#Halloween: The Attention-Seeking Shapeshifter

Fairyland is full of shapeshifters; they’re part of the natural balance.  But occasionally you’ll come across a shapeshifter who has gone out of control.

smishifter

Image found here

Such a one is Nigel the Nuisance, who uses his shapeshifting to show off.  He practises for hours every day, like a human who’s addicted to the gym.  His aim is twofold: to be more interesting than all the other shapeshifters, and to achieve more changes per minute. He gets a tremendous buzz from these workouts and can’t bring himself to give them up.

Nigel has been through so many changes he’s forgotten his original shape.  He sometimes finds himself changing shape when he doesn’t want to, or turning into things he doesn’t want to be.  This can cause a lot of trouble, for himself and for anyone who hangs out with him.

Shapeshifters generally change into plants or animals, to trick unsuspecting humans or to blend into the background when they don’t want to be seen…

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…but Nigel keeps changing into stupid things that just don’t belong in Fairyland.various-styles-toilet-article-sets-household-items-vector-ic-icon-series-30497935

This is giving the other shapeshifters a bad name, and they’ve disowned him.

Nigel also has a problem with telling the truth. Many fairies will mislead humans with the odd tall tale; but Nigel tells stories all the time, to humans and fairies alike, and his fellow fairies have had enough.  As far as they’re concerned, Nigel has overstepped the mark.

Poor Nigel!  He only wanted a bit of attention, but instead he’s become like the goofy kid in school that no one wants to play with.  Because of his disruptive behaviour, the Fairy Queen has made him live on a lonely little island in the middle of a lake, away from everyone.  This is hard for Nigel, because shapeshifters are sociable by nature and enjoy each other’s company.???????????????????????????????

When Steven arrives in Fairyland, alone, friendless and homesick, Nigel latches onto him straight away.  He knows a true friend would help Steven get home, but he doesn’t want to lose the boy’s companionship; so, after one halfhearted and unsuccessful attempt to help Steven find the way out of Fairyland, he does all he can to convince the lad that going home is impossible.

Nigel truly wants to be Steven’s friend, but unfortunately he’s not that good at it.  He can’t resist the urge to tease and play tricks on Steven, and his uncontrolled shape-changing gets them both into terrible danger.

Read more about Steven and Nigel’s misadventures in Gateway to Magic , a spooky fairy story for kids age 7+

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Pearly Practises Blogging

Hi, Pearl here. Millie has said I need to practise my blogging skills, so I’m doing today’s post.

Pearl's blog pic

Recently, Annabelle has been putting extra bits of cold chicken and turkey on Millie’s dinner. She doesn’t think I’ve noticed, but I have, and I think it sucks that I’m not getting it too. According to Annabelle, it’s because Millie is old and frail and losing her appetite, and she needs encouragement to eat. She won’t touch her food unless it’s garnished with treats. I don’t think she’s losing her appetite at all, she just knows she’ll get extra treats if she refuses to eat her dinner without them.

Millie is old, though, and she can’t come for long walks anymore. She gets tired quickly and starts lurching all over the place, living up to the name of her breed, so Annabelle takes her home and I go on with Snip and Frieda and their humans. I didn’t like this arrangement at first because Snip and Frieda kept leaving me out of their games. ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd,’ Frieda kept saying. It was mainly Frieda excluding me, she’s always wanted Snip to herself. But I think Snip must have had a word in her pointy little ear, because now they’re letting me join in more.

Frieda likes to play rough, and the other day she made a huge hole in Snip’s shoulder. He had to go to the vet and have stitches.

Snip's stitches

Frieda claims she didn’t mean to do it. ‘Could I help it if he bumped into my teeth while we were playing?’ she says. ‘Snip’s my bestie, I wouldn’t hurt him for the world.’  With friends like her, who needs enemies? She’d better not try anything like that with me!

Hard work, this blogging, isn’t it? I don’t know how some of you manage to do it every day. Hopefully Millie will be back for the next post. Right now she’s on a lot of pain pills, which makes it hard for her to transmit her thoughts to the cyberplane, but I heard she’s going to have acupuncture, which should mean fewer tablets and a clearer head.

