WYLT: Chapter One – Sneak Peak



In the dream, the man smelled of horses and wood varnish as he gathered the little girl close in his arms. Wind whipped off the lake, but in her father’s arms, she was warm and safe. She held her stick sword firmly in one plump hand as he lowered her to the ground.

“You see these stones, Rhosyn?” he asked with a thick Welsh accent, placing a hand on the smooth black rock that rose out of the ground. “Do you know what they are?”

“Aye, Roger said they are faerie stones,” the girl answered, prodding one with her stick.

“Oh, did he now? And when did you have time to talk to the stableman?” her father questioned, heavy brows drawing together.

“When I went to see Mr. Eli’s horses,” she answered truthfully, knowing that her father wasn’t really angry with her. “Are they doorways to the Other Lands?”

“There are, God’s truth, little one.” Her father crouched down to be level with her. “Some nights, when magic is thick in the air and the time between times opens the worlds, the Seelie come through to dance at the lake. It is on those nights, my Rhosyn, that you must lock your window and your door, and pray that they don’t try to steal you away.”

“How can I tell if it’s a faerie?”

“They are so beautiful and terrible to look upon that there is no mistaking them for anything else. If you ever see such a one, dancing or hunting through the forest, you must find Mr. Eli as soon as you can.” Her father’s voice lost the storyteller’s warmth and became serious, “Promise me, Rosa. Promise me you will find him.”

“I promise, Da,” she swore, wondering what Mr. Eli could do that her father could not, should the faeries come.

“Good lass.” He kissed her head and got to his feet. They were almost back at their little cottage when the wolves came.

Then there was only blood, screaming and monsters, and her father was gone forever.

Chapter One- The Bad Omen

Rosa’s ears were ringing as she stepped out of the fire escape door and into the cold night air. She needed to get away from the noise of the crowded kitchen and the endless thrum of the party upstairs. She had been plagued with nightmares for the last three nights, and the bass of bad dance music was making her head pound.

I don’t know why you let Lucy talk you into these things, Rosa thought as she walked down the damp service alley behind the mansion and passed the expensive cars that had been parked wherever there was space.

She had agreed to do the catering gig for the high society party in The Boltens, but with the control freak hostess, it was shaping up to be more trouble than what they were paying. She pulled her coat tighter around her as she breathed in the autumn night air and tried not to wish for the cigarettes that she had sworn off three years prior.

The wind was rising, scattering the golden leaves off the ornamental trees and over the finely clipped yard. This kind of wind always reminded her of her childhood in the north, the sharp crispness holding the scent of wood smoke and lightning. With the wind came the nightmares every year without fail.

“A bad wind, that is,” a voice said, making Rosa jump. A homeless gypsy woman was an odd sight in an area as flash as The Boltens, but she leaned against a Porsche as if she owned it.

“I don’t know about a bad wind, but it’s bloody freezing,” replied Rosa.

The woman smiled. “Tell your fortune for a pound? You’ve destiny hanging over your head like a storm cloud.”

“I’m good, thanks. I don’t believe in fortune telling or destiny, but if you wait here, I can nick you something to eat from this party. Posh bastards ignore most of it at a gathering like this one.”

Rosa hurried back to the kitchen and placed rosemary lamb shanks into a large Styrofoam container. The catering staff were only going to throw out the leftovers, so Rosa filled another with pastries and cheesecake.

Outside, the gypsy was smoking a hand rolled, clove cigarette. She muttered under her breath as she glared at the security guards near the front entrance of the house.

“Don’t worry about those guys. They won’t bother you,” Rosa said as she offered the containers.

“Thank you, lady,” the gypsy said and gripped them in her bony hands. “You won’t accept a reading, but accept a warning…they’re watching you, girl.”

“Who is?” Rosa asked, looking about and trying not to laugh.

The gypsy checked over her shoulders before hissing softly, “The dead.”

“Everything alright down there, miss?” A tall security guard shined his torch at them from the end of the alley.

“Course, mate, everything is fine, just seeing my kitchen staff off for the night,” Rosa waved at them before calling out to the retreating gypsy. “Thanks for your help tonight, Susie!”

The security guard didn’t look convinced as he switched off his torch and continued on his rounds.

“What a weird old lady,” Rosa said as the gypsy disappeared around the next street corner. She was about to head back inside when a black Mercedes pulled up in front of her, and a suited man stepped out.

“Good evening, are you Miss Rosamund Wylt?” he asked formally.

“Depends on who’s asking.”

The man reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out a letter. Rosa took it between trembling fingers, her stomach dropping to her ankles as she spotted the heavy black seal and the ‘V’ insignia that haunted her nightmares.

“Have a pleasant evening, Miss Wylt,” the gentleman said before climbing back into the car and continuing down the lane.

Rosa looked at the letter for a long moment before swearing viciously and stuffing it into her jacket pocket.


Rosa was paralyzed. Fear shot through her body, robbing her of thought and breath. The shadows of the room crept over her like exploring fingers, threatening to choke her if she moved or cried out for help. Her body convulsed, pushing her out of the dream with a hard jolt and back into the land of the living. Dawn was making its way through the cracks in the curtains and her thrumming heart slowly stilled in her chest.

Rosa wiped the sweat off her face and looked accusingly at the letter sitting on her mirror table, its elaborate black seal broken in two. It had been a week since she had received her summons to go home to the north, the last place on earth she wanted to go back to.

Your mother is unwell, she needs her daughter at home, the letter had said, compounding her guilt. Rosa’s nights had been restless with dreams of never-ending corridors, dark forests and the feeling of drowning in long buried memories of her father’s bloody face. It was like living in a bad Poe poem every night and waking up feeling afraid and angry.


That word meant the tiny flat near the culinary school she had attended for the last three years. It wasn’t the dreary estate in northern England that didn’t even have decent Wi-Fi.

