Monthly Archives: February 2009

Writing reviews again

well commentary would be a better word but it’s getting me back into something I’ve missed:

Episodic commentary on LOST, starting with the very first episode

Might be amusing for those on season five (or anywhere later than me)

Guest blogging: Week Four – Jennifer Lawrence (contributor to The Phantom Queen Awakes)

Jennifer Lawrence (author of Washerwoman, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:

I’ve mentioned in my last post that I already knew of the Morrigan from a life-long love of mythology.  When most people say they know a bit about mythology, they generally refer to Greek and Roman myths, often picked up from required reading in grade school.  Or they might have been required to read the Iliad or the Odyssey in high school. 

Not a lot of people are familiar with Celtic mythology, despite the big craze for all things Celtic during the 90’s.  Celtic mythology can be a peculiar thing.  It’s nowhere as neatly ordered as Greek mythology—no single god of the sun, god of war, or king/father god.  Sure, the Tuatha de Danaan had a king god in Nuada.  Then he lost one of his hands in battle, and the taboo the pantheon had which said that a king must be physically perfect kicked in, and he could no longer be their king.  Leadership of the Tuatha passed to Bres, who was a perfect tyrant, favoring their foes, the Fomorians.  When Dian Cécht, the god of healing for the Tuatha replaced Nuada’s missing hand with one crafted of pure silver, he became their king again—until he died, at which point, the kingship passed to Lugh, god of generalities.  After Lugh, the Dagda became king, and then another and another.

This multiplicity of roles is common among the Tuatha de Danaan.  Both Brigid and Goibhniu were considered smithing deities; Brigid also shared the area of healing with Dian Cécht.  The ancient Irish had both a god of love, in Aengus, and a goddess of love, in Áine. In like manner, there is no single deity who rules over death.  The Morrigan is considered the goddess of death, especially on the battlefield, but Manannán mac Lir is the Psychopomp for the pantheon, conducting the souls of the deceased to islands of the dead. 

Some folks might think that difficult to remember, in comparison to the neatly-ordered spheres of influence of the Greek gods.  The ancient Irish certainly did not seem to, however; aside from the better-known deities I’ve listed, they had dozens, perhaps hundreds of others, both major and minor—everything from the great mother goddess Danu, who gave her name to the pantheon (the Tuatha de Danaan, or ‘children of Danu’) to countless gods and goddesses of fields, rivers, and mountains, many of whose names and histories have been lost to modern time.  The ancient Irish, unlike the Greeks and Romans, didn’t start writing down their histories and tales until well after the advent of Christianity in that country.  As you might imagine, the monks weren’t whole-heartedly interested in preserving the stories of the land’s pagan, pre-Christian gods.  But some of those stories did get written down, and if more was lost than kept, we are still the richer for it today.

One year on

Morrigan Books had its first birthday yesterday. Amazing eh? I can’t believe that when I think of all that’s gone on since this time last year and if it hadn’t been for these illnesses we would have had some cool celebrations going on…

Soon, soon…

Anyway, a year eh?

In case you missed it or are confused or similar

This journal is primarily for my writing, publishing and editing related news and my personal ramblings are now hosted over at sunlit_oakk.

Over and out.

Guest blogging: Week Four – Jennifer Lawrence (contributor to The Phantom Queen Awakes)

Jennifer Lawrence (author of Washerwoman, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:

When I heard there was a call for submissions for an anthology centering around the Morrigan, I did a little dance. I’m familiar with the Morrigan from a life-long love of the different mythologies of the world, which had its roots in another source. It seemed like the call for submissions was tailor-made for me, except for one little catch.

I found out about it less than a week before the deadline.

That didn’t leave me much time, if I wanted to submit a story. Generally, my writing starts with two things pretty much simultaneously, the characters and the plot.  The characters were the easy part here; at least one of them had to be the Morrigan herself. The story had to be set during ancient Celtic times, so that set limits to the plot.

The Morrigan has many facets: war-goddess, death-goddess, goddess of prophecy, triple-goddess, fertility goddess, goddess of sovereignty. But who else would be sharing the story with her?  I didn’t want a battlefield epic, full of blood and gore (indeed, the submission guidelines gently suggested they’d rather not have a story overflowing with the red stuff, a la the Hostel and Saw movies). I knew less about her aspects as goddess of fertility and sovereignty.

