Bad writing day and advice- via Chuck Wendig

There are days when being a writer makes you feel like you are a Creator God, Designer of Worlds, Breaker and Maker of Destinies. But some characters, like man, are prone to do, they turn around and say, “Fuck you Creator God, I’m gonna do what I want!” and they destroy that perfectly structured PLAN that you lovingly designed for them. I guess what I am trying to say is.. “Fuck you, Merlin! Do as you’re told!….please?”

Note: My Merlin is nothing like the above Merlin character. My Merlin is a temperamental lovable psycho like Alucard from Hellsing crossed with a magical reprobate. It’s just therapeutic for me to watch ANY Merlin get slapped today.

Whenever I am having a bad writing day, I go back and read THIS by Chuck Wendig… but this paragraph in particular is resonating hard with me today:

“Consider: the act of telling a story is you CONJURING AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR MIND and then using words as knives to CARVE THAT UNIVERSE INTO REALITY SO THAT OTHERS CAN VISIT YOUR IMAGINATION. “Today I am going to make a world out of my brain that you can go to in your spare time,” you say aloud, hopefully realizing that this is far more significant and far more bizarre than tying your shoes or blowing your nose. Creating whole worlds is pyroclastic. It is volcanic. It’s heat and fire, it’s molten rock, it’s lightning inside black smoke amid the nose and clamor of thundering earth and boiling air. It is an astonishing, generative act.

And it’s sometimes hard.

Sometimes what we do is stage magic. Sometimes the magic is sacrificial.

Stage magic requires hours of practice where you get it wrong.

Sacrificial magic requires blood on the altar.

In both cases, the magic — be it trick or spell — is hard as hell.

As it should be. As it must be.” 

I love writing, and if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be fun OR worth it.

Okay, bitching over. I’m off to be a vengeful God. xo

 

March Update

I’m running a bit late this month with the update but I am here! Finally!

Last month was HUGE both professionally and personally. I spent time as no #1 in respective Amazon categories for both Wylt and Cry of the Firebird which has brought many more readers into the Firebird Fairy tales world – Welcome! As always, I’m crazy grateful for everyone who buys, reads and reviews my books. I wouldn’t be doing this without you!

Okay, to the stuff:

  • Work on KINGDOM is progressing at a fast pace. Now that I’m on a uni break and have locked away other projects and distractions (social media has been cut WAY back), I’m really hitting the word count hard. I’m about to hit the half way mark which is exciting and nerve wracking as I tie up a bunch of story arcs. It’s been fun refreshing myself in Celtic myths and experimenting with different gods and characters. I’ve always found writing the Blood Lake Chronicles to be so therapeutic to my writer brain and this one is shaping up to be no different.
  • While I cant say anything too much, my SUPER SECRET UNNAMED PROJECT that I spent most of last year working on is almost ready to announce. SO much exciting stuff happening that I cant wait to tell you all about. I can say that it is based in a different ‘world’ to the Firebird / Blood Lake books which is exciting and nerve wracking but omg guys, I am so in love with it and I hope you will be too. At this stage its got three books planned (yeah I seem to move in threes, I know) and once KINGDOM is wrapped up I can really throw myself into it. Eek.

What I’ve been reading:

  • L.H. Cosway!! Guys. Why didn’t you tell me the HEART series existed?? I mean illusionists and fire eaters? Hot romance? Engaging plots? GUYS WITH TATS. I read the first one Six of Hearts in a single sitting and consumed book two Hearts of Fire straight afterward. They were AMAZING and highly recommend if you are after a romance.

Check them out HERE.

I had to ‘rest’ the series because I seriously wasn’t getting anything done. Definitely an author I’ll binge read as soon as KINGDOM is sorted.

