Mythical Creatures

Who Makes You Want to Be a Better Person?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I had a light-hearted quiz post prepared for today (and you’ll still see it next week), but I couldn’t post it. I felt the need to re-post something I wrote two years ago. You see, Saturday was the 12th anniversary of the death of one of my dearest friends, and this past week another friend of mine lost her son. He was only 24 years old. An unexpected health complication took him from those who loved him.

So I needed to re-run this post in honor of the memory of both Amanda and James because I know that he was to many people what she was to me.

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“I have forgotten that men cannot see unicorns. If men no longer know what they’re looking at, there may be other unicorns in the world yet, unknown, and glad of it.”—The Last Unicorn (1982 movie) based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle.

Unicorn

Don’t believe anyone who tells you unicorns don’t exist. I’ve met one. And no, I’m not talking about those pictures that occasionally circle the internet of goats who’ve had their horns trained to twist together.

I’ve met a real, live unicorn. She just didn’t look like what most people might expect.

Accounts differ about where the unicorn legend originated, but the most consistent picture of them is of a white horse with a single spiral horn growing from their forehead. As every little girl will tell you, they’re exceptionally beautiful.

Their horn soon became known as the bane of evil. A unicorn horn could drive away evil, neutralize poison, and kill any monster it came into contact with. Both their horn and their blood were said to have healing properties.

In China, unicorns came to symbolize wisdom. They were the kings among the animals. In the United Kingdom, they symbolized purity and many kings made them part of their heraldry.

They were and are beloved for a very simple reason.

Unicorns are the embodiment of good.

My unicorn had dark hair, hands that were cold even in summer, and an infectious laugh. She was exceptionally beautiful both inside and out.

Her name was Amanda, and she was one of my best friends. In 2001, a repeat-offender drunk driver with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit and a suspended license slammed into her driver’s side door at 100/mph (160 km/h). After 21 hours in a coma, she died. In a way, it was a blessing. The doctors said even if she’d woken up, she’d never have been the Amanda we knew again.

For a year, I brought flowers to her grave every Friday. I went because I missed her, but to be honest, I think I went more because of the fear that if I skipped even one week it would mean I’d forgotten her. And she deserved to be remembered.

Then, a year after her death, sitting on the soggy ground beside her grave, I finally realized the best way to honor and remember her wasn’t to sit in the cold and cry. It wasn’t to bring her flowers. It was to let her life and who she was motivate me to be a better person.

When you cut away all the myths and speculations and stories, unicorns are the things that make us want to be better simply by knowing of them, by being around them. They are what we aspire to be.

Amanda was far from perfect, but I can’t remember the imperfections anymore. What I do remember is her creativity, her cheerfulness, her refusal to let anyone change who she was, her determination and strong work ethic, her soft heart for hurting people.

The qualities I still remember best about her are the ones I want people to one day remember about me too.

I’m far from perfect. I’m still far from being the person I want to be. But I hope that one day, if I keep working at it, I’ll be someone’s unicorn too.

Who’s your unicorn? What is it about them that you so admire? How have they helped you become a better person?

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Elemental Magic and Underwater Panthers

Mishupishu EyeI’m very excited to welcome back Angela Wallace to guest post. I interviewed her when she released the second book in her suspense-filled urban fantasy series Elemental Magic (click here to read Behind the Scenes: Angela Wallace and Elementals), and now she’s agreed to come back and tell us about the frightening mythical creature that wreaks havoc on a small Alaskan town in the third book in the series–Earth Tones.

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The Mishupishu (Bless You)

Okay, lame pun. One of the things I like doing in my Elemental Magic books is playing with a not very well known piece of mythology. Going into Earth Tones, I knew I wanted some kind of vicious cat. Actually, the inspiration came from the Honda Odyssey commercial with the black van in a ring of fire and a flash of a black panther with glowing eyes. Anyone remember seeing it? Yep, that’s exactly the image I wanted in the book. So I began my research trying to find a mythological black cat. There were a few possibilities, but I eventually found the right one for this story.

The mishupishu (one of many spellings), also known as the underwater panther, is a piece of Native American mythology. It was perfect because Nita, the main character in Earth Tones, is Native American. However, I did take some liberty in geographically relocating this myth from its home in the Great Lakes region to Alaska.

