Psst. Hey You. You Wanna See Some FREE Books?

Don’t worry. I’m not going to flash you. I actually just want to share some fantastic free e-books to get you through the hiding-inside season. You might even spy some of mine in there!

All I ask in return is your soul!

…ahem…

I mean, your email address.

Seriously, though, I would love it if you signed up for my newsletter. You can have a copy of Polaris: a SF novella or my book of weird short stories, The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales, which is only going to be offered for free until Halloween!

I send an email once or twice a month with silly stories and anecdotes from my personal life, pictures, updates and sneak peeks on my books, and other little treats that are only for my VIPs.

Anyway. Here are some free books…

Indie Feature Friday: THE FADIAN EXPERIMENT by W.A. Ford

Pretend for a moment that it is not actually Saturday, that I didn’t cleverly forget what day of the week it was yesterday. Everyone loves a book review, right? You don’t mind.

I blame homeschooling.

Today, for my version #IndieFeatureFriday I give you The Fadian Experiment by W.A. Ford!

Click through to Amazon.com

W.A. Ford can be found on Instagram @thefarbackroom. Following her has been a lesson in how to run a beautiful and effective IG feed as an author. Ford, like her main character in The Fadian Experiment, is a card reader. She does daily pulls, and using the cards for guidance, she explains what the day might have in store. It’s like a daily horoscope, but cooler. Card reading is a skill that has been passed down through the women in Ford’s family and you can tell she knows what she’s doing. I’m not really into astrology or horoscopes, but I swear, reading her posts is like having a mini-therapy session. Anyway, onto the review!

The Fadian Experiment Review

A couple of months ago I joined a wonderful author support group called The Kick-Ass Author’s Club. I mean, how can you not join a group with a name like that? Over the past few weeks it has been an invaluable support to me in terms of getting a handle on the “business end” of being an author.

One of the first things I did was to start reading the books of my other Kick-Ass Authors because I really wanted to see what the group was all about. I have been so blown away by the variety and depth of these storytellers! So I’ll be sharing my favourites with you on the blog every Friday (theoretically).

This book sucked me in from the first page. It starts out tough and gritty, you jump into some high-stakes action right off the bat and it really doesn’t let up the whole way through.

The Plot

The main character, Kaleigha, is living a brutal life. After failing a childhood assessment that would have placed her in a job, she now wanders the streets looking for temp work or hustling as a fortune teller while dodging the unwanted advances and abuses of police and other citizens. As if that’s not bad enough, Kaleigha hears voices in her head. That’s why she failed her assessment, and it’s getting worse instead of better.

I loved the set up for this novel. The way Ford describes the world and city, I was reminded of N.K. Jemisin’s settings where the city is almost a character in its own right. There is nothing kind about this world, and Ford’s depictions of future class division are frighteningly realistic.

Oh, shit!

As we get deeper into the story, the plot spirals and everything we think we understand from the beginning of the book is turned upside down. The characters are intense, the pace is relentless, and the world is complex. You just have to keep reading to see what’s coming.

The Fadian Experiment blends science and magic, reality and fantasy, dreams and memory with so many twists and turns you never know what is going to happen next. At its core, though, this is the story about a poor young women who will do anything to help her city and improve the lives of her people.

My thoughts…

Some scenes move a little too quickly. There were a few times I wanted to sit and stay a while in this fascinating world, but the plot forces us forward before we’ve gotten our bearings. It works with the dreamlike quality of Kaleigha’s experience, and I can understand why Ford chose to do it this way. The sense of dissociation as a reader is intense! But there are some places I would have liked to linger a bit longer. This book could easily have been 50% longer and I’d have still been happy.

Technical Details

This is a section I feel I have to add to Indie book reviews. Some people have some preconceptions about Indie authors that we need to address. I don’t want anyone avoiding this, or any of these books, for the fear that they are not getting a professional product.

Indie writers have to do it all themselves, or spend a lot of money paying someone to do it for them. Everything from cover design, interior formatting, developmental editing and copy editing. And it is tough. Even putting out a crappy book is difficult, and I hope if you know anyone who has written and published a book independently, that you give that person a slap on the back and buy them a hot drink, because they probably need it!

However, The Fadian Experiment is well-edited and formatted. I spotted a couple of minor issues that did not detract from my reading experience at all. I’ve read Big House published books with more typos (that is a rant for another time). I do not hesitate at all to recommend this book to you. W.A. Ford clearly takes herself and her writing seriously and The Fadian Experiment is a reflection of her professionalism.

My Rating: *****

I loved this book. I flew through it. And I cannot wait for book 2, coming out next year. As and Indie read, this is absolutely worth 5 Stars. Had it been a Big House publisher, I might have been a little harder on The Fadian Experiment and given 4 Stars simply because I really wanted a little more time in some scenes. But when your biggest complaint is that you loved it so much you wanted it to be longer, I think that tells you what you need to know!

If you love science fiction and want to give something totally new and original a try, I recommend giving this indie book a shot! However, if you like linear plot lines, with cut and dry scenes, you might feel out of your element here.

Reviews

If you decide to pick up The Fadian Experiment be sure to stop by and let me know what you think! But before you do that, I want you to promise me that you will leave a review wherever you bought it so other like-minded readers can find it too.

Thanks for reading!

Indie Recommendations

Do you have a recommendation for an Indie Sci-Fi read you’d like me to review? Perhaps you’ve written one yourself? Let me know in the comments! I’m happy to support other writers, but only the best books will make it onto the blog.

Note: I have read a lot of Indie books that just don’t cut it in the professionalism department and, you know what? I won’t review them here. I will privately let the author know what my expectations are and let them address it (or not) but I’m not going to add to the Indie struggle with a bad review.

