Spirit Dance~A Review

First, the book’s description on Goodreads gives you a better idea of the book than I can…

A Heroka novelette and prequel to the novel, THE WOLF AT THE END OF THE WORLD

The Heroka are an ancient race of shapeshifters, drawing their powers and vitality from their animal totems.
Gwyn Blaidd, a Heroka of the wolf totem, has been a recluse ever since a deadly battle years ago with the Tainchel, the covert government agency that hunts the Heroka—a battle that cost him the only woman he ever loved.
But when Gwyn is asked by the head of the Heroka to stop an old friend from killing a powerful logging baron, it begins a chain of events that will force Gwyn to again confront the Tainchel—and his own dark past.

Okay, so why should you give this short story a chance? Because it stands out as a unique twist on the “shape-shifter” trope, because its setting is one we don’t see often in fantasy fiction, and because once you start reading, you can’t put it down.

I very much enjoyed this short but extremely well-written story.

The author is new to me, I found the recommendation somewhere online, but I am now a fast fan.
I appreciated the different perspective on shape-shifters, something I don’t read much of. I rather enjoyed the Canadian content, the tight writing, and the flow of events. As this story was a prequel to a larger work, “The Wolf At The End of The World”, of course, I had to go and look that up. So far, it is every bit as engrossing as this tale was, and I’m about halfway through.

If you like shape-shifter tales, mixed with a serving of First Nations lore, danger, and justice…this is the story you want to read next!

Have You Heard of Fantastical Library?

Fantastical Library has, and will have in the future, more posts than you’ll see here. So sign up for a free account on Substack where you’ll find the Fantastical Library!

Once or twice a month I write an essay on some aspect of writing, usually within the Fantasy genre. Sometimes the pieces are on a craft element, sometimes a more journalistic angle is taken. Hopefully, I’ll surprise you with what I cover.

Subscribe to get all the dragons I can write about. All the adventure and all the magic. Never miss a single quest for an enchanted tome or a picnic beside a cursed well. You’ve never picnicked beside a cursed well? You don’t know what you’re missing! Did I mention the dragons?

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It’s Time For…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s time we sat down and got to know each other a little better, don’t you think?

Come and grab a seat here, just look at that view! There’s a cooler there beside you with all kinds of cool drinks, or hot drinks over there if you’re so inclined.

So you know I write stories – short stories, long ones, and sometimes even flash fiction that’s less than 500 words. Usually, those stories don’t always fit into that neat classification known as “genre”. I write all over the place. Fantasy, mystery, slice of life, speculative fiction, a little weird stuff mixed in for fun…you get the idea. I’ve written about a marooned astronaut, a woman who clones her husband to facilitate her rise to the Presidency, and a small-town Detective tasked with solving a baffling murder.

I’ve also written about unicorn rodeos, ghosts who use the radio to communicate, rescuing moose, rescued kittens, chasing a jewel thief, spies, animals getting justice their own way, redemption, and inter-planetary travel.

Surely, you must have questions. I can almost hear them rolling around inside you, clamoring to get out. So?

Ask away! You can either ask here in the comments or over on Goodreads, on my author page there.

It’s time. Ask me anything!

An Introduction To Lake Lemonseed

Well, friend, it’s been a quiet week out here at Lake Lemonseed…

You aren’t familiar with it? Oh…well…

If you walk until you see the second star on the right, and turn left, you’ll end up in a pocket universe that matches our own – more or less. That’s where you’ll find Lake Lemonseed. It’s home to all sorts of magical beings. Mr. Limpet has been a long-time resident, Bunnicula moved here ever since his biography fell out of favor, and Harvey the rabbit lives here too although we don’t see much of him.

We’re a pretty laid-back bunch here. Some of us are retired from our former lives as mythical creatures, some are in hiding, some just landed here because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves, and then there’s me. Just a simple journalist shuffled aside when The Legendary Times closed. Subscriptions gradually trickled off as belief in the mythical and fantastical dwindled, and one day all the writers were gathered together and told it would be our last day.

