Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Holidays!






I am off on an adventure of my own... I would like to wish all my readers a very happy holiday season from all of us at Beautiful Creatures. We look forward to sharing exciting adventures with you when we return in the New Year!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Better late than never...

Argus
Over the weekend I worked furiously to meet a story deadline. It is the first time that I have sent one of my short stories from the Beautiful Creatures series for review by a journal. I was fortunate to have some wonderful helpers to look over my work before I submitted the final draft on Sunday. I was thinking of the process that I went through and how I have compiled my thoughts about characters. I have several rough drafts for stories but this was the first time that I had actually intertwined the subplots of my characters. Within the series that I am developing there are a multitude of storylines and each of the characters are at some point connected throughout my narrative. It is fascinating to see that while I know the outcome of the story, that when I did piece it together that my readers could, for the most part, follow the progression of how everything fit together. There were a few minor tweaks to be made. When you are close to your own work it is sometimes hard to be able to realise that you can fill in the blanks but unless it is clearly written out for your reader it runs the risk of being confusing. However, I was relieved that this was not the case. My vision as I had put it together came together quite clearly. Although there were a few parts that required a clarifying sentence here or there I had indeed conveyed the layering of my story effectively for my reader. It is always helpful in that way to have a reader not familiar with your work to look over your writing. I am fortunate that I do have several willing helpers with keen eyes, talented in their own writing skills and effective in their critiques to look over my writings. My story was sent off in time and now I patiently wait for the outcome... Either way, no matter the outcome, it has started a new chapter in bringing my dream just one step closer to reality…

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Courtship… And all you brought me were flowers?

Throughout the last couple of years I have been reading and learning about the various courtship rituals of other species. A lot of the stories that I have shared to date through the Alphabeasts series were themed in love or loss and they gave me a moment to really study these impressive rituals in depth. I have worked some these rituals into the narratives of my stories, but this week, I would like to share a few that are really beautiful, touching and inspiring to me…

The first is from the Japanese Puffer Fish that works tirelessly to create an underwater chef-d'oeuvre upon the ocean floor. The effort that it takes for his little fins brush away the sand and fight the currents to attract a female with the creation of his vision in the sand is beyond what you may imagine…

http://www.starrenvironmental.com/

And from the seafloor to the seashore is a lifelong love story of feathers that truly soars… There are many bird species that are monogamous and have some special mating rituals, like the duet of the Great Hornbill, the cuddling of Lovebirds or the intricate dance of the Manakin. However, one of my favourites are the Albatross, as theirs is the most intense love affair as they will spend months apart… Their courtship ritual of clapping beaks, mirrored dance and cheerfully boisterous squawks make it hard not to smile. If you need a little sprinkling of happiness to your day, the exuberance of their squawks alone are sure to lift your spirits! The Albatross mate for life (a 50 year commitment) like many other birds. Interestingly, the courtship rituals of the albatross more resemble our own through a dating process of elimination as the strike partners from their dance cards from one year to the next. They will engage in preening, staring, dancing and vocalising which they learn from watching their elders slowly weeding out partners until they are left with the one true mate with whom they will spend the rest of their lives.

And lastly, is the Maratus volans or Peacock spider, who is aptly named for the colourful display like the tail feathers of the bird by the same name. Maratus volans (cue 3:30 for the full display) is an Australian species that has a dance routine similar to the Manakin. However, if the male spider fails to interest his female she’ll have him for diner!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Run with it! Or rather, swim with it...

One of my main interests in writing about lesser known species is to try and shed light on the beauty of the unknown and the wonder in the worlds that surround us. This past month I came across three distinct articles that touch on framing other than human nature through a lens of fear. The first article is from the CTV news reporting on a recent video capture of an anglerfish which is a deep sea being also referred to as the black sea devil. This article brought me back to my research on the Australian grey nurse shark and the undeserved monikers and reputation they earned in the late 1960s. Many of the pieces that reported on the Australian grey nurse shark would capture the audience with a provocative tag-line that did not necessarily convey the tone of the story, which is very much the case with the CTV anglerfish article. The title of the story, Research team captures deep-sea nightmare on film, conveys an alarmist reaction in the reader whence the content reflects a very different perspective. However, this is not so much the case with the second article that I came across…

The hype about the 'Jurassic World' trailer that the public has been waiting for on the “edge of their seat,” very much reflects how popular Hollywood big box office productions gear their audiencess viewpoint to interpret nonhuman nature through a lens of fear. The Jurassic World trailer echoes societal glorifications of an obsession with control and the confinement of other beings for human entertainment. We see this most effectively mirrored in the brief glimpse of a mosasaur breaching the water in the SeaWorld-like pool with its arena of awe-struck spectators watching the beast attack the dangling great white shark in true Jaws fashion. The carefully timed high pitched sounds from the striking of isolated piano keys of that ever recognisable John Williams slow piano piece creates that eerily unsettling feeling in the viewer to a point that one is both primed and caught off guard by the ensuing drama that will follow. The creation of these types of films reinforce our penchant for attributing human characteristics in relation to intent over instinct upon other beings that hunt for survival over sport or vengeance. This brings me to the last article that I explored which looks at deflating the hyperbolic myths that surround the great white shark…