5 Petrifying Persian Monsters You Don’t Want to Meet in a Dark Alley

Halloween is drawing nearer and the air is thick with ghosts. After yesterday I can’t even go into the bathroom without checking the ceiling for creepy women clinging to the corners. Seriously. The only thing worse than being haunted by malevolent spirits is being haunted by malevolent spirits who attack when you’re pooping!

So far we’ve checked out Canada, Serbia, the British Isles, and Korea. The terrifying tour of world monsters continues and today we’re stopping off in Persia. Thank you to my friend Marisa for this suggestion! You can check out her writing at Marisa Fink Blogs or her Instagram where she shows of her amazing makeup artistry!

Now, onto the monsters…

#5 Jinn/Peri

The Jinn and Peri of ancient Persian mythology are not evil creatures. They are decidedly neutral in the ever present battle between good and evil. The Peri are depicted as tiny winged spirits similar to the more commonly known fairies. They are thought to be the spirits of creatures who are trapped in these bodies as punishment for past misdeeds, though never human souls. The Peri are mischievous creatures and cause all kinds of daily frustrations by hiding objects, tugging hair, tripping people, and the like. The sometimes delivered messages from the gods, but they were just as likely to be lying as telling the truth, so ancient Persians mistrusted the funny little sprites.

Jinn were more powerful creatures, and usually avoided human interaction. They could be found hiding in caves, far outside the city limits. Jinn have the power to grant wishes and sometimes they did. Sometimes, though, they would twist the dreamer’s words and cause a world of suffering. They are neither good nor evil, and one never knows what kind of mood you’ll find a Jinn in, so it’s best to avoid them.

#4 Manticore

The Manticore is another familiar mythological beast. It has the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion (or a tail with poisoned quills that it can shoot at you… I’m not sure which is worse) These creatures love nothing more than hunting and devouring people who wander too far away from their cities. It’s hide was impenetrable and the Manticore was largely believed to be invincible. It could run faster than any living thing. The only thing it couldn’t eat was an elephant.

These creatures stalked the roads between cities, crouched in the grass, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting travelers. People who disappeared on journeys were thought to have been attacked by one of these beasts. When a Manticore did decide to eat someone, it left nothing behind except perhaps a smear of blood.

#3 Azhi Dahaka

This three-headed dragon is about as evil as they come. Dragons in Persian mythology existed as a balance to law and order in the world. They embodied all that is negative and chaotic, spreading disorder wherever they roamed. Azhi Dahaka was the fiercest of them all. This beast had the supernatural ability to pinpoint exactly where its foe was located. You can’t hide from it. You can’t kill it. Basically all you can do is run screaming and probably die. Although Azhi Dahaka was eventually defeated by one of the great Persian heroes, it was never killed. The creature is kept in chains until the end of the world when another resurrected hero will have to finish the job. Hopefully no one unwittingly unleashes him in the meantime…

#2 Kamak

One of two giant mythological birds, Kamak is the embodiment of all things awful. It is said to have been so large it’s wings could block the rain from fields, causing drought. It feasted upon livestock. It snacked on people. It basically spent its entire existence flying around wreaking havoc.

Fortunately, this particular baddie was killed by the great Persian warrior Karsasp who filled it so full of arrows it looked like a pin-cushion. Karsasp is the hero we are waiting for to come back and rid the world of Azhi Dahaka, too. But by then the world as we know it will be over anyway, so at least he took care of the evil bird for us, right?

#1 Al

The Al is a particularly horrifying monster. So far I haven’t come across any other creatures that have specifically set their beady little eyes upon pregnant women and infants, which is surprising since pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy were a pretty tough go back in the day. Perhaps the Al are responsible for the hardships of motherhood all around the world.

The Al is a night stalker. She appears as an old woman with pointed teeth, thin, stringy hair, and claw-like fingernails which she used to tear into pregnant women to get at the fetus. The Al was invisible unless she chose to be seen so she can attack in broad daylight without anyone being the wiser. At night, you are more likely to see her terrifying face before she attacks.

Worse than that, the Al had a taste for newborn babies. She was blamed for miscarriages, stillbirths, and what we now call Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and was the most feared of all demons in the Persian pantheon because the effects of her evil nature were inescapable. Whether or not you can see her, she is always there, waiting…

Conclusion

What do you think of the Persian monsters? I have never studied Persian mythology before, and it was interesting to see how many versions of these ancient tales persist today. Another giant bird creature called Simurgh, for example, is a precursor for the Pheonix. The Azhi probably influenced the dragon myths that later spread across Europe. The Peri are almost exactly the same as the fairies and sprites of the British Isles, but their history reaches much farther back.

What else might we discover on our exploration of myths and monsters? Where to next? Let me know in the comments!

5 Hair-Raising Haunts of Korean Folklore

Good morning, friends and fellow-creep addicts. Did you sleep well? Perhaps not if you’ve been reading this pre-Halloween series on folklore monsters from around the globe.

So far we’ve seen spine-chilling creatures from Canada, Serbia, and the British Isles. But we aren’t done our terrifying tour just yet.

Today’s post is in honour of one of my very best friends, who is Korean-Canadian and loves spooky stories! Come with me as we explore the supernatural side of Korea…

#5 Dragons

Dragons are not the scariest of creatures, at least in Korean culture. In fact, Korean dragons are pretty sweet-natured. They are water guardians and are associated with agriculture. Korean dragons can be found living in lakes, rivers, and deep mountain springs, and they are benevolent creatures who don’t mind helping out human kind. Some of them are pictured with an orb called an Yeouiju, which makes the dragon all-knowing and all-seeing. If you can find one of these dragons, they are sure to be an invaluable ally on whatever quest you’ve embarked upon. Korean dragons are thought to be able to affect weather, and would make a formidable enemy if provoked.

