Writing, Long Fiction

Dark Fantasy & Climate Change

I am in the final stages of editing my draft dark fantasy novel inspired by North American and Canadian First Nations legends and environment and the influence of developing climate change.

In a fantasy world where the gods, mortals and paranormal beings are dependent on the environment for stability and existence, the threat of a dark shaman destroying the land as his power grows is too much for the gods to remain omnipotent. In the involvement with the mortal realms, the balance of the Land shifts dangerously and the environment begins to suffer, fade and die.

The following images are inspirational only and are not intended to represent any specific character but inspire an internal concept.

Long Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Norse Myths

One of my projects I’m working on at the moment is a reimagining the Norse Myths and involving my favourite Trickster folklore. I’m focusing on the god Loki and the events recounted in the myths leading up to Ragnarok.

I’m also fascinated by the roles of Odín and his selection of the best warriors fallen on the battlefield and how Freyja, goddess of desire takes the other half the best fallen warriors and is a leader of the Valkyries.

My love of Trickster folklore and legends includes one of my favourite Australian Trickster figures, Crow. Together with Loki, there’s a new story added to those known in the Norse myths.

In remaining ragnarok in a new way, I’ve ncorporated Icelandic and Australian-esque natural landscapes to create a new version of a mythos of ice and fire with tales from the Australian Alps to the desert heart.

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Burnt Sugar

Publisher’s Description

Decades after the incident in the woods, Gretel has forged a good life in a small village, running a bakery and taking care of her brother and the stray, bedraggled women who find work as her apprentices. Business is good, and when it’s not, Gretel took more from the witch than a knack of making sweet treats and gingerbread, just as her brother returned home forever changed by the torture he experienced.

The book of magic hidden beneath the stairs has kept Gretel and her household comfortable for years, but it also calls to Gretel in the night, demanding she return to the woods and replace the witch they killed. For years, she’s been resisting, determined to keep Hansel and her apprentices safe.

Then Hansel’s drinking goes too far and Gretel realises her brother is dying. Finally, the seductive call of the book’s magic might be too strong to deny…


Review

I read Burnt Sugar (Never Afters, #1) by Australian author Kirstyn McDermott.

Burnt Sugar follows the well-known Grimm fairytale characters Hansel and Gretel in the decades after their abandonment in the forest, and stumbling on the witch’s cottage. The tale of Gretel’s servitude to the witch while Hansel rotted behind bars. That is where the familiar tale we know ends and a new reimagined one begins.

Gretel is now an older woman and her brother Hansel a town-thug and drunkard. After what they both endured in the Witch’s cottage, the siblings have gone down two very different paths in life. Gretel manages a bakery and is haunted by memories of burning the witch alive so she and her brother might escape. Stranger still is the book of witchcraft she stole from the cottage and the gems that frequently appear. In a town that is hard on the poor and wretched, Gretel adopts those she can and provides handouts for those she can’t – the memory of being a starving unwanted child one that is still fresh.

Final Thoughts

Burnt Sugar is an intriguing “what if” novella that offers a conclusion to the tale of Hansel and Gretel. There are some aspects which are unanswered – such as the hands that push at Gretel’s back – reminiscent of the witch’s own ending. Whether this is deliberately unexplained or not it is unclear. Regardless, this is a deeply emotional and thought provoking idea of what might have happened once two children expected lost to the forest, stumbled back to their village and how their lives would have altered from the experience.

Conclusion

A fascinating literary reimagining of the Grimm’s fairytale of Hansel and Gretel. Definitely worth reading for those who enjoy a historical fantasy. A solid fairytale reimagining for those curious to know what might happened after Hansel and Gretel escaped the witch and the forest.

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Malice

Publisher’s Description

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily ever after. Utter nonsense. Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though a power like mine was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps together we could forge a new world. Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.


Review

One of my recent reads was Malice (Malice Duology, #1) by US author Heather Walter.

Malice follows the protagonist Alyce, one of the Briar kingdom’s Graces- mortals born with weak Fae heritage with blood able to produce eilixrs. The other Graces have golden blood which bestows beauty, charm and wit. Alyce, or the ‘Dark Grace’ as she is known, is part-Vila, one of the Dark-Fae and her green blood reviled for bestowing curses not charms. Yet, like all the Graces, Alyce is unable to leave the Kingdom of Briar – bound to serve in Grace Household and earnings leveraged to the Briar crown.

