Pleased to announce my flash fiction story “The Haunted Ones” will feature in Haunt (Five Hundred Fiction, #6) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All flash fiction in this anthology is inspired by the theme of hauntings.
The forthcoming charity anthology, Stories of Survival will be published by Deadset Press in support of Cancer Research after Australian speculative fiction author Aiki Flinthart announced her cancer diagnosis. As I was preparing this post this morning, I learned that Aiki lost her battle with cancer overnight. She will be remembered for her generous nature, sense of humour and courage. I am incredibly saddened by the news of her passing and hope my story “Three Tasks for Sidhe” and the others in this anthology provide hope in the shadows for those affected by cancer.
Details on release date for Stories of Survival, purchase links will follow. If you are interested in learning more about my story, you can do so here. Information on the wonderful Aiki Flinthart is available here including her latest edited anthology Relics, Wrecks and Ruins published during the last months of her life.
From the Blurb:
“Long ago, a good man transgressed and was brutally punished, his physical form killed and his soul split asunder. Now, one half of his ancient soul seeks to reunite with its lost twin, a search that leaves murder in its wake…
In the streets of modern day Sydney a killer stalks the night, slaughtering innocents, leaving bodies mutilated. The victims seem unconnected, yet Investigating Officer Ivory Tembo is convinced the killings are anything but random. The case soon leads Ivory into places she never imagined. In order to stop the killings and save the life of the man she loves, she must reach deep into her past, uncover secrets of her heritage, break a demon’s curse, and somehow unify two worlds.”
I recently read Ivory’s Story by African-Australian author Eugen Bacon after readings several reviews and the description roused my interest in this unique speculative fiction novella set in Australia.
The protagonist of Ivory’s Story is female detective Ivory Tembo who has the unhappy task leading the failing investigation into a series of grisly murders of high-profile men in sexually explicit ways in Sydney, Australia. Raised as an orphan and without knolwedge of her family, Ivory has only the unusual opal amulet from her mother to link her to true heritage. Determined to solve the killings and discover her identity, Ivory is directed to a seer at Orange Crater in the northern-central Australia.
The long travel to Orange Crater, Ivory finds her mother also visited but finds no trace of any other family ties only a strong affiliation with a cranky medicine woman. Under the guidance of this medicine woman, Ivory learns how to defeat and stop the murders and the reasons behind the gruesome killings. The medicine woman explains a past tragedy involved an exiled son of a medicine man. This son harboured a rare gift of twin-souls but when accused of stealing a Chieftain’s daughter, his execution does not kill him but does separate his souls, causing one to remain forever within his body, the other to always seek to return. For Ivory, she must re-unite the twin souls after centuries and dimensional planes apart if she is to save the man she loves and stop the killings.
A combination of beautifully written prose and vivid descriptions of the Australian and inter-dimensional landscapes, Ivory’s Story also features a cast of well-defined characters and refreshingly strong female characters. Although, there are sections of the novella that seem to drift from the central focus of the story and can detract from its purpose, leaving me wanting more about Ivory’s detective work and development as a seer, the strong weird fiction themes do not make this feel like a true flaw, more like a necessary element of the weird fiction style.
Ivory’s Story is recommended for its beautiful prose and strong female characters. Readers will be certain to enjoy a cultural odyssey for those familiar and new to both the weird and speculative fiction genres.
This paranormal anthology features my short story “Hunting Shadows”, in an eternal battle between good and evil, a poltergeist makes an unlikely union with the demon-hunting hound seeking to banish a demon from Melbourne. You can read about my research for this story here.
From the Blurb:
“Strange what chooses to flourish here. Which plants. Which stories.
Bettina Scott lives a tidy, quiet life in Runagate, tending to her delicate mother and their well-kept garden after her father and brothers disappear – until a note arrives that sends Bettina into the scrublands beyond, searching for answers about what really happened to this town, and to her family.
For this is a land where superstitions hunt and folk tales dream – and power is there for the taking, for those willing to look.”
From my 2020 Halloween reading list, I read the gothic folklore novella Flyaway by Australian author Kathleen Jennings. This was an unexpected gem of a book, evoking the haunting beauty of the Australian landscape.
