Short Stories, stories

Retelling & Examining Ragnarok

In a recent short story, I explored the accounts in Norse mythology about Ragnarok, the final battle fought between the giants and the gods. Similar to my recently finished draft novel Ragnarok Dreaming, this story is a retelling of battle of Ragnarok from the perspective of Loki. My research drew on the classic texts, The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda and possible motivations behind Loki’s treachery and murder of Odin’s son Baldr. The story is an account of the aftermath of Loki’s fateful actions, deceit of Baldr’s blind brother Hodr, who shoots the arrow Loki has given him, the only item in the Nine Worlds Loki knows is capable of killing Baldr. For Loki, the subsequent capture and imprisonment by the Aesir, the torture and binding underground are when the schism between Odin and Loki seems to really occur. In this story, my retelling explored what possible motivations had led Loki to murder Baldr even via a-proxy, knowing Odin’s trust in him would be broken forever. The outcome of Ragnarok had been foretold by the witch Gullveig to Odin in Loki’s presence eons before when even Odin’s considerable foresight would prove unable to avoid the fatal confrontations between foes and inevitable deaths on both sides of the battlefield. If the doom of the gods and giants had been so securely foretold, this story explored what events could have led to Loki’s irredeemable actions and final rebellion against Odin.

research

Iceland: Volcanoes and Glaciers

In early September 2019, I visited southern Iceland for a week. As part of my research into Viking Age history, the legends and mythology, landscape has been important in shaping Icelandic legends. I was fortunate enough to see some of archaeological and cultural history of National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik, ride Icelandic horses, visit several iconic waterfalls and tour the some of the unique Icelandic landscape.


Southern Iceland boasts stunning waterfalls, glaciers and volcanoes. The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull is located within Vatnajökull National Park which contains the largest and most active volcanoes in Iceland. On the southern side of Vatnajökull, the glacier completely covers the volcano beneath. Known as Öræfajökull, the glacier enveloping the volcano is also the highest peak in Iceland with the mountain peak, Hvannadalshnúkur reaching 2, 000 m above sea level. Although peaks in Iceland are not high but European standards, the entirety of the huge glacier Vatnajökull, envelops several active volcanoes. The size of Vatnajökull is impressive with the Ring Road skirting the edge of the glacier along the coastline from just east of Vik and continuing past Hof which was the furthest extent of our tour.

A closer view of a southern outlet glacier of Vatnajökull and the tallest peak Hvannadalshnúkur visible on the left with the glacier spreading across the flatter meadows below the mountain ridges.
The path of the outlet glacier from Vatnajökull as it spreads across the landscape below, an impressive thick wall of glacier.
A clear image of the passage of the glacier has carved through the mountain ridge with the peak of Hvannadalshnúkur obscured by low cloud in the background.
A smaller, glacial outlet carves a path through the basalt rock, the slow progression of the glacier and force required for the rock to be worn down or moved over time is incredibly impressive.

Myrdalsjokull, is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland and located further west toward Reykjavik than Vatnajökull but the outlet glacier, Sólheimajökull is popular for glacier walks and all-year tours with frequent monitoring of the nearby active Katla volcano located beneath the distant ice cap of Myrdalsjokull. The outlet glacier Sólheimajökull is easily accessible via sign-posted valley entrances off the main the Ring Road along the southern coastline with a 20 minute hike to a glacial lagoon.

The 20 minute hike to the Sólheimajökull glacier includes traversing the edge of the lagoon formed by glacial melt. Each year the size of the lagoon increases with warmer global weather influencing the temperature and extent of thawing and glacial melt each year. In Iceland, the constant volcanic activity means that the glaciers are often streaked or covered in volcanic ash and these are known as “dirty glaciers” due to their black streaked appearance from frequent volcanic eruptions. The lagoon is also formed from volcanic sand and large pinnacles of volcanic ash are common on the glacier surface.

