Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


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Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

I found this book enchanting.

Even though I loved it all, the MC was my favorite. Richard’s this regular guy shoved into a world he does not understand, forced to survive horrific obstacles and prove to himself what he’s capable of. I was so sad when this book ended because it meant I couldn’t follow him anymore…good thing with books it is never truly farewell.

The setting was captivating. Ordinary things were made poignant and engrossing; it is so different, no wonder poor Richard became overwhelmed!

Since finishing it, I’m holding other MCs to a pretty high standard. Do try this book–you’ll find yourself engrossed, too!

Fall Into Fantasy: Strings by G. Miki Hayden

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 10: Strings by G. Miki Hayden

Robert, an ordinary boy, finds himself in a newly chaotic world. Buildings move when and where they please, and time jumps around according to no known laws of physics. For Robert, getting to his regular school in the morning is next to impossible. As for getting home…

But then, Holden—a boy he and his friend, Nila, meet in a cave—offers them a string. No, not twine, but a string of the kind that forms the universe. Teeny and tiny, and invisible to the naked eye, this string will take Robert and Mila to their homes and way, way beyond…

Accompanied by a memorable cast of characters, Robert and his friends follow the string on a journey across time, space, and dimensions to discover the answer to a mystery: Who has caused the world to fall apart?

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Holden stood up, suddenly excited. “Yes, strings, Robert, strings. String theory says we live in a universe of multiple dimensions. Something is happening to the strings that form our everyday world, and now the universes are bleeding over into one another—merging. I have to figure out how to stop it, to separate the worlds again.”

“And we have to figure out how to get home,” Nila cried out. “What a mess everything is.”
The smoke from the small fire had made Robert’s eyes tear.

The author, G. Miki Hayden, strongly believes in alternate universes and has written about them in her adult novels Pacific Empire (which won a New York Times rave) and New Pacific.

“Nothing in time-space is fixed,” Miki says, a distant look in her eyes.
Miki won an Edgar for an historical crime story and has a couple of writing books in print.
At the moment, she generally lives with millions of other people in New York City in a three-dimensional, temporal world but is exploring other realms.
Find G. Miki Hayden online:
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Salvation by James Wymore

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 9: Salvation by James Wymore

 A man wakes on a frozen battlefield when a scavenging couple finds him among the dead. As they nurse him back to health, he is struck with the horrible realization he can’t remember who he is or anything about his past. Taken in by the kind pair, he begins helping with their farm. She even takes him to meet her family, especially her single sister. The ideal life offered in the high mountains of Winigh is shattered when he sees a transport bringing enemy monsters to the shores below. Cut off by high snow on the pass, their fate will soon be the same as the town his company failed to protect in the last battle, if this estranged soldier cannot help them fight off the next wave of invaders. Even worse, the people of the town don’t trust this Selene soldier. He has a strange resistance to their folk magic which some say make him as dangerous as the enemies preparing to destroy them.
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On a lifelong search for fantastic worlds hiding just out of sight, James Wymore writes to explore. With three books and six short stories in print after just one year, he continues to push the boundaries of imagination. Journey with him at
Find James online:

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photos of autumn & a writing update

photo 2

Did I mention October is my favorite month? Everything turns crisp and golden, and Halloween is on its way! It just feels so strange, because wasn’t March like, yesterday? Time is a funny thing, slipping through your fingers, and before you know it the year is gone!

photo 1

Now, for updates. Lately writing is my life. My beautiful project Dissonance is the center of everything. My day revolves around the time I can sit down to edit again. Soon I’m printing it out to start working with a red pen. I’m pretty sure I’ll finish on time–I have 7 pages to go for structure edits, and it’s supposedly out on December! However, I decided that even if I had to put off the release for a couple of weeks, it wouldn’t be a horrible thing.

I don’t think it’ll happen, though. I’m working too hard for that.

I finished editing at 56k about a month ago, and going through to add description, it has gone up to 62k. I don’t have a problem with short books, but it felt weird to have 23k gone! Going on backspace sprees can help the story, but be sure not to delete more than you have to. We don’t want a story with bare bones, either.

photo 2

I’m really bad at blog post series, as you can see by my *ahem* consistency with the Halloween creatures posts. Fear not, though! Even if it’s not up on Thursday, there’s a post on dragons coming up, and I am definitely covering Changelings.

