Category Archives: folklore

Into The Night Eternal has landed! #horror #books #janedwards #folkhorror

My contributor’s copy of Into The Night Eternal has just arrived!

“Inspired by a country thriving with folklore and folktales come four novellas by award-nominated and award-winning authors heralding from both sides of La Manche, Lycopolis Press presents – INTO THE NIGHT ETERNAL: TALES OF FRENCH FOLK HORROR.

 

 

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Into The Night Eternal #horror #folkhorror #noircrime

My novella ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ will be appearing in the folk horror anthology Into the Night Eternal this weekend!

Also contains fab from Phil Sloman, Dean Drinkel and Romain Collier.

Ash Wednesday (extract from Sussex Tales (c) )

Ash Wednesday  by Jan Edwards

I slowed by the small shaw that separated our lane from the main farm road,  dropped my bike on the verge and surveyed the woodland’s edge. Fortunately for me this section of frith[1] had yet to be cleared and there were plenty of saplings to be raided. I jumped across the ditch and grabbed onto a young ash standing proud from the mass. It took only a moment or two to select a couple of growing tips; slender and smooth and grey, their foliage still encased in cool black buds that looked for all the world like the hooves of tiny goats.

I tucked both sprigs into my bag and knotted the string carefully. Losing them was not an option. It was Ash Wednesday, when every Sussex school child would arrive at the gates armed with the Ash. These short lengths of twig were transient in extreme but essential for surviving the day. Those lacking Ash could expect to suffer pinched arms and stamped-on feet by all that noticed their error. And with playgrounds being what they were that would be every student on the premises before the first bell rang. Like an injured wildebeest they would become prey to the pack and it had been known for the ashless to scaddle[2] off rather than suffer their fate. A few short hours after this the Ash would become unlucky sticks that needed to be discarded as close to midday as lessons allowed. To be caught with Ash by the dinner break would result in a fresh orgy of violence. Being opposed to pain, on the whole, I went to great lengths to prove my solidarity with tradition.

I arrived at Sawyers Common to Haltwood Primary School fifteen minutes before the bell and made for the cloakroom to change my welly boots for school browns. The cloakroom smelled, as it always did, of old socks and wet coats, with a faint undertone of farmyard, but it was warm and I lingered for a few minutes, taking extra care over my shoelaces before retrieving my precious ash twigs.

I tucked one into the top of my sock, making sure it was both well secured and prominently displayed. Thievery was not unknown, either by stealth or overt mugging. The wise and windy would always carry a spare and I shoved into my pocket as an emergency backup and headed for the playground.

Voices raised in chanting, accompanied by the rhythmic slap of rope against tarmac, told me that Angie Cartwright’s skipping corner was already up and running. I considered joining in, except for the fact that Angie was a villager, and though we bore no personal grudges, each of us knew that Villagers and Commoners did not mix. It was an ancient rule; never voiced but always obeyed. Nobody quite knew why.

Half way down the steps when Bobby Fuller issued me the challenge.

‘Ash,’ he called. ‘Ash or bash!’

I turned my leg awkwardly to display the twig. ‘Got mine,’ I said loudly. ‘Have you?’

‘’Course,’ He replied. ‘Peter Marshall hasn’t though. Adam Garton dead legged ‘im.’ He grinned at me. ‘Got yer marbles?’

I shook my head. Marbles season always saw the boys in a frenzy. Marbles were a serious business but I hadn’t the stomach for their fierce tournaments that would carry on until Easter and which were the basis for many a grazed knee, bruised arm or worse. Bobby shrugged and moved off to join the kneeling gaggle of gamers.

I looked around for a sign of the unfortunate Peter. I would add my time-honoured blow to Ash if a victim was under my nose but I didn’t seek them out. Bobby was a real bully, as was Adam. I was glad that both kept contact with me down to taunts about my size. They left me alone because Len was a Scout patrol leader, and Len was a lot bigger than either of them. It was small change as bullying went. I ignored them and they ignored me and all was good.

‘’llo Sue.’

I turned to see my best friend, Linda, crouching half way down the steps. ‘H’lo Lin. You got yours then?’ I said, striding up to her and pointing at my ash twig.

Linda glanced about her nervously. ‘Fer’got,’ she whispered.

I drew an exaggerated breath, slapped my left hand over my mouth in mock horror, and reached my right hand into my pocket to tweak the spare ash tip into her palm. It was the same smooth grey, starkly marked with far fewer matt-black buds and far smaller than the piece I had kept myself, but was Ash, nevertheless.

She curled her fingers over it like a slow gin trap. ‘Ooh, thanks, Sue.’ She bent quickly and slid the twig into her sock before flinging both arms around me. ‘I was thinkin’ I were a deader there, then.’

‘S’alright,’ I said. ‘Got yer rope?’

‘Yer ‘tis.’ Linda shook out her tangle of clothes line, tied one end to the fence and played the rest out across the tarmac. ‘You first,’ she said, a sure sign of her gratitude when the owner always had first dibs. She began to turn the rope, slowly at first with exaggerated wind-milling of her right arm. The cord billowed into a flowing arc, and slapped the ground, lightly at first, steadily building to the air-cracking rhythm required for serious play.

Another Commoner wandered across to stand expectantly next to Linda. ‘Can I join?’ she asked.

‘If’n you turn first, Mags.’ Linda handed over the cord-end without further comment and went to stand opposite me. As if by arrangement three more girls drifted up. One untied the tethered end and the rope suddenly turned easier for being guided by human hands. The lines of waiting girls swelled to four a side, all watching the rope, each gauging the speed with a practised eye, each one a paid-up expert on the unwritten physics of the skipping-rope.