My friend Eunice invited me to a party here not long after. I fell in love with the place and never left. Eunice vouched for me and the residents accepted me as one of their own. I mean, with a unicorn vouching for me, and being half Dryad, I was a shoo-in!

Anyway, all the creatures and beings who call this place home have residences suited to them, and everyone’s generally pretty content here. Somehow, all our needs are met. We only have to think about a thing we need, open a cupboard, and there it is.

Lake Lemonseed is fed by a river that comes from somewhere north of us. No one has ever tried to follow it to its source, but we all agree that it’s bone-numbingly cold. Even the Were-folk agree, and they’re pretty tough. Ours is a peaceful life until someone gets up to something. Like the time that Elmore and Elred (the Elf twins) decided they were going to put on a rodeo with unicorns. Needless to say, it didn’t fly.

Although Elred did – right over Eunice’s head when she bucked him off. He missed her horn by a mere whisker. There were a lot of Elf-curses flying around, and it was a long time before the Unicorn folk weren’t suspicious of either of the twins. But eventually, the incident was forgiven.

There’s been no more talk about rodeos since then, but I did hear the twins muttering to each other last week about balloons. I’m fairly certain they weren’t talking about the kind you’d use to decorate for a party.

At any rate, that’s all the news that’s fit to share from Lake Lemonseed for now.

Remember, if the sun shines in your eyes, it’s likely not raining. So be glad.

Until next time,

Clovara Proudfoot

On Building A Better Content Diet

Jessica Lynn says “Consumption feeds creation. Reading other writers, whether books, blogs, newspapers, or magazines, sparks your creativity. Ideas feed on each other. You start to make connections and patterns. Especially when you stick to a few topics.”

She’s right. After reading essays on different elements of the fantasy genre, I’ve got a bunch more ideas for pieces I want to write. Even if I don’t get to them for a couple of weeks. So I make a list of these things and then put it away. The first ones I’ll write about are the ideas that keep pecking at the back of my mind. 

We can’t predict how well one of our pieces will do in the future. What we can control however is our end of the equation. We can control our ideation process, our commitment to producing higher-quality articles and stories, and our support of other writers. Part of that ideation process is our content diet.

What is a ‘content diet’?

For the rest of this post, please visit the Fantastical Library where you can find all sorts of other posts you might find interesting!

New LGBTQIA Fantasy Fiction For 2023

There are some promising-looking fantasy books out this year. All of them seem rooted in the unusual and extra-ordinary. Head on over to Tor to check them out.

Personally, I can’t wait to dig into The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz!

Head over to the Tor/Forge blog to get acquainted with the info and covers yourself. I’m sure you’ll find something that sounds interesting!

A Fantastical, Limitless Menu

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.“—J. R. R. Tolkien (1892—1973)

One of the parts of worldbuilding I enjoy is the creation of food for my story characters. It’s very easy to let our characters get caught in a loop of stew and dumplings. Now, I don’t know about you, but that would bore me silly. Even Persephone got to eat fruit! Okay, so it didn’t go so well for her, but you see my point, right? 

J. R. R. Tolkien, whom many refer to as the “Grandfather of modern fantasy” fed his characters well. Hobbits had breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. No starvation for those small folk! When Gandalf and the Dwarves invade Bilbo’s home he feeds them all sorts of delicious-sounding food. Pork pies, seed cakes, scones, sausages, mince pies, cheese, butter, apple tart and raspberry jam, salad, eggs, cold cuts, and even pickles. When Frodo and Sam set out on their adventure, they run into (quite literally) Merry and Pippin who have been raiding Farmer Maggot’s fields of carrots, onions, turnips, mushrooms, and potatoes. Elsewhere in the Shire are orchards full of apples, honeycombs dripping with honey, ovens full of “new loaves”, and bushes full of ripe blackberries. And let us not forget that Hobbits enjoyed gardening and grew a variety of vegetables not mentioned in the books. Not to mention the nourishing and energizing Lembas bread of the Elves that sustain the Fellowship later on in the series. It’s easy to see that Tolkien enjoyed his food! (I re-read The Hobbit, and all the books in the series, every year and usually come away hungry.) Hobbits did not go thirsty either. They had at their disposal vineyards full of fruit waiting to be made into red wine, and we presume there would have been milk for the youngest Hobbits, but it seemed their favorite drink was beer, although there is mention made of tea and coffee.