That left prophecy, didn’t it?

Those who have studied the Morrigan know that she can predict the deaths of men on the field of war, but that’s not the only way her gift of prophecy manifests. In one way, she’s almost like the bean sidhe, the ancestral ghosts of so many proud Irish families, that scream the night before a member of the family is due to die. Legend states that, if you see the Morrigan washing your clothes in a stream, your death is fated to come soon.

But if I wrote that into the story, whose death was she predicting?

In the end, it wasn’t a soldier, a nobleman, a druid, or a king. It was an old woman, not all that different from the crone that the Morrigan is sometimes portrayed as, washing her family’s clothes at the stream the morning after overhearing an ugly family conversation between her son and his wife. In the end, the story isn’t about absolutes, but about how fate and destiny can sometimes be more flexible things than you’ve been taught.

Everybody dies eventually.  And sometimes you realize that being fated to die doesn’t necessarily mean immediately.

How’s your voice this week?

Without going into too much detail at this moment, I wonder if anyone fancies recording a couple of pieces of text for me.

Basically you will need some recording ability that will allow you to record the voice files as mp3s for me to work further with them.

The pieces are to be incredibly short and won’t require too much time. The main requirements are that you can record them convincingly (as in make them sound realistic) and that you have a US accent (where in the US isn’t a concern).

Please note this is not for commercial purposes and has nothing to do with Morrigan Books or Gilgamesh Press. It’s for a personal project.

Just send me an e-mail at mark[dot]deniz[at]gmail[dot]com or comment here if you think you can do it.

Thanks in advance!

EDIT: I have a couple of volunteers now and that’s great for now!

Hope #1

Hope: Issue 1

Hope is a new multi-part fanzine raising money for bushfire relief in the Australian state of Victoria.

Issue #1 is now available in a PDF edition in return for donations.

Hope #1 contains contributions from Mo Ali, Sophie Ambrose, R.J. Astruc, Lyn Battersby, K.K. Bishop, Matthew Chrulew, Stephen Dedman, Mark S. Deniz, d.n.l, Paul Haines, Simon Haynes, Kathleen Jennings, Ju Landeesse, Damian Magee, David A. McIntee, Simon Petrie, Andrew Phillips, Gillian Polack, Robert Shearman and Daniel Smith. The cover is by Rebecca Handcock.

Click on the above link to donate and at the same time get some great stories from some top authors (and me as well)!

A great cause and a huge thanks to angriest for setting this up – he’s done a first rate job!

Three Crow Press – New Issue LIVE

(Taken from the LJ this weekend)

The Erotica Issue of Three Crow Press has gone live! It is not work safe, so wasn’t it nice of us to go live on a three day weekend?

Inside this issue:


* Look But Don’t Touch by Fran Walker
* Eye Candy by Joe Nazare
* Lucinda by Gerard Brennan
* Need by Jean Langill
* Scoring Too by Carl Hose
* So Hot by John Miller
* Transmission by Michael R. Fosburg
* Wolf Spider by Mina Kelly

Author Interview – Stacia Kane by T.A. Moore

Featured Artist – Kirika Moth by Reece Notley

Reviews and Articles

* World Review – Anya Bast: Elemental Witch Series – by J. Lee Moffatt
* The C Word by Stacia Kane
* Lust and the Bad Boy by Reece Notley

State of the Crow – Morrigan Books

Guest blogging: Week Three – Peter Bell (contributor to The Phantom Queen Awakes)

 Peter Bell (author of The Trinket, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:

I’d decided that death was going to be the central feature of my short story.  The Morrigan, though powerful and mysterious, was just the delivery system; death itself was to be the true monster, with my poor Roman legionary left to suffer its consequences, alone in a hostile land.

And what better way to deal with the silent, smothering, omnipresent influence of death than in the preparations for a funeral?

The simplicity of the idea appealed to me – my legionary would keep a vigil over the body of a fallen comrade, protecting it from the greedy eyes of the three carrion crows watching from a nearby rooftop. In the morning, the body will be taken out and buried. Meanwhile, my legionary is left to ponder his fellow’s dying wish, to be buried along with a curious medallion of Celtic origin that he was wearing when he was cut down. What are its origins? What is its power? And… what if the surviving legionary were to keep it for himself?

It was great – brooding, atmospheric and tightly wound. It was also extremely dull.

