H for Hellblade

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

H for Hellblade (2018)

My gaming is often an escape into an alternative reality – and at present reality is frightening. However, this game allowed me to experience another real-life reality for some.  I still need to re-visit Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – but not at the moment.

On the other hand, exploring the literature and folklore behind this game was one of the reasons I began my investigation into the creative Origins of various On-line Games. I’ve been fascinated by Norse mythology and Viking culture for decades.

I will post about other games that were relevant in 2018 and still are meaningful.

Links to my other A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

F for Feeniks

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

F for Feeniks (2014)

My fascination with The Firebird and The Phoenix goes back decades, well before Feeniks the bird character and this post emerged. I must have a penchant for avian ‘totems/spirit guides’ since there are at least two more in other writings.

As I write this intro, I’m listening to the 1910 version of Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird suite, which I first encountered in its ballet form during my teens.

You can listen to the same powerful music too:

All the research nuggets unearthed while I was creating the game-world for my novel ‘Wyrm Bait’, evolved into my post-apocalyptic saga Gossamer Flames. And the research is ongoing.

Especially doing research into the Slavic Folklore surrounding the Firebird for my short ‘Feathered Fire’. My story appears in the IWSG anthology Voyagers: The Third Ghost. which is released on May 5th 2020. Read more about Zharptica here: https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/02/in-spotlight-roland-clarke-author-of.html

Links to my other A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

C for Corylus Avellana

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

C for Corylus Avellana (2014)

Ogham and the characters it inspired stemmed from learning about the Tree of Wisdom and Knowledge, Hazel – Corylus avellana one of the ‘chieftain’ trees of the Irish Celtic tradition.  From here sprouted a central character and a multi-faceted project.

All the research nuggets unearthed while I was creating the game-world for my novel ‘Wyrm Bait’, evolved into my post-apocalyptic saga Gossamer Flames. And the research is ongoing.

Links to my other A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

#WEP/IWSG June 2019 Challenge – Caged Bird

Originally, I had planned to write a Sparkle Anwyl case for the 2019 WEP + IWSG Challenge starting in April and ending in December. I wrote the first episode in April, but then posted the next episode of Kindled Casket, last month. There is a ‘caged bird’ in the episode but not as planned – that follows in the next episode. That case will unfold over the next few months.

Hence, the attached standalone short – Fettered Air. A departure from my Welsh police procedural, so your responses will interest me.

Fettered Air

I slide ski-swift across the winter’s blanket under the Blood Wolf’s Moon. Beside me the chicken-legged hut creak-crashes through the forest.

We’re alone in the taiga.

No sign of Baba Yaga. She’s vanished as have the denizens. No howling wolves. Nor snow leopard scents. No eagle-owl hoots. Nor honking swans. No ice-crawlers corpse feeding.

For nothing breathes in the wailing wind.

Yet, Nature writhes in pain, dragon’s bile dripping on her from mortal fangs.

I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Size is not the issue. Speed is.

The house is noisier, but we make a team. This hut can track her mistress better than even I, its feet scratching up clues, windows watching for signs.

Our mission came from Svetovid, seer and guardian god – and we had no choice.

“Find Baba Yaga before this world rebels.”

Why me, a giantess from Jötunheimr? Because neither Odin nor Thor will ask me ever since the marital strife with my spouse, Njörðr.

“Nobody else volunteered,” added Svetovid. “Besides those deities I posted on separate operations.”

He’s as secretive as my Vanir and Aesir brethren. Not just Loki plays with intelligence. Our trickster-thief and clown has too many imitators.

“Others are missing?” I asked, expecting evasion.

“Find Baba Yaga. That’s all.”

So, a need-to-know answer means Skaði is disposable. Nothing has changed.

Am I that terrible?

I had my reasons for smashing my husband’s sand sculptures. The whale-way was a prison with seabirds flaunting freedom.

But he called my majestic mountain retreat a dreary cell. “I’m trapped here. I can’t ski or snowboard like you.” He ranted and ripped down my hunting trophies.

“Skadi Hunting in the Mountains” (1901) by H. L. M – Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology. Silver, Burdett and Company

Marriage dissolved.

