Tag Archives: Books

Free books and magazines!

Well the time has come for me to downsize my book and magazine collection (unfortunately) and I’ve put together a list of the relevant goodies on offer on a Google doc file:


It’s a real mix of stuff I’ve bought and read, have been bought, stuff I’ve reviewed or been given at cons. My first thought was to pop them down to the second-hand bookstore in town but I thought I’d give you lot first shout, as some of the magazines, for example, might be interesting to complete collections, etc.

Feel free to ask me any questions regarding any of the titles and feel free to put your name on as many as you like. It’s first come, first served, as long as you’re prepared to pay the shipping for your choices.

You can comment here but I’d prefer if you added your name to the Google doc, so that others are aware of what has gone.

Happy browsing!


Gary McMahon and Sharon Ring sign author/agent contract.

Gary McMahon has signed up with Literary Agent Sharon Ring. Sharon Ring will act as agent in regard to two titles, The Quiet Room and Rain Dogs (previously published by Humdrumming Press).


Gary is widely acknowledged as a powerful, new talent in British horror fiction. He received a British Fantasy Society nomination in 2009 for his first novel, Rain Dogs, and his short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vols. 19 & 20 (ed. by Stephen Jones). Tim Lebbon calls him a “bloody good writer indeed… heartfelt, talented, soulful… serious and mature.” Conrad Williams describes Gary as “a skilful writer… an able cartographer of these badlands.” With three novels already under his belt, plus three more titles scheduled for publication in 2011, Gary is set to reach a wider genre-loving audience.

Gary McMahon said, “I’m very excited about this new collaboration. Sharon is an ambitious, knowledgeable and proactive person, who believes strongly in both my work and her own abilities to make things happen. Her passion for dark literature, along with the contacts and know-how she has developed over the last couple of years, will hopefully place us in a good position to take things forward and bring my writing to an even wider audience.”

Sharon said, “I’ve been working toward taking on my first author as a literary agent for some time now. I wanted to make sure my first client was a perfect fit. An opportunity arose to work with Gary McMahon on two titles and I knew the time was right. Gary is one of the most talented horror fiction authors on the scene, breathtakingly astute in his vision of the modern world and the fears which lie at the heart of us all, and completely unafraid to venture into the darkest of territories. It’s a privilege to be working with him at this time in his career.”

A full list of Gary’s published work can be found at http://www.garymcmahon.com/2008/04/publications.html.

All enquiries regarding this deal should be directed to Sharon Ring: sharonlring@gmail.com.

The Domestication of the Vampire

[written by writer and reviewer, Sharon Ring]

I’ve been wondering how we made it from this,

Fear me!

to this.


As we’ve moved through Vampire Awareness Month I’ve been reading each blog post with great interest. I wanted to understand how vampire fiction has evolved from its earliest days of folklore to eighteenth century poetry, into nineteenth century gothic novels and through into modern cinema and literature. I also wanted to understand how each person who contributed and commented throughout the month perceives the vampire on a more personal level. Just what is our fascination with these creatures, why does the myth persist and why are vampires, as far as I can tell, the most oft-used fictional genre monster? Seriously, how does the vampire, more than any other fictional creature, manage to successfully reinvent itself through the generations?

Before I get any deeper into this train of thought, let me tell you a little about my own introduction to the world of vampire fiction, both literary and cinematic.

My first vampire book was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, read at the tender age of eleven, and the first vampire movie was the TV miniseries of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, watched at around the same age. Both tales affected me deeply although they troubled me in quite different ways. What connected them however, despite the seventy-eight year difference in each story’s creation, was the presence of the evil predator in our midst. It seemed to me at such a young age that this “presence of evil” was the most vital aspect of the vampire mythology: all things considered, I still believe this to be the most important part of any well-told vampire tale.

It's me again...

Back to the present day. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly Neil Gaiman talked about “what vampires get to represent”. His point of view is that with each generation of readers and movie-watchers the vampire is given a fresh role to play, a role that reflects the morals and ideals of the world into which this new incarnation arrives. I have to agree with Gaiman on this to a certain extent; the movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read about vampires over the years have definitely moved the creature through a number of subtle and not-so-subtle changes. Looking at the overall picture, from the earliest fictional vampires right up to the present day, we can see how societal attitudes have shaped our depiction of the creatures. Repressed sexuality and gender inequality in Victorian times, xenophobia throughout both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the sexual revolution of the post-war western world, have all served to define the creature who stalks the pages of the vampire novel or who broods on the big screen.