#4 Dokkaebi

The Dokkaebi are Korean trolls or goblins. They are said to have been created from an inanimate object stained by human blood. Dokkaebi are crafty trouble-makers. These tricksters love a practical joke and playing games. They especially like to challenge people to wrestling matches!

Besides being fearsome grappling opponents, Dokkaebi have a couple other tricks up their sleeves. They have hats that can make them invisible, and they have a club which can summon any object, which likely comes in handy if the wrestling match doesn’t go their way.

The most ancient references to Dokkaebi in Korean literature demonstrate that they were once worshipped as almost god-like creatures. Sometimes their tricks were blamed for bad crops, plagues, and famines. But for all their jokes and playful natures, though, what the Dokkaebi wants most in the world is to live with humans.

#3 Gumiho

These crafty characters have had a surge in popularity recently. I’ve seen them popping up in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, and even little cartoon creatures in my kids’ “How to Draw Cute Things” tutorial books.

But there is nothing cute about the Gumiho–the Nine-Tailed Fox. The Gumiho are said to be transformed from a fox that has lived 1000 years. After achieving this notable feat, the creature is given the ability to shape-shift. Most often, they choose to present themselves as beautiful women, although the Gumiho itself is usually represented as having a male spirit.

We all know what happens when supernatural creatures wear the glamour of a beautiful woman, though. That’s right. You’re about to get eaten.

Gumiho are said to eat the livers and hearts of the people they seduce. And if you’re not into ladies, don’t feel too secure, because the Gumiho can transform itself into men, too. Or whatever it is that is going to get you within chomping distance.

When they can’t feed on living people, the Gumiho can sometimes be found digging up freshly buried people to eat their hearts and prolong their lives.

#2 Cheuksin

The Cheuksin are literally Outhouse Goddesses. I see you smirking there. But there is nothing funny about having to creep out to the outhouse in the middle of the night and know that this creature could be waiting for you inside.

The Cheuksin hides in outhouses, grooming her long black hair and plotting against the world of the living. If you cough three times and wait before entering the toilet, you give her time to scuttle away, and you can safely do your business.

However, if you forget and just barge in on her, the Cheuksin is going to be mad. She waits for you to sit down, and then pounces on you from the shadows above. Her long tresses coil around you, strangling like thousands of snakes. Even if you escape at this point, you will suffer incurable maladies for the rest of your presumably shortened life.

This myth has evolved with the times and, although outhouses are not so common any more, Koreans still have to live with hoajangshil gwisins, or “toilet ghosts.” And I don’t mean Moaning Myrtle. Now you know why girls like to travel to the toilet in packs!

#1 Gwishin

Ghosts. Ghosts are everywhere in Korean folklore, horror movies, and urban legends. The Cheuksin is a special type of ghost, and I gave her her own post because I know and respect the fear of midnight outhouse trips. But there are a few more ghosts that we need to mention.

Cheonyeo Gwisin is the “Virgin Ghost,” or a “Maiden Ghost.” Cheonyeo are usually depicted wearing long, white funerary clothes, and have long black hair falling over their faces. These lonely spirits just wanted to find true love, but died before their time. They’re kind of bitter about it, so watch out.

Mul Gwishin is the “Water Ghost.” These creatures are the souls of people who have drowned. These sad creatures often don’t realize they are dead and are looking for companions in the water. They sometimes help others who are drowning. Or, sometimes, they want to pull you under. Usually, these ghosts are invisible. But in the event of offering a helpful or harmful hand, they may appear as long thin arms reaching up from the depths.

Dalgyal Gwishin is the “Egg Ghost.” They are the spirits of childless men and women who, having left no decedents, have no one left to remember them. As the living forget, they are stripped of their features, and become more a and more unhappy. They aren’t evil as such, but seeing a Dalgyal Gwishin means certain death for you, and extended torture in the afterlife for the ghost. If you do come across an egg ghost, I hope for your sake, that you’ve left a child or two behind.

Conclusion

What do you think? I found it interesting in researching this article that it is actually quite difficult to find malevolent Korean creatures. They go all in on the ghosts, and most other supernatural beings are benevolent or neutral, and can be appeased with offerings and prayer. Which is your favourite? Where would you like me to visit next? Tell me in the comments!

5 Fearsome Fae of the British Isles

Today we are continuing our exploration of mythical monsters from around the world with a trip to the British Isles. This particular journey was inspired by a comment by writer S.J. Howland of Norfolk, England who popped into our Instagram discussion on 5 Creepy Canadian Creatures. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t miss out on those beasties or the 5 Goulish Monsters of Serbian Folklore!

Now, onto the good stuff. The British Isles are chock full of mythological creatures both benign and beastly. It was tough to narrow it down to five. These are the ones that caught my eye… probably that means I’m doomed.

#5 Kelpie

These pretty little Scottish water spirits are anything but benign. The kelpie may appear as a beautiful woman bathing by a stream or river, or sometimes a ragged hairy beast ready to pounce on unsuspecting travelers. Most often, thought, the kelpie appears as a horse drinking at the stream.

Naturally, these equine spirits appeal particularly to children, which makes them even more malevolent. The kelpie will present itself as a wild white pony, an irresistible treat to a child. But if the child is silly enough to try to touch this creature they will never be released. The kelpie’s sticky hide fastens itself to human flesh and, with its prey in tow, the creature then dives into the water to drown its victim and feast upon their corpse.

There is something particularly horrifying about carnivorous horses, isn’t there?

#4 Gwyllgi

Black dogs are an especial favourite of folklore from the British Isles. But this Welsh demon is particularly sinister. It appears to travelers as a huge black hound or mastiff, sometimes a black wolf, with blazing red eyes and the stinking, sulphuric breath of hell itself. Naturally, crossing paths with this monster is considered a bad omen. But if you only cross paths with it, you can consider yourself lucky.

