Heron’s Path by Alethea Eason: (sample)

Check out this sample from the upcoming young adult fantasy novel Heron’s Path by Alethea Eason: — — — On a hot day in September I found Celeste’s clothes scattered all over the barn, one shoe upside down next to Papa’s forge and the other inside a milking pail. Her yellow dress hung from a ladder like a bird suspended in midair. I pulled the dress down by its hem and three tiny blue feathers, nearly the same shade as my sister’s eyes, drifted down to the dusty floor. I caught one of them in my hand; I stood there puzzling over what might have happened that morning to make her run off again. I felt alone, as though a wind had come up and peeled Celeste from the earth. I told myself that she was playing the same old game she’d scared us with so many other times, but this loneliness—so odd and new—followed me like a ghost as I ran outside and shouted for Papa. I was afraid he wouldn’t come; I’d find our cabin gone, and I’d be without any family at all. Papa searched the woods. I took our dog, Rufus, and ran up and down the river bank. When I found no trace of her I followed Papa into the trees where there were more shadows than seemed right. I didn’t dare go in very far and kept circling the places Celeste and I knew well. I heard Olena’s voice in my head telling me stories. Her words dripping slowly the way honey falls from a spoon. Her stories always made me uneasy. She believed in ghosts, the last traces of the Old Ones, who were a part of the breath and spirit of the rocks and trees, of the river Talum, and the surrounding woods. But the wei-ni-la, the darker ones, were the shadows to really fear. They were ancient too, and lived in the empty spaces of the woods, filling them with whispering. All afternoon Celeste’s name echoed through the trees as Papa and I called for her. Finally, his shouting changed and Rufus started to bark furiously. I was so tired my legs were shaking. I was running on legs that wouldn’t work. When I finally found them, Papa was half way up a steep gully with Celeste draped over his shoulder. Her hair, a skein of golden thread unraveling almost to the ground, was the only thing that covered her. I thought she looked newly born or newly dead. “Is she all right?” I asked. My lips were dry and hurt when I spoke, and my words felt like spittle as they came out of my mouth. All Papa could...

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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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The Zombie Thing

Since it’s the season for horror writing (though I think true Zombie aficionados are always alert and wary for the possibility of an undead uprising, regardless of the time of year) I thought it’d be a good time to talk about a tidal wave of a trend in fiction. I’m guessing if you’re any sort of Zombie fan, you’ve read The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z by Max Brooks. These two books, so well researched and cleverly assembled helped to make the concept of a species-ending epidemic or plague, very real, bringing them close to home at the same time, viewing such terrific events from a cool and clinical perspective. This perspective added a level of plausibility that the genre had lacked before. Max Brooks two books are clear, concise, informative and not the blood-spattered, hysterical screaming gore fests many of us have come to associate with the genre.   But if we jump back a little further, I want to say 2002, there’s a film written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle that I think not only revitalized the genre, but sent it spiraling off into new directions in both literature and cinema. 28 Days Later is the tale of a virus outbreak that spreads rapidly from person to person, causing not cannibalistic hunger as we’ve come to expect from zombies, but simple, unchecked rage. This infection forces a loss of reason and freewill upon its victims, essentially turning them into mindless killers (zombies.)So far, we’re not seeing major differences in the plot; same disease vector, same results, panicked civilization, trains are no longer on time, et cetera. Then it hits you right in the face: these zombies can run. Now only can they run, but they’re fast! This simple change in an otherwise clichéd monster’s behavior not only made them actually frightening again, but increased the plausibility of the whole event, not to mention revitalizing a dead (heh) sub-genre of horror. Zombies create the perfect union of post-apocalyptic settings.   Opportunities for characters are limitless. For example, how would survivors behave knowing there were no consequences for their actions? Without law and order, who decides right and wrong? Perhaps more to the point, who is stop those who choose to do wrong? This setting provides for limitless exploration of ethics and morality plays. As long as your internal cosmology is consistent, your plausibility remains high and the fictional elements are not even doubted.   AMC’s The Walking Dead is a good example of this. The situation is internally consistent – the laws of physics and the cause-effect pattern of the zombie infection is consistent. In situations where there is doubt, the writers take special care to place just enough exposition dialogue to allow the audience to...

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