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Dec 31, 2016

Ring in the New!

Wishing everyone lots of new books to read and health and happiness for 2017!

On a less than happy note: The website is down for a couple of days back up (currently - still haven't identified the problem) after encountering a problem with the server update. I apologize for the inconvenience, even though it's currently a static site. Just in case, I've posted universal links to my books below, you know, just in case you were looking for something to read. In the meantime. 

Just in case. And even better with  blep.


photo credit: 
mmariomm MMB_5496 via photopin (license)

Tambako the Jaguar Cute and happy Rialda lying in the grass via photopin (license)

Dec 14, 2016

My Ten Favorite Books of 2016

I have read over 100 books this year -- currently at 109 -- (my Goodreads goal was 100 and I finished that just after Thanksgiving - woohoo!). Only a few of those books were published in 2016. The rest were older and many of them were ebooks I checked out of my 'local' (U.S. library).

I enjoyed doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge (my second year - last year I committed to and finished  80 books, plus a few more) because it gives me a reference frame for viewing my addiction to books and also is - to me - interesting to see my reading journey over the course of a year. I'll definitely be doing another one next year. I may have missed cataloging a couple of books I read -- especially non-fiction since I don't always read those books linearly and extra especially don't for the ones I use for my novel researches. I also don't list the dnfs - the did-not-finish books -- for the obvious reason that I did not manage to finish them.

The books range from fiction to biographies, memoirs, writing craft, and fantasy to Regency romance (a recent but enduring addiction - I'd like to find more of these that are to my taste, i.e., clean -- I'm eager also to find some good gay Regencies -- recommendations are welcome), mystery, quantum physics and science fiction to self-help, U.S. history to Celto-Germanic history (gee, I wonder why I read that? hmmm....) and many historical novels (a recently rediscovered addiction).

This was the first year since 2012 that I personally did not publish a book. More about that -- no, I don't really want to dwell on it -- but the six-word, happy-for-now-ending short story is: I was sick. Now I'm better.

Barring any major life catastrophes, the lack of publishing will change in 2017. So, yes, I have plans to publish stuff next year.

Here are my top ten favorites of 2016, not necessarily in order, but who cares? It was hard enough just to pick ten, thank you very much. The links goes to the Goodreads page for the books because I don't want to influence your buying power. Some of these may also be available through your local library - I obtained many of them through mine.

Nov 24, 2016

Bertha's Thanksgiving Tale: A Triple Junction Excerpt

This Triple Junction excerpt contains a Thanksgiving tale from Bertha von der Lahn, the Burg Lahn storyteller, par excellence. It is a reworking of one of the Breton tales collected and retold by Anatole Le Braz and contained in the collection Celtic Legends of the Beyond: A Celtic Book of the Dead; this version has an introduction by Derek Bryce. It's available used in print and there might also be an older version downloadable from Gutenberg. As you might guess, Ankou, the Breton harvester of the dead appears more than once in these tales.

Bertha's tale focuses on the 99 inns along The Paths of the Dead and one of its travelers.

Gus and I leaned forward in anticipation. Bertha's eyes gleamed dark iron and cloudy nights. Her face lost the skepticism and impatience one usually saw when looking at my aunt. Instead, Bertha radiated wisdom and subtlety. She seemed to hold all of the secrets of the past and the future in her palms, pressed together in front of her.

She began her tale.

The man who used to be Haerviu trudged behind the others. The way was long, he heard the man before him say. But Haerviu didn't remember starting out on this path. He also didn't know why he was here, following behind a line of trudging people. It was dark, the way lit by a wan moon, not the harvest moon he remembered seeing last.

He stumbled as he tried to recall what he had last done before embarking on this journey. He remembered telling his wife he had to bring in the rest of the grain. He smelled rain. His wife Gael had begged him not to go out. It was already dark, and the dray horse was prone to be skittish at night.

He remembered hitching his horse to the wagon and setting out along the rows. And then… he only remembered hearing his horse whinny in fright.

And then he was here. Haerviu tugged on the tattered shirt of a man in front of him. "Do you know where we are going? Has his lordship called us to the castle?"

The man shook off his hand. Haerviu started to reach out again, thinking the man hadn't understood him, when a voice next to him, timid and gray said, "The Paths of the Dead, my good man. That's what we're traveling. The Ankou has collected us this very night."

Another spoke on his other side, "Here, it is always night."

Haerviu wanted to stop his beating heart. But he didn't feel his heart beating in his chest. He felt empty. And sad. He thought about his horse and his wife and his children. To be fair, he may not have thought of them in that particular order.

Gael had borne him ten children. Two of them he had buried before they reached their first year. Of the others, six remained to him. If it was true what the man had said, if he had died out there on his lonely field, then he only hoped his children would care for Gael. And for his horse. If she had spooked, then it was only her nature and not her fault. It was Haerviu's fault for not listening to his wife.

These thoughts kept him occupied for a time. Then he began to wonder just how long the Paths of the Dead were. He was already dead, so he couldn't die of boredom. But he would have liked to have a rest, to be able to come to terms with his lack of life. It seemed so unfair.

Could Ankou be bargained with? He'd return to give Death his due as soon as he made sure his wife was taken care of. That she had enough to get her through the winter. No reason she should suffer because of his foolishness.

The lights caught his attention. Before long, they came by a building. It looked like a traveler's inn, a

place where a man could put his feet up for a while and slake his thirst. Haerviu didn't think the Ankou would mind if he took a few minutes to do that on his way to whatever lay at the end of the Paths of the Dead.

He turned to go through the double doors leading into the wooden shack that, despite its shabbiness, looked inviting. A tug on his arm accompanied the gray voice, pleading, "Don't go in there, my good

Haerviu could see no one. Then he looked down. A small man, a true dwarf, strode beside him.

"Why shouldn't I go in there?" he asked. "You could come with me. We could share a pint and talk about things. I have so many questions. And then I want to find the way back. There must be a way."

"Aye, 'tis said there is one," said the dwarf. "But this is not the place to while away your time. Answers ye may have, but they will not bring ye any joy." The man spoke with a northern accent, brisk and colorful and no longer timid.

"Well, then, maybe we'll see each other farther down the road," Haerviu said.

"Look for me in the halfway house," the man said.

Haerviu nodded his farewells and went in.

The tavern was full, and there didn't seem to be any place for him to sit. A shout from the back drew his attention. He saw a chair that was free and sat at a table with a half a dozen people. Three of them played musical spoons on the wooden planked table. The thump of the metal on the wood was deafening. Two others nursed their mugs of cider.

Haerviu felt a sudden deep thirst and called for the barkeep. Soon he had his own mug of cider. Before he took a drink, he chanced a look at the man sitting next to him. His skin was pale and thinner than Gael's Sunday crepes. The man had eyes the color of a storm-laden sky, but they were as lifeless as the man looked.

