Short Fiction, stories

Forthcoming: Gothic Legends Anthology

I am pleased to announce my short story “The Dark Horseman” will feature in forthcoming horror anthology Legends of Night to be published by Black Ink Fiction.

You can read more about the research behind the legend, folklore and history of the Dullahan, or the Irish headless horseman, here.

More details on preorder links, and how to purchase copies of Legends of Night coming soon!

research, Short Fiction, stories

The Irish Headless Horseman

I have always been fascinated by the folklore of the headless horseman. I first became aware of this harbinger of death in the famous story by Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow set in rural region in the state of New York. But the Irish legend of the Dullahan (“dark man”), the headless horseman is a harbinger of death. In the legend of the Dullahan, he carries a moldy severed head under his arm, taking a blood sacrifice (and the head) of his intended victim. According to folklore of the Dullahan, he only speaks once during his furious ride through village and field, and those words are only for his victim, the sacrifice.

The connection between the headless horseman and sacrifice is related to Celtic mythology and the ancient god, Crom Dubh, a fertility god to whom blood sacrifices were made. In county Cavan, the Killycluggin stone is believed to be an ancient representation of Crom Dubh, and like the Dullahan of legend travelling the roads, the large carved stone was found on a main road close to a nearby Bronze Age stone circle.

I was inspired by the Dullahan, this embodiment of Crom Dubh, and in writing a short story, I’ve incorporated these elements of folklore, legend, archaeology and mythology to weave a new tale of this infamous headless horseman.

reads, Recent Reads

Mongrels

Publisher’s Description:

“He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his aunt Libby and uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixed blood, neither this nor that. The boy at the center of Mongrelsmust decide if he belongs on the road with his aunt and uncle, or if he fits with the people on the other side of the tracks.

For ten years, he and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and narrow escapes—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will finally know if their nephew is like them or not. And the close calls they’ve been running from for so long are catching up fast now. Everything is about to change.


Review:

One of my recent reads was Mongrels by US author Stephen Graham Jones. I am a fan of classic horror themes and for me, the werewolf is one of the best, but it is also one which I feel is less explored. Mongrels promises to make up for this, and does so, delivering an authentic werewolf story.

The protagonist and narrator remain unnamed throughout the story, but follows a pre-adolescent boy through to his late teens growing up in a family of werewolves. Although, he has not yet changed into a werewolf himself- we learn early that most werewolves are born human and only become shape-shifters usually around puberty – or sometimes, not at all. Following his grandfather’s death, the boy and his aunt and uncle take to the road, travelling across the Deep South of America, never staying long in most places.

Mongrels changes between the past, the boy’s childhood years and his lessons learned, and the adolescent years as he waits, and wonders – hopes even- that he will change into a werewolf, that the blood he sees as a link to family, to his aunt and uncle, his grandfather, will prove itself. This is an insightful look at family, heritage and the broken aspects of society where those like the werewolves, who long for the freedom are restrained by society and its expectations.

Final Thoughts:

Mongrels is an entirely new exploration of a classic monster from Horror fiction. The style of writing adds a beautiful, literary prose with the occasional bursts of graphic violence that both shock and deliver emphasis to the ‘reality’ of a horror story. Although narrated like a ‘coming of age’ story, Mongrels is much more than that, with the selection of fascinating characters and situations that propel the storyline forward across time and space of the characters’ lives. Combining the ‘bigger than big’ tales of legend with the character’s histories, the sense of reality and fiction blend seamlessly. Skilfully written, and entraining even when the plot feels like it’s drifting, it feels comfortable given the narration style.

Conclusion:

A highly recommended read for those who enjoy contemporary horror and dark fiction. Stephen Graham Jones provides a wonderful literary approach to the werewolf theme, re-making a classic monster into an entirely new and authentic concept. Cannot recommend highly enough!

Short Fiction, stories

Reimagining Arabian Nights

One of my recent short stories, a work-in-progress, was a reimagining of a tale recounted in the classic rendition, The Arabian Nights translated by Sir Richard Burton. The volume, also known as One Thousand and One Nights follows the sultana Scheherazade who cunningly begins a tale each night, never finishing it until the next, to prevent jealous and murderous husband from killing her, and ensuring her survival.

