Short Stories, Writing

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.

Short Stories

Forthcoming: Dark Fantasy Anthology

I am pleased to announce the acceptance of another flash fiction piece in a forthcoming dark fantasy anthology from Black Hare Press.

My story “Poisoned Fruit, Poisoned Reign” will feature in Reign (500 Word Fiction Series, #7 inspired by poisoned apple folklore exploring betrayal and a cursed reign. You can read more about the inspiration behind “Poisoned Fruit, Poisoned Reign” here. Follow my blog for updates on the release date for Reign from Black Hare Press!

Short Stories, Writing

Fantasy novella & mythic parallels

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.

Short Stories, Writing

Forthcoming: Greed Anthology

I am pleased to announce another forthcoming publication with news my short story “A Handful of Dead Leaves” will feature in the Greed (#5, Seven Deadly Sins) series by Black Hare Press. Like all the stories in this anthology, Greed is the central theme with my story exploring the darker side of leprechaun folklore where securing good fortune is always double-edged. You can read more about the research for this story here.

Stay tuned for an update on the release date and for how to purchase this dark speculative fiction anthology!

reads, Recent Reads

Uprooted

Uprooted by US author Naomi Novik explores the author’s polish heritage through vibrant folklore in this Fantasy novel.
Although Uprooted began like many fairytale retellings with a naive village girl from a rural village, who is taken by the Dragon and trapped in a tower. This is the basic synopsis of Uprooted but the story is significantly more than that. The villages of the valley ordinarily offer an exceptional young woman from their villages as tribute to the Dragon, who is actually a wizard, and the tower is his stronghold.
In Uprooted, Agnieszka is unexpectedly taken by the Dragon when she is chosen instead of her friend Kasia, the likely candidate. But Agnieszka unknowingly possesses a unique magic of her own, the type and depth which even the Dragon, the strongest wizard in the realm finds difficult to understand. As Agnieszka begins to learn how to handle her magic, she begins to find Sarkin (the Dragon) not as remote or indifferent as she once thought. Along with this, Agnieszka begins to understand how the valley she grew up in, lies within a shadow of a much larger and darker force than Sarkin. The burden of Sarkin’s position was more than life in the tower, standing sentinel against the real enemy, the Wood. For as the Wood grows closer to the capital city, a corruption leeching from it that destroys everything it touches, consuming the humanity to leaving only darkness and rage behind in a humanoid husk. Sarkin and Agnieszka soon find themselves united in a battle to save their country and the heirs to the throne, both from their own family and the Wood. Although Agnieszka‘s own magic is very strong, she is untrained and her power so unfamiliar to the other wizards that it is baffling to all but Sarkin who manages to work with her, blending her wilder magic sourced from the wandering wood-witch, Baba-Yaga, with his own, organised formulas. In the end, Agnieszka is able to find ways to understand that how the corruption of the Wood spreads from a single source, but her and Sarkin must choose to purge or destroy the source of corruption if they hope to vanquish the Wood and free the country from its grasp.
Uprooted was a rich and wonderful tale of magic and transformation. I enjoyed the detailed folklore and historical depth to the novel which made the characters both unique and fitting for the style of a fairytale retelling. A highly recommended read!

Recent Reads

Catching Teller Crow

The YA supernatural mystery, Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, explores Australian history, indigenous legends and cultural understanding through the characters of three young Aboriginal women.Catching Teller Crow follows Beth Teller, a recently deceased Aboriginal girl who has remained as a ghost, trying to stop the grief consuming her father by urging him to continue his work as a detective. Only seen by her father, Beth convinces him to investigate a recent fire and subsequent murders in a small, rural town in the Australian outback.Early in the investigation into a fire and murder at a children’s home, Beth meets Isobel Catching, a young Aboriginal woman found wandering in the wilderness after the fire. But Catching can also see Beth and soon the mysterious connection between Catching and the children’s home take a dark twist as Catching recounts her strange tale of survival and escape from another dimension inhabited by beings from Australian legend. To endure and survive the strange events, Catching relies on Crow, a shape-shifting young Aboriginal woman. Through hearing Catching’s tale and solving the mystery at the heart of the town, Beth finds the closure she needs to move onto the spirit world and Beth’s father gains the strength he needs to continue living in a world without his daughter.Catching Teller Crow is a magnificent novel combining history, sorrow, hope and culture to craft a unique mystery and ghost story for modern Australia. Highly recommended!