The man laid a bony hand on Haerviu's arm. "It's a little early on the journey to be drinking," he said.

Haerviu shrugged him off. Hopelessness settled over him. It seeped from all the corners of the room, weighing them all down like anchor stones. Like gravestones. "What's it to you. We're all dead. Whether we come to the end of the path sooner or later doesn't matter anymore." Tired and sore, the feeling permeated his ghostly body like a day and a night pulling his horse Soizig through the mud.

He couldn't accept the way things had turned out, and it made him just want to drown his sorrows.

"Stay your hand and go further," the man said. He rose. "I'll come with you so you won't be alone. The way is dusty and long, I'll not lie to you about that. But with two of us it will go quicker. At least let's make it to the halfway house together. Then we can have a drink. If you don't do that, you'll never end your journey."

"And what about you? Why are you sitting here still, a'takin' your ease?"

It seemed to Haerviu that a light flickered in the back of those cavernous eyes. "I've been waiting for someone like you. Someone with the strength to seek the path of return."

Haerviu put down his mug, and the two of them left the place. They rejoined the Path, but now there were no other dead ones. Just the two of them. The man pointed ahead. "Ninety nine inns line the way. At the halfway house, there we may talk."

"Why not here? It will ease the time."

The man shook his head. "Not here. Not now. The Paths of the Dead are long and untrustworthy. Think hard on the ones you left behind, on the things you left behind. Then, when we've got there, I'll tell you a story."

So Haerviu did what the man told him, his hopelessness shed as soon as they left the first tavern. He realized it was the place itself that had worn him down. He drew pictures in his mind of his life and his family and let that be his candle, brighter than the pale moon that tracked them. Haerviu counted the inns and lodges they passed, each one different; each one looked better than the last. A deep urge threatened each time: unshoulder his load and go in. Just one drink…

"One sip of cider can't hurt a man, can it? Not when our cares are behind us?"

"Listen to you, now. You're speaking from the desperateness of the dead."

"Aye," Haerviu said.


Haerviu and his gray companion reached the halfway house. Haerviu had lost count a ways back and had no concept of how long it had taken them. He didn't know they were there until his traveling companion pointed to it.

"That's it," he said. "Now we can go in."

"How do you know it?" Haerviu asked.

"I've been here before," the man said, but said no more.

This place was twice as big as the first tavern, furnished with wide benches, and an upper level - maybe more than one. Haerviu couldn't see past the gloom of the first couple of rickety steps. He didn't feel the need to go upstairs.

Many people about the place. Haerviu thought they look faded, as if they might not be there at all - just shadows that clung to the walls. The two men sat with their backs to the wall and faced the front door.

"Keep your eye on the door," the man said. "It's better that way."

"If you say so," Haerviu said. Mugs of mead appeared in front of them.

This time, the man raised his to Haerviu. "Drink, my friend, and let me tell you of the great forest, the forest of ancient priests. The one that marks the entrance to the Lands Beyond, to the Ankou's domain. And no man who passes within can return, lest he is one of Ankou's chosen."

The barley mead tasted heavy, good after the long trudge, and Haerviu felt that he could listen to this man's tale, maybe forever. It did his heart good -- the heart that no longer beat within his breast.
Haerviu nodded to the man to continue.

"Somewhere deep in the Lands Beyond, though, there is a way back. It has been traveled before, but not by any man among the living. It's said that there are demons and dragons and trials that no man whose heart is heavy with wrongdoing can surpass. It is said that the great Mirdan is imprisoned there."

Haerviu finished his mug and called out for another. It appeared in front of him before he had finished shouting for it. "Mirdan and Nyneve?" Haerviu snorted. "An old folk's tale for the superstitious ones. Them that still believe in korrigans and banshees. Mirdan ran off with one of the Fae, he did. That's what they tell. She imprisoned him on an island where a man may never return."

The gray man seemed to grow less substantial with each draught from his stone mug. His skin showed patches of bone and his face became more sunken and drawn. His voice took on a rattle. "There is an island. On that island is a cave. It is the cave that leads back to life. I know because I've seen it."

Haerviu put down his mug. "Then why didn't you go back? Why are you here? And how did you travel backwards on the Paths of the Dead?"

The gray man nodded at each of Haerviu's questions, as if he'd been expecting them. "My name is Bran. I was one of the Ankou's chosen. I followed him once to the Lands Beyond. But I am not dead. At least not in the waking world. Here, I might as well be dead. But until I am dead, Ankou will not put me in his great forest. That is my punishment. One of my punishments and the least one."

"Bran? From the tales?"

The man shook his head. "Not that Bran. I am human. At least I was. I don't know what I am now. Cursed, I'd say." He lifted his mug with a weary arm. It shook with the effort. A new mug appeared in front of him, filled to the brim. Bran took a sip and sighed, closing his eyes briefly. "Only the dead may pass through the cave. Since I am not dead, I cannot pass." He opened a malevolent eye at Haerviu. "And I should by rights be trapped there forever. But I escaped to return here." He shook his head. "'Tis not a better place to wait out eternity. But at least it isn't as dry." He tipped his mug again.

"And what would you have of me? Will you take me to this place and show me how to get through?"

Bran shook his head. "I may not."

"But I may." The timid voice of the dwarf spoke up from the side of the table. "I can take him to the island. For I'm not a man."

Bran looked at the tiny man. He laughed, and the effort split the skin next to his mouth, showing a bit of the skull that lay just beneath. "So you may. But will you?"
The man nodded. "Try my luck. 'Tis my death."

"Right you have it," Bran said. And he began to tell them the way of things and how they were to get through Ankou's Forest and navigate the Lands Beyond. But what became of them, no one knows, for when you traverse the Lands Beyond, if you manage to come back to the waking world, you are sworn never to tell anyone, for good or for ill. And it's a pact made in blood with a curse that goes beyond death, as Bran will tell you. Because he's been there.


Bertha paused and seemed to come back from a long way off. She cleared her throat. Sebastian refilled her Armagnac. She nodded to him and drank down a portion of it. "Sorry, Basti. I didn't mean to pick such a long one. It just came out that way."

I poured myself more coffee and gestured with the cafetiére to Hagen. He nodded, and took a cup for himself. Heinrich had been so rapt with Bertha's story, he had to shake himself to bring himself back to the present.

When Sebastian came back to us, he poured Heinrich an Armagnac and one for himself. "Where did you get that tale, Berti?"

Bertha shook her head. "Just a minute." She put a hand on the piano, her eyes faraway again. Then she finished her Armagnac and walked to us, setting her glass on the table.

"Do you want to sit?" I asked.