I can’t wait to see how she copes with having pins stuck in her!

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Faeries and Aliens: A Review of ‘Thieves in the Night’ by Joshua Cutchin

I don’t believe aliens are physical beings, but I’ve often thought they might be from inner space rather than outer. It makes sense to me that astral entities evolve along with us and reflect the culture of the times, the fairies of yesterday becoming the aliens of today. Joshua Cutchin’s book Thieves in the Night explores this possibility in depth, linking the abduction of children by ‘aliens’ with the old tales about changelings. (This is of particular interest to me, as I’ve based my children’s novel Gateway to Magic on the changeling phenomenon.) Hop on over to Neil Rushton’s blog to find out more about Cutchin’s book and the link between fairies and aliens.

deadbutdreaming

THIEVES IN THE NIGHT: A Brief History of Supernatural Child Abductions by Joshua Cutchin (Anomalist Books, 2018) ISBN: 9781938398957

This book comes just at the right time. The debate about the possible connections between the folkloric representations of faeries abducting children and modern alien abductions has reached the point where there seems to be a divide between writers who have been highlighting the connection for decades, and (mostly) folklorists who have been reacting against the proposition, with the view that the phenomena are not related. Likewise, there are UFOlogists who do not want to engage with the possibility that alien intervention into consensus reality has anything to do with the amorphous storytelling about folkloric faeries. Joshua Cutchin approaches the issue in an extremely even-handed manner, made all the more incisive by his ability to speak in the language of folklorists, while still retaining a left field Fortean perspective. Thieves in the…

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September Sunflower

I can’t believe it’s a month since my last post! I know I only post once a month, but time seems to be speeding up. Maybe it’s something to do with being an old dog.

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Another problem of old age is losing your words, and sometimes it’s hard for me to transmit my thoughts to Annabelle for typing, so please forgive me if the posts are short.

On a lighter note, the fairies have forgiven Annabelle for cutting down the conifers in the front garden. They’ve helped her grow a magnificent sunflower by one of the stumps, much to the delight of various flying insects in black and yellow jackets.

I’ve tried to get Pearl to write a post about it, but this was all she could come up with:

Look wot we growed!

Sunflower

I know she can do better than this, she is just being silly. I wish she would start pulling her weight a bit; it would help me out, and she’ll need to improve her blogging skills when she has to take over from me.

Pearl, you’re not a teen anymore, and it’s high time you took some responsibility. You can’t spend the rest of your days vegging out in your pit!

G2M and Pearl 001

Must have been some party!!

 

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A Loosening of the Spirit

Millie astral runner

As I get older I find I’m more aware of the astral plane than the earthly world, even when I’m awake. It’s as if my spirit is gradually coming loose from my body, ready for that final trip. I keep slipping out and coming back in, like when you dream you’re falling and wake with a jump. I can no longer control when it happens; Annabelle says she often sees me standing in a daze and then giving a startled twitch, as if I’ve just woken up.

Millie in garden

This can cause problems, because if I don’t concentrate on staying upright, I fall over!

Recently, I needed to go out in the early hours of the morning. The garden is magical at that time on a summer day – you can often catch the tail end of a fairy music festival – so I climbed the steps to the back lawn to see what was going on. The next minute I was fully on the astral plane, dancing with the fairies to wild music. It was wonderfully exciting, but when I got back to my body, I found I’d fallen off the steps and landed on my back like a beetle. It was a horrible shock.

I’ve recovered now, but since then Annabelle has been afraid to leave me on my own. The upside to this is I get to see a lot more of Snip and Frieda, because Annabelle leaves me with them when she has to go out. She has also arranged for me to go for little walks with them so I don’t have to worry about strange dogs. I always feel safe with Snip, he’s so big and strong and protective.

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I’m not so scared now about crossing the Rainbow Bridge. The fairies have told me there’s a wonderful place on the other side, called the Land of Summer. It’s always summer there and it has a special place that’s just for us dogs, where we get to play all day. We stay there for a while, then we come back to Earth in a new young body.

