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(FF#3) Guest Post; Helen Scott Taylor

TODAY WE HAVE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR HELEN SCOTT TAYLOR, TALK ABOUT HER BOOK, WILDWOOD

Inspiration for Wildwood

I've always been fascinated by mythology, especially Celtic mythology. Where I live in South West England there is plenty of reminders of the Celtic people with ancient stone crosses dotted around Dartmoor. In my latest release, for inspiration I've drawn on the ancient Celtic gods that the pagans worshipped in Britain.

One of these gods is Cernunnos, who is often represented in the UK as the Green Man. He is still celebrated by some here in the spring, and is supposedly responsible for the awakening of nature after winter. When the early Christians set about converting inhabitants of Britain from paganism to the Christian faith, one of the ways they attracted people into the new churches was by adopting pagan gods. In many old churches and cathedrals in the UK, one can find carvings of the green man's face both on the outside and inside of the buildings.

In Exeter Cathedral in Devon, there are many well known depictions of the green man. Some are beautiful, but some are also frightening, with vines and branches spewing from the green man's mouth or body.

Cernunnos caught my imagination when I was researching Wildwood, and the mythology and ancient pagan beliefs surrounding the god are at the heart of the story.


Wildwood

A fifteen-year-old boy is sent to stay in a spooky English village with his grandfather for the summer vacation. He always knew he was different from other kids, he just didn't realize how different until he discovers his father was linked to an ancient pagan cult. If he doesn't get out of the village soon, he might be trapped there forever.


Excerpt

Chapter One
"Freak!"
Todd Hunter stood on his pedals and pumped his legs, weaving his bike through the rush hour traffic. The two Goss brothers and their minion stayed close on his heels, taunting him. A car horn sounded as he cut across the lanes of vehicles and darted down a walkway, and a woman with a baby in a stroller swore at him as he shot past.
He came out on quieter roads, streets lined with houses. The only way to shake the Goss brothers was to go up Dinnaton Hill. The lazy punks weren't fit enough to cycle to the top. But Todd was.
Stay fit, stay sharp. You never see a fox lazing around. His body is lean and strong, his will focused. Dad's words ran through Todd's memory, followed by a familiar pang of sorrow and hopelessness.
He breathed through gritted teeth as he hit the bottom of the hill and powered up. His father would be proud of how strong he was, how hard he worked at school. If he ever came back.
Tears pricked Todd's eyes and he blinked them away, angrily.
"Hey, Hunter," Eric Goss shouted from the bottom of the hill where the brothers had stopped. "Going to Feltsham to dig up your dad's moldy old bones?"
"Shut up," Todd hurled back over his shoulder.
He reached the top with a surge of relief and swung around to stare down at the three boys below, leaning on their handlebars, watching him. "Losers," he shouted, safe in the knowledge they couldn't catch him now. Even if they made it up the hill, there was no way they would follow him into the grounds of Feltsham Manor.
Eric Goss flipped him the bird and Todd turned away. Feltsham Manor's boundary fence was less than sixty feet away. Todd could already feel the pull of the place, the whisper of the wind in the trees, the call of the creatures that lived in the green oasis in the middle of the city.
The ache of effort in his thigh muscles faded quickly and he pedaled the last few feet to the broken fence. He shoved aside two planks of wood that hid the opening and pushed his bike through the gap. The moment he stepped across the boundary, the noise of the city faded. His senses resonated with the hum of the plants and the pulse of tiny beating hearts. A strange excitement zinged along his nerves.
This was his world and Dad's world. When he came here, he could almost imagine his father was just round the corner, cutting the hedge, hoeing the vegetable patch, or watching the foxes. Todd threaded his way between the rambling shrubs along the overgrown path and halted beside the dry fountain. Years ago, water used to trickle out of the hand of the moss-covered dryad. But after Dad had disappeared, the old guy who owned Feltsham hadn't employed another gardener to maintain the place.
The old man was apparently confined to his bed, too sick to go outside, and the garden had been reclaimed by nature. A short distance away, a badger ambled out of the undergrowth and paused to look at Todd. They acknowledged each other silently before the creature went on his way, snuffling between the cracked paving slabs for beetles and grubs.
Todd sat on the edge of the lichen-encrusted fountain and closed his eyes, extended his hunter's radar as his dad had taught him, and let his awareness spread across the garden. Tiny sparks of life force pinged his web of energy as he came across mice, voles, shrews, rats, a stoat, and the vixen and her cubs in their earth beneath the old yew tree.
The essence of his dad seemed to hang in the air as if he had only stepped away for a few minutes and not disappeared five long years ago.
Todd still didn't understand what had happened that day. The two of them had been here together. It was the first time Todd had been allowed to use the electric hedge clippers, and they were cool, skimming away the branches like a giant razor. When he'd finished, he'd searched for his dad. His old pickup was still parked in the drive, his hat was still hung over the handle of a spade, and his gloves were balanced on the wheelbarrow. But Dad had disappeared.
A burst of Doctor Who theme music cut through the peace. Todd snatched his phone out of his jacket pocket and stared at the screen. Mum. He noticed the time and silently cursed. He was going to be in trouble.

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