Odysseus and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper, c. 1909

Sirens

Odysseus and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper, c. 1909

Submissions are not yet open, but I’m excited to announce the fourth title in the anthology series which began with Fae* –>

Sirens

It’s going to be awesome!

For those of you who might be interested in submitting something I’m including the call for submissions below but submissions don’t open until August (AKA: Please don’t send me anything before August!). Also, to answer a couple frequently asked questions, yes, mermaids and harpys count and sirens of any gender, lack of gender, combination of genders or gender-fluidity are welcome.

🙂

I’m excited, August is going to be awesome.

 

[Call for Submissions] Sirens

(forthcoming)

Publisher: World Weaver Press

Greek mythology describes the Sirens as being charismatic monsters; part bird, part woman, with enchanting voices whose songs either lure men to, or foretell, their deaths. In Roman mythology they play a similar role but shift their domain to the sea and take the form of mermaid-like creatures. Mythological Sirens such as these come with a capital ess; there are only a small number of them, they have names, Godly parents and occupations. Those Sirens are welcome within the pages of this anthology, but so are their lower case sisters.

In Sirens, we will honor and share stories of historical Sirens, but we’ve equal room for modern re-imaginings and will be giving matching space to both avian and aquatic varieties.

Whether from the sea or sky, sirens are beautiful, dangerous and musical, and we’re open to works that exemplify as well as those which defy those expectations. Sirens will be a book full of tales that evoke a vast spectrum of emotions toward these maidens, empathy, disdain, sorrow, awe and anger. I want stories of wretched and cursed sirens who fight against the roles imposed upon them and tales of those who revel in them. I’m hoping for pieces re-telling or playing upon the traditional myths and others which create their own mythologies, and all the little niches in between.

We are looking for speculative stories up to 7,500 words long.

Rights and compensation: Payment: $10 and a paperback copy of the anthology from World Weaver Press. We are looking for previously unpublished works in English. Seeking first world rights in English and exclusive right to publish in print and electronic format for six months after publication date, after which publisher retains nonexclusive right to continue to publish for the life of the anthology.

Open submission period: August 15th – November 15th

Length: Under 7,500 words

Submission method: Email story as a .doc or .rtf attachment to fae [at] worldweaverpress [dot] com. Subject line: Sirens Submission: TITLE

Simultaneous submissions = okay. Multiple submissions = no.

 

*We’ve decided to call the series Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries. Fun!

Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787

Best Laid Plans

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

~ Robert Burns

Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787

Holy crap has this week been… well, one of those weeks.

Some of my friends have been concerned about how busy I’ve been of late and my truthful response has been that I’m at a very happy level of busyness. I’m juggling precisely the right number of balls to keep me focused and productive without it becoming overwhelming. But, I’d say, it’s also that exact level of busyness that means if anything goes wrong, if I get sick or my computer explodes, everything is going to tumble down around me like a house of cards in a hurricane.

Tuesday night when I went to bed everything was okay. Wednesday when I checked my email, the wind began to blow.

I use two different web hosts to host my various domains and email. In addition to the email addresses hosted by those hosts (holy crap I need an editor to cut the use of the word ‘host’ in this sentence!) I also use Gmail (two private and one shared account) and keep a Hotmail account for nostalgic reasons. Wednesday morning all of the email addresses associated with a specific web host could receive email but not send it.

Correcting that issue has consumed my week. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say it is both frustrating, depressing and strangely satisfying to remotely give an expert control of your computer and watch them do exactly the same things you’ve been doing, over and over, and get exactly the same results.

As of half an hour ago things appear to be fixed and back to normal (*touch wood*), but I’ve thought that at several points throughout this process and been wrong, so we’ll see. In the end even the support guy who eventually fixed the problem (Thank you, Mike!) doesn’t have a clue what caused it or why his fix worked, just that it does. Or seems to. For now. (See how confident I’m feeling? LOL)

So if you got an email from me this week with a weird reply-to address, I apologise.

If you sent me an email on Wednesday and Thursday that I should have replied to by now and haven’t, please re-send it.

If I told you I’d send you something by the end of this week, please forgive me if that actually turns out to be by the end of next week.

