hinted at a sense of humor, and Victoria seized on the opening. A ballsy gamble carried inherent risk, but her initial inept blundering had left her with no other graceful out. Her eyes rose to meet his once again.

“I am Victoria, daughter of Adair and Katherine, High Priestess of Freya, Lady Valkyrie, shaman, and healer,” she said, making her boast. “I am also the Alpha of my pack, and I am seeking a mate. I have come to assess whether you would make an acceptable suitor.”

“You’re kidding.” He registered surprise and disbelief.

Victoria arched her brow. “I am not.”

Buy links: Amazon Kindle Amazon Paperback Barnes & Noble All Romance Ebooks Smashwords

Author Bio: Melissa Snark is a paranormal and romance author with a particular interest in werewolf and Norse mythology. Her Loki’s Wolves series combines elements of both in a contemporary fantasy setting. She lives in Northern California with her husband, three children and glaring of cats.

Where to find Melissa on the Internet:

Website

The Snarkology

Email:  melissasnark at gmail dot com

Facebook

Twitter: @MelissaSnark

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Things That Go Bump In The Night – Vampires

The nosferatu do not die like the bee when he sting once. He is only stronger; and being stronger, have yet more power to work evil. This vampire which is amongst us is of himself so strong in person as twenty men; he is of cunning more than mortal, for his cunning be the growth of ages; he have still the aids of necromancy, which is, as his etymology imply, the divination by the dead, and all the dead that he can come nigh to are for him at command; he is brute, and more than brute; he is devil in callous, and the heart of him is not; he can, within limitations, appear at will when, and where, and in any of the forms that are to him; he can, within his range, direct the elements; the storm, the fog, the thunder; he can command all the meaner things: the rat, and the owl, and the bat—the moth, and the fox, and the wolf; he can grow and become small; and he can at times vanish and come unknown. How then are we to begin our strike to destroy him?

– Dracula, Bram Stoker

Everyone knows that vampires blood sucking corpses with long white fangs.  The only way to kill a vampire is a stake through the heart or by exposure to the sun.  After all, that’s how they killed Dracula, right?*

Not so fast.  While Bram Stoker used a lot of myths when he created the vampiric Count, he also created a few.  Movies and books have added on to the “lore” surrounding the undead. A lot of what we know as truth about vampires in Western culture when you research it isn’t.

Let’s start with sunlight, the supposed bane of a vampires existence. Except Dracula walked around in sunlight weakened, but unharmed. Most vampires in European lore did.  Only in 1922 with the release of Nosferatu did sunlight become the way to kill a vampire. Until then, beheading the corpse was the standard method.

But what about stakes through the heart? Some legends held that vampires didn’t need permission to come in your house like Dracula did.  Pinning them down was an obvious solution to keep them in their graves.  They didn’t have to be wooden stakes.  Other cultures used stakes in other portions of the body like the legs or the mouth.  Aside from stakes, other options to keep the vampire in their grave were burying them face down, so they would dig their way downwards when they attempted to rise. Other methods involved leaving seeds for the vampire to count, knots to untie, or decapitating the corpse or rearranging the bones so it could not walk.

And those long, wicked fangs that reflect moonlight? They are a Victorian idea first mentioned in Varney the Vampire, but they were described as “fang-like” teeth. Poldori’s The Vampyre, written in 1819 and considered one of the first Western fictional vampire stories, didn’t mention fangs. Nor did any of the legends.  True fangs like the ones described in recent literature didn’t appear until the 1950s.

So take heart.  While the undead might not be destroyed by stakes or the sun, at least they won’t be plunging razor sharp fangs into your neck.

I’m participating in the Snarkology Blog Hop.  Come back tomorrow for another post.

* Spoiler Alert** In the novel, Dracula wasn’t staked.  He dissolved after Quincy Morris stabs him with a Bowie knife while Jonathan Harker cuts his throat. Considering how Van Helsing insisting on staking Lucy Westenra and the three Brides, he doesn’t make a big deal of how Dracula was dispatched.

** The novel is over a century old. Does it really need a spoiler alert?

Things That Go Bump In the Night – Werewolves

“Picou tells me that he saw the were-wolf only this day se’nnight,” said a peasant; “he was down by the hedge of his buckwheat field, and the sun had set, and he was thinking of coming home, when he heard a rustle on the far side of the hedge. He looked over, and there stood the wolf as big as a calf against the horizon, its tongue out, and its eyes glaring like marsh-fires. Mon Dieu! catch me going over the marais to-night. Why, what could two men do if they were attacked by that wolf-fiend?”