True to its name, the underwater panther has both feline and aquatic characteristics. Its name means “Great Lynx”–a huge black cat with scales down its back and horns atop its head. In some cliff drawings, the horns are long, but I made them shorter. The drawings also show upright scales down its back and tail, but I refined it so the creature only had spikes on its tail, which it used to skewer its victims’ legs, dragging them to the ground before going for the kill.

In Algonquin legends, the mishupishu had control over the elements of water and air, particularly related to its home. It could summon a storm or melt ice in order to drown people who didn’t pay it proper respect. The mishupishu’s offering of choice? Tobacco. Cat loved its smokes. Tobacco is used in Earth Tones as a way to lure the panther. The creature could also be benevolent, and sometimes offered up the copper in its horns for shamans to use for healing. In Earth Tones, the panther has no supernatural abilities, just a mean—and poisonous—bite. But the horns are made of copper, and it does contain healing properties, which is important in the story.

In my adaptation of the myth, the underwater panther is pure evil. It had been sealed under the lake until someone let it out. Then it goes on a killing spree, but Nita eventually learns that the cat isn’t hunting on its own. Someone is leading it to specific victims. And when a deadly disease breaks out in the town (surely not a coincidence), the hunt for the mishupishu becomes a race against the clock.

My gaze landed on a huge, black cat standing in the middle of the road. Its body glinted with scales covered in harsh looking bristles of fur.  Spikes extended from its long tail like a mace.  Its eyes glowed yellow as it stared down at us, and hot, putrid breath puffed from its open maw.  It did have what appeared to be horns: two short, rusty brown ones on top of its head, the tip of one broken off.” ~Earth Tones

Earth Tones Angela WallaceEarth Tones, Elemental Magic Book Three

Book Description: Nita Young doesn’t know if she has a future with college sweetheart Keenan Donovan—two star-crossed lovers of opposing elements—but she invites him up to Alaska to see if Earth and Water can rekindle their old flame.

When a series of wild animal attacks strike the inhabitants of Yakutat, Nita has to put her romantic plans on hold. Mangled bodies are turning up, and a mysterious black panther has been spotted in the woods. Fur, scales, and a venomous bite suggest the cat is supernatural in origin—and evidence indicates that someone not only summoned it, but is using it to target those Nita cares about. It’s the perfect murder weapon: no fingerprints, no evidence. And in a town this small, the killer is someone she knows.

Nita’s strength will be put to the test as she faces losing her friends, her town, and the man she loves.

You can buy a copy of Earth Tones on Amazon.

Angela WallaceAngela Wallace loves gun-toting good boys and could have been a cop in another life except for the unfortunate condition of real blood making her queasy. Good thing writing gun and sword fights isn’t a problem. In her books you’ll find the power of love, magic, and redemption.  You can connect with her on her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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Do You Like to Have the Last Word? The Story of Echo

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Do you always have to have the last word in an argument? Do you know someone who does?

Echo, a mountain nymph in Greek mythology, had to have the last word in everything, and it was her undoing.

Echo was beautiful with a musical voice. People enjoyed hearing her talk. Eventually, this went to her head, and Echo took too much pleasure in having the last word in both arguments and normal conversations.

Greek mythology has two separate stories about how Echo’s unique ability to dominate a conversation became a curse that destroyed her.

In one story, Echo was a pawn, and in the other, she was a hero.

In the first version, Zeus, ruler of Mount Olympus, hired her to distract his wife while he engaged in one of his numerous affairs. Zeus’ wife Hera figured out what Echo was doing and punished her.

In the alternate version, Echo learned that Hera sought to wreak vengeance on the nymphs for the infidelities she believed Zeus had committed with many of them. Echo used her speech to distract Hera until the other nymphs escaped.

Both versions led to the same consequence.

“Because you’ve cheated me,” Hera said, “you forfeit the use of your tongue except to reply. You’ll keep your power to speak the last word, but will never know the relief of speaking the first.”

Hera doomed Echo to repeat forever the last words spoken to her.

Echo felt the sting of this especially when she met and fell in love with Narcissus.

When Narcissus exclaimed in disgust, “I should rather die than let you have me,” all Echo could reply with was a pitiful plea of “Have me.”