 

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – Okay. I will be the first to admit I’m not on a YA fantasy bender at the moment (I tend to go through stages) but I’ve waited ages to get my hands on this one. Holly writes incredible dark fairy worlds and this reverse changelings of humans raised in Faerie is no exception. There were things I really loved about it (the Court, general world building) and things that I felt a bit meh over, namely the many bullying scenes and highschool vibe in some sections. I fully understand its target market is YA but as someone who hated school and was bullied a lot it got old for me quick. The main story arc and character development is really great and you can tell that the series is gearing up for something BIG which will ultimately keep me reading. Definitely in the ‘introduction to a bigger story arc’ book category for me because I was only really getting into it before it was over.

Next on the reading list is Elizabeth Hunter’s new one INK, which might have to wait til next weekend because she is a writer I DON’T STOP READING once I start. A book store and tattoos in one book? Yeah I’m so not going to put it down. Also, this is clearly a sign I need another tattoo…Right? In all seriousness, give her a shot if you are after solid storylines with awesome world building. Her Irin Chronicles? Seriously don’t even get me started on how much I love them.

Check her out HERE

Okay so that’s all for me for the moment, go watch Black Panther if you haven’t already, it was fantastic. Also, expect me talking about Tomb Raider next update because I CAN’T WAIT for the new film to be released….Amy x

February Update

Hi Everyone,

Where did January go??? Got a not so crazy feeling that this year is going to be full on!

Things are going down in the weird writing world of Amy. So far this year I have:

*Completed another re-write of Jael/Mychal book. I have a draft that I’ve proof read and while it still needs more work I feel like its FINALLY heading in the right direction. Exorcists are bitches to write. It’s really one of the stories I’ve had serious doubts over but it has refused to let me go and that is generally a sign I should keep working on it. Once I finish the next round of changes it will go to the wise beta readers for plot/sensitivity/wtfAmy comments.  I have a pretty exciting ending that leaves it way open for more stories.

*I’ve submitted a final assignment for uni which means that I’m now on a break for a whole semester (at least) and can have some breathing room to get more writing done.

*Today I’ve cracked out 1500 new words of Chapter Seven of KINGDOM,  Book Three of the Blood Lake Chronicles. If you follow my social media you would have seen me lamenting yesterday about how my characters have already messed my structure up. This is pretty typical of this group to be honest. They like to surprise me and make work around them. In saying that its been FUN so far. It always takes me the first 20k words of a book to really find my groove but it is coming together. Hopefully I will get it finished during my uni break time. That’s the plan anyway. There is lots of magic and ravens and wolves and cities inside trees and magical swords…all the good stuff.

 

*I have a New Release Mailing List! Hurray! Draft2Digital has been amazing so far and they also have a nifty feature of creating a sign up list for readers. If you want an email notification of when I release a new book please sign up here. At the most I release two books a year, so don’t worry, you aren’t going to spammed.

I’ve recently become obsessed with ( and HIGHLY recommend) the following:

*Ancient Magus Bride – This anime has knocked my socks off. Celtic myth, cool mages, DRAGONS, NORDIC MAGIC…I am so in love.  Its like a Studio Ghibli created a whole series. Funimation has the English dub, Crunchyroll has subtitles so pick your poison and give it a shot.

*Uprooted – Naomi Novik. I know I’m the last person reading this. Its been on my TBR since it was released but I finally got a hold of the Audible version in January. It was on a Friday. Saturday I bought the book. Sunday I finished it. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Russian Fairytale vibe, beautiful perfect story. If you havent read it, give it a shot. It came along right when my creative well was bone dry and filled me up with magic and wonder and Dragons and forest magic.

 

That’s pretty much all from me. A reminder that WYLT is Free for Valentines Day so if you want a bit of hot gothic fae romance in your life pick yourself up a copy here.

Blaise is on Pre-Order a.k.a Let me put my words in you

Hey Everyone!

December is going  to be a massive book month here in Camp Amy so here is a brief rundown.

If you have been on my social media in the last few days you would have seen me FREAKING OUT about my awesome new cover for BLAISE, book 2 of the Blood Lake Chronicles. One more time with feeling….

 

YUP. I’m feeling it alright.

Here’s a description :

‘The stories claim I was born from a union of a demon and nun…well, least they got half of it right.’