Finally, I have a Halloween short story that wants to be written. The bunny turned up around this time last year but never grew. I feel bad and want to write that again. It’s called Jack’s Old Lantern. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I hope you find an awesome pumpkin! Also, if you have Twitter, do connect on there. I’m trying to get used to it, and it helps to have friends! :)

The Quest for Humor

GUYS GUYS GUYS! Heather, the beta reader who’s gone through Dissonance four times (and has let me guest blog for her in the past) has agreed to guest post! I’m so excited because this seems like it ought to have happened ages ago. And the post is awesome. Check it out, comment, and visit her blog! –Mariella

P.S. Tyson appreciates the spotlight! :)

Why does Piglet smell?
Because he plays with Pooh.

What did the blond say when she opened a box of cheerios?
“Oh look, doughnut seeds!

Knock Knock.
Who’s There?
Owl goes.
Owl goes who?
Yes, I know it does.

Thank you, thank you—I’m here ‘til Thursday!

All right, all right—bad jokes, I know. They were of the most sensitive jokes I could find among the compilation collected by my friends and me. Sorry, blondes.

But humor! Laughter! Funny! These are the words we love to hear, no? As my dad likes to point out, the equation is simple: pain + distance = humor. It’s simple, but hard—getting people to laugh is a learned trait, and it can be hard. Just ask my littlest sister on our way home from church:

Dad: It feels really hot in here.
Me: That’s because it’s seventy degrees out.
Sister: It’s so hot the car is sweating!
Me (laughing): That’s windshield wiper fluid.
Sister: I know that, I’m trying to be sarcastic!
*we chuckle*
Sister: See, I told you I was funnier than you!

My sister has been begging for laughs at the dinner table for several months now, and she constantly has to rework her methodology to get her reward: our laughter. Only recently has her pain become more than just falling down—if you watch little kids watch movies, they don’t laugh at any of the wit screenwriters put in the films; the dialogue is for us older folks. They laugh when characters slip on banana peels, or bang their heads on the ceiling, or slam their thumbs in the door.


Because they have spent much of their life mastering their motor control: falling down, crashing into things, and getting hurt.

However, as we get older our emotional pain elicits a much stronger response, which means we have a greater portfolio of unfortunate incidents to draw from.

Think about it.

Ebola is the most popular joke in the school right now. Yeah, it’s a horrible, horrible disease that has so many people concerned (my parents included) and guess what? NONE OF US HAVE IT! No one in the entire school has Ebola, which means when the intercom comes on a kid can scream “EBOLA OUTBREAK!” and everyone will laugh. We know it’s not real—the mere suggestion becomes ridiculous.

And so we laugh.

Now, let’s think about you. You’re probably reading this, dribbling cereal out of your mouth and staring vacantly at the screen.

“Yup. That’s how laughter works. Oh look, something shiny on the Internet. What could it be?”

And here I am, left talking to myself about laughter. (Bonus points to you if you are still reading.) It’s around this time I reread my opening paragraph, and remember the million dollar question.

How do we get people to laugh?

As an observer and researcher, I have a few ideas.

Pain—as I said before, the pain is the gain. In a kind of sadistic way, we feel better when we see other people go through what we go through. (Even if it’s still parody, you’re still making fun of someone!)

Shared Experiences—in short, you laugh because your brain has gone through all your memories, pinpointed a previous experience, and figured out it’s funny in a tiny fraction of a second. Exploiting experiences everyone is familiar with (online shopping, politics, interviews) is more likely to reach a bigger audience and maximize laughs.

Familiar—if the audience does not know what it is, then they will not laugh. There is a post on Tumblr that says, “Our parents warned us about middle-aged men stalking us on the Internet but oh how the tables have turned.” My dad, who is not a fangirl, doesn’t investigate actors on the Internet, and doesn’t realize I do did not think it was funny.

Unexpected/Irony—the reason Autocowrecks are so funny is because all too often our phones come up with something completely ridiculous that makes no sense in context. It’s funny that in Studio C’s “Once Upon a Time” sketch that the lower class can use diction and reasoning far higher than one would expect of an educated class. GO FOR THE UNEXPECTED. It’s hilarious.

Distance—making fun of Ebola in front of someone who has Ebola is probably not going to amuse them all that much. It’s funny when it’s them. Or, alternately, if it’s something simple, like the kind of conference businesspeople attend daily, a painful situation that doesn’t bite deeply enough to make it hurt—hey, sometimes we can laugh at ourselves.


Rest assured, you can apply this almost anywhere. Take my favorite comment I’ve ever done while beta-reading Dissonance for Mariella. (Ooooohhhh, you’re that Heather!)

“Callum obliterated them.” [he said cheerfully, and they popped along and murdered the coward and set his entrails ablaze, and then had tea and biscuits before it got late. The end. –love, Tyson.]