After Narcissus broke her heart, Echo wasted away until nothing remained of her but her voice, which continued to haunt caves and mountain cliffs.

The Greeks believed when they called out and heard a reply, it was Echo speaking to them. (Hence the origin of the word echo in our language for when sound reflects back to us.)

Whether Echo had a good reason for it or not, needing to always have the last word doomed her to a sad life. It may not destroy our lives, but it can certainly punch some holes in our relationships. And if we’re not the person who always needs to have the last word but we know someone who does, it’s important to know how to deal with it.

I’m a person who always needs to have the last word. If you’re like me, here’s what I’ve found helps.

Look back at when it started.

I’m very different from a person I was close to growing up. I’m a quiet introvert. He’s a charismatic extrovert. I have a dry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. He has a sarcastic, have-the-room-in-stitches-and-hanging-off-his-every-word sense of humor. I’m like the china cup, and he’s like the bull.

When we’d argue, he won by strength of personality alone. He’d talk over me and mock every logical argument I made. I never felt like I won a single disagreement.

As an adult, this translated into me wanting to have the last word in every argument because, subconsciously, I felt like that meant I was heard and respected.

The first step for me toward letting other people sometimes have the last word was recognizing that not everyone was like what I’d experienced. Other people would listen to me and respect my different opinion even if I didn’t have the last word.

Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”

As crazy as this might sound at first, I figured out one of the reasons I seek to have the last word is a control issue. I was afraid that if I didn’t have the last word, I was giving up all control of the situation, and that meant all the horrible possibilities I’d imagined were going to come true. Flawed logic, I know.

But if you find you need to control an argument or win an argument, ask yourself what you’re afraid will happen if you lose the argument. Express that to the person you’re arguing with.

If you’re not someone who needs the last word, but you need to deal with someone who is, here are my tips from the other side.

Realize that they probably just want to know that you hear them and respect their opinion. They want to know that you’ll consider their side rather than just walking all over them because you think you know better.

Pick a time when you’re not fighting to talk to them about it. They might not even know they always try to have the last word.

Accept that having the last word doesn’t really mean anything. They didn’t win the argument simply because they had the last word, so don’t let it get under your skin. Be the bigger person.

Give them the last word gracefully. Sometimes you’re going to get tired of arguing. The quickest way to appease a “last worder” is to ask something like “Is there anything else you want to add?”

Don’t assume that someone needs to have the last word just because they win most of the arguments/finish most arguments. Sometimes I’m not actually trying to get in the last word. Sometimes I just see a flaw in the argument just made and want to address it. Having the last word and needing to have the last word are not the same thing. Don’t be too quick to judge someone.

Do you feel the need to always have the last word in an argument? Do you know someone else who does? How do you handle it?

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Cinderella Strong – Guest Post by August McLaughlin

Last April, I read a post on the Cinderella fairy tale that made me see it in a completely new light. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I asked the author, August McLaughlin, if she’d allow me to re-post it here today. If you’re not already a regular reader of August’s blog, make sure you go there after. It’s my favorite place to get well-being tips–from healthy eating, to inspiration, to resolutions that could save our lives.

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Cinderella Strong

By August McLaughlin

August McLaughlin Dolly Cotour Alice Hu 2011Taken literally, one could argue—and numerous have—that Disney’s Cinderella is a passive woman who does nothing to improve her dismal situation.

Rather than stand up to her evil step-family or step out on her own, she relies on others—singsong mice, her fairy godmother, and a handsome prince. She makes wishes, and they do the dirty work. Her prize? A beauty makeover and happily ever after with Bachelor #1.

In the 1980s, psychologist Colette Dowling presented similar views in her best-selling book, Cinderella Complex: Woman’s Hidden Fear of Independence. (It’s a fascinating read, if you’re interested.)

But what if Cinderella is entirely metaphorical? Here’s what I see:

Cinderella’s mice represent her spirit, prodding her to believe in “the dreams [her] heart makes?” Our hearts recognize our dreams before we can pursue them.

The evil step-family illustrates the naysayers in life—people, including ourselves, who tell us to stop striving, that our goals and pursuits are foolish, that we’re destined to live out our lives doing undesirable work, caring for everyone but ourselves.