Who sends a letter these days anyway?  She thought before her inner voice prompted critically. Maybe they knew you wouldn’t answer your phone.

Rosa had hoped she would be left alone after she graduated from Oxford four years ago. She had studied literature and could speak Old and Middle English, but what she hadn’t been able to do was get a job in that field. The student wage in her account didn’t disappear, so she decided to follow her secondary passion for cooking and attend culinary school instead.

After years of education, she wanted to travel the world, work in the finest restaurants in each city to learn their delicacies, before moving on to another location. Graduation had gone as unnoticed by her mother as her university degree had, and Rosa had picked up catering jobs as she gathered her savings to leave London. Once the money from the last job had cleared, she would have left England behind her.

Now Rosa knew she had no choice but to go back to Gwaed Lyn. Her benefactors would send people to fetch her no matter where she ran. She had tried to escape to France as a teenager, and even though she was careful to cover her tracks, they still found her. Rosa had stepped off the train in Paris, and there had been a man in a black suit waiting to take her back to London.

In the last few days, Rosa had been forced to lie to her few friends, all who were going to Ibiza to celebrate their graduation. They hugged and teased her, calling her Nigella as they often had, and hadn’t questioned her further. What could she have said? They would never believe that she had no choice but to do what the letter asked.

Getting out of bed, Rosa washed her face in her small bathroom and pinned up her dark curls. Pulling on a green sweater, jeans, and high-heeled boots, she studied herself critically. She would turn thirty next month, and the plump softness of her youth had never quite left her. Her hair was her most redeeming feature; naturally, a rich curling auburn that framed her round face and dimpled chin. In her opinion, her hair made up for the size fourteen dress tag.

“Well, Rosa, that will have to do,” she told her reflection after drawing some eyeliner around her hazel eyes.

Pulling on her leather jacket to ward against the wind, she picked up her overnight bag with a sigh of resignation. The rest of her things had been placed in three large suitcases and had been picked up two days beforehand. She wondered if her mother would rummage through them before she arrived to try to discover what her daughter had been up to in the three years they had been apart. Rosa grinned at the thought of prim Cecily’s face finding her collection of vintage style lingerie. She may have had to wear drab uniforms in her job, but underneath was another matter entirely.

The train to Penrith would take four hours. Four hours of worrying what she was going to do, how sick her mother was, and how long she would be forced to stay at the estate.

“The Wylts have always served the Vanes, it is our honor and our duty,” her father had told her the month he had died. It was one of the only memories she had of him from her childhood, and the Vanes had to own that too. A family’s life lived in the shadow of another was no life at all.

What kind of an archaic concept were generational servants and masters anyway? If a Wylt didn’t serve them, it wasn’t like they couldn’t find someone else. The estate of Gwaed Lyn was hours away from anywhere. She would be resigning herself to a life alone with no friends and no chances of meeting anyone.

When Rosa reached Penrith, there would be a driver waiting for her, as the letter had instructed. She took it out of her pocket, running her fingers over the thick stationary and the carved V in the broken seal.

She could barely remember the estate, an ancient stone mansion that seemed ridiculously opulent for the times, but she remembered seeing that V stamped into gates and stone work. There was no question of who owned the place and everyone in it.

The only member of the family she could recall was the patriarch, Eli Vane. He had found her hiding in the stables one day, and she would never forget her fear as his sharp eyes had looked down his nose at her. He was imposing and wore the kind of authority that could never be fabricated. He had sent the letter, and the tone with which it was written had left no room for argument.

Rosa put her feet up on the train chair opposite her and pouted in annoyance at the bleak scenery flashing passed her. She would go to Gwaed Lyn for her mother, but after that, she was leaving, even if she had to take on Eli Vane himself.


“Seat taken?” A voice asked, jolting Rosa out of her snooze.

“Argh, no sorry,” she mumbled, quickly brushing the seat down in case she had left any dirty boot marks.

When Rose woke up enough to study her companion she wondered why she bothered. The woman was filthy. Her long dress and coat were splattered with mud, smelling of dogs and camp smoke. She was holding an empty takeaway coffee cup filled with coins. If living in London had taught Rosa anything, it was to ignore beggars, but in an empty carriage, she found it impossible.

“Hey, I know you,” Rosa said with a smile. “You were the woman the other night who was trying to read my fortune.”

“Of course I am. Where are you traveling to?” the gypsy asked.

“Home, I suppose. My mother is unwell,” Rosa answered awkwardly.

“You only suppose it’s home?”

“It’s not my home exactly. My mother is the housekeeper for a rich family.”

“Which family?” the gypsy persisted rudely.

“You wouldn’t know them, they are the old money types,” Rosa said. “She works for the Vanes.”

“Gwaed Lyn.” The gypsy spat a ball of yellow phlegm on the train carriage floor.

“You know it then.”

“It’s a cursed place. You’re better off getting your mother out of there, girl. No wonder the dead are following you.” The carriage door slid open, and an inspector stepped through. He frowned at the gypsy.

“Tickets please,” he said firmly.

“Here’s mine,” Rosa said brightly and then pretended to fumble about in her pockets. “Just give one moment, and I’ll find my aunt’s ticket. I know I’ve got it here somewhere.”

“Your auntie, you say?”

“Of course, she is my Auntie,” Rosa laughed. “My forgetful auntie who loses her ticket all the time.”

The gypsy pulled out a Snickers wrapper and slapped it into the inspector’s hand. “Here’s my ticket,” she smiled up at him with dirty teeth.

The inspector turned the wrapper over and handed it back. “Everything seems to be in order. Have a pleasant trip, ladies.”

“How’d you do that?” Rosa asked once he had left the carriage.

“He’s an idiot and doesn’t see what’s right in front of him,” she replied with a huff. “You’ve got a kind heart, girl. Maybe that will be enough to shield you from that evil place.”

“Gwaed Lyn isn’t evil; it’s just full of self-indulgent rich people.”

