Monday, March 27, 2017

Embrace Your Light: Overcome the Fear of Success.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. - Marianne Williamson

While we are on the topic of Fear, I wanted to talk about the fears we face on the road to creative success.

When you are fluent in demonology and hand out fear like Halloween candy, hearing statements like, “Embrace Your Fears” kind of loses its impact.  Like me, you're probably saying, “Embrace? Hell, I sleep with mine.” Okay, that might just be me. The point is, I’ve long ago embraced my darkness. Does that mean I’ve eradicated my fears? No, far from it. I have so many that I’m running out room to house them all. But, I’ve acknowledged them, some I’ve embraced, other’s bite, so I’ve had to cage train them.

Now, I've been a long time fan of Marianne Williamson, and I have a signed copy of the above quote framed and hung in my office. It has only been recent, however, that it's meaning has really sunk in. I, like many others, equated fear with darkness. Lightness is on the other side of that coin and as it turns out, just as hard to embrace. In some cases, harder.

I'm talking about the fear of success. It can be tricky to identify because at times it disguises itself as the fear of failure. Anyone who has been on a creative journey knows failure is inevitable, it is how we learn, and a natural cycle of growth and success. Albeit, an uncomfortable one. Success, on the other hand, is an unknown territory and differs depending on an individual's definition of what success is.

How to identify Fear of Success.
  • Procrastination. Not all procrastination is out of fear of success, but take a good look at your excuses for procrastinating.
  • Being a Professional Student. Obsessing over how to do something rather than actually doing it. An example is taking a lot of classes but not actually implementing what you've learned or doing the assignments.
  • Failure to Launch, because it isn't perfect or the perfect time, etc.
  • Fear of Change. Afraid of what you may have to sacrifice in order to achieve your goal. This one is a big one. 
  • Playing Small. You suffer The Imposter Syndrome. Whenever you do accomplish something, you discount it or downplay it.
  • Fear of Exposure. Afraid of all the things that could be exposed once successful and having to deal with it.
  • Lack of Confidence. Afraid you won't meet expectations. 
  • Fear of Confrontation. When you rather face down a horde of zombies, then have to deal with the haters. Because, for as many people who will lift you up, there will be those that live to tear you down. 

Ways to Embrace your Light.

Find or create a support group.
It doesn't have to include a lot of people, one or two will do. But, they have to be people who understand what you're trying to achieve and celebrate your wins, as well as,  honest enough with you to call you on your bullshit.

Build your confidence.
Have a plan.
Be specific about what you are trying to achieve, and its importance to you.
List out the steps you need to take to get there.
Give yourself realistic deadlines.
Reward yourself with each item you complete.
Whenever possible, make your intentions public. At the very least announce it to your support group, this helps you stay accountable, which builds confidence.
Don't compare your success to anyone else's. No one shoots out of the womb perfectly successful, we all have to work to get there, and there is no one true way carved in stone.

Learn how to brag.
I don't mean in an annoying, narcissistic kind of way. But, you should announce your accomplishments and celebrate when you hit milestones.

Take note of the change.
List 10 things that have changed about you over the past 5 years, over the past 10 years. Do you have the same hair style? The same job? etc. Nobody stays the same, the only thing that is sure in life is that things are going to change. It is helpful to see how we evolve and note that not everything is for the worse.

Fake it until you make it.
This is about acting confident until you've reached your goals.
Find someone who has achieved the same things you want and emulate them. This is not so you can judge yourself against them or become an exact copy of them. This person is a role model. It is helpful to have someone to refer to when you are in situations you lack confidence in. Ask what your role model would do in those situations. Use them as a guidebook, not a blueprint.

How about you? Have you experienced any of these fear of success hallmarks? Are there others you've noticed? What other things have you done to overcome it?

For those that are interested, here is the full quote by Marianne Williamson.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's for everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love.

Reading Recommendation: Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ostara - Spring Equinox

Ostara - Spring Equinox - March 20-21

The ancient mysteries of paganism and witchcraft have been used in many a gothic story. A lot of rituals, symbols, and folklore revolve around the pagan holidays, also called Sabbats.

Samhain or Halloween is the holiday typically focused on as being gothic. But, there is a treasure trove of elements, symbols, and themes from other Sabbats that could also be associated. So, I thought I would take you through the eight seasonal festivals of The Wheel of the Year (as they occur in the Northern Hemisphere). Hopefully, you’ll find some inspiration.

Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox and gets its name from the goddess Eostre, the goddess of dawn or light. You probably noticed it sounds very much like Easter, and that is because Easter was derived from this pagan festival, and therefore a lot of the symbols are same.

Here are some of the Ostara themes, symbols and story elements that I found to be gothic or felt may be useful in a gothic story.

v  The spring (vernal) equinox is a day of equal light and dark, one that represents balance.
Ø  light versus dark, good versus evil, feminine versus masculine. The woman in white and the woman in black also comes to mind.
v  The Church versus the Old ways.
v  Rebirth
Ø  Resurrection
Ø  Life over death
Ø  The soul
v  Fertility
Ø  Maiden vs. Old maid
Ø  Devil’s spawn
Ø  Pacts with the devil for the firstborn or an unborn child/soul
Ø  Conception used for deception
Ø  Virgins

v  Egg
Ø  Fertility
Ø  Metamorphis
§  I couldn’t help but think of these eggs; their opulence and wealth, the tragic end of the Romanov Dynasty, revolution, the Bolsheviks, Tsars and Empresses, Imperial Russia, Rasputin. They were also created during the Victorian-Edwardian era, so they definitely could be an element if you are writing a Victorian or Historical Gothic. It’s worth a look, anyway.
v  The Hare, which is related to the moon
v  Rabbits
Ø  Fertility
Ø  Prosperity
Ø  Their dying scream
Ø  Rabbit holes
§  Journey to the Underworld
§  To Wonderland
v  Spring flowers
Ø  the lily, a funeral favorite, symbolizing the departed soul
§  innocence
§  related to the Virgin Mary
Ø  the daffodil symbolizes rebirth
v  Lambs
Ø  Sacrifice
Ø  Innocence
v  Snakes (also dragons)
v  Milk and Honey
Ø  Prosperity
§  wealth and greed

v  Rural settings, meadows and fields.
v  Ancient ruins, Stonehenge comes to mind.

