Tag Archives: Winter Tales

Winter’s Tale : How I owe The Wolf Moon to Boscastle’s Witch Museaum

A Winter’s Tale, or how I owe my story The Wolf Moon to Boscastle’s Witch Museum.

by Sharon Kernow

Diana, the huntress. Her mother called winter a time of silence. For Diana, most of her life is quiet, her only companions wolves. Known as a witch by those in the human settlement even her rare visits to town are unwelcome.

Gabriel, named after the angel; although he’s no heavenly messenger, he refuses to trap what the locals want him to catch. When he sees Diana, he’s on the hunt for different prey.

Two people, strangers to each other, both outsiders… A harsh winter is upon them, but when their paths cross it will take a little ingenuity to survive the coldest of seasons.

Shiver under The Wolf Moon, one of a collection of Winter Tales.

Many winters ago, more than I care to consider, I picked up a book called The Witches’ Almanac. I chose it for a love of all things mystical, but also owing to one of my numerous visits to The Witch Museum, at Boscastle, in Cornwall.

The unmistakable white and black building has housed the largest accumulation of historical witchcraft memorabilia and been a component of Boscastle’s landscape for fifty years. Originally founded on the Isle of Man by Cecil H.Wiliamson the museum’s survived various guises and displacements (at times Williamson received death threats and after nasty occurrences to encourage his ‘moving on’), until eventually finding its current situation sited right by the harbour. Many feared for its contents following the flood of 2004, but the collection survived that, too, guarded in recent years by a wicker representation of Pan.

I might not have looked at the Almanac if not for that visit and The Wolf Moon among other titles would never have come into being. The book inspired several stories, some of which I plan to publish individually in anthologies with the intention of creating a collection. As to how the idea of the story of Diana and Gabriel developed from nothing more than a title and a short list of items, it can be difficult to describe the process particularly when I’m a ‘pantser’ — someone who ‘flies by the seat of’ and often sits down with a vague notion with which to face an empty page.

My moniker Sharon Kernow (the cornish word for Cornwall) is something else that may never have come into being if not for my love of the county and all things mystical. It’s where my heart lies, where I long to live, and more a part of me than any other place I’ve visited. When deciding to brand my Dark Fiction there was no better name.

For those who can spare a few minutes to linger, here is some footage of the local area and the witch museum as it was in Cecil’s time.

Link to the film, embedding code below:

Winter Tales : On When The Trees Were Enchanted

by Masimba Musodza

Several elements make up my story, spanning my childhood to the present day, and two countries.

As a middle-class boy growing up in Zimbabwe, I was first exposed to British pre-Christian culture through the TV series Robin of Sherwood. I had already heard of Robin Hood, but this TV adaptation featured a magical character, Herne the Hunter. Since then, I have remained fascinated with these islands’ most ancient lore.

The fear of winter and darkness appears to have persisted through the generations, even to this age where every British home has central heating. I don’t think a lot of people from Zimbabwe would associate winter with fear. In our part of the world, it is a delay in the onset of the rainy season that is to be dreaded. It leads to hunger, which leads to death. Hunger leads to the breakup of families as people go off in different directions in search of a means to earn an alternative living. It takes people away from the land in ways that do not, on the surface, appear anywhere near as brutal as the Slave Trade but have the same effect of eventually detaching them from their culture and heritage.

There is a connection between this ancient lore and modern literature that many people may not always immediately recognise, especially in the speculative, fantasy and horror genres. In The Persistence of Darkness- Shadows Behind the Life of the Story, Michael R. Collings draws attention to how the plot summary of the Germanic epic Beowulf could as easily apply to Stephen King’s The Mist:

A handful of people have gathered in a building in the centre
of a small town. Inside, they have found safety….or at least
the illusion of safety. Outside, there are only darkness, and fear,
and death. Daylight is dying. With the night will come the
monster. The people huddle close for warmth, for comfort. They
know that by the time the sun dawns again, some, or most-or
all-of them may be dead.