The gypsy took off one of her dirty silver necklaces and pushed it into Rosa’s hand.

“You did me a good turn the other night, so now I repay the debt. Wear it, it’ll protect you,” she got to her feet. “Remember, girl, it’s not called The Blood Lake for nothing.”

Then she was gone, moving about the carriage shaking her cup, leaving Rosa holding the sticky pendant.

Hours later, Rosa got up to stretch her legs, the uneasy feeling in her chest growing the further north they traveled. In the tiny bathroom, she scrubbed the necklace with industrial pink hand wash. As she scrubbed, the ridges in the silver disc became the shape of a face surrounded by six wings. It was an odd trinket, but something in the gypsy’s eyes had unnerved her. Despite all the voices in her head telling her she was being a superstitious ninny, Rosa clipped the chain around her neck, tucking it into her sweater to sit cooly against her skin.

It was late afternoon by the time Rosa stepped off the warm train and into the freezing winds at Penrith. The working day had finished, and the station was packed with people and students staring at their phones. Standing soldier straight in the crowd was a tall man in a black suit and hat. He looked more like a bodyguard than a driver.

“Miss Wylt,” he rumbled, taking her carry bag. “I’m Caruthers, this way please.”

In the car park, he opened the back door of a black Mercedes. “You’ll find refreshments in the cooler bag should you require them.”

“Thank you,” Rosa said as he shut the door behind her. She settled into the deep seat as he moved silently through the streets and headed west on the A66 highway.

Rosa sensed her mother’s handiwork as she opened the cooler bag and found a flask of tea, sandwiches, and freshly baked ginger cookies. Rosa sipped on the herbal tea, relieved to wash the taste of watery train coffee from her mouth, and watched the sun go down. The radio was playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and she felt a fresh wave of exhaustion.

“We are here, Miss Wylt,” Caruthers announced jolting Rosa awake. A sense of dread settled on Rosa’s shoulders as the electric iron gates opened in front of them and they wound their way through a neatly manicured park lit by elegant lampposts.

Gwaed Lyn’s lights were glowing as it rose up in a stone fortress in front of them. The story was that a Vane ancestor had built it after their return from fighting in the Crusades. It was a monstrous, sprawling mansion of gray stone with four square towers. It had been renovated during the centuries in various stylistic whims of the Vane descendants, and now it looked like a neo-gothic castle, with a flare of art nouveau when it came to the more recent addition of the greenhouse. It was exactly how she remembered it, as if time had stopped completely.

Rosa could make out the hedges that hid the Wylt cottage, and further down the white road were the large stable yards. Caruthers drove around the back of the mansion, stopping at the kitchen service entrance and she climbed out into the cold twilight.

The forest had grown taller in her years away, and for a moment, Rosa’s nightmares came rushing back. Her mother called out as she waved excitedly from the top of the steps. She had aged, and Rosa felt another wave of guilt for not visiting sooner.

“Rosamund!” Cecily said warmly and wrapped her arms around her tightly, still smelling of lavender soap and Chanel perfume. “You look absolutely bone tired, but don’t worry, because I have food inside ready for you.”

“Hey Mama,” Rosa managed. She turned to thank Caruthers, but he was already back in the car, her bag beside her on the steps. “What a strange guy.” She shook her head.

“A man of few words is our Caruthers,” her mother chuckled. “Come on then, and I’ll show you around.”

Rosa turned to pick up her bags as a huge black horse broke through the trees, white gravel scattering as it hit the driveway. Its rider sat tall and broad in the saddle, moving easily with the galloping beast.

“Oh, don’t let him frighten you. That’s Mr. Balthasar coming back from his afternoon ride,” Cecily said, ducking her head politely as the rider slowed his horse to a walk. Rosa tried to remember a Vane called Balthasar, but her memory was stubbornly blank.

As he moved passed them, he touched the brim of his hat in an old-fashioned acknowledgment, and with a flash of a smile, he disappeared towards the stables leaving Rosa staring after him.


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Beware The Slenderman: how users created the Boogieman of the internet

Original article on The Conversation by Adam Daniel – Ph.d Candidate, Western Sydney University

For as long as humans have been interacting with new media technologies, they have also created monsters to haunt them. When photography became mainstream in the late 19th century, for example, it wasn’t long before entertainers and spiritualists were using the technology to “capture spirits” through the process of double exposure.

Similarly, the radio, the telegraph, the cinema and video have all become, at various points, “haunted” as their presence in modern life became more ubiquitous.

It is therefore unsurprising that the internet gave birth to its own boogieman: a supernatural creature called the Slenderman. The preternaturally tall and faceless man in a black suit is the subject of the HBO documentary Beware The Slenderman, released today.

The documentary will examine the mythology of the Slenderman and the horrific 2014 “Slenderman stabbing”, involving two US 12 year-olds who attempted to murder their friend in order to prove their loyalty to him.

Victor Surge’s original Slenderman image #1. Victor Surge/Deviant Art

The Slenderman came to life in June of 2009 in a post on the website Something Awful called Create Paranormal Images.

Credited to Victor Surge, an alias for artist Eric Knudsen, the Slenderman began simply as two photoshopped pictures. In each they revealed an unusually tall, faceless man with tentacles growing from his back, watching over a group of children.

These two simple photos instigated a communal act of creating the Slenderman’s mythology, an early example of what has come to be known as creepypasta: short form horror stories, often in the form of fake eyewitness accounts, that were easily shared via the internet.

These creepypastas became “digital campfires”, a virtual location that in some manner replicates the old act of telling scary stories around a campfire.

Victor Surge’s original Slenderman image #2. Victor Surge/Deviant Art

It could be argued that in a sense the Slenderman is a tulpa: a Buddhist term used to describe a being brought into creation through collective thought. Victor Surge described Slenderman’s proliferation as an “accelerated urban legend”. It differs from earlier urban legends in that, despite the audience’s awareness of its origins, it still managed to spread.

