Quote of the Moment

"Magic comes from what is inside you. It is part of you. You can't weave together a spell you don't believe in." - Jim Butcher

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jennifer Loring - Jiang-Shi

It's time for another guest post. This time it's by Jennifer Loring, author of Those of My Kind. If you'd like to learn more about the author, please scroll to the bottom of the article.

If you're interested in writing a guest post for Born To Write, please contact me via the contact form with a proposed topic.

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Jiang-Shi by Jennifer Loring

I am not ashamed to admit that I love vampires. Not the sexed-up variety that has dominated the genre for the past couple of decades (though they have their place), but the nasty, blood-starved, just-crawled-out-of-the-grave beasts of folklore. Before I started writing Those of My Kind, I knew I wanted a vampiric creature as the antagonist. I also knew that I did not want to use the hackneyed Western vampire, so I turned to one of my favorite sources for inspiration.

The Asian countries are rife with strange demons, spirits, and monsters. One of the most intriguing of these, the Chinese jiang-shi, is a bizarre hybrid of vampire and zombie known primarily for its habit of hopping after its victims. "Jiang-shi" translates to "stiff corpse", in reference to its most famous feature: its hopping movement, arms outstretched, because it has succumbed to rigor mortis. Legend has it that the first jiang-shi were created by priests who taught them to hop home for burial in their ancestral burial grounds. The priests transported them only at night and would ring bells to warn people of their presence, since it was bad luck to see one. As a creature originally resurrected through magic, this links the jiang-shi to the legends of Haitian zombies who, like their Chinese counterparts, had no will of their own and were under the control of sorcerers.

The jiang-shi, though frequently referred to as a "vampire", developed independently of Western vampires and likely arose as an extension of the Chinese hungry ghost. It bears little resemblance to the Western vampire and in fact is more akin to the modern zombie. Like the zombie, it does not retain knowledge of its former life nor any sort of willpower; it is driven purely by the instinct to feed. What links it to the vampire is its draining of victims' life energy or qi, similar to the psychic vampire, though Western influence has given some jiang-shi the ability to drain blood. While it may look like a normal human if created soon after death, post-decomposition jiang-shi take on a horrifying appearance. They are pale, with long white hair and moss or mold growing on their skin. They also possess sharp black fingernails, serrated teeth, and may radiate a phosphorescent green light. Because they cannot see, jiang-shi often detect their victims by breath; thus, one can avoid them by holding one's breath.

While a hopping vampire/zombie may seem absurd, the jiang-shi is far more vicious than most contemporary vampires. Aside from a tendency to rape women, it was common for a jiang-shi to rip off its victim's head or limbs, and this became its most frequently reported attribute. Lacking the hypnotic powers common to Western vampires, the jiang-shi typically surprised its victims instead. In time, the creature would grow stronger, leave its coffin behind, and learn to fly. At this point, it produced a covering of white hair and could obtain the power to turn into a wolf. Once the jiang-shi reached this stage, it could be killed only by a bullet or by thunder, though fire--representative of purification in so many cultures--was the ideal solution. Some believed one could also kill a jiang-shi by sucking out its dying breath.

The mythology and folklore of non-Western cultures can refresh even as well-worn a trope as the vampire. Choosing the traits that work for your story, and combining them with those of other monsters, will almost certainly lead to a creature uniquely your own. Try it in your next project and see where your imagination takes you!

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About the Author

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has been published in numerous magazines, webzines, and anthologies. She received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, with a concentration in horror fiction. In 2004, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror awarded her with an honorable mention for her short story "The Bombay Trash Service." In 2013, Jennifer won first place in Crystal Lake Publishing's inaugural Tales from the Lake horror writing competition. She has published a dieselpunk novelette, Beautiful Things, with Fox & Raven Publishing and a psychological horror/ghost story novella, Conduits, with DarkFuse. Jennifer lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, Zach, and their turtle, Ninja. Those of My Kind is her first novel.

Website: http://jennifertloring.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenniferTLoring

About Those of My Kind

Two young women find themselves entangled in a deadly game with an ancient creature determined to wipe out all human life. Tristan and Blessing are demon-hunting drifters destined to protect mankind from evil, but to do so they must exist on the fringes of society. Feeding their own bloodlust by murdering local criminals, they begin a dangerous hunt for a resurrected demon named Anasztaizia. But when Tristan meets a beautiful dancer named Mira, she is willing to abandon her calling for her one chance at a normal life.

