V is for Vampire

Vampire Grave in Malew churchyard.
~~Photo courtesy of: Peter Killey, Manx Scenes Photography

In a churchyard in Malew parish, Isle of Man, there is a grave that is said to be that of a vampire. It is eerie to look at photographs of the strange grave, and not surprising that a vampire legend would be born from it. It is interesting to have the juxtaposition of a vampire buried in a grave on consecrated ground in a parish named for a saint (Saint Moluag).

The person buried here went by the name of Matthew Hassel. It is said that after he was buried wails and other odd noises could be heard from his grave. It was declared he must be a vampire so his grave was opened, a stake driven through his heart, then reburied. The grave was covered with a slate slab and chained off to prevent him from rising from the dead. His wife Margaret is buried with him.

In truth, as best as history buffs can find, it is thought he may have committed suicide. If that is the case then he would not have been allowed to be buried on consecrated ground, but instead was interred by way of the wall at the head of the grave. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why they went to such lengths to bury him in the churchyard, but I’m sure it had something to do with saving his soul. Suicide was (and still is) considered a mortal sin.

The story that he was a vampire is fun for any writer. We look for those odd things that make for a good book to send shivers across our reader’s back. I am tucking this story into my “Idea” file to look at for a possible short story. Until then, let’s hope Mr. Hassel continues to rest peacefully.

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This post inspired by – V

W is for Witch of Slieu Whallian

N is for Names

In choosing names for The Manx I used surnames that were listed in the census logs of the Isle of Man. I went as far back as I could find records for so that the names were as authentic as I could make them. Kaitlin Manning is named for the island, Mann (as it is sometimes spelled). Her first name is not of Manx origin, but she was born in America so I leaned toward something that would fit here in the states. Donal Kennaugh’s surname is one of the oldest I could find, plus I just liked it. His first name is of Manx origin and means “world conqueror.”

The book also takes us back into Manx history. King Magnus the Barefoot was king of Norway 1093-1103, during this time he was on the Isle of Man. King Magnus was ruthless in the battles he waged. He dominated much of the coastal area around the Irish sea. He had forts built on Man and he spent much of his time there while he was busy conquering the Irish Sea. His daughters, Ragnhild and Tora (I changed this name to Thora in the book), will play major parts in the past as well, along with a few other characters from his court.

The extent of historical accuracy does end there. I have used the names from the past  and taken a lot of artistic liberty with their characters. I also followed some of the historical narrative to build personalities for them, but that’s about it.

There have been days that I spent hours looking for names getting lost in the histories and the side trips of the internet. I am still building new characters so if you are Manx and know of a few good places, or people, that you think should be included. Leave a comment. I’d love to learn more.

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This post inspired by – N

O is for Osran

Rain on Your Writing?

It wasn’t too long ago that my life made an unexpected left turn, the wrong way, down a one way street. It started a few years ago and, today, there are vestiges of life’s crap still creeping around in the background. I won’t go into the grim details here, but trust me when I say, “It really, really, really sucked.” Life was dumping a torrential downpour on me, and my writing.

Shortly before everything went off track, I had started to write seriously. My mind was filled with stories that needed to be told. I went to writer’s conferences to learn the nuts and bolts of the writing business, and, furiously, I got to work. Then the sky opened up. I was sent awash down an overflowing river without a paddle (and I fell out of the boat a few times too).

What is a writer to do when they get hit by life’s “little” floods? How do you drag yourself through the quagmire to get back into writing? My biggest suggestion; don’t stop in the first place. Unless you are comatose, there isn’t a reason not to write. At some point my creative juices shriveled up into a grey clump of rotten raisins. I couldn’t think a thought that ran in a straight line. They jumped from one anxiety attack to another. Writing? HA! Sometimes I could only write a paragraph. Sometimes just a few stray thoughts. No matter what, I wrote something.

If you are trying to navigate through one of your life’s rainstorms here are a few suggestions to keep going:

  • Write as much as you can manage.
  • Attend your critique group whether you have written anything or not.
  • Stay in touch with your writing friends (and friends at large).
  • Attend writer’s conferences – (I’ll be at, PPWC2018, and RMFW2018 – I hope to teach a class at the latter of the two).
  • Write about your struggles. It is cheaper than a therapist! *grins*
  • Visit your therapist – they are amazing.

DON’T QUIT! There will be days that you sit at your computer and think, “I’m a fraud! I can’t do this! I quit!” After a brief pity party, get back at it, one word at a time. The flood waters will recede. You will once again be on a safe shore to write how you were meant to; BEAUTIFULLY.

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This post is inspired by Insecure Writer’s Group’s April 4th question: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 4 posting of the IWSG are Olga Godim,Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

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A to Z April Challenge

I was trolling around on Facebook and found an interesting blog writing challenge. A to Z April Challenge is designed for bloggers to post every day during the month of April (except Sunday….but include April Fools Day which is a Sunday….and it’s Easter Sunday too). Each post uses the letters of the alphabet thematically. April 1st post is the letter A, then the next is B, and so on until the last post is the letter Z.

a-to-z-badge

The best part? Each post will be relevant to my debut novel The Manx. You will be introduced to the characters, the Isle of Man, and snippets from the book. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I will enjoy writing them.