In the Kingdom of Briar, Alyce is despised for being part-Vila, the Dark Fae who were too powerful for the Light Fae Etherians to destroy until they allied with the mortals. The alliance forged between the Etherians and the Queens of Briar resulted in the establishment of Briar.
In Briar, Alyce is considered a symbol of past hatred and fear. Only the heir to the Briar crown, princess Aurora finds companionship and understanding with Alyce. All heirs to the Briar throne bear the curse from a powerful a Vila to die before their twenty-first birthday if the curse isn’t broken by their true love. Despite this history, an unlikely relationship is forged between Alyce and Aurora. But Alyce has kept her secrets from Aurora when she allies with a mysterious prisoner from the destroyed Vila kingdom with promises to unlock Alyce‘s true power.

Final Thoughts

Malice was an exciting read, a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale that was both satisfying as an epic fantasy in its own right, an queer romance, and a fairytale retelling. It was the combination of these aspects which made Malice something more than a genderbent version of a fairytale – it made it a reworking of a classic into an epic fantasy in its own right. Expertly done.

Conclusion

A highly recommended retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. A unique epic fantasy that will satisfy readers of fairytale retellings, dark fantasy, queer romance and truly excellent worldbuilding. A great read!

research, Writing

The Skogsrå

The skogsrå is one of the important genii loci, the spirit of the Forest from Scandinavia. She will appear to hunters mostly but also to some travellers through the forests of her domain.

The Skogsra is often described as human-like being, but with something uncanny about her. She’s often very beautiful but will have a tail or a back formed like a (rotten) tree trunk. The first morph (a tree trunk back) is common in Denmark, mid- and southern Sweden, but the tail is common in western and northern Sweden and Norway. Normally, the Skogsra has a a cow’s tail, but she can sometimes have a fox tail.

The Skogsra sometimes doesn’t appear to forest travellers as a young woman, but as an old and ugly hag. But these appearances are quite rare.

The Skogsra often approaches and tries to seduce men by various ways.

In folklore material, two types of men were most often approached by the Skogsra – charcoal-burners and hunters. Both of these groups of men were alone in the forest for long periods at a time.

In exchange for sexual encounters, a man might actually became her lover and the Skogsra could help him and grant rewards – like making sure his rifle never missed, and waking him if the charcoal stack was about to burn down. Both these are blessings made possible by the Skogsra and when the men are within her forest.

References

https://folklorethursday.com/folktales/skogsra-and-huldra-the-femme-fatale-of-the-scandinavian-forests/

Long Fiction, Writing

Fantasy on Four Feet Release

Fantasy on Four Feet edited by Clare Rhoden was published on June 28th, 2022 by Black Ink Fiction.

The anthology includes novelettes from various authors on animal-human companionships including my fey spy and her fox companion in “Black Fox and Bitterbind: The Chancellor’s Promise.”

You can purchase ebook and paperback copies of Fantasy on Four Feet here

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A Dead Djinn in Cairo

Publisher’s Description

Egypt, 1912. In Cairo, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine.
What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and a plot that could unravel time itself.


Review

I recently read A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark after many recommendations for this alternate history series.

Fatma el-Sha’arawi is a Special Investigator for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. A flashy-dresser in male attire, she is unrepentant in a very male-dominated world.

Once she begins investigating the strange suicide of an ancient djinn – an unlikely case of death for djinn- she’s soon led to the City of the Dead in the slums of Cairo after reports of increased ghoul attacks.

In the City of the Dead, Fatma discovers another horrible death of an angel and clues to a cult active in Cairo. Soon, aided by a sultry assassin, Fatma el-Sha’arawi is in a race against the dawn to save the world from a cataclysmic event.

Final Thoughts

A Dead Djinn in Cairo is an amazing novella set in an alternate Cairo during 1912. The world building is fantastic with airships, clockwork angels, automaton servants and the magnificent but terrifying djinn.

Conclusion

A perfect short read for fans of alternate history, steampunk, dark fiction, horror, queer fiction and a fantastical blend of all genres. Highly recommended!

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The Path of Thorns


Publisher’s Description

Asher Todd comes to live with the mysterious Morwood family as a governess to their children. Asher knows little about being a governess but she is skilled in botany and herbcraft, and perhaps more than that. And she has secrets of her own, dark and terrible – and Morwood is a house that eats secrets. With a monstrous revenge in mind, Asher plans to make it choke. However, she becomes fond of her charges, of the people of the Tarn, and she begins to wonder if she will be able to execute her plan – and who will suffer most if she does. But as the ghosts of her past become harder to control, Asher realises she has no choice.