Eldon Blaise, magician and misfit, has arrived at Gwaed Lyn to turn Rosa’s life upside down. Not only is he claiming to be the lost son of Eli Vane and his human wife Deryn, Rosa’s ancestor, but that he also used to be none other than Merlin Wylt, the magician of legend who fought by King Arthur’s side.

The curse the Autumn Queen has placed over the Aos Si is breaking, but she isn’t prepared to go down without a fight, and releases the one person that brought the great Merlin to his knees…Nimue.

Her spirit broken from a lifetime imprisoned by the Autumn Queen, Nimue must convince the Vanes to trust her. She wants to be free of the Queen forever, but winning over Merlin is going to be no easy task. She broke his heart, and being together again will bring back a life of pain and passion that neither of them can fight.

To defeat the Autumn Queen and protect Gwaed Lyn, Merlin will have to stop running and become the powerful man he used to be…that includes having the fearless and formidable Nimue by his side.

OMG MERLIN RIGHT!

SO it is up for pre-order on all platforms for a special price of 0.99 so get in while it lasts. Click here for a universal link that will take you to any store you like. It is out on December 14th,  I’m so excited to be able to finally continue the Vane family story and mash up some Arthurian mythology in for good measure. I always wanted to write Merlin, every since I was a brat who really loved the King Arthur stories. I’m not going to lie, I fan girled pretty hard researching this one and I’m so blessed I have the opportunity to write my own version of this amazing character.

NEXT!

Second Editions of Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will also be released across all ebook platforms on December 5th, so all you lovely readers who have been pissed that iBooks etc dont have the other books..well they are coming soon! As per the last post, my preorder plans for them didn’t work so I’m just going to do a straight release.

ALSO,

In other book news my SECRET PROJECT is currently in structural re-writes (thanks to a structural edit from the awesome Hayley Stone) and will hopefully be tied up by the end of the month so I can focus 100% on KINGDOM, book 3 of The Blood Lake Chronicles. Fun times!

AND,

This December marks THREE YEARS since releasing my first book, Cry of the Firebird. I’m staggered at how quickly the time has flown by. There will be drinks to celebrate because lets face it you need to celebrate every fucking victory as a writer.

Amy out xo

 

 

An Update and Sexy Second Editions

It’s been a while guys…I know. I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it so long between drinks but when you’re working, doing uni, writing books and publishing, shit is bound to get a bit hectic.

Right. I’ve been underground finishing off a great Ancient History unit on the Later Roman Empire, getting inspired and fuelled for a future book I’m researching, and trying to keep my head above water. If you follow my social media you’ll know Cry of the Firebird was a no 1 best seller in September in the Amazon store – holy shit guys what a moment. Which brings me to my next topic.

In September, the reason why I managed to sell as many books as I did was my exclusivity period with Amazon finished and I launched Cry of the Firebird across all e-book platforms. I’ve been getting messages from a whole swathe new readers about the other books and I can safely say, at the beginning of December Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will be universally released. At the moment they are still under exclusivity so sorry, we have to wait.  I’m not sure if I am going to do a pre-order for them as there is some behind the scenes tweaking that needs to be sorted before that can happen. Also, I have just (literally in the last 30 minutes) finished sexy second editions of all of the Firebirds and damn, that’s a shit tonne of words to edit and format. I’m waiting on proofs of the new paperbacks to arrive but the digitals are up and looking gorgeous. I wanted to do second editions for a whole bunch of reasons. Mainly, because no matter how many editors you use, and eyes go over your work to check and re-check, pesky mistakes still seem to get through. Also, I am an Aussie and I wanted US spelling and Grammar editions as most of my readers are currently in the US. It was a huge undertaking (I’m so dead all I want is vodka and Lord of the Rings movies) but I am really happy with the results and I hope you are too. I’m super blessed as an indie publisher that I can make these changes and be so much happier with the end product.