My house of cards is lookin’ a bit blown about, but the foundation is good so I’m going to start rebuilding it… on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

By Frank Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lady Wilde and the Fairy-Haunted Hills

Today for Fae-tastic Friday we’re going to wrap up our mini-series of guest blogs about changelings. This final posting is about Lady Wilde, who I’m a little chagrined to admit, was never on my radar before reading Shannon’s blog. Whether you’re in the same boat as me or you’ve read the Lady Wilde’s work before, I hope you will enjoy this last entry into our series on changelings 🙂

Lady Wilde and the Fairy-Haunted Hills

by Shannon Phillips

By Frank Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Frank Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of my favorite sources for fairy lore is the book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, & Superstitions of Ireland, with Sketches of the Irish Past by Jane Francesca Agnes, Lady Wilde—better known to history as Oscar’s mama. Although her own literary efforts were largely eclipsed by her son’s, Lady Wilde published poetry under the pen name “Speranza,” and was a fascinating woman in her own right: an early activist for women’s rights, a passionate supporter of Irish independence, and an enthusiastic recorder of countryside stories and beliefs.

Her book of Irish folklore, first published in 1887, gives us a snapshot of traditional Irish culture at a time when it was just beginning to yield to modernization. “In a few years such a collection would be impossible,” she writes in the preface, “for the old race is rapidly passing away to other lands, and in the vast working-world of America, with all the new influences of light and progress, the young generation, though still loving the land of their fathers, will scarcely find leisure to dream over the fairy-haunted hills and lakes and raths of ancient Ireland.”

Although in that, I think she was wrong—many of us are still dreaming of fairy-haunted hills! One of the reasons I think her book is so valuable, though, is that it reminds us that originally these stories weren’t just “stories”: fairies, spirits, and changelings were considered very real in Lady Wilde’s day. And these were matters of life and death.

On the question of changelings, Lady Wilde writes:

“This superstition makes the peasant-women often very cruel towards weakly children; and the trial by fire is sometimes resorted to in order to test the nature of the child who is suspected of being a changeling. For this purpose a fairy woman is usually sent for, who makes a drink for the little patient of certain herbs of whose power she alone has the secret knowledge, and a childless woman is considered the best to make the potion. Should there be no improvement in the child after the treatment with herbs, then the witch-women sometimes resorts to terrible measures to test the fairy nature of the sufferer.

“A child who was suspected of being a change because he was wasted and thin and always restless and fretful was ordered by the witch-woman to be placed for three nights on a shovel outside the door from sunset to sunrise, during which he was given foxglove to chew, and cold water was flung over him to banish the fire-devil. The screams of the child at night was frightful, calling on his mother to come and take him in; but the fairy doctor told the mother not to fear; the fairies were certainly tormenting him, but by the third night their power would cease, and the child, would be quite restored. However, on the third night the poor little child lay dead.”

So there is a kind of terrible sadness behind the changeling legends. Not just Come away, O human child / To the woods and waters wild… but real lives, real children rejected by their families or even tortured to death in a doomed attempt to “cure” them. It’s easy to think of those in our own society who have suffered misguided interventions because their differences were stigmatized—so called “gender variant reparative therapy” springs to mind, or the autistic children who have suffered abuse in the name of treatment. Maybe we have our own changelings still.

But not all the stories Lady Wilde gives are so sad. In one of my favorite passages, she mentions that when a woman went into childbirth, it was common for the family to go through the house and unlock every chest and drawer. As soon as the baby was born, these boxes and drawers would be snapped shut and locked. The idea was that fairies might try to creep into the house and hide, in order to be ready to steal the baby at the first opportunity—and the family was hoping to trap them!

Other substances thought to have some power over changelings were salt; the branches of a mountain ash (for girls) or alder tree (for boys); the name of God and the sign of the cross; or a nail from a horseshoe. But above all these others: fire. Two unlit coals, one laid beneath the cradle and another beneath the churn, were thought to be sufficient to prevent fairy mischief. Or a lit coal might be drawn in a circle around the cradle, to create a barrier the fairies could not cross. Even the threat of burning was thought to be enough to force a changeling to reveal itself.

Changelings are usually marked by their weakly, wizened forms. But sometimes they are revealed by their preternatural knowledge or abilities. In one story Lady Wilde tells, the father realizes his child is a changeling when the baby picks up four straws to play with: “And when he got them, the child played and played such sweet music on them as if they were pipes, that all the chairs and tables began to dance; and when he grew tired, he fell back in the cradle and dropped asleep.”