Yup, the bold is mine.

Pain (obliteration) + Shared Experience (cheerful conversation) + Unexpected (about murdering someone) + Familiar (Tyson, a character we’ll all come to know and love) + Distance (we’re not getting murdered) = humor

[Note: I can neither confirm nor deny that this post was written in a subtle attempt to publicize my favorite silly comment I’ve ever written while beta reading.]

So go out and make people laugh yourselves. You know the best part? Laughter is a bonding activity—it makes you enjoy and appreciate the company of those you laugh with.


What’s made you laugh lately?

Heather is first and foremost a dinosaur, but when she’s not wreaking her revenge on the world, she’s a writer over at Sometimes I’m a Story. When she’s not writing, she loves to beta read, watch movies, and sleep. This is her first time guest posting.

Mermaids in Folklore

The Little Mermaid monument in Copenhagen, Denmark (Source)

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark (Source)

I’ve been looking into mermaids, since my novel started out as a mermaid story. Later, it became more about sirens (they were like the mermaids’ evil twin sisters) until finally the creatures vanished during my rewrites.

I think they’ll creep back in for the second installment–the outlines are steering in that direction–which means research is good for me. When I learn about creatures in folklore, they become 3D, which makes for a better story!

An article on Gods and Monsters tells me mermaids can be evil–they aren’t too different from what I envisioned as sirens:

Many popular tales including legends from the British Isles and the famous Arabian Nights tales identify mermaids in exactly this fashion. In these myths, mermaids would sing to men on ships or shores nearby, practically hypnotizing them with their beauty and song. Those affected would rush out to sea only to be either drowned, eaten, or otherwise sent to their doom.

The evil-intentioned mermaid is not the only way these creatures were seen as dangerous. Some believed that even well-intentioned mermaids would cause great danger to men who believed they saw a woman drowning and would dive into the waters to save them. Other tales suggest that mermaids either forgot or didn’t understand that humans could not breathe underwater, and they would pull them down into the depths of the sea, accidentally drowning them in the process. (Read More)

This gives me a sad picture of a mermaid accidentally killing men. She is neither perfect nor evil, just fascinated about a shipwreck and wanting to help. But swimming them to shore would actually kill them–poor thing!

The following article is more detailed, and links to more stories, if you want to read them!

According to the Standard Dictionary of Folklore: Mythology and Legend, Merfolk (mermaids and mermen) are supernatural beings who live primarily beneath the sea. It is in Hellenic literature that one finds the first literary description of Merfolk. Ovid writes that mermaids were born from the burning galleys of the Trojans where the timbers turned into the flesh and blood of the ‘green daughters of the sea.’ There are other versions of their birth: The Irish say that mermaids are old pagan women transformed and banished from the earth by St. Patrick. A Livonian folktale says they are the drowned children of an unknown Pharaoh – having met their doom in the depths of the Red Sea. (Read More)

We could take the mermaid myth so many places to make it interesting again. I’ve been fascinated by mermaid stories since childhood, but didn’t know there were so many of them. Some are kind and others evil, while more still are just like us–making mistakes in search of a friend.

I don’t know if my mermaids will be evil, but they’ll sure get into a lot of trouble. Perhaps like the mermaid I mentioned earlier, they only intend to help. And even though they mean well, it’ll go horribly wrong.

I leave you with this haunting poem I found:

A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
– W.B. Yeats

Thoughts on Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister


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We have all heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty … and what curses accompanied Cinderella’s looks?

Set against the backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris’s path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household — and the treacherous truth of her former life.

Spoiler alert.

This book. This book. I did not want it to end. This was the second time I read it, and I was still enchanted by the characters, setting, and writing style.

I think you should read it if you like fairy tales and poetic writing. His word choice is so natural and sometimes musical. My inner editor was having a break from working on Dissonance and saying You should write like that! (Another reason not to listen to inner editors all the time.)

I loved the characters of Iris, Caspar, and the Master. Their passion for painting and creativity appealed to my inner art nerd. I love that they took seriously the love of creating. The Master, especially, wasn’t afraid to paint the ugly. He only kept it locked away because, in their society, it would ruin his career and not pay much back. It was a hidden room called the Gallery of God’s Mistakes, which is a haunting idea, but one I wish he expanded on.

It’s even a movie–*whispers* here’s part 1.