In Blood Lake Chronicles news, WYLT has also been released universally and I’ve had HEAPS of messages about WHERE THE FUCK IS BLAISE. I can tell you finally that it’s currently with my kick-ass cover designer, Fiona, who is making something truly fucking amazing. This series, this character, is super important to me so I want the cover and story right. It’s a tricky time of year for freelance editors and designers which is why I haven’t announced a pre-order for it. As soon as I have all the pieces in my hot hands you guys will be the first to know. I am aiming for mid-December but I won’t make promises without all those pieces. It is coming soon. Writing on book three, KINGDOM, has started slowly due to the mad fucking rush to get second editions of the Firebird Fairytales completed but it HAS started and damn is it gonna be a ride. Now that most of my publisher’s workload is sorted I can put my Writer Hat back on and get stuck into it. It’s a lot more Celtic Myth and I’m loving how the beginning is shaping up.

What else?

I have been reading some holy shit amazing books lately. I won’t leave reviews for them because there isn’t enough time but the ones that have really blown my shit out of the water (and made me get FULL Imposter Syndrome) are as follows:

All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Vampires, Witches, Daemons, Alchemy, Oxford…This series hit EVERYONE of my weaknesses and damn, like if you need your faith restored in incredible vampire books, seriously look no further. It’s not a snack though, these books are MEALS. The writing is rich and incredible and you can tell Harkness seriously knows her shit. They are currently making the TV series with a whole cast of power house actors (Matthew Goode holy shit!) and I seriously can’t wait.

 

The Sarah Weston Novels by Magnus Flyte.Prague, Beethoven, Alchemy, Prodigies and Princes. After suffering from a massive book hangover from the All Souls Trilogy, this duology City of Dark Magic and City of Lost Dreams, was the perfect soloution. It’s still keeping with alchemy and magic themes but tying in history and music aswell. It’s not as heavy as the Harkness books but they were still a great series. The magic in it is awesome.

 

 

 

   The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Mysticism, Art, lost loves, reincarnations, historical romance, medieval scriptoriums… this book has it all. You know how you have those books that you think ‘that looks great I really want to read that’ but it takes you forever to get to them? This was such a book. It’s been on my radar for years but like most books that fall into this category, it found me when I needed it most. I was suffering from a massive creative burn out and it was EXACTLY what I needed. It is an incredible book that ripped my heart clean out while re-building it at the same time. It’s structured like a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, that I am ridiculously obsessed with, and it just…no words. Still. It’s a hard one to explain but worth the time.

 

Okay so that’s all from me, for now. I will keep everyone posted on the BLAISE front and make lots of noise when all of the Firebirds are available universally. If you are doing NaNoWriMo, you are my hero and keep your chin up.

Amy x                                                  

 

Origins of WYLT : The Blood Lake Chronicles

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Wylt’s launch is one week away! Thank you to all of the lovely ARC readers who have given me feedback in time for me to fix a few formatting mistakes so the finished copy is perfect.

This blog is going to be as spoiler free as possible but I wanted to share with you how Wylt came into being. Like many of the more interesting things I’ve done it started with a dare.

My best friend and I go through ‘Monster Porn’ stages where life and study becomes so full on that the only books we can consume are romance. Usually with monsters, sometimes with time travelling knights and aliens with questionable anatomy.

The below video by the wonderful Rachel Hollis is a pretty accurate representation of every conversation we have during our romance binge phases:

We were going through such a phase which included me complaining about how disappointing I’d found a top selling vampire romance when the bestie said, ‘You should write one.’ I laughed hard. I have romance elements in my stories but write a full-blown romance? That was a completely different genre. Then she said the magic words ‘I dare you.’ And I agreed to give it a shot.

Writing romance is a strange and wonderful experience. I recommend that every writer try it at least once. There is a definite formula to it but the things you can do within that formula are fantastic. Structurally it has a different beat to every other book I’ve written and I cannot thank JamiGold and her wonderful Beat Sheet Guides for keeping me from wandering off.

I knew I wanted to have a classic gothic feel but with a modern setting, I wanted vampires but a new take on them (I hope you like my new origin story) and I wanted an older female hero that was no nonsense. I was tired of reading stories of 20 something innocent (or highly damaged) girls that you find so often in such novels. I wanted someone real thrown into a world that she thought she knew and then slowly flip it on its head.

