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!

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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Son of a Trickster

Publisher’s Description:

Meet Jared Martin: sixteen-year-old pot cookie dealer, smoker, drinker and son with the scariest mom ever. But Jared’s the pot dealer with a heart of gold–really. Compassionate, caring, and nurturing by nature, Jared’s determined to help hold his family together–whether that means supporting his dad’s new family with the proceeds from his baking or caring for his elderly neighbours. But when it comes to being cared and loved, Jared knows he can’t rely on his family. His only source of love and support was his flatulent pit bull Baby, but she’s dead. And then there’s the talking ravens and the black outs and his grandmother’s perpetual suspicion that he is not human, but the son of a trickster.


My Review:

Son of a Trickster (Trickster Trilogy, #1) by Canadian First Nations author Eden Robinson, a contemporary fantasy inspired by folktales and beliefs of several First Nations tribes in the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America and Canada.

The protagonist is Jared, a teenage boy struggling to find his place in the world, his self-destructive mother who, despite a fierce love for him, is often more a danger than a help. Jared has his own personal issues to fight and, despite caring for his elderly neighbour who offers what comfort his mother cannot, Jared is largely alone in his world.

The turmoil of Jared’s life begins to boil over when several strange experiences start occurring, ravens begin talking to him, and the lingering words of his maternal grandmother, insisting he is the son of a raven trickster. Struggling to hold his family together, his only money making venture (pot-dealing) is crushed, and desperate to keep his family afloat, Jared soon discovers his mother is more than he ever imagined as the supernatural world of Tricksters and those who oppose them seek him out.

Final Thoughts:

Son of Trickster is a fascinating exploration of Canadian First Nations culture with the ever-present backdrop of life in a small town. The sense of otherness caused from discrimination, whether it is racial or socioeconomic, adds lived heartache to the story.

My Conclusion?

A recommended read for anyone interested in Canadian First Nations cultures of the Pacific Northwest, the complex and quirky characters are delightful and bring the story alive with the uniqueness of each. A modern fable for growing up, finding strength and independence….with the added pressure of a Trickster heritage.

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Rosemary and Rue

Publisher’s Description:

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.


My Review:

I recently read Rosemary and Rue by US author Seanan McGuire, the first instalment in the October Daye urban fantasy series.

The protagonist, October Daye, is a private detective and also a Changeling, the daughter of a high Fae and mortal man. October, also known as Toby, considers herself happily married, has a young daughter and has so-far, kept both her husband and daughter from knowing she is not as mortal as she seems. But Toby is also a knight in a Fae court and, when her liege-lord requests her aid to recover his kidnapped wife and young daughter, she is duty-bound to obey. While on a stake-out, Toby follows her prime suspect, one of the most powerful of the Fae lords but is caught. In punishment, Toby is transformed into a koi and, unbeknown to anyone except the Fae lord who cursed her, is left in a fish pond.

After seven years, the curse breaks and Toby is returned to her human-like form. As her mortal husband never knew she was a Changeling nor the Fae worlds she inhabited, Toby’s sudden reappearance after her presumed death and inability to explain her whereabouts, sees her marriage dissolve and her now-teenage daughter no longer a trusting child. Estranged from her family, Toby begins her life anew, ignoring the Fae worlds, her Changeling roots and trying to eek out a menial existence in San Francisco.

But when Toby’s friend Evening, one of the high Fae, requests in her dying moments that Toby solve her murder, Toby finds herself drawn back into Fae intrigue, politics and power-plays. For Toby, the price of failure is her own death as Evening cursed her in those dying moments, compelling her to uncover Evening’s murderer.

Finding herself without much help to uncover Evening’s murderers, Toby is forced to make unlikely allies with other changelings she had long left behind, a deadly bargain with the Caith-Sidhe, the court of cat lords, and indebting herself to her Liege-Lord again. Soon, Toby uncovers the real reason Evening was murdered, a powerful and deadly secret.

Final Thoughts:

Rosemary and Rue is an intriguing beginning to an urban fantasy series that relies strongly on Irish folklore and, with this solid foundation of lore, provides a detailed world-building and fascinating characters.

My Conclusion?

A great read for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, Irish folklore, provoking characters and solid world-building. Highly recommended!

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Showcasing Horror: Dark Fiction Coming Soon

Continuing the celebration of all things women in horror, I’ve got a horror/dark fiction short story set in the Australian Alps inspired by the wendigo legend, case of a cannibalistic monster or a monstrous human? Coming soon in Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6) by Black Hare Press.

Here’s a sneaky peek at my story “The Monster” and the folklore and legend of the wendigo. Enjoy with dark delight!

