Coming Soon: “The Snowman of Bishops Fell”

Set in Norse Greenland during the 15th century, “The Snowman of Bishops Fell” concerns a band of Norse Greenlanders sent into the mountainous wastelands east of the settlement to destroy an outlaw who seems to have harnessed supernatural powers.

I wrote the first draft of “The Snowman of Bishops Fell” in either late 2016 or early 2017. 

Assuming that I’m able to finish the final edits over the course of the next two days, I’m hoping to post this historical-horror (histohorror? is that an acceptable portmanteau? oh wait – Google says I didn’t just create the histohorror genre. But can I create horrorical?) fiction within the next two or three days. 

After careful consideration, this one is definitely more historical-horror fiction (as opposed to horror-historical fiction). 

“The Snowman of Bishops Fell” is roughly 5,600 words (the original draft was around 4,500 words), which will easily be the longest single work I’ve ever shared on this blog. 

This is how I described “The Snowman of Bishops Fell” a year and a half ago to a publisher in Oklahoma:

This piece is set during the winter of 1413-1414 in Norse Greenland, a society that uniquely blended Christian and pagan elements into daily life. Many of the first settlers originated in Iceland and arrived in Greenland around 985. Christianity took a firm hold on the islands of Scandinavia within twenty years of that date. Most Norse Greenlanders converted and churches were constructed throughout southwest Greenland, but many settlers retained some of their pagan sensibilities and beliefs. The action of this piece unfolds at a time in which the Norse Greenlanders were struggling with their environment more than ever before and often facing conflict with the Inuit. When a murderer is outlawed by the settlers, the man retreats into the mountains east of the settlement. However, he continues to harass the Greenlanders, so a band is assembled to journey into the mountains and destroy this outlaw. With both sides believed to employ some measure of magic and spells, the resolve of all characters involved is questioned. 

I studied the history of Norse Greenland extensively in college. Norse Greenlanders disappeared from the historical record in the 15th century (the exact causes remain unknown). The archaeological record suggests that the Norse Greenlanders must have relied heavily on their religion and their superstitions to cope with the very difficult conditions in Greenland. This particular story takes place just a few years after the last recorded event in the history of the Greenland Norse. “Bishops Fell“, where most of the story takes place, is “Bishop’s Mountain” – a foreboding massif behind the cathedral and seat of the bishop in Greenland. I tried to capture the perspectives of these characters as their otherwise difficult but highly ritualistic lives are confronted with the unknown.

I did send “The Snowman of Bishops Fell” to several publishers. After receiving a variety of rejections, I returned to the drawing board and added about 1,100 words to the piece. I do believe this helped flesh out (pun intended) some of the characters. 

One publisher (who accepted two other works of fiction from me at an earlier time) did offer some praise for “The Snowman of Bishops Fell”:

“Now, this story, I absolutely love. It’s spirited, keeps the reader engaged and is excellent.”

Photo credit goes to Dave Stanley for his wonderful image of mountains and glaciers in Greenland!

Author: joshuajscully

That’s my picture up there. I’m not totally sure why I look so angry. I may be thinking about how much I hated the Crypt Keeper as a child. I grew up faithfully watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, I missed the boat in terms of writing for either of those programs. I do consider both to have been wildly influential when I think back to my earliest thoughts about becoming an author and I’m grateful my parents let me watch those shows as a kid (although there were probably some nights early in my childhood my mother wished she hadn’t let me watch those shows). If you’re familiar with either program, then you know what genres are my focus. I thoroughly enjoy science fiction, suspense, the twist ending, and some horror or supernatural elements as well. Honestly, when I was a kid the Crypt Keeper scared the hell out of me. As an adult, I’ve really learned to embrace the puns. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine as well, and the root of that is shared with my profession. I am an educator by trade, and I teach American History. I consider some of the best writing I’ve ever done to be within the realm of historical fiction and I really enjoy saturating my mind in the research end of those projects. I would make the argument that storytelling is in my blood. Even my sister mulled, very briefly (about 45 minutes), launching a career as a screenwriter! My last name is one of those Irish (and, apparently, formally Manx) ones with a wonderfully researched history -“the story-teller’s descendant”. On of the first day of school each year, I do share that “my name is Mr. Scully, and that rhymes with Kelly”, just so I do not hear the myriad of mispronunciations on the first day. Several years ago, I started a blog similar to this one to highlight my middle years as a teacher. If that aspect of my life is of any interest to you at all, you can still find that blog online. During my summers, I really have time to pursue my writing projects and this blog will highlight some of that work. My first attempts to sit down and write extensively occurred when I was 15, but only a few years ago did I make setting time aside to write a priority. I’ve also benefited wildly over the years from many willing readers among my family and friends. The direction and feedback from those individuals has been invaluable. Outside the world of the written word, I am an educator, basketball coach, lecturer, and (very, very occasionally) a landscaper. I have only ever known Western Pennsylvania as my home. Although I love a good novel, I am absolutely unable to resist the power of the short story. The latter is really what I hope to be remembered for one day.

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