This third article exposes ten well-disseminated myths, from the intent of attacks, frequency at which they occur and the efforts that we have made to safeguard against shark attacks. One of the key myths surrounding shark attacks and their occurrence is also tied to the frequency of their reportage in mass media. Often times there can be years when no fatal attacks occur but a sudden clumping of attacks (and clumping is in relation to three or four attacks) in a single year can send the media into a feeding frenzy. These fatal attacks also tend to occur at times that other prey species are more active and hence at times when it is ill-advised to be in the water. And while it is true that there may indeed be an increase in the number of attacks that do occur, this is more a reflection of the “ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans, which increases the opportunity for interaction between the two affected parties" rather than truly reflects a swell in the rate of attacks.  

Thus, it is intriguing to examine the way in which information is conveyed to the public and the ways in which we construct realities through our narratives as they do nourish our beliefs…

Thursday, 20 November 2014

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

This past June, I set out to begin the story of the seahorse within my series, as they have always captivated me. Last week we explored the storyline of Griffin and Sabine, two characters that are a part of the narrative of the Knysna settlement in Beautiful Creatures. I have had a strong fascination for these beings from a young age. Hence, when I graduated from high school, my mother had a friend make me a pendant that I still wear to this day.

It was not until many years later, when I was accepted into a student exchange program to Australia, that I would re-ignite my love of seahorses. I was elated to be traveling to a place I had never dreamed I would ever get to see. The seadragon was what brought me to realising this other childhood dream, seeing Australia. As part of my research for the program, I had planned to undertake a project involving the study of seadragon behavior and habitat conservation. I had the great fortune of working with a wonderful mentor with whom I continued to work with after my BSc Honours degree. 

By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
At the time, I was living in Victoria, B.C. with my partner and we would often take walks along the beach at the end of our road. I had only recently moved to the West coast and already I was preparing to leave for Australia. There were several walks along the shore when I would contemplate ideas for my research. However, my most memorable walks are those with my partner exploring the shoreline and picking up the sea kelp that resembled the leafy sea dragon’s lengthy leaf-like protrusions. I would playfully hold the kelp in each hand and mimicked the seadragon's movements saying “guess who I am!”  as we laughed… That was over ten years ago, but I can still remember it like it were yesterday. The seadragon was originally going to be my research focus. However, due to time and residency constraints I had to shift to a more realistic research project. And so, I embarked on writing about on the public perception of the Australian grey nurse shark, an equally fascinating being with a rich cultural history. That said, the exchange program introduced me to seadragons and hatched my passion for these wonderful creatures.

By G. H. Ford [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Seadragons are close relatives of the seahorse and these beautiful creatures have a tail like no other … The female and male will share in a lovely courtship dance which results in the male’s tail being embedded with rows of eggs that will hatch a new generation of seadragons… 

While the weedy seadragon has lovely lines and striking colouring the leafy seadragon is a master of disguise with its elaborate camouflage. However, both have such splendid visual qualities that are certain to enchant you!



Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Iridescent Dragon

Nick Hobgood
Among the Knysna settlement inhabitants were two wandering souls, Griffin and Sabine. Griffin had been a long-time resident whereas Sabine had only recently returned to Knysna. It was like having been in a dream that she found herself back in the watery refuge of her birthplace. This was mainly because she did not have any recent memories of her time in the settlement. Sabine felt as though she had fallen into a deep sleep only to reawaken surrounded by the softness of the undulating sea grass that calmed her unsettled soul. She had not known this at first but Griffin was to become an exceptional companion. His soft copper markings dotting the side of his pouch and head made him stand out from the rest in the herd. But there were many elements to why Sabine was so drawn to Griffin. One being that he had traveled between the settlements and was a treasure chest of adventures... A truly wonderful storyteller! Sabine and Griffin had briefly met as fry. Although he did not have much of a memory of her, Sabine certainly had kept a place in her heart for Griffin over time. She had not been conscious of this rooted emotional memory until it was sparked at the end of the dry season when he finally engaged after she had silently watched him for the past few months. The reawakening of this embedded unconscious history with Griffin gave her hope that the loss of her recent memories would return to her one day. She hoped that in time the memory gap between fry and present day would rematerialize in much the same way her love for Griffin had come rushing back. It was an unusual chain of events that reunited Griffin and Sabine with such fervour. As such, this was a bit daunting for Sabine, yet she was not one to shy away from the promise of such a deep connection with another. And now, as they entered into the hot season of South Africa’s November, the bond between them grew exponentially stronger each day...