The fairy godmother is Cinderella’s muse—the inner voice that prompts us to step out of our comfort zones and toward our passion.

The glowing gown she wears reflects how she feels once she begins honing in on her dreams. Once we find the “shoe” (life path) that fits, we stands a bit taller, and our inner-beauty shines outward.

Reverting to her “raggedy” self at midnight represents the time, rest and self-care personal growth requires. There are no quick fixes. We all face risks and challenges along the way. If we embrace them, they can help make us strong.

And speaking of passion, the hunky prince represents the handsome life Cinderella eventually obtains, and the chivalry she finally shows herself. Once that happens, the world is her stage to dance on. Sure, we might get blisters now and then, and every step won’t be graceful, but we’re free to live happy, authentic lives.

Ever seen bits of Cinderella in yourself? When have you felt Cinderella-like? What did the experience teach you?

August McLaughlin Thriller AuthorAugust McLaughlin is a thriller author, health writer and freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. To learn more, visit her website and connect with her on Twitter: @AugstMcLaughlin.

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Would You Change Anything About Your Past?

Apollo and DaphneSometimes I wish I had the power to turn people to stone.

Or into a tree like Daphne, when she was pursued by Apollo.

The great warrior Apollo mocked Eros (the Greek god of love) for handling a bow and arrows. “What have you to do with warlike weapons, boy?” Apollo asked. “Leave them for hands worthy of them.”

Angered, Eros drew two arrows—one of gold that would make the victim fall in love with the next person they saw, and one of lead that would instead inspire hatred. Eros shot Apollo with the golden arrow and the beautiful nymph Daphne with the lead arrow.

Apollo fell madly in love with Daphne, and she fled from him in fear and disgust. Apollo chased her.

But more than just her hatred of Apollo spurred Daphne to run as fast as she could. Throughout her life, Daphne chose to explore the woods over giving in to the advances of the many men who wanted her. She longed to guard her virginity and stay unmarried like Apollo’s sister had.

She stood to lose everything if Apollo caught her. And he was gaining on her.

Daphne called out to her father for help, and he turned her into a bay laurel tree. Her skin changed to bark and her hair into leaves, and her arms sprouted out into branches.

Daphne was safe from Apollo and from all the other potential lovers who might have stolen her virginity against her will.

That’s the power I wish I had. To turn people into something else so I could protect them from hurt and from harm.

Lately people all around me seem to be hurting. They’ve lost their job or can’t get the job they’ve always wanted. Their children are sick, or their marriages are ending. My grandparents are struggling to adjust to losing their independence and having to leave their home. My former neighbor’s son died in a head-on collision a week before his wedding.

It’s difficult to see so many people in pain.

And yet, I wonder. If I could protect them all from anything that would harm them, would that actually be for the best?

Daphne was safe, but she was also stuck as a tree forever. She couldn’t explore the woods anymore or take part in the woodland sports she loved. She couldn’t grow as a person. She couldn’t change her mind about what she wanted from her life.

Was safety worth what she lost to gain it?

What if the trials and the pain are what turns us into the people we’re supposed to be and gets us to the place we need to be?

Blogger and fantasy writer Tameri Etherton recently wrote a beautiful post about how her failed marriage in England and the guy in a band who broke her heart and stole her sunglasses taught her to love unconditionally and made her able to appreciate her now-husband when he finally came along. She ended the post by saying, “Sometimes people ask if I’d like to go back and change anything in my life. I would be afraid to do that. If I changed one thing, then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”

I’d be afraid too. When I look back on my life and my husband’s life, I can see how each disaster actually brought us one step closer together and made us better people.

I’m more resilient and more hopeful than I was. I’m more merciful. I think I’m also more patient and determined. And I’m doing what I love for a living.

When I look at the challenges we’re still facing and the challenges people we care about are facing, I can’t help but think one day we’ll look back on them, too, and be unwilling to change a thing because of the place they brought us to.

Do you think we get something from enduring trials that we couldn’t get from a perfect life? Would you do back in time and change anything if you could?

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Photo Credit: Debra Kristi on WANA Commons

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Icarus and My Fear of the Sun

I have an unusual fear, one I don’t normally talk about. I’m terrified of ending up like Icarus.