*** I received an ARC in exchange for a voluntary review ***

Review

I recently read The Path of Thorns by Australian horror and dark fantasy author A.G. Slatter (aka Angela Slatter).

Asher Todd contrives to organise a position as a governess at Morwood grange to educate the three children. Hired by elder Mrs Leonora Morwood, despite her son Luther Morwood running the estate. Asher is haunted both literally and figuratively by her past and a terrible plan to seek revenge and destroy the Morwoods.

Enacting her plan becomes harder when Asher reveals her skills as a cunning woman, a witch and healer. Soon, the struggling people of the Morwood estate and local Tarn rely on Asher for their care. Caught between her loyalty to the Tarn and her desire for revenge against the Morwoods, Asher’s hand is prematurely forced unleashing a dark tide of magic, regret, desire, and rage.

Final Thoughts

The Path of Thorns skilfully blends fairytales and folklore to reimagine an equistitely detailed dark Victorian world. An beautiful and deadly world of witchcraft and ghosts, dark magic and desperate actions. A tale of unrequited affection with dark consequences, The Path of Thorns is rich with complex characters, a dark and twisted fairytale set in the dark fantasy Sourdough world.

Conclusion

A highly recommended read for lovers of dark fantasy, horror, gothic horror and ghost stories. The Path of Thorns is a well-written and beautifully executed novel. A must read!

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For the Wolf

Publisher’s Description

THE FIRST DAUGHTER IS FOR THE THRONE.
THE SECOND DAUGHTER IS FOR THE WOLF.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose – to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in order to save her kingdom. Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the Wilderwood – and her world – will be lost forever.


Review

I read the exciting first volume in a new epic fantasy series, For the Wolf (The Wilderwood, #1) by US author Hannah Whitten. Compared to Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, this is a new dark fantasy world, haunting in its exploration of fairytales and folklore.

For the Wolf follows protagonist Redarys, second daughter to the throne and born to be sacrificed to the legendary wolf monster of the Wilderwood. Her twin sister, Neve, first daughter to the throne is born to rule the kingdom. While Redarys (Red) accepts her fate, Neve tries everything to prevent her from entering the Wilderwood. Neve sees the sacrifice as futile, the wolf not seen in generations nor the five kings returned that he purportedly imprisoned and in doing so, created the Wilderwood. Each sacrifice of a second daughter ensures the monsters of the Wilderwood stay within the wood’s boundaries and the continued fortune of the kingdoms.

Once the Wilderwood, Red flees tangled branches that reach for her and trees desiring her blood. She finds neither the monstrous wolf, nor the five kings imprisoned by him. Instead, Red survives the Wilderwood and discovers a crumbling castle shrouded by forest, untouched by the rot growing through most of the Wilderwood. There she meets the tired defender of the Wilderwood; Eammon, the legendary Wolf of the Wilderwood.

Final Thoughts

For the Wolf was a lush and dark reimagining of fairytales ‘Red Riding Hood’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Snow White, Rose Red’. The folklore of the Greenman was explored in the finale’s battle between giant deities. A dark fantasy, fairytale reimagining, folklore-infused, romance that was a refreshing read.

Conclusion

For the Wolf is a highly recommended read. Those readers of dark fantasy, fairytale reimagining, slow-burn romances and blending of genres will love this book. A great read!

research

Isle of Skye: Fairy Glen

The Isle of Skye is rich in fairy lore. One of the most magical-looking is the miniature landscape of grassy, cone-shaped hills and whimsical rock spirals of Fairy Glen.

There is no documented folklore linking the landscape to the realm of myth, and there have been no actual sightings of fairies, Fairy Glen is rich in folklore. You can easily imagine the the fairy folk in this landscape.

There is another explanation for the rock formations found at Fairy Glen. The geological formations are the result of a landslip, triggered by volcanic activity on northern edge of the Isle of Skye about 60 million years ago. The resultant lava flow that would have covered northern Skye was 1,200m thick.

To many, this otherworldly landscape was created by the fairies. There’s belief the fairies still live here, hiding in the crevices…Remember it’s important to leave Fairy Glen as you found it: the fairies are watching you.