Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Krampus: Anti-Santa or St. Nick’s Sidekick?

Coal in your stocking? Potatoes in your shoes? Well, if you’re naughty this Christmas, the Krampus might stuff you into a sack and carry off for dinner - his, not yours!

Who is this Krampus and where does he come from?

 Old card reading "Gruss vom Krampus" ("Greetings from Krampus"). [public domain]
Old card, "Greetings from Krampus"
The Krampus, Grampus or Bartel is a shaggy, demonic figure with pagan roots in Austria, Germany and the surrounding countries.  Instead of giving gifts to good little girls and boys like Santa, he bags the naughty ones and carries them off.

Devil-like with goat horns, cloven hooves, and a tongue any Kiss fan would envy, he erupts onto the streets thrashing chains and causing mayhem on Krampusnacht, December 5th, the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas.

Traditionally however, this general ruckus-maker often accompanies St. Nicholas around December 6th as part of central Europe’s festivities.  As they parade through the streets together, St Nicholas gives gifts to the nice children while the riotous Krampus thrashes the naughty with sticks!

Close cousins of the Krampus roam the Swiss Alps. In the German-speaking parts they are called Schmutzli, while in the French-speaking areas they are known as Père Fouettard, meaning 'whip.' And just like the Krampus, they accompany Santa and thrash naughty children with sticks. Schmutzli is thought to be the embodiment of pre-Christian evil spirits, and the re-enacted noise and ruckus represent attempts to drive them out.

Krampus himself is deeply rooted in pre-Christian paganism. Could the poor Krampus be the remnant of a pre-Christian god, relegated to Santa’s salacious sidekick much the same way as the Old Gods of Britain and Ireland were demoted to modern day fairies?

Although the specifics of his ancient godly nature are lost in the mists of time, his more recent role is cautionary, threatening children to behave - or else!

How can he be defeated? 

There is only one weapon against the devilish Krampus;

Be nice.

Or else you’ll be head first in his Krampus sack and top of his menu this Krampusnacht. You have been warned….

Happy Krampus!


Miles, Clement A. (1912). "VIII". Christmas in ritual and tradition: Christian and Pagan. Toronto: Bell and Cockburn. pp. 227–29.

McLean, Movern. "Schmutzli: the Swiss Santa's sinister sidekick". Retrieved 3 December 2014.

"Run, Kris Kringle, Krampus is Coming!". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 3 December 2014.

Alexandra, Zawadil (6 December 2006). "Santa's evil sidekick? Who knew?". Reuters.

Zeller, Tom (24 December 2000). "Have a Very Scary Christmas". The New York Times.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Easy, Free and Low Cost Book Trailers and Graphics #IWSG

For many of us, developing video editing or graphic art skills to promote our books on social media is enough to make our heads spin. However, whether we’re self publishing or have a traditional publisher, we’ll be marketing too. Here's a couple of resources for making video book trailers and social media graphics requiring absolutely no editing or graphic art skills. Even better, they're easy and quick to use, low cost, and in some cases, completely free.

Video Book Trailers

Produce a book trailer with commercially licensed music in minutes for as little as $39. Animoto have developed a set of templates into which the user slots images and text - such as a book cover and information about where to buy it.

With a free account, the user can produce non-commercial videos of 30 seconds or less, including music, for free. Here’s one I did for the IWSG in just a few minutes (yours will be better of course!) As the IWSG is non commercial I don’t need a pro account to make it.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group #3

Here's another example using a different template and music:

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group #2

Ok, I can't resist, here's another:

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

However, as many of us will be charging for our book - or using it as a marketing tool to promote other books written - this counts as commercial use and incurs a monthly fee of $39 for their pro account. They have a library of templates, images, video clips and music to choose from or you can upload your own.

I checked with Animoto about using their service for creating video book trailers and they confirmed that users can pay for just one month and the video they create is theirs to use for ever. Just remember to cancel your subscription before the month is up.

Social Media Graphics & Book Covers

Canva is a graphics site much like Animoto in that it provides easy to use templates for making graphics for your blog and social media sites. Absolutely no graphic art skills are required.

Their templates include facebook headers, twitter headers, blog graphics and even book covers
among others. Many of their templates and graphics are free to use and all of their paid images are just $1 with no monthly subscription. If you use your own images - such as your book cover - to create your social media graphics, you can use their templates for free. Alternatively, you can use their images for a buck each.

Yes, that means you could even make a book cover for a dollar…

Another great use for these graphics is to create a signature for your emails. Just remember to make it clickable and lead to your sales page or blog.

The only downside is limited image editing - no masques or feathering, and you can't alter the image after download. That said, if you're not into photoshop anyway, this is a great tool.

Once you have your book trailer and branded images for your social media sites, use them as part of your book launch strategy. Share them everywhere.