Friday, 31 October 2014

Paint it Black Part Two

Nothing says Halloween like the most famous witch’s familiar, the black cat… The most common superstition in Western beliefs is of the ill fate that will ensue if a black cat passes your path. This belief originates from the Middle-Ages and is linked with witchcraft. At the time a cat, and most commonly a black cat, was seen as a witch’s familiar. There are several other associations between black cats and ill-fate such as the Scottish tale of the cat sìth. This particular tale also recounts the connection with a witch’s ability to transform into a cat. The belief with the cat sìth tale was that cats would steal the souls of the dead before they were claimed by the gods. This ability to shape shift is also mirrored in the 1500s with the English folktale describing a father and son who injure a black cat only to discover an old woman suspected of being a witch limping from the injury the following day. Black cat stories are also popular in American literature from Poe’s The Black Cat to the folktales of The Black Cat’s Message, and Wait until Emmet Comes (Schlosser, 2004). The black cat lore and symbolic representation has crept into popular culture from femme fatale characters to product mascots. 

But cats are not the only ones enable to escape the shadow of urban myths and legends.Spiders have many myths or urban legends caught in their web and conjure images of creepy crawley eight legged beasts weaving their sticky traps to catch their next feast. However, although spiders do have their place as the witch’s familiar the most popular of them all is that black widow spiders whose infamy comes from the belief that they eat their mates. This particular myth is one that has more to do with misunderstanding than a reality. The fate of the males that mate with the female black widow is also dependent on the species of black widow. Southern black widow spiders are above all the most likely to kill and consume their mates. Southern black widow females are also strongly protective of their nests and will be aggressive in defending their eggs. The belief that the female black widow spider always kills and consumes her mate has crossed the species boundary to become the moniker for human women that have killed their lovers and popular culture femme fatales (Marvel Comics).


No Halloween would be complete without a witch’s brew… And what would all this talk of the witch’s familiars be without the iconic species in their incantations. Frogs and toads are the top ingredient in many of these potions, such as the concoction being brewed by the Three Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
“Round about the caldron go;
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad, that under the cold stone,
Days and nights hast thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!”

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

While the toad and the frog are the only beings on this particular list that are not quite black, the Catholic church associated the frog with witchcraft. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the connection to witchcraft is made through the toad. And in more contemporary tales of witchcraft, toads and frogs are represented in the Harry Potter series as tasty treats of confectionary (chocolate frogs and peppermint toads).

Of all the animals mentioned in the past few weeks through Paint it Black Part One and last week’s Do you See What I See? there are several positive alternatives views and beliefs of the species associated with witches and witchcraft.

The first positive aphorisms are the idea that a spider on a wedding dress is a good luck omen or the French proverb "Araignée du matin—signe de chagrin; Araignée du midi—signe de plaisir; Araignée du soir—bon espoir" which link spiders and forthcoming human emotions with the time of day (Rolland, 1881, p.241). There are nursery rhymes that connect our reaction to a spider with our own well-being… "If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive" (Wise, 1993, p.141). The positive bend extends to black cats as well…Not all black cat associations are negative. In Japanese, Scottish and English Midlands cultural references the black cat is seen as a good omen from the attraction of suitors for single women to a symbol of prosperity. Now when we look at toads and frogs, the positive twist on the toad or frog come in the form of the fairy tale. So on this Halloween night if you are a Princess seeking her Prince you may not need look any further that to find your own Iron Henry


Rolland, E. (1881). Les reptiles, les poissons, les mollusques, les crustacés et les insectes. Maisonneuve & Cie. France:Paris.

Schlosser, S. E. (2004). Spooky Southwest:Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and other Local Lore. Globe Pequot Press, Augusta:AL.


Wise, D.H. (1993). Spiders in Ecological Webs. Cambridge University Press. New York:NY.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Do you see what I see?

I saw an article this past weekend on the Goliath spider… The link on the page about about the puppy-sized spider that led to a spooky spider gallery is another example that prompted me to feel drawn to exploring the many socially constructed prejudices against species. Oft times these social constructions are mindlessly accepted by society without realising their larger implications. Several stories that we tell children, and especially around this time of year with the traditional Halloween animals, project a concept of fear through the framing of specific species with whom we have less of an ability to empathise. 

Last week, I touched on some the myths and prejudices of black animals in the first part of this exploration (Paint it Black) and I shall finish that journey next week. This week, I was reminded of how we can so easily overlook what it truly means to start this cycle of seeing another through the lens of our own species specific philosophies, the power that we give words, and thus, how they can shape beliefs. Within the larger framework of grouping and labels ascribed to a species I have written about how language shapes our ideas about a species. And so, with the concept of Halloween animals and their creepy, crawly, spooky and scary labels, I would like to introduce you to a few species through a lens of beauty, empathy and endearment….

The very first species is the spider…

I start with spiders as the Cobalt Blue Tarantula is the one whom I saw an image of earlier in the week. The beauty of the vibrant blue colouring of this being further inspired my idea to follow this thread of an opposite lens through which to see a species to that of the tendency of fear based framing. However, the Cobalt Blue Tarantula is not the only colourful arachnid… There are various shades of Tarantulas and other spiders that are a marvel to the imagination with the intricacies of their markings and lively colouring.  

