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.

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/

research, Writing

Folklore of the Cursed Aye-Aye

In Madagascar, a highly unusual endangered nocturnal lemur is associated in regional as taboo or fady. The bizarre habits, secretive nature and distinctive appearance of the aye-aye fills some Madagascan peoples with the horror and dread at the sight of it. This has often lead to the slaughter of aye-ayes.

In other regions of Madagascar, it is considered fady to eat certain lemurs, which means that local taboos can actually shield and protect specific species. The aye-aye’s most striking features likely lead to its persecution.

Aye-ayes are medium-sized nocturnal lemurs and are mostly black but have large, highly mobile ears for tracking minute sounds. They’re also the only primate with continuously growing incisors which make them look rodent-like. Most notable of the aye-aye’s unusual physical features is it’s long, thin middle finger which is used to tap rapidly on decayed wood where their sensitive hearing helps detect insect larvae beneath. They then gnaw holes into the wood with those rodent-like teeth and use the long, skeletal-like finger to skewer and scoop out insect larvae.

According to the local views of fady, anyone who has an aye-aye point its long spindly finger at them, will be met with ill-fortune.

But the aye-aye’s eating habits may also contribute to their unpopularity with rural villages. Aye-ayes raid common Madagascan crops like coconuts, lychees, and mangos. This has led to viewing the aye-aye as a crop pest. But aye-ayes also eat seeds from the ramy tree (Canarium spp.) which grow tall and undisturbed near tombs in the Samanioana region where it is considered fady to cut them down. Aye-ayes are found in the peaceful sacred burial sites and surrounding forest, nesting and foraging without much human disturbance. Unsurprisingly, the aye-aye’s preference for the areas surrounding tombs may have inadvertently caused villagers to associate them with death and bad luck.

Other regions only consider the aye-aye fady when it enters a village.  Locals feel uneasy about an animal intentionally displacing itself from its home in the forest to enter a village. Essentially the unnatural act of entering a “human space” from the forest is what creates the bad omen.  They believe the only reason an aye-aye would display such unusual behavior is to foretell illness as the harbinger of death.

The degree of fady varies from village to village and the response to an aye-aye sighting. Regardless, fear is ingrained into this fady. In some northern regions of Madagascar, locals fear any sightings of an aye-aye. If an aye-aye is spotted in the forest, locals believe someone in a nearby village will fall sick and possibly die. If an aye-aye is found in the village itself, sometimes the entire village is abandoned as everyone living there won’t risk sickness and death. Unfortunately, the most common response to seeing an aye-aye is to kill it, hang the carcass or tail from a pole by a crossroads hoping that by moving the aye-aye further from the village, it will protect everyone from sickness or death. There’s also belief that passers-by may unknowingly carry the bad luck away with them when travelling past the carcass.

Aye-ayes are an essential part of Madagascan biodiversity. The challenges of habitat loss, persecution as a crop pest and the damaging effects of fady accelerate their declining numbers. Because aye-ayes are very rare, sightings of one only reinforce the fady through storytelling. One conversationist intended to rewrite that story.

The late primatologist, Dr. Alison Jolly, authored a children’s book titled, “Ny Aiay Ako” (Ako the Aye-Aye) with the book distributed to children’s schools throughout Madagascar to teach and inspire a love of these lemurs. The book’s protagonist, an aye-aye named Ako, transforms fear into fascination and children are inspired to protect this unusual lemur. In fact, the success of the first book led to a six book series, each about a different species of lemur.

Today, the Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF) continues Dr. Jolly’s work with the Ako Project. A set of 21 Ako Lemur Lesson Plans and accompanying Ako Educator’s Guide were designed to highlight the biodiversity of Madagascar. Educators can use activities featuring characters and themes from the Ako book series to teach about lemurs and their environment. Each teaching kit includes all six of Dr. Jolly’s storybooks and the materials needed to inspire a love of lemurs and encourage conservation action in Madagascar. The Ako Project is now worldwide with all lesson plans and materials available to download free on LCF’s website at http://www.lemurreserve.org/ako-project/. For conservationists, this project is the first step to dispelling the damaging folklore by empowering children with knowledge and empathy for the aye-aye.

References:

Folklore Thursday, Madagascar Superstitions & Taboos: Fighting the Aye-Aye Fady, https://folklorethursday.com/folklife/madagascar-superstitions-taboos-fighting-the-aye-aye-fady/

Duke Lemur Center https://lemur.duke.edu/discover/meet-the-lemurs/aye-aye/

research

Legend of the Pussy Willow


“The Legend of the Pussy Willow”

In an old Polish legend, many springs ago, a mother cat was crying at the bank of the river where her kittens were drowning.

The willow at the river’s edge longed to help her, so they swept their long graceful branches into the waters to rescue the tiny kittens who had fallen into the river while chasing butterflies.

Each of the kittens gripped tightly to the willow branches and were safely brought back to shore.

According to the legend, each springtime since, willow branches sprout tiny fur-like buds at their tips where the tiny kittens once clung.

reads, Recent Reads

Dark Nature

*** I received an ARC/Review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***

Publisher’s Description

Generation after generation, humans have ripped apart the world, leaving garbage and desolation in our wake.Burning, destroying, and stealing from the earth. We see it happening day by day and do nothing about it. Our air is toxic with pollution along with our waters and the earth cries as it watches the destruction.

Until now.

From the depths of the darkest minds of horror comes mother nature’s final retribution. It’s time for Gaia to fight back, and karma really is a b*tch. Dark Nature is an anthology of thirteen dark tales of nature.


