Tag Archives: Short Stories

Mouse Teeth and Teeth Mice

I have a piece up on #FolkloreThursday about the Tooth Mouse myth, so it seems a perfect time to share my story Mouse Teeth, which originally appeared in Short Story Day Africa’s Terra Incognita anthology, a collection of African speculative fiction.

It’s about witches, identity, magic, female power, and, yes, teeth:


(clickenzee pic for story)

Spring Water

Spring is making itself known here in Fife. First off was the snowdrops, which I knew from extensive research (reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) are the first sign of spring. Now some purple and yellow flowers have started to appear. I’ve been informed these are crocuses; another plant I only know from books.

#spring is springing #scotland #flowers

A post shared by Cat Hellisen (@cat_hellisen) on

One thing there’s no shortage of here in Scotland is water (it’s coming through my roof, which is…less fun), and Water is also the wonderful anthology I am very proud to have been part of. A collection of African short stories from across the continent and diaspora, it received this lovely write up from WAWA BOOK REVIEW:

What plays out in this rich collection is a stimulating re-imagination of water: as giver and taker of life, as nourisher of life and harbinger of woe, as purifier, as an unstoppable change agent. Each of the writers featured in this anthology dares to plunge into deep water to deliver a rich serving, a robust contribution to the discourse of life (reminding us that the African story is not a single trite tale but, like water, a refreshing outlet into the intricate design of a fertile continent).

The review had kind things to say about my story and I was so happy to read this:

Perhaps the boldest in the collection, Cat Hellisen’s ‘The Worme Bridge’ captures the unsettling transformation of an entire family into scaly aquatic creatures. The gripping story almost forcefully drags the reader into the strange world of the unfortunate family, pushing the borders of imagination to the lofty realm from which the writer conceived this grim tale.

If you haven’t yet checked out the anthology, it’s available internationally via Amazon in either paperback or ebook format.






It’s kinda odd to be (sort-of) included in a Steampunk Storybundle because I’ve never considered myself a massive fan of the steampunk/clockpunk movement. (despite the fact that there are some awesome names there – Cat Rambo, Genevieve Valentine – obviously I need to check my presumptions at the door like whoa). Partly it was because a lot of the “Victoriana But With Goggles!” motif felt very one-dimensional, but there are writers in the genre who I’ve enjoyed. They take a slightly different angle with the concept, and the stories are substance over flash. You’ll see there is also the South East Asian steampunk collection, The SEA Is Ours, in that bundle, so definitely not a one-dimensional package.

When I was  initially asked if I’d be interested in contributing to a ghost steampunk anthology my first thought was “why me?”. Then I realised I’ve been writing so much stuff that fits a loose definition of the genre but without the Victorian and colonial trappings, so I plunged back into my Three Dog Dreaming-verse, and wrote a story about love and ghosts and roosters, which was included in the anthology Ghost In The Cogs.



It is winter in Pal-em-Rasha and all the roosters have been strangled. We are in mourning. The prince was born white and strange, his dead sister clinging to his heel, and since then, three weeks have passed without cock-crow.

People work with their heads bowed and their lips pinched. In the markets—normally ringing with calls and shouts and trades—money falls from palm to palm in muffled offerings. Even the People of the Dogs wrap the hooves of their shaggy red oxen with rags when they come down to the city from their mountain homes. Peasants chase the monkeys away from the orange groves and the tamarind trees, and the leaves hang dry and limp. The little brown doves do not heed the king’s order for silence, and they line the buildings, chuckling at each other in low coos, taking turns to steal the fallen rice from between the road stones.


I would definitely recommend that readers also check out the work of Beth Bernobich and Lisa Mantchev if they want to read more within the genre.

Getting Ready for the Weekend and Remembering faces


So this weekend is Kingsmead Book Fair, and I am pretty excited to be part of this, on a panel with Joanne Macgregor, Edyth Bulbring, and chaired by Bontle Senne.


We’re on at 13:45 in the Gym:

GymYoung Adult novelists Edyth Bulbring(Snitch)Cat Hellisen(Beastkeeper) and Joanne Macgregor(Scarred) discuss the themes of bullying and bloodlines, beauties and beasts and the transformative power of first love. Chaired by fellow youth writer Bontle Senne.