The next concept of is that of empathy…

The mention of rats probably does not connect one's thoughts with the idea of empathy. Yet, more and more studies are revealing pro-social behaviour among rats as seen in the earlier research being done at the University of Chicago. More recently, Mason’s research has explored kindness in relation to rats... The nature/nurture and social bias debate is an interesting one with rats and kindness… It gives a whole new meaning to the idiom “smells like a rat”!

And lastly, but certainly not least is the endearing panda bat from Sudan… This little fellow will melt anyone's heart...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Paint it Black Part One

The wonderful part of writing is all the learning… 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I do a fair amount of research when I am developing a character for my stories. I recently had a discussion about the naming of characters with a group about my own process. Even just the simple method of determining the best name for a character is a rigorous endeavour. The way in which I choose a name for a character begins with examining the beings' origins and the meaning of the prospective name to correlate with the ideas I am trying to convey with each specific story. 

This past month has been a flurry of activity as I returned to work after the delay of the starting school year, and so, I have not had the chance to post as I would have liked to this month. That said, I write a monthly piece for a group and given the upcoming month’s end I will share it with you here as well, as it pertains very much to the goals I have in my writing whether it is academic or creative nonfiction. I will begin with the winged beautiful creatures…

Corvids have been a fascinating creature for me for several years. I always held a deep curiosity for them, their behaviour and an awareness of their complexity. Jet is one of the characters that has been the most difficult to develop in that respect, as I have been overwhelmed with all that I want to say about his species through the tapestry of the narrative that I weave for William’s journey. This month I explored the myths that we as humans hold about a variety of black animals for the project I mentioned above. My own deeper connection with corvids was not from the stories I mentioned that shaped my beliefs and bonds with other than human nature, but rather began when I met a delightfully learned professor at one of the first conferences at which I was a presenter. My own enthrallment with corvids was further cemented after having reviewed Esther Woolfson’s Corvids: A life with Birds.

And so, without further ado, I share with you the origins of some of our prejudices toward two black winged creatures.


I will begin with on of the most common mascots for the season which is also a witch's familiar, the bat. The most notable correlation with prejudice would be with the vampire species of bats. Interestingly, of the over 1000 species of bats, only three fall into the category of vampire bats, the rest are vegetarians… Additionally, due to the similarity of bats to rats; despite the fact that they are more closely related to humans and that they spend an enormous amount of time grooming, they have been associated with the spread of disease in the Middle Ages and currently today with the spread of Ebola. There was a strong belief in witchcraft at the time of the Middle-Age and bats also became to be associated as the messengers between witches and the devil in rural parts of England and Scotland. Stoker’s Dracula is a brilliantly constructed narrative further perpetuating the myth of the interspecies shape-shifting and links with ominous characters of ill-doing. The inspiration for the story was said to have been from an article that retold the story of a victim drained of their blood by a vampire bat. The bat, much like corvids is also a symbol of the trickster in Indigenous cultures and hence will appear in various cautionary tales. While Western cultures hold a sinister view of this animal the flip side is the Eastern beliefs about bats as symbols of happiness and longevity. Furthermore, if one is to witness a grouping of five bats it is seen as a blessing of a virtuous life filled with prosperity, longevity, health and ending in a natural death (Wigington, 2014).

The other winged black species are corvids and the connections with death. The complexity or ambivalence of the relationship that crows have with death will vary as it traverses cultures. The link with death and corvids most likely originates from their diet of carrion from being seen eating human remains. There are equally some interesting connections with corvids and lore; such as a crow upon the roof of a home with a red thread in its beak is a signal that the building is about to take up in flames. Much like bats, corvids equally have less sinister affiliations, such as the romantic correlation of sighting a crow and the wish fulfillment of one’s heart. But, like many of the superstitions and stories of lore, there are caveats to the rule such as the time of day and direction of flight when the crow is sight. But with crows and ravens, even the linguistic monikers to describe a group of these birds has a negative descriptor (murder of crows and for ravens, an unkindness). Yet, the myth and lore that follow corvids are not all about doom and gloom, many Indigenous cultures associate crows with wisdom or as a trickster. Odin (a Norse god) was accompanied by crows that observed the world and who were the embodiment of thought and memory. 

In closing, the comparison between humans and crows is best expressed by the American writer Henry Ward Beecher with “If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows” (Beecher, p.176).



Beecher, H. W.  Tulatin River Watershed. Retrieved September 28, 2014 from: http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/externalaffairs/outreach/Documents/WildRead/Crows.pdf

Wigington, P. Bat Magic and Folklore. Retireved September 28, 2014 from: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainmagic/p/Bat-Magic-And-Folklore.htm


Please come back on the 31rst to learn more about beautiful black creatures that walk, jump and crawl…

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Abracadabra!

Benjamin was an outgoing little boy full of laughter and verve. He was a true entertainer! His family had just moved to the neighbourhood and he was anxious to start school so that he could make some new friends. He loved all living beings, the creepy, crawley, slimey, slithery, furry and feathery beasts! So this new home that bordered Bluegate Pond was a veritable cornucopia of adventure and mystery just waiting for exploration!