Inevitably, and mostly for the good, this leads to huge differences in interpretation of the vampire myth. In both books and movies there appears to be a vampire for everyone: you can still find the predatory, murderous vampire if you look hard enough but most of what you’ll find out there, in mainstream cinema and paranormal romance novels particularly, seems a poor imitation of what most of us consider to be the “real” vampire.

Today’s most popular vampire, Edward Cullen, is a rather insipid looking, generically handsome brooding teenager. He attends school to give the impression of a “normal” life, in daylight no less. Not sunlight, mind, sunlight is dangerous. Why, we wonder? Will he smoulder and burn, disintegrating before Bella’s eyes? No, he fucking SPARKLES! Yes, he sparkles, and it just wouldn’t do to be seen sparkling now, would it? I’ll say no more on Twilight for a moment, lest I begin to smoulder and burn myself.

Where's that Cullen bloke? I'm hungry!

Vampires for the grown-ups don’t do much better. The most popular vampires out there now for adult readers and television watchers – True Blood – based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I like True Blood and I’d be a hypocrite to pretend otherwise. It has its fair share of gore and not all the vampires in it contain their bloodlust, far from it. Still, despite my fondness for the show (not the books, they’re bloody awful), I have got to say that True Blood is little more than vampire candy floss.

What we’ve done, ladies and gentlemen, in our endeavours to reinvent and re-imagine the modern vampire, is made him a little too much like ourselves. Gone is that sense of the true outsider, we’ve replaced that with a bunch of moody teenage vampires. Gone is the dangerous sexual predator, he’s been usurped by the caring and sharing vampire boyfriend.

We have domesticated one of our most feared monsters, made him (and her) handsome and pretty, with human emotions and a whole new way of life that allows them to enjoy a little intimacy with the human race. Their previous elusive and disturbing qualities are now diluted to the point where they may as well now be us, albeit with a vague aversion to sunlight.

In the same Entertainment Weekly interview, Gaiman says, “… it kind of feels like now we’re finishing a vampire wave; at the point where they’re everywhere.” I hope he’s right. When we’ve reached a point where vampires sparkle in the sunlight, it’s time to call it a day, at least for a while. Stick the vampires back in their coffins, hammer a few extra nails into the lid and don’t let them back out to play until they’ve re-grown their fangs and washed off all the glitter.

The Phantom Queen Awakes now available!

Love, death and war…

The Morrigan goddess represented all three to the ancient Celts. Journey with our authors as they tell stories of love, war, hatred, revenge and mortality – each featuring the Morrigan in her many guises.

Re-visit the world of Deverry, and of Nevyn, with a previously unpublished tale by Katharine Kerr, watch the Norse gods meet their Celtic counterparts with Elaine Cunningham, meet a druid who dances for the dead with C.E. Murphy and follow the path of a Roman centurion with Anya Bast.

These are but a few offerings from the stories collection in The Phantom Queen Awakes. If you are searching for a rich blend of dark fantasy, then this is a collection perfect for you.

The Phantom Queen Awakes stories:

Rising Tide: Ruth Shelton
Kiss of the Morrigan: Anya Bast
I Guard Your Death: Lynne Lumsden Green
Gifts of the Morrigan: Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
Cairn Dancer: C. E. Murphy
Washerwoman: Jennifer Lawrence
The Raven’s Curse: Sharon Kae Reamer
Ravens: Mari Ness
The Lass from Far Away: Katharine Kerr
The Trinket: Peter Bell
The Dying Gaul: Michael Bailey
The Children of Badb Catha: James Lecky
The Plain of Pillars: L. J. Hayward
The Silver Branch: Linda Donahue
The Good and Faithful Servant: Martyn Taylor
The White Heifer of Fearchair: T. A. Moore
She Who is Becoming: Elaine Cunningham

UK, Australian and European release dates to follow.

US: $20 (Amazon.com)

US: $20 (PayPal)

Great News!

Well I’ve been wittering on about the virtues of a certain ‘new’ writer since I started at Morrigan Books and Carole Johnstone announced yesterday that she is to feature in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 2 with her tale Dead Loss from the cracking magazine Black Static.