I bent down to push my ash twig further into my sock, and grinned as Linda mirrored my movement.

‘Teddy bear on three,’ I shouted, ‘One… Two…  THREE!’

We leapt into the rope’s blurred ellipse and began to skip and mime, whilst the assembled girls chanted.

[1] Frith – young undergrowth
[2] Scaddle – To play truant

Extract from Sussex Tales (c)  available in paper and kindle formats

 

Sussex Tales (extract) Ash Twig Stomping

Ash wednesday comes around once more and this extract from Susses Tales tells of the ancient custom passed down among Sussex school children for generations!

Jan Edwards

51ghEz6lmDL._AA160_At the bottom of the lane I slowed by the small copse that separated our lane from the main farm road. I dropped my bike on the verge and surveyed the woodland’s edge. Fortunately for me this section of frith had yet to be cleared and there were plenty of saplings to be raided. I jumped across the ditch and grabbed onto a young ash standing proud from the mass of newly emerging green. It took only a moment or two to select a couple of growing tips; slender and smooth and grey, their foliage still encased in cool black buds that looked for all the world like the hooves of tiny goats.

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Echoes of Scott

Famous Horses in Fact and Fiction: Young Lochinvar‘Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive…’

That line has been running through my head all of this morning, and though Scott doubtless had specific thoughts of lust and betrayal at its heart when he first penned Marmion (which is, after all, essentially crime fiction), I’ve always thought it apt for writers in general; and increasingly so as I wade into the murky waters of historical crime fiction.

To my mind, the entire raison d’être of fiction writers is to deceive their audience. Deceive them into believing that which is being laid out before them is ‘true’, at least within itself.  Even the fantasy writer must construct a world that is true to itself within its own bubble, because if that writer does not know what is true or possible in that universe, they will never be able to persuade a reader that the people and places they have created just may exist, somewhere out there, in another time and place. Continue reading

An Extract From ‘Drawing Down The Moon’ #fiction #fables&fabrications #horror

In the light (  🙂 ) of this week’s supermoon…

front cover copyAn extract from ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ – one of the creepy tales to be  found in my collection Fables and Fabrications.  (Available in paper and kindle formats)

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…She breathed in ozone-laden moisture and remembered how she had stood on the hillside within the temple grounds on many such nights as for old enmity he held for her sisterhood.

Wilder elements always focused her psyche. This rite was something she had not anticipated acting out ever again, yet it was always there; waiting in the shadows for her to reach out and pluck it into the semi-light.

Kicking off her shoes she shed her coat, letting it slip free of her fingers. She unzipped her skirt and allowed it to drop around her ankles. I who have nothing, she crooned into the room’s silence, and smiled. In the old days men were crazed by the notion of spying on her order. In the old days the Sisters would have crazed any man known to risk that spying. She unbuttoned her blouse as she hummed the recent ballad, swaying her hips, taking her time, taunting. Any added emotion her audience brought to the rite was to be welcomed.

She stood tall in nothing but black chemise and composure. Long ago she would have been naked but temperature ruled against it. They would have their floor show soon enough. Let them leer, allow them anticipation.

Her lips moved, like a slow reader, not singing now but chanting. To herself first, and then more loudly as her conscious merged with the echoes of beyond. She called on the Keres, daughters of Nyx, on Mnemosyne and Bia and on Lethe, but most of all she called to Styx and to Hecate. She slipped into the ritual as a ripe and luscious strawberry slides into the rich, sweet, darkness of chocolate. She became the rite, the vessel, through which the tendrils wafting off the Veil strayed into this world.

Energised by her actions she moved to the fountain; stretching her arms toward the spigots, whirling three times in a twisted, fluid dance; aping the very water. She swayed beneath the liquid, allowing it to cascade around her neck and shoulders before throwing her head back to loose a wild ululation. She called once again upon Hecate and Styx to allow the soul departed a brief return.

From beyond the clouds she felt the pull of the moon. It called her and she called back, repeating her watery dance twice more. Then she dropped to the hard, cool floor; prostrating herself before her elementals, with arms outstretched.

Wind rattled the glass, reaching into the room and splaying the fountain’s water flow in its passing, rippling the voile curtains into horizontal.

Whilst this Thessalian woman worked her dark acts; diving into the world of shades and emerging with an act of full blown necromancy, just two pairs of eyes watched her, in thrall as the bodyguards, having washed the corpse had withdrawn; apparently not to be privy to any information the deceased might have.

Cin saw Jeno.

Cin saw her boy.

Their heads were almost touching. She saw them both look at her, and whisper to each other.

Betrayal? Was he also a man? Mid-rite she could not permit her own wants to intrude. She could not, would not, see her boy intimate with the man who killed so lightly.

The storm cut off as though a switch had been flicked. Where there had been only cloud, a harsh moonlight slotted across the untidy shagginess of blasted borders and winter lawns, glinting off the door panes and onto the woman who waited for its touch.

Cinthia swept off her eye patch to expose a puckered depression. Deliberately, elegantly, she came up to full height with arms up and rigid fingers splayed wide. She flexed each digit, clawing at the shaft of light, emitting a litany of noise from deep in her throat.

Listeners could not discern words in either Greek or English, but there was an unmistakable cadence placed on the edges of those notes that shredded nerves as surely as cat-claws down velvet curtains.

The moon’s colour changed, starting on one side and creeping across its face, growing deeper and larger than its silvery persona. It had taken on a reddish hue, hanging low, resting on the jagged horizon of surrounding rooftops; a fecund and brooding night bird waiting to drop on its prey.

So Why the Cat?

front cover copyOne of the most frequently asked questions from people who first see my Fables and Fabrications collection is ‘why the cat?’ Continue reading