Have you read this book before? What do you think? If not, let me know once you read it! I love discussing my favorite books. :)

Fall Into Fantasy: The Heirs of War Series by Mara Valderran

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 8: The Heirs of War series

Book One: Heirs of War

Book Two: Heirs of War, Crown of Flames

Seventeen year-old Zelene has never believed in magic or been one to trust fate. Prophecies about princesses and long lost families were the stuff of fairy tales and had no place in her life. But then magic-wielding assassins attack claiming she is one of the five Duillaine Ainnir, the next generation of the most powerful women who rule over the worlds. Together, the five girls are prophesized to save the worlds from the war that has been raging for years.

As their enemies strike, the girls are taken back to their world and discover the ties binding them together. Rhaya has always had an uncanny knack for reading people, but can’t seem to unravel the mystery tying her to Isauria, the new friend she bonded with instantly. For years, Isauria has been dreaming of Terrena, a girl living her life on the run in a magical world ripped apart by the tragedies of war, but Isauria is completely unaware that she is psychically linked to the world she was born in.

Zelene views them all, especially the elders, with a distrustful eye, familial bonds or no. When she learns that her long-lost twin Ariana has been captured by the rebels, Zelene’s attitude changes. She doesn’t know what she can do when her own magic is still locked within her, but can she trust the elders to rescue Ariana when it seems their medieval politics are what brought about the war in the first place? With all that is at stake, the answer becomes clear to Zelene.

Screw the worlds. She’s getting her sister back.

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Weeks have passed since Ariana and Alec escaped from Kellen’s dungeon, but danger isn’t far behind them. The guilt of his past weighs heavily on Alec’s shoulders, and his secrets only push Ariana further away. As they travel through unknown lands and encounter multiple threats, their biggest challenge might be trusting one another.

The world appears to be going on regardless of the risks Ariana faces. The Duillaine insist that they are doing everything they can to find Ariana, but their actions betray that claim. Despite the danger and the war closing in around them, all of Anscombe seems to be more interested in the upcoming Imbolc festival and Terrena’s betrothal than rescuing Ariana.

Well…not everyone.

Tired of waiting for the Duillaine to help her twin, Zelene starts plotting on her own and finds a surprising ally in Rhaya, even as the Cynewards prepare to make a move of their own. But Zelene’s plans go awry when she finds herself with a new ability, a mysterious new friend, and more enemies within the walls of Anscombe than she thought.

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Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she’s more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.
Find Mara Online:

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On Ghost Stories

Ghosts and tales of the afterlife have captivated us all. Whether you believe in them, or just like the thrill of imagining, you’ve heard a ghost story and remembered it.

5262798As a race, we’re fascinated with death and what comes after. I’ve been reading Ghosts of the World and found some captivating stories.

Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire, was the home for a time of Elizabeth I, before she became Queen of England. It is haunted by a phantom coach and horses, which enters the house and proceeds up the stairs. page 13

That footnote in the book interested me, so I went online and searched for the whole story. Information Britain has a paragraph on it:

The story goes that the sixth Earl of Salisbury was treated extremely badly by his mother, who even sent instructions to Westminster School that he be soundly beaten though he had at that time done no wrong. The injustice of his youth turned the young man into a thoroughly rotten lot who lived a life of spectacular wickedness, coming inevitably to a bad end. His shade it is that races up the drive in a spectral carriage, all the way to the great house from the gate. And when it reaches the house the coach and its ghostly team of horses does not stop, instead continuing up the grand staircase finally to vanish as it nears the top. (Read More)

Avebury Stone Circle — Source

Another story from Ghosts of the World:

In 1916, a woman was standing on one of the earthen mounds, looking towards Avebury. Her view, however, was obscured by a village fair, that was currently in progress, in which booths and rides were being enjoyed by many people. The woman watched for a while, but drove off in her car when it started to rain. Later she discovered that no fair had been held in Avebury since 1850.

I decided to only share stories, because we all know what a ghost is (or what they’re supposed to be.) It was more interesting to look up famous tales, seeing old buildings and photos. Even if the photos have been altered, they are still very creepy, and some of them would inspire neat side projects.

Do I believe in ghosts? I’ve heard enough stories to make me wonder. What would the world be without a healthy dose of that?

Sometimes they’re places and situations, shadows from the past, emotions that never died. They live in castles, old hotels, cemeteries, forests. There’s no limit to where they can be or what they’ll look like.

They’re haunts, and it occurs to me that–even if we don’t believe in dead people coming back to life–we all have a ghost, a haunt, something that won’t leave us alone.

So yes, I believe in ghosts.

I think this topic will have a second post, because there are just so many stories.

