Top Ten Portal Fantasy Books

Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a portal fantasy whether reading or writing and this list has many of my faves so check them out!

Genre Reader

dk-bussell-2-crop-orig

Portal Fantasy: A story in which an ordinary person is transported to another world, only to discover that they have an important role to play in its destiny.

D.K. Bussell is the author of the popular fantasy series, Trolled. Here is a list of her ten favorite magic portals in fantasy fiction.


1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

alice

The portal fantasy Mack Daddy.

A rabbit hole draws the titular Alice away from her humdrum existence and into a surreal adventure. Once at the bottom of the hole, Alice is confronted by a number of locked doors. The story follows Alice through one of the doors and into the magical dreamscape that is Wonderland. But where did all those other doors lead? Sadly, Carroll never got to tell those stories, as he choked to death on a bit of Lego. Probably. Go ask Wikipedia if it’s facts you’re after.

2…

View original post 845 more words

Origins of WYLT : The Blood Lake Chronicles

wylt2final-fjm_kindle_1800x2700

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.

9216c8217fbc1f7561bbc28053e999a6 slide_330050_3240727_free

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.)

fullsizerender

 

The female werewolf and her shaggy suffragette sisters

 

_4965001_orig.jpg

 

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.

idmb

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

 

Shearwater by Derek Murphy

983624857

Okay my YA Readers we need to talk about Shearwater by Derek Murphy…have you guys read it? If not you NEED to check it out!

First all of Mermaids. MERMAIDS. The little girl inside of me who watched The Little Mermaid on a continuous loop is freaking out about Derek’s concept (and his cover because how great is it!).

Derek is an awesome writer, and is one of the few out there that impart patient advice to people like me (his training courses are excellent), so please do yourself a favour and go check out his fiction…

Buy it here

MERMAIDS ARE REAL.
And they’re going to kill us all.

When my parents died in an accident, they left me like a piece of furniture to a grandfather I never knew existed. In Ireland. As if moving halfway around the world wasn’t bad enough, I soon learned my mother had left behind some unresolved drama – dark secrets that were screaming to be uncovered. And then there are the things I can’t explain. Strange things keep happening around me. Happening to me. Is it because of Sebastian, the golden-haired stranger who showed up in town at the same time as I did? Or Ethan, the kid locals whisper plays with dark magic?

Maybe both. Maybe neither. But someone is definitely out to get me, and I need to figure out why, and fast… because I’m discovering powers of my own. Powers that I can’t contain. And no matter what I do or who is to blame, if I don’t discover the real reason my mother fled Ireland, more people are going to die.

WYLT: Chapter One – Sneak Peak

cropped-wyltsliver.jpg

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.

 

Like it so far? Preorder it here.

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

wyltsliver

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.

“No.”

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