Gwyllgi, or “The Dog of Darkness,” will trot alongside you in the shadows of a lonely road. Sometimes it will stalk a person for hours before attacking. If you are caught by the baleful eyes of the Gwyllgi, you will be instantly paralyzed by its gaze, making you a convenient snack for the ravenous beast.

Black Dogs go by a variety of regional names, including Black Shuck, Skriker, Trash and the Padfoot. You may recognize the latter as J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the character Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

#3 Alp-luachra

This Irish spirit’s name literally means “joint-eater.” Now, before you get too horrified, the thing doesn’t actually eat your joints. That would be disgusting. However, this nasty little creature will take the form of a newt and crawl down your throat while you are sleeping to feast on the contents of your stomach. That’s much better, right?

#2 Dearg-Due

Ireland’s very own vampire myth is one of my favourites. Meet Dearg-Due. She was once a beautiful young woman who fell in love with a common man from her village. You know how this story goes. Her family did not approve of her relationship with such a low-born boy, and arranged a more fitting union for her instead. Distraught over her lost love and at the thought of her upcoming wedding, Dearg-Due killed herself. (Some versions of the story say she wasted away after her marriage, but I like the more dramatic version!)

But that wasn’t quite enough for dear Dearg-Due. After her funeral, she dragged herself out of the freshly dug grave and slaughtered her entire family, including her husband-to-be, and in a frenzied blood-lust actually sucked the life right out of them. Fresh blood made her feel alive again, and she thirsted for more and more. She went on to seduce countless young men, only to sink her monstrous teeth into their necks and have their lives in order to extend her own.

The remains of Dearg-Due are said to be buried at Strongbow’s Tree in Waterford. She only arises on the anniversary of her death, so the locals cover her grave with heavy stones in hopes of keeping her below ground. Sometimes, thought, the stones are misplaced or not heavy enough, and she is able to escape for a night of bloody revenge upon the countryside.

#1 Nuckelavee

What is it with the Scots and making horses scary as fuck? The Nuckelavee is an Orcadian legend similar to the centaur. Not so bad, you think. But these creatures are to centaurs what zombies are to humans. These horse-like demons pull themselves from the ocean in order to ravage nearby farmlands and villages.

Nuckelavee is described as having a man’s torso upon a horses back–so far, familiar–but the creature’s arms are so long they drag on the ground and it has no skin. Exposed veins and ligaments writhe around raw muscles and bone. Their rotting bodies ooze contagion, and they sicken crops and livestock wherever they roam. It was believed to be at fault for epidemic disease, crop failures, and the death of livestock, which often led to starvation of the people. The Nuckelavee was so feared in the Orkney Islands that locals wouldn’t say its name without uttering a prayer.

Conclusion

Did I miss one of your favourite Fearsome Fae? Where would you like to see this series go next? Let me know in the comments!

Check out S.J. Howland’s Book!

As a thank you for this fabulous inspiration (particularly the Padfoot detail!), please check out Book One in S.J. Howland’s The Haven series:

From Amazon:

Xander King does not believe in fairytales. He prefers rational explanations, keeping his head down and trying to avoid the inevitable comparisons with his genius mother. The last thing he expects is to have his life turned upside down by terrifying shadows and an encounter with a mysterious stone tablet, challenging his entire view of reality and catapulting him into the parallel world of Haven.

Faced with extraordinary creatures, ancient secrets and a heritage he does not understand, Xander is drawn into the struggle to protect the border between his own reality and Haven, and prevent disaster overcoming them both. But, as darkness spreads, he must confront new questions. Where does he belong, and is anything in Haven really as it seems?

Discover the mesmerising world of Haven and the truths long-hidden in the ancient stories in this gripping fantasy adventure.

5 Ghoulish Monsters of Serbian Folklore to Haunt Your Nightmares

Yesterday, there was a great discussion on Instagram following my post about the 5 Creepy Canadian Creatures You’ve Probably Never Heard Of post I did here yesterday. I have so many interesting ideas for the rest of this week’s posts!

The most terrifying suggestions so far came from another writer friend of mine, Eli Gilic, who is from Serbia. So you can thank her for the nightmares the following creatures might inspire…

#5 The Vila

At first glance, the Vila don’t seem so bad. These shape-shifting nymphs can be found in rivers, lakes, and forests and may appear as any number of wild creatures such as horses, wolves, or falcons. Usually, though, they prefer the form of beautiful maidens in the nude. And hey, who can blame them? This form is the best for luring unsuspecting humans to their sexy dance parties.

The Vila are not to be trifled with, however. If a human angers them, or breaks their word, these ladies are unforgiving. They can kill with a glance, but that’s kind of boring. The Vila are also warriors so mighty that they shake the earth when they battle. They will kill anyone who defies them.

The coolest thing about the Vila is that they choose when to die. They are immortal unless they decide they’re ready to go. And you know they aren’t going to do that while they’re hunting you down for pissing them off. So watch yourself.

#4 Zmaj

The Zmaj is a dragon-like creature which, like the Vila, can be either evil or benevolent depending on his mood. Like most mythological dragons, the Zmaj can appear as a winged, fire-spitting creature screeching through the skies overhead. But the Zmaj are believed to be half-human shapeshifters who can take whatever form they like in order to seduce or trick the foolish humans who cross their paths.

The Zmaj are generally seen as protectors, and were often worshiped as ancestor spirits. But the Zmaj suffer from very human appetites, and can be distracted from the people they are supposed to protect when the fall in love with a beautiful maiden. Then crops suffer, people get sick and die, and bad weather sweeps in to finish everyone off. On top of all of this, the prized woman usually dies from the strength and ferocity of a Zmaj’s love. So yeah, best to keep these guys at a safe distance.