The first few times that Benjamin ventured out he had not found anything more than what seemed to be a regular park. It was not until he spotted Andrei one afternoon leaving the overgrown path that he discovered the world of Bluegate. At first, the pond seemed to be nothing more than a local watering hole for a few avian visitors. However, as the days passed and the times at which Benjamin visited the pond varied, he learned more and more about the complex community of the pond. It was dusk on this particular visit and he could see the flittering twinkle of fireflies in the air around him. He closed his eyes and imagined that they were the tiny flecks of magic that had escaped from a sorcerer’s wand…

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Have I got a story for you…

E. B. Whyte and Minnie
White Literary LLC [CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
When I think of how we develop our empathetic beliefs and values about the environment in which we live the stories we are exposed to at a young age are what immediately come to mind. There are various ways in which a story is delivered, but there is nothing like the comfort of a book. Early childhood and middle school years are a significant formative time in our personal history and can be when many of the foundations are developed for one's future conservationist involvement.  

The role storytelling can play an important part in developing, reflecting and shaping the popular perceptions of wildlife concerns, and in young children and middle school aged children this can be delivered through creative non-fiction. If we quickly think of a favourite story most of us may have a childhood book that was read to us, or perhaps we can even recall one of the first books we read on our own. At a young age, the narrative is where children can absorb key concepts and have the freedom to explore their own beliefs by framing the knowledge they consume through their own lens.

The development of a conservation ethic was something that I experienced myself in reading The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. Whyte.  Many of the stories that I read as a child provided a path toward my own environmental education and my insatiable curiosity to learn about all realms of animal studies. The beauty in developing that hunger for reading is that it is an easily manoeuvrable journey upon which the reader can embark at their own pace and at their own level. Creative non-fiction is regenerative in that it can incorporate central educational goals through the enlivened delivery of an imaginative educational approach.

"Andrea Mantegna 038" by Andrea Mantegna -
The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.
DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202.
Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH..
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons 
With creative nonfiction, this particular genre of storytelling can introduce children to specific environmental concepts and also help them to become ecologically literate. In particular, stories like Watership Down by Richard Adams fostered in me an increased awareness and understanding for human and nonhuman animal conflict related to habitat loss. I very much attribute the stories that I was exposed to as a child as the catalysts to encouraging my engagement in conservation efforts and my bond with other species of this world. There are many ways to learn about associated organisms, ecological processes, and to develop one’s environmental ethic. But the power of the embodiment of ideas through a great story can never be matched… For a few ideas of books you may want to explore please check out this month’s Top 5 List at ICAS for some wonderful children’s titles. 


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Mirror Mirror



This week at Beautiful Creatures we continue with the storyline of Flitzen and Schatz which was first introduced in April. When we left Flitzen, she had just escaped Molly and come face to face with Schatz. If you have followed the Alphabeast series you will be familiar with the beginning of this week’s story which is the continuation to Beautiful Creatures’ Mad as a March Hare.

Schatz gazed upon her with gentleness like no other. They were similar in many ways, yet distinctively different. Flitzen was a true Belgian Hare, and Schatz was a Blue-Eyed White Beveren. Flitzen had a very friendly nature but she was easily startled by any sudden change in the auditory or visual shift of her environment. Her long slender body and graceful lines gave her the appearance of a wild hare. She had a deep chestnut red-coloured coat that would catch the rays of sunlight and emanate the warmth of her soul within.

Their first meeting was one for the storybooks as Flitzen’s canine pursuer poked its head into the underground refuge ruffling her tail with its hot breath. As they found each other face to face their twitching noses mirrored the other in the safety of Schatz’s underground hidden world. They were deep enough in the ground that they were safe from the dog but Schatz hopped forward and Flitzen followed closely behind. They had hopped through a short tunnel to Schatz’s cool den beneath the earth and from the heat above ground. Sitting across from the other they closely examined the contrast between their coat, eyes and size… 

When she looked upon Schatz he reminded her of the morning frost with his sparkling white fur that twinkled like the stars of the deep night sky. Although there were several outward differences, Flitzen could feel the parallel rhythm of Schatz’s heart. He was cautious yet warm, respectful and welcoming, deeply loving and calm. Flitzen knew from the moment of their first encounter that he was a rare breed. She was a spirited rabbit but took comfort in the tender voice of a wonderful storyteller and Schatz was the perfect match for her! He was full of energy yet balanced with his calm and laid-back demeanour... He had a delicate charm and subtle shyness that was quite endearing and she knew then and there that she had fallen upon a genuinely authentic soul. This first meeting was an unexpected gift, and Flitzen was immediately drawn to him. Schatz had a deep inner beauty that was so powerful it glowed, lighting up the room and warming her from within. 