She shook her head. "No, Schätzchen. I need to stand awhile. Otherwise, the tale don't settle right. Down here." She smiled at me and put her hand on her stomach. And then bent her head for a few moments, her palms together.

We waited, each of us wrapped in our thoughts. Heinrich's song about Mirdan had obviously inspired Bertha to tell this tale. I wondered if she had made it up on the spot. But it sounded too real for her to have invented it.

"I've seen the other side of that cave," I said.


photo credits

PeterThoeny Leaving the circus behind, a new path opens up via photopin (license)

Wayne Stadler Photography Never is a Promise via photopin (license)

Big Grey Mare Happy Thanksgiving To All via photopin (license)

Nov 8, 2016

Back from Eurocon!

Returning from a pleasant 19 degrees C in Barcelona to, oh, about 3 degrees in Cologne, I am finally adjusting. I brought a mild head cold back, lots of memories, and some books (see below). Thanks to everyone who came to my panels and to my co-panelists - who were awesome and fun to listen to.

I particularly enjoyed talking about world-building with Aliette de Bodard, Charles Stross, Andrzej Sapkowski  ('the defense rests'),  Concha Perea and successfully moderated by Haralambi Markov. I thought of all kinds of things I could have (and should have) said after the panel. This happens to me every time. Even after nearly 20 years teaching at the University of Cologne, I sometimes get tongue-tied on panels and my brain freezes up. I'm sure this never happens to anyone else. So I would love to do a blog post or article on this one.  

The mythology panel was also informative since Kjartan Yngvi Bjórnsson and Snæbjörn Brynjarsson (who will hereafter always be known as The Iceland Guys) helpfully informed me that the Vikings will be returning to Cologne next year. So if you live here, make sure you've got your fire extinguishers and smoke alarms up-to-date by then. But if the Vikings show up around Karneval time, there's a very good chance no one will notice anything unusual (except perhaps the burning buildings).

The panel was beautifully moderated by Juliane Honisch whose insights into her work with Alpine folk tales were enlightening and makes me want to rush out and buy all her books.

Regina Kanyu Wang had some interesting and unexpected things to say about Chinese mythology and folk tales, the awareness of the Chinese people of foreign mythologies, and the differences between how people view mythological creatures and deities, East versus West.

It was lovely to meet so many people from so many countries and have so many tapas (with so much wine to wash them down with) in so short a time.

I was forced to change my suitcase packing ritual at the last minute due to the Gigamesh bookstore's dealers room sale on the last day (2 books for 1 euro), but I did restrain myself and only bought eight books. Shame on Gigamesh. I also snagged a copy of fellow Albedo One co-conspirator Dave Murphy's recently published Walking on Ripples, also available from the publisher, Liffey Press.

But I didn't exceed the weight limit and I got them all home. I'm now fighting with Finn MacCool over who gets to read what first. He wants the Tooth Fairy. Hmm. We shall see.

Finn has his paw on One-Eyed Jack but I know he's waiting to steal The Tooth Fairy and take it back to his kitty lair.

Nov 2, 2016

Heading Off to Eurocon 2016 in Barcelona

If you are attending, I'll be around most of the time and would love to chat.

I don't have any definite plans but will likely tag along with any happy group of people heading in the direction of nearby pubs and bars. Or a coffee shop if there's a good one near the Con.

I'm on two panels: Friday afternoon (How to Build a Fantasy World) and Sunday afternoon (Mythology into Fantasy) and hope to see you there.

Oct 22, 2016

Triple Junction excerpt: The Dance of the Dead

Just in time for Halloween, Samhain, or Kala Goañv in the Breton language, an excerpt* from Chapter 6 in book 5, the final book of The Schattenreich, Triple Junction

The meandering trail through gentle hills led us into a bowl-shaped dale. A single-file of forlorn souls marched downwards from the hills opposite us. Hagen called a halt when we reached a jumble of moss-covered boulders to the right of the path.

“Just find a place to sit comfortably. We won’t have long to wait,” Hagen said.

 Heinrich slung his binioú kozh in preparation for playing, and Sebastian sat next to me, taking my hand in his.

“Who are they, Tadig?”

“Those who’ve departed but have not yet found peace.”

“What are they doing here?”

“Celebrating. And remembering. Like us. Look. A few of the Tud join us.” My father pointed behind us, to the path we had just taken.

A line of about a dozen Tud, one of several races of beings who inhabited Ande-dubnos, came our way. These were the tall ones with fair skin and long silvery hair. They stood near a group of boulders to the left of the path. A couple of them nodded to us, and they watched Heinrich expectantly.

Then I saw Ankou. He stood where the path opened out to the grassy dale, where the dead had just passed. He wore his black cloak and wielded his iron-tipped staff, his legs spread. His hair blew behind him, his skin an unearthly white. He waited until the last of the dead passed by. When they were all gathered in the middle of the downs, Ankou rapped his staff on the ground three times.

The dead began to sing. Ankou rapped his staff three more times. Some danced, but mostly they
moved amongst each other in a grim Irish wheel, touching one other as they passed, many of them turning, gazing as if searching for someone or something, the short cropped grasses not even marked by their passing. Hagen gazed in the same way. He tapped Heinrich on the shoulder.

Out in the middle of the dale, Hagen and Heinrich’s mother Isabel glided past the other souls. Her face had none of the life and hope so visible in the pictures Heinrich had shown me in Dinard, but she was beautiful, with a kissed-by-moonlight paleness contrasting her long dark hair and slender form.

Beautiful and dead. So near but so far away.

Heinrich played a few notes on his bagpipe, then stopped to sing to her in Brezhoneg, not a funeral dirge, but a song that sounded both happy and sad. Heinrich’s clear voice conveyed respect and longing.

Isabel glanced once our way and then continued her search. Was she looking for Hagen’s father Theodor? One of the dead men took her hand and led her in a slow dance. She didn’t resist. The others joined them, swaying and turning to Heinrich’s song.

Ankou kept a close watch on his flock. When one of them strayed too far towards us, he would call them back with a commanding voice that touched me in the deep place where my fear of him still lived. But what could he possibly threaten the dead with?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer to that question, but as I turned to ask Hagen, Ankou stood before us. He had moved across the dale in less time than it took me to open my mouth to speak, as quick as the dead men who had led us here. I turned my face away, unwilling to meet Ankou’s eyes.

His claim on me had not yet come to pass; he would have to wait. I was here with the man of my heart’s desire tonight and was still very much alive and a part of his life. Ankou bowed and reached out a hand to me. Was he asking me to dance?

I shrank back. Hagen reached me and took my hand in a tight grip. He held out a hand to ward off Ankou’s advance. “Your claim on Katarin is not yet due. What do you seek from the living?” A ring of light glowed a ghostly white on Hagen’s little finger.

Ankou bowed. “A dance to celebrate Kala Goañv and the day of your promising.”

