Red Robin – Day 13 of Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar

A poem by Helen Carroll.

Red Robin,
Pale coffin,
Distant thunder rumbles
Like a bauble tumbles
From a withered tree.
I see your image haunting me
As glass shatters on the presents,
A ghost of Christmas past and present,
No future ‘cause it’s dreaded.
The wrapping paper’s not torn, it’s shredded.

Christmastime will never be the same,
Watching robins through the windowpane,
I’m writing nativities on walls in red glitter,
Saw how your tiny wings panic and flitter,
Struggling against the storm; against the snowdrift.
I’m rattlin’ around this empty house. These empty gifts
Were once full of your laughter from last year.
The silence of your absence is so loud I can’t hear
My own thoughts, my own blood boiling at the memory
Of the glances and murmurs in the cemetery.

Cause what angers me most is the way they were right:
You were too turbulent, a brutal hurricane in the night,
Too young for the fight. But you were always fighting though.
Ever since birth, Fate, Herself, had made you a foe.
How could I abandon you to a life of criminality?
Had to channel your rage, a battle of integrity.
But your animosity for this city was too strong.
And now you’re gone, you’re gone, you’re gone...
I cannot accept your journey ended with a bomb!
It’s like you’re gonna breeze into the room like nothing is wrong,

But there’s broken decorations, smashed bottles
All around. I see you shattered; see you throttled.
Your little robin wings are mangled,
And as these thoughts are untangled,
The wind howls louder now,
Drowning out the carols. How
Dim are the fairy lights
On a winter's night,
Now you’re dead,

My Robin Red.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 12, Pocket Prompts

Time for some shameless self-promotion! In October, I launched a new product, called Pocket Prompts – writing prompts and creative thinking tools to help stories develop and blossom.

A deck comes with 25 double-sided cards, providing a total of 50 prompts across three categories: Character, Plot and Setting.

For the sake of creating something that would offer the most amount of options to people, each card comes with a Plot prompt, and the remaining 25 prompts are split between Character cards and Settings.

My aim with the cards was to be a genre-neutral as possible, which I expand upon on my blog when writing about the cards – a simple prompt of ‘Something explodes’ can mean so much more than a literal explosion, for example.

In 2020, I will be resuming the blog with an expansion of more cards, and exploring ways of using more than one card in a story to turn things on their head.

In the meantime, if you want to get your hands on a deck, they are available through my Gumroad store – otherwise, you can ask about them IRL at a Cupán Fae meet-up or at events whenever I’m tabling. (Like DCAF this Saturday!)

I may be biased, but I think they’ll make an excellent gift for the writers in your life.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 9, On Writing

Review and gift idea presented by Róisín Tuohy

For nigh on forty years, Stephen King has been bashing out powerful stories and iconic characters, not to mention terrifying the hell out of people.

On writing is a different kind of book. Written in 2000, as King made a slow recovery from a horrific road accident, it’s a thoughtful reflection on the part words and stories have played in his own life.

King reminisces on the events that made him a writer, a not always easy childhood, an early adulthood that was filled with professional rejection, until he struck gold with a story his wife fished out of the bin (it was, of course, Carrie).

King dispenses advice that makes it all seem so easy, but even for us lesser souls there are pearls of invaluable wisdom.

If you’re a seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, you’ll love his advice on splurging your first draft onto the page and fixing later. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open,” he says. If it’s good enough for the Master of Horror, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

Reading this book is like chatting with an old friend. Pop it into a stocking for the writer in your life. 

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 7, Bird by bird

Review and gift recommended by Róisín Tuohy

Bird by bird by Anne Lamott is the kind of book you give a writer in dire need of a pep talk… or possibly a psychotherapist. 

Writing isn’t easy and Lamott feels your pain. Crammed with practical advice and exercises, as well as stories from the author’s own life, some hilarious, some harrowing, some both, it’s an insightful look at what it means to be compelled to write. 

This book is for anyone who is tiptoeing on the diving board of writing. Maybe you’ve got an idea nagging away at you, but you’re afraid it’s embarrassing, or just not very good. Maybe you’re afraid of what your mother will think. Lamott encourages you to jump into the pool, dive deep and find new worlds. It won’t be easy, and what’s great about this book is that the author recognises it won’t be easy. She also recognises that it’s important, and you should carve out time for writing, if it’s important to you. 