Dead bodies, by definition, are not the liveliest of souls and I quickly found that my plan to draw this second character as an empty space – as an absence of the person he used to be, which is all death is, in the end – was backfiring. I had left myself with practically no narrative drive, no conflict, no interaction. My legionary sat there, alone and in silence, thinking for the entirety of the story. The concept might have been a good one, but it would take a better writer than me to make it work and, after several abortive drafts, I finally admitted defeat.

Life continued for a few weeks.

And then, when I was busy with something else entirely, it came to me – a new angle, a stronger story and, just to get the ball rolling, the opening line. I rushed it down onto a scrap of paper and, within a few hours, had most of a workable draft on my hard drive.

It was rough, ungainly and meandering; certainly not the sort of thing anyone would pay good money to read. But that’s where a writer turns to his editor, and I have one of the best in the business – my wife, Anna. I know they say you should never show your work-in-progress to friends or family, but Anna is a discerning enough reader that she won’t let little things like marital harmony get in the way of honest appraisal. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

“I think you should structure it like this,” she said, handing me a page of notes. I spluttered and protested. Who was the writer here? But I slunk away and made the changes anyway, suspecting she was on to something. She was. The story had pace now; it ducked and weaved, it kept the reader in suspense. And I was starting to have fun.

There was a rush to meet the deadline. Any time not spent in work or asleep was sacrificed to the writing. But I tightened it and tuned it and polished almost every word and I’m happy with the finished result. In many ways it accomplishes much of what I was aiming for with that first, abortive effort. Death may not take centre stage any more, but it skulks around the periphery; a constant presence, insatiable and unpredictable.

And dancing to the tune of the Lady Morrigan.

(Peter Bell’s work can also be found in the anthology: Leaps of Faith, published by the Writers Cafe Press, coming 8th in the recent Preditors & Editors poll for best anthology!)

Guest blogging: Week Three – Peter Bell (contributor to The Phantom Queen Awakes)

 Peter Bell (author of The Trinket, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:

 I’m not usually a character-led writer.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate just how vital a strong, multi-faceted character is to good story telling but, more often than not, it’s the plot that comes to me first while the characters tend to drift in later, seemingly of their own accord. By the time I’m half way through working my rough outline into something resembling a finished structure, they’ve generally settled into their various roles and are acting as though they’ve been there all along.

This was not the case with “The Phantom Queen Awakes”. Instead, one particular sentence in the submission guidelines leaped out and grabbed me: “All stories must be set in the world of the Celts”. And there he was – a grim faced Roman of the Second Augustan Legion, knee deep in Welsh mud while the freezing rain drummed a relentless tattoo on his helmet.

A bit specific, you might think, and hardly Celtic. But then I grew up a pilum’s throw from Caerleon, which was founded by the Legion about 75 years after the birth of Christ, and which still manages to feel as much Roman as it does Welsh. It’s home to the most  complete Roman amphitheatre in the British Isles, along with the extensive remains of barracks, a bath house, and a string of fortifications. (Check out the excellent (and free!) National Roman Legion Museum if you’d like to find out more:

The Celts left their own, more elusive marks; in songs, in tales of Arthur and Merlin, and of course in the lingering traces of the Welsh language itself.

So for me, the two civilisations have always been inextricably intertwined.

But what to do with my legionary, now that he had announced himself? I spent a while turning the question over while I acquainted myself with my leading lady – the Phantom Queen herself.

If the truth be told, she had me worried – I’d never even heard of her before reading Mark and Amanda’s submission guidelines, which insisted she play a pivotal role in my story, so much of the narrative would depend on how I approached her character. In short, if I couldn’t write the Morrigan, I couldn’t write my story.

Luckily, the storytellers of ages past had made sure she was a nebulous, fluid character, never quite the same from one tale to the next. She was a maiden, a crone, a trinity, a lover, a sister… But there was one thing common to all these disparate depictions, binding them together like a dark and tantalizing thread; her association with death.

And just like that I had the beginnings of my story. Better yet, I had another major character, who would prove to be every bit as influential as the Morrigan herself. There was just one problem; by the time I wrote him down, he was already dead.

To be continued…

(Peter Bell’s work can also be found in the anthology: Leaps of Faith, published by the Writers Cafe Press, coming 8th in the recent Preditors & Editors poll for best anthology!)