The Book of Were-wolves, Sabine Baring-Gould

The werewolf has been with us since the dawn of history.  Almost every culture has some tradition of a skin-changer or half-man, half-beast.  Bears, lions, tigers, foxes, snakes, and deer all have a corresponding were-creature. It is the wolf that has captured European imagination to create the monster known as the werewolf.

The werewolf’s bite wasn’t always the way to become a werewolf.  You could become one by drinking the morning’s dew out of the paw print of a wolf.  Or you could wear a wolfskin belt to initiate the transformation.  Other times the shapeshifting was accomplished by rubbing on a special unguent or ointment.  You could sleep under the light of the full moon on certain days to unleash the beast within.  And of course you could always claimed to have entered a pact with Satan or received a punishment from God.

There are many physical traits that reveal the person sitting next to you is a werewolf.  They may have coarse hair on their palms.  Their index finger may be longer than their middle finger.  Or their eyebrows may meet over the bridge of the nose.  The sympathetic wound was also a was also a way to recognize the werewolf.  Any injury done to the beast would show up on the human’s corresponding body part.

As with how to become a werewolf, methods of killing a werewolf have morphed.  Silver is not a traditional way to kill a werewolf.  That myth appears to have entered popular culture in a 1935 novel about the Beast of Gevaudan and reinforced by The Wolf Man (1941).  Most ways to kill a mortal wolf would also kill a werewolf.  The werewolf could also be cured of his condition.  A werewolf could also be released from his curse if he did not eat human flesh for anywhere from seven to ten years after his transformation.  Addressing the werewolf three times by his Christian name while in wolf form, or even scolding him would cure it.

There’s A Word For That

And the word is sitzfleisch.

Sitzfleich means to sit through or tolerate something boring.  Its secondary definition is to endure or persist in a task. I first came across the term at The Write Practice. I had no clue there was a word to describe slogging through something I would rather be not be doing.

Right now that describes working on the fourth draft of my first novel.  I want to be done with it.   I know it needs at least another polish before I can think about submitting it anywhere. However, I find myself sitting in front of my computer and wanting to do anything but work it. I want to start writing book two in the series, or outline book three. I want to knit my costume for BayCon 2014. I want to knock out a few rounds of Candy Crush Saga.  I will do almost anything but work on that fourth draft.*

As with all things, there is a price to pay for your decisions.  While all those other things are fun, and some even need to be done, there’s no point in having a book two, a book three, or even a blog post if I don’t have book one.  So I sit down, grit my teeth, and apply fingers to the keyboard.  I give myself permission to suck,  because I can always go back and fix it.  Eventually, I do fall back in love with what I’m working on, find my rhythm, and continue moving forward.

*Like writing this post instead of editing, but that’s beside the point.

It’s That Time Of The Year Again!

The countdown has started.  Panic and anticipation are setting in.  No, it has nothing to do with the fact that there are only 80 days until Christmas.  It’s only 25 days until the first of November.

I’m knee deep in preparations for National Novel Writing Month.  This will be my third year participating, but my first time under my pen name.   I plan on posting updates weekly here on my progress towards my word goal.  It will only take me about half way through the novel, but if I can get a good part of it pounded out, I will be happy.

I admit I’m nervous to see how I will do this year.  I’ve only written over  1667 words in a day once or twice.  Last year I did pass the 50,000 word goal, but I was also rewriting something I had drafted earlier.  This year I’m starting cold with only an outline and some research to guide me.  Assuming there are no major revisions in my canon, it will be book two in my still unnamed urban fantasy series.    If you want to follow my progress,  you can watch me update my NaNoWriMo page.  I’ll also post weekly totals here.

By the way, you can help me, my friend Elanor Hughes, and a whole bunch of other WriMo’s by donating on Elanor’s page for the Night of Writing Dangerously!  At $250 in donations, she will get in the door for a noir themed night of food, raffles, and writing with 250 other people who are on the same literary journey.  At $350, she will be allowed to bring a guest, like me.  Money will go towards funding the The Office of Letters and Light and their events NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program, and Camp NaNoWriMo.