The title comes from a story Lamott tells about her brother struggling with a school project on the birds of North America. “bird by bird buddy, just take it bird by bird, “Lamott’s father tells him, and so…bird by bird, word by word.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 4, Notebooks by Cuttlefish Studio

Every writer loves getting notebooks, however when they get the fancy and gorgeous notebooks then some can feel guilty about putting scribbles in them and they sit waiting on their bookshelves for that ‘perfect’ story or poem. I’m majorly guilty of this, which is why I loved these reusable notebook covers when I saw them. I can pop in an A5 ordinary notebook and have it look amazing. And if I ever get bored of the cover for some reason, the fabric material allows me to put on pins and badges changing the look. I plan on having one for each project series! 

Presented by Quinn Clancy.

Check them out at Cuttlefish Studios on Facebook.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 2, The Winter Folk


There’s something in the way that the first snow falls,
As the Ice Queen makes her entrance to the Winter Ball,
Where Jack Frost is in waiting with a chill down his back
As the Winter Folk start gathering to form a little pack,
And the wait begins for old Saint Nick to come into the hall.

The snow will plant down softly upon the frozen ground,
A billion unique snowflakes twirling round and round
In a gust of wind that clings to every woodland tree,
And blows the snow to place of work and childish glee,
Starting in the place where the Winter Folk are found.

A blanket of white snow will spread across the land,
A white carpet for the entrance of those with icy hands,
Jack Frost at the front of a march into the night,
To spread the cold of winter before dawn’s first light,
Soaring across whole countries, through forests, towns and sands.

Behind Jack Frost the Ice Queen rides,
On a carriage lined with warm animal hides,
A vehicle carved from ice and cold,
For a queen that comes from winters old,
In the white dress of an eternal bride.

She is married to harsh storms and drifts,
Frozen chasms and snow-filled lifts
Of icy air that hold the world tight
In fingers that cause a vegetable blight,
An unwelcome famine from the Ice Queen’s gift.

This is why the Winter Folk meet,
To keep the world from icy defeat,
To dance as three in a hall of ice,
With wine and music and all things nice,
‘Til all three are warm from head to feet.

For behind the Ice Queen on the long walk,
Old Saint Nick keeps up the talk,
Reading his list of who’s nice and who’s naughty,
Keeping up spirits with a laugh that’s doughty,
Watching out for trouble with eyes like a hawk.

Each one gets their day in the world, out for fun,
Jack Frost on the move since the clock struck one,
Calling down snow storms like the world is his toy,
And his favourite action figures every girl and boy,
Whose laughter and joy signal a job done.

The Ice Queen will follow as the moment suits her,
Her time on the Earth passing in a white blur,
For she lines the roads with ice black and white,
With no mind at all for everyone’s plight,
With her warm in her dress of faux animal fur.

Cleaning up her mess , as he trails in last,
Is jolly Saint Nick just out for a blast,
Racing about as if the sky were a road,
On a route so mysterious that no one else knows
How he’s travelled the world without a day gone past.

This is the secret of the Winter Folks’ tale,
And the balance that comes with frost, snow and hail,
For the three that gather at the Winter Ball
Are required together, not one but all,
Each of them important, from strong to frail.

That magic is clear in the first snow you see,
The one that draws out your inner-child’s glee,
For it tells of the future when Christmas will come,
With snow days and snow men and all of that fun,
And all three are needed for all that to be.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 1

Christmas is practically around the corner. Many of us spent the last month taking part in NaNoWriMo, so we’re looking forward to winding down for a while. Not one to go quietly into the night, we’ve assembled an advent calendar of blog posts and short stories to count down the days.

We have a ton of books to recommend for writers over the next few weeks among short stories and other pieces from a few of our members. In the meantime, we want to take the opportunity to remind you about our anthologies – our gift to the writers that joined us and needed the push to get their first stories into the public eye.

Between October 2018 and July 2019, we published three collections: Dublin’s Fierce City, Fierce Might, and Fierce New World. You can read more about all three here.

