Read Stuff: Huldredrom – Dream of the Hid-Folk

Huldredrom – Dream of the Hid-Folk by Christopher R. Knutson   Review by Eric Staggs   This unique piece of literature came to my attention through pure chance. Since I have found that the best pieces of literature often do arrive via unforeseen channels, I agreed to read and review it.   I’m glad I did. The style of writing at first seemed simple, unsophisticated, but as I progressed, I found I was drawn into the unfamiliarity of the culture, the complexity of Norwegian proper nouns seemed to help heft the weight of their folklore and a new found Christianity.   The story takes place in a picaresque rural village; imagine fens and glens and heathers, buffered on all sides by brooding mountains whose caps are white year round. These snow caps help to anthropomorphize the mountains, giving them an ancient and wise presence. Within these mountains and valleys lives the Hid-Folk. Fey and spritely, these trolls, changelings and their kin live out long and mischievous lives just under the nose of the villagers. The Hid-folk have a habit of stealing human babies and raising them as their own.  The author opens with a classic I-told-you-so moment and the tragic disappearance of a baby.   The plot is at once simple and convoluted – the rules that govern the interaction of mortals and hid-folk are complex and not always logical, but offer a vivid peek into one of Europe’s oldest mythologies. Hid-folk live a semi-parasitic life, stealing lovers and food and cows and whatever else strikes their fancy from mortal villagers, who in turn have developed a whole array of protections against such incursions.   At times almost comical, these cultural clashes between the Hid-Folk and the Villagers carry with them a deeper sub-text. The old ways are under siege by the new Christ-God whose representatives have banned the worship of the Old Norse Gods. Yet, for our characters, the reality remains: Hid-Folk could be any stranger you meet while tending the sheep and elemental spirits might easily burst forth and offer you knowledge or simply wish for company. The only evidence of the truth of Christianity is the agony the cross and tolling bells causes the Hid-Folk.   Vivid imagery and thorough understanding of the culture push this story forward at a comfortable pace. Descriptions of place and time help bring to the reader’s mind concrete imagery and paint each scene in fluid detail – allowing for just enough personalization to make each reader’s experience unique.   Not quite a love story and not quite a fairy-tale laden with moral and metaphor, Huldredrom: Dream of the Hid-Folk­ by Christopher R. Knutson is an entertaining read for all ages...

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Halloween Catch Up

Some Scary Links BBC: Where Monsters Come From Halloween History Wikipedia: Halloween Another Version of Halloween History Some Scary Books   On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears I took a class from the author of this book, great professor and a gifted writer. Professor Asma’s insight into the human condition is almost supernatural. As he walks you through the various culturally constructed terrors of modern society, he expertly points out the folly and inconsistencies in each of those superstitions. Malleus Malificarum We’re not going to link to this book since you can get various versions from a dozen sources ranging from free to well past not-free. This is the original Witch Hunter’s Manual, written by a pair of charlatans. Frankenstein Considered a classic of horror literature, one might consider the deeper meanings in this troublesome tale. Is this a Luddite’s warning about science unchecked or a challenge to the existence of God? Literature professors worldwide still waste undergraduate’s time with this heady and unresolvable debate. But if you haven’t read it, you need to. World War Z If you haven’t read this one by now, you need to throw off that rock you’re hiding under and get with the program. This well researched, cleverly constructed historical account of the Zombie Apocalypse is true a modern horror classic. The audio-book version, though abridged, stars the voice talents of Allen Alda, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins and a whole slew of other professional actors. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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Magic

No, not the magic of writing. Well, maybe a little of that. Mostly it’s the magic of your fantasy world. Come on – you know you’ve written that next Lord of the Rings fantasy epic. You’ve done away with Orcs (Orks) and Elves and come up with something completely new and fresh. You’ve got an epic hero, who while still being “the chosen one,” manages to break all the stereotypes of fantasy literature and maintain the mythic cycle. You’re sure that Joseph Campbell would be bouncing with delight at your clever five act novel. You know that Ed Greenwood has nothing on the intricate fantasy realm you’ve created.   But there’s a problem. Your magic isn’t internally consistent. You might not even know it’s a problem. You might think it’s just some awkward scenes. Maybe you let your D&D group read the piece and they’re scratching their heads about the difference between Sorcerers and Wizards. Or maybe it’s something deeper, more subtle yet intrinsic to the plot.   Magic is a very slippery slope for a writer. Once the die is cast (or spell, in this case) there is not going back. If you’ve introduced magic to your world, your novel cannot ignore it. No one would. A magic-rich setting changes all the dynamics as well. Suddenly there’s no need to plow the fields – magic can do it. Suddenly, everyone carries a magic sword; your flaming scimitar of ass-kicking isn’t so special anymore. In fact, if everyone is walking around with a magic sword, mighty swords like Excalibur and Stormbringer suddenly become less wondrous. Even the Sword of Omens (Thundercats ho!) becomes more of a trinket or gimmick if every character has a magic sword. By the way, who is making these magic swords? If every man in the Evil Count’s Army has one, there’s no time for the Wizards to be casting their magic spells to plow the fields. Which puts us right back to where we started from.   You begin to see the problems with magic as a storyteller.   Finally, there’s the worst mistake a writer can make with magic – the dreaded Deus Ex Machina! Yes, one must never rely on magic to wrap up your plot. We see it all too often. For example, when the Prophets from Star Trek Deep Space Nine intervene (for unknown, undisclosed and unrealistic reasons) by destroying a force of thousands of Jem Hadar starships – we can call this a writer’s cop out, or a Deus Ex Machina Moment. Don’t do that.   Be the master of the magic in your world, not vice versa. Here’s how:   Be internally consistent: establish and understand the limitations...