He was intoxicating, much like Tom’s belly on a storytelling night… 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Infrasonic

Halfway into her journey Myani was feeling the weight of her emotions as the severed ties between her and Kingsley were becoming more apparent. They had been together at one time during the musth when tenderness and playful interchanges culminated in a bond that she had felt prior to their encounter and which carried on thereafter. Now although bulls may socialise with non-natal family units they were often solitary beings and had few social bonds. In Myani's case, it was an unusual circumstance that had put her in solitary existence, enhancing her deep yearning to be with Kingsley. She was at once the matriarch but the drought years had broken her family apart.

As most herds had a dynamic social system that was fluid relative to social and environmental changes Myani was able to connect with several kin-groups over the years. She had sought new habitats over the seasons but with the years of drought those kin-groups also broke apart maintaining the difficulty to bond deeply. Some of the bonds within a herd would last longer than others and these connections would shift for many different reasons. One of the most recent kin-groups that Myani had merged with had been abruptly separated by human threat.

It was a still night when she heard the low rumble of one of the older females in her kin-group and shortly thereafter the piercing trumpet-blast from young Kanja. It was a scream that she matched with her own powerful trumpet-blast as she tried to rally the herd into mobbing the imminent threat. But it was too late. She was paralyzed in the moment as the memories of her loss of Kivuli came flooding back.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Seuss

There are times in life when we come across the gift of being in the presence of individuals that will inspire one to either take on a challenge, follow our dreams or reignite a previous passion. We usually don’t have the forethought that we will have these uniquely distinct encounters and often we may not even recognise the beauty and deeply rich experience that they offer us in the moment or even shortly thereafter. However, if we take the time to truly embrace the gift that they are in the moment, we can glean from these brief encounters a deep re-enlivening of our psyche. And whilst these moments are often coupled with the painful rupture of their end it is all too common to get caught up in our sadness of their loss rather than the gratitude of their occurrence.

I have been graced with several of these moments, and at different times in life, have like many, been whisked away by the tears of their parting. However, I have always tried to remain bonded to the initial inspiration that they stirred within me and acknowledge the value of the experience they have given me. I am very fortunate to have had such powerful experiences that were an unexpected gift; a wonderful wealth of inspiration that have reignited my own creative passions in life. As I delve back into my stories over the summer holiday I remember the initial catalyst that inspired me to write Beautiful Creatures. Today, as I read through the first draft of my novel, I am equally reminded of all the hardships and comforts that have guided me along my own creative journeys. Each character molded from the knowledge of my own travels through the journeys of life make me eager to re-embark on my quest! I am ever so grateful to have the luxury to embrace this wonderful adventure. Aware of how fortunate I am to have come across those rare individuals that truly support, guide or inspire by the simply beautiful souls that they are themselves, I thank you all. Whether near or far, you live on in my heart and soul and I am eternally grateful for the honour of being inspired by you…

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Sharing a breath

When their eyes met in that moment it was hard to maintain her calmness… Their reunification slowly materialised after years apart. She had traveled an unfathomable journey through vast landscapes hoof upon the ground one day to the next and along the paths made from the scars on her heart.

She had not imagined that this would be her initial response, an apprehension, but so much had happened along her travels in life to bring her to this point. It was like she was still within the dream that had kept her alive along the journey that brought her to this final moment. Now side by side, Amore was at peace, and every painful wound of her past fell away with that first moment when they shared a breath. The slow nickering of her excitement of the being reunited with Amado was hard to contain but the flood of her emotions overtook her that first moment that she realised she was home… 

That memory would now be one that would forever haunt her.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

This is no Dragon!

Here is just a little blurb from one of the new Beautiful Creatures characters…

It seemed only fitting to share him on Father’s Day!

He was an unusual fellow. His upper body like that of a stone statue kept him cloaked within his ocean habitat as he watched carefully with his eyes that independently investigated his surroundings. The static curvature of his head and body were divergent to the graceful mouvement of his tail as he gently wrapped it around the swaying sea grass.

There were three different herds of his particular kind the Knysna, Swartvlei and Keurbooms. Knysna was the native home of all these herds whereas the Swartvlei and Keurbooms herds were newer settlements. It was the beginning of the summer breeding season and his partner had just transferred her eggs to his pouch. He would carry them for the next three weeks before giving birth to several young. During his pregnancy he would become quite sedentary for weeks at a time. However, his mate would make daily visits to be with him. He loved and looked forward to these circadian encounters which helped to reinforce their bond. Her visits would also ensure that they were reproductively in harmony during the summer months. The diurnal sacred dance with his lifelong mate was his favourite part of the day. They would come together entwining their tails in a gentle union as she would tell him of her happenings since last they had danced together…

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Turtle or Tortoise?

If you don't know about Lonesome George... Crawl on over to Alphabeasts...

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Talented Miss Mariska


Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Her freedom was thanks to her stable mate Mariska. Amore’s spirit was broken when she had been placed in the confines of her stall. Her essence had been battered to the point that she accepted her imprisoned fate without a struggle. A few years had passed devoid of the companionship of another and she grew accustomed to the routine of the day in the barn. The door would open with the rising sun. A sudden flash of light would blind her as she slowly felt the warm air spill in with the sun’s rays. The clank of the gate was a signal that she would soon have the weight of the saddle upon her and the tightening of the straps before the stirrups felt to her sides. She enjoyed the preparation that happened prior to the discomfort of the gear that made her feel even more trapped, like the hard cold bit that pulled unpleasantly at her jaw.