Was tonight's joy to be the cause of hostility? Hagen couldn’t tell me about the unfinished business between them because of a geis. But if all Ankou wanted was a dance, then I could do that. I took my hand from Hagen’s and extended it to Ankou.

A light touch on my shoulder made me turn my head.

“May I have the pleasure of a dance with you, milady?” Brionne, the Tud I met at the Sea of Dreams, the night Heinrich and I made love for the first time, stood next to me. For the evening’s festivities, he wore a burgundy red suit featuring a double-breasted long-tail coat that went well with his platinum hair. Hagen smiled and nodded his head in approval.

Brionne bowed to Ankou and turned back to me. Ankou’s face betrayed no emotion, but a brief smile of acknowledgement appeared.

I gave Brionne my hand. “I’d be honored.”

The other Tud danced with us, their long arms and legs swirling, rising and falling. Ankou swiveled his head to watch us. Their enthusiasm pushed me into a frenzy, just like on Kala Hañv, the Maifest, when I ran with the Tud to honor Eduard’s passing. Here it had none of the urgency of the Wild Hunt I had fled.

I didn’t need to escape Death. Not tonight. Not yet.

Hagen joined Heinrich in his song, his voice higher but in harmony. I’d never heard him sing before. The words poured out evening a rich timbre; although I didn’t understand their meaning, the carefully contained emotion behind them seemed clear. Sebastian added his voice to the chorus, and put his arms across their shoulders. Heinrich ended the song with a few plaintive notes from his Breton bagpipe.

I curtsied low to Brionne and thanked him for the dance before turning again to the dead. The souls in the middle of the downs continued their own songs, voices strengthening and then fading away. Sobs and cries issued forth. They intensified their movements as if working up to a grand finale. At a signal from Ankou, they abruptly turned and began the climb back to where they had come from.

Hagen took a few steps closer to Ankou. They faced off, their words swallowed in a wind that swirled around them, a wind Ankou caused with a flourish of his iron rod, so that none of us were privy to their conversation. Heinrich held me around the waist.

Finished with what they had to say to each other, Druid and Death regarded each other across the short distance between them before Ankou turned and followed his flock, his long hair flowing around him. He turned once more and bowed to me before continuing on his way. Hagen started after him, a momentary sadness lingering in his expression, until Sebastian clasped him by the shoulder.

We began the trek back home.


Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful Kala Goañv

*redacted to minimize spoilers.

Illustration credits:
Spooky Forest, j. s. suley via istock
Pompeii bronze, K.-G. Hinzen
Dancing in the Moonlight, Demoncic via istock
2015 Pumpkin carved by K.-G. Hinzen


Aug 13, 2016

Sneak Preview: Book 1 of The Sundered Veil, a new Schattenreich series

Hi Dear Readers,

Time for an update.

Presenting an excerpt of the (still-in-progress) first book, The Sundered Veil. Yes, it is a part of the Schattenreich (Celto-Germanic) universe, and yes, it is a new (fantasy) series, one that takes place in the Very Near Future. Yes, there are some familiar (but older) characters and many new characters.

Yes, I am still writing it, and yes, it is just to whet your appetite.

It started out as a short story and has now reached near novel length. I'm working on it steadily and it has, much to my surprise, now outpaced my progress on other projects so much that I'm devoting most of my writing time and research efforts to finishing it. Such is life.

I've also started a visual (but chaotic) story-elementing thing over at my Sundered Veil Pinterest board.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to a technical error, the KOBO promotion for Primary Fault ended five days too soon! I've adjusted the free promotion to run from now until August 21 (the promotion may take a day to go into effect, so check back again starting August 15!). My apologies if this error caused any disappointment.


Jeremiah: The Disappearance
Nine months ago

My friends called me Jim. Short for Jeremiah. Not Jerry or Jem. Might be because my little sister could only manage 'Jimah' when she was…little. Everyone, myself included, thought it was way cute. My cousins shortened it to Jim, and it stuck. I preferred Jem because that would make me much more interesting, but was really glad no one called me Jerry.

Only three people called me Jeremiah - my father, one of my uncles and my cousin Theo - short for Theodor. Everyone called him Theo, even my uncle, his father, the one who also called me Jeremiah. Theo was named after his grandfather, who died shortly after his birth under mysterious circumstances. Mysterious, even for our family, and that was saying a lot.

I wasn't named for anyone. My dad just liked the name, according to my mother. My grandfather was also dead and, by all accounts, not-a-nice-person, and not one to name your son after. Okay with me.

Theo was late, as usual. I had anticipated that and brought my math textbook, Math for Information Technology and Dad's copy of Bronstein for reference. I settled myself in Theo's big comfy easy chair, probably an antique or something close to it -- complete with tattered knitted cotton armrest covers -- and popped open the bottle of Peters Kölsch I filched from the fridge along with an additional bottle in anticipation of Theo's arrival. A stack of firewood was piled next to the open fireplace, so I busied myself with starting a fire, hoping we would make a night of it.

I hadn't seen Theo in a while -- he'd only been home to Burg Lahn over the Christmas break for a couple of days -- and missed him terribly. I'd never tell him that, but I'm sure he knows it. He and his sisters worship their other sibling, Brevalaer, and I understood that, I really could, but Theo was my hero. I'd never made any secret about that. It was because I liked him, he was already a scientist and was mostly off doing scientist-type things with his life, and mainly just because he treated me like one of the family.

The first sip went down quick, all sparkly and cold with only a hint of hops to tickle my nose, and I automatically relaxed.

All was quiet, and there wasn't anyone else about. I had to let myself into the castle with Dad's key. Even the air had a quality of stillness I'd never felt here before -- or maybe never noticed. There was also that faint hint of violets that always seems to linger in this part of the castle. The only thing missing was…

"Hey, Jeremiah," Theo said as he sauntered into the room. "Sorry I'm late."

"No problem," I said and handed him his beer.

"A vintage Bronstein," he said with a smile and pointed to Dad's book. "Bronstein's the best. My copy's not near as cool as that one."

We clicked bottles together and took sips. He settled onto his non-matching couch next to me, right out of the IKEA catalog from five years ago, and slid his feet on the thick oak slab that passed for a coffee table, probably scavenged from the castle basement. Did I mention just how cool Theo is?

"Where is everyone?"

"They're all at one of Heiner's concerts. He's letting my sister join in for a couple of songs. A debut, so to speak. I begged off, saying I had to study for an exam retake."

"Gotcha. Although missing Jax's debut--"

"Needed them all to be gone for what's up for tonight." Theo sat back, a lock of his unruly wavy chestnut hair falling across his forehead.

