17th century engraving of a bicorn and chichevache, courtesy of Wikipedia.

You ever come across something in your day-to-day life–a historical event, a movie with an interesting premise or character, a conversation that goes into weird tangents, etc.–and you think to yourself, “I want to write a story around that!” Chances are you have. And chances are you’ve sometimes struggled just to come up with that story based on whatever you’ve run into.

That happens to me all the time. I’ve got a huge list of potential bases for stories–my “idea fragments”–on my flash drive, over two-hundred bases, and only about half of them have been turned into ideas. I’ve been known to obsess over these fragments for weeks or months until I come up with something for them. And I’m obsessing over my most recent fragment quite a lot these days: the bicorn and chichevache.

Now, for those of you who don’t know much about obscure monsters from the Middle Ages (pretty much everyone), the bicorn and the chichevache are kind of the polar opposites of unicorns (the names of all three, by the way, are French in origin). They both have two horns, and are sometimes described as cow-like chimeras, though more recent depictions tend to show them as horses with two horns curved like a bull’s. The difference between the two is what they eat (and keep in mind, these creatures normally featured in satirical works. So remember, someone or their attitudes were being made fun of with these descriptions). Bicorns ate kind and devoted husbands and were often depicted as fat to the point of obese, while chichevaches went after virtuous and obedient wives and were therefore thin and starving.

Remember, this was probably meant to poke fun of someone. I’m guessing medieval views of men vs. women. This also goes against the depiction of the unicorn, a one-horned horse or goat that affirms purity, usually by letting a virtuous maiden pet or ride them. You know, instead of destroying them by eating them.

I first came across the bicorn in an anime I was watching, and was curious enough to do a little research. Thus I came across the bicorn’s counterpart, the chichevache, and then the creative fires were lit. This was back in October. And I still can’t think of a damn story for the creatures!

So far I’ve cast aside revenge stories, a story where someone uses to prove that certain people in their community aren’t as upstanding as they thought, and a few others. I’ve tweaked the myth a bit here and there to make the creatures more viable in the 21st century, and I’ve focused on just one or the other. Nothing’s clicked so far. They don’t feel original enough, or fun enough, or like the sort of story I would write. I want a story that is different from the other stuff out there. If it feels too much like another story, what’s the point of writing it in the first place?

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to come up with the story, and I’m stubborn enough to keep at it till something sticks. Immersing myself in a book or TV show or audio book; working on Toyland (or, if I need a break from that, a short story idea I have in reserve); doing some other activity; or just enjoying life. Just living my life, I come across new things everyday. Perhaps something will cross my path and make my idea fragment into a full story idea. Preferably before someone else writes a story about the creatures and makes any of my ideas pointless, that is.

In the meantime, what do you do when you can’t come up with a story for an idea fragment? And have you heard of the bicorn and the chichevache before?

And while you’re still here, are you still looking for something for the lover of the macabre and the weird in your life this holiday season? If yes, might I recommend my very own novel, Rose? When Rose Taggert wakes up in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there, she soon finds her life, and her body, irrevocably changed. Thus begins a Kafkaesque nightmare of intrigue, magic and violence as Rose fights not just for the truth, but for her own survival. Available now in ebook and paperback from Amazon (and soon to be available from Audible in audiobook form). Links are below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

This has been long overdue. But as promised, I am doing another post on anime I like. After all, along with horror, anime is a huge influence on me and my life as well as my writing (anyone who’s read Rose can see that). So with that in mind, I thought I’d do another post recommending some anime I’ve enjoyed recently and that I hope other people would like to check out.

If you’d like to check out my first list, click here.

And with that in mind, let’s get onto the recommendations!

Princess Tutu

At first glance, this anime seems like it’s something aimed at little girls. A duck is chosen to become a human girl, and then become a magical girl named Princess Tutu, who uses the power of dance to restore a prince’s lost heart. And admittedly, the first couple episodes are light-hearted and comedic. But as you continue on, it becomes clear that this is actually a dark and emotional anime about fate vs. free will. The characters soon begin to realize that there are sinister forces manipulating their lives, and it becomes a struggle not just to restore the prince’s heart, but if they should restore it, as well as to find a path that allows them to control the course of their lives.

This is the sort of anime where you’ll look back at the first episode after watching the last and be like, “Holy crap? Did that just happen?” It’s a roller coaster, a thought-provoking anime that uses dance to create emotional struggle and to explore the idea of who controls our destiny. If you want a surprising fantasy anime using a beautiful art form to tell its story, you might enjoy Princess Tutu.