Talking of reincarnation, I’ve been checking out Annabelle’s work in progress, about a boy called Charlie who has lived before as a dodgy wizard. The ghost of that past life turns up and reawakens Charlie’s power, without telling him how to use it properly. This doesn’t stop him experimenting with it, and his inept attempts at magic cause chaos in the stuffy little village where he lives. It’s all a bit lowbrow for me – at my age, I prefer Hemingway – but children who like daft slapstick humour should enjoy it.

I just hope I live long enough to see it published!

 

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Hot Dogs and #Free Book!

Millie and buddleia

It’s HOT here at the moment! Readers in other countries might say, ‘Of course it is, it’s summer,’ but we haven’t had a proper summer in this country for 10 years, so it feels strange. Pearl finds it particularly puzzling; she’s only 9, so she’s never known heat like this.

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The heat can be difficult for us dogs, especially when we get old. Our normal body temperature is higher than yours, plus we have fur coats we can’t take off, so we need you to be vigilant and make sure we don’t overheat. Here are some tips to keep us cool:

  • Cool (not cold) wet towels on our ears, paws, armpits and groin
  • Don’t overcool or force drinking
  • Don’t muzzle us in hot weather
  • Keep us out of hot cars
  • Careful exercising – stick to cooler times of day

I don’t want to scare you, but perfectly healthy dogs have died this summer after being exercised in the heat. Signs of heat stroke are:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Thick saliva
  • Distress
  • Raised temperature (over 39.3 C, 102.8 F)
  • Wobbling gait
  • Bright red/purple gums
  • Loss of consciousness

If we have these symptoms, cool us down and get us to the vet ASAP!

On a happier note, the hot weather is bringing out all sorts of interesting critters and bizarre phenomena, like monster moths…

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Elephant Hawk Moth

…and strange lights in the sea at night. We’d like to think this is fairy activity, but it’s actually down to plankton that light up in the dark. In Annabelle’s story about the Slapstyx goblins, the plankton become possessed by evil spirits, forming into terrible monsters and destroying the other sea creatures, but real plankton are peaceable beings who need to protect themselves at night – hence the neon blue light show. I’d like to go down to the beach and see it for myself, but I can’t walk that far anymore.

Never mind – maybe I’ll pop down there in my astral body. I’m sure to see some fairy activity if I do that!

NB – The Slapstyx is FREE on Smashwords through July. This seaside adventure is a great summer read for kids, so pick up a copy in time for the holidays!

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My Not So Pedigree Dogs

As a literate Lurcher I’m always on the lookout for new talent, and I love this story by our friend Poppy, a promising writer at age 11. This tale was inspired by her own dogs.

Bella and Blue

My Not So Pedigree Dogs by Poppy Elaine

It was Saturday morning in the village of Sunny Vale. Bethan and Blue were on a walk with their owners when they spotted a group of dogs coming their way.

‘Hello!’ Blue woofed.

‘Hello!’ the dogs woofed back.

‘Who are you?’ asked a male Labradoodle.

‘I’m Blue and this is Bethan.’

‘You fur is nice. What breed are you?’ asked a little Cockapoo.

‘I’m a Bichon Frise crossed with Border Terrier,’ said Bethan, ‘and Blue’s a Bedlington Terrier crossed with Poodle.’

‘Ha ha!’ laughed the dogs. ‘So you’re mongrels,’ snorted the male Labradoodle.

‘Yes,’ said Blue.

‘Mongrels! Dirty mongrels! Our cousins are coming next week, they’re pedigrees. So you had better stay out of their way! They despise mongrels! Ta ta losers! Until next time!’ The dogs barked over their shoulders as they departed.

‘Oh dear!’ fretted Bethan.

‘Oh dear is right!’ fretted Blue.

Three days later Blue and Bethan were sitting in their back garden, still suggesting hopeless and rubbish ideas to each other to stop the dogs laughing at them.

