Thursday, March 12, 2015

You might have a legendary creature in your house, and not know it.

**Sorry for the lateness. My artist had technical difficulties.

There is an assumption that most folkloric creatures are rural based. While that it is true that the woods and farmland have more than their fair share of mythological creatures lurking. It doesn't mean that the cities didn't have any.

The urban creature that might come to mind is of course the vampire. The second, might be the zombie. Both creatures are not defined on where they are active. You can find them anywhere. But let's not talk about them. There are far more interesting ones.

House spirits are the largest group of these. They are small human like creatures that live in your home and will help you out, if you are nice to them. Or make your life a living hell if you are nasty. Some will even start to look like you. Which could be embarassing.

Dobby from the Harry Potter series is a great example of one of these creatures. The name Dobby is also a name given to Brownies, on which the house-elfs were based on.

Brownie by Matt Miniatt 2015
Brownie by Matt Miniatt 2015

Brownies are from Scotland and Northern England. They are small. They do not like to be seen. They will live in unused parts of the home, like the attic. And if you want them to help you around the house; leave out some food, especially honey. And if you want to be really nice to them; leave a little place in the kitchen for them. In the past, it was a small seat next to the fire. Now-a-day's I suppose you could leave a seat by the oven.

Similar to Brownies but from the Slavic lands is the Domovoi. These are hairy, bearded little people, that will take on the appearance of the owner of the house after a long time. Or sometimes they will look like a cat or dog that likes to hang around the home. They are a bit noisier than Brownies. They will help out the owners of the house if treated well. But like to pound and knock things around while doing so.

Domovoi by Matt Miniatt 2015
Domovoi by Matt Miniatt 2015

Domovois, if treated correctly, could also warn people of dangers. If a woman was in danger, he would pull her hair. He would moan or howl if trouble was coming. And like a Banshee would cry and scream if death was coming to the house.

One you do not want attached to your house is the Boggart. They make things disapper. They cause pets to become injured. And if they really don't like you, they will try to injure you.

Boggart by Matt Miniatt 2015
Boggart by Matt Miniatt 2015

Unlike the others; Boggarts are real jerks. If you think leaving your house will solve the problem. Think again. THEY WILL FOLLOW YOU!

Luckily, it is easy to get rid of them. Hang a horseshoe on your door or spread salt on the threshold. The way the winter has been in Central New York, there is more than enough salt out to keep them away.

by Mari Miniatt

Art by Matt Miniatt

Monday, March 2, 2015

History Makes You Uncomfortable? Too Bad, Those are the Best Bits.

I try to stay away from politics in my blog. But I have to have this rant. In Oklahoma, they are planning to do away with AP history classes. For all the reasons stated, the one that gets me riled is; because some parts of history are too "uncomfortable."

For me, those are the best part history.

History should not just be about the best part of history. It should not be about the victories and the glorifying the good parts. And what do you consider uncomfortable?
Is uncomfortable, learning about the bloodiest battle in the Revolutionary War*? Or one of the worst man made disasters in the US, prior to 9/11?  Or a race riot so horrible, that there was an attempt to delete the history of it**?

Am I the weird one? Because I find the gore and disasters and horrible events the best parts of history. NO. Author Terry Deary made his career by telling kids about history using the awful bits. Horrible Histories would have be devoured by me if I had been lucky enough to have them when I was a kid. Yes, they are told with humor, but why is that wrong? History shouldn't be dry. It was interesting when it was happening, so it should be interesting for us.

Also has many articles about history that talk about the stupid, the strange, the unbelieveable, the badassardy of people in the past. Seriously, I think they made Simo Hayha's name known outside of Finland (HERE). Unless you were a WWII buff, you might have never heard of him.

I guess I got sidetracked... All of history is uncomfortable. But that doesn't you shouldn't learn about it. It what makes history so interesting.  Those strange, gory, or just plain weird facts about the people and places in history are far more memorable than just the dates.

And to end this, a video from Horrible Histories, at least until the BBC blocks it in America.

* I have and will be volunteering at Fort Stanwix National Monument. The Battle of Oriskany is tied to the fort's history. I recommend stopping by the fort and seeing the battlefield which is a few minutes away by car.
**Also happened in Oklahoma, so this is not the first time they have tried to alter the history.

by Mari Miniatt

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Create a Fictional Town

How to Create a Fictional Town


Mini world building.

Write about what you know. That is why it is the easiest to set a story in a real place. Especially, if it is a place that you are familiar with. But there are issues with that. Someone might call you out because you didn't put a building in the right place. Or the real place, doens't quite fit the mood of your story.

For me, it's easier to create a new place. My recent work in progress takes place in a village. And coming up with the basics of the village, took a few hours work.

Here is how I did it:

1st. Think about how much the setting will effect the story. Is it going to have it's own character? Is it just a place? How recognizable do you want it to be?

2. How big? In my Coiree series I came up with Deerbow. A large city somewhere in the midwest. My latest WIP, the little village where everyone thinks they know everyone else. I needed Deerbow to be a large city, so it could hide my characters better. The small village, because how tiny, yet remote it is.

3. Basic layout: There are two ways I have done this.
Deerbow: I hung a piece of blank paper on the wall. I drew some of the major features in, ie: the rivers and where some of neighborhoods were. I didn't have names, but concepts of the what type of neighborhoods they were. As I wrote, I would add details.
The village: I cheated. I found a map of a small town. I didn't copy it exactly. I took the main roads, then filled in my own features. Since the village was named after the falls, the river was the main feature I added. Like Deerbow, the map is hanging on my wall.

Glory in my wonderful map making skills. And the potato I use for a camera.

4. Give the place a personality. Blue-collar? Sports fanatic town? College town? A lot of retired people? A place that has seen better days? A town that only has a population boom in the summer? It's personality should fit with the mood of your story.

As you can see, you don't have to come up with the layout of everybuilsing with a complete history on each one. Make notes as you write. The church you mention in the beginning of the story, might become the scene of a major plot point later. I find it's best, not to spend too much time in the basic planning of the setting.

If a place becomes important. You may need to map out that out and fill it with the imformation you need to write the story.

Also remember, this information is for your benefit, to help set the stage for your characters. If you start to tell the readers the history of every small cafe. Something you might have created for background information, but if the characters don't need to know it. Don't bore your reader with it.

by Mari Miniatt