Gauging Progress Without A Measuring Tape

Shortly before I left on vacation, I finished draft three of my novel.  Shortly after that, I finished knitting a scarf.  As I ran my fingers over the scarf to search for any loose ends to sew in, I was struck by the difference I felt between the two accomplishments.

When I knit, I am working on a physical item that I watch grow with each row added. I hold it in my hands and measure it’s progress by running my fingers over it. When I’m done with a project, I have a scarf to wear, a toy to cuddle, or a blanket to keep me warm. There is something tangible to point to and say ‘I made this.’

With my writing, my progress isn’t as visible to me. I do have three drafts of my novel completed, but they are all ones and zeros on my hard drive and in the cloud. I don’t have a completed something to hold in my hands, and I won’t until I get to the proof stage. Watching the word and page count grow isn’t quite the same thing as watching the row count grow.

The more I think about it, the I’m not sure if there’s any way to deal with this feeling. I know that I have accomplished a lot in the two years that I have been working on this book. I just don’t have anything that looks like a published book yet. It would help if the publishing fairy showed up and left tokens beneath my pillow every time I hit another milestone.

My Visit To Wolf Haven

Mount RainierI spent last week visiting my best friend in the Seattle area. We did many cool things like visiting the Space Needle, searching for spirits on the Market Ghost Tour at  Pike’s Place Market, wandering around Mount Rainier National Park, getting up close and personal with a Red-tailed Hawk the Woodland Park Zoo, and almost charged by moose at Northwest Trek.  My favorite place we went was Wolf Haven International.

Wolf Haven is a wolf sanctuary in Tenino, Washington. They are a shelter for Gray Wolves, wolf-dog hybrids, and coyotes that were part of the pet trade or injured and unable to be released into the wild. They are also involved in breeding programs for endangered Mexican Wolves and Red Wolves.  They offer an educational tour featuring the animals who are comfortable with people looking at them.  Each wolf on tour shares a one-third acre enclosure with another wolf of the opposite sex, forming a pack. The tour never comes closer than ten feet to the fence forming the perimeter of the pen.  Wolf Haven’s utmost concern is the comfort of the animals and to give them as natural a life as possible.

Wolf in enclosure at Wolf Park InternationalI have long had an affection for wolves. They are fascinating creatures, long maligned unfairly because they remind us of the best and worst of ourselves. While they can be fierce, merciless predators, they are also loving, nurturing family members. I love to study them, and look forward to any chance I have to observe or interact, even if it is from a distance.

This was my third visit to Wolf Haven. I looked forward to going since I bought my plane tickets. I hoped to get some inspiration for the werewolves I am writing. Mostly I looked forward to the fact that I was going to be within twenty feet of wolves. My friend and I arrived just in time to make the last tour of the day. I could feel my grin grow wider as our  group passed through the gate and walked to the first enclosure. There, less than fifteen feet away, sat two gorgeous animals, studying us as intently as we studied them.

During the lecture on how to tell the difference between the wolf-dog hybrids and pure wolves, a long howl sounded. As a second call rang out, she that it was rare for a single wolf to howl during a tour, and rarer for a response to be made. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the entire park joined in. They sang for five minutes, both those on-tour and the wolves in the off-tour pens. Even the coyotes got in on the act. We stood there listening in complete awe.

If I can create one-tenth of that feeling in my readers, I will consider that a wonderful success.

Guest Post – Perspective on Tapdancing

I’m up in Seattle this week on vacation, so I’m turning my blog over to my friend, Elanor Hughes. She is currently writing a historical fantasy. Her home on the web can be found at Writing in the Dust. Thanks Elanor! – Sheryl

Hello there readers of this blog, I’m Elanor Hughes. Sheryl is on vacation right now so she asked me to write something reasonably interesting to entertain you while she is gone. One moment while I figure out how to tap dance and type at the same time. Here we go:

My legs beat out the rhythm of the song in counterpoint to the music of the jazz band pounding away for me, bright and exciting. It was a tune so amazing I was sure I’d fly right off the stage if we lost our step at the wrong moment. My feet were flying fast, swirl, step, swirl step, each in the opposite direction my arms made tandem wide swings, slide, slide. Swish.

Can you hear the music, feel the effort of the dance though you’ve never tapped a single step in your life?

Feet flying in a furious rhythm the tap dancer moved in counterpoint to the music of the jazz band pounding away so brightly. It was an amazing tune, if they played a wrong note she might make a wrong step and fly right off the stage. Her feet were flying fast now, swirl, step, swirl, step each in the opposite direction of her arms made tandem wide swings. Slide, slide. Swish.