When first introduced to the protagonist of Flyaway, Bettina Scott seems a sheltered young woman caring for her frail mother. But there’s a darkness lurking beneath the surface, Bettina’s behaviour and cautious treatment by those living in town hint they fear her mother. Soon a dark mystery begins to unearth itself and things about Bettina, the town of Runagate, the Scott family and events of several decades earlier start to surface.
Bettina clearly has gaps in her own memory and the circumstances to her father’s disappearance and those of her brothers are just the most recent attempts to forget those who have disappeared. But as we are told, disappearances aren’t unusual in Runagate, and all seem fearful of the wilderness beyond the boundaries of the town. A mysterious note lures Bettina back into her past and forces her to uncover the truth about herself, her family, the history of Runagate and the dark reality of what she and others have tried to keep buried beyond the tidy limits of the town.
Flyaway combined elements of traditional gothic folklore with the unique Australian landscape that was reminiscent to me of descriptions early explorers provided of the Australian wilderness. The harsh and haunting beauty of the natural world is a constant throughout the story, the characters seem equally caught between the past and the present and like the land around them, are products of the past, the effects still visible like scars.
Beautifully written, haunting and magical. A must-read for lovers of gothic folklore or Australian fantasy.
Recently, I’ve finished writing a short story that was originally a novelette written for the Higher School Certificate Extension II English course when I was seventeen. Topical for 2020, the story is set in the near future, after the collapse of global nations, a Third World War and climate disasters. Speculative fiction at its core, a volatile figure, the veteran warrior and vampire suffering from post-traumatic stress holds the answers to reuniting two siblings who never thought to see each other again. I was interested in exploring parallels throughout history, the repetition of similar events, where in the story, the decimation of organised nations by governmental decay has a parallel in the fall of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the dark ages. Similarly, the effects of conscription on battlefield tactics and society has a parallel in the modern history throughout World War I and the Vietnam Wars. The addition of climate induced crisis and detrimental environmental impact is yet unprecedented on a global scale but seems possible for our future.
I recently finished a novella inspired from my initial research for my latest novel draft Ragnarok Dreaming into Norse mythology and Australian Aboriginal legends. On the surface, there might seem little in common between the Viking legends and those of the oldest continuous culture on the planet. The purpose of the novella was not to re-tell any stories or legends, because these are not my ancestry nor mine to tell, instead, I wanted to explore the common elements shared between them. The themes that unite all humanity across time and place. In this, I was drawn as I often am, to the fascinating Trickster figures in legends and stories throughout the world. In Norse mythology, Loki is the Trickster figure and protagonist of the novella relocated into a cosmos inspired by Australian dreaming stories. The Trickster figure who aids Loki is Wahn, the Crow in many Aboriginal legends. The novella was a re-imagining of the parallels and opposites in legends and myth, expanding on what was interesting research for Ragnarok Dreaming.
One of my recent reads was the paranormal urban fantasy, Vigil by Australian author Angela Slatter. The first book in the Verity Fassbinder Series follows the paranormal private detective Verity Fassbinder set in an alternate version of Brisbane city, Australia where Verity acts as a mediator between the mortals (Normals) and the paranormal community (Weyrd). Verify herself is a half-blood, orphan daughter of disgraced and executed Weyrd criminal. While her only inherited trait from her Weyrd ancestry is a remnant of the infamous strength her father once possessed, she acts as an investigator for the Normal police system and the Weyrd Council.
Set in an alternate version of the modern day city of Brisbane, both resembling and not similar at all to the real Australian city, Verity is tasked with investigating the darker side of the Weyrd world and closely linked to her own father’s demise. Those in the Weyrd community who refuse to discard the old traditions of hunting and consuming Normals have continued their predelications despite the Weyrd Council outlawing such traditions when Verity’s father came to the attention of Normal and Weyrd communities alike. Now Verity must confront those aspects of her own past and family connections when a wine is sold among the Weyrd community made from the tears of Normal children. To keep the peace between the Normals and prevent them from discovering the Weyrd community among them, Verity begins to investigate deep into the old, traditional families among the Weyrd and close to the Council itself. Into this already atmosphere fraught atmosphere, a powerful and uncontrollable force is hunting both Weyrd Councillors and normals alike. As if the issues Verity needs to investigate were not dangerous enough, the sirens inhabiting Brisbane, near-immortal winged bird-like women are being murdered around the city. The threat to the peace between Normals and Weyrd begins to escalate and the potential for disaster increases as Verity needs to solve three cases or risk the Weyrd of Brisbane being revealed to the outnumbering populus of Normals.
