The Demon Took It

Titles are sometimes the strangest things. There are times when I’ll write an entire story and never come up with a title. In fact, my novel was half way through the editing process before I had a title for it, before that I just called it ‘the journal story’. Then there are others times that I have the perfect title, like above or ‘Dark Voices in the Deep’ and no story to go with it. In these cases I often try to write a story around the title (don’t worry, I’m not going to do that now), but that generally doesn’t turn out very well.

I’ve always found that a story, or at least the outline of a story, has to come before the title. I think, and this is just a guess, that this is because the story needs to be its own living, breathing organism. Trying to write a story to fit the perfect title doesn’t work well because you start from the beginning by confining the story. For instance, ‘the demon took it’ obviously has to be about a demon taking something. A story about ponies saving the world with magic rainbows doesn’t make a lot of sense with that title. Similarly, a title like ‘What Happened to all the Unicorns’ doesn’t really fit a story about dwarves slaughtering goblins.

So, how do you come up with a title? I have yet to figure that out. Maybe someday I will. Honestly, I keep meaning to rename Among The Neshelim to The Duty of a Priest, because I think that the latter is a better title. …I never get around to it though. However, I am firmly in the camp that argues that a story has to pick its own title. Almost every story has a name, sometimes its obvious, but sometimes it takes a long-time for the name of the story to reveal itself. However, I do think that there are some stories that don’t actually have names… and probably don’t actually need names. Crugg is a good example of this. Those of you who’ve heard Crugg will know what I’m talking about… those of you who haven’t aren’t missing much. However, when I first wrote the Crugg story I tried to give it a name. Actually, I forced a name on it that didn’t, and still doesn’t fit, because I felt like it needed a name.

However, the more I think about it, I realize that Crugg doesn’t need a name. It speaks for itself, it is what it is, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Every so often I run across a story like this. A nameless story that speaks in its own language, and then I wonder if the story ever had a name? I wonder if a demon took it?

… … …Do you see what I did there? Do ya? Do ya? Okay, you can laugh now.

The Anniversary Hunt

two-Years-OldWell, the blog is now officially two years old! Honestly, I thought our anniversary had already passed, but WordPress just announced that we are two years old today. We made it to 400 followers before turning two, which was a personal goal of mine, so I’m glad we reached that! And here’s to another year of exciting posts, challenges, and stories from a great team of writers! I promised myself that I’d do more fiction writing so, here’s another flash fiction piece:

“Here lies Laotani, the father of our order and the master of many arts. His remembrance must never be shirked. Our knowledge, our skill, our power, but most of all our hearts descend from him. Let us raise our voices in salute to the greatest of us all.” The master’s voice dwindled, his last words almost lost to those of us in the back of the great marble hall. Still, not one of us could miss the roar that then erupted from his throat, only to be echoed throughout the room as each of us joined it.

As one we began to change, grunting, coughing, howling, half in pain and half in ecstasy, we shed the skins of man and released the beasts within. Today is the anniversary of our founder’s death. Today is the hunt. Quickly the pride filtered out of the great hall, some leaving the remnants of their robes behind, while the robes of others still garbed their bestial form, brilliant manes poking here and there out from the drab cloth.

Soon we were off, the pride spreading out as we hastened to the north, through the fields surrounding our monastery. It was only my second hunt, and I was still the youngest, most foolish initiate to the order. The monastery is not far from the border and so we must have quickly passed that invisible line that separates home from the wicked lands of Zedrun-Tor, and soon we came upon a sleeping village.

I will spare you the details of what we did, surely it is not for the weak of heart or bowel, but there the hunt was poor. There was no challenge, no fight, no great contest of powers… there was only blood and slaughter. It was unsatisfying, and so the pride moved on, following the scent of power from one village to the next, and the next. None gave us what we sought until we came upon a lonely tower deep.