Removing all the fantasy elements from the story, the focus has a lot to do with family and the way they interact with each other, the roles that siblings and ourselves fall into. The deep obligations that transcend blood  and that bind people together.

I am a really big nerd when it comes to faerie and a character that had always haunted me was The Autumn Queen. She made her first appearance in a nightmare that I turned into a short story called The Red Shoes that you can find here. She’s never removed her claws from my imagination and I’d always intended to explore her story line. WYLT gave me the perfect opportunity to do that. It’s also given the chance to really explore Celtic themes (and in later books a few Arthurian) that I’ve always loved and wanted to write mash-ups of.

Music always plays a big role in my writing and helps give me a feel for the world in which I am playing in. I’ve released my WYLT playlist on Spotify for anyone who wants a soundtrack while they are reading the story. Its a pretty good mix of modern and classical (including a few waltzs that are mentioned in the novel) and is good at capturing many of my themes.

Pictures and art are also great at feeding my imagination for world building so I also have a massive Pinterest board that is covering all three of The Blood Lake Chronicles if you want to check it out.

My cover has been designed by the incredible Fiona Jayde who was extremely patient with my descriptions of what I was chasing.. ‘You know like old horror movies with the woman running away with a mansion in the background!’ She knew exactly what I wanted and has rendered it beautifully.

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WYLT is a mix of familiar and the new…there is a definite Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast vibe going on…but with enough new to keep it interesting.

To quote Rachel Hollis ‘You can pre-order the crap out of it‘ right here.

I hope you like it,

Love Amy and Duke (who does not understand Bookstagramming AT ALL.)

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The female werewolf and her shaggy suffragette sisters

 

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Jazmina Cininas, Lecturer in Fine Art, Printmaking, RMIT University – Check out her incredible artwork here on her website

As Melbourne lights up for tomorrow’s White Night Festival, the façade of RMIT’s Storey Hall annex will transform into an illuminated billboard of morphing lupine femmes. The portraits – my original linocuts of female werewolves – might seem curious bedfellows for a Melbourne icon of deconstructivism. However, there is a long connection between female werewolves and suffragettes – and this building has a feminist history.

In the early 19th century, Hibernian Hall (now Storey Hall) was leased to the Women’s Political Association, whose purple, green and white flag flew from the rooftop. Across the world, the Women’s Social and Political Union was also making its mark — literally — on London’s Suffrage Atelier. Founded in 1909 by Alfred Pearce and the Housman siblings, Clemence and Laurence, the atelier’s print workshop advanced feminist causes, making and circulating pro-suffrage publications, and providing employment for female illustrators.

The Houseman siblings are better known, however, for their collaborative novella of 1896, The Were-Wolf. Written by Clemence with illustrations by Laurence, The Were-Wolf sees its title heroine, White Fell, find her way into the hearts of a Swedish family — while they find their way into her belly.

White Fell is part of a groundswell of female werewolves who surfaced in Victorian gothic literature, fuelled by paranoia surrounding the suffragette movement. The hirsute sisterhood are notable for preying on families and upending the gendered status quo, recognisable by their supernaturally shining eyes, foreign accents and aristocratic penchant for white fur. Inverting contemporary werewolf conventions, these shaggy suffragettes also revert to wolves — not women — after death, thereby revealing their “true” lupine selves.

Cultural constructions of women as intrinsically lupine have existed throughout the centuries, whether as nurturing mothers (think Romulus and Remus), ravening man-eaters, or as inherently demonic.

The female werewolf has been far more prevalent than her relatively modest profile suggests, flourishing most conspicuously at times when the female gender came under attack. We see this not just in the suffragette era but also — with rather more dire consequences — during the Early Modern witch-hunts.

A severed head and rampant misogyny

The earliest record I have found of a reputed werewolf (male or female) being brought to trial is that of Catherine Simon of Andermatt in Switzerland. In 1459, Catherine confessed to having transformed into a wolf with the aid of a salve (ointment) and causing an avalanche.