#3 Aždaja

The Aždajas are another dragon-like creature, similar to the Zmal. This one is pure evil, though. There’s no falling in love and neglecting of crops here, an Aždaja just wants to hunt you down and eat you.

Described as a huge, bat-winged snake or lizard with multiple heads, this creature likes to hang out in dark, creepy places waiting for a tasty human snack to wander haplessly past. The Aždaja spits blue fire, terrifies with its monstrous shrieking, and would like nothing better than to devour every last creature on earth.

Consider this the next time you think of entering a cave or, hey, even a dark alley for that matter. These guys don’t mess around.

#2 Karakondžula

These vicious little goblins are etymologically related to the Turkish words for “bloodsucker,” “vampire,” and “werewolf.” But they are usually described as little black goblins. They are described as squat and ugly, and favour (of course) the black of night to perform their evil deeds. The 12 Days of Christmas, or the “unbaptized days,” are said to be the most dangerous. If a person goes outside at night during this time a Karakondžula will jump on their back and demand to be carried to wherever they want to go. The person is saved by the crow of a rooster announcing the rising sun.

These fiendish little goblins are particularly hard on adulterers. Anyone thinking of sneaking out of their house in order to visit a brothel, mistress, or prostitute must beware. The Karakondžula might be waiting in your doorway to leap upon your back, bite and scratch you with long talons, and ride you into the forest all night. So, you know, philander at your own risk.

#1 Drekavac

This creature’s name literally translates to “screamer” or “screecher.” Variously described as an undead man risen from the grave, or a dead unbaptized child come back to haunt its parents, or a dog-like creature that walks on its hind legs, the Drekavac is undoubtedly a nightmarish creature.

These little delights are also most active during the 12 Days of Christmas, and early spring, when evil spirits were thought to be roaming about. Like the Banshee, the cries of a Dekavac are said to foretell of a person’s death. When it is in its animal form, it may predict disease for farm animals. If its shadow falls upon you, you will grow sick and die.

Fear of the Drekavac causes it’s own issues, too, as some stories tell of fishermen being so terrified of the creatures that they refuse to fish while their village slowly starved.

Conclusion

Well, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t go wandering around the Serbian country side at night. Especially around Christmas! It sounds like Christmas is like a second Halloween for much of Eastern Europe. But there is something much more terrifying about evil spirits wandering around in the dead of winter than bright and cheerful autumn. What do you think? Any local legends you’d like to explore? Tell me in the comments.

PS: Check out Eli Gilic’s book!

From Amazon: Charles Baudelaire, Rasputin, Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Sand, Frederic Chopin, Vincent Van Gogh, Antonin Artaud, Maria Izquierdo, James Joyce, Federico Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dali.

Can Rasputin find redemption through the sins of others? What awaits Anna Karenina on the other side? Does passion still flow through the veins of the lovers from Verona? Can Hamlet and Ophelia escape their fate? Is Van Gogh’s loneliness a blessing or a curse? And can Dali dispel Lorca’s fear.

Eli Gilić deftly weaves fact and fiction to bring some of the world’s great writers, literary characters, artists and composers to life as they reach the heights of passion and the depths of despair in this mesmerising erotic short story collection.

5 Creepy Canadian Creatures You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Since we’re getting closer to Halloween, I thought this week we would explore some mythological monsters and creepy creatures from around the world. And what better place for me to start than in my own backyard?

Er… It’s a good thing Canada is a big place…

#5 Le Loup-Garou

Most of you have probably heard of le loup-garou. It’s just the French word for “werewolf.” But did you know that French Canadians have their own spin on the werewolf myth? The Quebecois have tied this particular monster up in pretty pink Easter ribbons, using it as a warning to those who fail to perform their religious duties. If a person eschews their Easter rites for seven years in a row, they are transformed into the blood-thirsty loup-garou.

Strangely, the loup-garou does not necessarily become a wolf. Tales of werepigs, -cats, -oxen, and other farm animals abound. One thing is sure, though. The loup-garou appears human by day and is transformed at night, driven by an insatiable desire for human flesh. You can save a person from the loup-garou curse only by drawing their blood. Sounds easy enough, until you remember that this creature will be trying to eat you…

Can you think of anything more terrifying than a werepig? I thought not.

#4 The Waheela

The Nahanni Valley in Canada’s Northwest Territories has a charming nickname: “The Valley of the Headless Men.” It got this catchy moniker by–you guessed it!–being a place where decapitated corpses have a history of turning up.

Theories abound as to what makes the Nahanni Valley so terrifying: everything from warlike native tribes, to grizzly bears, to alien encounters. But the one myth that seems to stick is that of the waheela.

Waheela are creatures somewhere between a bear and a wolf, similar to the prehistoric dire wolves. Unlike the fearless battle wolves of your favourite fantasy books and video games, dire wolves actually used to actually roam the NWT. Some people think they still do, leaving only headless corpses in their wake.

#3 The Great Serpent of the South Saskatchewan River

Canada loves its lake monsters. From Ogopogo of the Okanagan to Mussie in Ontario, every large body of water in this country seems to have its own local lore. But one creature from the depths is less well-known.

The city of Medicine Hat, Alberta is named for an ancient encounter with the Great Spirit who once appeared to a scout of the Blood Indians. The Great Spirit took the form of a giant serpent who offered to make the man a great warrior and medicine man. In exchange, the serpent demanded the man make a sacrifice of his wife’s flesh. At first, the man tried to bargain, offering the serpent his favourite dog instead. But the serpent refused. The woman, desperate to see her husband become the great man the serpent foretold of, willing allowed herself to be sacrificed.