Key to the dispersal of the Slenderman legend is the manner in which he transcended the medium that created him. He quickly moved from photoshopped pictures, to web stories, and then into the various other forms of media, from the webseries Marble Hornets and TribeTwelve, to video games such as Slender: The Arrival and even into the cinema (in a poorly received low budget horror film).

Slender: The Arrival video game. from http://www.theslenderman.wikia.com

In an age of scepticism and increasing access to information, how do we account for this growth of a mythological monster? Horror scholar Isabel Pinedo poses one possible explanation, in that horror narratives can be an “exercise in recreational terror… not unlike a roller coaster ride.” In the case of the Slenderman, the communal participation in his creation is a way to bring about the pleasurable aspects of scaring ourselves, with the safety of knowing he is just a fictional construct.

However, even the participants of the original forum identified the risks in doing so. A user named Soakie was one of the first to identify the Slenderman as a potential tulpa, writing:

Even if we don’t really believe in supernatural, even if our rational minds laugh at such an absurdity … we are cutting [the Slender Man] out and sewing him together. We’re stuffing him with nightmares and unspoken fears. And what happens when the pictures are no longer photoshops?

One terrifying answer to this question emerged in May of 2014 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, when two 12 year-old girls allegedly enticed a third 12 year-old girl to follow them into the woods (a location which figures prominently in the Slenderman mythology). After doing so, they allegedly stabbed her 19 times in an attempt to prove their worth as Slenderman proxies.

The victim survived, having crawled to a nearby roadside where she was discovered by a passing cyclist. She has since recovered. It is this act, and the origins of the delusions of the two perpetrators, that is the subject of the HBO documentary.

Screenshot from Marble Hornets. DeLage/Wagner

What is clear from this event, and the Slenderman’s still evolving presence as an internet boogieman, is that unlike the urban legends of the pre-internet world, these new monsters may become untethered to their fictional origins. Despite a general awareness of his artificial creation, the Slenderman has, like Frankenstein’s monster, been stitched together by communal storytelling and escaped the bounds of his creator’s intentions to simply scare the members of the original forum.

Part of the Slenderman mythology is the Slender Sickness, a fictional illness that affects those who have been in the presence of the monster. Its symptoms include coughing fits, memory loss and, ironically, irrational acts of violence.

While it is highly likely that mental illness contributed to the actions of the perpetrators of the Slenderman stabbing, it’s also worth examining the effects of the new monsters of the internet and how effortlessly they can escape the bounds of “recreational terror”.

WYLT Preview – An Origin Faerie Tale


For the first Wylt preview I thought I would share a faerie tale, found in an ancient book in the library of the Gwaed Lyn estate….

During the beginning of the world, the Great Creator God of the Aos Si fashioned night with a moon and stars to brighten the dark sky, forming the Guardians of the Night and naming them the Unseelie. All things must balance, so Day was created, and the sun was born with a brightness and a warmth to illuminate and nourish all of the Aos Si, and the Guardians of the Light were called Seelie. In Day, the Creator also crafted shade, dark places that could hold the balance.

It was foretold the world would move in four great seasons and that the rule of these seasons would fall to the Guardians accordingly. Summer would be ruled by the warm light of the Seelie, and the dark, cold winter would be ruled by the Unseelie. During the time of the autumn, the Seelie would slowly relinquish its power to the rule of the Unseelie, just as with the coming of the spring the Unseelie would relinquish its power back to the Seelie. This was the Great Accord, and during the First Cycle of Summer the Seelie thrived becoming stronger, more beautiful and their magic powerful. But with power also came corruption, and as the summer began to wane the Seelie Court started to despair at the weakening of their magic. It was not long before their voices were shouting their distrust and discontentment at having to relinquish their rule to their Unseelie brethren.

Autumn began to move through the lands, the green that the Seelie cherished so dearly began to turn to gold, red and brown. Furious that the Unseelie were taking their power a great war ensued breaking the land and soaking it in the blood of both sides of the Fae.

In the final days of the Last Battle, with both sides nearing extinction, the Seelie Queen created a spell that would have the power to hold the remaining power in her court forever. She convinced her King to hold a court with the Unseelie with the promise of a peaceful discussion to try and come to a new accord. Then, as the two kings sat down together, the Queen of the Seelie took her husband’s sword and slew them.

The Queen knew that all things must be balanced and mixing the power of the two kings, she cast her curse over all of the Aos Si. The seasons within the lands would move no longer, sealing it into an eternal autumn, making it so she would never have to relinquish her power to Unseelie kind.

The Unseelie King was survived by three sons; Bleddyn the eldest and the heir to the title of Seren Du, the Black Star, Trahaearn and Gwaen. Taken by the Seelie, they were made hostage slaves to the Autumn Queen. Unlike the other Unseelie kindred, the princes were fair to look upon, and as they grew their pale white skin, soft black hair and bright eyes became admired by the court and the Autumn Queen.

To all, the three seemed compliant and content in their situation. They never flinched at the sneers and insults dealt to them by their enemies or fought back when they were abused by the Queens consort, Ryn Eurion.

Deep in their hearts, the princes were dreaming of escape and none more so than the eldest, Bleddyn Seren Du. In their chambers at night, he would tell his young brothers stories of their kingdom and of the great land through the portals, a land where there was no war against them, where the Autumn Queen had no power or influence. Bleddyn practiced his father’s magic in secret, teaching his younger brothers the secret powers of their kind, how best to fight the Seelie, and all the while, he planned their escape.

Knowing that the only way to protect his brothers was to be above suspicion, Bleddyn set about earning the favor of the Autumn Queen. There had long been whispers around the court that the Queen’s appetites had become insatiable and distorted in her proclivities since the death of the King, many fearing to become the object of her desire. Bleddyn began to pay the Queen attention until at a ball, Ryn had men hold him down, and they beat him. Through the heavy blows, Bleddyn continued to watch the Queen, his eyes burning with an unspoken promise.