Witch riding a wolf, woodcut in Ulrich Molitor, Von den Unholden oder Hexen, c. 1491.
Wikimedia Commons

Catherine’s crimes were considered so serious that her executioner was charged to “divide her into two pieces, of which one shall be her head and the other her body, which shall be so completely severed that a cartwheel can be rolled between them”.

Her remains were burned, and the ashes cast into the Reuss River as further insurance against her causing harm.

This climate of religious paranoia and misogyny is captured in a sensational German broadsheet by Georg Kress, Of 300 Witches and Their Pact with the Devil to Turn Themselves into She-Wolves at Jülich, 6 May 1591.

It depicts the destruction of men, boys and cattle by a horde of ravening she-wolves, complete with rhyming descriptions of brains being sucked and hearts being eaten.

Kress’ introductory proclamation that his broadsheet is “published in print for all pious women and maidens as a warning and example” makes it clear that women were considered in greatest need of the lessons in the text.

Even pious women, it seemed, needed to be mindful of their inherent bestial natures and moral susceptibility – a sentiment echoed in witch-hunting treatises of the day.

Georg Kress’s broadsheet depicting women werewolves.
Wikimedia Commons

Werewolves and vampires

As the witch craze subsided and society’s critical gaze turned instead towards the excesses of aristocratic depravity, werewolves were swept up in the vampire wave. This peaked in 1730s Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, with Austro-Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory setting the template for the clichéd Eastern European lycanthrope (werewolf).

Jazmina Cininas, Erzsebet was frequently mistaken for a vampire (2011). Reduction linocut, 37 x 28 cm.

Rumoured to have butchered and bathed in the blood of 600 local virgins for cosmetic purposes, Erzsébet has since been claimed by the vampire “cause”. However, she first came to the attention of the popular imagination in Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves, published in 1865.

Her legend includes a she-wolf familiar (an animal spirit that accompanies her and helps bewitch enemies) and a family crest composed of wolf fangs, which, like her infamous bloodbaths, seem to have had little basis in fact.

Nevertheless, Erzsébet reflects the intimate link between werewolves and vampires, an intimacy that is also shared in medicine.

A medical foundation for the werewolf myth?

In the 1980s, biochemist David Dolphin suggested that porphyria, a hereditary blood disease that causes severe anaemia, might be treated with injections of blood products, thereby popularising the notion of a medical origin for vampirism.

Visible symptoms of congenital porphyria. W. Hausmann, Strahlentherapie, Suppl. 8, 1923.

Porphyria symptoms include severe phototoxicity, demanding its sufferers avoid sunlight or risk progressively “beastly” skin lesions, especially on the face and hands. Reddish teeth and urine and extreme hairiness (notably on the forehead) complete the litany of ailments that have also seen porphyria proposed as a medical foundation for the werewolf myth.

Porphyria is not alone in its medical claim on the werewolf legend. Congenital generalised hypertrichosis (hereditary full-body hairiness), commonly known as “werewolf syndrome”, has seen Mexico’s Gomez-Aceves family listed in the 2000 Guinness Book of Records as the world’s hairiest family. Some members have achieved further celebrity status as wolf children in local circuses.

Louisa Lilia Lira de Aceves is the best-known female family member. Her hirsutism has been proposed as a genetic atavism, a “throwback” to an earlier evolutionary stage. Such thinking perpetuates Social Darwinist anxieties in the face of humanity that does not conform to the norm. However, human difference was not always viewed in this light.

Hirsute marvels

When the hairy Gonsalvus sisters received public attention in 16th-century Europe, for instance, they did so as marvels rather than monsters. Seen as evidence of divine wit and inventiveness, they led privileged lives as members of royal retinues in France and Italy.

The sisters, whose equally hirsute father had been captured as a child on the Canary Islands and brought to the French court of Henry II, lived in an age of colonial expansion marked by conquest, discovery and wonder.