There will be an SASL interpreter at this session.

Now, fun stuff aside, I’m going to offer an apology in advance, and a small explanation.

Firstly, if you see me and want to say hi, PLEASE DO!


Secondly, even if we have met several times before, it’s probable I won’t recognise you. This is not because of you, it’s because of me. I have great difficulty remembering names and faces. I try very hard to build up a mental index card that matches people up, but if you do something like comb your hair differently, wear (or not wear) glasses, change your clothes, meet me in a different place, my index cards get scrambled and I need to re-sort them. This can take a while, and it’s very embarrassing for me because I hate making people feel like I don’t care who they are. I really do care, I just have an actual problem. The problem is made worse when I am anxious or stressed, and public situations make me both.


So, if it appears I have no idea who you are, just be gentle and say your name and remind me when we last saw each other and I can reshuffle my index.  😀


I other news, I’ve put CHARM up on Smashwords with a new cover, and added my Mundus short story Oma Zoli’s Mirror.

charm(1)Irene Kerry has grown up with the memory of her mother’s suicide, and has been in love with her best friend Rain for as long as she can remember. She thinks she’s dealing with both just fine until the day her best friend falls in love with a much older man. A man who knew her mother, and believes Irene is a magician like her. In order to protect her friend and family, Irene gets dragged into a hunt for an ancient magician who steals and eats magic, and discovers that the things she thought she knew about her mother’s death were all lies.





OMA ZOLI'S MIRRORDylan McKenzie is a collector of magical artifacts from this world and others, but when a voice underground tells him to look for his heart’s desire, he is pulled into the web of a fallen goddess, sent to murder her sister and bring back her soul.

Oma Zoli’s Mirror shows your heart’s desire. Or her heart. Or her desire. She spins webs to get what she wants, but will the man she’s trapped do as she commands?

Gimme100 and the May Patreon Project

May is feeling pretty damn stressful. I’m still trying to sort out paperwork for the UK immigration thang, I miss that guy what I married once, I may have an aikido grading coming up, I’m still fixing the house, and I’m trying to reignite an old project for the agent-person. Add to that, I’ll be away part of May for the Kingsmead Book Fair.

Hev1LeLSo yeah. Feeling a wee bit eeeeeeek.

But mainly I need to be productive and all that nonsense, so to that end I have two small projects running. The first is a twitter-based bit of fun designed to get over that horrible feeling of, “oh god, words, they are scary, I cant make them, I’m going to watch Sherlock (again) instead.”

It’s called #gimme100, and the premise is that simple – give me 100 words every day. You can write more, but don’t write less.

and people have started joining in, which is pretty cool.

My other project is for Patreon, where I’m growing a story from seed, showing how I grow, compost and prune a short piece of writing.

Growing Stories in small spaces

Water and Witch Houses and More Water

One day, someone is going to notice how often I drown my characters who don’t fit in (call it metaphorical, call it symbolic, call it my last wave, whatever), but until then I’ll keep writing them.

(And occasionally selling them – another story about drowning just sold, details when I am all contracted and sorted. But it’s a biggie and I am well-chuffed *grins*)

On that note, award-winning writer Diane Awerbuck reviewed Short Story Day Africa‘s Water anthology in the Sunday Times, and said nice things.

This picture was stolen From Rachel Zadok's twitter feed

This picture was stolen From Rachel Zadok’s twitter feed

She also said my story (about drowning, kinda) The Worme Bridge had nods to Bosman and Lovecraft, which started a conversation about Boscraft, which led to her dinging me for never promoting my work after I said I had written Fake Town Lovecraftian shorts before.

So, in case you didn’t know about my ventures into the dreaming, here’s the (utterly beautiful, art-filled) anthology I’m part of: Dreams From The Witch House, edited by Lynne Jamneck, and published by Dark Regions Press.

The Worme Bridge

For the past few weeks, Short Story Day Africa, in conjunction with Books Live South Africa, has been sharing the three winning stories of the SSDA anthology for 2016, WATER.