Today was different… With the clank of the gate she edged forward in anticipation for the grooming that always came before the placement of the riding gear only to be greeted by another horse being escorted into her stall. This new horse was smaller in stature than Amore but far livelier. It was not long before Mariska’s mischievous behaviour had Amore intrigued and reignited her passion for adventure!  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Polar Bear

By: Ansgar Walk
It happened at the end of March
And finished with a mighty crunch
The drowning of many thousand bears
Their melted homes vanished into air

And if you stood within a hundred miles
You might hear something from the wild
A wind would carry the mournful growl
And prick your ears like something foul

It took days and days and days and days
Until they started washing up on the edge of bays
Their heavy coats and tasseled fur

And when time had passed in slow repose
Their carcasses indefinable and decomposed
They fed the earth with surreptitious zeal
Their collective wrath would be revealed



By: Josyan Pierson


It wasn’t until three years had passed
Where bears were but a ghost behind glass
Their image iconic and a reminder of
The ignorance that hadn’t budged



The Arctic White and Ursine Sprite
Worked on potions throughout the night
With tooth of wolf and tail of seal
He crushed and mixed the pasty meal

At last the magical dough rose higher
And he placed it over the open fire
It bubbled and hissed and sighed and wheezed
Until all animation seized

The Sprite cradled the cake in his wiry arms
You could hear him whisper something warm
An eerie melody mixed with a lamenting cry
Some ancient enchanting lullaby

He off-ed his rugged moccasins
Revealing corkscrewed toe-like limbs
And bore them through the icy ground
Offering the cake to the depths beyond

The next morning came like a slap in the face
The day would be filled with our disgrace
As it would every three years
And eventually be penned the ‘Ursine Fear’

By: Ansgar Walk

The spell that had been cast succeeded
And into water the souls retreated 
The vengeance came without a notice
And water was the bear’s new hostess

And what will follow may seem implausible
But we all know that nothing’s impossible
Where water lived and flowed and dripped
A darkness lurked and skulked and sipped



The events that unfold in no particular succession
Are true accounts or near impressions
Of what some people may have witnessed
They may appear grisly, startling and twisted

A rainy day, buckets to say the least
And puddles appeared as large as the beasts
That resided in the mirrored fluid
Who could have guessed what had ensued

Claws came crashing through the miniature tarns
The hirsute trunks and stiffened arms
Transporting them to the ‘other side’

In baths and sinks and old skating rinks
Where water ruled and things could sink
From seas and lochs and ponds and streams
One could hear the shrieks and screams

The bears return was no good tiding
In every droplet they were hiding
And if you looked in the waters’ eye
You would see the bear alive with ire

Paul W. J. de Groot

You would not have a second chance
Even if you looked askance
They’d take you in a giant hug
And flatten you into a rug

No remorse was ever given
To the elderly, the sick, the children
In droves the bears would seek revenge
And as quickly as it began it ended

Thousands of bodies taken by force
An antithesis of Nature’s course
And every three years forever more
The Bear would return to settle the score

By: Antoine Boissonneault

As we near World Environmental Day I wanted to share a poem written by my wildly talented brother Antoine which highlights the polar bear, a Beautiful Creature that most of us will never see in their natural habitat. 


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Her curiousity was both a gift and in the end a curse…

“Your mother was a daredevil” was how Seymour introduced William to the story of his parents.

When Neo and Mandisa first arrived at Bluegate they were completely out of their element. Neo quickly connected with some of the local dragonflies but the wild stories of adventurous migrations segregated them both from the others. Neo was a great storyteller, much like Tom, but it was hard to believe that a mere dragonfly could make of such fantastic journey. Just their own adventure to the pond stirred disbelief among the Bluegate community…



Neo and Mandisa both remained motionless among the shipment of bananas when the blast of light cut through the darkness of the crate. They had been imprisoned for two days. The air was different in this new environment. Neo flicked his wings and was the first to emerge. There was a lot of hustle and bustle in this shiny metallic milieu where a whole new breed of slow-movers populated the space. Cautiously, Mandisa followed Neo’s lead. Flashes of light gleaned off the shiny triangles wielded by the slow-movers as large vividly colourful shapes were transformed into little multi-coloured squares. The broader surroundings of the room were similar to the packing shed where Mandisa and Neo had raced a few days back. But the atmosphere was thick. Neo noticed the light at the one side of the room and the current of air that flowed in from that direction aerating the room ever so slightly.

“Follow me” he said.


Neo and Mandisa darted through the reflective room until they breached the threshold into the sunlight. They were face to face with a brick wall that dripped with foliage. 

Neo darted toward the sky and hovered above Mandisa. Nothing but greenery and what seemed like multiple packing sheds. Where had they ended up?  

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tail Feathers

This week at Alphabeasts, the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)...