Tolkien’s contemporary C.S Lewis had Turkish Delight. Legendary Hansel and Gretel were lured with sweets as well.

Let’s not ignore the Potter-verse with Hogwart’s Great Hall feasts of roasted chickens, pumpkin pies, ice cream, roast beef, lamb chops, tarts, eggs, kippers, corn-on-the-cob, steak, grilled vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, shepherd’s pie, porridge, sandwiches, and custards, as well as some of the most memorable sweets like chocolate frogs and every flavor jelly beans. (Grass, anyone?) Later on in the series, we’re introduced to butter beer and follow the main characters into a tea shop where they can dine on sugared butterfly wings or enjoy small cakes with orange curd preserves. Dumbledore enjoyed a nip of sherry from time to time, too.

Even Bethesda’s game Elder Scrolls: Skyrim has braided loaves of bread, a variety of berries, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet rolls, butter, cheese, cabbages, ash hoppers, roast venison, crab, rabbit, elk, stew, apple dumplings, salt, eggs, pheasant, netches, chicken, ash yams, fish, crostatas to make your mouth water, beets, vegetable soup, fondue, tea, ale, beer, and cider.

Why then do so many fantasy authors rely merely on bread and stew?

Food can be used as a plot device, an ice-breaker between characters that don’t know each other all that well, and as a trade item. We can learn a lot about a culture by what they eat and how they prepare it. A culture that eats rabbit stew and raises its own pigs to make sausages and bacon will have different seasonal activities than a culture that does not eat meat. People that only eat fish on Friday may quite possibly venerate a different pantheon than a hunter/gatherer culture. Food can feed one caste and be banned for another, it can be a currency among guilds, it can tell us about trade routes, climate, topography, or even be the basis for laws and crime such as venison was in the form of the King’s deer in Robin Hood.

Historically, food was a political tool and should be in more fantasy fiction. Although I personally do not agree with slavery, it has been used as a plot device rather effectively many times, and food has played into that. Fruit, vegetables, and smoked or salted meat have long been traded, and with trade comes exposure to other cultures. 

Without any variety on their tables, fictional worlds are missing out on countless layers of opportunity and flavors.

Do any of your favorite fantasy novels or short stories feature food? What “fantastical food” sticks out in your memory?

Are You a Reader?

Keep reading

There are so many apps and websites vying for our time and attention these days that sometimes it can be difficult to shut out all the things clamoring for my attention. Do I knit tonight, or play a couple of hours of Skyrim? Or maybe I should watch Netflix. I am paying for that, after all. Or maybe I should…you get the idea.

But the one thing that is never in any doubt for me is reading.

I have been a lifelong reader since I learned that letters could make words, and those words could teach us things. I read pretty widely, as you might already know if you’ve hung out here with me for any length of time. Fiction, or non-fiction, I don’t have a preference. Mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, true history, science fiction, fantasy, crafting how-to manuals, some romance (of a very specific sub-genre), dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, gardening, and homesteading books…you get the idea, I’m sure. My point is, I am a rabid reader!

As you might have noticed if you’ve been here before, I am also a writer.

I’ve written a murder mystery, a couple of suspense novels, speculative fiction, some bad poetry back in the day, science fiction, fantasy, and quite a bit of shorter fiction. Currently, I’m back in the fantasy camp. I’ve been writing serial fiction lately too. Are you familiar with serialized fiction? If not, let me explain.

