Monday, October 16, 2017

5 Podcasts for Gothic Writers

I find podcasts to be really useful in voids of time, like commutes and shuttling my spawn around. From informative to entertaining, they can turn empty moments into more productive ones, and they certainly beat staring aimlessly at brake lights.

So, in no specific order, I've compiled 5 useful podcasts for Gothic writers.

1. Helping Writers Become Authors

This podcast, by award-winning author, K.M. Weiland, gives a lot of great information on the craft of writing in general and all the episodes are worth checking out. But, here are a few episodes that are particularly helpful for writing Gothic fiction.

2. Writing Excuses

This is an award winning podcast for writers, and there are a lot of fantastic episodes as they are in season twelve. Before you break out into a sweat over the volume of episodes, these podcasts are short, about fifteen to twenty-five minutes. And here a few places to start.

  • Season 11 - Elemental Genres. This was a really great season with a lot of information on genres and there are podcasts dedicated to Horror, Mystery and Thrillers, with information that can be applied to Gothic Fiction, but there is a bonus podcast in this season that is a real gem called, Horrifying the Children with Darren Shan.
  • Mystery Plotting: Discusses plotting principles for any discovery and revelation plot and is not just for the Mystery genre.
  • Horror: Discusses what makes a story scary and tools for writing tension.
  • Lovecraftian Horror: More great writing tools for Dark Fiction.

3. This is Horror

This is a podcast dedicated to Horror fiction, writers and readers. While I don't define Gothic Fiction as being synonymous with Horror, there are a lot of tools within this genre that are applicable to Gothic Fiction. A great episode to start with is TIH 123: Writers’ Craft Talk: Writing Suspenseful Scenes with 16 Writers 

4. In Our Time

BBC Radio runs this podcast hosted by Melvyn Bragg and it has a wealth of information from Gothic Literature to Victorian Culture. A great source for research and insights into the Gothic classics. I would start with this episode, In Our Time: Gothic

5. Lore

If you haven't heard about this award winning, critically acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories, you shouldn't waste another minute missing out. I can't say enough about how much I love this podcast. It isn't a podcast on writing but will definitely give you all kinds of story ideas and inspiration.
The storytelling is beautifully done by writer, host and producer, Aaron Mahnke, who is also the author of many supernatural thrillers. A lot of the music is composed by Chad Lawson whose haunting music is often on my writing playlists.
Episodes to start with is ALL OF THEM. Hurry, go now, don't walk, run.

Bonus podcast: A Gothic Story : A podcast by the British Library to accompany an exhibition they held called Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination. It wonderfully chronicles the birth of Gothic Fiction and all of its monsters.

How about you, Night Writers, do you listen to podcasts for inspiration and techniques? If you do, definitely share which ones, I'd love to add them to my list.

As always, stay haunted!

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Gothic Elements: Snakes and Toads


Forked tongue, venomous fangs and sinuous coils of sleek scales. What's not to love? The serpent is a beautiful and at times deadly creature and a darling addition to any dark storytellers bag of tricks.

Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, is #2 on top ten list of most common fears according to So, if your purpose is to fill your audience with dread, add a snake and your chances of accomplishing this increases, exponentially.

While the Snake has many meanings, I feel its key Gothic meanings are Immortality, Death, Secrets, and Deception. Volumes have been written on snake symbolism and it's made multiple appearances in mythology and folklore, too many to reference here. But, if interested you can visit here to learn more about snakes in mythology and here to learn more about their symbolic meanings.

However, I've chosen a few of my favorite snake associations to share with you. I'd love to hear yours.

Snake and Skull: "Dead men tell no tales" is the line that jumps immediately to mind when I see this symbol. The snake meaning knowledge, secrets, immortality and the skull representing death, the association here to me is the secrets we take to the grave or the knowledge we carry beyond it. It also speaks to life after death, whatever that form might take. We may slough off the mortal coil, but the spirit remains. One of my favorite uses of this imagery is in the Harry Potter books, as the Death Eaters sign is a skull and snake.

Medusa: The Greek creature, a Gorgon (meaning "dreadful"). And whether it is the beautiful woman turned Gorgon after being raped in Athena's Temple or born as one of three Gorgon, she is ultimately beheaded and to me a tragic figure. Medusa is many things, but for me the snakes on her head represent deception. Self-deception, feminine deception, deception of evil or against evil as her head was depicted on shields and doorways to ward of evil and for protection. Carl Jung also refers to her as the devouring mother, which is a theme I'm fascinated with. If you are interested as well, more on that can be found here.

Growing up Medusa ©Shadow Leitner

Serpent and Eve: Another form of deception is the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden by none other than a serpent. It wasn't a cow or bird that tempted her, it was a serpent. This is where the forked tongued is relevant, its dual nature, but mostly what fascinates me about the symbology of this particular serpent is that everything the serpent has ever represented can be rolled up into this one. Deception, Death, Immortality, Knowledge, Secrets, Poison, Chaos, and the list goes on, this snake bears it all.  It may not be the first time in mythology and folklore that snakes are associated with evil but it has cemented our association of snakes with the Devil.

Ouroboros: The snake or dragon eating its own tail is a symbol that means infinity or the cyclic representation of nature, as well as life and death. Its most notable Gothic association is the use of this symbol in magic, from Ancient Egyptian to Renaissance magic. It is also a prominent symbol used in alchemy. Another example of the Ouroboros is J├Ârmungandr, the Midgard Serpent of Norse Mythology. A serpent that grew large enough to surround the world and bite its own tail.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Damballah (Voodoo Loa): A common element in Southern Gothics is Voodoo or Voudoun. The common loa (intermediary between "God" and "Man") depicted is Damballah Wedo (Li Grande Zombi) one of the most important loa and is characterized by a snake or serpent. Damballah represents balance, creation and water/rain and has its origins with the African creation deity, Nzambi. Snakes are often used in rituals invoking this loa who can possess a human and speaks with hisses. More on serpent worship and Li Grande Zombi can be learned here.