After the Great Spirit had been given the woman’s flesh, he told the man where to find a bag of medicines and a hat trimmed with ermine. The serpent explained how to use the medicines, and the hat–which guaranteed victory in any battle to the wearer–to the man and he did indeed become a great medicine man and warrior. The city of Medicine Hat is named for the headdress he wore.

The serpent lurks beneath the surface of the South Saskatchewan River, awaiting the next worthy sacrifice.

#2 Adlet

The adlet is an Inuit myth of human people with dogs legs. The adlet are the children born of a union between an Inuit woman named Uinigumissuitung and a huge, sentient dog called Ijirqang. They run as fast as wolves and feast upon hapless wanderers and the people of unprotected villages.

Legend has it that five of the abominations raced across the ice and become the first Europeans. In light of the devastation wrought by the waves of European settlers, one can understand where the vicious dog-men might be seen as similarly monstrous.

#1 Windigo

The Windigo are skeletal creatures with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. The spirits possess humans in order to feed their desires, turning people into cannibals. Windigo may possess a person long after their human body dies and nothing remains but the emaciated corpse with rotting lips and bleeding gums.

Eating human flesh is enough to invite the spirits into your body and turn you into a monster. In traditional native cultures it is considered better to kill oneself than to resort to cannibalism if faced with starvation. Once a person has become possessed by a Windigo spirit, the only way to kill it is to burn the person and melt the spirit’s heart of ice.

Windigo, or Wendigo, myths are common enough in North America, each a little different from the next. The Windigo of northern Saskatchewan have a special place within my own personal history and variations on these creatures appear in some of my short stories and even an unfinished novel I’ve been working on. Where I grew up, Windigo stories were the equivalent of the ghost story. We all knew someone who had an encounter with one, and some of us have been lucky enough to escape such an encounter ourselves. But speaking of the Windigo is forbidden, and it is nearly impossible to get people to talk about their experiences.

Many Windigo have been burned here. Still others remain, waiting.

Conclusion

Do you have any local myths and legends where you are from? Tell me about them in the comments! Which area of the world should I feature next?

Indie Feature Friday: PROPHECY by Caroline Noe

Indie Feature Friday: PROPHECY by Caroline Noe

I haven’t done a book review in a long time, but since getting involved with the #bookstagram community on Instagram I have read so many wonderful indie and hybrid authors, and I think it’s time to share some of the wealth with you guys. I will try to reserve my end-of-week posts for Indie Feature Friday so that they are easy to find.

First up, is Prophecy by Caroline Noe, Book One in The Canellian Eye trilogy!

Click through to Amazon.com

I have been following Caroline Noe on Instagram for a while now, and I have always been so impressed with how supportive she is of other authors. Her feed is full of beautiful photography, thoughts on life, and reviews of independently published books. If you’re on the gram, you should definitely check her out!

Review: Prophecy

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from Noe’s Canellian Eye trilogy. I had seen the gorgeous covers many times when she posted about her work, but I hadn’t actually gone to creep the Amazon listing. In my head it was a post-apocalyptic SF because there’s a lot of that on Instagram. I also expected it to be YA.

Preconceptions aside, when Noe offered a promo on Book One, Prophecy, I bought the whole trilogy without worrying too much about the specifics. I had seen her help and support so many other authors, I knew I wanted to support her. So I jumped into the first book without having any idea what to expect.

I was blown away!

First of all, let me clear things up. It’s not YA, by my definition. The characters are young, and there’s no graphic sex or dirty talk, but the themes definitely skew toward an older crowd. New Adult, perhaps. But I think we can safely call this a book for adult readers.

Second of all, this is not a Post-Apocalyptic or Dystopian Sci-Fi. It’s a blend of Science Fiction and Science Fantasy (I never know where to draw the line between the two). It’s got aliens, space travel, the colonization of a new planet, and inter-species conflict galore. I was so pleasantly surprised by everything about this book.

The Plot

The Canellian’s are an alien species from a dying planet. Following an ancient prophecy, they identify their Chosen One and send him and a handful of their best and brightest into the stars to find a new home. For those left behind, it is the ultimate sacrifice for their species. For those on the ship, the struggle for survival is only just beginning.

No Spoilers!

That’s all I’m going to say about that. But let’s just say that things don’t go exactly as planned. Like in any great book, Noe makes her character’s lives miserable. It all makes for some fantastic reading!

My thoughts…

Prophecy starts off slow and atmospheric. There is a bit of back story the reader needs to become acquainted with. We have a large cast of characters to meet and become familiar with. Readers of SF will likely be comfortable with this slow and steady world building. And once the action starts, you will be glad you spent so much time getting to know the world and the people in it!

Then shit hits the fan, first in outer space and then on the planet they must make an emergency landing on. And when the action starts, it doesn’t let up until the end.

Prophecy is exquisitely complex. Noe’s characters are all so wonderfully developed that, even though there are many of them, they each leap off the page as individuals. Even the baddies are relatable on some level. The emotional undercurrents driving the plot are so strong, you can’t help feeling completely invested in the outcome.

Technical Details

Many Indie books suffer a little in the design, formatting, and editing aspects of publication. It’s tough to be an indie and have to pay out of pocket for all of these services (which are NOT cheap! It can cost thousands of dollars to produce a book you buy for a couple of bucks or download for free during a promo!) I am willing to look past a few Indie quirks for this reason. It is very difficult to compete with the teams of people who work on books from Big House publishers.

Prophecy is a work of pure professionalism, though. It is easily as well edited and designed as any book put out by one of the Big Guys. You would never know Noe was an indie writer if I didn’t tell you! I’m very, very impressed with her work and I cannot wait to dive into Books Two and Three in The Canellian Eye trilogy!