Also, this is an anime I watched as research for Toyland. Just saying.

The Helpful Fox Senko-san

An overworked and super-stressed office worker comes home one day to find a fox spirit in the form of a human girl in his apartment. This fox-girl introduces herself as Senko, and says she’s here to take care of and pamper the office worker. Thus starts the office worker’s new, and hopefully more relaxing, life.

At first, I was not sure what to make of this anime, or why I kept watching it. But then I had a long, exhausting, stressful day at work, and I realized the reason why I was drawn to this show. We’ve all had days where life has stressed us out and we want to scream to the heavens about our exhaustion. And on those days, we really wish there was someone waiting at home for us at home to take care of us and make things better. Maybe not a magical fox girl, but someone. Senko-san taps into that, and gives us a scenario like that. And rather than making us overly jealous, it actually relaxes you a bit. You relax vicariously.

If you’re interested in an anime that aims to soothe you (or you’re into ASMR, like I am), I highly recommend The Helpful Fox Senko-san.

Digimon Tamers

A lot of people think Digimon is a knockoff of Pokemon, but in reality they’re just very similar products that came out around the same time in the 1990s. In fact, at some points Digimon was more popular than Pokemon! Another thing people don’t realize is, unlike Pokemon, the anime is made up of several different anime revolving around the same concept, like how there are multiple coexisting versions of Marvel superheroes with their own separate universes.* And Digimon Tamers is, by far, the best of the various series.

In this version of the franchise, Digimon are fictional characters with a TV show and card game, kind of like our world at the turn of the century. However, certain children come across real Digimon. Unlike on TV, however, these are violent and wild animals who enjoy the fight and the kill as much as they enjoy the human world. As time passes, it becomes clear that a secret shadowy organization is watching the Digimon and trying to stop them as they emerge into our world. And if these kids aren’t careful, they’re going to lose more than their new friends.

A darker take on the franchise, Digimon Tamers deals with the issues of what it’s actually like to have a connection with what is essentially a sentient wild animal that needs to kill its fellows to survive. It’s a slow burn story that grows more complex as time goes on, dealing with heavy psychological issues and even incorporating cosmic horror themes at times. If you want to see how a “kids show” can be more mature than some shows for adults, while at the same time evoking 90’s and 2000’s nostalgia, this may be the show for you.

*And for those unaware, the concept of Digimon revolves around children who befriend monsters made of computer data, and together they fight evil Digimon and try to maintain the balance of both the human world and the Digital World.

Flying Witch

Makoto is a young witch who moves out to the country to live with relatives. The goal is to attend high school in an area with plenty of nature while also nurturing her magic skills. Along the way, she makes friends, sees amazing sights, and collects a lifetime of memories.

Flying Witch is a relaxing, quiet anime that focuses more on interaction between its characters and making you laugh or feel good rather than building a big, magical world. The result is a mellow series that leaves you feeling relaxed while you watch it. If you’re just looking for something wholesome to melt your stress away, Flying Witch is probably the answer.

And trust me, it’s worth it just for the “Mommy” joke in the first episode.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka Kaname is your average middle school girl. That is, until she saves a mysterious creature from a transfer student in her class, and the creature offers to grant her one wish in exchange for becoming a magical girl and fighting evil entities known as witches. While at first it sounds like a great deal, Madoka soon learns that every wish comes with a price. And for some, it’s too much to pay.

Considered a classic of anime, Madoka Magica is a dark take on the magical girl genre, showing the psychological toll of trying to be a savior of humanity at the tender age of 14 can do to a girl. Combined with masterful twists and storytelling, beautiful backgrounds and trippy imagery, this is an anime that’s still being talked about today.

If you’re looking for an anime to surprise you (or you want to see one of the other anime I watched as research for Toyland), I can’t recommend Madoka Magica enough.

Cells at Work

You know that movie, Osmosis Jones? Imagine an anime version that’s a thousand times better, and you have Cells at Work, which portrays an anthropomorphized world full of cells working together in a human body as their city.

This series has been lauded for its accuracy as a portrayal of how blood cells actually work (albeit from a whimsical side) and has even been used as a teaching tool in universities around the world. Plus, it’s just fun to see a hapless red blood cell hanging out with a ruthless white blood cell, platelets portrayed as small kids going around and building things, and watching bacteria getting the shit kicked out of them.

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

This is one of the most Ghibli-like non-Studio Ghibli films I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. Maquia is part of the Iorph people, a tribe of long-living humanoids with blonde hair, blue eyes, and youthful appearances. One day, after a powerful kingdom invades their homeland and Maquia is separated from her people in the ensuing madness, she comes across a human baby whose mother has just died. She adopts the child, and soon begins a journey that will change the both of them forever.