Thus, I get the menial tasks. Unless Odin sends his ravens or wolves with heart-baits.

Not this occasion. A telepathic eagle with four heads.  

“Find Baba Yaga.” Svetovid’s orders resound in my brain.

The wilderness wrestles promethium chains. That is enough reason to pursue the quarry.

So we scour Siberia.

The creak-crashing hut spins above the earth-coat. We have the crone’s spoor. 

Calls and cries clamour on the snow-breath.

Ahead a green clearing by a lake glows bright. Invisible to vicious human eyes, but I see the torches, tents and throng bridging the veils.

Baba has parked her mortar by a host of other vehicles, one that is familiar – my stepdaughter’s pantherine-drawn chariot.

With groans and creaks, the chicken-legs spin the hut to a halt by the pestle-guarded mortar. Shutters slam shut. A fence of human bones topped with skulls encircles them.

My gaze shoots arrows at the polytheistic conclave nobody invited me to.

Goddesses gathered from the Nine Realms. They have abandoned their posts to feast. Brews flow, dice roll and deities chatter. Everyone distracted as Midgard clamours for release.

Baba knocks back vodka, cackling to another crone – Hecate, clutching a goatskin of wine. Their dice are corpse-stones, and Hel’s are soul-vessels. 

Are they oblivious to the desolation? Among the feasting, denizen envoys are airing their anxiety.  

My pounding heart settles. Mind muses past irritable white-out.

Not all the deities are wizen and wild in their attire and behaviour. Some goddesses appear serious.

Freyja, stepdaughter and party animal rises – statuesque and sober, despite her goblet of mead.

Her eyes seize mine as she silences the symposium.

“Sisters, the snow-dancer is here. The world cries, and we have battle-sweat to spill. But when shall we three score meet again?”

“When the chaos is banished, when the spear-din is won,” Hel replies.

I add my voice, realising their design. “Ere midnight. After the sleep of the blade claims those flouting our laws.” Faces flash in my head. I smile. “Nature’s justice must wield the icicle of blood against false leaders poisoning life.”

My sisters nod. Creatures yowl.

Freyja smiles and summons her champions. “I come, Durga and Adrastea. We have fangs to extract.”
Her pantherines roar in response.

We will shatter the fetters on Nature. No more will humans build cages entrapping our laughter and song.

Yes, this is my #WEP/IWSG post for June so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG ChallengeThis a standalone short, although Skaði appears in my novel Eagle Passage, which I wrote the first draft of for NaNoWriMo 2016.

Word Count 660: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

To marry Heathcliff?

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m changing tacks again and sailing further into uncharted seas – variety and all that mirror stuff.

Anyway, one of my favourite authors – and one of my editors and writer-friends – is Sue Barnard. Ever since her first novel, The Ghostly Father, I’ve been an avid follower, reading all four of her novels released to date – all four or five star reads. Sue’s latest novel, Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered? , is released on Monday, July 30th, so I will present the novel for your delectation.

First, an extended version of my original review of Sue’s last novel, Never on Saturday.

NeverOnSaturday

Never on Saturday

by

Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)

Two stories, two heartbreaks: one past, one present…

Leaving her native France and arriving in North Wales as a postgraduate student of History and Folklore, Mel is cautiously optimistic that she can escape from her troubled past and begin a new and happier life.

She settles into her student accommodation and begins work on her thesis, concentrating particularly on one fascinating manuscript: a compelling and tragic tale of a cursed medieval princess.

Then she meets Ray – charming, down-to-earth and devastatingly handsome. Within days, Mel’s entire world has transformed from lonely and frustrated to loving and fulfilled. Despite her failure with previous relationships, she allows herself to hope that this time, at last, she can make it work.

But Mel’s dreams of happiness are under constant threat. She is hiding a dark and terrible secret, which Ray – or indeed anybody else – must never ever discover…

Review 4.4 stars

I enjoyed this novel which once again showed Sue Barnard’s ability to write in different ‘genres’ – or perhaps that should be time-styles as this engrossing novella has a historical timeline and a present day one.