Lavinia Fontana Portrait of Antonietta Gonsalvus.
Wikimedia Commons

The family’s hirsutism was viewed in the same light as the other extraordinary flora, fauna and peoples being brought back to Europe from the New World. Their place in the royal entourage was seen to demonstrate the king’s erudition and power, rather than voyeurism as we understand it today.

The religious iconography of the age also provided a sympathetic model of the hairy woman. A hairy pelt symbolised saints’ and wild folk’s penitential rejection of society’s vanities, in favour of a more virtuous co-existence with the wilderness.

Contemporary readings

Similar sentiments have resurfaced in contemporary times. In fiction and film, the female werewolf has increasingly been presented as gaining virtue and empowerment from, rather than being corrupted by, her lupine self. Novelist Angela Carter opened the floodgate in 1979 with her feminist re-writings of fairy stories, The Bloody Chamber, notable for her re-imagined Little Red Riding Hood that borrows heavily from archaic versions of the tale.

Carter’s newly menstruating Red is more than happy to usurp her grandmother’s place in the bed, embracing the wolf and growing her own pelt by morning.

In breaking with taboo, Carter provides a template for Red Riding Hood as a coming of age tale. In Carter’s version, the onset of menses represents a pubescent girl’s sexual awakening, her transforming body and appetites signalling, and celebrating, her becoming one with the wolf.

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This, in turn, has led to a uniquely feminine manifestation of lycanthropy (werewolfism) whereby a new generation of novelists and filmmakers draw on the correlations between the werewolf’s lunar cycle and a woman’s monthly cycle.

Independent filmmaker Jacqueline Garry employs this motif in her 1999 film, The Curse. Garry’s heroine, Frida Harris, was inspired by 1980’s news reports about Sandie Craddock, a UK barmaid who stabbed her co-worker to death.

Journal entries and psychiatric reports testified that Craddock was rational for most of the month. However, during her “moon time” (ie in the days surrounding her menstruation), she experienced uncharacteristic aggression. Craddock was released on the grounds of extreme PMS with a court order to take hormone replacements.

The menstrual-werewolf motif is also central to the cult Canadian film, Ginger Snaps (2000), in which suburban teenager Ginger Fitzgerald is attacked by a werewolf attracted to the smell of her first menses. Ginger’s alarming transformations include insatiable appetites and unwelcome body hair. This, in turn, causes increasing anxiety for her conflicted younger sister, Brigitte, who is forced to come to terms with her own nascent sexuality.

The third instalment in the trilogy, Ginger Snaps Back: the beginning comes full circle, returning the sisters to Canada’s pioneer past. There, Old World superstitions cast the sisters as inherently susceptible to demonic suggestion.

The nebulous figure of the female werewolf has encompassed different, often contradictory, identities over time, absorbing changing perceptions of women, wolves, morality and the monstrous.

The advent of menstrual lycanthropes and Red Riding Wolves is part of an ongoing evolution and revolution in werewolf lore. Borrowing from the past, it creates new imaginative possibilities for the lupine woman.

The Conversation

 

Digital ARCs for Wylt !

Hello Readers,

I am run off my feet like a crazy person at the moment juggling work and a final assignment on the Dead Sea Scrolls but I wanted to stick my head in for five seconds and let you know I’ve put up an Exclusive ARC promotion for Wylt on Instafreebie!

I will be writing a proper post about Wylt closer to the date with various inspirations and what not but right now I am checking paperback formats and generally running about.

wylt2final-fjm_kindle_1800x2700Wylt is going to be out on the 10th of March (a paperback giveaway will be announced in a few weeks) but I would love to drum up some reviews on Good Reads so if you like the idea of a gothic romance that’s like the love child of Jane Eyre, Beauty and the Beast and a horde of blood sucking Fae…please click here and check it out!