The Canellian Eye Book Two: Chosen by Caroline Noe
The Canellian Eye Book Three: Rebellion by Caroline Noe

My Rating: * * * * *

I’m giving this book and easy 5 Stars. If you love true SF, with space ships, aliens, and interspecies warfare, this is the book for you. If you love books with complex characters, richly developed relationships, a little romance and adventure, this is the book for you!

Reviews

If you decide to pick up Prophecy please let me know what you think! More importantly, leave a review wherever you purchase it from so that other readers can find it and fall in love, too.

Thanks for reading!

6 Post-Apocalyptic Books for the End of the World

When I first started writing, I was really drawn to Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi. I loved the grittiness, the horror, and the very real threat posed by climate disasters, disease, and warfare.

My own trilogy started off in a Post-Apocalyptic vein with The Timekeepers’ War. It quickly diverged into a dark Science Fantasy inspired by Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman (Think Oryx and Crake meets Neverwhere). Now, as I begin to write book three, it’s evolving ever further into Solarpunk/Moonpunk/Cyberpunk territory. This is why I never bother to plan in too much detail, haha.

Anyway, my point is I used to read a lot of Post-Apoc SF. I still enjoy it from time to time, though I’m beginning to be drawn away from the doom and gloom sub-genre and toward more hopeful futures.

I did want to compile a list of my favourite titles in the Post-Apocalyptic genre, so far. So here it is!

#5 The Stand by Stephen King

I read this book when I was in the hospital waiting for my youngest daughter to be born. Seems like a weird time to dwell on the end of civilization as we know it, but I needed a long read. I was there for weeks! And all that death and destruction didn’t actually bother me that much.

In a world ravaged by a military-designed plague, 1% of the population has survived and is trying to make sense of this bleak new landscape. As they wander around, collecting allies and enemies, we get a sense of how much work is ahead of these survivors if they wish to have any hope at all for the future.

The weakest part of The Stand in my opinion, is where King strays away from the standard Post-Apocalyptic themes and dives into Paranormal Horror, with Randall Flagg, the dark man. But this book is worth reading for the scale alone. It is massive. There are so many characters and the way they weave in and out of one another’s lives is a feat to behold.

#4 The World Made By Hand by James Howard Kuntsler

This book has a very different feel from some of the others on the list. While the setting is certainly post-apocalyptic: there is no electricity, no fuel for vehicles, no government to speak of anymore, it feels more like a tale from the North American frontier.

I really enjoyed The World Made By Hand for the back-to-basics homesteading life Kuntsler presents. There are dangers, of course, but the focus of this book is on how people will survive through cooperation and community.

In Post-Apocalyptic fiction, I find there’s an almost artificial darkness and bleakness presented where humanity essentially devolves into a monstrous, animal like version of itself. I appreciate that Kuntsler’s characters remain human–they are social animals–while they may be fiercely territorial they still find groups and work together for the betterment of their people. It’s not an every-man-for-themselves orgy of death and destruction (I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy)

#3 Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is perhaps the single most important book in my journey as a speculative fiction writer. Atwood really demonstrates the potential for Science Fiction to predict the future, or warn us about our own potential (for devastation). Everything she writes about is inspired by real-life scientific discoveries which she pushes just a little bit further and asks “what if?”

It is perhaps unfair to include Oryx and Crake in this list as, while it starts and ends with a post-apocalyptic world, it is more the story of what caused the apocalypse. It is both a tragic love story and a story about the downfall of humanity. The rest of the Maddaddam trilogy explores in more depth both the pre- and post-apocalyptic world. I cannot recommend it enough.

Atwood has a way of finding humour in the most horrific situations, she is able to make awful people sympathetic, and her scathing jabs at humanity are both hilarious and poignant. These books are filled with so many literary gems! If you love emotional complexity in your end-of-the-world stories, this is the series for you.

#2 The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

In a world that has been decimated by a mysterious virus, almost everyone is dead. Of those who survived, very few are women. This premise provides the unique setting for The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison as she explores the particular struggles that women and girls might face in the event of a post-apocalyptic reckoning.

The titular midwife is a woman who learns to dress and act like a man in order to conceal herself as she seeks out women needing help: menstrual products, birth control, midwifery, etc.

The female experience is often neglected in the post-apocalyptic fiction I’ve read. Or it’s used as a catch all for the horror of rape and other violence. While Elison certainly doesn’t shy away from these realities, I found the twist of women helping women to be a refreshing change. I read this book years ago and still think of it often.

#1 The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I have had this book on my TBR pile for years and I finally decided now was the time to read it. I read it out loud to my husband as our before bed reading, which may not have been that great an idea. My husband has had a few nightmares inspired by this book. But I swear it’s worth it!

In Parable of the Sower Butler explores a world irrevocably changed by climate disasters and economic crises. She demonstrates how racial and class inequalities might play out in a post-apocalyptic world. And it’s bleak. This is not an easy book to read.

However, Butler does a few things that make this book stand out from other post-apocalyptic books I’ve read. First, she focuses on community. The main character, 15 year old Lauren lives inside a gated community with her family, and the first half of the novel shows us how they live by helping and supporting one another. But as the world gets increasingly unstable and violent outside their walls, Lauren tries to band her people together for self-protection. Second, Lauren suffers from a condition called hyper-empathy which causes her to share others’ pain. Third, Butler explores addiction and how that might affect an already precarious society. Fourth, Lauren not only bands people together for survival, she becomes a prophet for a new religion with the potential to save humanity from itself.

If that’s not a powerful setup I don’t know what is! You have to give this one a try. When I finished book one, my husband practically yelled “What!? It can’t be over yet!” because we had gotten so invested in these characters. Don’t worry, I’ve got book 2 already.