And some of the stories contain a seed of hope for bereaved parents. For when a child is stolen by the fairies and cannot be rescued, there is at least the hope that they will have happy lives among the Fair Folk and grow up to be loved by a fairy bride or groom. And as Lady Wilde relates: ” The children of such unions grow up beautiful and clever, but are also wild, reckless and extravagant. They are known at once by the beauty of their eyes and hair, and they have a magic fascination that no one can resist, and also a fairy gift of music and song.”

I’ll give one more changeling story from Lady Wilde. It’s my very favorite, because in this case the issue is resolved when the fairy mother comes looking for her own stolen son. As she tells the parents: “My people, who live under the fort on the hill, thought your boy was a fine child, and so they changed the babies in the cradle; but, after all, I would rather have my own, ugly as he is, than any mortal child in the world.”

So the fairy mother takes her baby back, and gives the mortal parents advice on how to storm the fairy fort and rescue their own son. They follow her advice to the letter, and the outcome is a happy one: “By the spell of fire and of corn the child was saved from evil, and he grew and prospered. And the old fort stands to this day safe from harm, for the man would allow no hand to move a stone or harm a tree; and the fairies still dance there on the rath, when the moon is full, to the music of the fairy pipes, and no one hinders them.”

 

Shannon Phillips lives in Oakland, where she keeps chickens, a dog, three boys, and a husband. Her first novel, The Millennial Sword, tells the story of the modern-day Lady of the Lake.

 

Fae

Fae

Paperback $11.95
Ebook $6.99

 

Silver Pixie CA Ornament

Changelings and ASD

This is the third installment of my series of Changeling-themed guest blogs for Fae-tastic Friday. Today’s blog is brought to us courtesy of Kari Castor. Kari looks at the possibility of a connection between changeling stories and ASD.

Changelings and ASD

by Kari Castor

If you’re familiar with fairy folklore at all, you likely know that fairies have a penchant for abducting humans and carrying them away to Fairyland.  Sometimes a fairy, or some simulacrum (often made of wood), is left in place of the abducted human.  These strange creatures, which take the appearance and place of the abductee, are known as changelings.  Changelings are characterized by a variety of different traits – they may have physical deformities, or wither away of illness, or they may be distant and unresponsive, or agitated and difficult to calm.

I’ve always been particularly interested in the ways folklore and mythology arises from real people trying to make sense of real events or situations, and tales of changelings seem to offer many clues about the truths behind the legends.

Story after story about changelings features children who never stop crying.  The original, healthy child is replaced with a clamorous, sickly creature who often doesn’t speak and will not grow (or, if it does grow, remains as helpless as an infant).  It’s not hard to see why modern researchers have suggested that tales of this sort may provide us with evidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Children with ASD often seem to be developing normally, and then unexpectedly withdraw from social interactions as the disorder manifests.  They may not respond to their own names, have difficulties interpreting social cues, and lack empathy.  They sometimes have repetitive movement patterns (rocking back and forth, for example) or harm themselves (through actions such as head-banging).  Hundreds of years ago, a mother faced with a child who has suddenly begun exhibiting such upsetting behaviors might well have believed her own child had been replaced by a strange, fay creature.

Consider, too, that ASD may appear alongside a wide range of co-occurring conditions, such as epilepsy, that would certainly have affected a child’s ability to grow and thrive without proper care and treatment.  ASD and co-occuring conditions seem likely suspects to account for the truth behind many changeling stories.

Of course, history (even folk history) is never that simple.  Autism spectrum disorder may indeed be part of the genesis for changelings, but it’s clear that it isn’t the whole story.  Rather, the changeling seems to have arisen as a sort of catch-all explanation for a variety of illnesses, both physical and mental.  It was most commonly applied to children, especially infants, but young women also seem to have been vulnerable to becoming changelings.

Martin Luther (you might remember him as the guy who nailed the The Ninety-Five Theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg, thus starting the Reformation), appears to have believed in the existence of changelings.  His writings show a complicated understanding of deformed and disabled children, but he references them as the product of the devil, not of fairies.  In one oft-referenced (though admittedly somewhat unverifiable – John Aurifaber, one of the first collectors of Luther’s words, is known to have made embellishments) incident in 1540, he is said to have recommended that a 12-year-old boy, who was described as being incapable of anything but basic life-sustaining functions, be suffocated, explaining his reasoning in this way: “Because I think he’s simply a mass of flesh without a soul. Couldn’t the devil have done this, inasmuch as he gives such shape to the body and mind even of those who have reason that in their obsession they hear, see, and feel nothing? The devil is himself their soul.”