Back when Dickens was alive, he would release a chapter in a newspaper, per week. Readers became so hungry for each new chapter, they would buy copies of the paper just for the newest installment. Obviously, this drove subscription rates up for the newspaper, and anyone who could read was talking about Dickens. Serialization is making a comeback, and it’s exciting to see how authors are using it in a modern way!

Substack is a website/app that is helping authors and readers alike, “part of a seismic shift in the media economy that is all about writer and creator ownership and independence”. It is so much more than “just” a newsletter. There are hundreds of readers on SS, and the beauty is that if you read, no matter what you enjoy reading, no matter what you’re interested in – there is someone on Substack you’ll find interesting. Some have paid subscriptions, many more offer their writing for free. If you don’t know about Substack yet, go over and check it out. I promise you’ll find someone over there interesting! Yes, I use it myself. I read about thirty different “stacks” (newsletters) across a wide range of topics. And yes, I do still read “regular” books. Paper and ebooks. We do not have to read in just one format or another.

Currently, I have two “stacks” over there. “Brace Yourself” talks about all the ways we can increase our self-reliance (this stack is in need of some love and attention by its writer), and “Fantastical Library” which I envision as a library for my fantasy works as well as behind-the-scenes peeks at what I’m working on, how I work, and bonus material.

I’d love it if you’d come and check out Fantastical Library, as well as all the other terrific writers on Substack. You’re certain to find something interesting there! What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite format to read?

Questions Asked of Authors, Pt 1

Dragon in flight in Western Skyrim

No matter what genre we write in, authors are always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” For us, the answer is more simplistic than our readers want to accept.


“No, but really.” Is a common reply.

We really do get ideas from everywhere. From a snippet of an overheard conversation. From a headline glanced while we wait in line to pay for our groceries. I once got a story title from a sound I heard in the woods, that still defies explanation. I thought it sounded like a sneezing moose. Do moose sneeze? I suppose they must. And off I went on a thoughtful sideroad about why a moose might sneeze. What might they be allergic to? And so on.

My Eldest Son (as I have always referred to him online) got me playing The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. I don’t play as much as many people have, I’m fairly sure I don’t have a hundred played hours logged over both games. But Skyrim, most especially, lights my imagination on fire! There are numerous quests a player can undertake, or they can choose to just explore. One can stick to the roads, or choose to wander the mountains and valleys following their gut. Or they can follow a harsh, snowy and windswept coast. A player can choose to travel alone or travel with companions, or they can join one, or all of, the multiple factions. There are even more choices available if one installs “mods”, program upgrades, modifications to the game that can enhance or change the game experience. This is only a rough explanation, but I mention it because these mods (of which there are hundreds) can be inspiring as well. Many gamers, including an 82-year-old great-grandmother, have been so inspired by their gameplay that they’ve gone on to write stories based on their adventures in Skyrim’s provinces. Myself included.

Many others look at the stories we’ve already been told and try to imagine how the story might have played out from a different character’s perspective. This is popular especially with fables, fairy tales, and legends. Often, a story inspires us to rewrite it so that one character might get justice, or be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions, or write the tale with a completely different ending. Songs too are a great source of inspiration – both lyrics and the mood the melodies inspire. Some authors imagine their pets as characters, while others like to play with possible futures or alternate history. Even the mighty Stephen King has done this.

So if you ever ask an author where they get their ideas from and you think they’re dismissing you if they tell you “Everywhere”, consider that perhaps they’re telling you the truth. Maybe they are one of the lucky ones whose ideas and inspiration flit around them as thick as a mob of insects.

If you could ask an author anything, what would it be? Leave your questions in the comments section!

Introducing Uclandia

Uclandia is a single continent that has been separated into four Provinces all centered around one city. The city of Emperors – Imperial City.