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Terror Tips: Writing to frighten

It’s that time of year again… the leaves turn the color of blood and gold; they crisp on the branch, wither and fall to the ground. The nights get longer and the moon takes on a sinister aspect, partly mocking, almost sympathetic to the plight of those bathed in its pale light. It’s the time of year when you start writing horror stories! Spectacle Publishing has put together a short list of articles to get your (heh) blood pumping. The Horror of It All This is a great article by Tim Waggoner. He’s distilled his horror writing tips into three easily digestible chunks, supported by real-world examples you’re very likely to have read or watched. But, I guess, what you can expect from the Horror Writer’s Association. This is the link from which few return! Tips from [Stephen] King Deep in the musty bowels of the NPR archive, there rest the remnants of an interview with Stephen King himself. Included in these interview highlight from Fresh Air, are excerpt from King’s book, On Writing. This is a good stuff, pure distilled King, and straight from the dark place he calls a brain. If you’ve got the guts, click here! Horror: Fiction Factor This online community features weekly articles about writing horror. There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience and opinion here. Plus, the black and red design makes it super-scary! You know what to do! Need some inspiration? Writing Sense has compiled a list of the Top-Ten Horror stories of all time. It’s an impressive list with some heavy hitters listed. Interestingly enough, King, Barker and Koontz do not make the list. Don’t let that stop you. In fact it might be refreshing to skip back a few generations to find out where our current masters of horror fiction found their inspiration. Click here to check it out! Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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Scary S@*#

Halloween is just around the corner. Or maybe it’s hiding in the closet or under the bed. It might be sliding from shadow to shadow as you wander wearily to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My bet is that it was watching you from the window, probably ever since you got home this evening. Did you lock the doors up? Do you dare go check? Whatever your relationship with Halloween, no one dislikes a good horror story. Everyone likes to be scared. It’s fun when you’re a kid, it’s fun when you’re an adult. The question becomes “what is scary?” There’s no shortage of Stephen Kings and Dean R. Koontzs and Clive Barkers, but is this stuff scary anymore? How many times can King tell a story about a haunted car? Three to my best estimation (Maximum Overdrive, Christine and I’m sure there’s one more…) The trend in “scary” has changed from that tingling uneasiness you get when walking in the woods alone at sunset, to scenes of gruesome torture and mutilation. Mutilation is not horror. Mutilation is a car accident or an artillery shell. Torture is not horror; it is a debased form of intelligence gathering. So what is scary? Well, it’s not vampires anymore. They’re too clever and charming, their fashion sense is overwhelming and with such perfect smiles, how could they instill fear in anything? Werewolves too, have fallen to the wayside on the highway of terror. Ghosts, while unsettling for most are recycled and trite. Zombies and some of the more gruesome undead seem to be holding out cultural attention. I personally have read a dozen books that treat the topic with excellent insight as well as innovation. Ever since the 2003 release of 28 Days Later, we’ve seen the Zombie sub-genre blossom like a yellow-musk creeper in corpse pile (old school D&D reference anyone?). Now that zombies are fast, can run and chase you, and want nothing more than to devour you, to eat you alive while you struggle vainly to protect your exposed flesh from their rotting, chipped teeth, they are a bit more frightening. The denizens of the underworld, demons and devils, always occupy a special place, a shadowy corner in the recesses of the minds of the pious. But is it the threat of eternal damnation or the threat of a being whose very existence is anathema to your continued survival that is scary? I guess we should check in with William Peter Blatty for that one. When I talk with writers about horror, about mustering up strange fears that often the audience didn’t even know it had, I always start with a conversation about what the writer...

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The Broken Hearts Club?

The romance genre is only for those in the Broken Hearts Club…right? Wrong! Romance is one of the largest and best-selling genres in North America. The stereotype of the typical romance reader has been extremely distorted. You will not find us curled up on the couch, hair stuck in five different directions still in a week old gray sweatpants that used to be white, crying into a book because our own love life is in the pits. We are young adults still in high school trying to understand our own emotions. We are adults who are educated, sometimes with multiple post-educational degrees, just looking for a creative escape from our stressful daily lives. We are women and men (yes we know you are out there, your secret is safe with us). We are full-time workers, stay-at-home parents or just your everyday average Jane or Joe. So where does the stereotype come from? It comes from those who don’t understand the genre. The romance genre is not all about sex, sex and sex. It can be said that it just as hard to make someone fall in love as it is to scare or shock someone. Think about it. We all know what the average person is scared of, right? But what can make someone fall in love? That is a hard question. Writing a best-selling romance novel is more than just writing about: boy meets girl, boy loses girl then gets her back and they live happily ever after. If it were just that easy then every romance novel would be a best-seller. Those who criticize romance believe that every novel has two perfect people who fall in love—end of story. A good romance novel is more than that. A good romance has imperfect characters that are perfect for each other. A writer has to make their characters identifiable with the readers. Who can identify with someone who has everything going for them, never has any problems and has everything handed to them on a silver platter? Readers identify with the characters that have a struggle but work hard at whatever they do. The writer has to focus on who will be reading the novels and what is the perfect romance to them. It could be about two best friends, neighbors or just someone met at the rest stop on the Pennsylvania turnpike. The best thing about the romance genre is that there are numerous sub-genres. As a writer, you can hand pick which sub-genre you would like to write in. Do you like writing about drama—you have suspense romance. Do you like writing about fantasy—you have paranormal romance. The possibilities are endless. My challenge to you is this,...

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