While I have some problems with how the movie explains the world it’s set in, I have to admit this is a beautiful tear-jerker of a film. It captures the struggles of parenting beautifully, while also adding in the pressures of being an eternally young mother. At the same time, it deals a lot with identity, extremism, and the things people are willing to do to survive. It’s a powerful film and may make you cry. If you prefer your anime more heartwarming and Ghibli-ish, I can’t recommend Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms enough.

Gonna be the Twin-tail

A parody of magical girl anime, Power Rangers, and the hairstyle of twin pony/pigtails (aka “twintails”) which shows up in 80% of anime, this is one of those anime meant to make anime lovers laugh!

A high school boy with a thing for girls with twintails is approached and tasked with a humongous task: aliens are coming to Earth with the goal of stealing the world’s twintails and other attributes that cause physical attraction! Why? Because they feed on that sort of thing, apparently! And this young man must stop these aliens from messing with his beloved twintails…while at the same time transforming into a redheaded girl with twintails named Tail Red.

Yeah, this series is weird. But for anyone who’s been around the anime scene long enough, it’s basically a goodhearted laugh at what makes most of us keep coming back to the medium. I wouldn’t watch it if you’re looking to explore anime for the first time. But if you’re already into the scene, and you need a lighthearted laugh, Gonna be the Twin-tail is the series for you.

 

What anime do you recommend? Have you seen any of the ones on this list? What did you think? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have more posts out soon, believe me (though it may be another 6-8 months before I do a list like this again). And until then, goodnight and pleasant nightmares!

Well, November is over. And so, by the way, is NaNoWriMo. So you know what that means. Time to give you all my final report of how this past month went!

Now, if you’re unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual challenge in November where authors around the world try to write a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days, or about 1,667 words per day. The last time I participated was in college, but I decided to participate this year and even took time off work to get a good start on the novel. My project this year is called Toyland, and is a Gothic horror novel about a boarding school in Ohio that’s haunted by the ghost of a girl obsessed with a children’s book.

Yeah, the premise is as bonkers as that of Rose. But hey, that’s kind of the way I like it.

So now that November is over, how did work on Toyland go?

Well. I think it went well. I managed to get quite a bit of work on the novel done in a short span of time. Yeah, my ADHD often led me to distraction, and the normal things that come up in life–errands, social events, and all the stuff you do as a functioning adult and member of society–took away from writing time. And after I went back to work, things only got more hectic. But I still managed to write and discovered just how much I can write when I really set my mind to it. And during the time when I was off work, I got a glimpse as to what life could be like if I ever am able to write full time (fingers crossed someday that happens), which was neat.

Anyway, time for the final word count (I won’t go into page count because that varies depending on a number of factors). At the time midnight rolled around, I was halfway through Chapter Ten of Toyland. As of my stopping to write this post, Toyland is now 34,284 words long. Last time I participated, I think I wrote about thirty thousand words, so this was some positive growth. So while I didn’t reach the fifty thousand word goal, I do consider NaNoWriMo 2019 a huge success.

Hell, I might do it again next year, and take time off as well. I already know what novel I’d like to work on next, so it’d work out, and I earn a lot more time off at work these days, so it could happen.

Still have plenty of writing to do on this book. And I plan to keep at it.

In the meantime, though, I’m still not done with Toyland. I have a feeling this novel’s going to be somewhere around eighty thousand or more words,* so I still have plenty of writing to do. I’m aiming to have it done by the end of January, but we’ll see what happens. You can’t rush perfection, after all. And even if my work is far from perfect, the sentiment stands.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m not sure when I’ll provide another update on Toyland or post again, but I can assure you it’ll be very soon.

But before that, have you considered a gift for the lover of the strange and macabre this December?** Why not give them a copy of Rose? The novel follows Rose Taggert, a young woman who wakes up in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there. She soon finds her life, and her body, irrevocably changed forever, and with it comes many dark forces and powerful secrets that will lead to a desperate fight for survival. It’s dark and engaging Kafkaesque horror novel that will leave you glued to the page until you reach the end. Available from the links below (with an audio book link coming soon).

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Until next time, Followers of Fear, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

*For context, the first Harry Potter book is about seventy-seven thousand words.