“Jamie Freel and the Young Lady” was written in the late 19th century (though it certainly has its roots in earlier lore) by a young Irish woman named Letitia Maclintock, and was included by William Butler Yeats in his volumes Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasants and Irish Fairy Tales.  In it, the hero Jamie Freel is witness to a fairy abduction: “He saw the young lady lifted and carried away, while the stick which was dropped in her place on the bed took her exact form.”  When the young woman is finally returned to her home (thanks to the efforts of Jamie, of course), her parents are at first angry and disbelieving — they’d buried the wooden effigy and mourned their daughter’s death a year prior.

In 1895 (just 4 years after Maclintock’s death at the age of 24) a 26-year-old Irish woman named Bridget Cleary went missing.  Her body was discovered after a weeklong search, buried in a shallow grave.  Her husband and nine other people, Bridget’s family members and neighbors, were tried for her murder. Their defense?  They believed she was a changeling, and were trying to get the real Bridget back from the fairies.  Bridget had fallen ill after a trip to deliver eggs to a family member, and as her condition continued to worsen, her husband became suspicious.  The herbal remedies he began with didn’t have the desired effect, and as more people became involved in the situation, the attempted solutions became more and more extreme.  I won’t reproduce the grim details here, but suffice it to say that Bridget was tortured and eventually burned.  Her husband was certain, after killing the “imposter,” that his real wife would return to him.

Sadly, Bridget Cleary’s case has a fairly typical ending.  Those who were suspected of being changelings were subjected to a variety of “treatments” intended to reveal the changeling’s true nature and facilitate the return of the “missing” individual.  Edwin Sidney Hartland, in his 1981 volume The Science of Fairy Tales: An Inquiry into Fairy Mythology, recounts a number of stories involving the abuse and killing of suspected changelings.  They are burned, or flung into rivers, or abandoned to the elements.  One method even involves setting the changeling child on the floor and having every occupant of the house throw a piece of iron at it.  It’s dark stuff.

The theory behind these methods appears to be the idea that killing (or threatening to kill) the changeling would compel the fairies to return their captive.  And, in the fairy tales and folklore passed down to us, it often works.  The changeling is either killed or returned to its own kind, and the family is reunited with their whole and hale missing loved one.  Unfortunately, the truths upon which these stories are based often had much less happy endings.  Tales of changelings may have given some comfort to parents whose children died of mysterious ailments at a time when child mortality was high.  They likely also provided a convenient excuse for the sacrifice of a physically or mentally disabled child, whose existence must have placed a difficult burden on a family without the knowledge or resources to properly care for such a child.  In a time when children were expected to be productive members of the household from an early age, parents of children who would consume time and resources without being able to contribute were faced with a terrible dilemma.  It is little wonder that these parents would have seized on the “changeling” explanation as a way to make an impossible choice a little less impossible.

 

Kari Castor is a writer and educator. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including most recently In Gilded Frame, Spark: A Creative Anthology Vol. 3, and Serial Killers Tres Tria. She is co-writer of the monthly comic series Shahrazad and, in addition, serves as line editor for Big Dog Ink comics. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, two dogs, and a cat named after a space princess. Find her online at www.karicastor.com.

 

Fae

Fae

Paperback $11.95
Ebook $6.99

 

Teaser of the interior art for B is for Broken. Art by Victoria Hoke.

Broken Stories

Teaser of the interior art for B is for Broken. Art by Victoria Hoke.

The release date for B is for Broken is inching steadily nearer which means it’s time for me to start thinking of something fun to do to celebrate that launch. Obviously, I wanted to stick with the theme of ‘broken’ and I thought, you know what could be fun? Broken stories.

Have you heard of exquisite corpses? I bet you have, though possibly not by that name. It’s the game where people take turn writing parts of a story without knowing all of what came before. The resulting stories tend to be surreal and disjointed…broken, one might say 😉

I want to write some broken stories, but I’ll need your help.