Vigil is a debut novel by Angela Slatter and the first in a trilogy of urban fantasy with a basis in myth and folklore. Likened to US Urban fantasy author Jim Butcher I also found similarities with US urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs. However, Angela Slatter’s Vigil was refreshingly different, the style and characters as unique as the world-building behind the novel. The strong research in myth and folklore is clear in Vigil and it is woven throughout the story to create a new work without the dreaded ‘info-dump’ moments which make the history and lore of the Weyrd feel a genuine component of the world-building process. In sum, Vigil transports you to an alternate Brisbane which feels like it could be real if you just look close enough. A highly recommended read!
The editorial committee putting together the AFTS anthology “South of the Sun” have finally chosen their winners. It was a truly difficult job – we were inundated with talented submissions and we’ve spent many a long hour short-listing, re-short-listing, arguing and finally agreeing on the following. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their entries.
Congratulations to everyone who’s on the list – and commiserations to those who didn’t make it.
·Anezka Sero ̶The Snowgum Maiden
·Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson ̶Jack, the Beanstalk and the NBN
·Yvette Ladzinski ̶The Lonely Mosque
·Melissa Min Harvey ̶The Wild Moon Call
·Clare Testoni ̶The Lyrebird
·Krystal Barton ̶North Coburg to Flinders St Station
·Rachel Nightingale ̶Riverbend
·Jackie Kerin ̶No Horse, No Cart, No Shoes
·Angie Rega ̶The Tale of the Seven Magpies
·Danielle McGee –The Origami Mother
· June Perkins – Into…
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The tawny frogmouth is a species of nocturnal bird native to much of Australia. It is well known in Australian landscapes for the staring red-gold eyes, the camouflage resembling a branch or broken tree stump and it’s seemingly unworried response to human presence.
I was walking in the early morning at a pine forest near where I live and was fortunate enough to spot a tawny frogmouth camouflaged against a pine tree trunk.
Although the tawny frogmouth is often considered like an owl, it is more related to a nightjar but many Australian nocturnal birds share similar symbolic roles in indigenous fables and folklore.
Among the indigenous cultures of the Noongar from Western Australia, the nocturnal birds like the tawny frogmouth and owls were associated with the shamanic powers of the ‘clever men’ and the opposing dangerous forces of night:
“ Traditionally associated with the dark totem, the owl was believed to be a totemic familiar of the ‘boylya-man’ or sorcerer (”clever man”) and the darkness of night was perceived as a dangerous time when ghosts and supernatural spirits were ever-present.”
– Owl Beliefs in Nyungar Culture by Ken Macintyre and Barb Dobson.
The shamanic healers of many different indigenous Australia nations and cultures are sometimes known ‘clever men’ and in the Noongar cultures of Western Australia, the clever men were sometimes associated with the nocturnal birds to protect their tribe:
“ It is not uncommon to hear stories of how certain bulya or ‘clever’ men were believed to have the ability to transform themselves into a night bird such as the owl or mopoke and under this guise were able to watch over and ‘police’ campsites at night time to ensure that the inhabitants were safe from intruders, and also to act as a deterrent against young men becoming involved in sexual transgressions prior to initiation, or breaking the incest taboo. Culturally, the owl may be viewed as an agent of social control in that it is able to fly silently throughout the night, and aided by its powerful, penetrating night vision, is able to watch over people’s night time activities and then report back to the ‘clever man’ to whom it is considered a type of “familiar spirit’ ”
– Owl Beliefs in Nyungar Culture by Ken Macintyre and Barb Dobson.