I hope you’ve found this helpful and best of luck with your book launch!

This post is for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop - a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Proofreading Exchange

As a self pubber, I've read that the two things to invest in are:

1. A great cover
2. An editor or at the very least a proofreader

My insecure question this month relates to editing and proofreading. Has anyone had success with exchanging proofreading or editing with another author? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, advice, or warnings!

Many thanks in advance.

This post is for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. A place for writers to stand up and face their inner dragons, cry at the woeful inadequacy of their weapons, get some much needed support from other dragon slayers and carry on anyway. I think. I hope....

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Rat Bargain

The house was old with a pointy roof like a witch's cottage. Inside, the house was cluttered with ancient furniture while hand painted murals peeled off the walls. The walls were most interesting to me as they were wide and hollow and riddled with secret passageways. The doorway to one if them looked like bit of wood paneling, only it had a catch and if you went inside on hands and knees, the tunnel wound around to the other side of the house only to pop out inside a bedroom cupboard.

I lived in the attic and my room was all pointy angles and odd shaped cupboards. At the end of a large walk in wardrobe was the most curious thing on the wall: stop sign.

Even more curiously, the stop sign was attached by a hinge. It was in fact, a doorway to another secret passage. One of the many in this strange old house. Barely big enough for an adult to crawl through, the passageway beyond the stop sign door was carpeted in dark green shag pile.

When I first discovered the stop sign for what it was, a doorway, naturally I opened it. And two gimlet eyes met my own. Sitting on the dark green shag pile carpet, as if awaiting my arrival, was a rat.

It was an old house filled with old furniture and riddled with secret tunnels. A rat was no surprise. Although I didn't fancy him running across my bed in the night, or munching through my lunch when my back was turned.

So I made a bargain with the rat. I said, "Mr. rat, if you will promise to stay this side of this stop sign and leave my room alone, I will promise to lay no traps or poison nor tell the landlord of our meeting."

The rat nodded and scampered off.

I never saw him again and neither him nor his ratty brethren ever entered my room.

This is a true story.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


 I'm drowning in the eternal bog of procrastination... I’ve written only a few hundred of the 5k words I aimed for this week. I think I’ve moved beyond the ‘afraid to write’ stage - thanks to the support and good advice I received last month - and into writer's block.

I’ve got a good beginning and the first three chapters done. And now I’ve stalled. I don’t know how to start chapter 4. I know what happens in chapter 4, I know there is a big disaster coming in chapter 5. There’s plenty of foreshadowing, our cast of characters are introduced and our world is alive. Monsters are lurking in the shadows, Gargoyles are vanishing along with their warning cries, our protagonist is refusing to go on a quest to acquire monster-slaying magic while at the same time, walking straight into the one place she should never ever go. What’s the problem? Lightening should be sparking off the keyboard. And yet…. The keys sit untapped.

I think, to quote Megan McArdle in her article Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators, I am “paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.” I have impostor syndrome:

The fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you 'really' are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome.


This post is for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. A place for writers to stand up and face their inner dragons, cry at the woeful inadequacy of their weapons, get some much needed support from other dragon slayers and carry on anyway. I think. I hope....

Friday, 27 June 2014

Freyja and her cats

The Norse goddess Freyja is associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, and gold, but like the cat with whom she is closely connected, she could flex her claws as the goddess of war, and death.

Freyja riding with her cats (1874)
By Ludwig Pietsch (1824-1911) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The latter two interests she shared with Odin. They also shared the souls who died in battle, half going to Valhalla to drink the blood of their enemies from their own skulls with Odin, the other half were scooped up from the battlefield by the Valkyries and brought to Freja’s heavenly meadow of the afterlife, Fólkvangr, meaning people-field or army-field. I imagine Fólkvangr to be like a big fluffy cushion surrounded by plates of sushi and bowls of overflowing tuna. The kind of afterlife a cat would love!

It is said that the cat was Freyja’s sacred animal and she would bless those who were kind to them. As well as loving cats and being generally associated with them, Freyja also rode in a chariot pulled by two cats; Bygul and Trjegul. Some claim they were Norwegian Forest Cats others have called them as "Gib-cats" however they are referred to simply as 'cats' in the Prose Edda. They have been described as either black, grey or blue and were a gift from Thor.

The name Freyja is roughly translated to mean ‘Lady’. Some scholars argue that she is one and the same as the Goddess Frigg. Either or both of these Goddesses’ names are the root of the fifth day of the week, Friday, in Germanic languages.

So Happy Feline Friday on behalf of Freyja and her cats!

Nine Lives: The Folklore of Cats, Katherine M. Briggs
The Cat in Magic and Myth, M. Oldfield Howey
Cats in Norse mythology,
Image: By Ludwig Pietsch (1824-1911) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons