Short Stories

Forthcoming: Horror Anthology

Pleased to announce my next psychological horror short story “The Monster” will feature in Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All short fiction in the anthology is inspired by the theme of gluttony “an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.”

Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6)

My horror story “The Monster”, inspired by wendigo folklore of the northern Algonquin First Nations of North America and Canada combines elements of the culturally specific ‘wendigo psychosis’ during an alpine hiking expedition. A case of a violent mind unravelling or monstrous possession? You can learn more about my research writing “The Monster” here.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6) will be updated when available. Keep an eye out for the release of Greed (Seven Deadly Sins, #5)  and Wrath (Seven Deadly Sins, #7) anthologies.

Short Stories

The Wendigo & Psychological Horror

Another of my recent work-in-progress short fiction pieces, has been a psychological horror story inspired by wendigo psychosis an unusual form of ‘cultural psychosis’ specific to First Nations peoples of Canadian-North American Great Lakes regions where belief in a supernatural being, the wendigo, provides a unique cultural framework for a psychosis. This psychosis has specific disease symptoms which like the cultural belief – is unique – and found nowhere else in the world.

What is a wendigo then? It is a legendary being originating from northern Algonquian First Nations oral folktales and legends (recently popularised in supernatural fiction and movies), described in varying ways but, almost always, as a ravenous cannibalistic monster with an insatiable hunger. Historically, the First Nations peoples including the Algonquian, Cree and Ojibwa attributed wendigo possession to those driven mad in the harsh winter months of isolation and deprivation who resorted to cannibalism, often without a famine present.

In this short story, I was interested to take wendigo folklore and wendigo psychosis deliberately outside its necessary cultural context to explore the shadowy boundary between reality and insanity, and the inherent horror of uncertainty: a human monster or monstrous possession? This story was written through a single character’s point of view, exploring the darker, unintentional psychological motivations of a declining mental state and attempts to rationalise violent, aberrant behaviour.

Recent Reads

Black Sun

From the Blurb:

“A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun.

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world. Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain. Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.”

Review:

Black Sun by US author Rebecca Roanhorse is the first instalment in an exciting new epic fantasy series Between Earth and Sky. The mythic fantasy world for the setting of Black Sun is inspired by Mesoamerican prehistory and culture, focusing around the eclipse, astronomical divination and sun-worshipping religious order.

Black Sun follows Serapio, a ruler’s son, outcast by his family since his cultist mother intentionally blinded him in worship of the Crow god from her native Tovan culture before her suicide. Blind since twelve, Serapio has been trained by hardship and determination, knowing only the cultist beliefs of his mother and her co-conspirators and their vengeance against the celestial order of the Sun Priest in Tova.

For Serapio, only getting to Tova before the next eclipse matters. He is taken on-board a ship as a passenger, the only captain willing to travel the open ocean to make Tova in time is a disgraced Teek, a woman named Xiala. There, en route to Tova, Serapio finds an unlikely companionship and ally in Xiala who is outcast for her own type of magic. For Xiala, Serapio’s quiet strangeness is accepted and his power as the vessel for the Crow god make him a useful ally in their journey to Tova. But as Serapio travels his homeland for the first time, the city of Tova is on the cusp of civil war, the celestial order led by the Sun Priest, the natural enemy of the Crow and all the noble houses on the brink of chaos. As the seasonal equinox culminates with the eclipse, it will bring forth fantastic beings and forces from the myths of this world, where the giant crows and water-beetles, mermaids and priests are nothing to a vengeful god reborn.

Final Thoughts:

Black Sun was a wonderful new epic Fantasy that explores a mythic world inspired by Mesoamerica yet absolutely unique. The instability of the upper echelon of society with its feuding clans and religious orders is cleverly opposed to the united presence of cultist groups and the unquestionable dominance of the criminal underworld. There is a strong combination of fantasy themes, folklore and world-building that unite the political and social intrigue.

My Conclusion?

This is a must-read for fans of Rebecca Roanhorse and those who enjoy non-Anglo/Nordic fantasy. Highly recommended!

Recent Reads

Storm of Locusts

From the Blurb:

“It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.”

Review:

Storm of Locusts by US author Rebecca Roanhorse is the second volume in the dystopian fantasy series The Sixth World inspired by Navajo legend and mythology.

Storm of Locusts follows from the dramatic ending of Trail of Lightning with a six month hiatus between the revelations shared by Maggie and Kai. Since then, Kai has not contacted Maggie and she has become the unlikely guardian for a young girl, recently orphaned but long-since in possession of her clan powers and the dark, violent history that often entails.