Surely by now you think me a monster to speak so flippantly of those who fell to our raking claws, but if you know not of Zedrun-Tor I promise you, what you find next will appease any wrath you might hold towards my brothers and I. Truly, what we visited upon those poor folk was the greatest mercy for which they could have asked. For around that tower were demons without number. Brutal abominations of humanity that would not simply rend their victim’s flesh, but cast them fully into the void, that starlit land of madness in which death is unknown and misery ubiquitous.

We fell upon the demons as righteous fury upon abyssal might and filled our mouths with their foul blood. Many of my brothers went limping from the field to return to the monastery before morning, slowed by grievous wounds, but we who remained tore through that execrated host and bore down the tower’s mighty door. Therein more of the abhorrent tormented filth awaited us and so was the battle begun anew until, as they must, the jaws that may snap a steel blade in twain ripped the cursed flesh of those poor and twisted things.

Up and up through the tower we wove, biting, ripping, tearing every evil thing we found until finally we reached a door bound with powerful magic. There our master’s transcendent claws rent the mighty door and all the spells which it’s maker had woven within.

Slitted eyes and burning blades awaited us in that small room as the diabolic sorcerer set his most fearsome minions upon our pride. Some fell, passing into that which lies beyond, but my brothers set upon those infernal creatures with all the savage fury that the father of beasts could create. As my brothers did their part I twisted deeper into the room and set my eyes upon the man himself. Ebony skin as dark as ours, with gaudy robes and fear filled eyes, he looked so much like any other victim of war’s eternal march. As his mouth opened, whether in cry of fear or baneful spell I cannot say, I leapt and took his throat between my jaws. My first true kill. The sweet tang of his blood splashed across my tongue as bones crunched and then the clamor of battle faded away as the demons melted.

The moon fell as we made the journey home, and as we once more crossed that invisible line the sun rose and we began the riotous alteration back to our more natural forms. What a sight we made, a line of bloody, naked men trudging back to our home filled with the heady surge of victory, the blood of our foes, and the desire for long and fruitful sleep.

Story Challenge of the Week

Let's face it, you might now like WOW - I know that I don't, but they have some impressive looking stuff.

Alright, Monday again and it’s almost the end of the month.  So, here is your story challenge for the week – this one should be fun.  Just in case, here are the rules: You must write a story of at least a hundred words, and not more than five hundred (if you want to post it as a comment – if it’s just for yourself, then it can be as long as you want).  The story must be about the theme given in this post.  So,  if the theme I give you is Life, don’t write a story about the lord of the underworld.  If the theme is War, don’t write a story about a farmer planting his crops.  Themes are very broad, so it really shouldn’t be hard to stay within a given theme, but I teach, so I know that some people have trouble with this.

Your theme this week: Demons

You can come at this any way you want.  If you prefer the Christian idea of demons, use that, but if you prefer an Eastern or paranormal or something else entirely, then follow your heart.  Just have fun with it.

When to Procrastinate…

So, you know how sometimes you get really busy, and then you realize at the last moment that you forgot something? Yeah, I’ve had so much going on this week so…I have a mosaic for you:

Enter here the gates of night...









...guarded by a lord of terror and of pain...









...flee through mountains devoid of life and light...



 stumble upon the dead man's ancient fain...









...and on to a desert of eternal fright... face you then the first of the sons of Cain...









...then finally on through the devil's gate to escape the sinner's plight.

Plot Challenge of the Week

Recognize this guy from Stargate Universe? I bet you didn't know they helped win the Civil War!

It’s Friday again, which means its time to come up with more plots.  I’m going to keep this fairly short, and fairly ridiculous, so here are the rules: I provide you with a setting, and up to five characters, and then you come up with one or more plots that would fit.

Setting: Your setting today is an alternate history of the Civil War.  In this timeline the Confederates not only lost the battle of Gettysburg, but their army was utterly decimated, and Lee was captured by Union forces.  In desperation the remaining Confederate leaders turned to witchcraft, and magic became a staple of battlefield combat.  Many confederate soldiers defected when sorcerers and demons joined them on the battlefield, but the south’s newly found diabolical resources more than made up the difference.  The war dragged on for another two years, with Confederate forces consistently gaining ground. Then on April 15th, 1865 President Lincoln was approached by a race of beings not native to this earth, known as the Amida, who offered their help in defeating the Confederate forces.  So, you have Civil War America, sorcerers, demons, and aliens to work with! I want to see some downright goofy plots.