Yet, the two cultures- the one I was brought up in and the one I have found myself in- had this much in common: a belief that invisible yet omnipresent forces can intervene to change natural phenomena such as prolonged heat or cold for the benefit of humanity. Another belief, which the British seem to have lost but still holds sway among Zimbabweans, is that some parts of the land are sacred to various gods. Out of respect to those various gods, such sacred spaces are never touched by the work of man, not even as much as litter. When The Trees Were Enchanted speculates on resorting to the ancient powers of those gods to protect their sacred spaces when modernity- environmental protection laws etc- has failed.

Middlesbrough, North-East England, has seen many open spaces built over. On the one hand, the town needs at least 40000 new tax-payers in order for the books to balance. So, homes are being built on every available space. I am a member of a group called Hands on Middlesbrough, which seeks to raise awareness of these issues. It was founded by Scarlet Pink, who led a spirited campaign to save the oak trees at Acklam Hall as the builders moved in. The Middlesbrough suburb of Acklam is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Aclun, “the place of oaks.” That such symbols of the region’s heritage should be uprooted to make way for progress is outrageous. I remember looking at those trees as I walked past Acklam Hall and asked myself: whosoever claims those trees should protect them.

Migration, a topical issue in Britain, also found its way into the story. The narrator is a Zimbabwean man married to a British woman. It is her heritage that we are mostly concerned about, but his- in the form of his paternal aunt- follows him to the part of Britain he has chosen to make a home in as an intrusion. She is an eccentric, possibly mad woman, left to her own devices in this new land. Still, she becomes the link between powers visible and invisible, the past and the present.

Other ideas swirled into the story, clearly, but these are the main ones that moved me to sit down and pen it. I wonder what else others will read into it.

Winter Tales : ‘Yukizuki’

by Eliza Chan

‘Yukizuki’ means snow lover.

Before I moved to Japan, I thought I knew what seasons were. In the UK we get a smattering of snow in winter and a glimpse of sun in summer. I never realised the true extremities that seasons can bring until I lived in Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the northern-most island of Japan and here winters last from about November to April. Snow falls so thick that the snow ploughs only scrape off the surface layer and pile it up in metre high walls at the sides of the roads. And then when the snow finally melts, Hokkaido becomes the breadbasket of Japan: renowned for its dairy products, seafood, beer and fresh flowers.

These opposing forces are what I love about Hokkaido and about the yuki onna folktale. A yokai who is as cold as winter and yet in the most famous version of the tale by Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaiden, she also loves. She brings beauty and life but also death. Her tale has captured the imaginations of many for this same reason. I loved that she is reminiscent other Asian female spirits: Lady White Snake or the nine-tailed fox. But yuki onna is also the a version of the universal snow queen who exists in nearly every culture across the world that has a snowy season.

When I first moved to Sapporo, I loved the snow. Rather than the chance day or two we have in the UK, we were given guaranteed months and months of powder white. It was the snow you saw in children’s films and on Christmas cards. It made houses look like they should be made of gingerbread. But snow can also lower spirits. Nights were long and walking home after work on the slipping pavements lost its novelty. It became a chore, a hindrance to socialising, to getting places. I nearly started to dislike winter until I took up snowboarding. There were snow and ice festivals across Hokkaido but snowboarding was something I could look forward to at all those other times. The times it would have been very easy to stay at home and mope. I’ve never liked competitive sports or felt the need for speed therefore my friends going off-piste and trying tricks, soon grew bored of my leisurely curves as I would stop and admire the view.

Somewhere, on a gondola perhaps, or admiring the view on a solo ride, the yuki onna came back to me. I wrote a traditional retelling of the tale at first, set in feudal Japan. But it felt wrong. Like most folktales the motivation for what the characters did was sparse. I wanted to fill in those gaps, give them a life before and after the story ended. And for me, yuki onna became more than a woman. The restrictions that had been placed on her were a human conceit. If she was a spirit, it did not matter what form, what body she possessed. She is simply the winter.

Winter Tales : Under your Skin

by Amelia Gorman

I have a poem in Fox Spirit Books’ Winter Tales anthology, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir! It’s a beautiful book, with a fun mix of fabulism, sci-fi, stories with only the smallest touch of speculative elements, poetry, all kinds of stuff. I’d like to share the things that I think are great that inspired my particular piece.

There were two specific ideas I had been kicking around for months, trying to work into a poem or story when I saw Fox Spirit’s call for Winter Tales.