“Why do you not look away though you are beaten for it, insolent slave?” she asked on the fourth day.

“My glorious, Queen, how could my eyes look at anything else?” he replied. That night, instead of being dragged back to a cell, Bleddyn was taken to the Queen’s chambers. Dismissing her attendants, the Autumn Queen took the Unseelie prince into her milk baths and gently tended to his wounds. He watched her silently with the same intensity that he wore during his beatings.

“You do not fear me,” she said, “You do not fear pain or retribution.”

“No, my lady,” he answered as she ladled the healing milk over his battered body. Her white fingers dug into the bruises on his arms. His breath sucked in sharply but he did flinch or pull away from her. Her red lips curled.

“Do you find the pain exciting, Unseelie?” she asked lifting herself up so that he could see the beads of milk dripping down the sloping curves of her breasts. Bleddyn grabbed the Queen by her long white neck, pinning her to the stone wall of the bath.

“Do you?” he demanded.

The Autumn Queen’s eyes flashed in anger, and she struck him, her nails opening his pale skin. He did not move as the crimson drops of blood fell to mar the white milk. Bleddyn watched her, his body towering over hers and the anger in her eyes melted under the heat of her own desire. She kissed him, biting his lips in her eagerness. Bleddyn allowed it only a few moments until he held her back firmly.


The Queen was shocked, her fury growing inside of her. “I am your queen. I own the very breath in your body.”

“But you do not own my heart or soul,” Bleddyn whispered in her ear. “And if you take me unwillingly you will never know the secret to the greatest pleasure that only the Unseelie can give you. It is dark magic, and it has never been given to a Seelie before. It is not something you can take like you took our lands. It must be given.”

Bleddyn walked from the pool, leaving the Queen wondering what the secret magic could be, for the only thing she really loved was power.

From that night the Autumn Queen forbid any of the Court from touching the Unseelie princes. They no longer had to wear the chains and slave collars around their necks and hands in the ballrooms. Bleddyn acted no differently from this special allowance only to bow to her in silent thanks on behalf of his brothers.

This act sparked malcontent in many subjects for the Unseelie princes were beautiful, unusual creatures that they had enjoyed using for whatever pleasure they saw fit. All were afraid of the older prince, but the Queen’s edict had robbed them of their treasured entertainment.

As he knew she would, the Queen summoned Bleddyn two nights later. She was wearing a fine gossamer shift that accentuated, rather than hid the nakedness underneath it. Her attendants were dismissed, leaving her alone with him once more.

“Come sit beside me,” she commanded.

“I would rather stand, my queen,” answered Bleddyn politely.

The Queen’s eyes flared. “You would deny me this one small thing after the great favor I have shown you?”

“I am grateful, my queen, but the chambers that Lord Ryn has locked us in are very cramped. We enjoy being able to stand properly when we can.”

The Queen’s red brow furrowed as she got to her feet and walked slowly about him. She snapped her fingers and his threadbare shirt melted away. Bleddyn did not move as she scraped her long nails down his back.

“Why do you resist me so much, dark one? Why do you hold yourself back from the pleasure I offer you?”

“I mean no disrespect but it is my awe of you that I must control myself. The Unseelie lovemaking is far more passionate than the Seelie and I would not wish to harm the queen for fear her wrath would turn to my brothers. It is a far better thing to resist what you offer.”

“I will not harm your brothers if you lay with me,” she said as she put her hand in his long, black hair, pulling it hard as she kissed him. His hands gripped her hips roughly, lifting her up. He carried her over to her bed of red silks, pushing her down onto it. Gripping the front of her shift, he tore it in half. He bit her breast hard enough for her to cry out in sudden pain. Bleddyn let her go and got back to his feet. A bruise was already blossoming like a purple autumn flower on her pale skin.

“I am sorry, my queen, but I cannot come to you as I am. You are the greatest queen in the entire world. I will not touch you with my soiled hands and body. It would be insulting to you.”

“You insult me by denying me,” the Queen said, touching the bruise, “but this last request I will grant you.”

The Unseelie princes were moved that very night to one of the finest chambers in her court. There they had servants bring them hot water for baths and new clothes of the finest silks and velvets. An elaborate meal was brought to them, and the princes ate well before hiding their knives in the folds of their clothes, listening as Bleddyn laid out his plans to them.

The next night, they went to the ball, the younger princes given free rights to roam where they pleased. Bleddyn danced with the Autumn Queen and made her laugh with his observances of the dour-faced courtiers. When she retired, she took Bleddyn’s hand openly in front of her advisors and led him to her chambers.

“I have given what you asked for, Unseelie, now give yourself to me as promised,” the Autumn Queen demanded.

Bleddyn took the knife he had stolen from the banquet dinner and held it against her chest. The Queen gasped as he ran the flat side of the cool blade down her skin.

“You mean to kill me, Unseelie?” the Queen asked, laughter bubbling out of her.

With a steady hand, he slid the blade down the front of her jeweled bodice and cut the ties one by one until her body spilled free from it. She tried to move, but he held the blade to her throat, stilling her as he kissed her breast through her thin undergarment. Two quick flicks of his hand and the shoulders of her gown tore away. A thin line of blood welled up where the blade had caught her, and he quickly put his mouth over it, drinking a drop of her blood before it healed. The Queen kissed him, viciously.

“Tell me what the Unseelie magic is,” she demanded breathlessly.

“Can you not feel the spell beginning to move through you?” Bleddyn asked as he ran the blade between her breasts, shredding the fabric and leaving a line of welling blood. Her back arched as he licked it, her eyes clouding, unseeing of the small cuts he was making in her. He cut the skirt of her dress to shreds, the Queen trembling with fear and excitement to be in the hands of her armed enemy. Wherever she felt the cold touch of the blade was followed by the sensation of his tongue until she was dizzy with need.