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Reimagined Fairytales Anthology

Pleased to announce I will be joining a wonderful lineup of authors for New Tales of Old, Volume 1 to be published in 2021 by Raven and Drake Publishing! All stories and flash fiction in this anthology were inspired by the retelling and reimagining of fairytales. My story “A Trail of Corpselights” is inspired by gothic folklore of forests and the folklore behind corpselights, also known as Will o’wisps. You can read more here. My second story included in the volume is “The Dark Harpist” a reimagining of the Pied Piper of Hameln legends and the fairytales and folklore of the singing bones and enchanted harps. You can read more about this story here.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the New Tales of Old, Volume 1 will be updated when available. You can also keep an eye on my publications page here.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Paranormal Anthology

Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4)

Pleased to announce my flash fiction story “The Bones of a Dead God” will feature in Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4) to be published in 2021 by Black Hare Press! All flash fiction in this anthology is inspired by dark pagan themes. My story “The Bones of a Dead God” is inspired by Aztec ritual and legends.

Release dates and how to purchase a copy of the Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4) will be updated when available. Keep an eye on my publications page here.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming: Folklore Anthology

I am very pleased to announce my microfiction pieces will feature in Lost Lore and Legends to be published by Breaking Rules Publishing Europe! Lost Lore and Legends anthology will consist of 100 word “drabbles” or microfiction pieces inspired by European folklore, legends and mythologies.

Five of my microfiction pieces will be featured, including original microfiction such as “The Troll-Witch”, “The Seelie Court”, “The Elf Stone”, “Pixie-Touched”, and “The Oak and Holly Kings”. You can read more about the research behind these microfiction stories here.

More details will follow on release dates for Lost Lore and Legends and where ebook and paperback copies can be purchased. Check my Short Fiction Publications for purchase links and further details.

Short Fiction

European Folklore

The past several weeks, I have been exploring many different aspects of European folklore, particularly involving the Fae. Below is a series of some of my research favourites, fae beings and associated folklore.


Seelie and Unseelie Fae

In Scotland, the Fae are often divided into the Seelie and Unseelie courts, or the Light and Dark , respectively. Unlike the Irish Fair Folk, the Seelie and Unseelie beings follow a stricter divide, those fae which are malevolent are found in the Unseelie Courts, while those who are more kindly toward mortals such as brownies (but like all fae beings, this does not mean there is no in dealing with the seelie. Just with all Fae beings in Icelandic, Irish and Welsh folklore, the tendencies of the Fae are not comprehensible by mortal means and their own needs will almost always take precedence.


Elf-Stones

In Iceland, elves are an integral part of Icelandic culture with folklore infused throughout everyday Icelandic life. Elf-stones as they are sometimes called are believed to be doorways to the underground realms and otherworldly lands where elves dwell. The disturbance of an elf-stones is often considered a major concern with recent road construction and a series of disasters befalling the site, workers and nearby region occurring when a recognised elf-stone was moved. Subsequently, the stone was relocated and the course of the highway adjusted to avoid disturbing the area further.

In Icelandic legend, the renowned waterfall Skogafoss, a spectacular waterfall in southern Iceland, fed by glacial melt is also associated with a legend of elves, buried treasure and the founding of the Icelandic landscape. A Viking Age sorcerer, Þrasi Þórólfsson directed the flow of two rivers threatening the drown nearby villages sparked the volcanic eruption of in the Mýrdalsjökull Caldera. According to the legend, a chest containing a valuable and powerful symbol of Þrasi’s magic was stored and guarded by the elves at Skogafoss until his return. Þrasi’s ring is believed to be just one small part of the treasure the sorcerer left buried and guarded behind Skogafoss but never returned to claim.


The Oak and Holly Kings

Throughout the British Isles and in some Germanic folklore, the Oak and Holly kings are ancient rivals, a timeless battle between Summer and Winter, Although both kings are sometimes depicted as older men the elemental and enduring nature of each gaining dominance only long enough until the next seasonal change. There have been some attention paid to the similarities with the ancient legend of the Horned god, or the Green Man.


Pisky Pixies

Cornwall, while considered by many as a part of the UK , the Cornish people have their own unique legends and folklore Amin to The British lands. Pixies are known generally as mischievous and practical jokes. The Cornish pixies have become very popular in folklore and, where can be associated Piskies as they are often referred to in Cornwall, rare and responsible for the classic saying ‘away with the pixies.”

Piskies as they are often referred to in Cornwall, rare and responsible for the classic saying ‘away with the pixies.”


The Yuletide Troll

In Iceland, folklore and legend of trolls can be found at nearly every strange rock formation. Constant volcanic activity in Iceland has meant the these are plentiful and these formations are believed to be the mountain-dwelling trolls who were caught in the dawn sunlight, instantly turned to stone. Testimony to the Icelandic trolls versus the popular media view that they are stupid and slow-witted, is the dark yuletide legend of the troll-witch Gryla. You won’t find any stories in Iceland of red-nosed reindeer, present-making elves or a merry St. Nicholas. Instead, one of the oldest legends is Gryla and her 12 Yule lads, twelve mischievous and sinister trolls present for 12 days before and after Christmas Day, or the length of Yuletide. But on Christmas Eve, the Yule Lads’ mother leaves her mountain home to stalk the night. Gryla takes orphan children who, without the protection of hearth and home, are defenceless. Once stolen away in a sack, they are taken back to her husband in their mountain cave and cooked into a stew. For Icelandic lore, the safety of having a home, protection of family and from the harsh Icelandic winter is embodied in the threatening figure of Gryla.