A-for-a-to-z    A —  April Fools Day! 

 

 

Let’s Celebrate!

This post has been inspired by March’s question of the month from Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The question: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Writing can be a lonely business, and when there is a chance to celebrate – WE DO! If you are a writer it is important to take care of yourself with a little bit of fun between the lines. (Did you catch that?) So, when that scene that has taken months to perfect finally comes together then it is a good time to treat yourself to a massage, a walk in the park, or a simple fist pump. Smile! You did it!

I tend to take my celebrations on the quiet side. I spend a lot of time perfecting things. I also spend too much time doing research. So, when I actually get a scene complete, or a short story with The End attached, I usually let out a huge sigh and lay my head on the desk. When I finished my great grandfather’s manuscript I remember how tired I was. To celebrate I took a nap. When I finished The Jockey I went to bed. (I think I see a trend here). It takes quite a bit of brain energy for me to get a story on paper, so I celebrate the only way I can…power naps!

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#IWSG’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the March 7 posting of the IWSG are Mary Aalgaard,Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

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Writing a Book Review

Writing a book review is not just about how much you liked or disliked a book, but an opportunity to have a more in depth look into the writing itself. When you are asked to write a book review your first step, obviously, is to read the book. Every word of the book. No matter how poorly it is written, you still have to read the book in its entirety.

As you read, take notes to jot down some of the areas you found to be thought provoking, or if you notice your emotions being tickled in some way. If you come across a passage that is quote worthy, write it down to have in your final written review. Consider what the author is trying to accomplish in the story. Here are a few questions to consider as you are reading:

  • How does the story flow?
  • Does it carry you along on an unforgettable journey, or are you pitched about with no rhyme or reason?
  • How invested are you feeling?
  • Do you care about any of the characters, where they are, and the challenges they are facing?
  • Are there any gaps or unexplained holes in the story?
  • In the end, are all the loose ends tied up?

Once your reading is done, review your notes then set it all aside for a day or two. You may not feel comfortable doing this because you might loose the spark and excitement you felt while reading the book. Or, you might find that this is a good time to breath and allow the story to sink into all the nooks and crevasses. You may find yourself more objective in your review.

You have taken the time you need to absorb the book and now it is time to write a review. Most reviews contain the basics: Title, author, publisher, date of publication, genre, page or word count, ISBN. Once the basics are in, then tackle the body of the review. Be sure you are reviewing the book that was written, not what you wish had been written. To whine about what you wanted defeats the whole purpose of a review, which is to inform a potential reader if this is a worthwhile book to read.

Tell your audience what you thought of the book and why. Just saying “it’s a good/bad book” is not much help. Give examples of what made it good or bad (remember the notes you jotted down?). Were there so many grammatical errors your head was spinning, or did the story sweep you away to another planet where you could taste the grit and feel the oil in the air? These added details will give the reader a better idea of why you liked/disliked the book.

Many reviewers will include a brief synopsis of the story so the reader has an idea of what the book is about. If your review is going to be listed on Amazon, Goodreads, or Bookbub, you may not need the story intro because it is already there. But, if you are reviewing it on a blog or for a magazine it is a good idea to give a quick introduction to the story.

Including something about the author is another option. Is it a debut novel, or the final in a 10 part series? Maybe the author usually writes scifi and this is a break out historical fiction. These little tid-bits add interest for the reader and will keep them reading your review. In turn, they will read the book you have just reviewed and the author may ask for another from you.

Keep your comments as balanced as you can. No matter how horrible a book is, there has to be something good worth mentioning. Authors have pretty tough skin, but make an effort not to send them out to the slaughter. They have spent months – or years- on it. Give them some nuggets they can grow with as an author. Your review should teach as much as criticize.

Your review is not about you and your taste in genres. It is a way to help a possible reader know what a book is about and why they too might like to read, or pass to the next choice.

What Do I Love Most About My Genre?

What’s not to love? I do write in multiple genres (historical fiction, non-fiction, and fantasy), but my favorite is fantasy. Ever since a young age I loved tails about witches, vampires (Bela Lugosi was the best), fairies, and all the rest. I read the tame versions of the Brothers Gimm along with marathons of the old black and white Frankenstein-esque films.

My writing is on the tamer side of witchcraft and fairy tales. My first book (yes, I’m working furiously to get it out!) is based on the fairy tales and legends on the Isle of Man. They are pretty quirky stories that I still scratch my head about. One story is about St. Trinian’s Church and the monster haunting it. The monster, called a Buggane, hates all the noise the church builders are making during the day, so he rips off the roof every night. This goes on and on. The roof is on, the roof is off, night after night. Then a boy named Timothy makes a wager with the church that he can make a pair of pants inside the church before the Buggane can rip off the roof. They take him up on the wager just so the roof might stay on a single night. Timothy not only gets his breeches made, but he also angers the Buggane so much that it rips it’s own head off and vanishes. The church still stands today.

This is what I love about what I write. A tale of legendary monsters, a brave boy, and a building that still stands. One day, I will visit St. Trinian’s and touch the walls of history. Until that day I will write my own tales of the Buggane of St. Trinian’s.

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Today’s post is inspired by the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group). Our awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

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