Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Incredible Stories Behind Monuments Built Over Grudges

Hello all,

I've recently begun writing for and my first article is out. You'll read about ancient grudges, warriors, murders, ghosts, and what Sarah Michelle Gellar should have done to defeat the ghost in the movie The Grudge. Click on the link below.

The incredible stories behind monuments built over grudges.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sherrif Joe

Just a little something I made in photoshop for a Cracked pitch. Not sure I'm entirely happy with it yet.

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to get Published at Listverse: Waiting on a Response

Readers often contact me for tips on how to get published at Listverse so I thought I might post some general tips and guidelines, stuff you won't find in the Listverse Style Guide.

Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. Your article has to be well-written, free of typos, and feature crisp, varied sentences. The shorter the sentence, the better, but too many short sentences and the writing will feel stilted. It's a balance, and the only way to get better is to practice.

Pro-tip: The less editing your list needs, the faster Listverse will respond to you. 

If your list is polished they will publish it so fast it will blister your toes. Many of my lists have been accepted and published within a span of three or four days. These are under ideal conditions, meaning your premise is interesting, your sources are good, and your entries match your premise. Good job.

I've seen a lot of people complaining on Facebook that Listverse is not responding to their submissions. This has happened to me and every Listverse author that I'm aware of, so don't feel too bad. There are a lot of reasons this happens and you can't know them all without being in an editor's head, but I will say that every time there has been a delay in their response — every time — my list has needed some work. And the more work needed, the longer the delay. I've noticed it goes something like this:

  • Some sources need changing (but everything else is good) — a short delay, if any.
  • Some entries need replacing — a bit longer delay, maybe between 3-7 days.
  • The premise needs tweaking — Takes a while to get back to you. May have to send them a reminder email after two weeks and bug them about it. If this is the case, review your list and consider ways you can make it better before you re-submit and send that email.

You may be wondering, "Why is there any delay at all? Don't they respond to each list in the order received?"

No, they don't.

Pro-tip: Listverse does not respond to submissions in the order they are received. 

After I submitted my list on mystical cats, I heard nothing for a week or two. In the meantime my list on pirates had been accepted, published, and paid for. I assumed that there might be something wrong with the cat list so I rethought the premise, submitted a new version, and nudged them to look at it. Alex (an excellent editor) got back to me, said he liked the new premise and asked if I could replace two of the entries. And voila:

10 Strange and Mystical Cats People Believed In

Some of the editors are in college/university, which means that during some months of the year, like during exams, they don't have much time to give feedback to submissions. But they still need to post three lists a day. So the closer your list is to publishable quality, the faster it will be accepted.

Now how exactly do you get a list to publishable quality? Glad you asked.

In the coming posts I'll talk about easy ways to find sources for obscure information. How to link those sources so the editors can find them in mountains of text (which will decrease their response time). How you can take "the same obscure facts that are repeated all over the internet" and present them in new and interesting ways. How to summarize dry histories and make them exciting. And how to tell a story by writing a list.

Any questions so far? Leave a comment. If not, on to the next post (I'll link to the next post when it's available).

Saturday, February 6, 2016

More Korean Fairy Tales

Edit: I added a translation for the first video, which I forgot was in Korean.

Gold Ax, Silver Ax

There was an honest woodcutter who worked to provide a living for his parents. One day while chopping a tree, his iron ax slipped out of his hands and flew into the nearby river, where it was lost. The woodcutter couldn't afford another ax. His parents would starve. He sat down beside the river and cried.

But the ax landed at the feet of a god who lived at the bottom of the river, and the god decided to test the woodcutter. The god emerged from the water and said, “Lowly human, you seem to have dropped your ax.” The god produced an ax with a shining silver blade.

“I did drop my ax” said the woodcutter, “but that is not mine.”

“Then is this your ax?” The river god conjured an ax with solid gold blade.

The woodcutter shook his head. “My ax has an iron blade.”

The river god gave the woodcutter back his iron ax. “That's the one! Thank you very much.” The god rewarded the woodcutter for his honesty by giving him all three axes. From then on his parents lived a rich life.

A dishonest woodcutter happened to overhear the tale of the gold and silver axes, so he went to the same river and through his iron ax in, where it nearly struck the god on the head. The god emerged and gave the dishonest woodcutter the same test, but the dishonest woodcutter claimed the gold and silver axes belonged to him. The god was angry and left with all three axes. The dishonest woodcutter was now left without an iron ax, and his business was ruined.

The Rabbit's Judgment

Monday, February 1, 2016

Blue Frog: A Korean Fairy Tale

photo by Daan de Vos
There was once a widower frog who had a disobedient son named Blue Frog. Blue Frog always did the opposite of what his mother told him. If she said to go play in the hills, he went swimming in the pond. If she told him to swim in the pond, he would play in the hills. If she told him to sit down and eat his mosquito pie, he would stand and relieve himself.

“Blue Frog!” shouted the mother. “Just once I wish you'd do as I say! Anything at all! Please say, 'ribbit, ribbit,'”

Blue Frog said, “Bit-rib, bit-rib!” and danced off into the distance.

Soon the mother frog had become ill, and she felt it was her time to die. She thought to herself, “That foolish son of mine always does the opposite of what I say. If I tell him to bury me on the mountain, he'll bury me by the creek, where the rains will wash my body away.” So on her deathbed, she told her son to bury her by the creek, knowing he would do the opposite.

Blue Frog blamed himself for his mother's death. “I'm so sorry, mother,” he cried. “You got sick because I never listened. From now on I will do as you say. Ribbit, ribbit!” Blue Frog didn't think it was a very good idea to bury his mother near the creek, but he vowed to follow her wishes. Now, whenever it rains, the Blue Frog worries about his mother and cries "ribbit, ribbit."