**Yes, I’m doing this. Can you blame me? It is that time of year, after all.

Thomas’s previous work, Kill Creek, is an excellent piece of modern Gothic fiction and is currently my favorite novel (read my review here). When I heard Mr. Thomas had another book, Violet, on its way out, I immediately requested my library buy copies, and then got on the reserve list. Due to my crazy life, it took me two check-outs to finish the book, but I finally did so this evening. And now, it is my solemn duty and great pleasure to do a review. Let’s get to it.

Violet follows Kris Barlow, a veterinarian and mother of a young girl. After the death of Kris’s husband scars her daughter Sadie, she decides to pack the family up and retreat to her childhood lake house in the heartland of Kansas in an effort to heal. The same lake house, by the way, where Kris’s own mother died years ago. However, in-between the home improvement projects on the long-neglected home and Kris’s own fears, something in that house awakens. And it has a special interest in Kris and Sadie, one stemming all the way back to Kris’s buried childhood.

While I didn’t react as enthusiastically to Violet as I did to Kill Creek, I did find it a great slow-burn horror story.

Thomas does a great job job taking his time so we can get to know our main character Kris. By the time I was halfway through the book, she felt like a real person to me. Especially in terms of her anxieties; while what she’s worried about is different from my own anxieties, the emotion behind them felt like my own anxiety when its ugly head rears. That’s not easy to do.

You also get to know the town of Pacington, kind of like you get to know the town of Derry in IT. The atmosphere and melancholy of the town, as well as its citizens, all of it becomes very real to the reader.

All this with the same sort of storytelling Thomas displayed with Kill Creek, allowing the story with its secrets and intrigue and twists to fully take form over the course of 400-plus pages. For about two hundred pages, I was sure I knew what the big reveal was. Turns out, I was very wrong, and I was so glad for it.

That being said, there was one aspect of the novel I didn’t care for. While the slow-burn aspect worked for the most part, allowing for the reader to become embroiled in the town, in Kris’s life, and in the strange events occurring, at times it did drag a bit. I found myself thinking at times, “Come on! Something extremely creepy, please happen!” That may just be my quirk, though. Anyone who’s read my work may have noticed I like to get to the horror and the strange going-ons sooner rather than later. So maybe it was just a little too slow at times for me and me alone.

All in all, Violet is a great follow-up to Kill Creek that takes its time and helps immerse you in the story. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the novel an even 4. Check it out and settle in. You’re in for a ride.

Good morning, Followers of Fear. A lot of you have been clamoring for me to publish some of my NaNoWriMo project, Toyland. Now, I usually prefer to give it a few more drafts before I share content from my stories (especially my novels). However, I don’t see what harm sharing the first two lines can do.

That’s right. Longtime Followers will remember this. It’s #FirstLineFriday!

Now as always, I should list the rules of this once-ubiquitous writing meme. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

I’ve titled the post correctly and explained the rules. Now for the first two lines of my Gothic horror WIP, Toyland. Enjoy:

The autumn semester of Mason Prather’s sophomore year of high school at Auckland Academy began with more drama than he could have ever predicted. To be precise, the drama began during Move-In Week, when the exclusive boarding school’s six-hundred students moved into the dorms in the North Building.

Was that a good hook? Did you get interested in the novel after reading that? If not, remember, this is still a first draft. I still have a long way to go before the whole novel is ready for public consumption.

Anyway, what were your thoughts on the opening? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

As for tagging people, I think I’ll skip it this week. However, if anyone would like to take up this meme, you’re more than welcome to. Take the graphic above as well if you like. That’s why I made it.

Well, that’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I have a full day of work ahead of me, so I’m going to get ready for that. Until next time, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares!

I’m a little amazed how quickly the month has gone by. As of today, there are only nine days left in the month. And after that, a different kind of countdown will commence.

But onto the main subject of this post. As you all probably know by now, I’m taking part in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, this year. My project this year is called Toyland, and it’s a Gothic horror novel about a boarding school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. And while the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write an entire fifty thousand word novel, I’d be happy to make it halfway, or even more than thirty thousand words (how much I wrote the last time I participated).

So if you read my post from last week, I was over twenty-one thousand words and six chapters into the novel. I guess it was inevitable that there would be a slow-down after getting so much done in two weeks, because this past week I only made so much progress. I didn’t even get any writing done on Monday or Tuesday, in fact, and that might’ve been the case yesterday if I didn’t wake up sick and had to stay home. Yeah, that happened. And for all I know, it may happen again (it is that time of year).

So how much progress did I make? As of last night, I’m in the middle of writing Chapter Eight and the novel is currently 26,746 words. Which is still good progress, but I was hoping for more by the time I typed up this report.

At least I’m close to making that thirty thousand word goal.