‘I know,’ cried Blue after half an hour thinking, ‘we can disguise ourselves as…’ Blue’s words were drowned out by laughter. A big fluffy something fell into the garden.

‘Cleo Clevercat!’ Blue yelled. ‘What are you doing listening in?’

‘Your ideas are pathetic!’ laughed Cleo. ‘All you have to do is have haircuts – ‘

‘We are not listening to your ideas, ‘ snorted Blue.

‘Oh yes you are!’ hissed Cleo.

‘No we’re not!’ growled Blue.

‘Give her a chance,’ woofed Bethan.

‘Thank you Beth,’ Cleo said. ‘What you need to do is have haircuts and give yourselves designer names.’

‘But how will we think of designer names by the end of the week?’ asked Bethan.

‘Leave that to me,’ meowed Cleo smugly.

Bethan and Blue went to the groomers the next day to have their hair cut.

‘Oh, I don’t like it, make it stop!’ Blue yelped. ‘Oh good, it’s stopped.’ Blue didn’t like having his fur clipped or being bathed.

The next morning, bark mail arrived for Blue and Bethan; it was passed from garden to garden. The message was from Cleo Clevercat. It said: ‘Meet me at 2 o’clock at Oak Square.’

‘It’s not long till 2 o’clock,’ said Bethan. ‘How are we going to get out of the garden?’

‘We’ll have to jump over the wall,’ said Blue. ‘It’s not high.’

At half past one, Bethan and Blue both jumped over the garden wall and ran to Oak Square.

‘I can’t believe we made it in time,’ panted Bethan.

‘Come on, you two,’ said Cleo. ‘I’ve thought up perfect designer names for you.’ And she whispered them to the two dogs.

By the end of the week, Blue and Bethan had memorized their new names. Out on their walk they saw the designer dogs with their cousins coming towards them.

‘Are you the mongrels our cousins told us about?’ asked a Poodle.

‘Mongrels? Us?’ said Bethan. ‘I’m a BichBord and he’s a BedliPoo. Haven’t you heard of us before?’

Bella

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The Old and the New

Old Millie

Well, I’ve made it through to the spring, just like Annabelle said I would. But don’t let anyone tell you old age is a golden age . There’s precious little that’s golden about it, as far as I can see.

For a start, I can no longer run the way I used to. We sighthounds love to run, and when I was younger I used to run for the sheer joy of it; now I can only run when I’m scared. I get scared a lot on walks now. When you get to my age, Nature is always on the lookout for an opportunity to send you over the Bridge. I’m not strong enough to survive a snake bite or fight off an attacking dog, so if I see something I don’t like the look of, I take to my heels before it can spot me.

Which brings me to another problem of age: I quite often forget my way home. If I lose Annabelle when I’m running away, I end up losing myself as well, causing much anxiety for both of us. It’s better when we can go for a walk with our friends Snip and Frieda. I feel safer on a walk with Snip; nothing scares him, and I know he’d protect me if anything went wrong.

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Snip, my guardian angel

These days I prefer astral travel to long walks; but since I’ve been spending so much time out of my body, it has started acting off its own bat, without my say-so. Things are being done in the house that really should be done outside, if you get my meaning.

On a happier note, the view from the front garden looks much better now than it did last October when the conifers were cut down. Remember this?

Stumps and cables

The nature spirits have been busy behind the scenes, and now it’s bursting with new life.

Millie in spring garden

Also, our friend the ash tree has made it through the winter. We were afraid we were going to lose her to ash dieback last autumn, but she’s fought back – and here she is, resplendent in her spring finery!

New ash leaves 1

I just wish I could be renewed every spring. I was never meant to get old, I was meant to be a puppy forever.

Is it just me, or does everyone feel like that?

Note from Annabelle: You’re lucky you’re a dog, Millie – you may be old, but you still look stunning. When we humans get old, we look like muppets and garden gnomes.

 

 

 

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When One of Your Favourite Fairy Tales is Given a Dark Twist #SundayBlogShare #BookReview #LostBoy

A great review from Lucy of a book I’ve just got to read. The dark side of Peter Pan – how can I resist?