 

 

 

 

The real-life origins of the legendary Kraken

Original article on The Conversation by Rodrigo Brincalepe Salvador –PhD student in Paleontology, University of Tubingen

The Kraken is perhaps the largest monster ever imagined by mankind. In Nordic folklore, it was said to haunt the seas from Norway through Iceland and all the way to Greenland. The Kraken had a knack for harassing ships and many pseudoscientific reports (including official naval ones) said it would attack vessels with its strong arms. If this strategy failed, the beast would start swimming in circles around the ship, creating a fierce maelstrom to drag the vessel down.

Of course, to be worth its salt, a monster needs to have a taste for human flesh. Legends say that the Kraken could devour a ship’s entire crew at once. But despite its fearsome reputation, the monster could also bring benefits: it swam accompanied by huge schools of fish that cascaded down its back when it emerged from the water. Brave fishermen could thus risk going near the beast to secure a bounteous catch.

The history of the Kraken goes back to an account written in 1180 by King Sverre of Norway. As with many legends, the Kraken started with something real, based on sightings of a real animal, the giant squid. For the ancient navigators, the sea was treacherous and dangerous, hiding a horde of monsters in its inconceivable depths. Any encounter with an unknown animal could gain a mythological edge from sailors’ stories. After all, the tale grows in the telling.

Scientific legend

Giant squid found in Ranheim, Norway, measured by Professors Erling Sivertsen and Svein Haftorn. NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, 1954

The strength of the myth became so strong that the Kraken could still be found in Europe’s first modern scientific surveys of the natural world in the 18th century. Not even Carl Linnaeus – father of modern biological classification – could avoid it and he included the Kraken among the cephalopod mollusks in the first edition of his groundbreaking Systema Naturae (1735).

But when, in 1853, a giant cephalopod was found stranded on a Danish beach, Norwegian naturalist Japetus Steenstrup recovered the animal’s beak and used it to scientifically describe the giant squid, Architeuthis dux. And so what had become legend officially entered the annals of science, returning our image of the Kraken to the animal that originated the myths.

After 150 years of research into the giant squid that inhabits all the world’s oceans, there is still much debate as to whether they represent a single species or as many as 20. The largest Architeuthis recorded reaches 18 metres in length, including the very long pair of tentacles, but the vast majority of specimens are much smaller. The giant squid’s eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom and are crucial in the dark depths it inhabits (up to 1,100 metres deep, perhaps reaching 2,000 metres).

Like some other squid species, Architeuthis has pockets in its muscles containing an ammonium solution that is less dense than sea water. This allows the animal to float underwater, meaning that it can keep itself steady without actively swimming. The presence of unpalatable ammonium in their muscles is also probably the reason why giant squid have not yet been fished to near extinction.

Hunter or prey?

For many years, scientists debated whether the giant squid was a swift and agile hunter like the powerful predator of legends or an ambush hunter. After decades of discussion, a welcome answer came in 2005 with the unprecedented film footage from Japanese researchers T. Kubodera and K. Mori. They filmed a live Architeuthis in its natural habitat, 900m deep in the North Pacific, showing that it is in fact a fast and powerful swimmer, using its tentacles to capture prey.

Reconstruction of an epic battle between a giant squid and its nemesis, the sperm whale. American Museum of Natural History.

Despite its size and speed, Architeuthis has a predator: the sperm whale. The battles between these titans must be frequent, since it is common to find scars on whales’ skins left by the squids’ tentacles and arms, which have suckers lined with sharp chitinous tooth-like structures. But Architeuthis doesn’t have the muscles in its tentacles to use them to constrict prey and it can never overcome a sperm whale in a “duel”. Its only option is to flee, covering its escape with the usual cephalopod ink cloud.

Although we now know it is not just a legend, the giant squid remains perhaps the most elusive large animal in the world, which has greatly contributed to its aura of mystery. Many people today are still surprised in learning that it really exists. After all, even after so much scientific research, the Kraken is still alive in popular imagination thanks to films, books and computer games, even if it sometimes turns up in the wrong mythology, such as the 1981 (and 2010) ancient Greek epic Clash of the Titans. These representations have come to define it in the public mind: a beast lurking in sunken ships waiting for reckless divers

WYLT: Chapter One – Sneak Peak

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Prologue

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.

Home.

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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