Provincial borders have moved from time to time as the rulers lost ground or took it to suit their purposes through the ages. Uclandia’s various Emperors may or may not have taken notice.

This is a land rich in history, Gods, Goddesses and Saints.

It’s also about to be thrown into upheaval to suit the power-hungry whims of one woman who will fight for absolute rule. Over everything.

Banern Province is the Northern-most province, whose capital city is Wintershire

High in the mountains, it’s cold, windy, and generally not an easy place to live. Not much grows there. What Banern is known for, other than the cold, is its Habgar farms. Habgars would be most closely related to your goats. Only larger.

Banern Province exports Habgar fur, meat, and horn as well as silver, nickel, and various gemstones.

Uisgern Province (pronounced whis-gern) is in the east of Uclandia. The capital city is Eras.

This province is sunny, breezy, and generally pleasant to live in, although they can have fierce storms in the winter. Uisgern is home to fisherfolk, net makers, boat builders, artists, and instrument makers.

Uisgern exports fish, dried seaweed, pearls, various vegetables such as Praitubers, and leafy plants such as Vanasoom, which is used to make a tea-like drink.

The College of Kinderven is in Eras.

Glasgern is the Southernmost province in Uclandia, and the capital city is Fasach.

This province is known for its humid, tropical environment and the forests that grow there.

Glasgern exports wood, both common and exotic, and alchemy ingredients such as Tomba bark and lichens, tree flowers, and seoda mead.

Glasgernians whose families have lived there for multiple generations tend to have a bit of a dusky skin-tone, (think of a deep tan on our world)

Luingern Province (pronounced Loo-in-gern) stands at the Western flank of Uclandia. The capital city there is Fort Fairadell.

This Province makes use of two distinct regions within its borders and exports herbs, vegetables, copper, and a unique type of metal only made in Luigern Province. It is said to have different patterns depending on whose forge it was made at and never dulls. Fort Fairadell is the birthplace of the current Emperor, Fergus Euradech. Luingern Province is bisected by a line of low mountains, The Chonaic Ridge, which separates the Province into a green and lush seaside region, and dry, hard land on the interior side of the mountains.

Which province would you want to live in?

Next time, I’ll introduce you to some of the folk that call Uclandia home.

Hunting Gold ~ A Book Review

I love all of the Cantor Gold novels, but I’ve been remiss in reviewing them properly.

Something I’ll be correcting in the days to come.

Hunting Gold” by Ann Aptaker is the latest installment in Cantor Gold’s adventures, and the most gripping one yet!

Cantor Gold stands out. For her wardrobe choices, her background and her scars. But while she is dapper and charming, she also hides a tortured heart. She’s made enemies too, lots of them. But she also has a loyal few friends. They become her lifeline while she’s being targeted and thrust into the police spotlight, forcing Cantor to make an alliance she would never have expected, just to stay on the right side of the law. Which for her, is a bit of an anomaly.

This installment in Cantor’s series is more fast-paced than the others. Someone is clearly targetting Cantor and they don’t give her a moment’s peace to stop and figure things out. They just keep killing and thrusting her into the middle of it.

Hunting Gold is darker than the other books in this series, and considering the last book, that’s really saying something. With every installment in this series, the pressures are greater, the stakes are higher and the potential for loss to Cantor goes far beyond the art she somehow smuggles. 

So don’t read this if you’re looking for fluff. Read this if you want terrific, gritty wordscapes. Read this if you want something different in your books. Read this if you want to be plunged headlong into a fast-paced fight to prove Cantor’s innocence. If you want to be sucked into a world of crime, demanding criminal kingpins and characters that won’t let go long after you’ve turned the light out.

If you’re already a fan of Cantor Gold, you’ll love this book.

If you aren’t, you can absolutely enjoy this book without needing to read the others, but you’ll want to when you’re done with Hunting Gold. Go to Bywater Books and get all of them.

If you’ll pardon me, I have to go lift a glass of Chivas Regal in Cantor’s honor.