The anthologies are a special part of how Cupán Fae operates. The greatest gift you can gift a writer is confidence in their work. Whether you choose to buy our books or spark an interest in the work of the writers in your life, remember that even a small act can make a big difference in the lives of those around you.

5 Questions with Paul Carroll

Our debut anthology Dublin’s Fierce City launches at Octocon tomorrow! Today, we’re interviewing Paul Carroll, who will be part of the launch team.

Paul Carroll

1. What genre do you like to write in most?

Broadly speaking, fantasy and a bit of light sci-fi, but that’s never set in stone. My books lean towards the supernatural or mythical, while two of the comics I write are adventure stories – one with a superhero, the other a homicidal cat. I don’t believe in unnecessary constraints.

2. Which author or authors inspired you to write?

As a child, I would have leaned towards Darren Shan a lot for this. The more I reflect on it, Garth Nix ended up having an early influence on me. More recently, authors like Andrew Kaufman, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have been a sort of encouragement to let myself write more of what I enjoy, whereas Donny Cates (a comic writer) helped me realise that sometimes stories are allowed to be a little bit insane, so long as they work.

3. Are you a planner or a pantser, and how does that work out for you?

Definitely a planner. I can’t sit down and just start writing without an outline of some description. This comes down to never knowing when I’d have to stop, and fearing I’ll forget that one big moment of inspiration by the time I get to it in a book.

Planning, especially with the amount of detail I sometimes throw in, let’s me focus more on how I tell a story once I sit down to write. It also helps me remember to include everything in a scene, like a pile of magazines that I need to remember to write into a room so I can light them on fire later. (A very specific example, I know.)

Ultimately, it’s a safety net, and it let’s me pick up a book to write without having to worry about where I was.

4. What are you working on now?

While I continue my NaNo Prep on two books for November – sequels to A Death in the Family and Second Sight for Sore Eyes – I’m working on a couple of comic scripts. One is a sort of mystic-adventure tale, and the other is an all-ages superhero story set in Dublin (The Wren.)

5. What’s your one piece of advice for new writers?

Worry about your “writing career” after you’ve figured out how to write a book (play/comic/short story/etc.)

Telling good stories is more important in the beginning than whether they’re (a) publishable or (b) what you want to build your career on the back of. I haven’t touched most of the books I wrote while figuring out what I like to write and what I think does well for me, and I probably would wait to publish anything if I was given the chance to start over again, at least until I had more work done

When you’re ready, then you can begin to look at the best way to publish something, and whether something is worth publishing. That’s when you focus on marketing and your career and the idea of making money from your writing.

In short: stories first, business later.

When you do start your career, then, try not let the business side of things spoil the creative side.

About Paul

Paul Carroll is a writer and comic creator from Dublin, one third of Limit Break Comics and a founding member of Cupán Fae. He writes books supernatural fiction and stories inspired by Irish folklore, which earned him a place on Geek Ireland’s ‘One to Watch’ list. As part of Limit Break Comics, Paul launched his first collection of short stories, ‘Life & Death’, building on his experience on ‘Meouch’ with Gareth Luby, and ‘The Wren’ with Buttonpress Publications. He is the owner and editor of Comix Ireland, and runs social media and vendor bookings for the Geek Mart.

About Dublin’s Fierce City

In Dublin’s Fierce City, nine writers from the group present seventeen tales of magic and wonder.

Explore a city of fairies and ghosts, where one is as bad as the other. Avoid the curses of witches, and escape the wrath of angels and demons. Survive alien invasions and all out war, and come out the other side seeing the whole world differently.

Buy it now on Amazon.

5 Questions with Kat Dodd

We’re getting close to the launch of Dublin’s Fierce City at Octocon. This interview is with one of the authors who will be helping launch the book: Kat Dodd!