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Prior to reading Lost Boy by Christina Henry, I would have turned my nose up at the thought of reading one of my favourite fairy tales, retold with a darker twist.

Favourite fairy tales for me are precious things, which I store in glass cases at the back of my mind. Occasionally I open up their cases and recall sitting by my bedroom window, waiting for fairy tale characters, like Peter Pan, to show up. My heart would be beating with excitement at the thought of being whisked away to his island, free from grown ups and rules, for wonderful adventures. Up until I read this book fairy tales were things which should be preserved.

Before I read this book I had become hooked on reading light-hearted romance stories and had no desires for reading something darker.

So there I was browsing around Waterstones a week ago, reluctant to see…

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The Magic Pool

Left behind

Pearl and I are not happy with Annabelle. On Easter Sunday, she went out with her friends and left us behind. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except her friends had DOGS with them.

Bella and Blue

Blue and Bella

How unfair is that? If Annabelle’s friends could take their dogs, why couldn’t she take us?

They were all going on an exciting adventure, to look for the magical Blue Pool. When I asked why we couldn’t go, Annabelle said they weren’t sure exactly where the Blue Pool was, and the walk might be difficult for my stiff back legs. Cheek! I might be old, but I’m not completely incapable!

Then Pearl piped up. ‘I haven’t got doddery old legs! Why can’t I come?’

‘Because it’s a bank holiday,’ Annabelle said. ‘There’ll be loads of kids around, and some of them might be playing football. You know how you freak out when you hear someone kicking a ball.’

‘I think it’s very selfish of you to go somewhere we can’t come,’ said Pearl.

‘Never mind,’ I said, after they’d gone. ‘We can follow them in our astral bodies and see this Blue Pool for ourselves.’

So that’s what we did. We closed our eyes, left our bodies and followed them.

I have to admit, it was a long way to the Blue Pool. First they had to drive to Broughton Bay and park in a car park next to a caravan site – where, sure enough, some kids were playing with a football. Pearl nearly turned tail and flew back home at that point, but I managed to persuade her to follow the humans down to the beach.

The beach itself was pretty quiet, and very, very BIG. The humans wandered around for ages looking for this magic pool, which was well hidden. If I’d been in my physical body, I would have found it hard going. But one advantage of astral travel – apart from effortless flight – is the ability to find a place just by thinking about it, and we found that old pool long before they did.

Blue Pool 2

The Blue Pool is an absolutely ma-HOO-sive rock pool concealed near the foot of the cliff. You can’t see it from the beach – you have to know exactly which bit of cliff to head for, and even then you have to climb a little way up before you can find it. The water is so deep that some say it’s bottomless. This isn’t true, of course, but it is deep enough for humans to dive into without hitting their heads on the bottom.

Another great thing about astral travel is, we can see all sorts of bizarre magical beings that humans don’t even know about. Such a creature is the Amazing Paisley Fish that lives at the bottom of the Pool. The Paisley Fish is covered with an intricate fractal pattern in vivid colours that glow like neon, shifting and changing with the subtle movements of the water. Sometimes it splits apart into a myriad of smaller fish, which dart around the Pool like colourful fireflies before coming back together.

It’s a fascinating spectacle, and we could have watched it all day. We had to be careful, though, because this creature isn’t really a fish – it’s a powerful nature spirit, and if you haven’t got your wits about you it’ll suck your soul into the Pool and trap it there. The smaller ‘fish’ are actually trapped souls, trying to escape. Luckily, Pearl and I had enough canine smarts to stay out of reach of its magnetic power.

Ages later, Annabelle and her friends managed to find the Pool. I felt like asking, ‘What kept you?’ but of course there’d have been no point, because they couldn’t see us. Nor could they see the Paisley Fish, which was probably for the best.

On the whole, I reckon we had a more exciting time than they did.

Note from Annabelle: I only left them for an afternoon, but they’ve been guilt-tripping me ever since. Millie has even threatened to go on strike, so God knows when there’ll be another post from her. I’ll have to eat a large slice of humble pie.

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