Not Recommended: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I don’t usually like to comment on books I don’t like, but I felt The Road by Cormac McCarthy would be conspicuous by its absence on my list. I want you to know that I did read and consider this book, but no matter how hard I try I cannot like it or recommend it.

The Road is one of those books which has received so many critical accolades that it can’t possibly stand up to its own hype. I knew that going in, and I really tried to be fair with it. But I simply can’t see why everyone loves it so much?

The unnamed disaster doesn’t really hold up logically. There are way too many convenient windfalls for the father and son as they travel down the Road. I felt the story lacked purpose. There is no hope in this novel. And I know that was the point. But hopelessness taken to this extreme is pointless and frankly unrealistic. In order to make this plot work McCarthy had to strip human kind of all their social instincts. It felt forced to me, like he was trying really hard to be macho and gritty and show how dark he could be. This book tries too hard.

Parable of the Sower has so much more impact, and ends up being much darker, because it allows for hope. It allows for us to build up expectations and have some of them dashed to pieces. The Road is just a shit sandwich. You could keep eating it, but you know exactly what the next bite is going to taste like… so why put yourself through it?

Conclusion

So these are my top 5! What would you add to the list? Have you read any of these titles? What did you think of them?

I’m always looking for books to add to my never-ending To Be Read pile! Hit me with your suggestions in the comments.

5 Toxic Myths About Creativity

When you think of artists, or writers, or musicians, what is the first thing that pops into your head? One of the greats? Or some reclusive weirdo who seems perpetually at odds with “the real world?”

Creativity is often viewed as a mysterious thing. Something some people have it and others don’t. It can drive people to do incredible things. Or it can drive a person mad.

These dichotomous images of blazing success and blistering failure are burned into our cultural retinas. Often when we feel blocked in our creativity it is because we have internalized society’s ideas about what creativity is, where it comes from, and who is allowed to be creative.

What if it’s all a lie?

What if all our notions about creativity are wrong? Where does that leave us creative people?

Let’s take a look at 5 of the most toxic myths about creativity that could be standing between you and success.

#5 “She’s so talented!”

We all know people who are better than us at something. Maybe it’s math homework, maybe it’s painting, maybe it’s public speaking. It is tempting to believe that they are simply talented in a way that we can never be. In fact, having to work at something can feel discouraging.

But the fact is, talent has very little to do with skill. Sure, some people have a natural inclination towards some things more than others. While that might give them an initial boost, what really makes people “talented” is good old-fashioned hard work. No one gets good at something without trying, failing, and trying again. What separates average people from the talented ones is this: Talented people work harder.

#4 “You must suffer for your art.”

This myth is particularly toxic because it validates a lot of negative behaviours and mindsets that we really should work to fix. The very parts of our brains that help us to be creative–asking why and what if, deconstructing ideas and analyzing them, thinking differently from other people–can leave us feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and alienated from society.

Instead of seeking help when this happens, creative people often choose to numb themselves through substance abuse and self-harm. Depression and anxiety are common in creative people.

There is an idea out there that truly powerful works of art come from a place of great pain and suffering. While it is true that creativity can provide catharsis for past trauma, you do not have to suffer in order to be creative.

Treating your depression, anxiety, or substance abuse will not block your creativity. In fact, getting help for your mental health will more likely unleash a wave of ideas and inspiration that you can draw from for years to come!

#3 “He’s a starving artist.”

This is a big one. The starving artist myth allows people to take advantage of you and your creativity. It is the myth that makes it okay for people to suggest you work for free “for the exposure.” It is the myth that causes you to undervalue your own work.

See, we have this idea that you can’t make money as a creator. Writers, artists, musicians, crafts people… we just do it for the love of creating. We don’t actually expect to make a living at it, do we? That would be crazy.

Well, call me crazy, but I like to eat. I like to have a roof over my head. I like to be able to buy new shoes for my kids when they outgrow their old ones. And just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I should have to work another job in order to do those things.

Creativity is a highly sought after commodity in the world. We need creative people to design our websites, to write ad copy, to entertain us with music and stories, to decorate our spaces. Your skills are valuable. The world wants and needs your skills. So whatever you do, don’t undercut your earnings by devaluing your own work.

#2 “Wow! What an original idea!”

Creative people often get blocked by this need to “be original.” We try so hard to be different from everyone else that we run out of ideas entirely. Why? Because original ideas do not exist. Like perfectionism, the quest for originality is a wild goose chase. Quit while you’re ahead.

I talked about this in my post “But I have Nothing to Say!” and Other Lies. You do not have to have a completely new idea in order for your work to be worthy of an audience. The way you approach a familiar idea is what makes your work interesting and unique. Your “you-ness” is the real product here. That is what you do that no one else can do.

#1 “She’s a bit of a loner.”

Are creative people introverts or extroverts? Most people would answer introverts. But they would be wrong. The truth is, creative people can be introverted or extroverted or anywhere in between. The idea that creativity is some kind of mad genius magic that only works in total isolation is about as crazy as it gets.

Even if creative people prefer to do their actual work in solitude (which not all of us do!) we cannot create in a void. We are all inspired by the works of other people. Successful creatives have a strong network of other creative people to bounce ideas off of, share with, and get feedback from. If you’re an extrovert, these connections might happen in galleries and coffee shops and other public places. Introverts might prefer online groups and the intimacy of small critique circles. The important thing is that we share our work with others.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Anyone can be creative. You don’t have to have an innate talent, you don’t have to be depressed and miserable, you don’t have to be perpetually broke, you don’t have to have a “new” idea, and you don’t have to work alone.

Can you think of any other myths about creative people that might be getting in the way of your creativity?

If you are still feeling creatively stifled and don’t know where to turn next, check out my post on Imposter Syndrome.

Let me know what you think in the comments!