Friday, January 15, 2016

6 Mythical Things That Actually Existed

This is a continuation of my super popular list 10 Mythical Things That Actually Existed

6 Monster Boars
photo source

Artemis, Olympian goddess of the hunt, let loose two monstrous boars on the Greeks: The Erymanthian Boar was subdued by Hercules, the fourth of his twelve labors. The Calydonian Boar was the focus of an epic hunt in which many of Greece’s finest heroes took part.

There did exist in human history a breed of “terminator pigs” that could only be wrestled down by Earth’s greatest heroes. The largest among them was the Daeodon, which translated from the original Greek means “destructive teeth.” An average man would only stand as tall as its shoulder, and it measured 12 feet (3.6 meters) long.

5 Glow-in-the-Dark Mushrooms

Glowing mushrooms appear in novels, television shows, movies and video games, but they’re more than just a shared idea. They’re real.

There are over 70 known species of glow-in-the-dark mushrooms. The brightest, neonothopanus gardneri, was only recently rediscovered in Brazil. Exactly why they glow is unknown, but it is believed the light attracts nocturnal animals that help spread spores. Or it could be to scare off predators much in the same way a colorful animal lets you know it is poisonous.

4 King Kong

The real eighth wonder of the world wasn’t as tall as his on-screen counterpart, but at 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighing 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms), and with proportionate gorilla strength, it’s not a stretch to assume he could pick up a skinny blonde actress in one hand. His species is known scientifically by the genus Gigantopithecus. They lived in China and Southeast Asia up until some 300,000 years ago. Coincidentally, the fictional Skull Island is also located in Southeast Asia off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.

3 Chocobos
Flightless birds that can be ridden like horses are a staple in the famous Final Fantasy series. The chocobo’s appearance is based on the diatryma, which at first was believed to be the top predator after the extinction of the dinosaurs, but a recent study concluded that they were in fact gentle herbivores much like the chocobos they would inspire.

But if the inspiration isn’t good enough, and you’d like to see a bird that lived alongside humans and could theoretically be ridden, look to the elephant bird. It lived in Madagascar and weighed 880 pounds (400 kilograms)—about as much as a light riding horse. A single elephant bird egg was large enough to make thirty omelets, which may have factored into humans hunting them to extinction 300 years ago.

Good news: There may be a real-life “phoenix down.” Scientists have discovered how to extract DNA from elephant bird eggshells, meaning they could soon be resurrected.

2 Will-o'-the-wisp

Will-o’-the-wisps appear in books from Dracula to Harry Potter, and sightings of them have occurred all over the world. What exactly a wisp does and what it’s called varies by location, but some of the most well-known tales say that it is a malevolent spirit that leads travelers off safe paths and into dangerous marshes. It recedes if it is approached, but draws closer if left behind. Some legends state that they mark the locations of mystical treasure.

Will-o’-the-wisps are actually a naturally occurring phenomenon known as ignes fatuus, which is the spontaneous combustion of marsh gases that arise from stagnant water and decaying matter in swamps. The reason a wisp moves farther away as you attempt to get closer is because your footsteps disturb the marshes and prevent the gases from being released. Wisps are rarely seen today due to the destruction of marshlands.

1 Tolkien’s Eagles
Amaterasu-234 on Deviant Art

In seems that whenever the characters in Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit get into an inescapable situation, the Eagles swoop in and carry them to safety. But these winged deus ex machina aren’t exclusive to Middle-Earth. Although we’re pretty sure the Haast’s Eagle didn’t talk, they were capable of lifting creatures bigger than humans. It stalked the skies of New Zealand up until the year 1400, and its favorite meal was the moa, a bipedal bird that weighed up to 510 pounds (230 kilograms). If you doubt whether the Haast’s Eagle could lift such a beast, watch this video of a present day eagle soaring with a goat in its clutches.

The Haast’s Eagle was 40% larger than the largest species of eagle living today. It had a wingspan of 10 feet (3 meters), and it is believed to have been so large that it approached the physical limits of flight. They died out when humans hunted their food source to extinction.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2 More Supernatural Creatures of Islam

An extension of 10 Supernatural Creatures of Islamic Tradition on Listverse.

12 Bahamut

In addition to being the center of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth is also a figure in Islam, but Muslims don't consider him the son of God, rather he is a prophet and a messenger. In “Arabian Nights” Jesus beholds a creature of such enormous size that he falls unconscious from attempting to look at it. The Bahamut is so large that all the seas of the world, if placed in its nostril, would be like a mustard seed laid in the desert.

The Bahamut is a fish with the head of a hippopotamus or an elephant. On its back stands a titanic bull. When the bull inhales, the ocean tides go out, and when he exhales the tides come in. On the back of the bull is a mountain, and on the top of that mountain is an angel that supports the seven worlds on its shoulders, much like Atlas from Greek mythology. Beneath Bahamut is the void—violent winds blasting thick mist through veils of darkness.

Although Bahamut is the fish in Arabian Nights, things are a bit different in Islamic scripture. Here it says that Bahamut is the bull.

11 Sand Sprites


Strange things happen in the desert. The heat plays tricks on your mind. Ancient Arabs believed a sandy whirlwind to be an evil jinni crossing the desert. Whenever Arabs saw one of these mini-tornadoes, they shouted “Iron! Iron!” because jinn were afraid of iron. Some still shout at whirlwinds, but it is more or less out of superstition now.

In addition to the whirlwind jinn, pixie-like beings called Ahl al-trab were thought to exist in the Saharas desert. The Ahl al-trab were trickster that lived just below the surface of the sand and waited by pools of water for a traveler to approach. When the thirsty traveler drew near, Ahl al-trab would drink up the pool of water so that it would run out just as the traveler arrived. They also like to trip-up passing camels, just as an extra bit of knobbery.