Kat Dodd

1. What genre do you like to write in most?

I tend to hang out mostly in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. In both, it tends more towards “like real life but a little bit different. Part of it is that there’s no proof that fantasy elements aren’t real so therefore it doesn’t actually break the world rules to include them, but people tend to look at you funny when you write a story about someone falling in love with their ghostly roommate and say that it could happen in real life. I like to play around with things that are familiar but different. That being said, almost all my stories have a thread of romance going through them, and most of my characters wind up with their Happily Ever Afters or their Happily Ever (For Now)s. Well. Those that don’t die. Because some of them die. It can happen. -shifty eyes-

2. Which author or authors inspired you to write?

Oh golly, this is so hard for me to answer because the truth is that a lot of them did. In some ways, authors like Rachel Caine (she wrote the Morganville Vampires) because way back when I was a wee baby Kat, Baby Kat and Rachel Caine both wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic. I knew her through that before I found her books on the shelf at Hastings and proceeded to freak the freak out. So she inspired me because we got started in similar ways (fanfiction), and showed me that it was possible to break into traditional publishing (which I haven’t done because I actually prefer Indie).

Along the same lines – those lines being “authors that I know in some way or another” – I actually have a story about being told that I Was A Writer. I was about eleven or twelve, and had moved to a small town in Arkansas earlier that year, and my brother and I would go hang out at one of his friends’ houses a lot because our moms had become good friends, we all went to the same tiny church, and I got along pretty well with the younger sister despite a pretty hefty age gap. My mom asked Ms Charlaine (“Miz” if you’re from the South) if she’d mind taking a look at some of the things I’d written and giving basic feedback, and Ms Charlaine told me that my mom had told her that I liked to write and would I mind showing her something? So I started digging through all my notebooks because my notebook hoarding started early, finding little scraps of things that I’d written all through out during school, but I was desperate to find something good enough to show Miz Charlaine. Ms Charlaine stopped me and said (paraphrased because I’m horrible at remembering verbatem) “I can tell you something right now: you’re already a writer. It remains to be seen if you’re a good writer, but you can learn that. You are a writer, and that can’t be taught.” That stuck with me for years, and flash forward to seventeen year old Kat reading the first Sookie Stackhouse book, and reading the About the Author section in the back and realizing Miz Charlaine was Charlaine Harris. I called my mom, freaking out that the author I’d been reading for literal years was Miz Charlaine and she’d told me that I was a writer.

Whenever I get down on myself, I remember that.

3. Are you a planner or a pantser, and how does that work out for you?

I plan and then I decide to do something else.

In seriousness, I do a little bit of both. I do a bastardized version of the Snowflake Method, and have a loose “map” of what I want to write, goals to hit, etc, and I write at least 100 words for each thing, and then if I get bogged down but I’ve hit word count, I mark it and move on to the next. I come back later, possibly during editing but equally possibly during writer’s block, and finish it, polish it up, smooth over any clunky transitions. It helps me keep moving forwards, and because I know what things I want to hit on, I know to not do something in a spur of the moment that will ruin something I have planned for later. But there’s still plenty of spontaneity, too.

4. What are you working on now?

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. At any given time, I’m working to some extent or another on anywhere from three to eight projects because I don’t know how to focus on one thing at a time. At the moment, I think I’m actually at four, with two of them taking up more of my brain than others. One project is a novel in the Fairy Lights world, Fairy Lights being my contribution to the Dublin’s Fierce City anthology. One is actually getting wrapped up an I’m just figuring out the best way to do things, and that’s a Sci-Fi with humans fighting off an alien invasion over the course of decades. One is a biker romance (not Sci-Fi? not Fantasy? what’s going on, Kat? are you feeling okay?) that has a woman trying to figure out what’s more important to her, keeping her promises and staying in an abusive marriage, or her own emotional health. The fourth project… I’m going to keep that a secret, actually. But it’s churning over in my head. For NaNoWriMo in November, I plan on tackling the three I’ve already talked about, and a story that I’ve been calling “Campy Space Disaster” in my head, because it was honestly inspired by me watching a music video and going “this video looks like it’s the theme song of a campy space disaster movie and I would watch the hell out of that movie and now I’m actively mad that no such movie exists I guess I’m going to write that story”.