The first was a ballad in a book of poetry I stumbled across at the library. I think I was looking for the book “Monsters of the Sea” but this rebound, simple book of poetry grabbed my attention. It had classics like The Mermaid by Yeats, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, many more modern pieces and a few inspiring strange anonymous ballads I had never read before.

(Weird. I want to say it was Penguin Random House’s Poems of the Sea because most of the pieces I remember being in the book EXCEPT the relevant poem is listed on the table of contents. Oh well, that looks like a nice book of poetry about the sea too.)

The best ballad that caught my attention was The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.

An earthly nourris sits and sings,
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.”

Then ane arose at her bed fit,
And a grumly guest I’m sure was he,
Saying “Here am I, thy bairn’s father,
Although I am not comely.”

I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie in the sea,
And when I’m far frae every strand,
My home it is in Sule Skerry.”

“It was na weel”, the maiden cried,
“It was na weel, indeed” quo she,
“For the Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie,
To hae come and aught a bairn to me!”

Then he has taken a purse of gold,
And he has laid it on her knee,
Saying, “give to me, my little young son,
And take thee up thy nouriss fee.

It shall come to pass on a summer’s day,
When the sun shines hot on every stone,
That I shall take my little young son,
And teach him for to swim the foam.

And thou shalt marry a proud gunner,
And a very proud gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
And the very first shot that e’re he shoots,
he’ll kill both my young son and me.”

I found a number of things in this poem sticking with me. First of all, most selkie stories about women and their lives of shedding their skin, marriage, children, and usually returning to the sea. It was strange to read a story where the mythological creature was the father. Beyond that, the entire contents of the poem were just bizarre. He buys his son back? Especially knowing what’s going to happen? Is that a prophecy at the end or just him being sarcastic?

I wanted to tell a slightly more compassionate story, so I wrote about the difficulty of a formerly absent father adopting his son after the death of the mother.

Gorman - WInter Tales - blog picture

The other topic that fascinated me at the time was the Weddell seal, especially as presented by David Attenborough in the polar seas episode of Blue Planet It was almost too easy to anthropomorphize the seal’s fascinating life into something deeply lonely and tedious. The Weddell Seal is forced to gnaw open a single air hole alone all winter long so as to not run out of oxygen. In fact, its life span is shortened by its decreased ability to feed after dulling its teeth during the winter. I turn to nature documentaries for a lot of plots, the lives of animals contain so many bizarre, rich events that don’t take much work to twist into narrative structures.

Anyway, once I realized I wanted to combine those two ideas I wrote the poem that appears in Winter Tales. And along with that, I’m happy to share a very interesting ballad and one of nature’s great stories of survival, both of which are worth spending a little time with.

Copyright information for the quoted poem:
From Ballads Weird and Wonderful from 1912. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vernon_Hill,_The_Great_Silkie_of_Sule_Skerry,_1912.png.  Ballads Weird and Wonderful, 1912 can be checked up on here – https://archive.org/stream/balladsweirdwond00choprich#page/n39/mode/2up

Winter Tales : Among Wolves

by B Thomas

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I am infatuated with dark fiction. I’m not alone in this or King wouldn’t be one of the most iconic writers of all time, Gone Girl would not have been a smash success, and not one of you will get this next Brad Pitt reference: “Oh God. . . What’s in the box?” (I know some of you did.)

It’s also more than safe to say, that I have a deep respect and love for animals of all kinds, particularly wolves. Their elegance, their pack mentality, and the way they look at you with their heads low and their eyes unblinking. Sadly, though, they are also hunted, trapped, and facing endangerment. (That’s all the preaching I’m going to do, be assured). I knew several years ago that I wanted to write a story involving wolves, and our desperate need to get back in touch with nature. But the killer question was: in what way would this scenario be plausible? Easy: hello apocalypse.

The thing with apocalyptic fiction is that there are certain tropes that are nearly impossible to avoid. I.E – warring factions, groups of people who revert back to a barbarian-like state, etc. While I knew these were going to be present, I didn’t want that conflict to take away from the point that I was trying to get across. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not I achieved this, but if anybody—even only one person who reads it thinks: maybe humans don’t know everything, then I will consider it a victory.