Sólheimajökull glacier where it meets the lagoon is visibly streaked with volcanic ash revealing the older glacier layers of pale blue beneath.
A closer example of the height of the glacier itself as we hiked across the front edge and the volcanic ash that covers the surface of the glacier.
An example of a large cavernous opening in the glacier used by experienced climbers for tours. A large mound of volcanic ash is obvious in the foreground.
A narrow crevices visible while walking across the glacier surface also shows how freely melt water flows through the glacier and the entire structure is constantly changing form.
This stretch of the Myrdalsjokull continues another 22km toward the pole. In the near distance, a large pinnacle of volcanic ash with the uneven glacial surface covered in ash typical of the “dirty” glaciers.
The expanse of the glacier continues toward the basalt mountain ridges but the passage the glacier has carved through the surrounding rock is impressive.
A good view of the observable layers in the glacier with the alternating ash deposits and glacial layers
Contrast between the surrounding mountain ridges of the valley and the glacier outlet as it progresses through the landscape
The surrounding mountain ridges have numerous waterfalls which empty into the outlet glacier, the larger expanse of Myrdalsjokull also extends across many of the surrounding mountains behind where we were hiking
View from the surface of Sólheimajökull glacier tracing a narrow crevices extending back toward the ice cap of Myrdalsjokull
As we headed back from the hike, it began to rain. The rain began to quickly melt the glacier carving these flowing tunnels into the surface of the ice we were walking across.

The final view looking back to Myrdalsjokull as the weather closed around the glacier and lagoon, rain and light snow obscuring much of the way back we had come.

A short video on Solheimjoskull glacier showIng some of the surrounding landscape filmed despite the incredible strength of the erratic wind across the glacier threatening to knock me down if not for the crampons holding fast in the ice.

Short Stories, stories

Gaslamp Fantasy & Victorian Science

I have been interested by several different stories recently in the Alternate History subgenres of Steampunk and Gaslamp Fantasy. My latest short story draws on my academic knowledge of the Victorian era expansion in science and natural history. Gaslamp Fantasy is a subgenre I really enjoy and was inspired to write an alternate history exploring Victorian London society, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, emergence of modern sciences and the continuation of Fae creatures amid an expanding British Empire and colonisation. The Victorian era saw the beginning of Industrialisation, women’s liberation movements but also technological advancement, interest in the natural sciences and geological age of the planet. This is only some of the context for a story exploring social expectations and a female heiress who moonlights as a male scientist and a purported new species of tree-dwelling, cat-sized Fae lion.

Writing

Bone Arrow: Important Update

In the coming months, I’ll be doing a significant edit on my historical fantasy Bone Arrow which was inspired by Amerindian prehistory and fables. All previous editions of Bone Arrow will no longer be available. I’ll be sharing my latest research and editing developments as the new edition of Bone Arrow progresses.

Short Stories, stories

Dark Fantasy & Leprechaun Lore

I was recently fascinated by the folklore of fairy beings like leprechauns which have a long and conflicting history in Irish folklore. Far from the jovial trickster at the end of a rainbow who if caught can be forced into providing a pot of gold, the less-popularised stories of leprechauns in Irish folklore cast them as malevolent solitary fairies in a similar class as beings like the leanan sidhe, Dullahan and the Banshee. I was inspired to write a dark fantasy story exploring the darker nature of leprechauns and the consequences mentioned in various Irish folktales when making bargains with leprechauns that were more often a double-edged sword.

research, Writing

Icelandic Waterfalls Part 2

I visited Iceland in September 2019 as part of my writing research for novel-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming. Part of my Icelandic experience was the National Museum of Iceland, riding tour outside Reykjavik on the iconic Icelandic horse, exploring glaciers, black sand beaches, glacial lakes which influenced the Viking and Icelandic culture.


Gljúfurárfoss

Gljúfurárfoss is also known as its translation “dweller in the cave” referring to the large boulder that blocks the front of the waterfall, almost enclosing the waterfall itself and making it accessible only by the narrow cleft in the rock and by crossing the rivulet.

A large basalt boulder encloses most of the waterfall, leaving the freezing water of the Gljúfurá river as the only entrance and exit to the cavern and Gljúfurárfoss itself. The stepping stones are difficult to navigate but provide a narrow path along the edge of the slick and uneven cliff walls to where the cavern expands at the base of the waterfall.

