Recent Reads

Ivory’s Story

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.”

My Review:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

My Conclusion?

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.

events, Writing

Unnatural Order Anthology Release


I’m delighted to announce the release on 31st December, 2020 of speculative fiction anthology Unnatural Order by CSFG. This is a fascinating collection of stories inspired by the monstrous, unnatural and the fantastic.

Featuring my own story “The Bargain”, a tale of Fae guardians and the bargains struck to assure the equilibrium between the nature, Fae and humanity. You can read more about my research for “The Bargain” here.

Are you interested in these tales of the fantastic and monstrous? More details purchasing ebook or paperback copies of Unnatural Order here.

events, Writing

Greed Anthology Release


I’m excited to announce the release on December 27th, 2020 of Greed (Seven Deadly Sins, #5) published by Black Hare Press featuring my story “A Handful of Dead Leaves.”

This dark speculative fiction anthology on the theme of greed, a desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. Featuring my short story “A Handful of Dead Leaves”, the darker truth of leprechaun lore and dealings with the Fae. You can also learn about my research into leprechaun folklore here.


Keen to purchase an ebook or paperback copy of Greed (Seven Deadly Sins, #5)? More details here

research

Iceland’s Yule Trolls

In Icelandic tradition, the Yule lads are thirteen trolls who arrive, one one each of the 13 days before Christmas then depart in the order they arrived, on the subsequent days following Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the troll witch Gryla, leaves the mountains to enter the city, seeking any children who had been ill-behaved or were without the protection of their parents. These she would take back to her mountain dwelling, cook them into a stew for her lazy troll husband.


The thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads are names for the acts they are most famously known for, often tormenting human communities. More can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine here.

Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb

Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland


Since 1746, the Yule lads became less scary, depicted as mischievous, trickster characters illustrated as jolly ‘Santa Claus-like figures’ who left gifts for the well-behaved children in their shoes and potatoes for the ill-behaved ones. In earlier times, the Yule lads were emaciated and clothed in rags. There is a current movement in Iceland to return the Yule lads to their more traditional vagabond nature, the desperate orphans who accompanied Gryla.

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

Blood of Elves

From the Blurb:

“For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as the Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world — for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all. And the Witcher never accepts defeat.”

Review:

Blood of Elves is the first novel in The Witcher series, an epic fantasy by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Despite there being two volumes previous to Blood of Elves, these are short story collections but they do provide significant character and world-building details. It is not necessary to read these short story collections beforehand as the amazing world-building and storytelling by Sapkowski more than sets the scene.

The protagonist in the Blood of Elves is young Ciri, an orphaned heiress to the conquered kingdom of Cintra and consequently prophecy links her fate to the mutant assassin and mercenary, Geralt of Rivia. Despite his monstrous career and profession, Geralt is incredibly protective and kind to Ciri, attempting to raise her in the way he sees best. While the forces of Nilfgaard continue to hunt for her and the looming darkness that threatens to bring chaos to the world edges closer, Ciri grows into early adolescence in relative peace. But she cannot remain as a Witcher child, not initiated into the poisons that have robbed Geralt since childhood of his mortality and humanity nor stay hidden from the world forever. Reluctantly, Geralt gives Ciri into the care of the sorceress he trusts and fears the most, his former lover the Lady Yennefer. Forbidding and beautiful, Yennefer will see to Ciri’s education as a young noblewoman and begins to notice a magical talent lying dormant within the child. For Geralt the task falls to make enquiries into growing unrest between the races, where humans, elves and dwarves have begun to break the centuries old truce which threatens to spill into outright war just as the advancing armies of Niflgaard pressure the border kingdoms.

Final Thoughts:

Blood of Elves was a wonderful beginning to a serious epic fantasy. The scope of the detail and the world-building in this single volume alone was impressive. The rich folklore inspired from Sapkowski’s Slavic heritage lends true weight to the world-building and the detail throughout is exquisite. The political and social intrigues highlighted in the novel are at times amusing and others, dark with the history of Eastern Europe.

My Conclusion?

An absolute gem of a book. Epic fantasy at its best. Highly recommended!

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!

reads, Recent Reads

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!