Icarus’ story is one most of us have heard. Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were imprisoned in a tower by King Minos so that Daedalus couldn’t share information with the public about the Labyrinth he’d built for Minos. Because Minos guarded both land and sea routes, chances of escape seemed slim.

But Daedalus was a talented inventor. To escape, he created wings from feathers and wax for himself and Icarus. He told Icarus not to fly too high, or the sun would melt the wax holding his wings together, and not to fly too low, because the spray from the sea would saturate the feathers and drag him down.

Partway home, Icarus, drunk on the joy of flying and freedom, forgot his father’s warning and soared too high. The scorching sun melted the wax, he lost all his feathers, and he plunged into the sea below. In the end, he drowned.

Like most people, I’m afraid of failure, of getting my feathers wet because I couldn’t figure out how to fly high enough, and simply sinking away into the sea. Forgotten.

But I’m more afraid of success.

It’s why I don’t know how to take a compliment. The first time my flute teacher told me my low notes sounded full and rich, I can remember not wanting to play any more low notes in front of her. What if that success was a fluke and I couldn’t replicate it? It sounds silly, but it’s true.

Every time I succeed, or receive a compliment, like Icarus I want to fly higher, do better next time. I want the joy in that moment to last forever. But I also I don’t want to disappoint anyone who had great hopes for me. I want to live up to all their good opinions and show them their faith in me was justified. Each success takes me higher and means I have farther to drop should I fall.

And with each success comes the fear that I’ve finally gone too high and reached a level I’m not able to maintain. I’ll scorch my feathers in the sun and free fall, disappointing everyone who glued a feather onto my wings.

I think, though, that I might have finally figured out the secret to staying in the air, even if I start to fall. Icarus and his father were alone on their flight, so his father couldn’t warn him in time and, when Icarus fell, his father wasn’t able to save him. One set of wings wasn’t enough to hold up two people.

But two or three sets of wings might have been able to support the additional weight. If we surround ourselves by a loyal group of friends rather than going it alone or only flying with one, we’ll have people who can catch us before it’s too late. We’ll also have extra sets of eyes to warn us if we start to fly too high and take on more than we’re capable of handling. Together, we’ll all be able to reach our goals.

Are you more afraid of success or of failure? Who do you look to when you’re afraid you’re about to fall?

**I owe a huge thank you to my friend and fellow fantasy writer Jessica O’Neal. I originally wrote this post for her, and it appeared on her site earlier this year.  Because my grandparents were in a car accident this past weekend, I asked if she’d allow me to re-post it here today. Prayers appreciated for a speedy recovery and smooth transition as we have to move them closer to the rest of the family so we can care for them.**

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Are You Struggling to Control Your Inner Centaur?

Centaur statue - Greek mythologyI’m afraid I might be part centaur. And it’s not something I’m proud of.

Centaurs in the ancient Greek world were nothing like the stargazers on the grounds of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts or the wise, noble creatures in Narnia.

The most common origin legend says centaurs are descended from King Ixion of the Lapiths and a cloud. After murdering his father-in-law, Ixion went mad, and Zeus invited him to Olympus out of pity. In repayment for Zeus’ kindness, Ixion lusted after Zeus’ wife Hera. Zeus found out about it and created a cloud version of Hera, which Ixion coupled with. The cloud Hera gave birth to Centauros, and Centauros mated with mares, creating centaurs.

With a grandfather like Ixion, it’s no wonder centaurs ended up with little self-control.

They’re one of the baser creatures of Greek mythology. Stories abound of them kidnapping and raping women, getting drunk, fighting, and tramping crops. Some even say they ate raw flesh. Passions ruled. In battle, they wielded rocks and tree branches against their enemies, and Zeus would use them to punish humans who angered him.

Centaurs could be wise and good, as Chiron proved by serving as a tutor to Greek heroes like Jason and Achilles. But he’s known because he’s the exception. When placed next to the other centaurs, he only makes their lack of self-control uglier, sadder.

The centaurs’ dual nature, both man and horse, capable of good but choosing to be selfish, came to represent the struggle in each of us between what we know is right and our carnal desires for gluttony, lust, and violence.

Lately, I’ve been letting my cravings get the best of me too.