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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.

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Spinning Silver

The best-selling US author Naomi Novik returns to her Polish heritage in a retelling of Slavic folktales. In Spinning Silver, Miryem is the granddaughter of a prominent Jewish moneylender in the city of Vysnia. In a small village outside Vysnia, Miryem’s father is poorly suited to his position as a moneylender, with his own family living in poverty while the villagers he lends money, live without fear of repayment. When Miryem takes control of money-lending, she hardens her heart to the pleas of her community and soon regains the wealth her own family should have possessed. Myriem’s growing reputation as a moneylender and her bold statement to turn silver into gold brings her to the attention of the Staryk, figures from Slavic folklore hunting the winter woods with desire for gold. Myriem is soon taken by the Staryk king where her words become a magic truth. Incorporated into Myriem’s tale is that of Irina, daughter of a minor duke and unintentionally embroiled in Myriem’s attempts to placate the Staryk king. Irina’s father pays Myriem gold for Irina’s jewellery made from Staryk silver. Irina’s jewellery contains a magical enchantment which captivates the Mirnatius, the young Tsar who soon marries Irina. Soon Irina confronts a hidden, dark menace lurking within Mirnatius and Myriem must choose between a known safety and an uncertain future. Interwoven with the stories of Myriem and Irina, is that of Wanda and her poverty-stricken family who become loyal servants and Myriem’s friends.
Spinning Silver is a skilful retelling of Slavic folktale and traditional lore where battles between good and evil require sacrifices extracting a high cost from those involved. Spinning Silver maintains the fable-like quality in the retelling where all life-lessons offer benefit, not without risk and always requiring a cost.

research, Writing

Idunn: Guardian of Youth

Idunn is a Norse goddess, the guardian of a sacred fruit that provides immortality to the Aesir. There are several accounts of Idunn in the Prose Edda where she is often described as possessing child-like trust, giving her a sense of naivety. The first account of Idunn is in the Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda, where Idunn is referred to as the wife of Bragi, a god skilled in poetry and knowledge. Here, it mentions Idunn keeps the sacred fruit of the Aesir within a carved wooden box. Every day until the final battle of Ragnarok, the Aesir must eat these apples to remain youthful (although, apples arrived late to Iceland and more likely these were tree nuts, similar to Irish lore). In a later section of the Prose Edda, the Skaldskaparmal, a retelling of a legend about a bargain struck between Loki and the powerful frost giant, Thjazi. Loki promises to lure Idunn and the fruit away from Asgard. In bringing Idunn to Thjazi, the giant takes her to his fortress Thrymheim. During Idunn’s absence and, without the daily renewal of their youth, the Aesir quickly weaken and age. The Aesir question Loki over Idunn’s disappearance and Loki bargains to retrieve Idunn if Freyja gifts him the magic to change form into a falcon. After agreement, Loki flies to Thrymheim during Thjazi’s absence. Finding Idunn alone, Loki changes her into a nut before flying back to Asgard with Idunn in his talons. The Aesir see Thjazi in pursuit of Loki, the giant guised as an eagle. Quickly, the Aesir light a large fire with barely enough time for Loki to return safely into the Asgard fortress. Following closely behind Loki, Thjazi is unable to safely land and still in eagle-form, is burned by the flames and killed by the Aesir.

Recent Reads

Amerindian Folktales

The anthology Coming to Light was originally published in 1996 and edited by respected academic Brian Swann. The collected literature comprise translated oral tales, songs and poems sourced from numerous Amerindian cultural traditions throughout Canada and the United States. The anthology provides an introductory note by at least one academic or respected source detailing and explaining the historical, cultural and linguistic context of each literature item and thus, allowing insight to better understand each tale. The translations are honest and, without attempted re-fashioning by the translator, each piece is has the sensation that it is told directly to the reader as if by the original orator first-hand. The literature collected within the anthology covers an immense span of style from creation mythologies and stories to cautionary fables of legendary figures and events, tales of heroes and monsters always combined with tasks and tests of moral character.
Coming to Light is an invaluable resource for academic, literature or anthropological pursuit, providing all audiences with a way to appreciate the richness of traditional Amerindian oral traditions.