Maggie and her charge are enlisted to search for the missing youngest son of Maggie’s neighbours, the Goodacres. But Caleb Goodacre is feared abducted as part of a charismatic and dangerous doomsday cult, its leader proclaiming kinship with an ancient Navajo legend, the White Locust. Maggie quickly discovers that Caleb left willingly with Kai and she must trust her instinct that Kai is no monster. With the aid of her charge and the unusual clan powers for tracking, Maggie follows Kai and the White Locust beyond the safety of the Walls of Dinétah where the post-apocalyptic world of body harvesting challenge the horror Maggie has witnessed hunting Navajo monsters in Dinétah. But evidence continues to mount that Kai has willingly been helping the White Locust using his own clan powers of persuasion to grow the following and enable the White Locust in destroy the Sixth World. Maggie has only the untruthworhty advice of Mican to aid her and she must decide whether Kai is good or whether his clan powers have deceived her who is a friend or a monster.

Final Thoughts:

Storm of Locusts proved to be the sequel to Trail of Lightning that took the brutal Sixth World that Rebecca Roanhorse had masterfully created into another level. I found the story compelling in its honesty and the gritty sense of realism was refreshing for dystopian fantasy which often feels unauthentic in its envisioned future. Storm of Locusts perfectly captures a world of dwindling hope, selfishness and greed prevail as human society struggles to survive. It is a fertile place, where a cult promising new order and inclusion, could flourish.

My Conclusion:

A must-read if you enjoyed Trail of Lightning, fans of dystopian fantasy or those craving an original fantasy inspired by non-Celtic folklore. Highly recommended!

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The Only Good Indians

From the Blurb:

“Ten years ago, four young men shot some elk then went on with their lives. It happens every year; it’s been happening forever; it’s the way it’s always been. But this time it’s different. Ten years after that fateful hunt, these men are being stalked themselves. Soaked with a powerful gothic atmosphere, the endless expanses of the landscape press down on these men – and their children – as the ferocious spirit comes for them one at a time.

The Only Good Indians, charts Nature’s revenge on a lost generation that maybe never had a chance. Cleaved to their heritage, these parents, husbands, sons and Indians, men live on the fringes of a society that has rejected them, refusing to challenge their exile to limbo.”

Review:

I recently read The Only Good Indians by US author Stephen Graham Jones. It was my first experience of Graham Jones’ gothic fiction and I was drawn to the Native American folklore of Elk-head woman and concept of emotional and physical haunting. What I discovered was a much deeper, complex and more rewarding read than I expected.

The Only Good Indians follows two main characters from a group of four Blackfeet men who in their youth, broke the laws of their reservation trespassing on the hunting grounds reserved for the elders during the last day of hunting. In a deep snow storm, the young men shoot an entire herd of elk including a young pregnant doe who takes several shots to kill. After taking only the hindquarters of the elk which is all the single pickup Ute can carry, the young men are caught by the reservation police and forced to relinquish the meat, unlawfully killed and they are banned from hunting on the reservation ever again. Despite decades passing since that fateful hunt, the four men are each haunted, emotionally and physically by the spectre of an elk-headed woman.

After two of the four die in violent circumstances after trying to leave the reservation, only one man, Lewis, has survived living outside the reservation but he has never left behind the guilt or sorrow from that hunt. Lewis was responsible for killing the young elk and the news of the recent deaths of his other two friends reawakens his guilt. Lewis is certain that the elk he killed in his youth is seeking vengeance and despite attempts to console his conscience and the spirit of the young elk, Lewis’ life spirals into sudden and tragic violence and he joins the fatal tally from that fateful hunting trip. Although Lewis had seemingly escaped the reservation and the bindings of tradition, Gabe has remained living on the reservation. The last of the four, he becomes the final target for Elk-head woman and her vengeance. Gabe has stayed on the reservation but does not have true acceptance either, enduring a borderline tolerance by the Blackfeet community. The last of the four who killed the elk on elder’s hunting ground, Gabe is aware Elk-head woman is hunting him and to protect his own daughter from becoming collateral, he demands Elk-head woman promise not to seek vengeance by killing his daughter despite his responsibility for the elk calf’s untimely death. It is clear that none of the four men ever escaped their identity as Native Americans, never escaped the wrong they committed that night and can never escape the need to find a balance for it.

Final Thoughts:

I had read a few references to folklore of the figure of Elk-head woman and customs surrounding not killing pregnant animals in several Native American cultures not just Stephen Graham Jones’ own Blackfeet heritage. But Graham Jones combined these with a gritty modern reality, an awareness that past wrongs can never be forgotten or out-run, that grief and sorrow are as capable at haunting an individual as any spectral figure. The most enduring aspect of The Only Good Indians was the skilfully constructed atmosphere in every scene, the detailed characters and the effective use of sudden, sharp violence completely shattering scenes and unnerving characters and audience alike.