The two threads to this tales weave together – but saying ‘why’ would be a spoiler. I enjoyed the way they came together and sussed what was going on, or rather ‘who’, early on – even if I took a confusing operatic detour in my head.

Mel is an interesting character as is Ray but in a different way. I enjoyed the familiar North Wales setting and the brief language references. The folklore and historical elements never felt overdone and they were informative as they were thrown in as neat asides.

Never on Saturday is a fast and easy read with a neat ending, a well-crafted mix of styles and their respective settings. Plus, there are informative author notes at the end. Overall, I would recommend this novella.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

How the Story Came About:

Sue Barnard: “A few years ago I was on holiday in western France and came across a legend associated with the area I was visiting.  Previously I’d been vaguely aware of the existence of this legend, but until then I’d known next to nothing about it.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, I was mowing the lawn when suddenly a line of dialogue popped into my head.  Goodness only knows where it came from, but it proved to be the starting point for what would eventually become Never on Saturday.

The line was “My name isn’t [X], it’s [Y].”  Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific here, because that would give away too much.  But suffice it to say that [Y] is the name of the character featured in the old French legend.”

Buy link: mybook.to/never-on-saturday

Other Reviews:

“An intriguing combination of myth and modern! I don’t like to give the story away to spoil it for future readers, but Sue has taken a myth and woven it into a magical love story. This story is easy to read and follow, even though it slips backwards and forwards in time. An act of revenge, a curse, a mythical creature, magic, and a rather attractive man goes into the mix to make a very entertaining story.”

“A must-read for fans of paranormal romance. A simple, modern-day love story is interwoven with an ancient French fairy-tale. I’m a sucker for folklore so I loved the old legend which I hadn’t come across before but even if you have you won’t know how this version will end.”

“A well-crafted, beautifully written little novella, which I devoured in one sitting. Like every book written by this author, a quality read which ticks all the boxes.”

 

Heathcliff

Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered?

by

Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”

Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life. At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.

Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance and prosperity.

But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?

For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered. Until now…

How the Story Came About

Sue Barnard: “It all began with a chance remark from a former schoolfriend: “Sue, I love the way you’ve based your book on what we did at school. What are you going to do next?”

“We were chatting just after the release of my third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All, which features a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This was the play we’d studied for English Literature O-Level (as it then was, back in the dark ages before GCSEs). The novel set for the same exam was Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights.

“Well,” I chuckled, “there’s always Heathcliff…”

“At the time, it was just a passing joke between two friends who recalled crying on each other’s shoulders as we’d struggled to make sense of the vagaries of the plot, tried (and mostly failed) to decipher Joseph’s incomprehensible dialect, and attempted to understand the book’s complicated inter-personal relationships. The latter was not made any easier by the characters’ confusing similarity of names. Emily Brontë had clearly never read the rule-book about this. Three of the characters have names beginning with the same initial, one of them has a first name which is the same as the surname of another, and two others have the same name entirely!

“But somehow, the idea just wouldn’t go away. I then recalled how our teacher (the wonderful Mrs Hall) explained how “…by having the story narrated by Nelly Dean, Emily Brontë avoids having to tell us exactly what happened to Heathcliff during those missing three years…”

“So – what might have happened to him? Could I try to get into his mind, and write a story which attempts to answer that question?”

Buy Link: http://mybook.to/heathcliff

Reviews

“I had always wondered what happened to Heathcliff during those three years he was absent from the action of ‘Wuthering Heights’. What would change him from a passionate, unruly youth into a polished gentleman? And who were his parents?”

“Sue Barnard answers these questions (and more) in a way that makes total sense, as well as making a really exciting story in its own right. Painting vivid pictures of the culture of the time, Barnard shows us Heathcliff as he changes – and why. I loved the fact that her plot and his development made sense psychologically as well as culturally while fitting in seamlessly with the text of WH. I love WH so much that I would have worried about any additions, had not Barnard proved herself to be a safe pair of hands in her earlier books. Being a Cathy myself, I’ve always wanted more of Heathcliff – and I couldn’t have got him in a better form!”

“A great read! It is fascinating to discover the author’s take on one of literature’s great mysteries. Be sure to read the author’s note too.”