Bleddyn felt strength returning to his limbs, the magic in the blood filling him. With every cut, he grew stronger, and the Queen, caught up in her own desire, grew weaker.

Every moment he spent with her, his brothers were making their way to their agreed meeting place. Taking strips of her ruined dress, he tied her arms above her head, her legs to the posts of her bed.

“You mean to make a prisoner of me, Unseelie? I could burn these bonds with a thought,” she mocked.

“I would never want to imprison you, my Queen. My power is no match for yours,” he said as he ran his long body along hers, making her shudder with anticipation. He gripped her hair in his hands, lifting her pale white neck up toward him.

“Do you want to know want to know the secret magic of the Unseelie, my Queen?” he whispered against her skin.

“Yes…yes, my prince, tell me,” she whispered, her eyes gleaming.

“Then you shall have it,” Bleddyn watched her face change in fear as his teeth lengthened. Before she could cry out, he bit hard into her exposed throat, sucking the scream from it.

In her blood, he saw all the wards, the guards and the ways to escape their underground prison. He saw the spells she had cast, felt her magic in every drop. He saw memories and drew the one of the night of his father’s death to him. He saw how Ryn Eurion had killed his mother and delivered the heart to the queen. He watched as she ate it, stealing all of his mother’s magic into her.

He bit harder, his urge to kill more potent than anything he felt before but he saw the magical ties she had within the palace itself. If she died, it would turn against them and he and his brothers would never escape.

He drained her until all of the youth shriveled out of her and her true age was revealed. Red hair turned to white, her plump lips and body shriveling underneath him. A single drop of blood he left in her before he let the body go.

Upon the wall hung the sword of this dead father and Bleddyn held out his hands, whispered a word and Widow’s Fury flew from its bonds and into his hand. He heard it call out to him for Seelie blood but he silenced it and placed a glamour spell upon it so none of his enemies could see it. He did not spare the Queen a glance as he left her chambers.

“The Queen asked not to be disturbed for the rest of the evening,” he instructed her guards and they shared a knowing smile.

Under the gaze of the Seelie courtiers and warriors, Bleddyn walked through the halls of the court and he and his brothers escaped through the supply tunnels. Using the Queen’s magic, he passed through the wards until they ran out into the crystal night. So overwhelmed they were to see the sky and stars again that they stood in awe.

“Come, my brothers, our new world awaits,” Bleddyn said and they ran through forests to a doorway between the worlds. Not knowing where they were going or what lay before them the three brothers took each other’s hands and walked through the spaces of the world until they found the land of the creatures called Man.

They were free from the rule of the Autumn Queen but she did not die as Bleddyn had hoped. She recovered her strength and sent warriors in between the worlds to hunt and kill the Unseelie that evaded her and the prince that tricked her.

She hunts them to this day in her relentless pursuit to try to reclaim what was stolen from her: her pride, her dignity and her heart.

Liked this preview? Pre-order Wylt here 

Cry of the Firebird Second Edition Giveaway

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In the last few weeks I’ve been in full editing mode. It seems to be around Christmas that  I tie up projects and turn ‘Editor Feral.’ I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have the time to write new material or if it’s because I need a month or so to start the year again, but it seems to have turned into a pattern.

This year the main book on the chopping block was the US Second Edition of Cry of the Firebird. I wanted to piss and moan about going back to it but I discovered something magical…Second Editions are for the writer to adjust those small niggly things that didn’t sit quite right the first time round, those random annoying things that probably only a writer would see, and finally end up being satisfied. I really enjoyed it which was a new experience for Editing Amy.

I am stoked how the new edition all turned out so I’ve popped it up on Instafreebie on giveaway. Get it HERE if you feel like giving it a go!


A firebird hatches in the far corners of Russia, where gods still walk and magic slumbers, sparking a supernatural war that will tear the worlds apart.

Inspired by Finnish and Russian Mythology, ‘Cry of the Firebird’ is a noir paranormal series that brings to life the bloody fairy tales of the North in a new modern setting.

Born on the crossroads between worlds, Anya’s magic is buried deeply until one fateful night it causes a firebird to hatch on her farm. Through a twist of dark magic it is sharing its body with Yvan, an ancient prince from legend.

With Yvan’s dark magician brother Vasilli and other powerful enemies closing in around them, Anya has no choice but to sober up and follow Yvan into Skazki, the land of monsters and magic.

Kirkus Reviews says ‘…the story incorporates a fair share of surprises, and never fails to provide new scenes featuring bloodshed and strange new creatures…’



Digital Abundance in Publishing isn’t killing Culture – It’s saving it

Note: This is an essay I wrote recently for my degree and even though it has a strong Australian Publishing focus I still thought I’d share.

‘Publishing finds itself in the midst of a “phase shift” from the scarcity model of print to a complex, new world of digital abundance,’ (Lichtenberg 2011) and it is this shift that not only has seen the birth of the eBook, but forced traditional publishing houses to readjust their business models and created an insurgence of self-published writers into the market.

This wealth of books is predominately due to the changes in book production technology itself ‘which has enabled digital publishing, distribution and retailing, and the introduction of hand- held digital reading platforms and devices’ (Zwar 2016) forcing a change in marketing, promotion and book store trade, but also creating new and innovative opportunities for Australian writers and stories.

Literary writer and critic Jonathan Franzen famously claimed in an interview with The Guardian that self-publishing ‘is decimating literary culture in favour of the “yakkers and tweeters and braggers”(Bury, 2013) but the impact of self-publishing and its ‘economic and cultural significance…means that it should, finally, be taken seriously by scholars’ (Baker 2015) and not simply dismissed as a mere ‘vanity.’

Dramatic change within the publishing industry is not new and despite the pessimism in the 2000s about the future of books, ‘global sales of books (including print and eBooks) remain strong’ (Throsby 2015).