Conclusion?

The Only Good Indians is an absolute modern classic of gothic folklore and literary fiction. I cannot recommend more highly. A must read!

Short Stories

Liminal world of Inuit folklore

I have been writing a new short fiction work inspired by the liminal folklore in some Inuit cultures. The liminal folklore I was interested to explore are closely linked to the harsh environment of northern Canada, from the permafrost and sea ice, where the risks from exposure and isolation are very real. The First Nations are the indigenous peoples of Canada and the Inuit “the People” occupy the traditional northernmost lands- called Inuit Nunangat, encompassing the northwest territories, northern Labrador and northern Quebec, consisting of 35% of Canada’s landmass and 50% of the coastline. To the Inuit, the land, water and ice are vital parts of the whole.

In a landscape of treacherous sea ice, blizzards and permafrost, traditional stories are told throughout generations to provide warnings for the dangers in disobeying laws and customs which are often closely tied to the history and landscape. There are several different beings in Inuit folklore that prey upon those who stray from the camp, children who become lost and the disorientating danger of the permafrost. Among these are the Taqriaqsuit or the “shadow people”, beings who are invisible or half-seen, who are heard but not seen but where a veil must be crossed between our world and their own. Beings also exist beneath the the sea ice, the Qallupilluk are child-snatchers who prey on children who stray too close to the dangerous frozen waterways and pack ice.

My latest short fiction work has been an interesting endeavour to explore unforgiving natural environments and internal psychological upheaval where the liminal world of the Taqriaqsuit and the Qallupilluk merges with the eerie north Canadian landscape and half-seen beings of folklore become a new reality.

Writing

Bone Arrow: Important Update

In the coming months, I’ll be doing a significant edit on my historical fantasy Bone Arrow which was inspired by Amerindian prehistory and fables. All previous editions of Bone Arrow will no longer be available and previous research archived. I’ll be sharing my latest research and editing developments as the new edition of Bone Arrow progresses.

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Trail of Lightning

From the Blurb:

“Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.”

Review:

Trail of Lightning, a supernatural fantasy by American author Rebecca Roanhorse was a finalist for the 2019 Nebula and Hugo Awards.

Trail of Lightning is set in the near-future, a world where legendary Navajo heroes, gods and monsters have re-emerged after a devastating flood leaves only Dinétah, the former Navajo reservation was protected and kept above the water.Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter, her rare and dangerous clan powers allow brief preternatural strength, speed with an adrenaline boost in battle. Maggie was apprenticed to the legendary hero and immortal, Neizghání. Neizghání leaves Maggie after noticing her clan powers are more similar to the monsters than is comfortable for Maggie.

A missing girl and monsters created by dark powers, lead Maggie to hunt for a Navajo practitioner of witchcraft. Accompanied by a still-apprenticed but powerful medicine man, Kai Arviso, Maggie follows trails of lighting, the physical markers left by gods like Coyote and the hero Neizghání, as they travel through Dinétah. The unraveling mysteries of who is making the monsters and why force Maggie and Kai to confront their past and future in order to survive the present.

Final Thoughts:

Trail of Lightning attracted some controversy over cultural appropriation of the Navajo practices (unlike her characters, Rebecca Roanhorse is not Navajo), but the timely reminders of Oil Wars and apocalyptic scenarios of climate-induced destruction are combined with the endurance of violence and trauma which make Trail of Lightning such a pertinent speculative fiction work.

My Conclusion?

A must-read dystopian fantasy.

research

Native American War Horse

During my research into indigenous North American customs and cultures, I came across reference to the markings painted on the war horses. There are many Amerindian cultures and tribes which exist today and many more that have been lost. I acknowledge with respect, that these symbols are not exhaustive nor do they belong to a single tribe. The markings explained below will have different interpretations specific to each tribe.
The markings painted on a war horse signified aspects of the warrior’s prowess, symbols defining the number of enemy horses captured, the number of battle honors earned and wounds received in battle. Other markings like the red handprint signify a completed mission while the red handprint on the shoulder symbolizes the warrior’s oath of vengeance and the intended completion of his mission, to be interpreted as the impending death of his oath-sworn enemy. Other markings are specific to the war horse, offering protection in battle. There are several sets of markings painted around the hoof, eye and nose imbuing the war horse with increased ability to sense and see danger, to be faster and stronger.