I’m also at the point of the first draft where I am questioning A LOT of my creative decisions. Should I include this? Should I write out that? Does that sound too preachy? Am I getting away from the point of my novel? This is something every creator goes through at least once while working on a project–I went through it every day during some of the later drafts of Rose–and it’s never fun. For the most part, I’m just trying to move past those feelings and make more progress on this novel. Because at the end of the day, even if this novel is totally bonkers, it’s my kind of bonkers, so at least I’ll be happy with it.

Anyway, I’m going to try and get some more progress on this chapter done tonight. However, I’m also going to try to go to bed early tonight, because as I said I’ve been sick recently and I don’t want a relapse.

With that said, I’ll sign off now, my Followers of Fear. The next update for Toyland will likely be December 1st, after NaNoWriMo’s done and I have the latest tally on the numbers. But don’t worry, you’ll hear from me in the meantime. And until then, pleasant nightmares!

I normally don’t do introspective posts like this. You know me, if it’s not something horror or writing-related, there’s a good chance it’s related to an issue near and dear to my heart, such as disability rights and awareness. But I found out today that there’s only 45 days left of the year, and it’ll be even less once you’re reading this post. And that’s significant, because it’s not just the end of 2019 that’s approaching, but the end of the 2010’s. And that’s crazy to think about. An entire decade is ending in just over a month and a half.

So I’d like to take a bit of time and write about my thoughts concerning the ending of 2019 and the 2010’s.*

And a lot can be said about either subject. For 2019, I’m going to argue that the best things about this year were in terms of entertainment. Think about it: Avengers Endgame, The Lighthouse, Us and the fourth season of Lucifer. They were all amazing! And the rest was pretty much cringe-inducing (I won’t say anymore on that lest I break my rule about commenting on politics and certain current events).

But it’s hard to deny that it’s been a tough year, and a tough decade to boot. Depending on who you ask, things either started out good and got worse over the years, or things started out bad and got better. Or a couple other answers, but those are the main ones, I think. However you saw the 2010’s, it’s been a decade of profound change. Technology became faster and more efficient, more ubiquitous and necessary to our lives. Many peoples became more divided because of beliefs, or backgrounds, or a hundred other reasons. Leaders have changed, and with them the policies of various nations. The need to protect the environment has become stronger, and we’ve taken steps forward and backward to address that. Pop culture took radical shifts too, with horror gaining a new, hard-won respect it previously never enjoyed, and Marvel became the movie powerhouse that DC has always been. Streaming has become the new frontier. And more media is being created every day to reflect our increasingly diverse society, with much of it making into the mainstream. All along lots more remakes and reboots and sequels than anyone wanted or needed.

In short, lots and lots of change.

The 2010’s were a decade of change for me as well. Quite literally. I started the decade as a high school student who thought I had a cushy after-school job selling basketball tickets and that I was going to be a bestselling author by the time I was 25. I graduated high school, went to college and dealt with all the growth and crazy and learning that comes with it. I went on a study abroad trip, moved to my first apartment, and graduated again. I went to Germany for an internship, and then came home for the nadir of the decade, where I dealt with a horrific job search and back pain. I finally got my job and my old place. My health improved, though at some point I did develop a nasty anxiety disorder. I visited haunted locations I’d always dreamed of visiting. I got my driver’s license and my car.

At some point, I stopped being a kid and started being an adult. And along the way, I found this amazing community of writers and bloggers and readers and published books and short stories along the way, including Rose this past summer. It’s been kind of crazy.

And for the most part, the decade was good. Yeah, there were some bad times, but the good are what I remember the most. Mostly because the good was the result of my own hard work and perseverance.

And as the new Roaring Twenties approach (hopefully they’ll be roaring because they’re fun, and not because of nuclear missiles being launched everywhere), there’s something we should all keep in mind. I know the future seems bleak and scary. Believe me, all I have to do is look at the news to be reminded of that fact. But we have the power to make good things happen. I’ve seen amazing things happen just through sheer effort. And when you take a step towards what you want to see in the world, you’ll see the world come together to help you along.

So as we end this year 44 days from now and enter a new decade, just remember to keep your chin up. You have the power to make the changes you want to see. And when you take those steps, you’ll be amazed at what you accomplish.

Well, this post is getting super long. I’ll cut off here and say see you Thursday at the latest. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

*Normally I’d reserve this sort of post for New Year’s. However, I’ve noticed that, probably because of the holidays, those posts don’t get that many readers. So I figure I might as well get my thoughts out now before we’re all caught up in our personal lives and can’t spare any time to read blog posts.