Gljúfurárfoss drops from the height of 60m to the cavern floor. Another large basalt rock is positioned directly adjacent to the base of the waterfall. The cavern is freezing where the icy spray cascades from the waterfall and is trapped within the rock confines of the cave.

The view of Gljúfurárfoss where the Gljúfurá river cascades over the edge of the cliff, the rock surface covered in the dense moss and lichen. The Gljúfurá river has its source in the Tröllagil (Troll Gorge) as a spring-fed river before it passes through a marsh and along the northern edge of a lava field formed by Eyjafjallajökull glacier.

The moss and lichen covered rock surfaces of the upper part of the cavern and a view of the boulder (called Franskanef) that is suspended above the waterfall, hiding it from view on the outside and giving it the cave-like appearance.


Foss á Síðu Waterfall

Foss á Síðu is a small waterfall located in southeastern Iceland not far from the Ring Road, located between the larger settlements of Vik and Hof.

The river Fossá drops from a height of 30m over the basalt cliffs before continuing toward the Atlantic Ocean. At the foot of the Foss á Síðu waterfall is a farm inhabited since the 9th century and associated with local folklore legend of a curse, a ghost dog named Móri who cursed the family living on the farm (which is actually called Foss á Síðu), thereby cursing the family for nine generations.

Foss á Síðu is also the location of another Icelandic folklore. Located opposite the waterfall are basalt boulders called Dverghamrar or ‘dwarf rocks’ are believed to be the dwelling place of some of the ‘Hidden People’ of Icelandic folklore.


Seljlandsáfoss

Seljlandsáfoss is located 750m from the Ring Road in southern Iceland and only 29 km east from the popular Skogafoss waterfall. One of the most iconic Icelandic waterfalls, a deep pool of water at the base and sheltered space behind the waterfall itself provides a unique experience.

Seljlandsáfoss cascades over the ancient sea cliffs, falling from a height of 65m into a deep pool of water at the base of the waterfall called Kerið or Fosske.

A large cavernous space behind the waterfall provides some shelter from the drenching spray and allows some magnificent photography.

Seljlandsáfoss has its source in the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and during the warmer months, the glacial melt swells the Seljalandsa river, making Seljlandsáfoss one of the more powerful Icelandic waterfalls.

research, Writing

Icelandic Waterfalls Part 1

I visited Iceland in September 2019 as part of my writing research for novel-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming. Part of my Icelandic experience was the National Museum of Iceland, riding tour outside Reykjavik on the iconic Icelandic horse, exploring glaciers, black sand beaches, glacial lakes which influenced the Viking and Icelandic culture.


Írárfoss (Irish River Waterfalls)

The Írárfoss waterfalls are located in southeastern Iceland, where the river Írár flows from its source in the nearby Eyjafjallajökull glacier. The largest of three waterfalls from the Írár river, the Írárfoss waterfall is not considered among the more famous of southeast Iceland’s waterfalls with the larger and more spectacular Seljlandsáfoss waterfall located 10km west of Írárfoss.

As with many of the waterfalls in Iceland’s southeast, the source of the main rivers lie higher in the glaciers in the surrounding volcanic mountains. The rivers descend into the lowlands below via waterfalls, where rivulets and brooks are numerous throughout the lush meadows.

These glaciers and volcanic landscapes are also responsible for the black basalt rock that lifts above the lowlands meadows which are often suited for grazing horses and sheep.


Skógafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss waterfall is one of the most visited waterfalls in southern Iceland and is easily accessible just 500m from the Ring Road. Located 6km from Selfoss waterfall, the Skogafoss is one of the most powerful and impressive waterfalls in southern Iceland.

The Skogafoss is also associated with a legend of buried treasure by a Viking Age sorcerer, Þrasi Þórólfsson, who was responsible for directing the flow of two rivers during a great flood which is also associated with the volcanic eruption of in the Mýrdalsjökull Caldera. The legend of the artefact known as Þrasi’s ring is believed to be part of the treasure buried behind Skogafoss waterfall.