General Robert E. Lee: After his capture Lee refused to believe the reports of confederate soldiers being supported by demons and magic.  Finally, Ulysses Grant had Lee escorted to a battle just north of the Shenandoah Valley to see the truth for himself. After this Lee defected to the North, and has served under Grant as one of the Union’s most effective generals for the last year of the war.  President Lincoln personally made Lee his eyes, ears, and voice among the Amida forces.

First Surveyor Alsion: The leader of the Amida military forces on Earth, Alsion is a born soldier – literally.  The Amida genetically modify their unborn young in preparation for their life’s work.  Alsion is a brilliant tactician, but he is hard, and does not appreciate many human customs.

Lt. Cole Harding: The head of Lee’s staff, Cole was born and raised in New England.  He joined the Union military at the start of the war, and was present at the battle of Gettysburg.  Cole is in his late twenties, and left behind a wife, two children, and his lobster boat in order to fight for his country.

Weapons Master Gazz: Like Alsion, Gazz was born to soldiering.  Unlike Alsion, Gazz has neither the skill, nor the desire, to lead troops in combat.  While Gazz serves as the head combat instructor for the Amida forces, he prefers to fight alone, behind enemy lines, and far away from any possible support.

Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Reintroduction: Where do Ideas Come From?

Why wouldn't I want to be a vampire again?

For those of you who have been following my extended series on Demons, Monsters, Ghosts, and other fantistical creatures on While We’re Paused, starting here, I will be continuing that series here.  For those of you who have not followed this series, or who question its value to writers, this post is intended to show you why mythology (both ancient and modern) is important to our career, especially in the fantasy genre.

Fantasy writing depends on the old, the ancient, and the legendary for its very existence.  Without myth, monsters, and heroes to fight them the fantasy genre would not exist.  Now this is not to say that the monsters need to be the focus of the story, or that a mythological world view (a term coined by the theologian Rudolf Bultmann) must be the only viewpoint that can be expressed.  However, even relatively low magic, low fantasy settings such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire include both the mythical and the monstrous to some degree.

I have read/seen many modern works of fantasy and urban fantasy that do not respect, or seem to even understand, the myths, legends, and lore surrounding their contents (Stephanie Meyer, I’m looking at you).  These authors take a general idea, and attempt to make it their own, often in ways that violate the very heart of the creatures or legends that they reference.  The Twilight series is an excellent example of this.  Meyer effectively removes every negative of being a vampire, and in doing so makes them less monster and more uberminch, or possibly demigod.  In folklore the monstrous exists for a reason, it is frightening, it is negative, and it is inviolably dangerous.  Numerous modern authors have taken this concept of the monstrous and twisted it into something desirable.  We no longer fear Dracula, instead we want to date him.

The Demon city Shinjuku...or...something...

In this series I have delved into the legend, lore, history, and modern use of a number of creatures including archetypal demons, vampires, and most lately, werewolves (which is where I will be picking up the series).  The need for an understanding of the origins, and evolution, of this mythology cannot be overstated for writers.  Yes, we have artistic liberty, but if we are going to use that which came before us, then we should understand it, and respect it, first.  We should seek to understand the reasons behind the legends, and the consequences that our alteration of them will bring, before we sit down to write.  This is an understanding that many authors seem to have lost.

So, the purpose of this series is threefold, 1) it is interesting and fun, as should be any creative endeavor to which we devote our time and energy, 2) it is intended to educate both the writer, and the reader, about the origins and evolution of the monstrous throughout history, so that it may be used effectively, and appropriately, and 3) it is intended to provide writers with a wide array of monstrous creatures for use in their stories (variety is the spice of life after all).

I hope that you all both enjoy and benefit from my research and work in this field, and that you can make use of it in understanding where the monstrous fits in your worlds and writings.