His stockiness didn't hide the fact that he was fit. He had an athletic build, much closer to my uncle Heiner's than my uncle Hagen's, though he wasn't nearly as tall as either of them. Theo had an easygoing manner, not as obviously comfortable in his skin as his brother. That made me like him more, since I felt so awkward most of the time with my chunky build.

I had so often wished I were Theo in so many ways, and that was one of them.

"What's up for tonight?" I asked.

His eyes twinkled their dark blueness, enhanced by the room's dimness. My eyes, in stark contrast, were…just. plain. brown. Like my mom's. Nothing special. She's also plain. I meant to say, she's very pretty and all. Just not of the blood. Which made me a half-blood, in a manner of speaking.

Luckily, Theo didn't hold that against me, never has, always willing to help me improve my druid abilities. Even though he just called them skills. Schattenwerk. Shadowcraft, the way of doing stuff in the Otherworld. Even a half-blood like me possessed a native ability, but it needed to be directed and polished, like any ability. Like doing science or math. My dad was fully on board with the science and math, but not so much with the shadowcraft. My mother: vehemently against it.

I sighed. Theo took another chug of beer and grinned. "Not what, but when," he said. "We need to test your ability to time travel."

I choked on a swallow of beer and then wiped my mouth, laugh escaping. "Yeah. Right."

He nodded. "Walking the veil," he said. "You've heard of it?"

I nodded, hesitantly. "I've heard you guys mention it a time or two."

"It's one of those inherited things. Like curling your tongue or crossing your eyes." Theo proceeded to demonstrate his ability to do both at the same time.

"Your many talents never cease to amaze me, Cuz. So are you also good at time travel?"

He gestured with the bottle. "Nope. Not even a smidgen. I can't even walk the veil back a few minutes. Mama and Papa can go back centuries."

I couldn't fathom that. "And what makes you think I can do this walking thing?"

He shrugged. "Don't know till we try."

I leaned back; scratched at the stubble on my chin. "Forgot to shave this morning," I said.

"Still working on your game engine?" he asked with a sly grin.

My turn to shrug. "Not making much progress. But having fun getting there."

"I understand perfectly," he said. "When you're doing something you love, time just slips away."

"Another form of time travel. Okay, let's do it. How?"

He folded his legs under him in a graceful gesture that reminded me of his father. "We have to picture where we're going - you especially since you'll be the one guiding us there -- and then we mediate. It's really as simple as that." He slugged back the rest of his beer. "A couple more of these is necessary -- helps to be in an altered state -- but I'd like to try it without anything harder than a few beers."

We did that. But I had to stop in between to ask him what he really meant to do, the why. He just said, wiping a hand across his brow, "Need to find something…out. Don't want the others to know. Especially if there's nothing to it."

Based on his descriptions and what I remembered from the excavations near the Cologne Rathaus that had, after a decade of delays and mismanagement, been turned into a museum, I drew a mental picture of the place he had in mind. Somewhere between Roman Cologne and the arrival of Charlemagne, not that that narrowed it down. Much. But after some intense mediating, by some miracle, and the contents of at least a six-pack (I lost count) to pave the way while we drew up mental pictures of Cologne in the Middle Ages, we traveled the veil.

At first it smelled like old wood, alive, breathing, a subliminal whispering. Then sights, sounds and smells flew past, all distorted and too quick to sort, as if we were on a high-speed train racing through patchy bits of cold-studded fog. Suddenly it all stopped, a curious quiet surrounding us. I looked around and there it was. We had ended up next to the Roman well that Theo said was still in use during Charlemagne's reign.

Theo pounded me on the back. "Excellent, Jeremiah. I knew you had it in you." He walked up to the lip of the well and peered down. He grimaced. "It's pretty deep. This is going to be harder than I thought."

"What is?" I said, joining him and looking into the inky blackness of the well. I couldn't recall if this well was even open to visitors at the museum. If so, it wouldn't be possible to fall into it in our time. Here, in the depths of the Middle Ages, no safety net or warning signs were in evidence.

"The key to saving the veil," he said. "Without too many people getting hurt."
Before I could even ask him what the fuck, some dude with a blond braid down to his butt ran up and grabbed Theo, dragging him over the side, and the two of them plummeted into the well. I never even had a chance to react. I also never even heard an impact or any screams. I looked down into the darkness, hoping to see something and dreading to see crushed bodies at the bottom. But nothing. They were gone. Just like that.

I slid down on the cold ground and put my head in my hands. Shit, Theo. How do I get back? And my next thought, I can walk the veil. Oh yeah. I need to find time to feel guilty about that later.

The Sundered Veil, Copyright 2016 Sharon Kae Reamer, All Rights Reserved.


illustrations by: Yaroslav Gerzhedovich
(his pictures also adorn the covers of all my Schattenreich series novels as well as the header of this blog)

Jun 30, 2016

July 4th Weekend Sale and More

Starting tomorrow (hint: could be earlier or possibly a bit later, depending on when the bots get off their tiny digital butts to make their price adjustments), we are having a sale through the July 4th weekend.

0.99 USD, GBP, and Euro at various vendors (see below for links). For other currencies, some conversion (that may look all weird but should be equivalent to the 0.99 price point) will occur.

 Primary Fault, 
Book 1 of the Schattenreich*

Shaky Ground, 
Book 2 of the Schattenreich

Amazon worldwide
Kobo (through July 10th)

 *Where's the Primary Fault link for Kobo? you might ask. A separate promo will run, starting next week, on Primary Fault. Stay tuned for details.

photo credit: Stillwater OK Fireworks-4 via photopin (license)

May 29, 2016

The Schattenreich Mythology: Five Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Schattenreich

Some things that some of you have asked. I would like to answer them so as to not give too much away.

1. Why the Schattenreich?

The German word Schattenreich can be interpreted as the realm of shadows, the kingdom of shades or even a plenitude of shadows. My interpretation of this realm, where many shadows do exist, is that through their special relationship with the Otherworld (Ande-dubnos or Anderwelt), the von der Lahn family (and their ancestors) have carved out their own special portion, directly connected to the waking world and which has borders, where they can practice their craft in a relatively protected state.

2. Who can enter the Schattenreich?

Those of the blood, which mainly consists of the generations affected by Cathubodua's original curse - nine times nines generations - where the women are destined to die soon after childbirth. The ability to cross the veil to the Schattenreich is not without its obligations, however. These duties can and do vary according to a person's ability and affinities.

3. Is there a connection between Burg Lahn and the Schattenreich?

Yes! Burg Lahn, ancestral home to the von der Lahns and before them the Du Bois family and a few other branches of the family tree, is - through repeated usage - the well-worn path, easy access to the Schattenreich and through that domain to Ande-dubnos proper. Some would say that it constitutes a special sort of nemeton - a connection through the veil between the waking world and the Otherworld. A Schattenreich construct, Lahn-dunum, the Otherworld equivalent to Burg Lahn, exists in the Schattenreich and is also a place where crossing is facilitated.