5. What’s your one piece of advice for new writers?

Don’t give up. Just keep writing. If you write ten words a day, that’s ten more than you had yesterday. Write every day, even if it’s only a sentence. Don’t let anyone talk you out of writing. Keep a notebook with you at all times – seriously, I do so much of my writing in the bathroom, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike, just write. A first draft doesn’t have to be good, it just has to exist.

It’s okay if the basic story has already been told. Your version of it hasn’t been told yet. Nobody’s told the story in the way that you’re going to, with the characters that you have. (There are some plot archetypes that I will read every single time that I come across them, and they’re all different because the characters are different.) On that note: characters are more important than plot. It can be the best plot in the world, and if I’m not engaged in the characters, I’m not going to care about how the plot affects them.

This is a lot more than one piece of advice, I’m so sorry. So if there’s only one thing that I could give, it would be this: Believe in yourself and just keep writing. It’s okay to get discouraged, just keep writing. No matter what, just keep writing. There’s a story in you, I know it. And if it’s a little zany, a little weird, so what? As the Cheshire Cat said, we’re all mad here. So you’re in good company.

About Kat

Kat Dodd is an American transplant that escaped from a small town in Arkansas right between Toad Suck, Pickles Gap, and Wooster. The first story she ever wrote was in a purple crayon in her journal, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her typical genres are a conglomeration of fantasy/sci-fi, LGBTQI+, and YA, with a thread of romance going through them. She lives with her Spouse-Type-Creature, though she frequently forgets to feed him.

About Dublin’s Fierce City

In Dublin’s Fierce City, nine writers from the group present seventeen tales of magic and wonder.

Explore a city of fairies and ghosts, where one is as bad as the other. Avoid the curses of witches, and escape the wrath of angels and demons. Survive alien invasions and all out war, and come out the other side seeing the whole world differently.

Buy it now on Amazon.

5 Questions with Axel J Sparrow

The launch of Dublin’s Fierce City is getting closer. We’re back with another interview, this time with Axel J Sparrow!

Axel J Sparrow

1. What genre do you like to write in most?

Fantasy, usually concerning worlds other than our own. I do dabble in sci-fi from time to time, but high fantasy is where my heart is.

2. Which author or authors inspired you to write?

As a child, authors like Philip Pullman, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Erin Hunter… I read a lot as a child. I always had a great love for Roald Dahl’s ability to make magic out of the mundane. And His Dark Materials remains one of my most profound inspirations to this day.

My teenage years were peppered with Neil Gaiman. As are my adult years. I wonder what my writing would have been like if I’d read Neverwhere sooner.

My adult inspiration comes from authors like V. E. Schwab, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Scott Lynch, Sarah Maria Griffin, and Dave Rudden. There’s a little bit of Terry Pratchett in there too, thanks to my partner.

3. Are you a planner or a pantser, and how does that work out for you?

I used to be a pantser but I’m now pretty firmly in the planner camp. It feels really good to have a folder full of worldbuilding notes and scene lists. I’m able to hammer out a first draft quite quickly when I have dots to connect. But my pantsing roots often start to show in between those dots!

4. What are you working on now?

I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft of a novel about an alchemist who has a year to buy his mother’s alchemy parlour from her. That sounds kinda boring, but there’s dragons and the fantasy mafia and quite a bit of gender-bending involved. I started it a couple of years ago and got about 40k words in, then left it in a drawer to ferment for a while. Now I think it’s ready to be finished.

5. What’s your one piece of advice for new writers?

Don’t strive for perfection with your first draft. Just get it written. Even the greatest of books had shite first drafts.

About Axel

Axel J. Sparrow was born and raised in Dublin. He owes his love of sci-fi and fantasy to his father, who immersed him in library visits and Star Trek: The Next Generation from a very young age. When he’s not spinning stories and scribbling them down, Axel enjoys going for long walks in his local park, and taking naps with his cat Artemis. Follow him on Twitter @ArcherofAnarchy

About Dublin’s Fierce City

In Dublin’s Fierce City, nine writers from the group present seventeen tales of magic and wonder.

Explore a city of fairies and ghosts, where one is as bad as the other. Avoid the curses of witches, and escape the wrath of angels and demons. Survive alien invasions and all out war, and come out the other side seeing the whole world differently.

Buy it now on Amazon.