Sunday, 20 April 2014

Mad as a March Hare

Flitzen was a tender-hearted dreamer.

It was a splendid Sunday afternoon that brought her to a whole new warren beyond anything she could have ever dreamed up in her own mind… It was unusual for her to venture out during the light of day. But Flitzen had been seeking the solace of daylight and decided that she would enjoy the warmth among the wildflowers in the clearing of Richmond Park.

John Fielding [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
She was a charming Belgian Hare that was often lost in thought. And, although she was quite solitary, she did enjoy the company of one who could arouse her inspirations. However, more recently Flitzen had attracted the unsolicited attention of various amorous males and this was one of the reasons she had decided to seek sanctuary in the sunshine. On this particular afternoon, she was enjoying an imaginary adventure with a new companion. Although he was similar in his stature there were a few differences between the two that she would soon learn in reality. She gently hopped away from her nest and went along sniffing at the flowers and grazing the clover hidden within the grass.


Suddenly she felt a surge of electricity run through her driving her instinct to bolt! She stood straight up as her long elegant ears oriented toward the sound of the oncoming danger and with a powerful thrust of her hind limbs Flitzen scarpered forward. It wasn’t long before she discovered the origins of what had set off her reflex to flee. A large dog had quickly gained momentum and was closing in on her before she jerked to the left and continued to increase her gate. She came to a stop for a moment standing straight up once more to assess the chase and caught sight of the dog as it once again picked up her scent. Flitzen tapped her hind leg furiously on the ground but there was no response. She hightailed it out of the clearing and with a hairpin turn she came across a hole in the ground and dove in just as the dog’s snout grazed the tip of her tail… 

It seemed that she had escaped the chase but now found herself in the dark and damp underground network and face to face with Schatz… 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Interchange

Molly was exhausted... Andrei had escorted her to the pizza shop the day before and she thought she had remembered where to go when he told her this morning...

It was her first time alone and she had become so confused by the different platforms, new sights, smells and sounds, and endless people coming on and walking off the train. No one seemed to even notice she was there as they pushed and shoved their way along their predetermined paths. She had recalled what Andrei had said, but before she realised it she was on a route that no longer looked familiar... And when the doors opened briefly, she was not quick enough to respond. It was too late. The doors closed once again and she was carried off to a new place...

Andrei had walked with her to the Baker street station and they had ridden the tube together to the first interchange at Edgeware Road where they would part ways for the day. This is where it all went wrong.

"I will have to run to catch my tube" said Andrei.

"But see that set of stairs?" He nudged his nose in the air to Molly.

She nodded. Big eyes looking up at him and trying to pay close attention to his every word... She had only just met Andrei and he was so kind. He had taken her in that first day to show her around East Putney and taught her how to get a free meal. Molly felt a little scared to be separated from him. She had trouble understanding the voices and it was rare that a word would escape that perked her ears from their familiarity.

Molly looked over at the set of stairs...

"Now when the doors open Molly, you follow those stairs to catch the train on the green line that will bring you to where we were yesterday. I will need to catch the yellow line for where I am going" he said with a kind look of reassurance. As the train began to slow, the doors opened and he gave her a little loving nuzzle before he disappeared into the distance.


Yesterday, after their stop at the pizza shop, Andrei had brought Molly to Regents Park where they had spent the day frolicking in the lake and the night under the quiet darkened sky. Upon waking this morning it was therefore a new route for her once again when Molly and Andrei got on the tube at the Baker street station. Surrounded by the narrow streets and what felt like towering buildings had made her feel disoriented from the moment they left the park. And now she was alone...

Friday, 14 March 2014

A Mare Among Colts and Stallions

Amore was quite gentle and trusting when it came to outsiders. She did not have the same apprehension that other may have when meeting a new individual. This blind trust of hers had gotten her into trouble and her loving nature was such that she did at times put herself in harm’s way.  Amore had come across a number of colts and stallions in her life that had wounded her quite severely. Yet, she was fortunate to have a few deeply devoted kith and kin that had renewed her trust and enabled her to maintain her belief that kindness and warmth were the norm rather than deceit or malice. Her past had created in her a barrier that in recent years had slowly begun to crumble.

(Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submission) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Even as a mare she would give into her need to bond profoundly with another to the point that the choices with whom she would unite were dangerous. But bit by bit she had initiated building ties. She was not always certain of the stallions or even the mares within this new herd. Nevertheless, there were several carefree yearlings that had renewed her fragmented spirit. The yearlings were those toward which she could easily place her trust, care and devotion. As a result, this new herd with which Amore had been running with had created a sense of security in her that she had not felt in a long time. Perhaps it was the loving interchanges between her and the yearlings. She had recently come across a stallion who seemed equally wounded that had captured her attention. Still, this new stallion was nonchalant and their brief interchanges had created within her a sense of urgency that was pulling her from Amado. Amore had lived many lives prior to her domesticated prison and the acceptance into this herd reminded her of the devoted and tender moments of years past. Moments to which she clung as she galloped across the wide expanse to melt away her sorrows…


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