4. Who built Lahn-dunum and where is it?

 No one knows who crafted the original construct. Access to Lahn-dunum is mostly restricted to the heir - the current Baron of Burg Lahn (formerly a count, but the family was demoted due to their stubborn adherence to their pagan heritage) - and his direct descendants (see, for example, Shadow Zone and Triple Junction). The construct is located within the Schattenreich - or at least it was until relatively recently, when Caitie accidentally translocated it (book 3, Double Couple) to Ande-dubnos.

5. Who lives in the Schattenreich?

The only (known and accounted for) permanent residents of the Schattenreich include:

Korri. An ancient being, most probably a Korrigan who rather than remain in the waking world , chose to dwell there with some of her brethren, who may or may not still exist outside of dreamtime. (see Double Couple)

Five-fingered Yan. a being out of legend whose fingers are lit. He can manifest on the borders between the Schattenreich and Ande-dubnos and can sometimes act as a (not necessarily reliable) guide, especially in dark places. His presence does not bode well (see Primary Fault).

The Lost Children.  Legend has it that during a later Crusades campaign, children were recruited to fight for the so-called holy lands. What is more likely is that the children were conscripted, possibly sold as slaves. The lucky ones who were rescued and taken to the Schattenreich, constitute a band of helpful but sometimes mischievous children who dwell permanently near the borders to Ande-dubnos. It is rumored that they can cross to the waking world, where they pilfer foodstuffs and other useful items to stock the ancestral von der Lahn cottage, Ker Gisell (see Double Couple).

Nymphs or mermaids (Breton Morverch) and probably many other names, live underneath the swift flowing waters of the so-called River of Life that forms the westernmost border to the Schattenreich. They guard access to a place of mystery and beauty, an eternally blooming wildflower meadow. Why this particular patch of land should remain inaccessible to humans and inhabitants alike, is not clear. This is likely due to the meadow being a transformative place and so not without special reason, off limit (see Shaky Ground) The nymphs can wear beautiful faces.

And one more as a bonus:

6. Is the Schattenreich black and white?

One reader always had the picture of the Schattenreich in shades of gray (shadows=gray, black, and white). The answer is No. The Schattenreich has very vivid colors (the trees, the sky, the grassy clearing), sometimes even more vivid than counterparts in the real world. The Schattenreich (and Ande-dubnos) do not seem to have strong scents or smells.

Additional questions or comments more than welcome!

photo credit:

Underweald, Sussex via photopin (license)

1095 via photopin (license)

 Dawn Mist via photopin (license)

May 1, 2016

Dancing the May: an excerpt from Double Couple, Book 3 of the Schattenreich

May Day (and May Eve) continues to be a pan-European celebration that can be traced back to the Celtic celebration of Beltane, one of the high holy days of the Celtic calendar. Even though current traditions vary from country to country and according to which kind of group is doing the celebrating (i.e., pagan, non-pagan, labor activists, young adults in the throes of a romantic relationship).

Dancing maypole ladies
In Germany, the celebrations vary across the country, but usually include May Eve bonfires, dancing until after midnight (also known as 'dancing in the May') - with or without a Maypole and/or with or without traditional circle dances - and also various (ahem) fertility rites and consumption of copious amounts of food and beverages of an alcoholic nature. Historically, the Celts also included various games of prowess and challenge (e.g., Celtic Culture, A Historical Encyclopedia, edited by John C. Koch).

Birch saplings, more or less suitable for a Maibaum
In the Rhineland where I live, young men are expected to deliver a properly decorated (usually with varicolored strips of crepe paper and a wooden heart engraved with the intended's name) to their beloved. This year - leap year - the tradition reverses, and the young lady is required to deliver the tree.

Another historic tradition in Germany - although probably only dating to sometime in the nineteenth century - opinions vary - is the celebration of Walpurgisnacht (named after St. Walpurgis, a female saint who lived and died in the eighth century), the night that the witches gather (on the highest peak in the Harz Mountains) to celebrate the coming of spring.

The excerpt from Double Couple takes place at Burg Lahn during a traditional Maifest, held each year by the von der Lahns, complete with a May Queen, athletic games, a horse race, and handfasting. Of course, just a few chapters later, other things - or I should say Otherworldly things - also happen on this particular May Eve...

Book 3 of the Schattenreich series
The multiple thwopping of arrows hitting their targets rang out across the field. Heinrich stood with the other contestants, a half-dozen men and two women, practicing with their long bows. One of the guests commissioned to act as contest official bustled about importantly, pinning numbers on shirts and writing down names. When he came to Heinrich, they conferred for a moment before they agreed to pin Heinrich's number on one leg of his pants.

Heinrich had stripped his upper body of everything but a soft leather vest, and I suspected he would lose that before the contest started. I admired the sight of him, watching the muscles in his arm flex as he pulled back on his bow, taking aim. Heinrich stood out compared to the other men in the field, a wildcat among barnyard tabbies.

The crowd shouted encouragement, adding to the pageantry. Some tied ribbons or strips of cloth around contestants' arms or necks. I waited for someone to offer Heinrich such a fetish. When no one did, I hurriedly extracted a purple satin ribbon Heinrich had woven into my braid. I held it out to him.

"Luck, Heiner. Not like you really need it."

"You can never have enough luck," he said and stared at the proffered ribbon. "You want to give me your token?"

"Only if you want it."

"A favor from my favorite lady. That would be grand, chérie." He took the ribbon and tried unsuccessfully to wind it around his left arm.

"Let me." I tied the ribbon on his upper arm in a double knot so it wouldn't slip down. "Kilhian and I just had a short but interesting Ausflug in Lahn-dunum."

 He started to walk to the first peg, but stopped and turned.

"Do your thing. It's not urgent," I said and smiled.

The contest went through only four rounds of shooting but took place in the woods, three arrows each, at different distances from the targets, the distances marked with colored pegs. It was an abbreviated form of field archery, meant only for entertainment and not an 'official' competition. At Heinrich's turn each round, I produced my loudest Texas war whoop, putting even the rowdier teenagers to shame. The younger girls, challenged by my display, cheered their favorites on in a renewed frenzy of yelling.

Heinrich won by a wide margin - he had hit the yellow bull's eye at all three distances - earning good-natured catcalls and whistles from the crowd. Hagen and Elise had arrived and joined in the cheering. Heinrich strode over to me after he was declared the winner and swung me in a wide circle, laughing with joy.

"I'll collect my boon from you later, Caitie." He looked around. "This really isn't the ideal place to talk."

"I can see that. What the heck is a boon?"

"It's a Germanic tradition. A favor. A touch of your fortune."

Wondering about that momentarily chased thoughts of Dagmar Abel and Kilhian ar C'hoed away before the fear returned. Where is she and what is she planning?

Heinrich, now sporting a sleeveless T-shirt and running shorts, lined up for the long distance run, not measured in kilometers but a marked path through the forest to the large oak tree and then a sprint across the meadow. Not having the advantage of my Schattenreich wolf form to augment my speed, I didn't have a chance against all those legs with their well-defined thigh and calf muscles.

Hagen and Elise conversed a few feet from me, and I debated whether to approach them. Not that I'd be able to tell Hagen about what happened, but maybe I could couch it in code. Hagen waved me over. Elise frowned while Hagen introduced us.

"Caitlin von der Lahn, Elise Maier."

I held out my hand. Elise displayed a calculated hesitation before taking it. Her critical appraisal as Hagen enunciated my name was a stitch less than friendly. Hagen's displeasure at her behavior was barely perceptible.

"Nice to meet you, Frau Maier. You make a lovely May queen."

She nodded in haughty acknowledgement before taking Hagen's arm to lead him closer to the race about to start. I felt a touch of anger at her response, but was more irritated that I couldn't talk to Hagen. I turned away from them to watch the race.

Hagen was not so easily led.

He disengaged himself from Elise and clasped my hand as he flashed me a look I had no trouble decoding as patient suffering. Watching us, Elise's arms traveled to her hips in a peeve. I quietly harbored joy imagining Frau Maier and her queenly rump leaving Burg Lahn. The race started to loud whoops and cheers.

"You are so in trouble," I said to Hagen.

He shrugged. "I think I'll survive it."

"And I've had an interesting chat with that ar C'hoed fellow."

Hagen quickly hid his look of alarm.

"You have to play escort for a while still?" I felt a snarky smile forming, but didn't want to ruin Elise's few moments in the sun with the sexiest man on the planet. Especially since Hagen was cultivating a meaningful relationship with the May queen's father.

"The prize ceremony, opening the dance floor, and then the handfasting. Join me there?"

"Glad to."

Heinrich placed a respectable fifth. I gave him a well-deserved hug and an energetic pat on the back before he'd gotten his wind back, prompting him to chase me down.

"Can we talk now?" I asked.

"One more event, and I have to play. I'll find you, though. Don't worry."

"What event?"

"Horse racing. Want to give Bertha a run?"

"Not this time. Don't want to take a chance that she could get hurt."

"You'd be just fine. You make a fine figure on a horse."

"Are you riding Alice?"

"She needs to have her head every now and then. She's got a racer's heart."

"Like your motorcycle?"

"Like all my women," he said, grinning.

"Naughty man."

"Cheer us on?"

"Are you still going to wear my token?" I asked.

"Selbstverständlich," he said, bowing. "I have to change and saddle Alice. See you before the race?"

I went to hunt up Sebastian. I spotted him from behind - his tall erect frame was easy to see in a crowd - and veered toward him. As I drew closer, I saw who he was talking to and changed direction in a frantic motion, clenching my fists.

Dagmar Abel.

I caught my breath and began to pant. When I was safely out of range of discovery, I chanced a glimpse. Sebastian wore a concentrated and purposeful expression. He was drinking in every word Dagmar said. I couldn't - and didn't want to - see Dagmar's face.

"Hey, Cat. What's up?"

I jumped. "Gus, hey. When did you get here? Where's Anna?"

"She bowed out. I think she felt uncomfortable for some reason. Don't know."

He looked dejected. Dancing in the May was something to do with your sweetheart.

"Sign my dance card?"

He managed a grin. "Dance card? Ooh. Fancy schmantsy. Sure thing."

He put himself down for the first dance. I strained a look in Sebastian's direction again. Gus's face registered shock as he recognized Dagmar. His eyes and mine met.

I had to work to keep my shoulders from sagging in dismay. "I don't know what Sebastian had in mind by inviting her. I can't imagine any good will come of it."

"The evening would be much more pleasant without her here," Gus said.

"Is that a prophecy or a threat?"

He draped an arm around my shoulder. "Let's pretend she's not here."

"I wish I could."


excerpt from Double Couple, book 3 of The Schattenreich
Copyright Sharon Kae Reamer, 2013.
All Rights Reserved.

photo credits:

Luxor Live: Art Nouveau dancing girls via photopin (license)

fagedajorda-2 via photopin (license)

Apr 11, 2016

Support Your Local Library

(Raises hand) Hi, my name is Sharon, and I have rediscovered the library.

Even though I live in Germany, I am considered a Florida resident (because taxes and whatnot) and can use the local library (Sarasota County) to check out and read ebooks.

It's been a wonderful thing, enabling me to read ebooks that are priced too high for my current book budget: I am semi-voracious reader and go through 2-3 books a week (fiction and non-fiction), and while I also still gladly read printed books, I love my Kindle Paperwhite (many reasons, one of which is I live with a Sleep Diva, SD for short, and the Paperwhite allows me to read in bed, with the lights out, far into the night without disturbing either the SD or the cats) and so am always looking for new ebooks to read.

Examples of ebooks I recently checked out and read and really enjoyed:

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, by Mike Brown
Sized 12 Is Not Fat, Meg Cabot
Raven's Shadow Trilogy, Anthony Ryan
Mistress of Rome, Kate Quinn
A Bullet for Cinderella, John D. MacDonald

That's just a few of the ebooks I've read since I started using the library late last year. My Goodreads goal for this year is 82 books (up from 80 last year), and while I did come down to the finish line last year, I'm already 12 books ahead of schedule partly due to my newfound library pleasure (not guilty, not a bit - well, maybe a little because reading does contribute to my procrastinating just about everything else).

When I was a kid and through my teen years, before I could actually afford to buy any books, the library was my bestest best friend. After I started earning money, I could occasionally buy books - paperbacks - and later a few hardbacks (remember those?). After moving to Germany, book buying became the only way I could keep up with my love of reading. Before Amazon (and before e-books), I would schlepp suitcases full of books back from the U.S. with me every trip. Amazon enabled me to buy a lot more books, and enabled me to buy them without the horrendous shipping charges. Ebooks were an even better solution for a long time, but they weren't available for all the books I wanted to read, by a very wide margin.

Since ebook prices for traditionally published ebooks have skyrocketed in the past year or so (don't want to go into the whole why and who and whatnot, but this and this and this are articles which discuss it), I've felt sad because, despite most indies (i.e., independent or self-published writers) pricing their ebooks in a (for me) affordable range, in addition to offering periodic discounts and freebies, there are still traditionally-published authors that I'm eager and happy to discover and/or keep reading. 

And with my library card, now I can. Even in Germany (Note: German libraries also have ebooks on offer, but not usually enough of the books that I want to read in English).

