About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Let’s Build Some Monsters by Sarah J. McNeal

I love fantasy writing, creating worlds, beings, and, oh yeah, monsters. Even as a kid I was fascinated by monsters. Lord knows, I experienced enough nightmares about them. Most kids have had the belief that a monster is lurking under the bed ready to bite if a foot or hand might dangle down past the mattress into their lair. It is my understanding that every self-respecting closet has its monster.

Myths and Legends are crammed full of monsters, wild things, and creatures of another realm—usually one invisible to humans. From these myths and legends writers can pull up a monster and add or subtract from its original creation and form a completely new being with the magic of imagination.
I looked up a few of these creatures from “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” from Writer’s Digest Books. Here are just a few of these monsters and fantasy creatures:

Kraken: a sea creature big enough to be mistaken for an island
Leprechauns: the little people of Irish lore who love to trick people
The Minotaur: a creature half man-half bull who lived in a labyrinth and devoured 7 sacrificial maidens ever so often
Nemean Lion: a gigantic lion that devoured people but could not be killed because its impenetrable hide.
Sasquatch (Bigfoot): Well here’s one of my favorites. This creature is known throughout Native American lore as a big, hairy, humanoid creature who lives in the deep woods. Some honor the creature, but never speak of it while others believe it steals and eats children.
Vampires: Humans who have died but have revived due to a bite from another vampire. They continue to “live” only by consuming human blood.
Zombies: the undead who must consume human brains in order to continue “living”
Medusa the Gorgon: A monstrous woman with snakes for hair who can turn humans to stone by a mere glance at this hideous specter.
Fairies: magical human-like beings with wings. Some are kind and good, while others are evil
Dragons: huge lizard-like creatures with wings that breathe fire. They are usually assigned to guard some kind of treasure.
Clowns: thought to be human and humorous except, every once in a while, an evil clown comes around with diabolical intentions.

Well that’s just a few of the many creatures from myth and legend. There are so many to choose from to build an original monster to delight readers.
I created several monsters in my trilogy, LEGENDS OF WINATUKE, and in PENNYTOOK, a short story in the anthology titled MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND MIDNIGHT KISSES.

I named the creatures the Niamso. These creatures were part human and part Dark Blood Clan who were evil beings from the Dark Isle ruled by a particularly wicked queen named Mahara. The Niamso look somewhat like Big Foot with thick, hairy bodies, huge teeth and a rapacious appetite for human flesh. They have an uncanny sense of hearing, which is also their weakness. All in all, they are formidable creatures.
Do you write about monsters? How do you build them? Do you give them both a strength and a weakness? What is your favorite monster?

My vision of a Niamso and Esmeralda

 Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.

Excerpt from PENNYTOOK:
As Esmeralda neared the ruins of the Dark Isle, her heart began to race and something like sparks darted all through her body. She realized she had made a terrible mistake leaving the safety of the Plains of Marja to travel to Castyava on her own. Hasty decisions made in anger or fear seldom worked out well.

Sensing the danger around her, she tried to keep to the edge of the forest away from the bubbling cauldron that had once been the vast Lake of Sorrows. The smell of sulfur and evil grew rank in the air. No birds sang from the forest. No crickets made music. No creatures crept along the forest floor or rustled in the limbs of the trees. Something evil menaced from the shadows of the woods. Esmeralda sought a place for cover. Minita could not outrun anyone or anything that might pursue her, but the black steed was strong and had the stamina to endure over a long distance. It was only a small advantage and no advantage at all if whatever stalked her possessed the ability for speed.

Something drew near. She had heard the rumors of monsters and knew the terrible legends told of the Lake of Sorrows and the Niamso who still kept vigil over the lake. Her heart pounded in her chest. She had been foolish to come this way alone. Nothing but pride had made her do such a thing. Pennytook had hurt her and now she might never be able to survive to make things right.

Buy Links:

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Sarah,
    I do love your stories and your special spin on your myths and monsters. :) Enjoyed your post. Liked the picture too.

    Do you have some more myth and monster stories in the works?

    1. Hey Karen. Thank you for coming and leaving a comment. Thank you for your compliments about my work. At present I'm not writing on a paranormal/monster story. I have 2 WIP's in the Wilding series to finish and then, well, I'm not certain what comes next.

  2. Note to Sarah! Finish those Wilding books!
    My mind has a hard time equating the lovely sweet Sarah I know with these creatures of the night...or wherever they are. I do admire your imagination..it's almost like you might have separate compartments in your brain for certain kinds of stories. Mine? Probably one compartment...but who knows, if I did branch out into very unfamiliar territory, what might I find? Hmmm. I need to think about this.
    Very good post, well done, as usual.

    1. Celia, before I wrote Harmonica Joe and started the Wildings series, I was a sci-fi, paranormal writer. In the beginning I wasn't even writing romance.
      I like your compartmental brain theory.
      I think you have more compartments than you give yourself credit for. You write adult and YA stories. Not everyone can do both. But I'm thinking you could try something really different--a mystery maybe. I wish I was good at writing mysteries. I just can't do it. But there you are with your analytical mind just perfect for mystery writing.
      Thank you for always being so supportive and having such positive things to say. I always appreciate you/


Comments relevant to the blog post are welcome as long as they are noninflammatory and appropriate for everyone of all ages to read.
Thank you for your interest and input.