I was first made aware of Carole when she sent a superb story, Scent, to In Bad Dreams volume two, which I snapped up immediately. She has then gone on to publish the short stories Sanctuary (Voices), The Discomfort of Words (Grants Pass), The Blind Man (Dead Souls) and The Harrowing (In the Footsteps of Gilgamesh – coming 2011), as well as the novella Frenzy from Eternal Press.

If you haven’t read her yet then make sure you do at the earliest opportunity!

Well deserved and so pleased for Carole!

You reading enough?

Well you may think you are but honestly if you’ve not picked up at least one of these, then you really need to be changing some priorities over the next few months…

Allyson Bird: Has a lovely looking site, designed by the wonderfully talented Vincent Chong. Bull Running for Girls has been nominated for best collection at this year’s Fantasy Con and I’m lucky enough to be receiving my signed copy on arrival!

Jenny Blackford: Has released The Priestess and the Slave, I’m very much looking forward to this, and yes, I have ordered my copy – you got yours yet?

Carole Johnstone: Has a new novella out. Frenzy has already been released and guess what, yes, I will be getting my signed copy in September!

Kaaron Warren: Has already released Slights, and of course it’s excellent and of course I’ve read it!

Robert Hood: Released his collection Creeping in Reptile Flesh. I have my copy and have started it. Anyone not having read Hood should do so immediately!

Gary McMahon: Is releasing Different Skins at Fantasy Con. Lovely cover and I’ve no doubt fantastic work within. I’ll be buying a copy of that you can be sure!

Cate Gardner: Has released her little chapbook, The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon. Much shorter than I wanted it to be but some lovely imagery in there and well worth a read!

So, off you go, go buy some books!

Guest blogging: Week Five – Sharon Kae Reamer (contributor to The Phantom Queen Awakes)

Sharon Kae Reamer (author of The Raven’s Curse, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:

Jump into the Wayback Machine and turn the dial to the year 50 BCE in Central Europe. The Romans are encroaching. Just about everywhere. What did this mean for the multitude of tribes usually lumped under the heading “Celtic” across the continent? Nothing less than total devastation.

This theme began to occupy my attention as I started writing about a family of Druids living in Central Europe today with all the knowledge and keeping to the ways of their Iron Age Celtic ancestors. Not that there are any, of course, at least any that I know about. (If you are one and are reading this, please send me an email. I have lots of questions I’d like to ask.) But the ‘what if’ of the idea intrigued me to the extent that I just couldn’t let it go. What if a family had survived with all the inherent knowledge from that long ago time? How long ago would it have to be? And what would they be, anyway? Priests, alchemists, scientists, herbal practitioners?

While I hadn’t really intended it at first, as I wrote my way through the better part of three novels, I decided those questions absolutely had to be answered by adding in at least some of a pantheon of Celtic beings. Such is the nature of storytelling that these things have a tendency to sneak up on you (at least for me, the undisciplined writer). And in addition, the story I was trying to tell had to have themes that resonated with those cultures and their beliefs – things like death, transformation, and resurrection. In other words, in order for such a family to have survived over the many generations and centuries, they would have to have a supernatural connection and one relevant to the continental Celts, especially those of a Bretonic character.

My Druids had half of their heritage in Brittany, a part of France that still has a very viable and enthusiastic identification with its Celtic history and half in Germany, in particular near the Rhine River valley, where several Celticized or at least Celto-Germanic tribes had dwelt. The original myths don’t really exist any more since the literature that has survived, as with most things Celtic, has been colored by the influence of two thousand years of Christianity. While such a vacuum is good for writers because we then have all the excuse we need to make things up, for a history buff like me it was frustrating not knowing what I was actually deviating from.

Children’s tales are often the best place to start, and I did find one lovely book with a lot of nicely written stories that I used for a jumping off point. Before I knew it, I had the beginnings of a pretty good tale and – even better – I had acquired a whole shelf full of literature, both in German and English. If I was fluent in French, I could have added even more.

About the same time I had my idea ready and a crude draft of the backstory for my novels written, I saw the call for submissions to The Phantom Queen Awakes anthology. The only problem was one of time, and I frantically mashed the story into coherence in order to send in to Mark on time, hoping that the idea and the writing were good enough to pique his and Amanda’s interest. Luckily for me, they were.

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.

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.

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!)