First was Mark Winkler’s Ink

Card 1

I thought you were only supposed to see one thing, but apparently you’re allowed to find more. You should see a bat or a butterfly or a moth, and also the figure of a woman in the centre, if you’re “normal”. If you’re not, you might see breasts, vaginas, perhaps a penis. I cannot see any of those things. I suppose it’s mostly the men that do.

and Alex Latimer’s A Fierce Symmetry

Two bodies arrived at our house a year apart. The first was my mother’s, 
in an ambulance, for us to see. My aunt came into my room. I had my head resting against the wall and my eyes closed. She sat on my bed.
        “Do you want to see her?”
        “No, I don’t.”
        “Are you sure? I’ll come outside with you and we can just see her and say goodbye.”
        “I don’t want to.”

Then Alex, Mark, and myself met up with the wonderful people behind SSDA for the soft press launch of the anthology Water, so here’s us looking a little like literary rabbits.

picture by Helené Prinsloo for Books Live

picture by Helené Prinsloo for Books Live


And today my story The Worme Bridge was put up on Books Live, so if you would like to read it, clickenzee.

When I was old enough to walk by myself to the shops to buy my mother her cigarettes, she decided I was too old to believe in rubbish like Santa Claus and the tooth mouse and fairies that live at the bottom of the garden. Instead, I would learn the real stuff, like what really happened to Pa and my older brother Matty, and what was going to happen to her.
        Why ever since Pa had died she’d made me take him as medicine, ground up into my food to ward off the sickness.

Award-Eligible 2015 Short Stories


With various 2016 fiction awards gearing up, here’s a quick post detailing my 2015 short story sales that are eligible for nominations.

Serein, published in Shimmer #26, July 2015

I’m Only Going Over, published in Daily Science Fiction, Dec 11 2015

Mouse Teeth, included in the 2014 Short Story Day Africa anthology, Terra Incognita, published by Modjaji Books (February 17, 2015)

Golden Wing, Silver Eye, included in the steampunk anthology Ghost in the Cogs, published by Broken Eye Books (October 31, 2015)


If you’ve read them and feel they’re award worthy, you have my thanks for any nominations.


(I’ve been asked to also include links to the awards my works would be eligible for, which is, like, obvious, but I am slow and need this kind of gentle prodding, so I will update this post with the various awards I know of as they open to nominations.)

Hugos (and information about eligibility and process)




Through the Black and Back Again

Through the Black and Back Again;

A Story of Oreyn


Cat Hellisen



Now this happened before the high-Lammers started using unicorn horns like scriv to help their magic along, before they thought they might be able to do the same to the vamps, and grind up their bones like magic dust. And don’t ask me how they get these fool notions anywise, because there’s no answer to that better than, “they’re a bunch of coves, gentry or no.”

This is back when some people were still calling the unicorns by their old Hob name, before the Lammers made it a word you get burned over. They stole the word from us, like they did the rest of our language, and soon hardly no one would even remember that once the unicorns had two horns and were called taji. Back then the Lammers were still working on killing everything about us, from root to branch, burning out our natural magic while their own stinking Lammer-magic fallout was still settling uneasy over the land, and the taji with only one horn were nowt more than inbred sports. They were kept alive because the gentry-dells fancied that having their coaches drawn by a unicorn was somehow better than having goats like any normal person.

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New Short Stories!

With Charm having finally run its course, I am going to concentrate on short stories for a while.

As a kick off, I am posting Oma Zoli’s Mirror on Patreon today. It’s a glimpse into the world of Mundus – magic and nightmare and madness –  where angels and murderers wear the same faces.

If you’d like to read – click on the picture.

And if you’re moved to become a patron, remember you can support my work as a writer and artist from as little as $1 a month. I’ll be updating with short stories monthly or weekly depending on length, and looking into some more serialised novels.


Enjoy the read.


ETA: My friend Horace Hamster pointed out that not all people like to use Patreon or Facebook and I should set up a blogpost-only tipjar system for those who want to give but not via the other channels. This will take you directly to paypal. Thanks, Fran for the suggestion!

Donation fields under the cut

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