Since February of this year, I’ve been trying to lose weight. Somewhere between my honeymoon in 2010 and finally getting out of a very stressful job situation this year, I managed to gain 25 pounds. When you’re 5’2”, putting on that much weight means your back starts to ache and none of your clothes fit anymore.

I know what I need to do to lose the weight. But too often, when faced with the chocolate or cheesecake or Chinese food I want, I give in. Because I want it. I don’t have an excuse.

My lack of self-control is all the more ugly and sad because of all the other places in life where I’ve proven I have the self-control to make the right choice even when I want to make the wrong one. I get up every morning to work out for at least an hour. I set aside leisure activities when I have a deadline. I once had so much self-control that I dropped my weight well below what was healthy.

I can do it. It’s a matter of will. But some days I worry I don’t have enough willpower left.

I don’t want to be a centaur, so I’m fighting—a pound of carrot sticks and half a pound of weight at a time.

Sometimes I think that’s the best we can do, at least at first. When we feel like the centaur inside is winning, throwing rocks and trees at us that are too big to handle, we just have to keep dipping and dodging and ducking and diving and, as long as we don’t give up, we’ll find the self-control we need to defeat it.

What brings out the centaur in you? (Any tips for losing weight in a healthy way are also welcome!)

For those of you who are also trying to eat healthier and lose weight, make sure you check out Ginger Calem’s Writer’s Butt Wednesdays and August McLaughlin’s posts about balanced living.

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The Evolution of the Phoenix by Alica McKenna-Johnson

Alica McKenna-JohnsonToday I welcome guest poster Alica McKenna-Johnson. Alica writes about snarky girls, kind boys, and the adults trying to keep them alive. After day dreaming for the first thirty years of life, Alica finally began writing her stories down, much to the delight of her readers. As Alica sits in her armchair at home dreaming of traveling the world, her diverse characters explore for her, listening to music, seeing the sights, and eating exotic foods.

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Marcy asked me why I choose phoenixes for my YA paranormal Phoenix Child. I’ve loved phoenixes since I was a child. It went along with my love for all things Russian. Not only are phoenixes beautiful, but to me, they’re one of the most magical and regal of the mythical creatures. Not to mention how fun it’s been researching all of these myths from around the world.

The myths include a lot of variety. The phoenixes they talk about come in different sizes and colors, and their powers vary, which gave me a lot of freedom while not having to veer too far from the myths. I also looked for ways the stories matched up. For example, in China and South America, there are similar stories about four brothers, but only the Chinese tale includes a Phoenix. The South American story simply mentions a “red brother,” so I made him a phoenix.

In Phoenix Child, my heroine, Sara, is a Child of Fire—a modern girl descended from a phoenix king and queen who lived on Earth 4,000 years ago. The Children of Fire have different abilities evolved from the phoenix king’s original powers. For example, in myths, the phoenix has a magical voice. I turned this into his descendants having the ability to influence people with their words. They’re also talented in singing and understanding foreign languages, and are able to read and write in any language.

I did this with all the various phoenix gifts of healing, fire, immortality, and psychic abilities, which gives my characters a rich variety of powers. So with a little tweaking and artistic creative license (or what I like to call amazing writing ;) ), I’ve created a world based strongly in legends from around the world that works for my novels.

And one of the great things about writing a series is I get to have tons of magical creatures in my books. Book one takes place in California, where Sara meets unicorns, fairies, and beings from Native American myths. In book two, which I don’t have a title for yet, they travel to Argentina and Peru, which have some really fun mythical creatures to play with such as shape shifters, different types of fairies, and dwarf-like creatures, and the gods and goddesses of Aztec stories. In book three, which I just started, they will be in Great Britain. While I don’t know all the magical creatures I’ll use, there will definitely be selkies. Maybe even selkies in kilts :)

When you read a fantasy do you prefer a story that sticks closely to the original mythology or do you like when the writer adds a twist or reinvents the original myths and legends?

Phoenix Child by Alica McKenna-JohnsonPhoenix Child—Sara’s dream is to find her family but she doesn’t count on discovering magical creatures or catching on fire. On her fourteenth birthday a surprise inheritance changes her appearance, abilities, and identity. Welcomed into the family of the Phoenix she is taught to use her new powers. Will Sara embrace being a Child of Fire or will the evil that killed her parents destroy her as well?