Believing Tristan has betrayed her, Blessing finds solace in her natural talent for witchcraft. Anasztaizia, able to corrupt Blessing by exploiting her jealousies and personal tragedies as well as her power, next turns her attention to Mira. Mira has been keeping a secret from Tristan, and she is willing to do anything to escape her agonizing fate. Even if it means abandoning her humanity. Even if it means Tristan must choose between Mira's life and her own.

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NEXT UP: Progress Update

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Magic Is Reality, Reality Is Magic: Midsummer

Magic is Reality, Reality is Magic is a series that highlights aspects of religions, particularly Paganism. We pull things from everyday life to use in our fiction. Magic is one of the key attributes of fantasy. Why not explore the realm of magic that many people already have in their lives?


Picture By Douglas P. Perkins
Midsummer, also called Litha or the Summer Solstice, is another one of those sabbats that can land on a different date each year. This is because it's the longest day and shortest night of the year, and this year it lands on June 21 (same day as Father's Day - wow, busy day this year!). Once Midsummer passes, days will start to get shorter and nights longer again. It's hard to think of that because at this point in the year most of us want the days to last longer--especially those of us who live through far too many months of winter each year.

Clearly, with Midsummer being the longest day of the year, the sun is at its height of power. It's a time to continue the celebrations started at Beltane. And it's a time for love. It's interesting how many weddings take place during June. Could this possibly be something that we brought along with us from the past without realizing it? Aside from love, though, celebrating the coming of new life is important as well.

And what would a holiday be without its symbols? Again, there's a balefire at Midsummer, along with amulets like the God's Eye, which represents the sun. Fire is powerful during many sabbats, but it's strongest during Midsummer--the sun rules. Those weddings I mentioned? Flowers, tossing rice, and even cutting a wedding cake have origins in Pagan fertility magic. The ring represents a magic circle. Those are only a handful of wedding items that originate from Paganism.

There's a lot of things going on during Midsummer, so I highly recommend you read further about it if you're interested. Here's a few websites: Litha, All About Litha, and Midsummer/Summer Solstice.

Further Reading Suggestions:

Franklin, Anna. Midsummer. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2002.

I hope you found this tidbit interesting! If you would like me to touch on a particular topic that fits in this series, please don't hesitate to contact me with suggestions.

NEXT UP: Guest post from Jennifer Loring

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Crazy Necro Antics, Fourth Edition - Wedding Bells Part 1: Wedding Crasher

The necromancer is a playable character class in Everquest, also called necro for short. Necros have an ability called feign death--some nicknames for this ability are FD and flopping. This series will highlight some funny instances of feign death. You do not need to be an Everquest player or even a gamer to laugh at these antics. Happy giggles!

It's that time of year. The time of year when many inhabitants of Norrath get a certain itch. An itch that Morrigann doesn't understand. All she knows is that the bells are loud and there's wine. Aside from the wine, why would anyone want to tie themselves to someone else for eternity? Especially elves and such--they have long lives. There better be a lot more wine for all of those years ahead. Today, Morrigann sneaks into a church and finds some of that tasty nectar. Excellent vintage!

Oh, look at that. Something that pairs perfect with the wine. How can she forget about the cake? Perhaps all of these luxuries are why people get married. Good drink, good eats. But it only lasts for a day. There are far better excuses to throw a party. Heck, being alive after a battle with a scary named mob is a great excuse to celebrate, and that happens practically every day in Norrath. Morrigann makes it a point to have something to party for as often as possible. This cake is delicious, though. Mmmm.

Morrigann has to admit, the bride has great taste in flowers. Such lovely deep purple blooms. And the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows draws the color out, making the flowers shine as brightly as they smell. Ah, such a nice patch of sun. Warm. Comfortable. The perfect place to take a brief nap. No one will mind, right? It's not like she snores or anything. Zzzzzz.

Oh, no. Has she been sleep walking again? How did she get here? She's not presiding over this wedding! Ugh, and these books are horribly musty. They need new copies. Hm, perhaps the couple hasn't seen her yet. It might be a good idea to sneak out of here before the minister gets here. That's going to prove difficult--the guests are already filing in, their eyes riveted to the front, watching the happy couple prepare to say their vows. Running might be the best option.

Morrigann makes a dash for it when the minister comes to take his place, but trips on the runner right behind the couple. They don't seem to notice immediately that she doesn't belong there, that she wasn't invited. Odd that, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Only Drakkin in the lot. Not to mention the guests are mostly wizards. And why exactly is a High Elf wizard marrying a Barbarian berserker? The elf had to have cast some spell on him. The berserker brandishes his glowing axe at Morrigann. Eek!

She pushes herself up and dashes down the aisle. The doors are so close! Ack! She tumbles again--these runners are killer. Wait, no. She pleads with them, claiming she's just an innocent necro who got lost on her way to someone else's wedding. These churches all look so similar. They're not buying it. The couple and guests gather around her, voices rising in anger. All those wizard epics have too many spikes. And keep the orbs of fire away from the robe! A creepy feeling washes over Morrigann when she realizes many of the wizards look eerily similar. Wizards of the Corn? She shudders.

Morrigann has definitely had enough of weddings for a long time.

Or has she?

Come back on July 8 for Wedding Bells Part 2: Broadsword Wedding.

If you have any suggestions and silly antics you'd like to see, please post in the comments! It's possible your chosen antic(s) may be used in an upcoming post. All requests will be attributed in the post with a link back to the requester's blog (so include your blog link as well if I don't know it).

NEXT UP: Magic Is Reality, Reality Is Magic - Midsummer

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Dude In Distress - Part 2: Shed Some Light

This story was originally written as an RPG campaign for the game Valley of Unicorns. I thought it was such a fun story, so I revised it by creating my own player characters, and I did mock rolls as well to see just how much muck the characters could mire themselves in (I kept it in present tense like the RPG scenes, though!). Happy adventuring!

You can find the first part of this story on Wattpad. ALL future parts of this story will be on Wattpad ONLY--so add it to your library there if you want to continue reading.

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The sun sets behind the mountains as the determined band of unicorns reach the mouth of the cave.

Sun paws the dirt at the entrance. "We got a late start, it seems. Should we wait until morning to head in?" She won't admit to this bunch of horses just how much her namesake comforts and enlivens her.

"No use fretting about the dark," Star says. "It'll be just as dark inside. Besides, we have no idea how long Dom has before Big Bad Girl loses her temper and hurts him."

"We go. Now." Fiona trots into the cave.

The others follow and then promptly run into a stalled Fiona.

"A little warning," Burn says as he pushes himself up from the cave floor.

Star squints into the pitch black, knowing that this tunnel will only lead deeper into the mountain. "Can you light our way, Burn?"

Purple sparks jump from his horn again, followed by a glow that doesn't illuminate much aside from his face. "This is the best I can do, but I can't hold it forever."

"We need something better," Quell says. "I can sing in the dark, but not if I've knocked myself out from running into a wall."

Bardic jokes aside, Star knows this darkness will hinder all of them. If they come across any dangers, how will they fight if they can't see what attacks them? "Everyone back out. We have to find something to light our way before we head further in."

The horses oblige, though Fiona sulks a bit once they get back outside.

The moon has risen and the stars glint in the night sky. If only they can snatch the stars out of the sky to light their way. But not even an alicorn or pegasus can do that.

There has to be something else suitable. If Big Bad Girl can delve into the depths, dragging Dom along with her, there has to be a source near to light her way.

"Start looking, everyone!" Star wonders why she has taken on the leader roll when she didn't want to go on this adventure in the first place. Sun would tell her she has control issues.

All five horses start searching the mountainside.

Star grows frustrated quickly, unable to find anything of use. Perhaps Sun is right, she does have control issues.

"Look!" Sun, Quell, and Burn all say at the same time. Burn snorts, upset he isn't the only one with the discovery.

There's a slight glow a small ways up the mountain on a grassy plateau.

At least some horses have better eyes than Star.

The horses climb up to the plateau. Before them is a small field of flowers, swaying in the breeze. At the center of each flower is a glowing ball.

Fiona trots up to the flowers. "Oh, so shiny!" She leans down to smell one. "Dom would love these." The ball of light disengages from the flower she is smelling and fastens to the tip of her horn. It glows even brighter than before.

The grass rustles as the others approach the flowers, but there's no wind.

"Wait!" Star says. Too late.

The grass jumps up from the ground in little balls with tiny black eyes and gnashing green teeth. Half of them pounce on Fiona, and she screams. The rest turn to attack the other four horses.