And thanks to a new program from Library Journal called Self-e, some indie and small press books are being offered to libraries throughout the U.S. through Library Journal's curation process. I am happy and proud to say that the first three books in my Schattenreich series: Primary Fault, Shaky Ground, and Double Couple, have been approved and are available for libraries to offer in ebook lending programs.

So if your local library has access to the Biblioboard Library (through Library Journal) and subscribes to the Self-e program, you can check these books out for free. For free! Yay! The librarian at your local library should be able to tell you more. I'm confident that the last two books in the Schattenreich series will also soon be available. 

I'm hoping this will get my name out there to more people, even though I don't receive any compensation at this time for my ebooks being available through Library Journal (for me a win-win when readers go on to buy the books in print or digital and pass the word on to other readers about my books). For readers it's a pure win-win. Great books from indie and small press authors at a great price: free. Yes, there are lots of free books available on the Internetz, but not all of them are available (yet) through your local library.

So support your local library! Go do it. Right now.

photo credits

Springfield Public Library via photopin (license)

Book via photopin (license)

A young girl reading via photopin (license)

Mar 30, 2016

Seismology in Bensberg, Just Got Sweeter

We are proud to announce the arrival of our newest team members at the Seismic Observatory in Bensberg!

We have two populations of bees who have just taken up residence in the observatory garden. As you can see they're just waking up. More information as soon as they're all settled in and buzzing around (and especially where you can buy the honey).

For now, an exclusive preview of our honeygram. If we can get the bees to predict earthquakes then we'll be in business for sure.

photo credits: 

Beehive, Klaus Hinzen

"">Honey dipper
via "">photopin "">(license) (photo modified to include BNS logo and seismogram)

Mar 7, 2016

The Schattenreich Mythology: Ankou

Hagen nudged my knee with his. “Do you know who Ankou really is?”

“Why don’t you just come on out and tell us?” I asked.

“Many think that Cernunnos is equated with Dis Pater, who Caesar claimed was the chief of all the Celtic gods. The Big Guy, so to speak. His original Celtic name is lost. Or, more likely, hidden. Others think it is Taranis, sometimes Lugh, but not often. Taranis and Lugh are solar, possibly the same being with different names. Dis Pater is definitely a dark, underworldy god.”

“You think Ankou personifies Dis Pater?” Heinrich joined me in admiring the river, slipping his sunglasses on. “Wow. I’d never really thought about him like that, but…there’s nothing to dispute it. I think of Cernunnos as Lord of the Underworld and Ankou as—”

“Subservient, I think, is the word you’re looking for. He assumes the role, at least in the times I’ve seen them together,” Hagen said, repositioning his cutlery and obviously suppressing some excitement.

“And if he is Boss Celt—” I began.

Hagen laughed and glanced around. “Not only that. Boss German, too.”

“Wōden? Ankou incarnates Wōden? What makes you think that?” Heinrich asked.

“He has all of Wōden’s attributes. The cape, the spear – it’s a staff with a curved iron blade in Ankou’s case. The hat, but he doesn’t wear it all the time. He rides a kaveg.”

“He leads the Wild Hunt,” Heinrich said. “At least he led it on Kala-Hañv.”

“He controls the wind – is that also Wōden?” I asked.

They nodded.

“He herds the dead,” Hagen said.

“With your help. But Ankou has two eyes,” Heinrich said. “Wōden lost an eye if I recall.”

“The eye is symbolic. Ankou is not all-seeing. He’s lost the ability. It has something to do with the closing of the veil. I can’t tell you why, but I’m sure of it.”

“What does all that have to do with Caitie?”

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Hagen said.

“Your geis,” I said.

Heinrich frowned. “Wōden got around.”

“He’s a fertility god. Same as Cernunnos.” Hagen shrugged. “There’s so many things that make sense all of a sudden. But I don’t know how to use it to help us yet.”

This excerpt from Book 4 of The Schattenreich, Shadow Zone, refers to a Celtic father god, named by Caesar as Dis Pater. This is a pretty good (if not complete) summary of my interpretation of the Germano-Celtic Lord of the Dead. Ankou aka Woden aka (according to Caesar) Dis Pater. Caesar even claimed that the Gauls believed they were descended from this 'unnamed' deity. According to some scholars (e.g., Derek Bryce in his introduction to his English translation of some of Anatole Le Braz's collected folk tales), the Breton people, although traditionally Catholic, were particularly resistant to suppression of some of their pagan traditions. These traditions also included acceptance of the existence of mythological (and superstitious) events.

 Anatole Le Braz collected these 'folk' tales in the late nineteenth century. The above named collection, Celtic Legends of the Beyond, also include some references to Ankou in the form of 'recollections' of his visits and one in particular that I also freely borrowed from (Hell) in Book 5 of The Schattenreich, Triple Junction in the form of an oral tale told by Bertha von der Lahn.

So who is Ankou?

Ankou is a Breton (Celtic) psychopomp, tales of his exploits handed down in the folk tales of Brittany. The (probably) much more ancient figure (or deity) he represents has been lost to history. Since he's specific to Brittany, there's scant mention of him - neither from Miranda Green (The Gods of the Celts) nor from Marie-Louise Sjoestedt (Celtic Gods and Heroes).A couple of paragraphs at least  were devoted to him in Celtic Culture, A Historical Encyclopedia, edited by John C. Koch.

Characteristically, he wears a wide-brimmed hat, a cape, has long white hair, might or might not have a scythe, and drives a wagon (or even a train) that he uses to collect the dead. Koch cites references of a similar figure that date to 16th century Breton.

He's been interpreted by such  modern authors as Elizabeth Hand in her fantasy series Winterlong (as Book 1 of the series is also named) as a white dog and by Neil Gaiman in his Sandman series as a powerful immortal being in the form of a young Goth lady.

I've painted a broader and more syncretic interepretation of Ankou, binding him with the Germanic god Woden (=Wotan=Wodan=the Nordic father god Odin) in the tradition of finding parallels between Celtic and Nordic/Germanic religions such as those discussed by H. R. Ellis Davidson in her fabulous book, Myths and Symbols of Pagan Europe. The two figures, Ankou and Odin/Woden have much in common: passage of the dead, ruler of the afterlife, broad hat, white hair. Odin rode Slepnir, Ankou drove a wagon. Okay. But about Odin much much much more is written (see, for example, A Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Rudolf Simek).

About Ankou, practically nothing.

This gives me a lot of Spielraum for interpretation and free-association. I made full use of this - equating Ankou/Woden to an even more ancient figure who possibly was the progenitor, the Dis Pater that Caesar spoke of, to the continental Celts. God of death, fertility, poetry, a seer, In other words, a god with many faces, some more beautiful than others.

photo credit:

ankou de La Martyre via photopin (license)