You can buy Phoenix Child on Smashwords or Amazon, and connect with Alica on her website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy My Little Ponies

Rebecca Enzor fantasy authorI’m excited to bring special guest poster Rebecca Enzor to you today. She’s a nuclear chemist who writes young adult and new adult fantasy and magical realism, and each Sunday has a Custom Pony of the Week feature on her blog where she highlights customized My Little Ponies based on books, TV shows, movies, or comics. Because of how much I love these customs, I asked her if she’d put together a Top 10 list of her favorite science fiction and fantasy My Little Ponies. We’re getting an extra treat because some of these ponies haven’t even been featured on her blog yet!

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First, I’d like to thank Marcy for asking me to guest post! It’s always nice to know someone loves the Custom of the Week feature on the blog :)

To give you a little bit of background information, My Little Pony is what originally got me into writing. When I was in fourth grade we had a city-wide competition in which everyone wrote and illustrated a book (my spelling and grammar might have been worse than my artistic ability at that point!). The book I wrote was called “My Life with Pone” and was all about a My Little Pony who was my invisible friend. Years later, in college, I started collecting ponies again and found a nifty little RPing community that allowed you to play as a pony in Dream Valley. I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since (I have sold my pony collection though – I had to pay for my wedding somehow!).

So now, my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy inspired My Little Pony customs:

#10: Harley

Harley Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m cheating just a bit with Harley, because I’m the one who customized him, and as you can see, my artistic talent has not evolved much since fourth grade (those yellow dots are stars, by the way). I added him to the list because Across the Universe is one of my favorite books ever. It’s definitely the best book I read last year. And the author, Beth Revis, is a huge My Little Pony fan! When I found out she would be coming to town in November, I had to make a pony for her, and Harley was born. I can’t think of a character that deserved to be immortalized in pony form more than Harley.

#9: Doctor Whooves (by Jill Baguchinsky)

Doctor Hooves Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of a cheat again, because Doctor Whooves is actually a character in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television series. But that doesn’t make him any less of a custom pony – he’s just customized by Hasbro! And who could resist snuggling up to the Doctor in plush form? Not me. Plus the customizer won last year’s ABNA in the YA category and her novel, Spookygirl, will be hitting shelves soon!

#8: Madam Em

Madam Em Medusa Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t guess who this pony is based on then you don’t know your mythology very well. With her mane full of snakes, Madam Em is Medusa-inspired. The detail that went into this pony is amazing, and if you visit the customizer’s DeviantArt page, you’ll see that she puts just as much detail into all of her beautiful customs.

#7: Deadpool

Deadpool X-Men Custom My Little Pony

 

Oh Deadpool, you have my silly little X-men loving heart. There was a time, in fact, that I played *coughownedcough* an X-men/MLP crossover RP. And one of my very best RP buddies played Deadpool. So to find a Deadpool pony custom was a real treat. And one that I think Deadpool himself would appreciate.

#6: Neytiri

Neytiri Avatar Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a biologist, I thought the Avatar films were really interesting. As a writer, the storyline was decent. And as a person who loves colorful, pretty things? I thought the film in IMAX 3D was amazing! So when I found this Neytiri pony, it immediately became a favorite of mine. And guess what? The customizer has published a novel too! You had no idea there were so many authors who loved MLPs did you?

#5: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I admit it. It’s the colors that really do it for me in this custom. There are at least a dozen other Mad Hatter customs that I’ve seen on Deviant Art, but the color scheme on this one sets it apart. And all those curls! And the tiny Doormouse! I am in so much love with this pony I can’t even explain it.

#4: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pony is absolutely amazing. From her sculpted clothing, to her fur coat, to her wolf mask and other little accessories, this twisted version of the Red Riding Hood fairytale has all the details just right for the wolf-as-the-victim twist. Since I first saw her, she’s been a favorite of mine.

#3: Howl

Howl's Moving Castle Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, it could be the fact that Christian Bale voiced the role of Howl in the film adaptation that makes me love this character so much, but I think it’s actually the beautiful story arc that really does it. And this gorgeous half-pony/half-bird Howl does him so much justice. The detailing on the feathers is amazing, and the little Calcifer so adorable!