My plan is simple:

  1. Gather participants (that’s what this blog post is for)
  2. If there are more than a handful, divide them into groups of approximately equal size
  3. Send the first person in each group a short opening paragraph
  4. Give that participant 3 days to write their contribution to the story (one short paragraph of no more than seven sentences) and send it back to me
  5. Send the next person on the list the paragraph the person before them wrote and nothing more of the story. They will only know the paragraph immediately before their own.
  6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 until we’ve reached the end of the list.
  7. Compile each ‘broken’ story and share them (giving full credit to each participant) as a part of the launch celebrations for B is for Broken

Want to join in? Just sign up using the contact form below. I will keep sign-ups open until about the 25th, but may actually begin the writing process before then, because why not? 🙂

Keep in mind — this is just for fun. No one is going to judge you, we’re just looking to have a good time. No matter your skill level or genre of writing you can join in, and if you really want you can participate anonymously. Because fun!

I can’t do this without you, so to thank you for considering joining in the game I’ve even offered a sneak peek at some of the interior art for B is for Broken by Tory Hoke (above) 🙂

 

Snickers

Protect Me From What I Want

Holy whackado it’s Friday. Again. How did that happen so quickly?!

Well, the good news therein is that I have a new post from the changeling mini-series I’m running here for Fae-tastic Friday. This post is brought to you by Laura VanArendonk Baugh whose contribution to the Fae anthology, And Only The Eyes Of Children does more than just brush up against the ideas of changelings in fiction. Enjoy 🙂

Protect Me From What I Want

by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Protect me from what I want.

This refrain speaks to our human tendency to desire what is not good for us, or to desire too much of a good thing. One Snickers bar is a tasty treat; an entire pile of Snickers bars is a health and dental disaster.

Folklore and literature are full of wishes which come terribly true in hideous ways. “The Monkey’s Paw” (by W.W. Jacobs) is a delightfully chilling story of wishes granted in awful exactitude, powerful enough to have entered our cultural lexicon. (If you somehow haven’t read it, you can find it here: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/mnkyspaw.htm)

Sometimes, what we ask for and what we want are not the same.

One fantastic thing about writing in folklore is the ability to rework long-accepted tenets into something new which feels comfortably in line with the old. When writing “And Only the Eyes of Children,” I started with the Fae fascination with human children. Fairy stories frequently describe the Fae depositing a fairy child into a human cradle or interacting with human kids – but we rarely if ever see the Fae raising their own young. Why is that? I considered that an immortal or nigh-immortal species would necessarily have a very low birthrate. I hope the resulting premise fits well with existing Fae lore.

This re-envisioning of folkloric elements can bring us many new stories which feel like part of the Fae canon. Here’s another blend on the traditional changeling tale, one I at least had not seen before.

While many changeling stories feature children with unnatural abilities or unexpected mental capacity, others tell the story of children which simply do not grow physically as they should.

“But after some time had passed by, the good people began to wonder that the twins did not grow at all, but still continued little dwarfs.” – British Goblins: Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythlogy, Legends and Traditions, by Wirt Sikes, p 60

Meanwhile, fairy stories warn us universally not to barter with the Fae. The Good Neighbors do not lie, but they can bend words in wondrous ways.

When these basic assumptions of Fae lore are combined, one can find the concept for the song “Changeling Child,” recorded by Heather Dale. The lyrics tell of a barren woman who asked of the Fae, and received, a baby. But as always, the fairies are too true to their word.

How their home was joyful
with a son to call their own
But soon they saw the years that passed
would never make him grow
The fairies would not answer her
The stones were dark and slept
A babe was all she asked for, and their promises they’d kept

Sometimes, what we want and what we ask for are not the same.

There are many stories of fairy changelings and the resulting trials, often horrific, to force the fairy child to reveal himself or the fairy parent to reclaim its young. Sometimes the offered explanation for changelings is that the fairies wish to raise a human child themselves; I like to suppose the Fae might need the humans to raise their own, the cuckoo bird of the supernatural world. (There’s a story premise!) Often it is simply a malicious trick played until the humans catch on, a sardonic prank which costs the humans dear.

I wonder, in an agrarian society where children were not merely a new generation but also a necessary labor force and security for old age, if some parents wanted them too badly. If we knew that desiring something too much, even a good thing, might lead to self-deception and harm. And so we told stories of women who longed for children and then found that their children weren’t what they’d wanted, after all.

Protect us from what we want.

 

Laura was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized animal trainer, a costumer/cosplayer, a dark chocolate addict, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated author with a following for her folklore-based stories and speculative fiction. Find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

 

Fae

Fae

Paperback $11.95
Ebook $6.99