In developing an original tale inspired by The Arabian Nights story “The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peri Banu”, I also incorporated inspiration from the fourteenth century Iberian Moorish kingdom, the Nasrid caliphate in Granada, Andalusia. In Persian folklore, the peri were diminutive brilliantly coloured winged-beings, a race that were seperate and as powerful as Jinn and Ifriit, and hunted by both. These rare fairy-like beings are the focus of my reimagined and original tale.

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In Solitude’s Shadow

Publisher’s Description

“An army is at the gates of Haltveldt, a nation built on war, and nothing is as it seems.

Calene Alpenwood, a powerful warrior-mage gifted with the Spark, makes a shocking discovery that sets into motion events that put her at odds with the very masters she serves. Reuniting with her mother Zanna, a woman banished after a terrible crime, they team up with unlikely alias as they attempt to save the fortress of Solitude from destruction.

One thing’s for certain; ruin approaches if Solitude falls and life will never be the same when The Banished return.”


My Review:

I recently read In Solitude’s Shadow (Empire of Ruin, #1), the first fantasy novella by UK author David Green. I received an advanced reader copy in return for an honest review.

In Solitude’s Shadow follows four main characters in a kingdom divided by war and class, where the race of elves are treated as a lesser race of beings by the ruling and more numerous human lords. In this culturally hostile kingdom, the dwindling numbers of Sparkers, warriors and philosophers with a telepathic link among other talents, hold the mountain fortress of Solitude. Beyond the fortress of Solitude, the growing armies and numbers of the Banished bids their time to attack when human and eleven armies are at their most divided.

My Thoughts:

The premise of In Solitude’s Shadow is a tradition fantasy backdrop of a land at war, a disunited army that is fighting among itself, and a common enemy with the potential to threaten both. The threat of the Banished, returning from beyond the mountain fortress of Solitude may sound familiar. There are strong similarities with the basic premise of A Game of Thrones, itself based on older historical sags which provides strong-foundations. In Solitude’s Shadow, the limitations of a novella are more pronounced, where four main characters in the story arc and world-building can result in “info-dump” tactics at times rather than being incorporated into the storytelling which can feel overwhelming in the novella format.

Conclusion:

In Solitude’s Shadow is an ambitious novella, and the fantasy series promises to be just as ambitious. Recommended for those seeking traditional fantasy in a short-read novella format.

Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Red Riding Hood


Recently I have been exploring the concepts behind the Red Riding Hood fairytale. There are two main versions I have used as inspiration for writing a new short story. The version by Charles Perrault called “Little Red Riding Hood” and the version by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm called “Little Red Cap”. Both examine a young girl who is travelling through the woods and meets a charming stranger who tries to lead her astray. Both versions also share a dark undertone, the stranger portrayed as menacing despite his charming words.

When writing my short story, I wanted to delve into the concept of the forest as a dangerous place, sinister and treacherous for those uninitiated. In my recent reimagining of the red riding hood tale, I’ve included the concept of an unwary youth and the historical setting of pre-Napoleonic France. I’ve included some more modern interpretations like the werewolf folklore of the French “loup-garou” and explored sensitives around homosexuality, the sheltered son of a Marquis seduced by an eloquent nobleman. Here, the passage between innocence and experience of the adult world is represented by the transference of the werewolf curse. This was a complex story to write, delving some darker elements, both historical and modern sensitivities of seduction, society and acceptance of LGBTQI individuals throughout history and still today.

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Over the Rainbow Anthology Release

I am pleased to announce Over the Rainbow: An LGBTQ+ Fairytale Charity Anthology published by Black Ink Fiction was released on 1 June, 2021.

Over the Rainbow anthology is in support of The Trevor Project, a collection of fairytale retellings with a LGBTQI+ protagonist, featuring my story “The Queen of Crows”, a retelling of a French Gascony fairytale. You can read more about my research for the story here.