I’ve started plotting an updated Book 2, because as I keep making progress with Dissonance, I want to know what happens next. That’s always a good sign, except as the author, if I want to read the sequel I need to write it. None of the old drafts seem worth recycling, because the story has changed since then.

There are two months to go, and unless some huge issue gets in the way (I hope it doesn’t!) I’m on time. There will be a few excerpts up next month, along with illustrations by Sammi. It’s got me excited and motivated to work hard.

However, I took a couple of weeks off editing because the first days of October saw me with a scrambled mind. I need some time to rest, that way I’ll look at the manuscript with clear eyes. I’m only making suggestions my betas come up with, not acting on my own whims.

This is exciting and scary. I’m so happy right now. Thanks for following me this far into the journey!

I can’t wait to get a pumpkin this month, and I’ll be sure to post a picture! :)

The Many Kinds of Faery

Note: I’m no historian or teacher. This is me rambling about stuff I learned while researching for a novella. Don’t treat me as an expert, especially on such a vast topic!

What is a fairy? Are they Changelings or fair folk? The tiny colorful people we think of as fairies come from a much broader term, one that years ago referred to various strange and often mischievous creatures.

Fairy Story has a lot of wonderful tales you can read if you want to know these creatures better. They explain it best in this paragraph on their home page:

One thing every society, culture and country on Earth has in common is a wealth of myths and legends going back to beyond human memory; the fairy stories and folk tales of our ancestors are the one thing that bind us all together as human beings, they are part of our collective consciousness and subconscious thoughts. They flood our young minds with imagination and creative thought and keep alive the idea of magic, something we all know is out there somewhere but more often than not choose to forget it.

image courtesy of Alexandria LaNier on Flickr

I normally use the word fairy in the broad manner, meaning every magical creature–from trolls to pixies.

Some fairy stories were happy, but many had tragic endings. Folklore spoke of creatures we avoided, dark characters we wouldn’t let our children play with now. The original Fey were used to frighten naughty children into obedience.

Some especially popular fairies are the ones written by Shakespeare. I won’t comment much on them just yet, because I *cough* don’t remember A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but here’s a nice article if you’re interested.

(On a related note, you can generate a fairy name here! Mine is Buttercup Willowshimmer…)

I wanted to research four critters I think of when I hear fairy.


Looking up pixie folklore, I found the stories were abstract in their own way. These were tiny and mischievous creatures, but they weren’t always evil. A couple of stories surrounding them stood out to me, for example:

In the Christian era they were sometimes said to be the souls of children who had died un-baptised. These children would change their appearance to pixies once their clothing was placed in clay funeral pots used in their earthly lives as toys. (Read More)

Also found on Wiki:

In modern use, the term can be synonymous with fairies or sprites. However, in folklore there is a traditional enmity, even war, between the two races.

This isn’t helping contain the plot bunnies.

Checking the New World Encyclopedia, I found a line that made me chuckle.

Reported sightings have become less common, however, as the majority of people no longer believe in such creatures.



image courtesy of Sébastien Barré on Flickr

I found so many pictures of garden gnomes looking for facts on this creature.

A gnome is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus in the 16th century and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature. Its characteristics have been reinterpreted to suit the needs of various story tellers, but it is typically said to be a small, humanoid creature that lives underground. (Read More)

They sound adorable at first, but cute little creatures usually have a knack for causing trouble.

Pantheon says:

They cannot stand the light of the sun, for even one ray would turn them to stone. Some sources claim they spend the hours during daylight as a toad. (More)

Read also: Encyclopedia Britannica


With sprite I expected something similar to pixie, but they stand on their own quite well.

Sprites are creatures of the element water. They are found only in places where it is serene and cool. They like to play with nymphs or torment butterflies. (The butterflies don’t really mind.)

Poor butterflies. I read in some places that sprites would tear their wings off.

Read more on Pantheon.

Doing research on sprites, I found this on Yahoo answers that might have made this post much easier, but I’m going to keep going. This is fun homework.


I always think of Dobby when I read elf, but that’s why I decided to look up the roots.

Mythical Creatures Guide says:

An elf is a mythical creature of Germanic Mythology/Paganism which still survives in northern European folklore. In Norse mythology they were originally a race of minor gods of nature and fertility. Elves are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and other natural places, underground or in wells and springs.

Read more on elves here!

This post could have been longer. There’s so much to find that maybe I’ll post about each critter individually. I knew I’d learn new things, and this little round of research gave me a lot of ideas!

In two days I’m posting about ghosts. That’s another post that could get very long, so there’s likely to be a Part II.

I hope this post helped you some! :)