She slid to a stop at the foot of the stage on her knees, chest heaving under the bright lights without moving. After a momentary pause, the audience roared their applause and she stood to take her bow.

Now you can see only see the motion from the outside and speculate on the way the experience happens from the inside.

It’s a really simple moment, no dialogue. No great work of art either. But I did my best to make them as similar as possible to illustrate why you might want to choose to use first person over third person. The same exact event happened, but you experienced it in two very different ways. The first, you are in the driver’s seat, not controlling the action but at least experiencing the action. The second, you are the audience watching the action happen. Both have their place and both have their strengths for different types of stories. They also both have their weaknesses.

The story I’m working on right now is from first person perspective. When I first started it I didn’t actually plan to write it first person when I began outlining, researching and creating character sketches. However, the day I sat down and started writing it just felt right. So I went with it, and it’s served me very well for this story. It’s not about tap dancers, thank goodness. That is a blog for another day, when I’m ready to explain it in depth on my own blog. Probably next month. Feel free to check it out.

 

Memories of A.C. Crispin (1950 – 2013)

I was deciding what to write this week’s post about when this passed over my Twitter feed.

A.C. Crispin passed away Friday, September 6, 2013

I had the pleasure of meeting her at DragonCon 2007. Ann was polite and gracious and a little apologetic. As she signed my copy of Star Wars: Tales From Jabba’s Palace, she told me she had a cold and wasn’t shaking hands or giving hugs to keep all her germs to herself. It didn’t do any good. I ended up with a raging case of con crud anyway.

As you’ve guessed from the book I had signed, I read a lot of the tie-in novels for Star Wars. I also read the Star Trek ones. Her novel Star Trek: Sarek is one of my favorites in the Star Trek tie-in books. Not only do we get compelling story about the rift between Spock and Sarek, but a look into Klingon culture from a female and non-warrior point of view.

I adore her short story in Star Wars: Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Skin Deep: The Fat Dancer’s Tale. She took someone with little more screen time than seconds in the background time and gave her a compelling backstory about why she was a dancer in Jabba’s den of thieves. She also gave her a romantic interest, one of the first I had seen for a character who wasn’t skinny and traditionally beautiful, and she physically saves male protagonist as much as he saves her.

I have to admit to my shame I have not read her Starbridge series or Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom. They are on my never ending to-read list.

She was also helped found Writer’s Beware. It is a resource I have not had need to use yet. When I move onto the next step of my writing journey, I will be doing research there. I greatly appreciate her and all the other people involved in putting this information out there.

Thank you and rest in peace Ann Carol Crispin. Your books made my life richer. I will miss you.

A Weekend of Cons and I’m Stuck at Home

I’ve been following tweets and blogs from people attending DragonCon and Worldcon. Both are happening this weekend. I cannot begin to say how much I want to be at either of them this weekend. But the job that is paying the bills at the moment doesn’t easily allow me to attend anything 1.) on the other side of the county from me and 2.) during the first ten days of the month. So I’m stuck here, trying to plot how to get to DragonCon next year and making plans for the local conventions I’ll be attending.  Worldcon’s location for 2014 of London, unfortunately, puts it extremely out of reach unless I win the lottery.*

Right now those plans are focused on if I want to participate in the Writer’s Workshops offered for Convolution 2013 and BayCon 2014. I attended my first one last year at BayCon. The session I attended was structured as a group of eight—four professionals and four submitters. I submitted the first 7,000 word of my novel and a 500 word synopsis about a month ahead of the workshop. The professionals and submitters review your work and make comments on your manuscript. Those comments are discussed in the workshop itself. If you go to a convention offering a workshop, I recommend that you participate. I learned where I needed to focus on in terms of plot, characterization, and grammar. (No matter how many times I read the rules, the proper usage of dashes and hyphens remains a mystery to me.)

The other reason I like to attend conventions is a chance to be surrounded by people who share the same passion. At work I have friends and co-workers who watch and read the same things I do. But they don’t have the same energy as when you’re admiring the work someone put into their costume, discussing with an author their latest work as you’re having it signed, or in a gathering watching the episode of the hot show that happens to be on while you’re at the convention. That is the reason that I go.

*Which assumes I play the lottery.  I don’t.  Adjust my odds of winning accordingly.

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