Saturday, October 22, 2011

Guest Post: Nancy Holzner And Welsh Mythology (with Giveaway!!)

Curling Up By The Fire is thrilled to welcome Nancy Holzner, author of Deadtown, Hellforged, and the newly released Bloodstone (September 27th, 2011), who is here to discuss Deadtown and Welsh Mythology.  For those of you who are not familiar with Ms. Holzner's novels, they feature the amazing Victory (Vicky), her aunt Mab, and her boyfriend Kane, and a host of otherwordly creatures trying to adapt to a world that has turned itself upside down after a deadly and unknown virus has turned some of the population into zombies.  Amidst the political struggles as paranormal beings are coming forward and "out of the closet" so to speak, Vicky and company have to deal with many dangerous beings who are trying to manipulate the politicians and governments themselves for reasons that are still unclear.  Take a look at the synopsis of Bloodstone:

Boston’s diverse South End is known for its architecture and great restaurants, not its body count. So when mutilated human corpses begin turning up in the area, the entire city takes notice. The killer—dubbed the South End Reaper—uses a curved blade for his grisly work. And even though there’s no real evidence pointing to a paranormal culprit, the deaths are straining the already-tense relations between Boston’s human and inhuman residents.

As the bodies pile up, Vicky, her formidable aunt Mab, and her werewolf boyfriend Kane investigate, only to find that the creature behind the carnage is after something much more than blood…

Deadtown and Welsh Mythology

by Nancy Holzner

I began my career as a medievalist, and one of my favorite courses to teach was “Legends of King Arthur.” I had two different versions of the course: one that stuck with literature from the Middle Ages and another that started with medieval texts and moved through time, ending with twentieth-century versions of the stories. During the time I was developing and teaching these courses, I fell in love with the tales of the Mabinogi.

If you’re not familiar with the Mabinogi, it’s a collection of early medieval Welsh legends that were gathered and translated into English by Lady Charlotte Guest in the 19th century. The stories draw upon pre-Christian Celtic mythology and early medieval oral traditions, including tales of Arthur and his court.

Back in 2006, when I started writing Deadtown, I knew I wanted my protagonist to be a shapeshifter. Yet I also knew that I wanted her to be different from the weres that populate much of urban fantasy. I remembered a story from the Mabinogi about the witch, Ceridwen. She hires a local boy, Gwion Bach, to stir a cauldron in which she's brewing a potion, one that will distill all knowledge into three drops. Gwion consumes those three drops and, running away from the furious Ceridwen, changes his shape several times. As she chases him, she transforms herself to erase any advantage he might gain: He becomes a hare, she chases him as a greyhound; he becomes a fish, she chases him as an otter; and so on. (If you’ve ever seen the shapeshifting duel between Merlin and Madame Mim in the old Disney film The Sword in the Stone, you get the idea.)

This legend seemed full of potential for my novel; I liked how the shapeshifters could change into any creature they wanted, and could do it at will. And so I started thinking about how I might use the story as background for my own race of shapeshifters—and Vicky’s line of demi-humans, the Cerddorion (ker-THOR-yon, the sons of Ceridwen) was born. Cerddorion females can change into any sentient creature (or strong emotion might force a shift), up to three times per lunar cycle. They gain shapeshifting ability with puberty and lose it if they give birth.

Hellforged, the second novel in my Deadtown series, delves deeper into the history of Vicky’s race—and also of the demons the Cerddorion oppose. In Hellforged, Vicky travels to Wales for further training with her aunt, a formidable demon fighter. While there, Vicky must unlock hidden meanings in a book that tells the story of Ceridwen from the demons’ point of view. If she fails, she could be helping a demi-demon throw open the doors of Hell. Vicky’s adventures in Wales take her through the hills and mountains of north Wales, across fields and into haunted pubs, deep into an abandoned slate mine, and to the shore of the lake where Ceridwen’s shapeshifting contest began.

Book 3, Bloodstone, brings Merlin into my story. But this Merlin isn't the kindly, slightly funny old man with a long, white beard and a pointy hat that you may remember from The Sword in the Stone. This Merlin is Myrddin Wyllt, one of several legendary figures that came together to create the character of Merlin. When Gwenddoleu, the king Myrddin Wyllt served, was slaughtered in battle, together with his entire army, Myrddin lost his reason and, tearing off his clothes, ran into the forest to live with the animals. There he lived as a madman. Later, he prophesies his own triple death: by falling, impalement, and drowning. This Myrddin is not friendly and helpful. He's wild and more than a little crazy. It was fun bringing him into the world of Deadtown to challenge Vicky and her friends.

As I continue the series, I keep returning to the medieval Welsh stories and poems for source material. In Darklands (book four, which will be out next summer) Vicky travels to Annwn, the Welsh realm of the dead, to prevent an old enemy from returning. The legends of Wales, rich with myths, themes, and motifs, provide the perfect landscape and history for my own unfolding story.

Bloodstone, the third novel in Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series, is now available. For information on Nancy and her books, visit her website. You can also find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter, and blogging with other fantasy authors at Dark Central Station.


* Nancy is offering five (5) books as a giveaway for her tour. 
* You can enter at each of the tour stops for more chances to win. 
* Each winner gets his/her choice of a signed copy of Deadtown, Hellforged, or Bloodstone.
* Contest is open to U.S. residents only.
* Enter contest using FORM.


  1. Thanks, Stephanie, for inviting me to stop by your blog! In central NY, where I live, today is the kind of fall day that's perfect for curling up by a roaring fire and spending time with a good book. :)

  2. Thank you for guest posting on my blog and giving me a chance to read all of your books. Look for my review coming soon as well. I love your Deadtown series!!!

  3. Oh wow! I love hearing about the mythology that influenced books and such. WONDERFUL post! :) Thank you!

  4. @Stephanie: Thanks so much for reading my series! I look forward to reading your review.

    @Melissa: Glad you enjoyed the post! I love paranormal books that are strongly anchored in an existing mythology, and I've had a lot of fun working with the Mabinogi and other old Welsh stories.

  5. You had me at King Arthur and Welsh myth. I was lucky enough to go to the UK and both follow in the Once and Future King's footprints, as well as travel through Wales. It was definitely one of the highlights of my life, and I'm definitely intrigued as to how Nancy weaves these myths into her novels.


  6. Hi Lori,

    That sounds like an amazing trip! I'm totally envious. :)

    The Legend of Arthur used to be my most popular class (and it was a lot of fun to teach). I take a lot of license with the legends, but I try to stay true to what I see as the essence of the tales. If you ever take a look at my series, I'd love to hear what you think.