Review

My latest read was a horror anthology Dark Nature by Macabre Ladies Publishing.
Particular favourites of mine included “In the Wych Elm” by Emma Kathryn, a nice portrait of past and present uniting in a darkly woven tale of folklore and magic. “She Weeps Vermilion (O, Harbinger)” by Hayden Waller is an ocean themed tale of the destruction wrought by humanity and the vengeance that rises as a colossus from the depths. Lastly, “Pt. Reyes” by BF Vega was another good blend of environmental disrespect, cause and effect, with surreal folklore of the natural world creating new horrors for the mind.

Final Thoughts

Dark Nature is a unique horror anthology exploring scenarios when natural forces seek revenge on humanity for abuse and desecration of the environment. Although some stories were slow to build action or create tension, there were particular favourites of mine that underscored vengeance sought by the darkest of nature.

Conclusion

Recommended read for readers seeking an unusual anthology of different voices on the darkest natures of humanity and our environment. Well worth reading!

reads, Recent Reads

Certain Dark Things

Publisher’s Description

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?


Review

I recently read the much anticipated release of Certain Dark Things by Mexican-born Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Certain Dark Things is an alternate history where the existence of vampires has become well-known and governments taken measures to control, destroy or contain the threat they pose. Mexico is run by drug cartels and violent gangs, the warring vampire clans at the apex but only Mexico City is a vampire free zone. Or so the police force, much of the population and government think. When Atl escapes the destruction of her own vampire clan, an ancient Aztec vampire race who were warrior priestesses and flees south to Mexico City, she brings another clan of vampires on her trail wanting vengeance in the form of her death. Unable to survive any other way in a city where she is prey instead of the predator, Atl recruits Domingo, a roughened street kid about her own age, honest and dependable to be her ‘Renfield’. But soon Atl and Domingo rely more heavily on each other than a vampire and servant should. Only together can they hope to survive Mexico City, the violent street gangs, the police force and the vampires seeking Atl.

Final Thoughts

Certain Dark Things is an alternate history set in Mexico City, a fresh take on vampire lore, with substantial world-building and exploration of global vampire lore. The plot maintained a quick pace, a thrilling atmosphere of Mexican crime and vampire lore. Unfortunately, the ending felt flat, a little sudden and under-developed. Despite this, Certain Dark Things was a great read.

Conclusion

A highly anticipated novel promising crime elements, horror and vampires. Certain Dark Things was a refreshing exploration little known vampire lore. A great read for anyone who enjoys vampire stories, horror and dark fiction. A recommended read!

reads, Recent Reads

Dreaming of Djinn

Publisher’s Description:

To open Dreaming Of Djinn is to open a jewel encrusted box full of exquisite and mouthwatering delicacies.

This sensuous and truly mouthwatering collection melding the modern and the ancient with the strangeness of speculative fiction, is a treasure trove of originality and exotic magic. It will ravish your senses as it transports you to a world of flying carpets, powerful ifrits, exotic foods and above all, dancing as deadly as it is beautiful.


My Review:

My recent reads included the anthology Dreaming of Djinn edited by Liz Grzyb is inspired by the Arabian Nights mythology, tales and folklore.
Particular favourites include ‘On a Crooked Leg Lightly’ by Alan Baxter, a tale of princess would-be assassins willing to escape societal control at any cost. ‘The Quiet Realm of the Dark Queen’ by Jenny Blackford is a beautiful weaving of Mesopotamian myth and legend with a feminist edge. Lastly, ‘Silver, Sharp as Silk’ by Dan Rabarts tells of the desert Ifriit and the unexpected reasons behind destroying travelling caravans.

Final Thoughts:

Dreaming of Djiin is a wonderful anthology of diverse tales, lavishly told and well-researched.

Conclusion:

A must-read for lovers of Arabian Nights, vivid tales and enchanting retellings of classics. Highly recommended!

Short Fiction, stories, Writing

Näcken Folklore

The näcken is a water being from found in Scandinavian folklore. The näcken is a variant in Sweden of the Norwegian fossegrim, a river sprite that drowns children and unwary travellers in the brook. The näcken can also be bargained with and a mortal learn to play the fiddle with similar enchantment. Once taught, the mortal fiddler will play so beautifully that the trees are said to weep. But like any bargain with otherworldly beings, there is usually a high cost for the skill earned at the näcken’s tutelage.

I was inspired by the folklore of the näcken and similar river sprites when writing a new microfiction focusing on the aftermath of a bargain made between the näcken and a musician. The fiddler now plays with the enchantment the näcken’s skill provided, but those who listenen to him play must dance to their deaths.

research, Short Fiction, stories

Dark Christmas Lore


Christmas is a time for celebration and family gatherings, right? Strictly speaking, yes. But there are darker lores beneath the celebration many of us enjoy each year. The folklore surrounding the Krampus and even Saint Nicholas and the Butcher are grisly territory.

When I travelled to Iceland in 2019 for research, I found a very different set of folklores related to Christmas and the span of Yuletide. The folklore of thirteen Yule trolls who terrorise and disrupt Icelandic life for thirteen days is eclipsed by the arrival of their mother, the cannibalistic troll-witch Gryla who steals away children to cook into stew for her large family in their mountain cave.

Fascinated by this dark and fable-like warning of the dangers around Yuletide in Iceland, I was inspired to write a short story featuring Gryla and the Yule trolls, focusing on the darker natures the Yule trolls reportedly once possessed before modern sanctification of their images.