I was fascinated by these stone formations protruding from the front of Skogafoss. These reminded me of the Icelandic folklore about the trolls who become stone if caught by sunlight. These oddly shaped, moss and lichen covered rocks somehow seemed like figures to me, sitting beside the waterfall in the castoff from the spray.

Skogafoss is only 62m high and 32m wide but the strength of the waterfall is impressive with the view from above as waters plunge dramatically over the mossy edge, the rising spray and circling sea birds adds a drama to the small but powerful waterfall.

The view from the top of Skogafoss waterfall, the hiking track continues toward Þórsmörk, following the river Skogar upstream between the two glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull and past numerous lesser waterfalls.

A view from the top of Skogafoss waterfall of the opposing cliffs overlooking the lowlands and the abundant farmlands that now occupying the fertile meadows where the sea once was. In the distance, the current shore of the sea is just visible, now located about 5 km from Skogafoss waterfall.

The vista from the top of Skogafoss of the lowlands and a distant remnant of the former sea cliffs that is now an isolated promontory in the middle of the lowlands.

The view opposite Skogafoss waterfall shows natural and untamed landscape with the cliffs consumed by passing low cloud as the autumn storms pass out to sea.

The cliffs surrounding Skogafoss are rugged and formed into striking rocky pinnacles and natural stone formations reminiscent of fantastic landscapes.

After the Skogafoss waterfall, the river Skogar continues to flow across the rich black sand beach at the base of the waterfall and out through the lowlands toward the sea.

Skógafoss waterfall is now located less than 5km from the sea but the black sand coastline has receded over time, with these former sea cliffs now isolated promontories rising above the lowlands.

The river Sokogar forms into many rivulets with the lowlands covered in black pebbles and black sand, the remnants from previous volcanic eruptions and the annual glacial melt. These natural changes to Icelandic landscape are visible on such a massive scale throughout southern Iceland and are some of the most memorable landscapes I’ve ever seen.

Writing

Ragnarok Dreaming: A First Draft!


It’s been over 12 months of writing but the first draft of Ragnarok Dreaming is finally finished. Inspired by Norse mythology, I read and studied the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, many retellings and interpretations of the Norse myths and sagas, studied the archaeological record of prehistoric Scandinavia and history of the Viking Age. In September 2019, I was lucky enough to travel to Sweden and Iceland for some research and to see the landscapes that influenced Norse mythology and Viking cultures. I intend to take a break from Norse mythology before the editing on this first draft (a huge manuscript of 132,000 words!) can begin. You can always keep updated on my writing and research by following this blog!

Short Stories, stories

Prehistory, Battle and Sacrifices


I have just finished writing a new story concept I have been exploring. The story is inspired from my museum research in Europe in 2019. I was very interested by the prehistoric sections of museums. Before societies became larger civilisations, the bonds between communities were used to forge alliances. As these societies expanded under Chieftains and more land was claimed in the name of a Chieftain’s lineages, battle became more frequent as these dynasties were established. I was interested in exploring this lesser known part of history where archaeology is the only source to use and written records do not yet exist. Some of the oldest legends and mythologies have their early foundations in these prehistoric period when oral storytelling was common.
The rise in conflict between clans and increasing size of communities seems to also coincide with appearances and increased frequencies of human sacrifices (among many other things). I was interested to explore this single connection between conflict and human sacrifice in a story combining magic, ritual, history and battle together in a historical fantasy.

Short Stories, stories

Historical Fantasy & Sagittarius


Very recently I finished writing a story inspired by the Zodiac sign Sagittarius. I was intrigued when learning the the astrological sign, of Sagittarius is representative of prophecy and fate, among other things. The story is a historical fantasy but set in a hypothetical Renaissance-style Italian city similar to Venice. In this world which is similar to the historical version of how our own might have been, some differences do occur. There are Twelve temples to different deities, each with a distinct purpose to fulfil for the citizens of the sprawling city. The Twelve temples are organised in a hierarchical manner with each deity served by religious devotees. The main character is a priestess in the Order Sagittarius where she begins to realise her perception of religious involvement in the functioning and fortune of the city inhabitants is corrupted. I explored these social tensions and realisations from research into ancient Roman religion where the religion was used as a propaganda tool and for social control.