v  Rain

Mythology and Fairytales:
v  Persephone and Hades

I’d love to hear your thoughts on spring. Have you discovered any other gothic elements associated with this time of year?

Reading Recommendation: Ostara: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Spring Equinox by Kerri Connor

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Fear Factor: Using Fears and Phobias to excite terror in your story.

"There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment."
- Hunter S. Thompson

There are many things to consider when creating that ominous feeling of dread in your characters and therefore your reader. Setting and sound, for example, play a big role in this, but another device that could be useful is choosing a fear for your character/s. Identifying what your character is afraid of then placing them in those exact situations or making them face that very thing, is a great way to generate high anxiety.

I’m sure you could come up with list of things that scare you, and that would be a great place to start.

I’ve also listed here the top ten fears/phobias, according to has the most extensive lists and descriptions of phobias I’ve found. I recommend checking it out.

Top 10 Fears and Phobias
  1. The fear of Spiders – Arachnophobia
  2. The fear of Snakes – Ophidiophobia
  3. The fear of Heights – Acrophobia
  4. The fear of open or crowded spaces – Agoraphobia
  5. The fear of dogs – Cynophobia
  6. The fear of thunder and lightning – Astraphobia
  7. The fear of small spaces – Claustrophobia
  8. The fear of germs – Mysophobia
  9. The fear of flying – Aerophobia
  10. The fear of holes – Trypophobia

Do you recognize any of these from your list? If you do, it means you are in the majority. It also means that it is most likely something your reader is afraid of, as well. 

I like referring to’s top one hundred fears/phobias to find common fear triggers, because the likelihood that I’ll hit a reader’s nerve with one of these is higher. Note, these don’t necessarily need to be the fears of your character/s they could also be the theme of your story.

Beyond individual fears, there are also fears and phobias a society experiences, which in turn could affect the reader. A good exercise would be to watch the news and see if you can't pick up on some trending societal fears.

Here are a few societal fears I've found to help jump start your own brainstorming.

The Fear of:
  • Domination or Dictatorship
  • Anarchy
  • Loss of identity
  • Loss individuality or Assimilation
  • An epidemic
  • Annihilation
  • Foreigners or Strangers
  • The Lack of Resource
  • Separation
  • The Unknown
  • Industrialism

Let me know what other societal fears you've come up with. If you leave them here in the comments I'll add them to this list and make sure to attribute them to you. 
Are you assigning fears to your characters or are you using a fear as the theme of your story?

Friday, March 10, 2017

50 Physical Descriptions of Fear

I find it difficult sometimes to come up with the right word or phrase that I haven't already used repetitively through a manuscript. So, I keep a lot of word lists and descriptions around while I write. It keeps me from constantly stopping to dig through my thesaurus. Though I do that, too.
Anyway, since the theme this month is Fear, I thought I'd provide you with a list of 50 ways to describe a terrified character. Hopefully, you'll find it useful in the midst of scaring the bejesus out of your characters.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if it sparks other descriptions of fear, be sure to send them my way.

1.     Dart
2.     Shift
3.     Widen
4.     Pop
5.     Shut
6.       -Slam shut
7.       -Clench shut
8.       -Squeeze shut

Breathing and sounds - I cheated a bit here and slipped in some sounds.
9.     Mouth Gapes
10.  Gasp
11.  Hyperventilate
12.  Scream
13. Shriek
14.  Whimper
15.  Screech
16.  Lips twist
17.  Gulp

18.  Twitch
19.  Crawl
20.  Clammy
21.  Sweat
22.  Hair stands up
23.  Bristles
24.  Prickle
25.  Goosebumps
26.  Chills
27.  Placid
28.  Blanche

Body General
29.  Shrink away
30.  Crumple
31.  Dead run
32.  Race
33.  Flee
34.  Rock
35.  Sway
36.  Tiptoe
37.  Lock up
38.  Freeze
39.  Tense
40.  Back away
41.  Wring hands

Internal - Some of these could also be used to describe external features.
42.  clench
43.  knot
44.  contort
45.  quicken
46.  tremble
47.  quiver
48.  pound
49.  pulse
50.  stricken

There are so many great words to describe terror, you might see a more extensive list from me in the future. ;)

In the meantime, a great book to have for reference is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becci Puglisi.

And if you're in need of a phrase book, you might want to try the "Horror Writer's Phrase Book" by Jackson Dean Chase. Note: most of the phrases are of the slasher variety, but there are some that you might find helpful, especially listed under Part 2. Human Suffering, there is a section of phrases for Fear and Surprise.

Do you use a word or phrase lists when writing? Are there any list or description resources you recommend? I'd love to hear about them.

Writing Resource:  The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becci Puglisi and Horror Writer's Phrase Book by Jackson Dean Chase