The first eBook was made available in July 1971, and known as ‘eText #1 of Project Gutenberg, a visionary project launched by Michael Hart’ (Lebert 2009) in order to create electronic versions of literary works and make them available worldwide. With the internet born in 1974 and the release of the first browser Mosaic in 1993, the internet could now be used by anyone and authors, booksellers and publishers began ‘participating in heated debates on copyright issues and distribution control’(Lebert 2009). Although Project Gutenberg began the digital book process in the seventies, when thriller writer Peter James published his novel Host onto two floppy discs in 1993 he was ‘accused of killing the novel’ (Flood 2014) and ‘attacked as the harbinger of the apocalypse which would destroy literature’ (Flood 2014).

Despite the uproar, publishing had already started to became more mainstream in the mid-1990s with publishing disrupted first with photocopiers and digital printing accelerating book distribution, as well as print and digitised books beginning to be produced simultaneously. Books were suddenly easier to manufacture and distribute and ‘Australian publishers and printers were strongly encouraged to rethink their business’ (Carter and Galligan 2007) in order to take advantage and benefit from the new technologies.

In 1995 Amazon.com became the first online bookstore when it was launched by Jeff Bezos, creating a warehouse to consumer platform that changed how people buy books. Two years later leading bookseller Barnes and Noble created a new website to compete, publishing books through its own imprint for exclusive sale to boost trade, and other major book retailers soon followed. Digital reading devices were available as early as 1996 with Palm Pilots and smart phone reading apps as of 2001 with the Nokia 9210. When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007 it famously sold out worldwide in five and a half hours and the eBook became a new and ultra competitive publishing branch. This wrestle for eBook market domination came under legal fire when in 2014 Apple was charged with colluding with the Top 5 publishing houses to artificially raise the price of eBooks and was forced to repay 450 million dollars to their consumers.

Smaller online book sellers as well as ‘bricks and mortar’ stores suffered from the pricing wars of the larger booksellers with the ‘commercial and cultural effects felt worldwide’ (Carter and Galligan 2007). This internet trade market also created an issue with custom taxes and in 1997 the internet was ‘decided a free trade area…without any custom taxes for software, films and digital books bought online’ (Lebert 2009). International copy write and importation laws are still currently debated within Australia. The recent bid by the Productivity Commission to consent to parallel importation and reducing the copy write law to only fifteen years sent authors and publishers into an uproar.

Writers themselves embraced the internet and the ease with which they could publish and distribute their works through their own blogs and websites. In 2007 Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing concurrently with the Kindle device so that all publishers and writers could produce and sell to readers through their site. Worldwide platforms now include Ingram Spark, Smashwords and Lulu with accompanying Print on Demand imprints that allow readers to buy paperbacks of independent works.

‘Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists,’ claims literature writer Ros Barber (Guardian 2016) who is one of many who shares the misguided view that self-publishing is ‘seen as amateur, even as illegitimate’ (Baker 2015) when in fact self-publishing has a long history of our most beloved literature writers such as Charles Dickens, Walt Whiteman, Jane Austin and Marcel Proust forced to release their works on their own. Another criticism is that self published works aren’t edited to the same standard but traditional publishing does not necessarily guarantee quality, as there is ‘pressure to publish more books more quickly than ever’ (Opinionator, 2016) which results in errors like the famous continuity issues in the hugely successful The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris (Harris, 2016).

A recent study undertaken by Macquarie University revealed that ‘one in five (19%) authors have self-published a print book or an eBook or both’ (Throsby 2015) in Australia in 2014 with genre fiction writers the most active in this field. Self-publishing has in many ways facilitated a way for writers to produce work freely without the restrictions of industry gatekeepers, and at least 59.4% of writers citing the reason behind their choice to self-publish was ‘to have creative and financial control of their work’ (Throsby 2015). With ‘65% of self-published writers being women’ (Baverstock 2013) it also has given an opportunity for glass ceilings to be broken and allowed new works to reach broader markets.

With so many additional writers being able to release their works, the market has grown abundantly with self-publishing representing ‘31 % of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store’ (Sargent 2014). This growth has allowed independent works to compete with traditional publishers but also has made discoverability more difficult. Self-published writers need to be marketers and self promoters as much as writers in order to reach their readers. Traditional publishing houses now expect their writers to engage in their own advertising as marketing budgets have shrunk and major publishers only focus the bulk of their promotion on their front list writers.

Writers must be proficient in ‘marketing, publicity, technology, and legal matters’ (Griffith University 2014) in addition to creating their original work. Self-published writers have embraced this as a part of publishing, while some traditionally published writers struggle with the idea of self-promotion as there is an expectation that the publishing house will market their work for them.

Despite criticism about ‘legitimacy’ self-publishing is growing with literature writers like Louise Walters experiencing the benefits when her publisher dropped her after her first book, and garnering the endorsement of the hugely successful, graphic novel trailblazer Alan Moore who recently stated that “most book publishers don’t want to take a risk on fiction” with his advice to instead “publish yourself. It’s become easier and easier”(The Digital Reader, 2016).

With new services such as Reedsey to assist in connecting writers to industry specialists such as designers and editors, self- publishing is moving through a new phase of professionalism with writers considering it a viable first option and not just as a ‘vain’ one after too many rejections from traditional houses.

Even lacking the obvious benefit of bigger marketing budgets and chain store distribution options like Big W and Dymocks, high quality self-published books have become a practical, legitimate part of the publishing industry that competes easily with traditional houses.

Australia is one of the world’s largest markets for books with an annual estimated turnover of $2.1 billion per year. The internet, TV and social media haven’t made books redundant but publishers are now aware that they have to find new ways to compete with these options in reader’s spare time.