After three drafts, I submitted Among Wolves to the annual Writers of the Future contest where it earned an honorable mention. While I was happy about this, it didn’t change the fact that there it sat: unpublished and wanting to be read. Then I stumbled across Fox Spirit’s Winter Tales call for submissions: Frost pierces through everything. Your bones ache in the icy wind. Harsh winter storms rage and the sun is leaving, not to return for many months. . .

I was ecstatic. . . And nervous. Response times are brutal for any writer, and even though Fox Spirit had a rather short wait time, it was still excruciating. I wanted Among Wolves to belong in this collection and have the opportunity to work with a press that had been named the 2015 Best Small Press by the British Fantasy Society. My thanks to them are endless, along with my gratitude to Margaret Helgadottir for being such a communicative, insightful editor, and my trusted beta readers, some of you having read Among Wolves more than once. Thank you again.

Several months after my acceptance into Winter Tales, I embarked on a trip I had wanted to go on for a couple years. Along with my girlfriend and a few friends, we went out west to visit the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, a nonprofit sanctuary for wolves and other wild canines. It was incredible. We were given the opportunity to interact closely and personally with the animals and everything I desired to get across in my story had been reaffirmed a thousand times over.

If you are so inclined you can stop by my webpage at https://bthomas7.weebly.com or follow me on twitter @jigsawkid7

Cover Reveal : Winter Tales

We are delighted to reveal the cover for the upcoming anthology of 22 Winter Tales edited by Margret Helgadottir.

As always S.L. Johnson has done an amazing job!

Winter Tales - coverFINAL for WEB

Winter Tales Update

Well, the nights are drawing in and winter is coming, so it seems a good time to share a little more about forthcoming anthology Winter Tales, edited by Margret Helgadottir and due for release in early 2016

WINTER TALES

Frost pierces through everything. Your bones ache in the icy wind. Harsh winter storms rage and the sun is leaving, not to return for many months. The cheerful men arriving to the mountain bothy in the midst of the winter storm, why do they unnerve you so much? The hunter who follows after you on your way home from the store, what does he hunt? The old neighbour lady seems so innocent, but you know the truth: you saw her that night. Why will the police not listen to you?

Dark, grim, beautiful and grotesque. We are delighted to bring you a collection of speculative winter stories and poems from new and established writers. The collection is edited by Margret Helgadottir. Winter Tales will be released in early 2016 from Fox Spirit Books.

Cover art will be by S.L. Johnson

IMG_0027 (1)

Contents

Mat Joiner: The frost sermon
Su Haddrell: The Bothy

Sharon Kernow: The Wolf Moon
Ruth Booth: The love of a season
Masimba Musodza: When the trees were enchanted
Fiona Clegg: Sunday’s Child
Tim Major: Winter in the Vivarium
Lizz-Ayn Shaarawi: Snow Angel
Amelia Gorman: Under your skin
B. Thomas: Among Wolves
Eliza Chan: Yukizuki
DJ Tyrer: Frose
G.H. Finn: Cold-Hearted
David Sarsfield: Voliday
Kelda Crich: Coldness Waits
K.N. McGrath: The Siege
Jonathan Ward: Spirit of the Season
James Bennett: The Red Lawns
Anne Michaud: Frost Fair
Jan Edwards: Shaman Red
Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Coming of The Cold
Verity Holloway: The Frost of Heaven

Submissions Update

Well that’s it then, our submission deadlines for Winter Tales and You Left Your Biscuit Behind are behind us, and for Fantastic Treats well behind us.

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Our various editors now have the lengthy and tough task of reading through all those submissions and making our decisions. Please be patient. The aim is to complete the process for all three titles by October and we will let you know if there is any change to that.

We will be posting updated lists of Fantastic Treats and Biscuit submissions this weekend on the submissions page, if you believe you have been missed off please contact submissions at foxspirit dot co dot uk

If you did not receive an acknowledgement for your submission to Winter Tales, please check your spam box and if it’s not there please contact Margret on narjegerredaktor at gmail dot com.

We will not be responding to individual requests for updates during June, July and August as we prefer to spend the time getting the submissions read so you can all have an official response as soon as possible.

For those of you waiting on novel submissions we will be getting back to you in July.

On Eve’s War, I will be in touch with everyone involved very soon, our apologies for the quiet.

We thank you for your understanding and patience.