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash


Toads as a Gothic element usually pertain to magic, magical folklore, and superstitions.  I'm sure we've all heard that rubbing a toad on your warts can cure them. Some accounts state you have to impale it on a tree rubbing it on your warts and leave it to die, only then will it cure your warts. Poor frogs. Don't do that, neither rubbing or impaling said toad will cure you of warts.

Though, many a witch's spell call for frog parts. And modern science has confirmed that some frogs do have medicinal properties. However, some botanicals have the word frog in their common name. For example, when the witches of Shakespeare's Macbeth call for Toe of Frog it may actually be a variety of buttercup with the common name of Frog's Foot. Okay, that may be a stretch, but you get the gist.

Many ancient cultures viewed the frog and toad as positive symbols of luck, fertility, and protection One such example is the Ancient Egyptian Goddess with a frog head Hekt, who was associated with fertility and protection. Frogs were so sacred to Egyptians that they were often embalmed after death. The toad was sacred in other cultures, as well, because they either held the souls of dead children, as told in some European myths or were responsible the cycles of life and death and rebirth.

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that the toad fell from its sacred toadstool, as it were and become an element of evil. This is when they became known as witch familiars, doing the devil's work and were a common ingredient in witches brews and spells, according to the witch hunters of that day. Most accounts of their evilness describe their filthy habitats, cold and slimy skin, calculating eyes and harsh croaking. Hmm...sounds like some of my old boyfriends.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your favorite serpent or toad references or if you've used either in your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Also, if you are on Instagram, be sure to post your snake and/or toad images this week, using the hashtag #DarkInklings for a chance to be featured across my social media channels on Friday. They can be old or new images.

@shadowleitner on Instagram

As always, stay beautifully haunted!

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 2, 2017

An Epic List of 100+ Werewolf & Wolf Shifter Descriptions

The Lycanthrope or Werewolf has been described in various ways in both literature and the movies, depending on the mythos used or created. Some describe him or her as an upright creature, some on all fours, but both variations are vicious beasts. Then there is the Wolfman, who is more of a beastly man than a completely transformed creature, sometimes fully clothed and very hairy. However, he will still tear your throat out if crossed, unless of course its Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf. 

Another creature that has re-emerged and has been very popular lately is the Wolf Shapeshifter, in which a man or woman fully transforms into a wolf. The shift can occur regardless of the moon cycle and some shapeshifters have triggers like rage, while others can change at will.

Whatever the rules are or mythos used for your man to wolf story, many descriptions of Lycanthrope and/or Wolf Shifter are the same or at least very similar. So, I've listed over a hundred descriptions to help describe your version of this creature as well as its transformation. I hope it spurs your imagination. I'm sure once that door is opened you'll think of many more descriptions, I know I did. 

1.     coarse
2.     bristled
3.     matted
4.     mangy
5.     tuft
6.     mane
7.     crop
8.     thatch
9.     fleece
10.  barbed
11.  pelt
12.  wooly
13.  shaggy
14.  bushy
15.  scruff
16.  umber
17.  timber
18.  gray
19.  striped
20.  black
21.  white
22.  smoky
23.  coat
24.  warm

25.  yellow
26.  amber
27.  fierce
28.  ochre
29.  hungry
30.  savage
31.  red
32.  glowing
33.  dark
34.  intense
35.  predatory
36.  depth
37.  fixed
38.  wild

39.  fangs
40.  sharp
41.  carnivorous
42.  chiseled
43.  glistening
44.  tinged
45.  stained
46.  razors
47.  bare
48.  snap
49.  muzzle
50.  snout
51.  flared
52.  whiskered
53.  jowls
54.  quiver
55.  pant
56.  sniff
57.  jagged
58.  gnash
59.  crush
Image Courtesy of Imgur

60.  pricked
61.  perked
62.  swivel
63.  pointed
64.  tipped
65.  cocked
66.  twitch

67.  snarl
68.  howl
69.  cry
70.  yawp
71.  bay
72.  grunt
73.  grumble
74.  yowl
75.  rumble
76.  huff

77.  hunch
78.  crouch
79.  haunches
80.  thick
81.  wag
82.  sway
83.  pounce
84.  leap
85.  swift
86.  rear
87.  stalk
88.  pounce

Paws and Claws
89.  slash
90.  tear
91.  heavy
92.  pad
93.  paw
94.  splay
95.  jagged
96.  gash
97.  cleave
98.  blades
99.  rend
100.  sever
101.  rip
102. mangle

103. strain
104.  stretch
105.  sweat
106.  rack/pop
107.  sinewy
108.  clammy
109.  wretch
110.  convulse
111.  contort
112.  bulge
113.  fevered
114.  thrash
115.  peel
116.  split
117.  twist
118.  elongate
119.  rupture

Characteristics {In Human or Wolf Form}
120. Beastly
122. Rugged
123. Earthy
124. Heated
125. Temper
126. Ravenous
127. Hunter
128. Rustic
129. Woodsy
130. Loyal
131. Protective
132. Rough
133. Lupine
134. Wolfish
135. Territorial
136. Nocturnal
137. Vicious
138. Surly
139. Rage
140. Violent

­čÉż May all your nights be lit by a full moon.

Stay beautifully haunted!