More details on how to purchase an ebook, or paperback copies of Over the Rainbow can be found here.

Long Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Trickster lore & legend


My current work-in-progress novella explores trickster lores and legends in two different cultures, Old Icelandic and Australian First Nations.

I have a keen interest in Tricksters, and in this novella, I have been exploring two Trickster figures from very different cultural backgrounds: Loki from Old Norse legend and Crow, present in many Australian First Nations cultures.

The focus of the novella is on Loki his customary role of physical transformation which is also shared with Crow and, incidentally, many other Trickster figures like Coyote and Raven from North American First Nations among others.

This work-in-progress is not a retelling of any specific legends but is a reimagining inspired by the lore and legends surrounding the Trickster figures of Crow and Loki.

research, Short Fiction

Dark Legends of the Thunderbird

In writing a flash fiction story, I explored in the legendary Thunderbird, a powerful elemental being, found in many First Nations religions across North America.

The Thunderbird is a being found in many First Nations legends stretching from the desert plateaus and lands, the prairies and plains to the redwood forests and the Rocky Mountains. The Thunderbird is a powerful being, the beating of its wings makes the thunderclaps and gales, the silver of its eyes is the lightning. The Thunderbird also has an association with battle to many First Nations cultures, the bringer of storms both literal and metaphorical. I have a post here on the Thunderbird, or ‘Wakinyan’ in the Lakota-Sioux dialect.

As with any reimagining of a legendary being, I was conscious of cultural appropriation. My own reimagining of the Thunderbird, I focused on the connection between the prairie and desert landscapes, the reliance on the life-giving thunderstorms, and as a being invoked to protect land but also warriors and their horses.

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All the Murmuring Bones


Publisher’s Description

“Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.”


Review

I recently read All the Murmuring Bones by Australian author A.G. Slatter (Angela Slatter), a gothic folklore novel set in the historical fantasy world, akin to Ireland.

The protagonist is Miren O’Malley, raised by her grandmother Aoife O’Malley after being orphaned by her mother, Isolde O’Malley. Miren has lived her entire life at Hobb’s Hallow, the ancestral house of the O’Malleys, a prominent family, who have a traditionally ruled the oceans as brigands and later merchants, the uncanny wealth gained by the O’Malleys tied to legends of a bargain struck with the Mer, one that has lasted generations but required a female O’Malley to bear the name and offer one child to the sea every generation. However, with the waning of ‘pure blood’ O’Malleys, Miren is now the last bearing the O’Malley name.

After the death of her husband, Aoife O’Malley makes plans to marry Miren to her cousin, and strengthen the O’Malley bloodline and, through Aidan Fitzpatrick’s wealth and ambition, restore the once-prosperous O’Malleys.

But Miren O’Malley is independent and ha no desire to marry Aidan Fitzpatrick, a cruel man determined to restore the tradition of one O’Malley child given in sacrifice to the Mer. Miren learns her mother Isolde never died as she was told by her grandmother, and to avoid marrying Aidan and to find her mother at last, Miren embarks on a journey to the mysterious estate of Blackwater, where the last of the letters from her mother mentioned she was living.

Final Thoughts

All the Murmuring Bones is a wonderful gothic folklore story, weaving the legends of the dark and foreboding water sprites, beings like the the Mer, kelpies and rusalky maidens, which are not the kind beings from Disney movies, but cruel and calculating beings. Beneath the layers of folklore and story, there is a stronger theme of independence, knowing oneself and the power of love, in the context of a historical fantasy world, where love based on need, the supply of stability, sustenance and livelihood versus the power of love based on want, the desire to be with someone irrespective of need. Against the backdrop of the O’Malley tradition and sacrifices to the Mer to retain prosperity, the need to fulfil a bargain, there are many threads to All the Murmuring Bones that make it a complex tapestry of a novel.

Conclusion

All the Murmuring Bones is a great read for fans of gothic folklore, legends of mermaids, kelpies or or water beings, fans of Angela Slatter’s Sourdough tales and those who enjoy a heartfelt historical fantasy. Highly recommended, an absolute must-read!