#2: Aragorn

Aragorn Lord of the Rings My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You didn’t really expect me to make a list of my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy customs without a Lord of the Rings pony, did you? Plus, have you ever seen a pony with a beard? The customizer even went so far as to put a magnetic wire in the sword so that Aragorn could “hold” it with the magnet in his foot! Now that’s dedication to your craft. (This customizer has also made a Legolas pony, and has plans to continue with the other characters as well.)

#1: Starbuck

Starbuck (Kara Thrace) Battlestar Galactica My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You would think with all the stunning custom ponies out there it would be hard to choose a favorite, but ever since I saw Starbuck, I knew she was my all-time favorite custom pony ever. This pony is the reason I started the Custom of the Week feature on my blog. The character is one of my all-time favorite characters ever, with one of the strangest character arcs I’ve ever come across, and I think this custom captures her perfectly – right down to the thick eyebrows that give her the perfect Starbuck expression.

I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy custom ponies. You can find all of the story-based custom ponies that I’ve featured on my blog by clicking on the Custom Pony link in the sidebar.

Did I miss one that was your favorite? Which ponies make your Top Ten list?

Does Thank You Mean We Forget? – Dealings with Fairies

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.”The Little White Bird (1902) by J. M. Barrie (creator of Peter Pan)

Disney has fairies all wrong.

Disney and other modern renderings make fairies young, tiny, beautiful, winged. They’re playful and sweet. In the game my best friend’s daughter plays, they care for plants and animals. Every little girl wants to meet a fairy.

But it wasn’t always that way. In ancient Ireland and Scotland, fairies were feared. They stole babies, misled travelers, and kidnapped people, only to return them years later, after all their loved ones were dead. Fairies belonging to the Unseelie Court enjoyed causing misfortune to humans, including paralysis and mysterious illness, simply for the fun of it. Even the more-benevolent fairies of the Seelie Court were still dangerous if angered or offended.

Folklore focuses more on protection from fairies than it does their appearance. The most common means of warding off their malice were decorating with cold iron like a horseshoe, planting rowan bushes (small mountain ash trees) by your doorway, and keeping charms made of gorse, rosemary, dill, and St. John’s Wort under your pillow or around your neck. You didn’t seek fairies out. Instead, you avoided places where they might congregate and all chances of giving offense.

And if a fairy did you a good turn, you were never, ever, under any circumstances, to thank them. Fairies believed that, if you thanked them, it meant you’d forget the good deed they’d done for you.

I wonder if they weren’t at least partly right.

I’ve done it—said thank you, moved on, and never thought about the help I received again. But if I so easily forget, I have to wonder if I was ever truly grateful at all. So even though I think thanking people is still important and polite, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to put the meaning back into it.

Revive the Art of Thank-You Notes

I’ve heard this advice over and over again, but I’ve often dismissed it as old-fashioned—until I thought about why thank-you notes are perfect…and why they’ve largely fallen by the wayside.

Writing a thank-you note costs you time, money, and effort. It takes longer to select a card, write out a message by hand, address the envelope, and take it to the post office than it does to send off an email, Facebook message, or tweet. True gratitude should cost us something.

Writing thank-you notes properly is also an art form unto itself. My mom was mortified when I hadn’t sent out all the thank-you notes for my wedding gifts within the month after my wedding, but I wanted to take the time to do them right. For each gift, I wanted to choose a specific reason I appreciated the gift and what I liked about it rather than sending out a generic “Thanks for the glasses. I’m sure we’ll use them.” In writing a good thank-you note, we’re forced to think deeply about what the other person has done for us.

Praise Publicly

Public praise gives something back. I don’t believe in doing favors just so someone will do a favor for me in return (that’s selfish). I do believe that, if someone has done something lovely for me, I should try to help them out as well, even if it’s just through putting a smile on their face by letting others know what a great person they are.

Pay It Forward by Doing a Favor for Someone Else

Hold open a door. Bring your co-worker a coffee. Call up a friend and offer to run an errand for them. Each time we do something for a new person, it reminds us of the times others have done something nice for us too. In a way, it makes their good deed immortal.

Do you think we sometimes say thank you by rote and too easily forget what’s been done for us? What other creative ways can you think of to express true gratitude?