The Grass Gobblers aren't happy that Fiona and friends have disturbed their field of stars. Not even in the cave yet, and the horses are already running into trouble.

Time for Star to take charge again, since all the others are just scrambling to get away from the fluffy green menaces. "Get those things off of Fiona first."

They rally to her call, and everyone makes an initial swipe to clear the Grass Gobblers in their path so they can reach Fiona. Quell easily squishes one under his hoof right away, but Sun just makes them more angry, and five converge on her.

At least they know now that these little green monsters are a bunch of pushovers. Squishy little dudes.

Fiona gallops around the plateau, ten Grass Gobblers nibbling at her hind hooves.

While Sun deals with the five swarming her, Star, Quell, and Burn go after the ones pursuing Fiona.

In Star's haste to help Fiona, she gets the attention of three other Grass Gobblers, who bombard her and leave scratches down her neck. The wounds sting and slow her down, but only for a moment. Her anger boils over and she lashes out with a spell, white bursts of light shooting from her horn--two of the Grass Gobblers perish in a green smear.

The others don't have much luck, the little monsters dodging Quell's and Burn's attacks. And poor Sun flails in a panic as the five green globs nip at her legs.

"Get it together," Star says. "They're made of grass."

"But they're grass with teeth!" Sun swats at the speedy green monsters, unable to squish any, but attracting the attention of two more. One breaks off from following Fiona and jumps Quell, who quickly dispatches it with a well-aimed swipe. "It doesn't help that they're fast, and there's a lot of them."

Burn tries to call forth a damage shield to help protect Fiona, but since she's running too fast, his attempt fails. "Hold still!"

"Don't listen to him--keep running." Star glares at Burn. Does he want the nine left following Fiona to gash her up? Drawn to the incredulity she misses an easy target as it skitters right under her hoof.

Quell starts to sing, but three more peel off from chasing Fiona and pounce on him. Clearly they have something against music. He can't deflect them all at once, and his song breaks before it can be much use to the group.

Burn's temper gets the best of him, since none of his spells seem to help with the speedy Fiona and Grass Gobblers moving too fast for him, so he can't even get the words to any incantations right.

And poor Sun starts whimpering from the gashes inflicted by the seven monsters still after her.

Things aren't looking good.

Two more give up chasing Fiona and strike at Star, leaving more scratches on her coat. "Enough." She strikes with her magic and squishes both attackers.

"Ow! Stop!" Sun flails more as the Grass Gobblers tear at her, and she randomly squashes one.

Burn takes a deep breath, focusing on his words, and unleashes Zigzag Zap, a powerful lightning spell, zapping three of the monsters chasing Fiona. "Ha. Take that you little bastards."

Finally, a turn in the tide. Six left attacking Sun, three on Quell, and only one more after Fiona.

Sun howls, deflecting all the attacks, but is unable to kill another of the Grass Gobblers.

With only one after Fiona now, Star unleashes her magic to protect her sister, the one who wanted to go on this adventure in the first place and can't even handle grass! Through the incredulity, Star still wants to save her sister, and with excellent aim smites three.

Quell grinds one under his hoof.

Unfortunately, Burn stammers, slightly exhausted from the last big spell. The final one following Fiona leaps and latches onto Burn's tail. "No you don't." He flicks his tail, sending the Grass Gobbler flying out of sight, likely no more than a smear on the side of the mountain now.

Affronted that her sister had to come to her defense, Sun rallies and strikes one down. "I don't need your help, Star."

"Sure you don't." Way too much pride. Star shoots down the last two attacking Sun with her magic.

Quell slices through the two nipping at him.

All the Grass Gobblers are finally dead, just little green splotches dotting the plateau.

Fiona sobs on Quell's shoulder while Star does the rounds, taking a look at everyone's injuries. All of the wounds are only superficial scratches. Guess that's what happens when the monsters have bendable blades of grass for teeth. The scratches hurt far more when they were being inflicted compared to what is left behind.

"I don't need to be looked at," Sun says. She hadn't handled herself well with this attack, besmirching her image.

Star is sure Sun will face things better next time, but she ignores the request and takes care of her sister anyhow.

After all the wounds are tended to, Star directs everyone to grab an orb from the flowers.

With shining stars fastened to every horn, they return to the cave, back on course to save Dom from Big Bad Girl.

UP NEXT: Crazy Necro Antics - Wedding Bells