Michelle Laforest from Harlequin Australia sees eBooks ‘as a format that gives publishers the opportunities to reach new markets in cost effective ways, and social media us giving tools to engage readers,’(Zwar 2016) and this attitude is reflected in the launch of Harlequin’s digital only imprint Escape Publishing in 2012.

In 2014 an overview by Nielsen BookScan reported an increase in Australia’s total book sales of 2.3% in volume and 2 % in value, mainly due to increased sales of children’s books. With Australia being one of the larger English speaking markets, authors are often networked in countries like the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand, giving them a larger international reach and income.

Presently, ‘approximately 33-36 percent of trade books sold in Australia are written by Australian authors according to industry estimates,’(Zwar 2016) but digital publishing is providing new opportunities for author’s to earn extra money through the publishing of their backlists and more daring projects.

In the academic fields, a digital marketplace provides opportunities for scholars to more easily share the wider findings of their research and engage new students. Traditional houses such as Momentum are taking on newer genres and more experimental works as well as Harlequin using their Escape imprint to take chances on a larger range of romance titles.

Opportunities in print are vastly smaller than its digital counterpart with traditional houses such as Allen and Unwin only selecting three different titles a year to do major promotional support, often beginning their campaigns a year in advance. Publishers often have difficulty convincing booksellers to buy in bulk, limiting the chances of sales on both sides if it is successful, with the majority of titles sold through large department stores such as Big W, who stock a wide range of genres for book buyers at discounted prices.

It is because of numerous logistics in traditional publishing such as higher costs in distribution, limited budgets and the change to the retail bookstore environment that make paperback publishing constrained and not as environmentally friendly, logistically sound or as profitable as digital.

The digital marketplace continues to provide opportunities for ‘scholarly publishers to participate in open access publishing – giving away content for free – while selling print format books’ (Zwar 2016) and for traditional fiction publishers releasing in an eBook means suffering less financial risk due to the minimised cost of producing digital works.

Digital publishing has no limitations when it comes to innovation with new technology constantly facilitating fresh ways of telling stories. Interactive books are now able to read and engage with children, unique apps are being perfected to help those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, as well eBooks being ‘sound tracked,’ through companies like Book Track or collaborated with bands such as Hugh Howie recently announcing his deal with Imagine Dragons to compose his Silo Series.

Despite the upheaval and general disarray in the industry claimed by traditional Australian publishing houses in the past five years, ‘40% of authors respond that there is no change, 15% are better off and 15% are worse off ’ (Zwar 2016). Taking into account ‘the average income derived from practising as an author is $12,900’ (Zwar 2016) and publishing houses offering smaller advances, there are few authors in Australia that can afford to write full time on the traditional structure. Digital publishing has facilitated new prospects for these writers to be published through digital imprints, such as Escape and Momentum, or to publish it themselves to find their audiences. Despite the remaining stigma ‘over one quarter of authors have self-published work,’ (Zwar 2016) in order to keep their older titles available and supplement their writing income.

The Australian Book Industry is served by a framework of publishers, agents, writer’s centres, writer support networks and various university degrees in creative and professional writing. With the Federal Government’s recent slashes to arts budgets ‘our culture is in crisis. It is a crisis cutting deep and hard across our whole nation, forcing us to confront some of the most basic questions we as a people could ask” (Sewell, 2016).  Digital and self –publishing, while creating abundance and upheaval, should no longer be viewed as an undesirable result of technology but an opportunity for modernisation in the Australian Market and as a way to preserve Australia’s culture of talented writers and strong, diverse voices.



Bury, L. (2013). Amazon model favours yakkers and braggers, says Jonathan Franzen. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/13/amazon-yakkers-braggers-jonathan-franzen [Accessed 23 Oct. 2016].

Lichtenberg, J. (2011). In from the Edge: The Progressive Evolution of Publishing in the Age of Digital Abundance. Publishing Research Quarterly, 27(2), pp.101-112.

Zwar, J. (2016) Disruption and innovation in the Australian book industry: Case studies of trade and education publishers. Macquarie Economics Research Papers. pp.1.  

Baker. D. (2015). Self-publishing matters – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/self-publishing-matters-dont-let-anyone-tell-you-otherwise-37986

Throsby,D (2015). Book authors and their changing circumstances: Survey method and results. Macquarie Economics Research Papers. pp.1.  

Lebert, M., 2009. A short history of ebooks. University of Toronto, 2009 p.p.6

Flood, A. (2014). Where did the story of ebooks begin?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/12/ebooks-begin-medium-reading-peter-james

Lebert, M., 2009. A short history of ebooks. University of Toronto, 2009 p.23

Carter, D. and Galligan, A. (2007). Making books. St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press.p152

Austlii.edu.au. (2016). COPYRIGHT ACT 1968. [online] Available at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca1968133/

Zwar, J. (2016) Disruption and innovation in the Australian book industry: Case studies of trade and education publishers. Macquarie Economics Research Papers. pp.296.  

The Guardian. (2016). For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/mar/21/for-me-traditional-publishing-means-poverty-but-self-publish-no-way [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Opinionator. (2016). The Price of Typos. [online] Available at: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/the-price-of-typos/?_r=0 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Charlaine Harris. (2016). Charlaine Harris Frequently Asked Questions. [online] Available at: http://charlaineharris.com/?page_id=69 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Baverstock, A. and Steinitz, J. (2013), Who are the self-publishers?. Learned Publishing, 26: 211–223.

Sargent B. (2014). Surprising Self-Publishing Statistics. [online] Available at: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/63455-surprising-self-publishing-statistics.html/

Study Guide CWR320 Publishing in the Market Place 2014, School of Humanities, Griffith University, Brisbane pg 45

The Digital Reader. (2016). Alan Moore’s Advice to Authors: Self-Publish, Because “Publishing’s a Complete Mess” | The Digital Reader. [online]

Sewell, S. (2016). Friday essay: the arts and our still-born national identity. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/friday-essay-the-arts-and-our-still-born-national-identity-68434 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2016].